Saturday, January 17, 2015

I'm a Local

In my short time living in the south, I've learned a very important lesson. It doesn't matter what your driver's license says, nor does it matter where you get your mail delivered. It is ONLY when you start running into people you know at the Winn-Dixie that you really and truly are a local. I've learned it's not church or bars or even people's homes where great conversations are had, it's at the Winn-Dixie.

Going to the Winn-Dixie on a Sunday afternoon is at times, ludicrous, hilarious, disconcerting, and quite fun. The Sunday afternoon crowd has been to church, eaten their lunch--in this town either at the Forest, a nice restaurant, or City Buffet, a Chinese food buffet that's quite good--and they are ready to pick up their staples and engage in conversation with anyone they didn't run into at the aforementioned restaurants. Forget a "quick stop" on Sundays, even with all five lines (you read that right FIVE LINES) working hard, "quick" cannot be done. Walking by, I've heard conversations focusing on the sermon at church, who's died, who's still holding on, who's been arrested, who's pregnant, who's married, who should NEVER have gotten married, who's still holding on in a different way, whose children don't care about their mothers, whose children are or aren't doing well in school, and all other topics under the sun. I really should take notes for that book I'm writing some day.

I've also learned that even though only about 1/3 of my total students, which only comes to 12, truly live in Franklin since we're a charter school 15 miles away, now that I'm a teacher, I had better look my best if I even THINK of darkening the door of the Winn-Dixie. It is inevitable I will run into a student. Sometimes, I don't even see them, but I hear the hushed whisper of "that's my TEACHER!" Usually, depending upon the behavior (not the grades) of said student, I may or may not have a parent come over and introduce themselves. More likely, from many feet away, I get frantic waves accompanied by "Hi, Miss Donna!"

The Winn-Dixie, truly a microcosm of humanity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Favorite Kid Christmas

As I've noted before, mine was a very lean household. My dad, thinking obviously kids don't need to eat or have new clothing, never really managed to pay child support. Back then, the state wasn't really a partner in making parents pay, so my mom never took him to court to up the amount. As she said, "a larger chunk of zero is still zero." It made for a number of lean Christmases. My grandparents would help by getting me clothing and necessary items, a bit more than my cousins, so my mom could focus on the fun stuff.

One Christmas I wanted a particular doll, a doll called Velvet.  She had blond hair that would be long, but then you could turn a dial in her back, and her hair would get short. Depress a button where the belly button would be, and voila, long hair again. I was mad with desire for this doll. It was horrifically expensive in relation to my mom's budget. I don't know how or where she found it, but she found one in horrible shape. The hair was matted, she didn't have shoes or clothes. Garage sale? Maybe. I don't know.

What my mom did was put her in a dolly chair one of her friend's husbands had made, and she wrote a letter from Santa and attached it to Velvet. The letter said Velvet was almost left behind because the elves hadn't quite gotten her ready in the Christmas time crunch, but Santa heard her crying. When Santa went to her, Velvet lamented that she'd never have a little girl to play with, because next year was just too late. Santa hurriedly took Velvet with and gave her to me, because she knew I wouldn't mind, and I would take extra special care of her.

Of course, I did. Velvet stayed in my possession long after other dolls were given away, and I still have the letter somewhere. For my mom, a logical, reasoned, absolutely by the numbers kind of person, it was the best Christmas gift I ever got.

Monday, December 22, 2014

You Can Take the Gal out of Chicago. . .

But we all know you can't take the Chicago out of the gal. Ugh.

For the most part, I've enjoyed living in the south and the truly massive life changes that have gone along with it. I think we've adjusted pretty well. I've slowed down my speaking speed, counting to ten between sentences and after someone else speaks to respond. I've accepted I WILL run into someone I know at the Winn-Dixie and around town, which means no errand is as quick as I hope it will be. We've all tried all kinds of new foods (jambalaya and chicken stew get thumbs up, gumbo TOTALLY depends on the recipe). I've even started saying hello to complete and total strangers, just because they're walking a few feet away from me (that was a hard one for this suspicious former Chicagoan).

