Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Last Twenty Minutes

Dreadfully exciting, I'm sure! I will sit here and look intelligent. I always look intelligent when I put my fingers to my lips in a thoughtful manner. The intelligence just flows and flows. This is actually an experiment to see how different people handle boredom. Travis also tries to look intelligent, but with less success than I. That is because he is not writing at the same time. Now I move my head in a thoughtful way, as if I had received an idea, of course, I did not have an idea other than the idea that has been in my mind all day. Namely, that it is almost break - twenty minutes says my wrist watch. I can look at my wrist watch - very intelligent people often do. Sometimes I wish that, rather that looking intelligent, I could actually be intelligent, but I suppose, in that case, my classroom participation grade would go down. Now Travis raises his eyebrows at me across the room, then returns to staring at the screen of the computer. Allen clicks back and forth, I suppose that is what Travis is looking at. It is indeed a most exciting experiment, but break is only seventeen minutes away! Now Travis laughs and I realize that Sebastian is doing strange things next to me. Perhaps it is a strange language that they can communicate in, though it seems that they are using mere bestial signs. I try hard not to laugh, and since I am bored, and lethargic, and break is only fifteen minutes away, it is not hard to suppress the laughter that I normally would succumb to. I turn to Sebastian and warn him in a nonverbal way to stop distracting the other members of our class. He pays attention to my nonverbal communication for a short time and then begins again. Now Travis truly looks bored and he leans in his chair, back against the wall. Break has never been closer with only thirteen minutes to go before class is over! Ouch! My intellect has grown sore putting down these profound thoughts for prosperity. Whose prosperity, I don't know, but it will have to be an intelligent prosperity to appreciate these sentiments. Catherine disturbs the calm of the room by exclaiming a loud "I hate jazz!" This causes a crop of whispering. Catherine switches places with Sebastian as there are only eight minutes of class time left before break. Now even my intelligent look becomes bored...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Vignette Ten - The Hardware Stores

Of the three hardware stores in town, the writer has only been to two. One of them, located on Main Street in the building that formerly housed the Safeway store, is that friendly neighborhood place, as advertised on local radio. The other, located off of North Second Street, has an attached lumberyard.
The hardware store on Main street bustled with activity the Saturday morning that the writer wandered inside. She was on a quest to find hardware to fix a chair; she figured that would not take long.
It is easy to find what one needs in the well-labelled store. Hardware proper is towards the back of the store, on the right side. The writer looked for the correct size of screw, and put it into a small paper bag. She noted down the product code, with the provided pen. As it was Saturday, the store sang its siren song, begging her to spend time roaming the aisles. The writer was not in a hurry.
She wandered up and down aisles. The hardware store had just about everything, making it one of the most interesting stores in town. Tools, garden supplies, housewares, paint, Carhartts, toys, tack, bird food, fish, ferrets, and other small pets. In the spring, they stock chicks, in the winter, snow blowers and ice melt dominate the aisles.
The shelves were well-stocked, full of potential. They were conducive to daydream, and the writer went off into a happy dream world, full of land, garden, and house projects.
After sometime of this happy state, the writer was recalled to her present tasks and situation. She had already spent more time than she had anticipated in the store. She hurried to the cash register. The cashier absentmindedly entered the code and rang up the sale. He bid her good day.
It was the midst of a busy work day, when the writer had cause to visit the hardware store off of North Second Street. Noticing that the length of the table frequently used for meetings was on the short side, the writer’s boss had dispatched her to the hardware store to find a piece of hardwood to make another leaf for the table.
In business attire, carrying a hardwood veneered leaf from the table (circa 1920), she opened the door into the store. It was the quiet part of the afternoon, when the workers felt that they were entitled to take their sweet time in helping those customers that came into to disturb the slowness.
The writer marched to the counter where an older man came up to ask what she required. She explained about the leaf and the table. Then he took the leaf, and left to visit the lumberyard portion of the store. The writer eavesdropped on a conversation going on between a couple and the entire rest of the hardware store’s workers. The man was explaining why he had to return the door … he hadn’t accounted for the fact that the door was prehung or the fact that the American door numbering system doesn’t strictly follow inches. It’s a confusing issue, he made clear. The woman chimed in that she like the look of the door, but as they didn’t fit … About this time, another customer wandered into the shop. One clerk, reluctant to leave the conversation about doors, went to help him. The older man came back with a piece of wood that was exactly the same size as the leaf that the writer had brought in. He asked the writer to compare the two pieces. She did. She gave her approval and he rang up the sale. Then he carried the wood out to her vehicle.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Vignette Nine - The Diners

