Friday, January 30, 2009

West Point

Ariel got another letter from West Point. Yes, that West Point. She also received a letter about six months ago inviting her and her parents to a dinner. This time it’s an Admissions Information Meeting. Maybe we should go, so they can see her. Now I have absolutely nothing against West Point—I think they’re great. The problem is that I can’t see my daughter (who probably weighs less than their packs, not counting the guns, uniforms, and boots) as a plebe.

After all, this is the girl who uses her free time to paint her fingernails in varying shades of sparkle-y. This is the daughter who can’t make conversation in the morning without an intravenous infusion of coffee. She’s the one who whines at the men in the house to “kill the gross spider in my bedroom.”

So why are they after her? Is she an expert marksman? Is she a superb leader of men—well, she can bark orders at her brother, but I don’t think that counts. I think I know why they’re interested. It’s the same reason she gets many letters from various (fill in the blank) Institutes of Technology. It’s about math and gender.

Ariel says, “They only want me because I’m a girl and I’m good at math—they want me as their token female.” She then waves the brochure from said institute under my nose and says, “Look at the cover of this one. There are two girls on it. You know why? Those are the only two girls in the whole university!”

“Yes, dear,” I say. “You’re right. It’s sexism or discrimination or something like that. Why don’t you make a nice pot of Earl Grey?”

Over tea, we eat chocolate and discuss Jane Austen. Then, she tries to explain to me “U-substitution and integration by parts” (which apparently undo the “chain rule”) in Calculus 2. I think she’s brought this on herself.

Please note: that is the Complete Illustrated Volume of the Works of Jane Austen! Try not to drool!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Computer Imps

I know there are many of you out there who think computers are run by Microsoft via Windows, or Apple, or Linnux, or some other operative system that I’m not familiar with. But you are all wrong. (Yes, I sympathize with the Luddite movement.) The rumors have been flying for a while, but I found out the truth. Computers are run by imps. And Bill Gates’s “discovery” was not how to buy an operating system and make it work better. No, his “discovery” was how to capture and force miniature imps to do his bidding. The problem is that miniature imps are a peculiar kind of devil. They do their job (they’re chained to the mother board) most of the time. Some speculate that when they use their magic properly to make things appear on the screen, then, as a reward, they receive a shock to the pleasure sensors in their brain. Sounds reasonable.

But my interest is when the imp’s true nature asserts itself and the system runs haywire. You see eventually the imp gets bored with electrical heroin, and he (they’re all male) uses his powers for evil. This is when things get interesting. For example, you’re happily editing your novel, and then the system crashes. Bloop, blink, gone. Of course, you reboot your system. Then the imp presents you with two choices. Do you want the recovered document or the saved document? Hmm. I don’t know, do you? In the end, it doesn’t matter both are now flawed and the choice is illusory. And the errors are hidden in your 300 page novel—you’ll never find them, but the literary agent who requests it will read things like “And then, Miranda loaded her Uzi with a new round of ammo and took out all the literary agents in a three mile radius.” That’s imp humor. It also gets your book tossed into the rubbish more quickly than a New York minute.

I see your skepticism. But what else explains the blue screen of death. Or, my experience yesterday on tech support. I’m “chatting” with Rocco (chatting is a misnomer since we’re both typing). And Rocco is no Italian. Rocco clearly cannot communicate in English very well. There are missing words in his sentences—important things like verbs, articles, etc. Not to mention the misspellings. Plus, the speed with which Rocco types clearly indicates that he’s never completed Typing Tutor or Mavis Beacon’s Typing version 7. At any rate, Rocco takes me into the bowels of my computer. And we delete things. Deleting always makes me nervous—it seems akin to chopping off an arm. But, hey, Rocco told me to (I know, if Rocco told me to jump off a cliff…) After we finish our “session” and he explains what a wonderful, blessed, “powerful” customer I am, he tells me to shut down my computer, reboot, and everything will be peachy keen. Sure, right. I do it. Except, when I reboot, nothing has changed. My computer still misbehaves and ignores my pleas.

