My freshman year of college, I lived in an oversized dorm room with three other girls, Ashley, Krystal, and Anna. We had a communal system in the kitchen, meaning everyone bought food to stock it and then everyone could eat what they wanted. It was imperfect, but for the most part everyone contributed and consumed evenly.

Anna was kinda anal-retentive. And though I am kinda anal-retentive, she was anal-retentive about things which I was not, and so I saw her as uptight. She got very upset about things like having bread crumbs in the butter. Some days I want to just sneak into her house and stuff a whole loaf of bread into her butter.

But anyway.

At some point, Anna got fed up with the way we as a group were going through breakfast foods, mainly cereal. With four girls eating every day and considering that cereal is a viable dinner food in college, it really was no surprise that the fiber-filled food didn't last long. But apparently Anna was buying a lot of cereal and then not getting to eat much of it herself. So she decided to ration our breakfast foods. She went to the grocery store and bought several boxes of cereal and a bag of bagels. Then she put the bagels in the kitchen and hid the cereal in a box under her bed. She explained that she would get out the cereal after we had first finished the bagels. To her, this was a great idea.

This great idea was colossally stupid in a few ways. First of all, I didn't like bagels. Secondly, even if we are all eating the same breakfast food, the rate of breakfast food consumption does not change (except for me, since I didn't like the bagels). Thirdly, we knew where the hidden cereal was, so the less privacy minded (meaning Krystal) just ate the cereal anyway and put the box back under Anna's bed when she was done.

Seeing that Anna's food ration idea was colossally stupid, I said "Screw it," and went out and bought several boxes of cereal and put them in the kitchen for everyone to eat. Fine, Anna could do what she wanted, but I was going to have cereal when I wanted it. I wasn't going to steal from under her bed, but I wasn't going to eat by her rules either. The next morning, Anna went into the kitchen and poured herself a big bowl of one of my cereals. I really tried to be nice to her, but this was too much. I raised an eyebrow at her and asked, "Shouldn't you be having a bagel?" She only gave me a very defeated look, and I let it go. It was the last we heard of rations.


aw, shucks.

My brother Barry's church was having a shindig. Not a potluck, not a chicken pie supper, or any of the usual Methodist gatherings I am used to, but an oyster and seafood roast. It was a fund-raiser put on by a Sunday school class to raise money for a family over the holidays. I guess oysters are what you get when you don't live so far inland.

I don't eat a lot of seafood. As a kid, I ate only shrimp. Then I went shrimping, and I quit eating that, too, because once you see those things alive, you have a hard time putting a dead one in your mouth. It is only recently that I've started eating seafood at all again, mostly due to working at fine dining establishments and realizing that there are other ways to cook it than to deep fry it. God bless the South.

I'd never had oysters at all before, except in this stew that my grandmother used to eat. The people in my dad's family are seafood people, having grown up on the North Carolina coast. My grandmother loved that oyster stew, and she'd have one of her children run down the street from her nursing home to this specific seafood restaurant to get a to-go cup of it. I don't remember much of the taste of the stew, just that there were very questionable-looking items floating in what looked like milk. My other experience with oysters was walking along a beach and watching my father fish them out among the rocks and eat them raw. Daddy doesn't hold much with those silly sanitation rumors about undercooked meat. I think he figures that anything he used to do sixty years ago is probably still safe.

Barry and his wife, Holly, invited me and Josh to the oyster roast. I automatically assumed that Josh would not want to go - hmm, hang out with your girlfriend's family and a church full of strangers? To my surprise, he genuinely seemed down with the idea, leaving the decision up to me, and openly declaring in front of Barry and Holly that he had no other plans, obliterating any chance of making up previous obligations to get out of going. Though I myself was unsure about going to a strange church and eating seafood, I don't get to see Barry's family all that often. Plus, my ten-year-old niece Sarah was begging for us to go. So we went.

Man, oysters smell bad. The spread was impressive, though. There were chicken wings (mild and spicy) and hot dogs for the seafood-disinclined, as well as shrimp and hushpuppies and clam chowder. There was a huge table in the middle covered in desserts, and had I been a regular attender of this church, I probably could have identified which little old lady brought each one. I helped myself to a hot dog, some hushpuppies, and shrimp. I'm starting to like shrimp again as the memories of my shrimping experience fade, but these were not the succulent plump jumbo grilled kind that I was used to: these suckers still had their legs on. So gross. But I was feeling frisky, so I helped myself to half a dozen. We made our way around the different food tables, helping ourselves as strangers said hello and excuse me and how are you? and were the very essence of friendly Southern Christians with a night of good food and fellowship in front of them. I grew up in a church very much like this one, and so I felt somehow at home. Even Josh leaned in to me and said, "I'm having a really good time, and I don't know why."

Josh had never had oysters either, but he was an old pro with shrimp de-legging. So he did a couple of mine for me while I watched with wrinkled nose, and then I took on the amputations for myself, trying not to look too hard at the little legs that I was ripping off. I would make a lousy vegetarian because I love meat so much, but I have a hard time when I'm forced to associate what's on my fork with an actual creature. We sat around and ate, us adults making jokes about what they say about oysters while Sarah demanded to have the joke explained and then being denied. This was Josh's first time among any part of my family, but he fit right in, joking and telling stories and teasing Sarah with the rest of us. She is gorgeously gullible and good-natured, a perfect combination for light-hearted teasing. I told the story about Daddy eating raw oysters on the beach, to which everyone was disgusted, but the ones who knew my dad were not at all surprised. Sarah, who is not an adventurous eater, was especially revolted. She refused a piece of my freshly legless shrimp, and wouldn't try a hushpuppy, even after I assured her that no animals were injured in their making. I tried to convince her to eat an oyster, promising that I would eat one if she did. She asked for cash payment instead.

And then Josh came back from getting seconds with a pair of oysters, raw. He pulled out his Swiss army knife and began prying the first shell open. I was amused. I grew up eating raw cake batter full of raw eggs, and I don't generally hold much with those silly sanitation rumors either, but even I was a little grossed out. Holly watched, delighted, and Sarah, disgusted. The idea of swallowing a creature while using its house as a plate was too much for her. Having opened it, Josh eyed the thing for a few seconds, then slid it down his throat, paused thoughtfully, and then said, "Salty." He grinned at me, saying that he had honestly wanted to try one, but that he also really wanted to gross out Sarah. After he polished off the second one with slightly less trepidation, we made our way to where the cooked oysters were being served. I'd decided that I was going to be brave and try one, and Sarah had decided that she was going to be brave and watch me.

Salty is about the word for it, like eating a giant booger marinated in saline. I'd probably eat one again.

Holly, Josh, and I were still invested in getting Sarah to try an oyster (cooked). At first she refused to eat it out of the shell. Problem solved, we got her a plate. We set her up with a nice big juicy one. Josh leaned in and patiently explained the process of shucking an oyster while Holly and I watched with little smiles on our faces, both of us suckers for a man who is good with kids. In wearing Sarah down, she had worn us down, and Holly had promised her $3 to eat one, meaning she couldn't get it in her mouth and spit it back out. We all stood around her and egged her on. She would put the thing on her fork (who eats oysters with a fork, anyway?), bring it closer and closer to her mouth before giggling and putting it back down while we sighed in increasing mock frustration. This went on for several minutes. I was starting to lose interest with the game, though we had drawn a crowd of half a dozen people by now. Finally, she put the oyster in her mouth and swallowed in one gulp. When we asked how it tasted, she replied that she hadn't really tasted it because she swallowed it so fast. Then she demanded her $3. Holly promised to give her the money when they got back to the car, where her purse was, but Josh pulled out his wallet and handed her a couple of bucks. He told me later that he had easily gotten $2 worth of entertainment out of the experience. Sarah realized that she had made $5 just by swallowing and immediately offered to eat some more. Imagine how much money the church could raise by having people pledge money to watch little kids eat gross stuff.

The night was chilly, and we moseyed over to the small marshmallow-roasting fire, which Barry was manning. Sarah excitedly told him about her dining experience and the money she made off of it. Barry didn't say anything, but was obviously not impressed. Holly asked Barry what was wrong, to which Sarah whispered, "He doesn't approve." I grinned, because I knew that she was exactly right, that his reaction was exactly the same as my own father's would have been at having his children be paid to eat something unusual. I was even more amused that Sarah, at only ten years old, picked up on it immediately. She may not be adventurous, but she is sharp. And then Sarah herself solved the problem by putting all her oyster earnings in the donation jar for the underprivileged family.

Wow. Josh was impressed, as was I. I knew already that Sarah is a good kid, but she even surprises me sometimes.

Neither Josh nor I was really dressed for spending a mid-November evening outside. It was getting cold, and the only hot chocolate they had was water-based (I prefer milk), so Josh and I decided that it was time to head out. We said our goodbyes, promising Sarah that we would see her soon at Thanksgiving at my parents'. We hurried shivering back to my car, huddling close for warmth, and I left happy, because I had a wonderful family and a wonderful boyfriend, and the two had been successfully combined with beautiful results.


college student success.

When I registered for classes at Surry Community Classes, I had them obtain a copy of my ASU transcript in the hopes that I could avoid having to take a bunch of core curriculum classes. A couple of weeks later, I received a notice from SCC listing the courses that I now had credit for, thanks to my having taken them at ASU already. The results were disappointing. Granted, it's true that math/computers don't have a lot in common with agriculture, but I was hoping for a little more. I managed to meet my English and History requirements, and they were nice enough to say that I didn't have to take Intro to Computing, what with my degree in computer science and all.

