Category Archives: Uncategorized

I hate America’s favorite show

Many of you already know this: I cannot stand sitcoms. I hate the stupid dialog, the obvious punch line, the pregnant pause, and the exaggerated reaction of a fake crowd to let the viewing audience at home know it’s time to laugh; this is funny, we swear! If it was funny, we wouldn’t have to be cued into it.

My parents never watched sitcoms. I can remember ‘Law & Order,’ ‘NYPD Blue,’ ‘Homicide: Life on the Street,’ but never a single half hour of cartoonish human beings exclaiming each other’s names at one another in disgust, despair or resignation. When I was old enough to start following my own shows it was never the popular Friday night block of programming – I watched ‘SeaQuest,’ which was pretty much an underwater Star Trek with an obnoxious know-it-all dolphin, and ‘Due South,’ in which a Canadian Mountie politely solved crimes in Chicago with an Italian stereotype.

Neither of these shows told me when to laugh.

I have never seen an episode of ‘Friends.’ I seriously dislike ‘Seinfeld.’ I can’t even watch that much of ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ even though it has giant goofy Jason Segel being giant and goofy, and Whedonites Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris.

What this is leading up to is my unbridled fury against ‘Two and a Half Men,’ apparently “television’s top-rated comedy.” I can’t take it any more. I know people who watch and enjoy it, and that’s fine for them – I unironically love ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ which is certainly quite outside the circles of some people’s television Venn diagrams. I cannot stand ‘Two and a Half Men.’ I hate it. I hate the stupid theme song; I hate Charlie Sheen’s womanizing bowling shirt smarm; I hate that squinty guy; I hate the insipid dialog, the limp puns, and the fact that so. Many. People. Like it.

I’ve never seen an entire episode but if I were to guess I would say a standard goes like this: “I have sex with many women! You have sex with no women! We both have sex with horrible women! Dick joke! Big Misunderstanding! Laugh track!” And I wouldn’t be surprised if I were too far off, given this article in the Hollywood Reporter. Let me share my favorite part, including quotes from the show co-creator:

Besides, Aronsohn isn’t a fan of the current crop of female-centered comedies such as Whitney and 2Broke Girls.

“Enough, ladies. I get it. You have periods,” he said.

Aronsohn applauded women like Whitney Cummings, Chelsea Handler and Tina Fey securing a voice to discuss formerly taboo subjects on TV.

“But we’re approaching peak vagina on television, the point of labia saturation,” he said.

The current boom in female-centric TV contrasts with Two and a Half Men mostly portraying women as bimbos, something Aronsohn isn’t about to apologize for.

Excuse me?

I picked this up in the newswire at The A.V. Club, my favorite pop culture site, and I was *certain* the period and labia comments were O’Nealisms, or satirical inventions of the main newswire writer. Nope. Real words. From a real guy. Who sounds like he really has some issues with women. And you’re watching his show.

Let me flip around some words. “Enough, gentlemen. We get it. You have penises.” Because as far as I can see, this is the underlying joke of almost every male-centered comedy. “Exposition exposition exposition dick joke! Ooooohhhhhhhh! Shrewish and inexplicably hot wife yells things!”

I’m having trouble even formulating an intelligent piece about this without getting up every few minutes to stomp around the house. I’m aghast this man dares to suggest there are too many female-centered comedies on television, and there needs to be more bimbos. Has he even been paying attention to women characters throughout the history of television? Maybe these shows aren’t perfect, but by God there are women on TV who aren’t hot wives, shrewish wives, mothers or love interests.

I haven’t seen a single episode of ‘2 Broke Girls’ or ‘Whitney,’ so I can’t judge them. They probably have laugh tracks. Instead I’m going to talk about why I love Liz Lemon, at least the character as defined by the first two seasons of ’30 Rock,’ which is all I have actually gotten around to watching.

