I’ve officially declared Friday as my writing day. Ain’t no laundry pile high enough. Ain’t no sink of dishes wide enough, Ain’t no PR campaign urgent enough to lure my fingers from the laptop. I challenge a team of wild horses to just try and drag me away.
I’m sitting at Blackbird in my usual Brady Bunch era wicker bucket chair with the rust-colored cushion. The back and sides are the same height, making a perfect “U.” There is no way to comfortably use the sides as arm-rests, unless you have arms the length of Shaquille O’Neil's. But, I’m not here to rest my arms. I’m here to write, darnit!
I can’t help but eavesdrop on an intimidatingly pretty mom sitting near me, chatting on her phone. She keeps saying “that’s AWFUL!” louder and louder, upgrading her tone and body language to higher alarm with each delivery. I’m afraid if the conversation continues; she’ll begin shrieking and have a seizure. I wonder if what she’s talking about is really so “AWFUL.” Is she discussing a relative’s late stage colon cancer (which really would be awful) or simply evaluating the style of another mom in her circle whose shoe selection isn’t up to Vogue Magazine standards.
I know this mom well enough to say “hi.” She’s very nice, but we’ve never become more than cordial acquaintances, mainly because of the intimidation factor. I’ve been told that she spends more on a haircut than most parents spend putting their children through private universities. Okay, I’m exaggerating. If we were friends, I’d feel like she was always judging me, my unkempt hair, my bitten nails, my Wal-Mart flip-flops. Clearly my neurosis is getting the best of me. I’m glad I have enough girl friends with their own cosmetic maladies.
At another table sit a Hispanic man and woman. He’s very handsome with a Rod Blagojevich hairstyle that seems to work better for him than for Rod. The woman is sniffling, blowing her nose and coughing a hacky sort of cough that sounds like she’s trying to crank a car with a dead battery. She apologizes, saying “I have a cold.” The man comes back with a pat and predictable response.
“Well, ya know something’s been going around.”
I’ve always been fascinated by the compulsion to say “something’s been going around” when a person tells you they’re sick, as if they need that justification. I’ve caught myself saying it, even when I didn’t know of “something going around.” Are we subconsciously afraid that if we don’t say “something’s going around” the other person will feel like an outcast or would lose sleep at night, wandering around aimlessly, pondering how the Hell they came down with the sniffles?
My mom is the type who needs an explanation for every illness, mannerism, speech pattern, hair color, character defect, mole or personal problem one might be having. She literally is the type to pace the floor thin trying to figure out where in our lineage my large facial pores or the birthmark on Rob’s foot or Pamela’s tendency to slam doors in anger came from. EVERYTHING is genetic.
If I were to get a speeding ticket, it’s because back in the 1800’s, Uncle Beauregard Jackson was locked up for reckless horse and buggy driving and I clearly got the renegade gene from him.
Last week over dinner at our house my dad began complaining about the weather. I’ll point out that it was 103 degrees, 100-percent humidity, and had been that way for two months. Satan himself was wearing an ice pack and sitting next to the AC. Anyway, my dad says “I don’t think I can take another day of this heat.” My mom turns away from him and in a hushed voice explains, “You know the Halls were always complainers. He gets it honestly.”
Maybe more people than I realize are like my mom and need that sense of relativity. Maybe people suffering from colds or the flu are comforted to hear “it’s been going around.”
Still, though, the next time someone tells me they have a cold, just for fun, I might try saying “Well, I guess that makes you a freak, because I don’t know a soul who’s been sick in a long time. Now, keep your germs away from me, you Pariah!”