I accept this—after all, this is what happens more often than not. But then, today, for no apparent reason, my computer decided to be obedient. Why? The only explanation is the imp. And I think I figured out what happened. Yesterday, on tech support, the tech “told” the imp to get his act together or they were going to cut off his electrical heroin. The imp said, “So what?” But then, as he went into withdrawals, he decided that it was better to simply obey the requests of the laptop user—voila, my computer works again. It’s the only explanation. Really!

New Gadget

In case you haven't seen it yet, I have a new gadget on my blog. It's a visitor counter. In other words, it keeps track of how many visitors read my blog. I had a counter last year, but it crashed and I couldn't get it to work properly, so I deleted it. But now I miss it. I was getting about one hundred visits per week--and that really encourages me to blog. So, we'll see how many visitors I get now...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

If My Hands are Filthy, It Must Be Spring

The green tops of daffodil stems have pushed their way through the hard ground. And I know that spring is still months away, but the gardener in me is beginning to salivate. Besides writing, there’s nothing I love more than getting my hands in the dirt. So, the only way to satisfy my need for dirt under my fingernails is to write about it.

Maybe love of gardening comes from a fascination with earthworms that I had when I was a girl. There’s nothing weirder than holding a wriggling worm. Nothing more magical than the way they chew up the soil and poop it out again. Sorry—but it’s true.

When Ariel was a little girl, she was captured by the same worm curiosity and for one delightful spring she had a worm box—we started with a couple of worms and ended up with a box of fat nightcrawlers.

But it’s not just the earthworms that enthrall me, it’s the beauty of seeing in the physical realm a spiritual reality. Every spring, things that seem dead and forgotten burst forth in a riot of color. They proclaim loudly the truth of the resurrection. First it’s the crocus. She blooms in yellows and purples so bright that it burns your eyes after the drab grays and browns of winter. Next, daffodils dressed like yellow bonneted-milk maids raise their faces to the sun. Then the hyacinths bloom. Their scent makes the rosebush blush in shame. Then the tulips rise up out of the ground, their stems bearing petalled flowers much too heavy for their skinny stems. And when a late winter storm hits and you think they’re surely ruined, you go outside on the next warm day and see the tulips drinking in the sun.

I’m tempted to go on and on about my flowers. But, of course, they don’t happen in a vacuum. I have to get my hands dirty. They need fertilizer. I have to battle their nasty enemies: aphids, mildews, beetles, etc. But more than anything I hate grubs. They remind me of creatures from Dante’s Inferno. I have nightmares about grubs. I can see their obese death-white bodies in my mind when I close my eyes. All they want to do is destroy my beloved plants and flowers.

The flowerbeds at our house are all new. When we bought our house, it was clear that no one had put any work into the yard in maybe fifty years. So, I put in flower beds. We wrote an IOU to the grass. But when the city dug up our yard to replace the sewage pipes last winter it became clear that we need to do something sooner rather than later since our yard was now littered with rocks. We raked, roto-tilled and planted seed. And a beautiful lawn of tall fescue graced our front yard. It was so emerald green you had to shield your eyes. Until…brown patch fungus took over. Pretty soon, our emerald green mat became a rug polka-dotted with brown spots. Within a month, the fungus and the Southern heat destroyed my lawn. Now it’s being over-run with Bermuda grass, which is beginning to look like a friend to me, despite the fact that I’ve always called it “Devil grass” and ripped it out with a passion to equal my hatred for grubs. But, if it actually survives and thrives, I may call it my “dear Devil grass,” or maybe “resurrection grass” since it goes dormant in the winter too. Hmm, I hope that doesn’t get me into theological problems… Maybe I’ll just call it Bermuda grass.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Watercolor Promise

When we moved here 2 1/2 years ago, Calvin promised me a watercolor for the space above our mantelpiece. Of course, he's been swamped ever since. But, over his vacation he got out his brushes, paints, and paper. Now, I have a beautiful watercolor above my fireplace.