Liz Lemon feels real. She worries about choking to death alone in her apartment. She tells herself all the little lies woman tell themselves, like eating yogurt on the treadmill programmed on the slowest setting. She dresses in comfortable schlubby clothes, has an intellectual and creative career, and possesses real appetites: The first time I heard “I’m gonna go talk to some food about this” I almost lost it, first from laughing, and secondly because it succinctly summed up my own unhealthy relationship with food. (I am talking to all sorts of Easter candy about this article at this very moment.) I also loved the wedding dress episode, because while I don’t have a $4,000 ham napkin, I do have at least two dresses with tags on in my closet, purchased on a panicked whim because they were on sale and I might need them and I really am a girl who wears girl clothes, really.

There aren’t enough Liz Lemons on television, particularly in comedy. And I promise that guy from 2+1/2M, whose name I can’t be bothered to scroll up, copy, and paste, that for every supposed labia-laden female-centered comedy show, women have heard dick jokes, proctologist jokes, ‘gay panic’ jokes and male-centered sex jokes ad nauseam.

I can’t believe I even have to defend this: We’re finally getting more women characters on television, talking to other female characters about things that aren’t male characters, and someone has the audacity to say, “You know what? There aren’t enough white middle-aged upper-middle class jerks on TV.”

Stop watching ‘Two and a Half Men.’ Just stop it. Turn on ‘Community’ (six seasons and a movie!), turn on the Discovery Channel, crack a book, start a conversation with your family. Stop supporting this mainstream misogyny that for ten years has insulted your intelligence by telling you when to laugh. Because it isn’t funny.



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Because I need a little yelling. Right this very minute.

On December 5th, midmorning, in the middle of the canned goods aisle I threw up my hands and shouted “I’ve had it with Christmas music!” This was not a good sign of the month to come, but was an accurate one.

The incendiary moment for my outburst was hearing two versions of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” within ten minutes of one another, one of them featuring a treacly child vocalist lisping the part of Rudolph over genial adult narration. I’ve planned since last year a post thoughtfully detailing the different means by which Christmas songs offend me, but all the notes and outlines and TextEdit files saved to my desktop can’t substitute the passion of a really frustrating retail job in the middle of the holiday season with that goddamn hippopotamus song playing at least twice, sometimes thrice per shift.

Last year at this time I was just starting a part-time job at Borders, and was happy to be employed finally, maybe. Frankly I don’t feel like rereading old posts to determine a past state of mind when this one is burning so brightly. This year I’m glad to be employed, and also am about ready to kill myself over it. I’m working six days a week and under forty hours agreeing ad nauseam with customer platitudes about the new doors we had installed over two months ago, dodging credit cards and cash flipped callously across the counter at me, and smiling cheerfully at people who don’t bother to say a single word to me throughout a transaction. I’ve been cast in a graduate school … graduate’s nightmare, and the soundtrack is just awful. If it’s not insipid pop synth tones it’s tired old classics being strangled in the false cheer of an easy album sale to avid fans who’d buy anything from Such A Great Artist, mangled up over someone hitting “Samba” on a Casio keyboard and programming Track One on Standard Drum Machine and don’t forget sleigh bells and ground out of the airwaves like sausage filling. I have lost this metaphor, but I work in a meat market/deli so I might have originally been heading somewhere with that.

The point is it’s December 11th and I want to give up and hide for Christmas. I haven’t accomplished a single gift; all my grandiose plans to paint things have been smothered by an uncomfortable hairy sweater of frustrated rage layered with a blanket depression that makes me want to stay in bed every minute I’m not at work, and I cannot justify just buying “stuff” for the sake of having something to hand out over the course of the last week in December. I love my friends and my family too much to say “here are thirteen Snuggies from last-minute Job Lot; well, I’m done.” It’s also looking pretty dark for a Christmas card this year. I’ve thrown some scratches down on scrap paper and have a vague idea for a Christmas-y scene in my head, but every time I crack an actual sketchbook or think about clearing off my neglected work space something inside me breaks and all the ambition and goodwill bleeds out and leaves me cold.

The thing that kills me about this ouroboros of holiday guilt and misery is, I’m actually not always miserable. I’ve done some great things this month. I went to the Mystic Seaport with the eldest of my younger cousins for the Christmas Lantern Light tour; I’ve provided marshmallows and homemade Irish cream at an early Christmas celebration campfire; I’ve sat in my car at the local Christmas House and watched the light show synched to the very songs I yell about. But I go home alone, and I think of absent friends in the intermittent colors of the lights in the darkness, and I find myself feeling bad over feeling bad, and then I go to work and try not to eat my own arm off to escape dentist drill vocals and abusive-dad bluster of the Chipmumks Christmas song while straightening the pile of thirteen crumpled one dollar bills dropped on the counter and flicked at me like dead fish by the sour old man who asked me the purchase total four times because No. One. Listens. To. Me.