The one issue I'm having troubles with is the lack of desire to problem solve when things go wrong. I mean, that's right in my wheelhouse. I aim to be a problem solver. Here, I get a shrug of the shoulders and a "what ya gonna do" look. I almost had a full-on conniption fit at Autozone Saturday. Good thing this town is small, and there were only three witnesses, two of them employees.

Our car needed a new battery. We charged it to get it over to the place, Scott paid, and THEN they told him they didn't have anyone to install it because they couldn't leave one person alone in the (empty) store. Fair enough. He had to go to work, so he brought the car home (only a five minute drive), told me to run over there after 9am. I waited until after 10, arrived, was told they still didn't have a third person and got THE shrug. I asked if they knew when third person would arrive. The shrug. I said I really didn't feel comfortable going home, since I had to charge this to get it here, but I also couldn't wait all day. The shrug. Then the counter person made the mistake of telling me "Don't know what to tell ya, baby." I KNOW sometimes the "baby" is a southern thing, like "honey" or "sweetie" but I snapped. I actually had to walk outside and take deep breaths.

I then went back in, where I informed the staff they needed to get the manager on the phone by any means necessary (turns out HE was the one who was AWOL), that I would be getting a discount refunded to me, and that if workers could stand outside the store with the door open EIGHT FEET away from where my car was in the parking lot to SMOKE CIGARETTES (three in the time I was there), then they could dang well put my battery in while I held the door and kept watch over the lone employee. I insisted I would keep her safe from the four customers who had swarmed the place in the time I'd been there.

Luckily, there did not have to be a showdown, as an employee who was scheduled later happened to come in early, and he put in my battery. He actually started in fright when he looked at me, and he was about 6'6" and 350lbs. He actually had to swap out the battery for a more expensive one, because their computer was wrong. I assured him the manager was picking up the difference. The shrug AGAIN. I hate the shrug.

Adjusting, it's a work in progress.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Combat Naps

I am the keeper of the clock, the sounder of the alarm. I also sleep like I'm a Navy SEAL taking a combat nap, in little blocks, literally anywhere. Back in the day, I was bored waiting while a buddy was flirting with a guy at Neo in Chicago. I fell asleep on the carpeted risers and had to be shaken awake, music was blaring, and I was near sober at the time.

My alarm goes off, and I wake up everyone in turn, except my Uncle Bob, who has his routine.  He's pretty much on the other side of the house, but because there's only one shower, we have a lovely syncopated dance of people in and out of the bathroom. It's been working. Knowing we have a very regimented system, that often commences with my directive to people under the age of fourteen to "eat breakfast! brush teeth! Move! Move! MOVE!" he was concerned when I seemed to be still lounging in bed ten minutes after I should have been. He waited another five minutes, then came to wake me up. In error, I hadn't set my alarm, so I'm glad he did.


Uncle Bob had never awakened me, and he wasn't really aware of my sleeping habits. He gently shook my happily sleeping shoulder. I jumped up, again, like a Navy SEAL in full battle mode, out of bed in one leap, looking for the proverbial fire to put out. I scared him, and rightly so. He told me next time maybe he'll just call my phone.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cue the Gone with the Wind Music

I had what I would call the most purely southern moment since I've been down here recently, and as with all things in the modern south, it happened at the grocery store. I've learned the local grocery store is at the epicenter of southern interaction. Forget the telephone! Leave emails and texts to those Yankees! If you want to have a veritable cocktail party, hit the Winn-Dixie! I don't even KNOW most people in town, and every time we've gone, I've run into neighbors, people we've seen at church, families from the kids' school. I've taken to going by myself on Fridays, because this whole thing freaks me out a little.