What was more noticeable were the classes they said that I still had to take. One of them was an intro-level math class, something about mathematical modeling (you'll all be relieved to know that the subject has nothing to do with combining calculators and catwalks). I have a math degree in addition to my computer science degree. Specifically, it's an Applications of Mathematics degree - it's a bunch of mathematical modeling. I feel like I should challenge the decision to make me take this course, but then again, maybe plotting graphs will be a nice break from all that high-level calculus I had to do during my last semester in college.

The second course that I feel like contesting is called "College Student Success." I assume that the course covers time-management skills and study habits, though maybe it includes some of the lesser-lauded ways to be successful in college, including cheating, sleeping with professors, and blackmailing the dean. Now I hate to keep harping on the fact that I am a college graduate already, but I feel that this fact entitles me to avoid classes with vague titles that will be a waste of my time. I want to bring my diploma into the dean's office and say, "I was a college student for four years. Note this piece of paper that prooves that I was successful at it. Ergo, I have already achieved college student success. Q.E.D."

I am going to end up having to take more classes than I expected to get this wine degree (not to be confused with a whine degree, which I already have). Chemistry and business courses, fine. Also, a class called "Spanish for the Workplace." They might as well call the class "Communicating with Migrant Workers." I know a few spanish words from kindergarten and watching Sesame Street and reading the menu at La Carreta, but I get the feeling that those won't help me much, unless my vineyard employees happen to ask where the library is or want to be paid in quesadillas.

In any case, this degree is going to take a long time if I take it two courses at a time. It makes me wonder if I really want the degree, or if I could be satisfied with a certificate. The certificate program seems to be geared specifically for adults working full-time, as the suggested semester course load is 6 hours. That would allow me to avoid taking math, chemistry, and spanish classes, but somehow just going for the certificate is disatisfying to my nature. I want the degree. I just, you know, don't want to have to work all that hard for it.


easier than stalking the mailman.

I heart the internet.

I'm part of that digital generation, one of those people who only vaguely remembers life before the internet. I was 12 or 13 when my parents got their first dialup AOL account, and there's been no turning back since. Now I live alone and I refuse to pay any money at all for even basic TV service, but I shell out $45 a month for broadband without a second thought. Those are my priorities.

I've done all my Christmas shopping online. I'm down to getting just a couple more last gifts, and then I am finished. I've got FedEx, UPS, and the USPS leaving notices and packages at my door practically every day. Trouble is, I shop for things for other people and end up seeing things that I myself would like to find under the shrubs outside my apartment door. I've had to limit myself. It's the accepted season of giving and receiving, but no one really says anything about what you give to yourself. My mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told her, "I dunno. But if you can't find anything, you can just pay me back for the stuff I bought myself."

Online shopping has gotten even more exciting in the past couple of years with the invention of tracking. I love this idea. I like to log onto my online accounts and then click the link to be transported to UPS or FedEx or the USPS website to find out just where my packages were last sighted. It's so exciting to see the natural progression of my purchases from some warehouse in Maryland or Texas or Michigan all the way to Lewisville, NC. Tracking brings out the full spectrum of emotions. There's the initial excitement at seeing that first entry that says "Shipper notified of package." Then there's frustration when it was scanned for arrival in Tempe at 3:14 AM five days ago and it hasn't moved since. Then comes the confusion when it ends up in Albany, which is by no means on the way to Lewisville from Tempe. And finally comes the relief when you see that blessed description "On the truck for delivery at local facility" at 7:38 this morning. Then you've got nothing left but worry when you see "Left on doorstep in full view of sticky-fingered neighbors" at 9:04 AM and you've got another three hours before your lunch break.

Tracking is great. It's all the excitement of a private detective in a film noir without having to find out who your wife is sleeping with on the side. Plus, when it's all over, you've got a present! For someone else, I mean. Yeah, someone else.


in computers.

My computer is on the fritz, and I don't know what to do. I've tried all the things that I know how to do, including restarting, unplugging and replugging and then restarting, and shutting down and waiting ten seconds and then rebooting. At four years old, my computer is long past its warranty.

By the way, I'm "in computers."

What a dreaded phrase. As soon as someone hears what I do for a living, there is a roughly 53.1% chance that the person will say, "Oh, hey, you're in computers, how do you..." and then proceed to describe some problem that has nothing to do with what I do. I write software. More specifically, I write software for the transportation industry. So, really, I have no idea why your mouse freezes up sometimes or why Windows doesn't recognize a particular kind of file. Have you tried rebooting?

There are different types of computer people. I am a black box kind of girl. I don't know all that much about how a computer works, and unless I wrote the software, I don't know how any of that works either. Granted, I probably know more than the layman, because I did go to computer college, but I don't know enough to fix computers for a living. That isn't my job. There are computer people who know it all, either because they are just interested in taking that bad boy apart and seeing what it can do, or because they've worked tech support. Those are the people you want to ask for help. I can run tech support for my parents, but they just need to know how to do things like delete icons off the desktop or plug something into a USB slot.

So now I've got this computer problem, and though I could drop three hundred bucks for a new machine, I'm afraid that the problem is related to my hard drive. Since I want to be able to retrieve all my files from my current hard drive, getting a new machine could just mean infecting a new machine. It's quite a quandary. So I thought I'd ask some people at work if they had any insight into my issue, because, well, they're in computers. Without thinking about who would be the best person to ask, I asked the person that I know the best, Dave. He asked, "Have you tried rebooting?" I then admonished him for not being of more assistance, insisting, "But you're in computers!"

Then Rob walked in, and so we asked him. He then proceeded to tell me that the problem was probably not hard drive related, and started listing a whole slew of things that I could do, all of them relating to the parts of a computer that I know nothing about, some of them I'd never heard of. Apparently, Rob is one of those other kinds of computer people, the kind that doesn't just blink in confusion when the blue screen of death pops up. And if his suggestions do not work, I could probably persuade him to take my machine home and monkey with it. Worst case scenario: I have to buy a new machine, which is not so bad, because for one thing, I get a new computer. For another, I can afford it. Why?

Because I'm in computers.


shut up and stop being such a big baby.

I've run across a lot of ways to tell someone to shut up and stop being such a big baby. Most of them are not very interesting, as they do not stray far from the original theme of "Shut up and stop being such a big baby." But some of them are good, in that they effectively get across the point that the other person is being whiny while being a little more original.

Thing 1: Things are tough all over.
The original, as it it my mother's. She used it liberally while us kids were growing up, answering with it whenever we would complain about all the trivial woes in our lives. Yes, you're hungry, yes, you are bored, and oh dear Lord, you're tired, too? Things are tough all over. The phrase brings a funny image to my mind, maybe something from World War II, where a soldier is listing the ways in which they are losing lives and ground. Then he adds, "And...I've got a hangnail!" His superior answers him with a sigh, "Things are tough all over." More than one person has been shocked at my mother's use of sarcasm to her small children. Dr. Spock said we shouldn't spank because it would twist developing minds. He would probably say that mothers should not answer their children with facetiousness for the same reason. It did twist our developing minds: now we're all sarcastic, too. For the record, we were spanked, too. Things were tough all over.

Thing 2: What does not kill us makes us stronger.
This one is mine, though my use of it has caused Mama to latch onto it sometimes. I suppose that's only fair, as I've been known to tell someone that things were tough all over. The phrase is one that came from somewhere, some inspirational poster meant to encourage kids in boot camp or something. It sounds harsher to me than other similar phrases I've heard and is frequently met with irritation. Maybe it's the mocking way in which I say it. Maybe I should work on my people skills.

What this and the previous one do is to put things in perspective, which I like about them. They not only tell you to shut up and stop being such a big baby, they tell you that your problems are infinitesimally itty-bitty and that there are a lot worse things going on out there, like when you're whining about your new botched haircut and then you run into a guy going through chemo. One of the reasons I started using the "What does not kill us makes us stronger" line (aside from the fact that I think that it's a stupid phrase when used in seriousness, and I wanted to mock the line itself) was the way it so brutally put the situation in perspective. It essentially dismisses all things which do not run the risk of making you drop dead. "Yeah, your hair does look stupid, but are you dying? No? Quitcher bitchin'."

Thing 3: Pobrecita.
Josh had a high school science teacher that gave him this one, which is spanish for "poor girl." Kids would come in and give long excuses about why they didn't have their homework because they had football practice or a date or knitting class. The teacher would listen nicely, cluck sympathetically and say "Pobrecita," before taking up the homework anyway. I like this one because it gives the illusion of sympathy before you realize that the person is making fun of you. Josh and I use this one on each other, although he has taken to telling me that things were tough all over, too. He's also used this one genuinely, too, when I was sick once, and it was sweet, like when my mother says "poor, sweet baby" when I've called her up, sick, all grown up, and wanting my mommy. At least, I think Josh was using it genuinely. Maybe he was just telling me to shut up and stop being such a big baby.


the mall.

I hate the mall. I used to like Hanes Mall, back before I lived here, when I lived in a town whose mall boasted a dozen stores, half of them furniture outlets. Hanes Mall was a treat, because it was big and shiny and had actual stores. But now the honeymoon is over, and I, like a true Forsyth County resident, avoid going there whenever possible.

They've started this new thing at the mall. There have always been those little booths in the middle of the walkway on the bottom floor. Mall booths always sell the same sorts of things: jewelry and cell phones. Recently, I've noticed that they started having these booths that sell some sort of fingernail or hand care products. The salesmen are pushy. They scan the crowds as the people amble by, and the salesmen pick out the most likely targets. Unfortunately, I seem to fall in that category.

Obviously, they target women. Fine. And they probably target younger women, or at least women who look like they maybe sorta care about their appearance. Apparently, the woman doesn't look like she has to care much, because I'm usually all decked out in thrift store clothes with my hair up in a messy ponytail and no makeup. Maybe if I started going to the mall right after waking up with my hair all natted out and wearing painters' overalls, they'd leave me alone. But no, it's always an eager approach and a request to see my hand. Do not be fooled! These men are not going to propose, nor are they going to tell you how lovely your eyes are, shining in the bright Hanes Mall lights. They just want to sell you crap.

