(For a fuller explanation see the blog post of the same title.)
Crossing the Thornton quarry became a metaphor – as in, “damn, that’s a huge, deep, wide hole. A gulf.”
Not unlike the difference between me and “the Great State of Indiana.”
Because whenever you refer to a southern state (and yes, Indiana is a SOUTHERN state) you have to refer to it as “the Great State of…”
Indiana! “The Crossroads of America!” (or, as locally pronounced, I imagine, “Murrca.”)
Because once you’re in it, you feel an urgent need to drive across it and get the fuck out of it as fast as you possibly can, especially if driving with Illinois plates.
I left home in a hurry to get to the “agent fest” writer’s workshop, which was fantastic, once I got there.
A few decades ago, I worked in Indiana. For a year and half, I commuted by car 70 minutes each way from Chicago. I used that experience as a cautionary tale – behave yourself, Annie: stay in the right lane, and don’t get squished between two sleep-deprived, speeding truckers driving TRIPLE trailers (yep, didn’t see one this trip, but they used to allow truckers to pull THREE trailers at once). Drive five miles an hour slower than everyone with Indiana plates, keep a smile on your face and your politics to yourself (not only because I promised no politics on this blog. Just sayin’).
I hadn’t had breakfast, so I had to find some – but I had prerequisites, because quite honestly, based on past experience, I was scared to drive this deep into The Great State of Indiana. So I had to be able to see the breakfast place from the toll road and I had to be able to get right back on.
OK, that one.
I found myself in the drive through behind (suprise!) a pick- up truck, the cab of which was decorated with window decals displaying the driver’s sense of familial affection – except instead of those little stick figures of Dad, Mom, two kids, dog and cat, there were – um, how shall I put this – decals that depicted – in descending order of size – dangerous inanimate objects.
Smile! Experience a rush of gratitude that my church’s car magnet was affixed to the rear of my – uh, oh – Subaru. On the back. Where pick-up truck guy couldn’t see them.
Experience a rush of relief when the kid at the drive-through window turned out to be pierced and inked. In a nice, laid-back, millennial way. Not a biker way. Just sayin’.
Experience a third rush of relief when driving by what appeared to be a Subaru manufacturing plant. In Indiana. Whew. Right car after all.
The Subarus on a pedestal by the highway came just before the inevitable big traffic slowdown caused by The Great State of Indiana’s habit of “barrel testing” (and before you hate on me more than you already might be, the person who taught me that expression was very much from and of The Great State of Indiana.)
“Barrel testing” begins as soon as the snow melts and continues well into the fall. Lanes are blocked off, presumably to enable road construction, and traffic slows – for miles.
Except there isn’t any road construction. Not for at least five miles of barrels. Until maybe the last thirty yards or so.
And, oh, yay – as the traffic slows to a crawl, I find myself, dutifully in the right lane, between a semi in front of me and another approaching, loudly engine braking, from behind.
Oh shit. Don’t get squished.
Engage left blinker. Very slow traffic. Should be a cinch to glide over into the left lane, where I’d be slightly less at risk.
Except “Buford” and “Petunia” are driving their (no-doubt Indiana-built) Subaru, right next to me in the left lane.
The sneer on Petunia’s face as she repeatedly blocked me from getting over told me all I needed to know – I was NEVER going to get into that lane and out of semi-squashing danger if Petunia had anything to say about it.
I got pissed off. Mistake, while driving in the Great State of Indiana, especially with Illinois plates. But didn’t they see that I was caught between trucks? I forgot my Great State of Indiana driving rules (no swearing, smile, look just as white as you are and as Christian as you can) and gestured (no, not that gesture – not at Buford and Petunia) but with “hey, what’s the problem?” kind of palm up, WTF? But also with a look that probably conveyed what assholes I thought Buford and Petunia were. Like seriously, what would it cost you?
One car length? In crawling traffic?
More like all their pride in being of and from The Great State of Indiana, apparently.
In the Great State of Indiana, no Buford or Petunia is going to let someone with Illinois plates get over. See whu’m sayin?