So, guess what, kid? Hippopotamuses are not charming; they’re the number-one mankiller of the animal kingdom and your fanciful notions are setting you up for the colossal disappointment that is life outside of seventh grade. Everyone singing to Santa about finding a loved one under the tree is trying to convince a good and kindly old man to commit multiple counts of kidnapping. Gloria Estefan, make up your mind about singing to Santa or your kid or something before recording and then try to use some real musical instruments next time. Celine Dion, you’re just terrible. You’re a Canadian shout-singing a Spanish song like it’s a live Vegas show for retarded children. The Little Drummer Boy is not canon. I want to punch every rendition of “Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” in its stupid face.

I have got to hate Christmas songs, because they are saving me from imploding on this time of year entirely.


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There’s someone in my head (and it’s me)

I had a seriously thrilling drive home tonight. I cruised North along the shore under a sky quilted in storm clouds, grey with the greenish cast of strange summer twilight. Bolts of brilliant purple lightning traced crazy arcs in front of me, striking trees along the roadside in explosive showers of sparks. Rain surged down in silver sheets and sinister black funnel clouds touched down on both sides, while the winds pulled the waves in from the harbors across the road. My heart raced and my fingers whitened on the wheel and my lips pulled back in a silly adrenaline smile – I was loving it.

I, uh, was also imagining all of it, while listening to this song.

I’ve been spending an awful lot of time in my head lately. I’m not much for phone conversations and I’m alone most of the day at home, save for a deaf dog – and what’s the sense in talking to him? I’m nearly thirty years old and I spend most of my waking hours playing Let’s Pretend. Let’s Pretend Skagway, Alaska doesn’t exist. Let’s Pretend I’m not losing anything I learned in grad school to atrophy at an alarming rate. Let’s Pretend it’s all going to be all right. And Let’s Pretend I’m not actually at my job.

This is the most crucial bit of pretending I do. I have to, in order to get by. I pretend to be happy. I pretend to be an extroverted people-person. I pretend this is only a temporary setback and I know exactly which path to follow once I find it. And also I pretend I’m a robot.

Yesterday got a little weird. I’ve been watching an alarming amount of Doctor Who lately, packing in as many episodes daily as possible before I have to give back to my brother and his new wife their house and their FIOS and their Netflix OnDemand. I am gulping down great big episode blocks, wearing a me-shaped impression into the couch and facing the same dilemma nightly: Go to bed at a less-and-less responsible hour, or finish this two-parter? I am watching the 9th Doctor’s season from the beginning for the second time, I’m in the middle-end of David Tennant’s run, at the beginning *and* present for Matt Smith, and last night I started a Tom Baker movie. It’s doing things to me.

Two days in a row I’ve come into work and two different coworkers have asked with concern, “Are you okay?” And I am, really; I try not to start the shift in a bad mood. The problem is the commute. On the way into work I am hunting trolls with Finnish warriors who also play electric guitar and driving off cliffs to sail away on the great wings that fold out of my car’s roof and narrowly avoiding the sinuous grasp of sea monsters as I soar over the waters to searing guitar solos. And apparently it shows in my face as I disengage from my ImagineMobile and step into the daily grind. I wonder what they see in my expression as I punch in and push up my sunglasses. So yesterday I just kept going, inspired by the continuous loop of the Doctor Who theme wavering through my mind.

Yesterday I was a service droid, a robot programmed to accept tender in exchange for goods while providing exceptional service. I kept my voice well-modulated and pleasant. I used ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ near-excessively. I kept my brain attached only remotely, and at the end of the shift when I pulled it down from the clouds by its string I was still sane, and had garnered two separate compliments on my diction and one suggestion to go into voiceover work. It was so successful I actively planned the next day’s character while watching actual lightning brighten the sky as I drove home.

