Friday, March 21, 2008


A good southerner knows that one must begin a greeting when the distance between two opposing pedestrians is rather large.

"Good morning," I said to an older man as he walked toward me on the sidewalk. Lured by the gorgeous weather, I glanced dubiously at my new flats, was briefly distracted by the pretty buckles atop the brown leather and decided I'd see how badly it hurt to walk the mile or so to my building. The contrasts did not please me - the flowering trees were beautiful, but their taller friends remained outwardly immune to the rain and subsequent sunshine. There was not a bud to be seen on the larger trees, though the branches on the flowering varieties were bowing under the weight of their blooms.

"Good morning," he replied with a smile. "How are you?"

"I'm well, thank you," I chirped. "And how are you?"

"Fine, thank you," he offered the requisite response. "It's a pretty day."

"Lovely," I agreed. "Have a nice afternoon!"

That exchange takes far more time than a simple hello or a nod and we did have to turn our heads to finish it as we both continued to move in opposite directions. Given that I hope to move soon, I find I appreciate such moments a great deal, tucking them away to remember when I face the more distantly polite Midwesterners. I frowned when a man dressed in a shirt with a logo from a northern school didn't offer so much as a glance while I waited to cross the street. For shame, I scolded silently. While you are here, do as we do.

I continued to move toward campus, feeling suddenly and terribly old when facing the children who were apparently touring campus. Carrying around bags filled with folders and brochures, I blinked at them while they streamed across the crosswalks, mostly paired with their parents.

"You can't have finished high school," I wanted to say to the boy in front of me as we wandered in the same direction for a block. "Do you drive? Really? You just seem so young!" Instead I sighed and looked down at my dark green slacks and pale cream sweater. Slacks, for goodness sake, I groused. And though I liked the texture of the fabric, my guess was that I looked ancient. And I've only been saving for retirement for a little over a year now!

I arrived at my pretty desk and began transferring files and running Matlab code and I opened the paper I'm trying to rewrite. I'd say something about how I think I see it more clearly and have made valuable changes, but I've said that before. Given that it didn't work last time, I'll hold off on the self-congratulation for a bit, I think. The alternative strikes me as foolish.

I caught up with Marlie and Ken and though the former made me look at dead animal photos (for her project, not just to torture me), it was still lovely to see them. We're all having lunch on Monday afternoon.

"Excellent," I replied after typing it neatly into my calendar. I did not say, but thought, "That should give me delightful dialog for a blog post!"

"Stop playing with your head, please," I typed to Friend when informed me that she was picking at the scab she obtained when she hit her head while trying to put out the fire in her freezer. "I should get you one of those cones they put on animals," I threatened. "We could cut out a little hole so you could see out the front - to type and to view your bench - but it would be high enough that you couldn't itch your scab. Then I'd lock you in and keep the key."

The thought made me laugh until I started to cough (which doesn't take much today - I'm still miserable with this virus that seems to have migrated to my chest). Then she said something about me being kinky. I denied it because it was unfair - I had no nefarious purposes for the head cone! - but it also made me laugh.

I took a phone call from my parents, departing my office to stand outside in the sunshine under the guise of getting better reception. They were running far earlier than I expected since Dad started work at 1:30 this morning.

"I was going to have dinner with Friend and meet the new cat," I told them and they agreed that I should take my time. So I did, wandering across campus while lifting my face to the sun and inhaling the breeze that smells like spring - grass and soil and life. I picked up a textbook I should have bought ages ago (and the grant paid for it). Then I fetched Friend and we stopped for Greek food.

"You have like," I paused for effect as I later sprawled on Friend's couch while she curled in a chair across the room, "a zillion cats, yet here we sit, neither of us with a single feline. Come on!"

She eventually placed the newest member of her household in my lap. He's darling and very handsome with his silky coat and strong features. So I cooed and petted him as I always do with animals and was a bit taken aback by his reaction.