Buford and Petunia glided ahead, and Buford said something at me from his rolled-down window (which is when it occurred to me to be surprised that Petunia, not Buford, was driving. Enlightened, for the Great State of Indiana). I’m glad I didn’t hear what Buford said, because I might have been tempted to reply.
When traffic eased a bit, a gap opened about four cars behind Buford and Petunia, and a kind person (with Illinois plates, I think) let me in, out of squish danger.
Arrived at my destination to find I wasn’t late. Made it just in time for the start. Nice campus, nice people at the workshop, in the food hall, at the motel desk and at the breakfast “buffet.” Eggs, sausage patties, ‘taters.
But my God, the town. Prime sources of amusement appeared to be drinking, car racing and high school sports. Other darker things crossed my mind as strong possibilities, but they are so tragic that I won’t mention them, not even here in the Snark Tank.
To get there I passed miles and miles of square miles of windmills. There’s nothing really there, in the Great State of Indiana, to stop the wind. Might as well make use of it, I guess.
Enlightened, I thought, for the Great State of Indiana.
I also passed a crumbling trailer park, an abandoned artificial lake resort, several farm or Jesus-themed roadside attractions and, on the way home, a massive, four-story gowf facility, where every single cubby-hole of the place was occupied, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, with gowfers practicing their gowfing drives.
Are you from The Great State of Indiana? Good for you!
Because it’s a great place to be from. Ba-dump-dump.
The drive home was better. Apparently The Great State of Indiana tests the barrels on the shoulder on weekends, perhaps to better facilitate the caravan of autographed Ferraris, Porsches and their “support vehicles” blasting by me, in excess of 90 mph. Because fast cars and NASCARS get a bye if they are on their way to Indianapolis, in the Great State of Indiana.
I had the time to listen to a repeat broadcast of a Saturday evening radio program, with a comedy bit about state slogans.
The show made note that the state of Nebraska had actually (really, this is true) changed its state motto to, “honestly, it’s not for everyone.”
Whereupon, the host of the program gave “mad props” to Nebraska for being so cool, and encouraged other states to adopt their refreshing approach, with a few suggestions:
For Wyoming: “You don’t know which one it is.”
For Colorado (the first state to legalize weed): “huh huh huh…huh…wha?”
And for Indiana: “We’re not all like that.”
Let’s hope so, guy who thinks dangerous inanimate objects are his family.
And you, Petunia.
I Guess the Rules Don’t Apply to You
Here’s the sign at the entrance to one of the open lands preserves I like to walk in:
And here’s what I found, not twenty yards in:
Those sure look like bike tire tracks to me. What else would they be?
So, I guess the rules just don’t apply to you, do they, dearie? Aren’t you special!
It’s a good thing my phone died before I could gather photographic evidence of violations of the “clean up after your dog” rule.
I mean, why put the poop in the bag, and then just drop the bag? Is your valet walking 10 feet behind you, or something?
Newsflash – he’s slacking.
Shit Doctors Say
Shit Doctors Say, #1:
From an allergist, on her first examination of my daughter, to me, when discussing how I attempt to maintain a lower-carb diet for her:
“Hot dogs are bad for you.”
“Peanut butter has protein.”
You’re kidding! I have lived easily twice as long as you, yet I appear to you to be a person who is ignorant of the fact that hot dogs are not the healthiest option and peanut butter has protein!
Well, congratulations, sweetheart! You must have gotten an A in the required course in Arrogance in med school! And an extra “P” for “Patronizing, Pretentious Pomposity!”
Shit Doctors Say, #2:
I went to college in southern California, east of LA, in what at the time was a very smoggy valley. I used to run a parcourse there regularly, and about 3/4ths of the way through would experience debilitating, really quite excruciating uterine cramps, forcing me to stop running the course and stagger back to my dorm.
A male doctor (presumably a person who did not then have, nor never did have, a uterus), to me, on the phone, when I reported this phenomenon and asked for help:
“The uterus and intestines are close together. You’re probably having an intestinal cramp. It will pass.”