I don't know if you've ever watched a watercolorist paint. It's almost too stressful for me. There is no margin for error. If you're an oil or acrylic painter and you make a mistake, you can always scrape it off and do it again. If you paint with watercolors and something goes wrong, you're stuck. It takes superb planning, boldness, and a willingness to improvise. (Clearly, I'll never be a watercolorist.)

To watch a real painter is an amazing experience. They take a blank piece of paper or canvas and draw on it. And that's interesting, but it doesn't really look like a drawing. Calvin says they're more like "guidelines," markers for the painter. Then, the artist applies the medium. Slowly, but surely, the paper comes alive--instead of adding something to the paper, it's like the paper is being removed and something living is revealed underneath.

I'm sorry to say that these posted pictures do not do the painting justice. The color is skewed, and all sense of vitality is gone. Partly is the fault of indoor lighting and not having the latest digital technology, and partly is the difficulty of reproducing art. I remember studying paintings in college and then seeing them in the gallery--it was like seeing two different things. But I hope you'll enjoy it anyway.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Loose Ends

The cold from Hades is still with me, though in an attenuated form. I can now think in complete sentences and can remember most of what the kids tell me. Though I still give them permission for all kinds of bizarre things—like playing Wii for no good reason. They’re going to be so sad when I’m back to my healthy “mean” self.

Since I’m a bit better, I attacked the ironing pile, which had “been fruitful and multiplied.” Normally, it’s Calvin’s clothes that doubled, but this time it’s Matt and Jacob’s. How many dress pants can two young teen boys wear? Because I only missed one week’s ironing, you’d think that the biggest number possible be would be four. But after six pairs, I stopped counting. I’m pretty sure that don’t even own that many pairs. The only explanation is ironing bin procreation.
I know some of you are wondering how long the single black sock lay in the middle of the floor. Not as long as I had anticipated. One unnamed Keller came and picked up the sock and said, “I read about this on your blog.” In between sneezes and hacking coughs, I said, “You mean you’ve walked over it multiple times and never noticed?” The Keller-who-will-not-be-named said, “Yes.”

This getting-work-done-by-mentioning-it-in-your-blog has some real possibilities. I’m not sure why this appears to be so effective. Is it peer pressure (my kids’ friends read my blog), the removal of blinders-based ignorance, or public humiliation? But in either case, the end result is the removal of the sock. This opens whole avenues of exploration. Imagine posting, “Person X’s room looks like ground zero,” and then later that day the room would like something out of House and Garden. Blogging may be the 21st century’s answer to nagging—except that it works! Yep, this opens all kind of new avenues. But then, I might be vulnerable to matricide—Matt and Jacob have been reading the Orestia, where Orestes murders his mother Clytemnestra because she murdered his father. I know the circumstances are different, but I can see public humiliation and murder being the same in the teenage mind. Maybe I’ll wait on posting about messy rooms, or maybe not…Bwahaha.

If you could imagine my laughter in the last sentence, you can easily hear the laughter the homeowner’s insurance agent made when Calvin asked if the heater circuit board was covered by our policy (see previous blog entries). The agent laughed derisively, “Of course, the heater’s not covered—it was flood damage.” Well, duh. Apparently, homeowner’s insurance is like health insurance—it’s great unless you have to use it.

But we’re thankful for the heater, especially now that it’s been so cold. It’s been in the teens even during the day. We’ve had snow too. Yesterday, there were big fat flakes like cotton balls that danced on the blustery winds. Today, the flakes are small and fluttery. And since the sun is shining, they look like glitter in the air.