Today I was an alien undercover, and my God if it wasn’t the Giggle Loop shift all over again. I had to bite my tongue, the inside of my cheek and quickly look away to avoid bursting out into absurd, delighted laughter to the surprise and suspicion of the customers. It all worked so well, explaining away all the frustrations I have regularly. Customers didn’t hear me, or cut me off to ask their totals in the middle of me giving their totals, or didn’t understand my joke? Translator technology error. Customers indifferent or grouchy despite my pleasant demeanor? Immune to my empathy field. Dropping coins or having difficulty pulling bills from the drawer? Stupid stubby human fingers. I’m afraid it’s the most fun I’ve had at work in weeks.

There are an awful lot of people inside my head, and I’ve only met some of them. I’m telling stories or painting murals or riding a horse at full gallop into glaciers under a black sky studded with stars as a giant ringed planet rises over me like Earth’s moon. And I’m also packing up the car and taking off for Buffalo, or renting a cabin in Wyoming while doing freelance writing, or pulling over for a few hours’ rest on an empty Canadian highway on the way to Alaska. I’m everywhere but here, and apparently it’s starting to show. I have a few choices, I guess: Man up and shut up and keep reading the classifieds. Listen to something other than Scandanavian folk metal on the daily commute. Or wait for a blue box to show up in the parking lot some night while I’m taking out the trash.


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For Tim.

There is a moment nearly every time I peel a plastic shopping bag off the rack where I envision myself snapping it open efficiently, popping it over my head, twisting the handles around my neck and flailing to death on the floor behind the cash register while shoppers look on, fascinated and horrified. If I’m going down, I want to ruin some rich person’s vacation while I’m at it.

I have an alarming number of these fantasies: Falling down the concrete stairs to the basement to land in a pile of bleeding bones. Smashing my head face-first through the register monitor in an explosive corona of sparks and wires. Experiencing a massive apoplectic fit in the middle of a particularly aggravating transaction and dropping to the floor twitching and foaming.

I don’t know why my customer revenge scenarios end in my own destruction. I imagine it’s because sudden death would completely eliminate any consequences the way running away after scrabbling over the counter to strangle someone would not. “You’re a jerk? Well, I’m dead! Huzzah!”

Not that I’m counting on any feelings of remorse or compassion to come of it. “Oh mummy, a simply awful day at the market. The shop girl pushed in her eyes with her own thumbs and sprayed blood all over Chas’s tennis whites. And then the ambulance blocked in the Escalade!”

This is the point where I say, most of the customers have been great. I have an extra-super-happy face I wear behind the counter and it works. I connect with people, I surprise them by smiling, I’m able to joke around with some of the regulars. A customer told me last week he wanted to tell my boss I was “the best.” So I’m doing my job, and I’m doing it well. But I’m afraid of the summer.

About a month back a blond woman in a suit and heels wandered around the store picking up items to add to the steadily-growing grocery pile on the counter. We have hand baskets. We have shopping carts. I gave her the benefit of the doubt; maybe she came in for one or two things and accidentally began shopping in earnest. This unfolded during the daily lunch rush, when the car salesmen, contractors, mechanics, guys in state work trucks and landscapers come in for their sandwiches and specials. I see these guys almost daily (and internally wish I could present them with a weekly tally: “Do you see what you are spending?? Thank you, but really! That’s gas out of your truck!”). They’re nice guys. They let little old ladies with a single hot dog and a newspaper cut in front of them. They wait patiently without complaining to one another or rolling their eyes when we’re backed up – They wait in line.

I sized up the suit, the heels, the hair and the sunglasses and activated my Power of the English Major: Focus, Short Fiction to write her next move. I’m a good writer: She stood by her pile of groceries expectantly, waiting for me to serve her ahead of the three guys waiting in line while she milled about. No way, lady. I rang through her order after the men who were waiting. $85, sure, but each of those guys spends some $20 – $30 a week, every week, not just in the summer. She can wait her turn.

During closing that night I told my coworker about the incident and she grimaced. “Oh, I know who you’re talking about. Don’t let her get away with that.”

Here’s the significance of that sentence (Activate: Interpretive Reading!): This woman does this every year. She has no tact, or she honestly thinks she’s better than the people following the unspoken rules of common courtesy around her. And that just kills me.