I'm happily filling my cart and checking things off my list, when I hit a necessary item--frozen vegetables--on sale. As is the same, north or south, the sale items were a jumbled mess, plus it was a humid day, which meant I couldn't see a thing through the freezer case. I was head and shoulders into a freezer case, trying to find my items, when, I swear, I'm not making this up, a woman's voice, veritably dripping with honey sopped up by a biscuit, announces in a loud voice "Well, I declare!" Of course, no "r" sound was pronounced. It was more "declay-ah" than anything. She was speaking to another female patron, and she continued with "I haven't seen you in I do not KNOW how long (made into two syllables, that word). Truth be told, I thought you'd passed." At this point, I'm trying really hard to keep a straight face, good thing I'm out of sight. I continued on with my vegetable search as they shared small talk, promising to catch up more soon.

The delightful elderly southern woman came over by me and, again, announced she was looking for "soup vegetables." Since I was already half in the freezer case, I offered that there was a bag with "soup vegetables" marked on it, as I handed it to her. She read the bag, made a scoffing noise that really employed her entire body, pointed to the wording on the bag, and in an accusing manner told me, "This has OKRA in it. We don't put okra in our SOUP." Feeling outnumbered and outgunned by this little woman, I went with my strengths and replied, "Glad you said that. I'm a Yankee, and I wouldn't put put okra in MY soup, either." She sized me up in an instant (I really longed for a set of pearls to clutch), and told me, "Well, then you were brought up right." I handed her a different bag of vegetables, and she sniffed and told me I'd been very helpful.

As often happens in grocery stores, we happened to meet up at the check out line, she with her half-full cart, me with my overflowing one. She was already almost through the line, when she saw me and declared she was glad she didn't have to put all my groceries away. That's when I let her know this was a week's worth of groceries for five. She immediately started taking items from my cart and putting them on the belt while the cashier bagged what she had. She told me how she used to have six to feed, but now it was just her, and she'd started calling her nephew to come over with a friend or two, just so she could keep her "cooking mind fresh" from time to time. She paid for her by then loaded up groceries, bid a lovely day to all (pronounced aw-el) and left.

It was probably the most pleasant day I've ever had at the grocery store.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Politics of Apples

A couple weeks ago, my uncle told me he didn't really like the Gala apples I'd purchased. I made a point of finding other varieties, I think we were on Granny Smiths this week. When I was asking everyone if they had grocery requests, he told me he really didn't want anymore Granny Smiths, that the last Gala he had was quite good.


I said, "Hold on. Didn't you tell me a couple weeks ago you DIDN'T like Galas?"

He said, "Well, yes, but that was just one apple. I had another, and I liked it a lot."

"Ok, so you were willing to not eat Galas for the foreseeable future, except for the fact that I bought some anyway for the rest of us, based on ONE bad apple."

Without skipping a beat, he said "yeah, it's what we conservatives do, condemn a whole type based on one bad sample."

It's good to know that if I have to live with even more conservatives now, they're willing to joke about it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Patient Zero

We've all been there, where our kid looks a little tired in the morning and sounds a bit hoarse. But no fever, no complaints when asked, and hey, the family spent yesterday outdoors all day with pollen and other allergens, so you send Muffin off to school. Couple hours later, and you get the accusing phone call from the nurse at Muffin's school, saying s/he has a fever of 102, which must have been blooming as they walked away from the car. I don't judge those people.

However, I AM going to get all Judgey McJudgerson on the people who knowingly send their kids to school, for whatever reason. Megan was complaining on Thursday that a kid who sits in the row in front of her had been absent for two days, then came back with a hacking cough, to the point the teacher told him to go call his mom. Mom was, conveniently unavailable, and kid was back at school on Friday! STILL coughing! 

Guess who started being sniffly and coughing last night? Better yet, tonight, Brett started up too, and they both have low fevers. Guess what Brett was doing this weekend? Sleeping in close quarters with his Boy Scout troop, making him Patient Zero for the plague I'm sure will befall the troop. Not to mention this charter school is crazy about absences, and Megan has five already, thanks to the Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease right at the start and a stomach thing she and I got a couple weeks ago, I'm sure just because of all the new germs we encountered moving to a new town.

I want to kick that kid's mom's butt!