"OK, sweetheart," I said, "I think my arm just wants to be friends." I glanced up for Friend and looked back down at her cat as he licked the inside of my elbow and kneaded my forearm. "He's rather... affectionate," I told her as I bent my arm to stop the licking and smiled down at my new admirer.

"Yes," she offered dryly. "All the time." I nodded, feeling relieved I was not so special after all. We soon were back in the car to meet my parents in the small structure I call home. I got hugs and kisses and sorted through my new Longaberger basket filled with Easter treats. Chocolate and new, soft pajamas and good measuring cups (I didn't have any) and a few new pens and new movies to watch.

Tomorrow there's a birthday party for Little Cousin as she turns 3 (between the Nyquil and the party hats, I might burn out here soon - my life is that exciting and cool). I have much work that I'm actually eager to do and plan to enjoy entertaining my parents. Then there's Easter on Sunday - I will make dinner (which could be fabulous and could be, well, not so great. Did I ever tell you guys about the hard-as-a-rock brownies and incredibly runny frosting? Homemade doesn't trump inedible as it turns out.) and we'll go to church and it should be a peaceful day.

So this Friday was, for me, quite good.


Estrella said...

What a delightful post! It made me smile. Glad you had such a good day. :-)

PhysioProf said...

Yes, lovely post! Here are some thoughts:

(1) If you know how to write Matlab code, I'm gonna be picking your brain.

(2) If you greeted people like that in NYC, you'd end up committed to a mental institution. Here is a more typical NYC exchange:



Or even:


"What the fuck you looking at scumbag!!??"

OK, the last one is a bit of an exaggeration, but not that much.

(3) How the fuck does a freezer catch on fire?


TitleTroubles said...

3) When it's a -80 freezer and the start boost capacitor overheats, apparently.

post-doc said...

(1) Knock yourself out, kiddo. If I can't do it, I know people who can.

(2) The southerners are remarkably charming once you stop wondering why strangers are talking to you all the time. But it can take an awfully long time to get through the greeting ritual on days when I'm not feeling quite so cheerful.

(3) What Friend (who I hope is leaving her head alone, please) said.

TitleTroubles said...

1) Unless you want help writing code to do what is probably a simple statistical test. (I'm not a statistician, so how the hell should I know if it's hard.) Then she says, I can probably do that, but I won't. Good luck, PP.

3) You'll be dismayed to know that the scab is gone. Again.

post-doc said...

OK, look. (1) I don't remember what you wanted me to do, exactly, but I do remember it would have been relatively time consuming. And it's not like you think I'm smart or cool - we're too well acquainted. That ship has sailed. In fact, didn't you tell me about it after I fell down your stairs? So, no.

That being said, he probably might need that luck if his problem is too complicated.

(3) I sigh at you. Honestly.

TitleTroubles said...

1) I asked months before you fell down my stairs. And I think I've repaid you for that--next time see if I help you get up and down stairs for the next week AND stay with your freakish dog AND clean up the pee she leaves in the carpets. And you could have used that opportunity to up your geek factor in my eyes, if not coolness.

Wait--did you say that *you're* cooking dinner tomorrow? Maybe I need to work...

(And, yes, I agree--he may need that luck.)

3) I didn't do it on purpose. It's like my finger has some sort of magnetic attachment to it.

Mad Hatter said...

I lived in a southern US city for a few years a while back. But before I moved there, I lived in a foreign big city where strangers only spoke to you on the street if (1) they were mentally disturbed, (2) they were trying to convert you to some weird religion, or (3) they wanted something from you...usually something you really, really didn't want to give. So the first few people who tried to greet me in southern US city got nasty looks from me. They probably thought I was the rudest bitch, but they scared me!

TitleTroubles said...

1) (Hey! I'm about done being bored waiting for things to dialyze. i.e., I can now stop being mean and go away. For now.)

post-doc said...

Mad Hatter-
It is an adjustment. There's no question about that, and I came from a relatively friendly (or so I thought) Midwestern environment.

Yes. The meanness does tend to return, does it not? Goose.

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