Well, I’m beginning to ramble—I put down to sinus headache and too many bags of cough drops, so I’m going to end now that I’ve tied up all the loose ends in a neat bow.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Call the CDC

I hate being sick. Now I’m sure most people don’t like being sick—although our kids love laying in our bed with a down comforter over them and watching DVDs until their eyes melt and run down their cheeks. If that weren’t enough, I come and bring them delectable treats like Sprite (the kids never get to drink soda) and crackers. Okay, crackers aren’t exciting, but when you’re sick they are. But, you get the picture, being sick can sort of be fun when you’re a kid. Okay, okay, let me put in a disclaimer here before I get all kinds of comments from my children…yes, I do make them do schoolwork if their fever isn’t over 100. But I only make them do reading and math. Don’t gasp. Math is easy for them—if they had to choose a subject to do, it would be math.

Back to the subject. As an adult, especially a mom, there is no redeeming value to being sick. You lie on the couch and watch your house fall apart. It doesn’t take long before the laundry is spilling out of the hampers. Right now, I see a black sock in the middle of the living room floor. Why is it there? Who knows? I find it hard to believe that no one in the past 24 hours has noticed that sock. My basket of ironing, which is supposed to be done on Thursday is, even now, reproducing. Have you ever noticed that when you get behind in ironing, even one day behind, the seven shirts that need to be ironed become 14? I’m convinced that there’s a “rabbit gene/jean” in the ironing basket.

I don’t even want to talk about the kitchen. Though, of course, I must point out that the kids have been doing the dishes. But no one seems to notice that the counters are oases of germs, bacteria, and food filth. All right, Ariel did wipe the counter last night, but the stove is still coated with brown burnt splotches, which apparently is the fault of Luke overspraying the Teflon pan and getting Pam all over the stove.

Speaking of Luke cooking, this morning I noticed him cooking his own high protein breakfast—bacon and eggs, which will be followed by a big bowl of cereal. But I noticed him using a metal spatula on a Teflon pan! I wanted to shout, “NO!” But it came out as a croak followed by a hacking cough.

Jacob and Matthew have their own response to my sickness. As soon as they hear I’m sick, they present me with arguments reasoning that it would be better for my health to let them skip school and play computer/Wii/games/read/do puzzles/etc., all day long. I give them my don’t-waste-what-little-cognitive-power-I-still-possess look, and they break out in peals of giddy laughter.

Also when I’m sick, Jezebel is bored. So, she decided to alleviate her boredom by chewing on the tassels of a table runner. Of course, she’s sly so I’ve never actually seen her do it. I’ve just seen bits of tassel on the floor. She also is fascinated by the smell of “cold.” Whenever my face is within range, she runs over and sniffs my nose. Big,wet doggie sniffs followed by a healing lick across the face.

In the vein of full-disclosure, I must admit that I’m not the best patient. I do get up and clean the stove when I should be lying down. And I cough, sneeze, smell like Vick’s Vapo-rub and run the vaporizer all day, which makes the inside our house like a swamp even though it's ten degrees outside. The problem is that I can’t take decongestants. Apparently, I’m sensitive to them, they make my hands shake, I have auditory hallucinations, they make my heart beat too fast (tachycardia) and I get chest pains.

Hopefully, I’ll be better soon. Calvin went to the store and bought me vitamin C and cranberry juice, which he sternly warned the kids, was only for mom to drink. But I’m beginning to suspect that this isn’t an ordinary cold. This is a hybrid virus, which resulted from the cross of a normal cold virus with a strain of basement-altered-sanitary-sewer-line-misery virus. Yep. That’s it. Better call the CDC.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mason-Dixon Driving

Our son and daughter have both learned to drive in Tennessee. My husband and I did not. I learned to drive in Hawaii where traffic was an art form and guard rails were unheard of on the twisting mountain roads—a Darwinist approach to weeding out the bad drivers. Calvin learned to drive in the Central Valley of California, which might have been fine if he hadn’t driven a delivery truck in downtown Los Angeles during his college days. Driving a delivery truck in downtown LA means being able to run your package up four flights of stairs and be back before the traffic inches forward. It also means wedging your delivery truck fit into a space designed for a subcompact—a difficult but not impossible challenge.