Oh! I never would have guessed that A MAN WHO DOES NOT HAVE A UTERUS would know better than me, a woman who does, what at UTERINE cramp feels like! Silly me!
A month or two later a runners magazine had an article about female runners experiencing severe UTERINE cramps.
Shit Doctors Say, #3:
A pediatrician, on her first meeting with my daughter, who as a toddler, was signaling developmental differences and a need for a different, gentler, slower kind of communication, and I was offering that kind of compassionate communication to explain she was to have a shot (even though she looked rashy and feverish, and said female doctor contended she would go ahead and give her own kid a shot in that condition). :
“I’ve found that bargaining doesn’t work.”
Oh, really? In your vast 10 minutes of experience with my developmentally different daughter, you have decided that you know better than I, her mother, how to communicate with her?
Bet that practice has closed.
Shit Doctors Say #4:
To my parents, in my presence, after coming out of appendectomy surgery, when I was seven years old:
“That took a while, because there was so much fat.”
Oh, way to go! Throw a little humiliation and self-loathing on top of the terror of a seven year old fresh out of surgery! You get the bedside manner award for the century, asshole!
“Sorry about the scar.”
Really? You mean that immense, raggedy scar where every huge stitch you took in me is still plainly visible, 50 years on?
You know where you can put your sorry, buster.
Shit doctors say, #5:
I accompanied Mike to a recommended visit to an orthopod after his shoulder was separated, because I knew Mike wouldn’t listen to a word the guy said. I asked the doctor how the bone could stay “bent” like that, and in a brief discussion of ruling out surgery must have asked about connective tissue, referring to it as “ligaments.”
The doctor answered my question making air quotes with his fingers when he said the word “ligaments.”
Well, OK asshole, why don’t you just explain that you use a different word to refer to soft or connective tissue? But I get it – you’ve been trained never to pass up a chance to patronize someone and schvitz your superiority all over the exam room.
I’ll be taking my ligaments elsewhere, thank you very much.
OK, that’s off my chest. But do send me examples of the dumbest things doctors have ever said to you. Let’s make the world a better place by giving them the snark they deserve, when they do that!
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.
I’m supposed to be trying to live with love and laughter, and to minimize negative emotions like anger and frustration.
There are a few things, however, that will enrage me every single time, such as being told to “calm down” when I’m really pissed off or frustrated.
Or when someone I am not yelling at asks me to stop yelling at them.
Or when someone driving in front of me is driving at less than the speed limit (I will not, I WILL NOT, get mad if someone is driving at the speed limit. Really, I won’t. I promise.)
Examples: calling the cable company, or the bank, and the hapless “customer service representative” (a/k/a person who is only allowed to do or say what the script in front of them tells them they may do or say) asks me to stop yelling at them.
You think I’m yelling at you? You think this is yelling? I’m not yelling. I – am – speaking – very – precisely – using – multi-syllabic – words – that – your – script – can’t – help – you – respond – to – in – a probably – futile (fyoo-tah–eel, yes that’s the way I say it, drawn out like that – I’m being an asshole but I can’t seem to stop myself) – attempt – to – cause – you – to – rectify – your – corporate – master’s – latest – outrage – against – my – pocketbook.
That’s not yelling.
THIS IS YELLING, OK? DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE? GET ME A SUPERVISOR.
I hereby declare that while you are not allowed to punch someone in the face when told to calm down, you ARE allowed to narrow your eyes and start speaking through clenched teeth in the clipped manner described above (typically written by millennials with initial caps and Annoying. Periods. Between. Each. Word. I used dashes. Because I really, really hate that periods-between-each-word thing. Enough already. If you’re mad, get mad. And tell them in that narrowed-eye-clenched-teeth-clipped-tone not to tell you to calm down, and to get you a supervisor. Who you then have to be nice to, and tell them it isn’t the customer service rep’s fault, because it isn’t, their hands are tied, they can only say or do what their script says they may say or do. So now, once you have the supervisor, you have to do the catch-flies-with-honey thing).