I try to say no before they ask. I try to look the other way. I try to pretend that I did not hear them. I try to walk faster, but those fellows will actually chase you and tackle you (okay, not really).

The cell phone guys are pushy, too, but it's much easier to lie to them. I just tell them that my mother still pays for my wireless phone, and the conversation is pretty much over, because wireless service is very cheap indeed when someone else pays for it. I am an honest girl, but I have no qualms about lying to salespeople. But what do I tell the hand guys? "I'm sorry, I don't have any hands, and I'm very sensitive about it." Maybe I should try that, all the while being sure to make sure my hands are in full view.

Last night, I gave in. I let the guy see my hand. My nails aren't bad, just neglected. I've managed to quit biting them so much and even my cuticles look relatively decent half the time. So the guy didn't shudder or anything, but he dragged me over to his little hand booth, promising that it would not take more than ten seconds, and picked up what looked like a chalkboard eraser. He began to buff my middle nail with the three different sides of the block, all the while describing how each side worked to improve the appearance and health of my nails. He had a lovely accent, European, I think. It kept me from understanding every single thing he said, but he was talking nail science (which sounded pretty dubious when I managed to understand), and I probably wouldn't have understood it anyway. Then he was all done with that one nail, and he allowed me to inspect.


Okay, fine, yes, the nail was a lot prettier. It was smooth, and it glistened in the early evening fluorescent light. That little block was pretty neat, though I suspected I could get something at Wal-Mart that performed a similar service. But I was impressed, so I asked the man how much for the little nail-shiner. He, sensing weakness, ignored my question and then put a tiny drop of some sort of liquid on my nail that was supposed to make my cuticle disappear. I wondered if it was just some sort of acid that was going to eat my flesh, but apparently it was more like an oil that just disguised my cuticle. I also wondered whether "cuticle" was a regular vocabulary word for people trying to learn English.

I asked him how much again, and he showed me the little kit, complete with the block and the cuticle oil and some sort of body lotion in the thick plastic carrying case. He told me that they usually sell it for $59.99, but today, for me, it was only $29.99.

You've got to be kidding me.

I think I might have laughed as I said no way. Sensing he had a tough customer, he suddenly knocked the price down to $19.99 and added a year guarantee. Less than two dollars a month, he said! Not a chance, brother. I hated to let him down, with his pretty accent and his nail-shining device, but there's no way that I'm going to spend twenty bucks on a part of my body that I had been satisfied to neglect for free up until then. I felt bad for him as I walked away with my one very shiny fingernail. Undoubtedly, he works on commission. He came all the way over from Europe to learn English and sell nail products at a booth in the mall to Southern women with too much money. He probably hates the mall, too.


happy thanksgiving to all the strangers.

Yesterday morning, I was in Starbucks (yeah, yeah, patsy for the man, blahblahblah) paying for my grande white mocha and lemon poppyseed muffin and wondering whether you would really fail a drug test from eating a poppyseed muffin, when I saw the sign that said that Starbucks would be open today, Thanksgiving day, from 7 am to 2 pm. I was incredulous. I was feeling personable, so I said to the cashier, "You're open tomorrow?" I rarely invite conversation with strangers, but indeed, I was feeling so personable that I had almost asked the girl behind the counter whether she thought eating poppyseed muffins would cause you to fail a drug test.

"Yeah," she replied, looking none too thrilled. There are many ways in which I could have responded to the idea that Starbucks was open on Thanksgiving, all of which I am sure the cashier had already heard. I could have been excited, as if a foamy cappuccino was the only thing the Pilgrims had missed. Or I could have said that it was a really good business opportunity and a great service that Starbucks was providing to those who would be out this morning. But no. My reaction?

"Man, that sucks."


"I had to work Thanksgiving day once. Swore that I would never do it again." This is true. I worked Thanksgiving once at Vintner's, after having left my parents' house at about 2 to come work. I made a whole lot of money, but was miserable serving my favorite holiday to a bunch of stupid tourists who don't know when to stay home. The next year, I put my foot down and said that I would not work Thanksgiving, and as I had been working at the restaurant longer than anyone else at that point, I didn't have to work until 10:30 Friday morning. Working on Black Friday sucks, too, but not nearly as bad. But anyway, I sympathized with the poor service industry slave now handing me my twenty-eight cents in change.

The girl looked really concerned at my vehemence. "Why? Is it that bad?"

Crap, now I'd gone and scared her, when she was already dreading it. "Oh, well, I just had to leave my family's dinner early to go to work all night, and it, uh, just really sucked." Man, I am lame.

"Oh. Well. I'll be here tomorrow."

"Good luck with that."

She gave me a forced smile in return, as if she just wanted me to get out of her store and have bad things start happening to me. She probably wanted me to go out and fail a drug test. It's good that I didn't mention that through the glory of a college degree, I now had Thanksgiving and Black Friday off, and I was getting paid for both of them. She hated me enough already without that. This is why I don't talk to strangers.

Happy Thanksgiving.


pineapple dilemma.

Wednesday nights are wine class, and therefore they're also dinner night out in Dobson for me. My class doesn't start until 7, which gives me about an hour to have a little sit-down dinner. I find that it's a good idea to go to wine class with a full stomach. Most of the restaurants in Dobson kinda suck, but I like The Lantern because it has a good salad bar. I don't generally order salad bars for dinner, but I happened to notice one night that The Lantern salad bar had everything on my ideal salad except for sunflower seeds. When the waitress told me that the ranch dressing was homemade, I was sold.

Last week, I was craving a good salad, so I went to The Lantern. My waitress was about high school aged, a friendly Southern girl who kept calling me "sweetie." Now, I'm sure I milked that Southern charm thing when I waited tables, but I felt pretty ridiculous being called that by a girl who was five years younger than I am. Whatever, she was just being nice. In a town like Dobson, most everybody knows everybody, so she probably has the right to call most of her customers pet names.

In any case, I ordered a one-trip salad bar entree and loaded up my plate with vegetables and ranch dressing. I topped the whole thing with a very generous serving of juicy pineapple chunks, and even made an effort to get extra pineapple juice, a difficult task with salad tongs. I sat back down and prepared to enjoy my ideal salad experience, spearing some lettuce and ham and pineapple on my fork.

The pineapple was sour, obviously way past its prime. Crap, crap, crap. For an anal-retentive gal like me, this was a dilemma. I had a salad full of bad pineapple. While the juice didn't seem to be enough to sour any other of the salad elements, the pineapple is what makes the salad here, folks. Even if I told the waitress about the situation and she corrected it for future salad bar patrons, I still wouldn't have any pineapple, because I had ordered only one trip. I would have to eat my salad sans pineapple.

What does not kill us makes us stronger.

I told the waitress. I waited tables for too long not to complain about something like that; salad bar items should be fresh and tasty. She thanked me and promised to fix it, then asked, "Would you like me to get you a plate of fresh pineapple for your salad, sweetie?" Oh, you lovely girl, call me "sweetie" anytime! She came back with a small plate full of pineapple, juicy and not at all sour. These are the kinds of acts that impress me about servers, because they were the kinds of things that I used to try to do for my customers. I sometimes forgot orders, I spilled water a few times, and I told a lot of jokes that nobody got, but I did try to take care of my customers. If something was wrong, I really did my darnedest to correct it. I was happy again with my salad, though I sighed when I realized that I was going to have to give this girl a really good tip, and I'm already a solid twenty percenter.

Since one trip to the salad bar is not really enough to fill me up, I generally get dessert when I eat at The Lantern. I ordered an ice cream pie that the waitress recommended. The slice was huge and rich and yummy, even though it was obviously a dessert of the pre-packaged variety. I was halfway through the pie when my waitress brought my bill and leaned in close to whisper conspiratorially, "I didn't charge you for your tea, since that dessert is so expensive." I was completely taken aback, but I somehow managed to thank her through my confusion. She must have noticed my reaction, because she came back again a couple of minutes later and said, "I didn't mean to say that you couldn't afford it, just that it's too high. It's good, but I wouldn't pay $2.95 for it." I had collected myself enough to thank her properly the second time, but the whole thing was sort of ridiculous. The dessert serving had been delicious and very generous. Plus, it was obviously a specialty item, so $2.95 seemed perfectly reasonable. I wanted to tell the girl that I used to work at places that charged upwards of six dollars for a dessert half that size.

It seemed obvious to me that the girl was trying to raise her tip. It's not an uncommon trick - it doesn't hurt the server any to give you free stuff, and you end up thanking them with cash. There are some places where you can get away with that more easily than others, depending on how tight a ship the manager of the restaurant runs and how the kitchen receives orders. But it's a crappy thing to do to your employer, and I don't like it. There were a couple of times when I accidentally gave away free desserts by forgetting to ring them up or something like that. And there were other times when I didn't keep close track of my refills for charging purposes. But I never gave away free stuff and drew attention to it to increase my tip. You want a bigger tip? Then be a better server and stop screwing over your employer. Yes, sometimes things are overpriced, and there are going to be times when you are screwed over because of it. But the people who skimp on a tip when they had to pay more than they wanted for dinner weren't going to give you much of a tip anyway.

I was torn. The girl had given very good service, maybe hovering a little more than I would have liked, but that pineapple incident was a big plus for her. But I hated to encourage that kind of behavior. I gave her $3 on my $7 check. I likely would have done that much anyway because of the pineapple. And to be fair, I don't know that she was trying to increase her tip by giving me free tea - maybe she just strongly felt that the pie was overpriced. In any case, it was my second moral dilemma in one night of eating out in Dobson. And it did not kill me, so I can only assume that I am now a stronger person for it, though I do not feel it. Right now, I'm just craving a big salad with pineapple and homemade ranch dressing.


steve's panties.