So, Ariel categorizes us as aggressive drivers. Calvin and I aren’t sure what that means. Okay, so we talk to other drivers and point out their faults—that’s just being helpful, right? We frequently explain to people that if they can’t talk on the cell phone and drive at the same time, then they pull over before they place a call. I think that’s encouraging them to do the right thing—even if the only people that can hear me are in our car. Another example of Southern driving that elicits emphatic words and gesticulations is the left turn. For example, when making a left turn at a green light without an arrow, does one pull into the intersection so that one can make sure he/she gets through the light? Of course, one does!! Otherwise, it may take several changes of lights to get through the intersection—dinner will never get done! My daughter, however, informs me that the Tennessee driver’s test says: “You are making a left turn at an intersection. Do you: 1. Rudely pull into the intersection, thus ensuring that you can make your turn when the light turns red. 2. Politely wait for a break in the traffic when you can make your turn without stopping.” Guess which answer is correct?! I’d pick number one, but the correct answer is two.

FYI, Calvin speaks to the traffic too when someone rudely doesn’t pull into the intersection and is going to make our dinner late! So, all you Southern drivers, when you're making a left turn, pull into the intersection when the light’s green! Thanks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Smells like...

Our latest news is that the sewer line backed up. It's enough to say that day old ham and bean soup that backs up onto the laundry floor smells exactly like vomit. And since people either loved the drain picture or hated it, I won't post any pictures of the laundry room floor.

The plumber came with his power snake (I laid on the couch since I woke up with a nasty cold) and cleaned out the line. Apparently there was a blockage where the kitchen line and the laundry line come together. Now, thankfully, everything's runny smoothly.

In my heart, however, I can't help but suspect that somehow this must be related to the basement fiasco. BTW, the basement's empty just damp. And the heater is functioning again, to the tune of over $500. The heater repairman told us, after he replaced the circuit board, that the air conditioning system of which the heater is part will have to be replaced this spring. Lovely. I'm telling myself that the cattle on a 1,000 hills belong to the Lord. I wonder if I can exchange a cow for an air conditioning system...

This picture has nothing to do with my blog topic. But, it's lovely, and I feel I need to make up for the drain photo. :-) This is a picture of Ariel wearing a beautiful costume that she sewed during the Christmas holidays--the back is gorgeous too with a gold cording lace-up from the hips to the neck.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Drain To Nowhere

The Noah situation is improving. Though it's taken a while to get there. First, the "city" came out. This consisted of a man showing up with a xeroxed drawing (not a schematic, but a hand drawn map) of the city storm drain system. This did not bode well.

Him: Uh, there's no water coming out of the man hole.

Me: No, that was yesterday during the storm.

He makes a move to get into his car and drive away.

Me: Um, there's still a problem.

Him: What?

Me: We have three feet of water in our basement--it came up through the drain in our basement.

Him: You have a drain in your basement? (He said this like one would say "You're from Mars?")

Me: Yeah. The storm drain water came up through our basement drain.

Him: It can't be from the storm drain.

Me: Why?

He points to the ditch in front of our house, "That's the storm drain."

Me: A ditch is the storm drain?

Him: Yep.

I'm thinking--Then why did you need to bring that official city map? Clearly, you weren't concerned about being able to find it. But, I say, "So where did the water come from?"

Him: I don't know.

This too did not bode well.

Me: Well, what other possible source of water is there?

Him: Uh, the sanitary sewer line.

Me: So, the water in my basement is from the sanitary sewer line?

Him: No.

Me: So, there's another source it could be from?

Him: No.

(I'm trying very hard not to be frustrated by the lack of basic logic skills.) Me: There are two possible sources of water: storm drain (ditch) or sanitary sewer line. So, if it 's not possible that it's the storm ditch it has to be the sewer, right?

Him: Well, if it's the sanitary sewer that would be illegal.

Me: Okay, but that must be the source, right?

Him: (note: he's mumbling and trying to think of ways to get away from the sewer-obsessed woman that reminds him of a Lab with a bone) Well, some older homes do have drains into the sanitary sewer line. But that would be illegal and you'd be liable.

