Archive for December, 2007


But that’s me. I’d be a party Quaker

There is a Quaker church across Rte 9 from where I live.  The sign out front says something like “Adirondack Friends Gathering,” and once in a blue moon there is a mini traffic jam coming out of their parking lot.  I didn’t know that there were many Quakers in Glens Falls, NY. 

 I suppose some of the attendees could simply be lonely people looking for friends?  Doesn’t make them a Quaker, any more than me walking into a mosk makes me Muslim.  I can imagine the scene inside when a new lonely person first arrives:

“Um, is this where friends gather in the Adirondacks?”

All turn to the newbie and say in unison:

“Yes!  Share with us what you have learned from your inner light!”

After the meeting I think it’d be nice if they all went out for coffee and maybe some Yahtzee at someones house.  But that’s me.  I’d be a party Quaker.

All my life, people have been telling me to be quiet.  School, church, dinner, movies, dorm rooms, work, you name it I’ve violated noise level rules.  Though give me one thing — it’s not that I’m reprimanded for talking too much, it’s that I’m speaking too loud.  There’s a difference. 

When I first started in staffing, my manager would ‘shush’ me at least twice a week.  A pained look, eyes slowly closed, and two pursed lips: ‘shhhhhh.’ Even though we were the only people in the room, I felt stupid.  I felt stupid mostly because of the disapproval, not the loud voice.  It’s embarrassing.  Who wants to be that girl

Let’s pretend that there is a human-voice-volume-gage.  Most people speak at a 4 when indoors.  I’m maybe a 5, unless I get really wild about something.  If there is a camcorder in a room, my voice will cut right through the air and embed itself in the tape.  I can be the furthest away, but you’ll still hear me!  I would be a horrible spy.  If someone bugged my room and I was sharing confidential information, I’d be toast. If I worked for the FBI, they’d use me as a red herring, a mere distraction.

When I was in college, I had laryngitis for about a month.  No voice.  I was a zero on the volume gage.  Each morning I woke up and made crazy gurgling noises, searching for my voice.  I would exclaim, “I have it!” but others could only hear the “I ha…!” and then hissing noises.

I joke about it now, though at the time it was very hard.  I was struggling to know who I was without speech, without laughing, without singing.  This is where most authors would say something like, “it’s when I learned the importance of listening to others.” but I honestly can’t say that.  I can say that I learned how to communicate without talking and I learned how to make one great steam bowl treatment.  (Don’t add Vicks Vap-o-Rub to a bowl of boiling water, then hover your face over it.  Your eyes will burn out of their sockets).

It’s a Thursday night and there may be a mini traffic jam by The Adirondack Friends Gathering when I go home.  If so, I’ll scour their faces to see if any seem like simply lonely newbies, merrily on their way to play Yahtzee.  If I were going to the Yahtzee party, look out!  Yahtzee can make me pretty wild, which ratchets my voice to a 7.5.  I may not be invited back, unless their inner lights whisper to them that at the very least I couldn’t be an FBI spy.


resisting buying YOU things that I want for ME

It’s really warm in here.

I’m in Borders Book store, wearing a sweater and heavy overcoat.  I have my laptop bag slung over one shoulder (six pounds at least) and my “purse” over the other.  It’s crowded.  I’m making every attempt not to brush up on anyone or even look them in the eye.  We’re all holiday shoppers, but we’re also New Yorkers.  Merry Christmas — now don’t touch me.

I make my way into a back corner where I spy a gift that I’m going to buy.  There are a few other ladies back here, all in heavy overcoats, spaced at least two feet apart from each other.  How can I infiltrate without touching anyone? 

I can’t.  I stand back and wait for someone to fall off and then take their spot.

Gifts in hand, I make my way to the cashier.  However, in order to get there I must walk past the big-pictures-of-outer-space books with titles like Atlas of the Universe.  I stop and I stare.  I won’t look at the humans around me, but slap a picture of Jupiter in front of me and I’m mesmerized.  Jooooopiterrrrrrr (imagine twirling whirlpools in my eyes).

Two confessions:

Number one — I LOVE outerspace

          To me, nothing on Earth is as interesting as those things which are not on Earth.  Space is mostly empty nothingness, but I am romantic about the emptiness.  I am romantic about stars and galaxies, but not so much because they twinkle and pose for nice pictures from Hubble, but because they exist in three dimensions and move.  In every galaxy there are stars, planets, asteroids, moons, all these things whipping around as graceful giants.  In Heaven, on one of my free days, I’m planning on asking God for permission to take a swim through space.  Maybe He’ll come with me for the best tour ever.  I just think it’s really neat.

Number two — I have bought Christmas presents for others based on what I would like

          Fear not, those who I am buying for.  I did not buy you Atlas of the Universe,though I wanted to!  It’s taken me 27 years of Christmas presents to learn not to assume my mother will like outerspace as much as me.  Or to assume that my too-cool-for-everything pre-teen sister Jodie wouldn’t like a “shark game” as much as 11 year old Kari would. 

I have a storied past within my family for either giving bad gifts, or giving away what the present is before it’s opened.  Once I grew out of the “guess what I bought you,” phase, I seamlessly entered the “I would like this, so would you” phase.  I’m still recovering. 

Back at Borders, I’ve paid for the gifts I chosen and gratefully walk away from the cashier’s station.  The frozen December air drifts over me as I escape onto the snow-lined sidewalk of Saratoga.  I make my way with cautious baby steps through an icy parking lot to my car.  I will drive home under the bright winter stars, thinking about what a great gift Atlas of the Universe would be. 


days at minimum wage (or less)

Two creamers, four sugars, 6 ounces of acidic coffee in a cheap styrofoam cup.

I learned to like coffee at Tuscarora Inn & Conference Center when I was 16.  I worked there as a waitress during the summer of 1996 and we served hot coffee at every dinner.  It was cool amongst the waitstaff at Tuscarora to drink coffee.  I know that it’s common for teens to drink coffee nowadays (thanks, Starbucks), but it seemed like such an adult thing to do back in the 90s.  And there I was, away from home for the entire summer, drinking coffee. 

The first line of this entry was my recipe for drinkable coffee in 1996.  If I were to make coffee that way today, I’d be more inclined to call it “coffee candy.” 

When I was a junior in college, I worked at the local coffee house in Houghton.  It was called Sweet Attitudes.  The tacky name alone could have been the reason that the business failed, but that’s besides the point.  For the years that it existed, Sweet Attitudes was the place to be and work if you were a student.  I was paid $5.15 per hour.  It was the going rate.  I didn’t even question it.  I think was paid under $4/hr the first summer of ’96 at Tuscarora.  (Current day teens must make more money because Starbucks lattes are are least $4 a piece.) 


One of my favorite memories of my father is the look of absolute incredulity he had when I told him that I had saved $50 saved from the entire summer of work.  The week before going home I bought a volleyball which I thought was an entirely valid, if not important, purchase.  The volleyball was 1/3 of my entire savings from the summer.  Pre volleyball, I had $75.  My dad probably would’ve been disappointed with  that income too, but at least I had a volleyball to play with!

I met his disbelieving look with a defensive one.  I hadn’t been told to save money over the summer.  I’m afraid he thought that I was more conscientious than I really was. 

 So maybe I wasted money on a volleyball.  That was kid’s stuff.  But I also learned to like coffee that summer, which was very adult.