It's been recently, but sometime in the past few years, I figured out that I was a girl. I got my ears pierced at seventeen, I started carrying a pocketbook in college, I began making attempts at keeping my nails looking neat, I started accessorizing with a vengeance, I got my ears pierced a second time a few weeks back. Of course, my pocketbooks tend to be big enough to fit a whole mess of stuff, I never spend any money on keeping my nails neat, and I buy my accessories second-hand. I am a girl, but I am a sensible girl.

At some point, I decided that I was a grown-up girl, and that I made enough money to buy panties that did not come in three or six packs at Wal-Mart. I made so much money that I could afford to buy panties at outlet stores. Naturally, they would still be cotton and comfortable, and they would get nice and soft and faded in the wash, but they wouldn't be Equate or Sam's Choice or whatever.

Just in case there was any doubt at this point, yes, this story is pretty much all about female undergarments. I am not only mentioning the unmentionables, I'm talking about them at length.
I was at one of those stores that sells things name-brand and highly reduced because they're irregular or one season out of fashion or three seasons ahead of their time. TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Ross, they're all the same. I was looking through the panty selection, picking out things I liked. I noticed that several pair that I selected were the same brand, that brand being called "Steve." I thought that was pretty awesome and imaginative, calling a female undergarment company by a man's name. I giggled, because I was going to be wearing Steve's panties. I giggled again just now when I typed that. I told ya that I was a girl.

I bought a couple of pair of Steve's panties and took them home. I decided to try on my new panties, originally Steve's. I was cutting off the tag of one the pairs when I happened to look a little closer at the brand name. It had a period in it. These were not Steve's panties at all, they were St. Eve's. I don't even know who that is. Granted, I didn't know who Steve was either, but I knew a couple of Steves and a Stephen or two.

It was a terrible disappointment. And while I've since found that I really like St. Eve's panties for all the reasons that a sensible girl likes a pastel blue pair of cotton hipsters, I really kinda wish that they were Steve's panties.


three conversations.

Thing 1: Dead people.
I was sitting in church this past Sunday, and it came to the time of the big prayer in the middle of the service. The pastor was asking for requests, and various churchgoers were calling out to pray for their aunts, cousins, coworkers, etc. There was a pair of little kids sitting behind me, and I overheard this whispered conversation:

"Ooh, ooh, I know one. My friend's pappy just died."
"No! If they're already dead, you don't pray for 'em."
"No, you don't!"

And the argument continued on. By that time, the preacher had started praying, and I was sitting there giggling. You're not supposed to giggle either in prayer or when someone's pappy dies, but I think the Lord and the pappy, rest his soul, will forgive me on this one.

Thing 2: Idiots are harmful, not important, to my well-being.
There's an idiot in my wine classes. There are actually multiple idiots, but we'll just talk about one for now. We were working on a worksheet as a group, and we came across a question that used the word "detrimental." He and I then had a discussion about the word (just assume that I'm not the one saying stupid crap).

"Detrimental. Now, that means-"
"What? No, it means that it's-"
"Bad. Harmful."
"No, it means important."
"What? No, it doesn't."
"It means important."
"Detrimental does not mean important. It means harmful."
"Well, it may not mean important, but I think that's what he means here in this question."

(Sandra pauses here in the story to let the idiocy of that statement sink in.)

"I don't think we can assume that the word has another meaning when the actual meaning makes sense in the question."
"He's always messing things up. His presentations have lots of typos."

At this point, I gave up and wrote my own answer to the question while he wrote his. I then vowed never to listen to that guy again.

Thing 3: Sandra 2.0
Josh and I have this joke, one he made up to appeal to the computer dork in me, based on the way one of his friends goes through many different girlfriends that all seem to be the same girl, but with different names. The first one was named Jessica, and all subsequent girls, be they Katies or Ashleys or Lauras, are all called J2.0, J3.0, J4.0 and so on. We decided not to be bothered with their actual names, since they were really all just Jessica all over again.

Last week, this girl walked into the bar where Josh's band was playing. It was towards the end of the show. I noticed her immediately because of her superficial resemblance to me. Dark hair, check. Dorky glasses, check. Pale skin, check. Her low-slung denim skirt even revealed that she had a mole on her lower back exactly where I have one (which is eerie in itself, but probably even more eerie that I noticed it). Most importantly was her whole t-shirt and jeans kind of I-don't-care-what-you-think-because-I-know-I-am-cool attitude. Her t-shirt, bright green, read "DON'T HATE ME BECAUSE I'M AWESOME." Way too obvious for my tastes, but as far as mass-produced t-shirts go, it wasn't bad. Later, Josh and I were sitting down, having a post-show beer, watching (and judging) this girl. I instinctively didn't like her, for all the bad reasons that one girl instantly dislikes another. I leaned into Josh and asked, "Hey, is that Sandra two-point-oh?" He gave her a critical once-over and shook his head, "Baby, that's more like Sandra oh-point-two."

He can be such a sweet boy.


school bus yellow dress.

I woke up on your couch alone to that movie that I've seen already but didn't like with my school bus yellow dress revealing more of my thighs than made me comfortable, the bottom hem having shifted in my sleep, and I remembered going to sleep wrapped comfortably in the heat of your body, except now I was alone, and then I also vaguely recalled you getting up and promising me that you would be right back before I drifted back away from wakefulness, but I didn't remember when that was, and the clock on the far wall said that it was nearly 2 AM now, but the music and the light were on in the other room, so I got up from the couch, pulling my school bus yellow dress down to keep from flashing nobody, since nobody was there, and I tread softly to the doorway that made the entrance to the room that was the source of the light and the music, and I saw you there, your back to me, facing your laptop on the card table and writing, and I hated to disturb you when you were working, but I did want you and your attention, so I knocked only lightly on the door and leaned sleepily against the doorframe, hoping that my drowsiness would endear you to me and make you forgive me for interrupting, and you turned, looking guilty for having abandoned me on the couch, claiming insomnia and making a joke in reference to a tiny detail that I told you once about my childhood, showing me that you do listen to me, but then you took me gently in your arms and told me about the song you were writing about my school bus yellow dress, and I was happy.


martha thursday.

I felt a pressing need to go to the bathroom one morning, interestingly enough about 15 minutes after I had taken my last sip of my morning tea. I made my way to the company ladies' room, where five empty stalls (1 handicapped) awaited me. My usual stall, stall 3, had a pink sticky note on the outside door. Without reading the note, I assumed that particular toilet was out of order, so I turned to another stall. It was then that I realized that they all had pink sticky notes on them. There's construction going on in the building, so maybe that wasn't so unheard of to have 5 stalls out of order, but then I happened to read one of the notes. I read "Martha Monday/Tuesday" on stall 1. Then "Martha Wednesday." My regular stall was "Martha Thursday," which was right before "Martha Friday." The handicapped stall said "Sandra & Connie M -> F." I didn't have to look very closely at the notes to recognize Martha's handwriting.

Martha's a funny bird, a middle-aged tester, and the only other female who works on software here since Terrie left last week to work in insurance or mortgages or something else boring. We have the part-time receptionist (who apparently would be sharing the handicapped stall with me) and Sylvia, the office manager whose office lies in the inner sanctum of the suite with the higher-ups. I suspect there is a private restroom in there. So five stalls in the women's bathroom, 3 girls to use them. I imagined Martha making the notes, snickering, and being thoroughly disappointed that there were not six stalls so that she would not have to use the same one on Mondays and Tuesdays. I looked at all those little pink sticky notes and laughed.

Then I used Martha Thursday. Don't tell.


and some candy.

I'm getting to the age where a lot of my friends are starting to get married. I'm sure there will be some specific year in my life where pretty much everyone my age gets married all at once. Maybe it's this year; I've got two weddings in the next four months. Luckily, I know a lot of people lacking in marriageability, so I probably won't be the last to go.

I like weddings. I am apparently required to in some deep innate way that I do not understand, because though I am cynical and not especially feminine in the traditional ways, I love a good wedding. When one of my roommates got married, I was all about some bridal catalogs and giving my input on the tiniest decisions. In fact, I wish I could've been more involved. Perhaps I could have been consulted on the matter of the color of the bridesmaids' dresses. The good thing about being single and going to weddings is that you can see what works and what does not. Outdoor wedding in July in North Carolina? Heavens, no. Open bar? Heck yeah. So I have this growing list in my mind of the things that I definitely do or do not want for my own wedding.

But can I just state that I really hate bridal registries? I essentially go into a rant mode anytime I have to look through one of those things. It's like a Santa letter for adults, but more irritating, both because adults should know better, and because it's ridiculously specific. If a little kid specified exactly what model, year, and color he wanted for his bicycle, I'd be inclined to buy him some encyclopedias instead, 1993, brown. And is it just me, or does everyone pick out the absolute most expensive version of whatever it is they want? I suppose people figure that if they are going to demand towels from someone, then they should demand the $15 kind that you have to wash one at a time. But at the same time, maybe it's our own fault for asking what to buy them. You have to admire that sort of honesty: we asked what they wanted, and by golly, they told us.

I feel restricted by gift registries. When I know the people fairly well and I feel like I could probably get them something neat that they would enjoy, I feel discouraged from that path by the need to play by the rules. So rather than buying that really cool lamp or maybe that vintage coffee mug set, I'm all, "Here's the spice rack you picked out, deluxe, chrome." The people who know me well would probably understand if I ended up buying them something from a Big Lots instead of a Belk, but at the same time, I am afraid of breaking some sort of wedding code that I don't know about.