Me: Great, just great. I'm thinking: The stupid city knows these things exist and doesn't want to deal with them so they made them illegal.

The city man decides to look at the basement.

Him: Yep, that's a lot of water. You should call a plumber.

Me: Right...

At this point, I walked away. I know when I'm beat, and I left him to Calvin. Not too much later, he packed up his crumpled drawing, got into his hybrid car, and drove away.

Cal called the plumber who said, "Can't do much with all the water down there. You gotta get that water out first."

So, to cut to the chase, using two sump pumps, two siphoning hoses, and homemade drain plug, the water is now gone. Tonight, we're going to turn on the circuit for the heater, which was under water. Hopefully, it works. Otherwise, we might need to call homeowners insurance and explain about the flooding and the drain to nowhere. I really, really don't want to do that.

Here's a picture of the drain to nowhere.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

You gotta smile!

Okay, I'm getting lots of emails about the flooded basement pictures and the fact that Calvin and I are smiling. Two reasons. First, I always smile when my picture is taken. Two, you can either laugh or you can cry. This is God's providence, so I am going to laugh. (Besides I cried the last time the basement flooded. And that was a pittance compared to this.) Now, it just strikes me as funny because there's absolutely nothing I can do besides pray. And the water's getting higher and higher--we couldn't walk around down there now without getting throughly soaked.

Hey, Noah, we may need an ark!

So much for the drought. We now have way too much water.

In fact, we have so much that the city storm drains can't handle it. Water fountains up and out of the man hole covers in the middle of the street. And guess where the water goes when it can't get out through the storm drain. That's right, into our basement. At about 4pm we had 4inches in the basement. Now at 6, we have 12 to 14 inches and rising. Cal and I found plastic bins floating in the basement. Paint cans bob up and down like sailboats. A lot of the bins have been safely relocated to the laundry room along with Sam's Club versions of toilet paper and paper towels. The only concern at this point (beyond the need for an ark) is that the water doesn't short out the heater and blow out the electrical.

Matt and Jake think the whole thing is cool. Jacob says, "It's like a scene out of U571." Whereas, others wonder if it can be turned into a massive hot tub.

Enjoy the pictures.

p.s. It's supposed to rain tomorrow too. ugh.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mason-Dixon Shopping Addendum

If you've not read Mason-Dixon shopping, then you should stop right now and read it first.

Several months ago, Ariel and I were shopping at Sam's Club. As we approached the checkout, the female cashier snarled at the the woman in line ahead of us. "Don't stand up near the register. Move back." Ariel and I exchanged mortified glances. Where was the polite, "How y'all doin'?" Then, when the shopper tried to load her groceries back into cart in a way that kept her bread from being smashed by the milk, the cashier snapped, "Don't touch the groceries--I load the cart."

At this point, I got the giggles--this was too pathetic. I kept my eyes focused on the floor when it was our turn and the cashier said, "Push your cart foward and around, you will place it between you and extra cart, which I will be loading. And stand one step back from the register." By now, I was nearly in stitches. And it didn't help that I and the lady behind me kept exchanging sarcastic whispers like "Whoa, bad case of PMS." And "Someone needs to buy that lady some Midol."

Finally, we were finished. I couldn't hold back the laughter anymore especially when the cashier found out that the lady behind us in line didn't have a cart and her whole system was blown to smitherines, and especially when the lady behind had said she was going to tell the cashier, "Um, yeah, I had a cart, but then thought I didn't need it. But now, I realize these groceries are too heavy--can I have your extra cart?"

On our way out to the car, Ariel commented, "Someone should talk to the manager. You can't get away with the kind of behavior here. Maybe in New England, but this is the South! You have to be nice."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mason-Dixon Line and Shopping

Last night at a New Year’s Party, one of the guests was from Scotland. And since it’s always fun to listen to someone with a cool accent, lots of discussion ensued. At one point, someone marveled to me about how large the United States is and how similar the people of each state are. That got me to thinking. Granted the difference between each state is minimal compared to say the difference between Germany and France, especially in language. (Though I will point out that when I was a child living in a small town in Georgia and then moved to Hawaii where some people spoke in pidgin, I could easily have been in a foreign country—I couldn’t understand a word some of my classmates said. That’s where I developed a “polite I-have-no-idea-what-you-are-talking-about smile,” which has served me well as a pastor’s wife.) But, back to the issue. In order for someone to say there isn’t too much difference between states, they clearly have not recently moved from New England to the South.