Example two: I really, really hate being late, but I hate being told to calm down about it even more. I was late to an appointment because I got stuck behind a tiny blonde driving a living-room sized black SUV, who seemed incapable of making a decision about where she would cause the SUV to propel itself, and therefore stopped in the middle of the street, while she thought about it. No way around a truck that big.
So I arrived at the hairdresser’s a tad bit, um….agitated. And after apologizing for being late and energetically, erm, sharing my experience, I was told to calm down.
Breathe. Grit teeth. Cool off while waiting for the shampoo lady, whose head-massage technique usually helps me dial it all back, for a few minutes anyway.
OK, I get it. Perhaps the other patrons weren’t much interested in my frustrating experience and would prefer to have their own few minutes of calm in the shampoo chair, in peace.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will have noticed I have a thing for making lists of “rules” – which are ways of giving myself permission to be myself and try not to waste such moments as I may have remaining upon this earth with energy-wasting, non-love-producing emotions. Like anger and frustration.
But I’m only human (that’s a good song, by the way), and I still lose it sometimes.
But that’s off my chest now, so CALM DOWN, ok?
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.
Thank you and have a nice day.
Everywhere and anytime I have ever opened my mouth to sing, whether it is in church, at a ball game, or just wandering around the warehouse, someone has told me that I “missed my calling,” that I should try out for “The Voice,” that it isn’t too late, that, damn, I can SING.
With the notable exception of a band I went to see that found it necessary to insult their entire audience just to indirectly tell me to shut it.
Allow me to explain.
It is a tribute band that plays some really difficult music – difficult to do live, in tune, and accurately. And they do it really well. Intricate harmonies, great guitar licks, etc.
And they couldn’t know that I’m a widow, with a developmentally different adult child, who barely gets out at all, and loves to sing.
And a rock concert, to me, inherently includes singing along.
I love harmonizing and singing along, and there I was, off in a corner of the dance floor, just having fun and doing my thing.
But I can sing high- I mean really high, and high notes can be heard, even over electric guitars.
And apparently these fellows took umbrage.
When the song I was singing along to was over, the guitarists looked at each other and raised their eyebrows, and then looked over to the lead singer who also plays guitar, and he said, “here’s one you can help us out with,” and they launched into an a capella version of possibly the most difficult, tightest harmony from that tight harmony band of the 70’s and 80’s.
They might as well have just said, “Ok, you wanna sing along? Try singing along to this one, bitch!” or, “we’re here to be listened to, not sung along with, get it?”
Goodness, how some people do get ruffled if one causes the slightest, momentary diversion of attention from their spotlight.
But I don’t think it was necessary for them to insult their entire audience just to tell me to shut up, which to me was clearly what was going on.
I could choose to see this in a positive light – that they were genuinely inviting the audience to “help them out.” NOT.
Needless to say, we didn’t stay for the second set.
But let’s just get one thing straight:
I am the Ridiculous Woman.
I hereby declare myself exempt from any rules about not making a spectacle of oneself in public. Life is short, love should be lavish and abundant, laughter is good for you, get over yourselves.
Because I ain’t gonna stop singing.
And I ain’t gonna stop making a spectacle of myself singing, in public, when there is something to be sung along with.
Making a spectacle of myself is what I do best. OK, maybe second best – obsessive worrying is what I do best – but not about making a spectacle of myself – I don’t worry about that at all. I consider it my primary “area of strength.”
I’m not out to be disrespectful or spoil anyone else’s fun, and I’m open to gentle suggestions that I might be doing just that, and the audience came to hear them, not me – which is why I usually, if the environment permits (which it didn’t really, in this case, as you had to shout across a two top to be heard by the person you came with, and the server had to show you the iPad for you to understand a word they were saying about the check), give fair warning to the folks in my immediate vicinity and get their OK – and c’mon, I don’t sing along at the opera, because really, even I wouldn’t go that far. (But I do sing arias in the warehouse, before anyone else is there, and sometimes when they get there, they catch me at it and ask me to keep going.)