I just hate the concept of registries. It's basically a way for people who feel no desire to put any actual thought into buying a gift to alleviate their feelings of obligation about buying something in the first place. And I say "gift card" for people like that. Gift certificates are no more impersonal than the cheapest item that hasn't already been bought. I say if you're going to be unimaginative, then just own up to it.

I realize that most engaged people probably don't like registering either. They are essentially asking for stuff, and they know it. You have to appreciate the people who are nice enough to register at sensible places like Target or Wal-Mart. Those are practical people, who know that the same Black and Decker coffee maker works just as well when it's 20% less. Plus, as a completely selfish aside, when your items cost less, other people are more likely to buy you more of them, because they've pre-determined how much they like you and therefore, how much they're going to spend.

Bridal registries are probably a necessary evil. I can't put them on my list of wedding don'ts, because I do see their point, though I only grudgingly admit it. Not everyone who knows you well enough to buy you a present for this joyous occasion knows you well enough to pick out the exact right present. Some people simply suck at picking out gifts. And I'm a nice girl, so I would just hate to deny someone the right to buy me presents that I actually want. So there will come a day (hopefully, anyway) where I will have to register. I'm tempted to put ridiculous things on my registry. "Yes, I want a complete set of these towels (extra-large, sapphire), this shelf here (mahogany), three cans of cooked spinach, and a jukebox! Also some candy."

It's a little soon to be worrying about it all anyway. Or maybe I'll find that the reason I know so many people lacking in marriageability is because I lack it as well, and then I won't ever have to worry about this at all. I'll be worrying about entirely different things, like where I'm going to get three cans of cooked spinach, a jukebox, and some candy.


no trespassing.

There's this old water treatment plant outside Clemmons. You get to it by driving down a back road behind the golf course and nice houses. Park by the train tracks, in front of the "No Parking - Violators will be towed at owner's expense" signs. Then walk past seven "No Trespassing" signs along the railroad tracks until you come to the bridge. Make a left at the first "Stay Out: Property of the City of Winston-Salem" sign, then follow the chain link fence topped with barbed wire until you can cross the river. Be sure to wave at the poachers and immigrant fisherman to make sure that they understand that we're all in this together.

Despite my white bread girl misgivings, Josh and I spent America's birthday trespassing the polluted Yadkin River banks (just beyond the fruited plains, underneath the spacious skies). The area is one of those widely-known petty crime areas, where immigrants go to fish, rednecks go to hunt, and kids go to get high and make out. Since we were none of those things (though we sometimes come close on the rednecks and kids), we were there just to explore and take pictures. Little did I know that I was there to wave goodbye to my tomboy youth.

There was a lot of over the river and through the woods to our venture - apparently trespassing is okay, but you should have to work for it. I grew up an over the river and through the woods kid; I was game for anything, and while my red badges of courage were more raspberries than battle scars, I wore them proudly.

We started off by crossing the bridge to the midpoint just to check out the view. The railroad bridge. The one with no railings, where you could see down to the muddy Yadkin through the gaps between the wood slats. Funny, I didn't recall having acrophobia before. Must be one of those things I picked up in puberty. Then after we did some of the through the woods, we came again to over the river. This time, the bridge was again wood, though it was unharvested, narrow, and kinda shaky. After a few false starts and some whining, I walked the tree branch to jump safely in the sand on the other side.

We explored the abandoned skeleton of the old plant. I took pictures; old industrial stuff has always sort of appealed to me. Josh said it reminded him of the game Myst, where you come upon the remains of some civilization and have to figure out how to use the machinery. We found lots of knobs and levers that we would have fiddled with had we been in the game and therefore had immunity to tetanus. I was fascinated by both the old rusted gears and the small plants that had somehow found ways to grow right out of the brick walls like leafy torches in a castle.

Josh wanted to go up to the other part of the water treatment plant. The trouble was that whomever had made that part unavailable to immigrants, rednecks, and kids had done a more thorough job than the guy who did it for most of the place. Josh explored the options of gaining access while I explored the options of not falling in the river. In my defense, I was really more worried about dropping the camera, and if I fell in, I figured there really was no way for me to save my expensive toy.

Josh found a way up a deteriorating wall, apparently using some sort of personal side effect of being bitten by a glowing spider. I looked at the wall and said no way. I crossed the stupid railroad bridge with its gaping holes, I walked that shaky tree limb, but climbing a twelve foot wall with no discernable foot/hand holds was beyond my reach. Josh looked down at me from atop his perch, a no-contest winner of King of the Old Abandoned Water Treatment Plant. I sighed. When did I become such a wuss? When did I become such a girl?

We both walked around some more, he from twelve feet up. I was feeling the pressure. I could see my ten-year-old self glaring at me, her dirty hands on her bony hips. I surveyed the wall again, my clean hands on my even softer hips. Josh came back down the wall and studied me. His hips are pretty bony.

"Are you disappointed in me?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said lightly, undoubtedly not realizing the extent of my competitive family history. "I just think the payoff is worth it," he added quietly. Pause. "Want me to spot you?"

I threw my camera bag over my shoulder and stepped up to the wall. Josh stood behind me and explained some of the finer points of basic rock climbing. I concentrated both on his instructions and on the top. I dug my fingertips and my sneakers in wherever I thought they would go. I pulled myself up to the first ledge, gaining confidence, then panicked when I realized I didn't know where to put my hands next. I calmed myself down and surveyed my position. Finally I saw some rock jutting out a tiny bit and focused my attention and fingertips upon it. And then it became clear to me that my initial assessment of the situation had been correct.

Six feet at a acceleration rate of thirty two feet per second later, I sat on the ground, my glasses a foot away, my camera strap strangling me, my ankle and knee throbbing, Josh's hands under my arms, and my pride off somewhere being eaten by a wild pack of family dogs. I wondered vaguely if I could walk and also if the guys fishing a few feet away had seen my loss to gravity.

My leg injury didn't seem serious. I could walk with only the slightest limp that I could pass off as a strut. My hand and arm showed some scratches, and I was filthy and sweaty, but fine. I was in the unfortunate situation of looking completely not like a girl and having nothing to show for it. Without conversation, it was clear to both of us that it was time to leave, and rather than cross the tree limb again, we went out through a broken-into gate with a "City Property" sign half-pulled off. We'd only discovered the gate after getting in the other way, the hard way.

Josh apologized for pressuring me and took a concerned inventory of my injuries. I was basically quiet outside of reassuring him that I was fine and it wasn't his fault. We followed a gravel drive out and had to hop an electric fence. I landed on the other side with a jar to my injured leg and groaned. Josh had even held the fence for me while I had climbed it.

What a wuss. What a girl.

When did this happen to me? When did I become the kind of person who hesitated to jump a fence or cross a river on a tree limb? When did I start having less in common with the kid climbing the tree than his worried mother watching? Was it some sort of clause in the fine print of the womanhood contract? I was pissed at myself. I told myself it was because I had given in to the pressure of trying to prove myself in something that didn't matter. But no, I realized after a while that I wasn't even mature enough for that. I was pissed because I couldn't do it. Of course I should have given in to the pressure, actually, there shouldn't have even been a need for me to be pressured. I should've stepped up to the wall without a second thought. And the bridge, and the tree, and the fence.

Now I sit here with my sore leg and all I can think about is how I want to go back and climb the stupid wall. I am aware that that is the wrong conclusion to the story. First of all, the right ending would have me on top of the wall, with perhaps a fantastic picture to show my achievement. Maybe the fishermen would have cheered. But even given the actual ending, I'm pretty sure that my wish of revenge on the wall is not the mature adult conclusion.

But screw adulthood. Adulthood is what gave me a pair of breasts in exchange for my tomboy fearlessness. And frankly, I haven't gotten much use out of the breasts.


fouteen going on twenty-three.

I arrived at the bridal shower underdressed for the occasion and half an hour late, and so I had to take a seat at a side table. There sat the bride's younger sister flanked by two incredibly sullen girls. Already disoriented because of my own tardiness and apparel problems, I was further confused and concerned, as I couldn't figure out why two people would be sitting at a party where they would soon enjoy free food with such pouty expressions, their arms crossed in front of their chests, slouching down in their high-backed chairs like a teacher had asked them who fought in the War of 1812. Had there been some earlier terrible and public argument that I was unwittingly putting myself in the middle of by sitting at this table? Oh wait, no. They were just fourteen, that's all. Makes perfect sense now.

Oh. My. Lord. Was this fourteen? This absolute oblivion to the world around, this innane chatter, this complete lack of perspective and tact? I sat by, amused, as one of them searched for the word "tomboy," describing one as "one of those girls who acts like a man and doesn't wear makeup." I wanted to get up close to her with my unembellished face and suggest the word "Sandra." Then the subject of Mary Kate Olsen came up (who can say why?), and one of the girls emphatically declared, "I love her!" I simply do not know how to respond to someone like that, someone who knows the Olsen twins solely as they are now (and even more bizarrely, respects them for it), and not as Michelle Tanner gone horribly wrong. I made some comment about Mary Kate perhaps not being a good role model, what with her throwing up her food all the time, and was haughtily corrected that Mary Kate was not bulimic, only anorexic. My bad. In that case, idolize away.

But the really funny moments were when the girls, in preparation for the PSAT, started showing off their vocabulary. Not that fourteen year old girls using pretentious words is at all funny, but fourteen year old girls using pretentious words incorrectly is downright hilarious. "Pass the spurious sugar, please," one asked. And then one of them managed to get the words "anomaly" and "apathy" mixed up, calling the lone butterscotch scone a lack of emotion or feeling.

Then one of the girls sitting with the bride had to leave the shower to go to work, and I hopped over to the big girls' table without a second glance.