There are so many differences that this might be a recurring blog theme. But the first topic is: Shopping. When we first moved here and walked in to the local grocery store, the cashier called out, “Good Morning!” Luke turned to me and said, “Why is that lady talking to us—we don’t know her.” I said, “I think she’s being friendly.” Luke looked suspicious; he didn’t quite believe me.

But it’s not just the friendliness. Once when I was in the local Connecticut Walmart, I found a coffee maker that had all the important features—it could make coffee and wasn’t too expensive. But, there weren’t any coffee makers in boxes, only the model on the shelf. So, I tracked down a saleswoman and asked her if she could find out if there were any extras “in the back” or, if not, if I could buy the floor model. She nodded and made other noises and gestures to indicate she understood and acquiesced to my request. Then, we waited. We contemplated the floor. We studied the other coffee makers, toasters, waffle irons, and long metal sticks with whips on the end whose function we didn’t quite fathom. Then, the kids decided, since there was nothing better to do, they’d play a standing version of tag. At that point, Cal decided to take them on a tour of the store. By the way, if you don’t already know, kids do not enjoy a tour of Walmart. And still, I waited.

After the tour was finished, I decided to “find” the salesgirl. I was a woman with a mission. I drew up my mental picture and hunted her down. And I found her. Before I came in for the kill, she must have had some primal instinct to turn and she did. She saw me—and took off running. Yes, as my kids can verify, the salesgirl ran away from me. Foolish girl. I’ve been running since I was 14, which is many, many years ago. If I’ve been running through four kids and a fortieth birthday, I can catch anything. When I had her cornered, she shrugged, gesticulated, and made vaguely hostile guttural noises that meant, “This is a bad day for me, go find your own stupid coffee maker.”

Fast forward to the South. I’m at BiLo, the local grocery store who, despite the “lo” in their name, charges way too much but is close to my house so I shop there anyway. I am buying yogurt-vanilla handsoap for the church bathrooms.
The cashier says: “Umm, umm, I love the smell of vanilla. Honey, does this soap smell good?”
Me: “Uh, I don’t know.” So, I unscrew the top and take a deep whiff. “Yeah, it does.” I hand the open bottle to the cashier. (Don’t forget there’s a long line of people behind me with whom I am trying very hard not to make eye contact.)
Cashier: “Oh, this does smell good.”
Me: “And it’s on sale.” Oops, I’ve now involved her in conversation—this is going to take a while. The people behind me now hate me.
Cashier: “How much is it?”
Me: “Uh, I don’t know.” She takes the receipt.
Cashier: “That is a good price. I’m gonna have to get me some of that.”
Me: Trying to avoid the gaze of people behind me who surely must be wishing instant death on me for taking so much time, “Yeah, that would be a great idea.”
Cashier: “Y’all have a great day, baby.”
Me: Though I am sure there’s only one of me and that I am not her infant, I say, “Thanks. You too.” At this point, as I gather up my things, I cast a furtive glance over my shoulder at the long line. Each and every person is completely unconcerned by my long conversation with the cashier. They are in contemplation mode, and even one lady may be vaguely irritated that she now can’t finish the People magazine article on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

On my way to the car, I ponder their patience. If I’d been in line behind a chatty soap buyer I would have been tapping my foot, making guttural noises and thinking, “Buy your soap and get on with it. I have things to do.” And Ariel would have said her standard, “Be patient, Mom. This is the South.”

I guess I’ve got a lot more New England (or maybe it’s the Dutch “use each and every minute effectively”) in me than I thought.