We got into a conversation the other night about adult men and women and entitlement: The man dressing down a Starbucks barista-in-training over a mistake to the tune of a nickel. The man who refuses to turn off his laptop during takeoff announcements. The man who has to have the window seat in the front of the plane, making two people already seated move so he can sidle in and hold up the line of incoming passengers DURING EMERGENCY TAKEOFF PROCEDURES. Everyone is so certain the world stops for him or for her, and there’s no empathy left. No common courtesy or compassion.

It makes me crazy. It surprises people when I say ‘please’ when I announce their total and tell them to have an excellent day. Why shouldn’t we want other people to have excellent days? Why shouldn’t we wait in line, goddammit, like human beings? I’d write a conclusion to this, but I chugged a bottle of Windex in someone’s face earlier this evening after she fondled all the bread in the case with her bare hands before buying a 50-cent roll, and I’m not thinking too clearly. More blue-ly.


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More Good News

You know what? I give up.

I have become a downright miserable human being since I started again reading newspapers. I swore them off in college, largely ignored them in the two years afterward, and more or less forget they existed while living in Skagway. Now I’ve got a four-paper-a-day habit and it’s killing me as insidiously as any cigarette.

Here’s what I learned today in the Providence Journal: The city of West Warwick has the seventh highest rate of poverty in Rhode Island. A proposal to assuage the bleeding budget involves axe-murdering the library, by laying off 7 out of 11 full-time workers and 13 out of 16 part-timers, cutting weekly hours from 52 to 27, and eliminating computer classes, family literacy programs and elderly outreach. The West Warwick library stands to lose 40% of their total funding, as drastic cuts at the town level renders the institution ineligible for any state aid (currently, $171,000).

Excuse me for a moment, but




It’s killing me, and not just on a personal level. As much as I dislike people I’m actually a pretty big fan of humanity. How the hell are people supposed to get ahead? Two weeks ago almost to the day the ProJo ran this article about the West Warwick Job Club which meets at the very same library. The unemployed and underemployed gather one night a week for job-seeking tips, to search the job bank posted and updated at the library, and to find simple support and validation, taking heart in knowing they are not alone in difficult times. The Job Club is among those programs that would be lost under the proposed cuts.

Funnily, the next five-week session of the Job Club starts tonight.

I repeat: How are people supposed to get ahead when all of their resources are being yanked out from beneath them? I really feel for the elderly these days; it is almost impossible to live day-to-day without having to interact with some sort of information technology, and computer programs like the one at West Warwick can teach them valuable skills for adapting to a rapidly-changing digital world. Under-privileged patrons also benefit from using public computers, especially for job searching, posting and printing resumes. I had to apply online for a part-time Borders retail clerk job and I’m lucky enough to have had a patron saint buy me an excellent computer a few years back. Other people don’t have these resources at their fingertips, and even those who have computers can’t necessarily afford the monthly internet bill: When I volunteered at one of the local village libraries I heard tales of patrons who gave up their internet at home because they know they can pop down the street and use the library’s.

And yeah, people also use the public internet for YouTube and facebook and other less-than-educational purposes, but so what? Frankly we could all use a laugh lately, and don’t we all possess the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness? That’s what the sign-in sheet is for, to try to make sure everyone gets a shot at a computer.

Now let’s get personal. I worked part-time at a bookstore for three months which gave me a 33% staff discount, and I never bought a book (until the going-out-of business sale, but that’s another story). 33% off a paperback is still a $5.90 paperback after Rhode Island sales tax, and back then I was putting about $10 into my gas tank every day I drove. When I get down to it I can read a book a day; will forgo cooking meals and stop only long enough to walk the dog; have had serious anxiety over not having enough books for a long weekend or overnight trip, and still I never bought a book. I know nearly anything I want to read, plus some really cool out-of-print stuff, is available through the Ocean State Libraries network for free.

I can’t see any book lover feeding a family buying an eight-dollar paperback once a week or shelling out twenty-five for the latest hardcover bestseller. Movie lovers are giving up Netflix and cable television. And libraries are forced to cut into their resource budgets, meaning less circulating copies and less new material coming in.