I guess the best part was realizing that, to those girls, I am awesome, if just by default of age, confidence, and knowledge of polysyllabic words. I'm twenty-two. I can drive, I can smoke, I can drink, I can meet a boy at the movie theatre without asking permission, and then I can actually watch the movie, because I have my own apartment where I can go and make out with said boy in the living room! I know it's trivial and silly to care what teenaged girls think about me (particularly considering their opinions on the Olsens), but it was a treat to my former self, because I definitely was not awesome to fourteen year old girls when I was one. I was clueless and oblivious, too, though I knew what "apathy" meant. Fourteen is about the age where I learned to pretend not to care what other people thought, because even faking it saves you from letting other people have control over you.

Who knows why I got so much validation out of the experience? But as I looked at these silly girls that I barely knew, I saw the pretty and popular girls that I grew up with and realized that those girls never had a clue either, not even the cheerleaders who developed early and proportionately and had mothers who showed them how to use makeup. I could look at them and tell them that I've been there and that I know they're just as scared and unsure of themselves as the girls they belittle. I survived puberty, adolescence, and my teenage years and came out just fine. I'd arrived late and underdressed that afternoon with every indication of still being every bit as socially hopeless as I was eight years ago, but I've arrived in ways they can't even begin to imagine.

And then I saw all the girls around me at the big girl table, the ones who showed up on time and somehow all knew to wear dressy clothes. It was really no different than every social situation back at age fourteen; judgment does not go away. Except this time, I wasn't really faking my apathy (or was it anomaly?) regarding the opinions of others anymore. Everyone's got a friend like me, someone oblivious to social correctness, someone who is forgiven for her ineptitude just because everyone else is so used to that kind of behavior from her. So I decided after that afternoon that I am completely okay with being that person. That girl has the freedom to do whatever she wants without regard to the expectations of others, because that's exactly what others expect of her. So no, I do not know how to put on makeup, and yes, I am late, and yes, I am wearing jeans and Birkenstocks to a bridal shower, but I'm here to celebrate my friend's wedding, and I don't care what you think. Which is really convenient, seeing as I'm going to go ahead and act as if I don't anyway.


pretty, tall pear.

One Sunday afternoon, I had a guest whom I was unprepared to entertain. Not that the guest was unexpected, just that I'm unprepared like that. I'd been counting on my own personality as being entertainment enough, yet I wasn't feeling well, so I was a little boring. We needed something fun and amusing and new.

And that's how I ended up in a wedding dress one Sunday afternoon. I was so pretty.

When we were in high school, Amy and I used to go try on prom dresses just for fun. We'd try on the ones we'd never wear, because they were too revealing or too fluffy or too expensive. Sunday, when we were at the mall, we thought of that idea, too. But then we realized that prom dresses are usually slinky and the act of trying them on with our post-college bodies would probably be about as depressing as trying on bathing suits in a communal dressing room with the contestants of the Miss America pageant. But wedding dresses are, for the most part, floofy. You're supposed to look like a princess and be pretty and virginal, not sexy.

So we went to the bridal shop, our stories all worked out. I was getting married in April, and she was getting married next October. We only realized upon entrance to the shop that you had to register just to try on dresses. Then they assigned you a consultant. That's an awful lot for a pair of girls just looking for a lark. But by that time, I didn't want to just walk out, so I filled out the registration card, though I somehow accidentally put my old Boone contact information. I also had to put down a shoe, bra, and dress size.

Now, I've had this body for a while and I'm familiar with it. So I know my dress size. But the registration lady said that I should put down the size up one from my pants size. In case you've never seen me, I'll tell you that I'm not the most proportionate girl out there. I don't mind so much being pear-shaped, it's much better than being shaped like, oh, say, an apple or a yellow squash or a scallion. But I did resent being forced to choose my dress size based on the biggest part of my body. I considered lying about my pants size. But screw it, this is the way I am shaped, and it's fine. Plus, if I'm taking up these people's time and screwing somebody out of a commission, I might as well be honest about my child-bearing hips. So I told the woman my true pants size, and I didn't even make a point of mentioning that my large hips would result in my fetching more camels for my dowry in many third-world countries.

The next stage was to pick out dresses. Since I was confident that I was being forced to pick dresses out of the wrong size section, I only picked two of the allowed four. Then I chose shoes, which consisted of me picking the least ugly of the two pairs of flat shoes they had available. I'm a tall pear.

I was assigned a dressing room and my own wedding consultant, Melissa. I had to put on these ridiculous undergarments, a so-called bra that felt closer to a corset and a long slip with lots of layers of fluffy crinoline. I looked like I worked for Miss Kitty. Melissa was impressed that I had gotten the bra on myself, because it snapped all the way down the back and was very snug. When I was putting it on, I had determined that I would die before I asked help from a stranger to put on a bra. I won't tell you how I got it on, but there was hopping involved.

And then came the dresses! Melissa helped me slip the first one over my head and then started zipping it up, before saying, "Oh. This is much too big." Hmm. Imagine that. I can't tell you when I felt more glad that I'd told my true pants size: when they had to clothespin the first dress just to keep it from falling off, or when I finally tried on the dress that fit perfectly, the one that was three dress sizes smaller than the original. Trying on wedding dresses is an ego boost for a girl anyway, because you just can't help but look lovely in those things, but dropping three dress sizes in half an hour sure does help.

I don't know what it is about wedding dresses that make girls so pretty. Maybe it's the association of youth and happiness, maybe it's all that white, maybe it's the gut-clinching undergarments. I am not the most self-confident about my appearance, but I sit here and tell you that I was just so pretty. Then Melissa put on the matching veil and tiara, and I could not get enough of my own reflection. That morning, I would have told you that I was not a tiara kind of girl, but that afternoon, I was all, "Bring on the tiaras!" (I was back to not being a tiara kind of girl when I saw the price tag for $170, about half the price of the dress.) I came into that shop in a threadbare yard sale dress and flip flops, feeling kinda sick and not having showered, and then all of a sudden I was a princess.

I am not suffering from wedding fever, nor am I twitching to the beat of my biological clock. Twenty-two years old and unmarried is acceptable, and frankly, I'd recommend it. Twenty-two is young. Twenty-two is old enough to do anything, and young enough to still be able to. So my Sunday afternoon is not a sign of my internal pining for a ring. Trying on wedding dresses is just fun and silly and ego-boosting. How can I explain this concept to men? Women, of course, already understand. (If they don't, I can recommend a helpful wedding consultant who won't give you a hard time when you tell her, "We're actually not looking to buy anything today, just try on.") Considering I haven't seen any sort of decline in the popularity of pirates or explosions in males as they age, I don't see anything wrong with a healthy game of dress-up among girlfriends. Especially when I end up looking like the prettiest tall pear ever.


my well-developed palate.

Wednesday night is wine class, which is not to be confused with Tuesday night, which is grape class. Tuesday night, I learn how to grow a grape, and on Wednesday, I learn why. The structure of each and every wine class is this:

1. Chat with neighbors for a while, including semi-uppity catering lady, tired security system installer guy, and creepy old guy who probably just comes to get drunk.
2. Listen to Dr. Bob tell wine stories drawn from his 30 years in the wine business.
3. Drink wine.
4. Talk about what you tasted in step 3.
5. Go home early feeling pretty good about Dr. Bob, wine class, and life in general.

Grades are based solely on participation.

Dr. Bob is three-quarters of a century old. He started out as a biologist, and then he was a chemist, but got drawn into the winemaking career in California. Then he worked in Oregon wineries during the state's development into a major player in the wine world before ending up in Surry County, North Carolina to teach wine class. Somewhere in that span of time, he apparently met every important person ever in the American wine business. You mention a winery, and he starts into a story about how he went camping/snorkeling/vacationing in Rio with the winemaker. He's very friendly and likeable, but I would like anybody who was that old and had tattoos. Also, he was the 1982 Oregonian of the Year. I'm not sure what that really means, but I think "Oregonian" is a funny word.

Each week, we focus on a different varietal (or type) of wine. We started out with riesling, have worked our way through gewurztraminer, pinot gris/grigio, sauvignon blanc, and chenin blanc. Dr. Bob brings in half a dozen bottles, which he wraps in these homemade burlap sacks with Roman numerals sewed into them with yarn. We taste blind, meaning we can't see the label of what we're drinking. We sniff, wrinkle our noses, sniff again, taste, swirl, taste, swirl, make notes, sniff and taste again, and completely ignore the expectorate cups.

I've always believed that your palate develops the more you taste wine, but it's wonderful to be able to actually tell that it is happening. I've done some tasting in my time, through winery and shop visits and wine festivals. But those events happen sporadically. With a weekly class, I can actually tell that I've gotten better at picking out individual tastes and smells. And I gotta tell you, when you can pick out a flavor in a wine without reading the back label, it's pretty exciting. Everything stops just tasting like wine, and you start to realize that maybe all those people weren't just being snobby when they talked about fresh, ripe cherries or gooseberries or litchi nuts.

The class is very laid-back, and though there are some who try to pin wine words like "oaky" and "undertones of vanilla" on everything, for the most part, we talk about wine like regular people. We reference specific, everyday smells and tastes. We don't say something smells floral, we say it smells like honeysuckle in the spring. We don't just label something as vegetal, we say it tastes a little like bell pepper. And if something tastes like cat piss, well, we say that, too.

Granted, I'm not great at picking out tastes and smells yet, and I have to concentrate very hard and taste very slowly. More times than not, I can get a tiny hint of a smell or a taste that I know is familiar in some way, but just can't place. And then someone else in the class will nail it, and I will feel like an idiot for not realizing it on my own.

Then again, I've been the one to cause light bulbs to go off for others, too. During riesling night, the wine poured from bag 1 had this peculiar and very familiar odor. My classmates spent a couple minutes spouting off wine words, trying to place that smell. Quietly, I said, "It smells like an old lady's perm." A woman across the room pointed at me and shouted, "That's it!"