There are at least two diners in the small town, both attached to motels. One is near the outskirts of town, the other on the west side. Both are characteristic of the western diner. There are few things in life that so perfectly follow a type as the western diner. Yes, outwardly, all western diners are different, but the underlying, which makes it what it is, is the same.
Perhaps it is the crowded feel of booths and tables, or the smoking section in the back; perhaps it is the food (all right if one is hungry and does not mind American processed cheese on one’s omelet); perhaps it is the wait-staff of older, less kempt ladies. It might be that feeling in the pit of the stomach, that it is simply better not to know how things are done in the kitchen, manifested by a blind faith in the greying certificate tacked to the wall behind the cash register.
In spite of the cynicism of the last paragraph, there is something delightful about the diner. The writer walked into the lobby with a few friends, looking for an inexpensive meal. The gaunt waitress, who smelled of cigarettes, helped them to a booth looking out at the parking lot. She set down menus for them and went to get the tall, colored glasses of water. At each place, a coffee cup was rim down to the table. Customers desirous of coffee were supposed to flip the cup over, a secret signal to the waitress, who would then fill the cup. However, the beverage that is the diner’s triumph, is not the hours overheated coffee, but rather the hot chocolate. It comes out under a generous, picturesque topping of whipped cream, and is smooth, rich, and delicious.
The waitress left the table to study the menus, after she set down the glasses of water and took down their preferences for drinks. She had enough tables this morning to keep her on the move from table to table.
This gave the writer and her friends ample time to contemplate the menu. After a decent interval, the waitress approached their table again. She pulled a scratch pad out of her apron pocket.
“What would you like this morning?” she drawled. They named their choices one by one, answering questions about how they would like their eggs prepared and what type of toast they would like on the side. They handed her their menus. After the waitress left their table, they leaned back into the plush of the bench seats and chatted as they waited.
As they grew hungrier, they began keeping track of which tables had already received their food and whether or not they had come in before the friends.
Just as a sort of anxiety had set in, the waitress exited the kitchen with a full tray. The friends waited, watching her progress across the diner. They tried to see if it looked like what they had ordered. She turned from the straight course to their table. The friends sighed. It must not have been their food. But, no, the waitress moved toward them again, with a stand for the tray. She slid the stand open and set the tray on it in one motion.
One by one, she placed the brimful plates in front of them, along with smaller plates of this and that, but mainly toast or pancakes.
“Can I get you anything else?” she asked. All of the tables had ketchup and tabasco as staples. Salt and pepper stood proud at the end of the table. There was a jelly caddy filled with small packets of multiple favors of jelly and jam.
“No,” they assured her, “we’re set.”
She walked off, leaving them facing the enormous portions.
They said grace. Conversation lagged, while in the pangs of hunger they began their meal. By and by, conversation picked up again.
Diner food is at its best when it is steaming hot and one is voraciously hungry. After one begins to feel content and the food begins to cool, it becomes less appealing. One begins to question the decision to go to the diner for a meal.
After they pushed back their plates and leaned back once more into the cushioned seat, the waitress came and gathered up the empty dishes. As a reminder to them that it was time for them to move on, she left the bill.

The friends stood up slowly and one of them took the bill to the front and the cash register. The rest wandered toward the door, where they waited for the bill-payer to finish. Then, satiated by the food, they exited the diner.