To say nothing of what this means on the job front, for me and for others who were bamboozled into thinking there were plenty of library jobs upcoming. I’m pretty disgusted and I’ve more or less given up on the job hunt for the foreseeable future. I’m unhirable as a clerk because I have a degree and I’m unhirable as a librarian because I don’t have experience. Everything I learned has atrophied and all my skills have decayed because there’s only so much I can do volunteering behind the desk of my local library. Also, that high school kid next to me really needs community service hours to graduate.

How is anyone supposed to get ahead? The Westerly Sun tells me there’s no middle class in Southeastern Connecticut; the New York Times runs the same articles as the Providence Journal about escalating gas prices edging out any economic gain Americans were making as we supposedly crawl out on our bellies out of the mud of this recession.

The Boston Globe reports the Boston Public Library is discussing the closing of four branch libraries, doing away with Sunday hours, and leaving 15 job vacancies unfilled.

Do they make a patch for newspaper addiction?


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Yup, you are better than I. Have a nice day.

Friends, I am not going to do well with the summer people.

I’m having troubling putting today’s scene into words and I’m not even angry,more bemused. I wonder if there’s a learned helplessness that comes with certain types of wealthy. I have never seen a human being unpack a dozen items from a shopping basket so languidly, as if the removal of each item caused resentful physical strain. I knew I was in trouble when she snipped out “Paper” and I asked “Which one?” I assumed she meant “Please hand me a newspaper from the rack next to you.” She meant paper bags.

I guess it’s not an unusual request but all the locals know we have plastic and I haven’t yet received a request for otherwise, except for the half dozen or so who carry reusable bags. We have a few sizes of brown paper, mostly for bagging up fresh breads, but I gamely grabbed a stack of the largest (not very) and assessed the apparently offending groceries for packaging. (Again: I have never seen a seemingly healthy – or even any of the elderly patrons, for that matter – adult unpack a basket so slowly and with such disdain.) English muffins, a loaf of bread, a bottle of laundry detergent, a Styrofoam clamshell with the day’s hot lunch special, a cardboard bowl of soup and a couple of heavier items.

There’s a science to bagging groceries, I swear. I consider myself a pretty good packer, especially as I really hate taking multiple trips to and from the car and therefore have perfected the up-to-and-including 12 Sack Carry. And people get picky about bags – really picky. Bag the chicken separately. Bag the chicken and the beef separately. Put all the lunch meat in one but the cheese in another. Bag the health&beauty separately from the food. Put this bag of bread in another bag. I get it; everyone has a system (and some people just don’t care.) What this woman presented me with was a logistical grocery challenge: I felt like I had been handed one of those critical thinking/logical reasoning puzzles we had to complete in sixth grade (usually without much particular success on my part):

“A snooty woman hates you but wants you to bag her groceries. She is disgusted with the size of your paper bags. Remember,
* Styrofoam clamshells of hot food tend to spring open and should not be placed with cold perishable groceries
* Cardboard soup bowls slide off and tip over when placed on top of Styrofoam clamshells but should not be placed on top of varyingly-shaped grocery items
* Most customers prefer perfumed/chemical items like soaps and detergents to be bagged separately
* Bread always goes on top until the snooty woman crams her laundry detergent on top of it
* The snooty woman only has two arms.”

I almost laughed in her face, which is encouraging; it foretells a type of patience I hadn’t realized I possessed. It wasn’t just the statement; it was the little sneer and scoffing “Well OF COURSE” underlying her words. You would have thought I offered to put her groceries on the floor so she could soccer them out the door. My offense was asking if she wanted the bread separate, instead of stuffed into the top of another bag. “Well, I ONLY have two arms, so …”

Coincidentally, so do I, and yet I still manage to ferry $60 in groceries from the car to the kitchen with only minimal circulation damage to my fingers – I can even unlock a door and corral a collie back inside. I can even – and I don’t know, friends; this might be revolutionary – I can even carry up to four paper bags in my two arms. Crazy, right?

Whatever. I’m almost looking forward to but mostly dreading the anthropology experiment that will be waiting on the Weekapaug seasonal crowd this summer. This lady was good practice.