See? I'm just learning so much.



It is one of those days, where you wake up and you know that right now, this moment of waking, is the high point of your day. You know the rest of the day is going to just suck, and the day will suck because you are determined that it will suck, and you will not be disappointed, least not today when you are just having the suckiest day of your life. Yes, one of those days. Remember that book the teacher read to you as a kid? Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Yeah, Alexander didn't know how good he had it, the big whiner. They should write a book called You and The Day That Sucked More Than Anything That Has Ever Sucked Before. Alexander woke up with gum in his hair. Yeah, well, try waking up with a feeling of impending doom crushing in on your chest.

Lethargy caused by apathy, why put an effort into this day when it's just going to suck anyway? You get up, you get ready, your morning routine dotted with periods of sitting or lying down, staring into space and thinking about what's wrong with you, what's wrong with your life, what's wrong with this day already. So then you're late, you know, for school, for work, for whatever it was that caused you to leave the setting of the high point of your day. Whatever that thing is, it sucks.

The commute only continues with the theme of "Things That Suck." Traffic is light, because you're late and you missed the rush, but that only reminds you that you're late and you missed the rush of people who aren't having sucky days. Or maybe they are having sucky days, but at least they are having them in a punctual manner. Jerks, all of them, they suck. Whatever is playing on the radio sucks, too. The radio keeps playing Van Halen's "Jump" or that ridiculous butterfly song that was so popular a few years back. You turn to your CD player, but you're not in the right mood for this CD, and the rest of your CDs are in the back and you can't reach them, because you have to drive and there's no stopping because of this unnatural, stupid, light traffic. So whatever, just another thing in this suckfest of a day.

You're late, so all the good parking spaces are taken, and everybody is going to know you were late because you're not parked in your usual space. You're parked in the space which is beneath the tree that provides no shade, only bird excrement, the space which, incidentally, is numbered 13. Unless you're one of those people whose lucky number is 13, in which case the space is number 14.

So now you're wherever it is you intended to be when you parked in space 13 or 14, thinking about how that lucky twerp Alexander was too young to drive and so he didn't have to worry about parking. Then you think how this day could probably get by without sucking quite so much if you just didn't have to put any effort into it. You could go on autopilot, left to simply sulk about this day that started off so well and then started sucking with a passion. But no. Wherever it is that you are, someone, some jerk, is going to require you to think. To formulate original and, quite possibly, complex thoughts. You let your eyes glaze over whenever you can and concentrate only on your misery and how one day it's going to come back and bite you that you were daydreaming when you were supposed to be focusing on something, you know, important. Man, that day's just gonna suck, too.

And let's face it, you're probably going to blow off early, and your drive back home with little to no traffic impeding your way will be marred with conflicting feelings of guilt for blowing off early and anger at this sucky day for making you want to blow off early and then having the gall to make you feel guilty for it. The radio station will inexplicably be playing "Jump" again, and you still will not have changed the CD because you left wherever you were in a hurried huff.

Maybe you try to take a nap in a vain effort to recreate the magic that was happening before you awoke to this miserable excuse for a day, but sleep can't break through the wall of sulking you've built around your mind. Maybe you veg out in front of the TV, doing the same thing you were doing before with that faraway dazed look in your eyes, but nothing is on except Old Yeller and The Golden Girls, and you've seen this episode twice already. Maybe you try and read a book, but you're in the middle of Little Women, and frankly, Beth's starting to look a little thin.

So you log on to your blog and write this long and overwrought entry about your sucky day. You use a form of the word "suck" nineteen twenty times. You make an excellent display of poor writing. You post your excellent display of poor writing for all the world to see, and you are vaguely amused, but you don't feel better. Sucks.



There were lots of athletic clubs at my middle school. This fact was in direct contrast to my high school, where as far as I can remember, there was only one athletic club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I'm not sure exactly what went on in FCA, other than maybe scrimmaging with prayer beforehand. But in middle school, the athletic clubs had no sort of theological requirements. In fact, only a couple of them had requirements at all. There was the P.E. Club, which was sort of like the honor society for jocks. You had to do well on your presidential fitness exams to be in the P.E. Club. There was also the Sports Club, which was only open to those who played on school sports teams. Clubs in middle school didn't do much, mostly because all meetings had to take place outside of school, usually right after classes let out. Maybe that's why there were so many athletic clubs - the jocks were already used to staying late for practices and such, and their parents were already used to having to rework schedules. However, the meetings couldn't interfere with any of the sports they were promoting. That amounted to about four meetings a year in between seasons.

Then there were the clubs that had no real requirements for joining other than interest. I remember there being three such clubs. The first, and most socially acceptable, was the Jumprope Club. Jumping rope was deemed Okay because pretty much everybody could do it. Also, it's what the boys' basketball team did in the off-season to get in shape. (In high school, the club of off-season basketball players became known as the cross-country team.) So if the jocks did it, then it must be cool. Jumprope club meetings would consist of us watching a video full of very impressive jumprope professionals. There were whole teams of them, and they would work these intricate formations with their ropes, changing positions all over the place but never missing a beat, like marching band, only bouncier. These videos would inspire us to become impressive jumprope professionals, but to be honest, I don't even remember anyone being able to double-dutch. I was one of the few that could even criss-cross, a skill I randomly picked up during one night of intense practicing in my living room when I was about seven years old.

The other non-elitist two clubs could be called college prep clubs - provided you were interested in attending Clown University. Those would be the Juggling Club and the Unicycle Club. I suspect only our first-time readers will be so foolish as to ask if I was a member of these clubs. Granted, there were some popular kids in these clubs, but they were the kind of popular kids that were popular in spite of their idiosyncrasies. Please note that I do not, nor will I ever, include myself in any sort of popular kids group. I was pretty good friends with a couple of the popular kids, mostly the kind that would participate in ridiculous extra-curricular activities.

The Juggling Club was similar to the Jumprope Club in meeting format. We watched a juggling video, then tried to imitate. No one came into the club with actual juggling know-how. We started with scarves, as they are the easiest due to their slow and meandering reaction to gravity. I honestly don't remember anyone ever graduating beyond scarves. Frankly, I'm not certain that anyone ever really got the grasp of scarves at all.

There was no need for an instructional video in the Unicycle Club. We knew what it was supposed to look like. Step 1: Get on the unicycle. Step 2: Stay there. That was pretty much it. Whereas with juggling we had started with scarves, with unicycling, we started with falling down. And we pretty much continued and ended with that as well. Again, no one entered the gym on the first meeting with any experience. And no one left the gym after the last meeting any better off. I couldn't even ride a bicycle at that point in time, so I really had no business there.

A similarity you may have noticed with all of these clubs is that no one ever managed to accomplish anything in them. Honestly, I only remember having at most two or three meetings with each of them. The teachers who sponsored the clubs were essentially off-season sports coaches. So when it came down to softball practice vs. juggling practice, the Future Outcasts of America lost out. I'm not sure why these clubs even existed or more importantly, where all the equipment came from. I can see a junior high physical education department having fifty jumpropes, but a box full of juggling apparatus and two dozen shiny unicycles? I can't decide if maybe one of the P.E. teachers was just really gung-ho about the circus or if perhaps some quirky philanthropist made a charitable donation of clown equipment and my school was just making the best of it.

For the record, I can now juggle. I made myself some little fabric juggling cubes out of yard sale scrap material and Uncle Ben's rice. I found an instructional website, sat myself down, and I learned how to juggle. It was reminiscent of the Sandra who taught herself to jumprope criss-cross and then (much) later to ride a bike. Of course, I'm not any good at juggling, but I can do it long enough to get out the words, "See? I can do it" before screwing up. I learned about six months ago when I realized that I knew a lot of people that I respected and thought were cool who could do it. Now it's just one of those things you might find out about a person and be mildly surprised and vaguely interested, like learning that someone built his own ukelele (Rob), is adopted (Ashley), or didn't learn to ride a bike until she was eighteen (no one I know).

I cannot ride a unicycle. I own one, a rusty little number with a bad tire that I bought at a yard sale. I remember walking around at this yard sale with Casey, and all of a sudden, he grabs my arm and says, "Sandra, look down." I looked down and there was a unicycle with a two dollar price tag. My immediate thought was not, Hmm, a unicycle, but rather Hey, I have a unicycle now. Ashley and I used to try to ride it in the halls of our apartment, but if you can't ride a unicycle with a good tire, one with a bad tire isn't going to offer you much hope. I even have little unicycle earrings. I feel kind of foolish when people notice them and ask me if I can ride one. I'm not sure how to explain that I'm not so much as a unicycle enthusiast as a novelty earring enthusiast.

I should save myself the embarrassment and just learn to ride it, if for no other reason than to save myself from owning yet one more thing that I bought at a yard sale and cannot use. Then I can wax romantic about my old Unicycling Club days or perhaps finally send in my application to Clown U, listing the fact that I can ride a unicycle, juggle, and jump rope criss-cross style (not all at once). I will not mention that I'm still not very good on a bicycle.


company email.

Anytime a company-wide email goes out with someone's name in the subject line, it's a bad sign. It means that one of certain phrases is going to pop up in the body of the email in conjuction with the name in the subject, phrases like "pursue another opportunity," "position has been eliminated," or "dragged out in the street and run down by one of those big rigs we keep in the back." I've seen a couple of these emails, and luckily my name has never popped up in the subject line, though I can only hope that I would know about it before the email went out.

There was an email last week about Dave. There are several Daves in this office, and I like all of them. But the departure of this Dave would have a huge impact on the company, moreso than the other Daves. Yes, this Dave is competant, yes, he's been here a long time, but more importantly, he is the social center of this office. Screw Raymond, everybody loves Dave. Jovial and laid-back, he'll even set you up to make short jokes at his expense. His office is where you go to talk about your problems, shoot the breeze, and hear the latest word on the hallway. Dave is where it's at.