So even though I loved the music, I won’t be going to see that band again. I have all the recordings of the original band anyway, ON VINYL no less, for all you hipsters out there.
Time to crank the tunes, and sing along.
Whew. That feels better. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.
Welcome back, you illiterate swine.
No, wait, not you.
The novel, published by a reputable publisher, which, in the first 10 pages, spelled the word “judgment” as “judgement.”
BZZZT! Thank you for playing! Novel, into the recycling. Next!
The other novel, a good one, also published by a reputable publisher, that expressed a quantity we’ll call ‘x’ as greater than a quantity we’ll call ‘y’ thus:
“x was more then y.”
After I finished screaming, “THAN! THAN! More THAN, you illiterate swine!” I realized I was too far into the book to toss it. But my heart wasn’t in it anymore, so I skimmed my way to the end. And then I put it in the recycling.
These lapses in literacy sent my mind reeling back to other instances of mangling or misusing words that drive me nuts.
The NPR reporter who consistently pronounces the three-syllable word “president” as a two syllable word, “prezdent.”
The ditsy morning DJ I stopped listening to because she consistently pronounces words ending in “ing” (which should rhyme with “ring” or “swing”) as “een” (rhyming with “sheen” or “mean.”) Really? REALLY? You are go-eeen to answer the phone that is ring-eeen causing the cat’s meow-eeeen because it is bother-eeeen you?
Worse, a certain public figure in my state seems to believe he can make himself seem “folksy” by making television ads in which he appears in an immaculate stage set meant to look like some sort of workshop, wearing a pristine lumberjack plaid shirt and droppin’; the “g”s off every word that should end in “ing” (to rhyme with “ring” or “swing”) – right, dude, I’ll be lulled into believin’ that you are just a regular guy, right in there fightin’ for a regular gal like me, makin’ things better (oops wait you haven’t made anything better – in fact I can’t see that you’ve accomplished much of anything, sorry, “anythin’ ” that you promised to do, sayin’ “I’m gonna…” another way you try to make yourself sound “folksy”… do this that and the other thing, seemingly all by yourself, because you seem to think, as billionaire businessmen are wont to do, that you can just decree something and make it so; news flash, dude – you can drop your “g”s from now until kingdom come and it won’t make a bit of difference – you will never be “folksy” and you are never “gonna” accomplish anythin’ all by yourself. Are you gettin’ this?
For the sake of our child, who loves to listen to the radio, I won’t get started on the spectacularly irritating pop song lyrics that make no sense at all, even though listening to them over and over makes my teeth curl.
Hopeen and hopin’ that you are haveen or havin’ a more literate morneen or mornin’ than I (yes, I, as in “I hope you are enjoying a nicer morning than I am enjoying.” You wouldn’t say, “than me am enjoying,” now, would you?)
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Around is Not About
OK, here we go: get it in you brand-addled, casual-Friday-ed, open-environmented, ergonomic- ball-chaired, giant post-it-note conference “spaced” head:
If you are having a discussion AROUND something, you are not having a discussion ABOUT it. In fact, you are avoiding having a discussion about it.
“Oh, we’re going to have a discussion AROUND the hideous failure of the new ad campaign! I’m so relieved! I thought we were going to talk ABOUT it!”
So, you’re actually going to have a discussion ABOUT something! Don’t forget to “take a deep dive” and festoon your “space” with giant post-it notes full of “brandstorming!”
Alright, now, Millennials, this one’s for you:
No. More. Periods. After. One. Word.
This is not emphasis. It is illiteracy.
Sentences, which end with periods, require a noun and a verb.
Now, don’t get me started on adverbs.
When I’m ready, I’ll post a full Requiem for the Adverb.
Which you can read quick while you eat healthy and work smart.
For “all intensive purposes.”
Hope this has “peaked” your interest.
OK, your turn. Toss ’em in. This is the Snark Tank. Open for grammatical and word-use pet peeves and examples of preventable stupidity. Go for it.