I watched through the door as she carried her two bags to her shiny silver Mercedes parked feet from the door and wondered if her car payment was perhaps prohibiting her from buying a couple environmentally-friendly recycled material reusable cloth bags, forcing her to rely on demanding paper. See? I’m trying to think the best of people.


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Welp, this isn’t going to win me any friends.

Approximately half a collie deep

I think of part of my job as cashier at a local market as “babble bot,” as in “Shut up, babble bot, stop talking, that person isn’t even listening to you shut up shut up shut up and hand them their change DO NOT say ‘Have a nice day!'” Because I have a painfully narcissistic need for everyone to like and think well of me I can’t be a thank-you-come-again cashier – I want to make people smile; I want them to feel I am genuinely interested in the quality of the rest of the day they are about to have. And I am, sort of – who *wouldn’t* want someone to have a nice day? If we all had nice days I imagine there would be a lot less crossbow commuting incidents.

Where was I going with this …. Ah. My retail persona is smiley and maybe a little (I am ashamed) folksy and interested in your check-out experience. Why stick with thank-you-have-a-nice-day when there are so many other words? My latest babble bot programming, given the recent cold snap, is “Stay warm out there!” And that, of course, kicks off the Weather Conversation.

Weather is universal. It’s a wonderful nothing-to-talk-about cliche, despite the very essence of its cliched-ness. It’s a more-or-less safe conversation starter when you feel as though something more should be said, but “I like your green shirt” just doesn’t seem enough. People like to ask me if I’m cold, standing near the doors all day (honest reply, “No.” I sleep with the window cracked through winter and wear short sleeves year-round); I ask them how the roads are. The short answer is always “Oh heavens, it’s bad outside.” And I smile, and they leave, and I get ready for the next round of “I thought this snow was supposed to stop an hour ago!”

What I’m getting at is, for six hours today I got variations on “More snow? Oh no!” There’s another snowpocalypse set for Wednesday afternoon and the entire state is gripping its jugs of milk with white knuckles and haggard woe-are-we expressions. And after a while I start to get a little bit testy with everyone who is sick of winter in January. Friends: The spring equinox is in March. We’ve got about two months of winter left on the calendar, so grab your snowboots by the straps and pull yourself together. After all, you live in New England.

This is what I just don’t get. When we’re kids, snow is awesome and amazing and fun. There are magical surprise days unexpectedly free from school and highly dangerous, exciting activities to participate in like sliding down hills in recycling bins. There are igloos to build and dogs to tease by playing fetch with makeshift balls that sink into the landscape never to be found. We also don’t have much choice when it comes to tolerating snow – we were born here, we live here, we’re not yet old enough to apply to sunny warm universities and live out our winters in SPF bliss.

Not that I would, personally. There isn’t a lot anchoring me here beyond family and a decrepit old dog. I don’t own property or have a family or a career – I can pick up and leave at any time, for any place, and for a while I did – almost as far north as I could get, to Alaska. What I’m getting at is, it’s possible to move away to someplace south of the Mason-Dixon or west of Voluntown, but I don’t, because I am a born-grouchy, stick-in-the-mud, sourpuss New Englander, and paht of living here is putting up with the weather. I’m too short to reach the top of my vehicle and have to beat the snow off it with a broom, I really don’t care for the cake of ice that form between the tops of my boots and my jeans, I hate the constantly-wet boot-printed kitchen floor because I can’t find my slippers with the good soles and always end up with wet socks. I am one path through the yard shy of shoveling myself into a heart attack.

But I put up with it, because I can’t turn off the sky and I don’t feel like eating grits for breakfast. I actually like the blue silence of a snowy night and I really don’t mind driving that much – for one thing, there are less cars on the road, and as long as you don’t drive like a moron you’ll be okay. (Incidentally, this includes driving UNDER the speed limit as well as over – if you’re going to do 35 on the highway why did you get on in the first place? Quit trying to kill the rest of us piled up behind you). And all of this is a round-about ramble of not shouting “Yes! Yes there is more snow coming! No I don’t hate it! I put up with it! That’s why I live here! To watch the seasons change! For heaven’s sake it is only January and no I am not sick of winter please have a nice day!”


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