Dave's last day was to be Friday, and we were all going out to Corbin's for a farewell lunch. I went by Dave's office yesterday to ask him just where Corbin's was located, but also because I had heard a rumor about a counter-offer. He told me how to get to Corbin's, and then mumbled, "But that might not matter." A-ha! The counter-offer rumor was true! Dave had last night to settle the old clash of should-I-stay-or-should-I-go.

This morning, I went by Dave's office shortly after he came in, bursting with curiosity. I knocked softly with one knuckle and then stood in the doorway to his office and asked, "So what's for lunch on Friday?"

A pause.


Hands down, best answer ever.


the hallway of youth.

Josh and Zach have moved in together. Isn't it sweet?

No, no, it's nothing like that. Josh and Zach are two of my coworkers. Their offices are directly across and diagonally from mine. Together, we make up the hallway of youth. We are the three youngest members of the office family, with Josh at 28, Zach at 26, and me at 22. More important than our age is the fact that we're all single with no children. Incidentally, we are all on the same project. Our tech lead (who is a mature family man in his thirties) calls working with us a special name: baby-sitting.

We are seen as a different kind of people entirely by our more settled coworkers. Whenever one of us has a birthday, people ask if we're old enough to buy alcohol or rent a car yet. (By the way, I will not be old enough to rent a car for another three birthdays.) When we come in on Monday mornings, it's generally assumed that we spent the weekend hours under the influence (whether or not we're old enough to buy the drinks for ourselves).

The hallway of youth is a fun place to work. Both Josh and Zach are witty, and we banter back and forth all day. Zach has his faux braggart act, and Josh can talk like a pirate. Sometimes we get on a roll and start laughing so loud that others come down the hall to see if they can't get in on the fun that the kids are having. There's a certain spot in the hall where a person can stand and see into all of our offices and talk to us all at once. You can have a good time in the spot, with youth coming at you from all directions like some sort of rejuvenating triad. It's a different kind of atmosphere over here. In no other offices can you find a pick-up game of Nerf basketball with a goal that has a cheering sound effect for every made shot. In no other part of the building can you hear trash talk being called out from different offices. In fact, I've never heard people yelling from office to office in any other hallway.

While I am part of the hallway of youth, Zach and Josh make up their own little group. They're buddies, and they hang out a lot outside of work. I suppose it was just a matter of time before they became roomies. They were both living alone, and now they've rented a house a couple of minutes away. I'm amused by what this house stands for to every other male working here. I get the feeling the older men sit at the dinner table surrounded by their screaming children and nagging wives and dream about the kind of debauchery that must go on at the bachelor pad inhabited by Josh and Zach.

I'm not seen in the same way that Josh and Zach are. I think if I say that I had a couple of drinks last night, my older coworkers assume that I had a glass of wine and got a little giggly before I fell asleep with a pair of pigtails. If Josh or Zach say they had a couple of drinks, it's assumed that they had a fifth of Jack each and got a little crazy before they fell asleep with a pair of twins. The older guys rag Josh and Zach about strip clubs, and then they turn around and give me advice about how all men are after only one thing.

Josh and Zach stand for the men ten or twenty years ago; I stand for daughters and little sisters. Josh and Zach are members of the bachelor brotherhood, and I'm a simple, single girl looking for love. Josh and Zach have the glorious position of being without the old ball and chain, and I'm a old ball and chain in training. Nevermind that Josh is getting pretty serious about that girl of his or that Zach thinks more about golf than chicks, to the committed and settled family men, they are living the dream in the hallway of youth.


personal enrichment.

There's a phenomena known as the "Boonerang," that is, that graduates of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, once finding themselves in the real, working world outside of Boone, will decide that they preferred Academia and return to school at ASU. I scoff at the Boonerang. Boone was good for me, for maybe three years, but I was there for three and a half. I do not anticipate ever going back to take up residence in Boone. I don't even anticipate going back to see the leaves change in the fall.

That being said, I've gone back to school. That's right, I am free to use my student discount whenever I please, and I don't even have to feel guilty about it. My car's bumper is graced with a parking permit that allows me to park in any of the white-lined spaces on either campus of Surry Community College. In my application for admission (which I filled out about two minutes before I filled out my registration for classes form), I checked that I was taking classes for "Personal Enrichment." I also checked that I was pursuing an Associate's Degree in Viticulture and Enology. Sandra's taking wine classes!

I'm signed up for two classes: 6 credit hours, $266.00, including student insurance, technology fee, and parking. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I make the forty-five minute drive to Dobson, NC to attend my Introduction to Viticulture and Wines of the World classes, respectively. $266.00, gas not included. Viticulture and Enology programs are few and far between at even major universities. But several years ago, the Shelton Brothers (of Shelton Vineyards fame) threw some money at SCC to start a program. According to the Shelton website, SCC is one of three east coast institutions offering "accredited academic study in the grape sciences." That's me, studying grape science for personal enrichment.

It's funny to be back in school. And it's not really like being back at ole ASU, it's more like being back at ole West Caldwell High School. I don't mean any disrespect to community colleges. But I'm on my third and fourth such classes, and I gotta tell ya, I'm not struggling. I know there are hard community college classes out there. I know that just from the fact that my dad used to teach at a community college. I never had my dad as a teacher, but it's been fifteen years or more since he stopped teaching high school, and I still have his old students (usually parents of my classmates) coming up to me and saying, "Man, his class was hard." So the fact that I've not really run up against difficult courses in my community college career may have more to do with the fact that I've basically been taking intro classes.

Aside from Personal Enrichment, I'm not sure what I want out of all this. My tech lead at work heard that I was taking classes and worried that it might be an indication that I was already disatisfied with my job. It's only been 8 months; if I'd had to sleep with someone to get this job, I might not have even had the baby yet. But no, I'm not unhappy with my "real" job, though he's not the only one who doesn't seem to understand why I'm taking these classes. My classmates, when they find out that I am a software engineer (which sounds so much better than computer programmer, don't you think?), seem confused as to why I seem to be pursuing a new career path when I've made such a healthy start in a rather lucrative one already.

It's a hobby. I'm interested in wine. True, I could see myself maybe someday working in the wine business, perhaps owning a vineyard or being a winemaker somewhere. But that is way in the future, and since I know nothing about the business, I don't even know if that's something I'd want. Wine is a fascinating and broad subject, and I like learning about it. I feel personally enriched already.

I'm doing this because I can. I've spent all my life doing one thing so I can get to the next stage. There has always been a goal, whether it was a college acceptance letter, a scholarship, or a job with benefits. And now I've reached the end of the list, and I've spent the last few months floundering in a big fog of "What's next?" Oh wait, this is when I start to define my own life. I probably should've started that years ago, and I know people who do, but I am too practical to do anything that strays too far from the accepted path of arrival. So have I arrived? I've arrived at something, a time in my life where I'm self-sufficient, have no dependents, and have resources to take wine classes and eat name-brand ice cream. So pass the pencils, the paper, and the Häagen-Dazs, I'm going back to school.



Thing 1: I learn about Pfafftown.
A year or two back, Scott and I made a random evening trip to Wilkesboro and ate at Ted's Kickin' Chicken. It was a good time, just kind of this spontaneous and surreal evening. Out of nostalgia and fascination for Ted's, we decided to visit all three of Ted's scattered about North Carolina. Besides the one in Wilkesboro, there was one in Shelby and one in Pfafftown. We were particularly fascinated with the latter. Where was Pfafftown? What kind of place was it? Were there a lot of sewing machines there?

Thing 2: I learn more about Pfafftown.
I moved to Lewisville and suddenly found myself less than five miles from the Pfafftown branch of Ted's Kickin' Chicken. I told Scott, we were excited, we were one step closer to fulfilling our Kickin' Chicken destiny. I excitedly told Josh about it, explaining the whole back story back when I first moved to town.

"So we're going to go to Pfafftown!"

Josh looked at me curiously, then smiled as if belatedly getting a joke. "Oh, okay. You know how to really say it."

"Say what?"

"You know it's not FAFF-TOWN. You're just making a joke."

"It's not FAFF-TOWN? What is it then?"




"That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard."

It's true that I'd often made jokes about the name of the town, but when I did, I said PEE-FAFF-TOWN. I never would have come up with POFF-TOWN. And yet it is true. Despite the fact that Josh does tend to make up things to see if I'll believe them, Pfafftown really is POFF-TOWN. I asked other people who have not the imagination to make up the pronunciations of town names. It still may be the dumbest thing I have ever heard.

Thing 3: The world learns about Pfafftown.
I went to see a movie last week and saw this preview. In case you do not wish to view the preview, I will tell the important part. A man and a woman, very sophisticated, meet in that classic way, begin dating. It flashes to the scene where the woman, swept completely off her feet, asks this man in her lilting British accent where he possibly could have come from to be this wonderful and amazing. His answer?

"Pfafftown, North Carolina."

Then you see all these shots from the film (wait - was that Pilot Mountain?), which was made in this very area where I now sit. Apparently both the director and the writer hail from Winston-Salem. At least that's what the blurb that I read about the movie said. It's likely that they more specifically came from places like Pfafftown, little suburbs with ridiculous names. This movie was shown at Sundance and Cannes. People the world over have seen Pfafftown. It is all terribly exciting.

The movie is showing at the theatre here, which is surprising, since that particular theatre is not known for showing independent-type flicks. It's that hometown advantage. I will be seeing it, even if I must pay full price. My only quibble so far is that they named the movie "Junebug." I think they should have called it "Pfafftown," just because there would be all this confusion as to how to pronounce it, which would generate great publicity. But no one asked me.