Small Town News: A Christmas Eve To Remember


I have been feeling a little “down in the dumps” lately. To illustrate that I have not completely lost my sense of humor, to restore your faith in me as a “humor blogger”, and to reward those of you who have stuck with me, I will tell you one of my most favorite “ripped from the headlines” stories. It’s a knee-slapper. I promise. It has gotten me through one or two dark moments.

I do not always read our little local newspaper, but when I do I always go straight for the “police blotter”. Not much happens here in our little piece of the Earth, certainly not much that is worth a headline. I discovered long ago that the most interesting things that do happen here are reported in the “police blotter”.

Sometimes, when I am in desperate need of a hearty laugh — which I have been lately — I think back to a tidbit that was featured in the “police blotter” several years ago. The events transpired on the 24th of December in the year 2011. I remember this because that date represented a milestone for me; I had been alcohol-free for a whole year.

Oddly enough I was not in a celebratory mood that year. I was anxious and feeling more than a little sorry for myself. Yes, I had gotten through the year and my first holiday season without booze. That was a good thing. A very good thing. Still, I worried about whether or not I would, could, or even wanted to get through the rest of my life (or the rest of that day) without it.

While my resolve is still strong and I fret less about relapse, there will always be that little part of me that wonders if someday I will fall off the wagon. And lose everything. It keeps me on my toes, but it is not an altogether comfortable feeling.

I was having a conversation with a friend a few days after Christmas about how I was dealing with life without my security blanket, how uncomfortable I was feeling. I was maybe even having a little pity party for myself.

She responded by telling me that my life could be a whole lot worse, that I could, for example, be in that week’s “police blotter”; that I should count myself lucky, not just for making it through the year without alcohol, but also, and possibly more importantly, for not having been one of the “roast beef people”.

She assumed that I was familiar with the story. She knows that I go straight to the “police blotter” when the paper arrives. I guess I was busy, you know, with my pity party in full swing and all. I hadn’t read it. And, so, she read it to me.

It took her about ten minutes to read me the seven-line piece. She had to keep stopping. To laugh. To catch her breath. To blow her nose. It was, in short, a great story.

I wish I had kept it, but I didn’t. It went something like this, though:

On December 24, 2011 officers responded to a call of a disturbance in the parking lot of The Local Market. Upon arrival, the officers witnessed the female beating the male about the head with a package of roast beef. A strong smell of alcohol was detected on the female assailant. The officers ascertained that the couple was known to each other and had, in fact, arrived in the same vehicle, a late-model BMW. Counsel was given and it was determined that the male, the driver, had not been drinking. The parties were discharged with a warning. The whereabouts of the roast beef in question are unknown.

I loved that she related to me this cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking, when I needed it most. Further, she made mention that she was confident that even had I been drinking, I would never have been caught in the parking lot of The Local Market beating dear, old Fang about the head with a roast beef. Green cabbage, perhaps, but never a roast beef!

I have always wished that I had been there. How often in life does one get to witness a meat fight in the middle of a grocery store parking lot? Alas, I have to satisfy myself with the visual of the scene that plays itself out in my head.

While this story is laugh out loud funny as written, it has always left me with a few lingering questions. Questions that, over the years, I have felt compelled to answer in a speculative and creative fashion. Like the Swiss cheese that often accompanies a fine roast beef product, I think we can agree that the story has more than a few holes.

First of all, I have always wondered what kind of roast beef the guy was being hit upside the head with? Was it a package of cold cuts? Or a whole roast of beef? It is unclear. I think that it makes a difference. Being slapped with a package of sliced roast beef could hardly kill a fly, let alone do any serious damage to a grown man. A slab of beef, on the other hand, could make a dent, not only to his pride, but to his noggin.

My money is on the cold cuts. Why? Because I think, it being Christmas Eve, she sent him in to purchase a roast beef — a whole roast beef — and he came out with deli-sliced roast beef. Also, I have to wonder if the police might not have taken the whole thing a lot more seriously, charged her with assault, even, if her “weapon” had been a five-pound roast of beef.

I have to say that in this scenario, the one that I long ago decided made the most sense,  my sympathies lie with her. Who hasn’t sent their husband the store to buy, say, a head of lettuce only to have him return with a head of cabbage. Who hasn’t wanted to beat him over the head with said green cabbage? Who hasn’t been forced, as a result of his inability to discern the difference between lettuce and cabbage, to eat a BCT, rather than the delicious BLT that one’s heart was set on? Who hasn’t been in this or a similar situation.Be honest, now.

Even drunk, I drew the line at battering anyone — with anything. I was never a violent drunk, though. No. I was a happy until I fell down and then couldn’t remember a thing in the morning kind of drunk. I was even, at times, a maudlin drunk; never was I a violent drunk. Still, drunk or sober, we all have our lines in the sand. This woman drew hers over roast beef. I can understand.

I am happy to report that “The Great Green Cabbage Debacle” did not result in Fang and I engaging in fisticuffs. I would hope that some of you might sympathize with me if it had, though.

I have always been intrigued by the part of the narrative where we are given the information that the parties were “known to each other”. Of course they were known to each other. I am willing to bet that they were married to each other — for thirty years!

While I would like to think that a trip to The Local Market taking on an air of danger might be fun, I don’t know that I would want to be mindful of strangers, armed with roast beef (of any variety), lurking in the shadows, poised to pounce upon the next person that they deemed worthy of a good meat-filled bitch slapping. It wouldn’t keep me away, though.

On the contrary, the idea of possibly being in a position to witness (or, better yet, to be the victim) of such a crime might have me camped out there. For eternity.

And what do you make of the “late-model BMW” detail? I have always found its presence intriguing. Was this meant to indicate that money was not an issue? That the argument had  nothing to do with the cost of the roast beef? (Which is high, let me just tell you!) Are we supposed to assume that they were, perhaps, German? If so, is this something that Germans engage in regularly, food fights in parking lots? Is this something the reader is supposed to know?

It is a mystery, the BMW detail. It is, indeed, far more mysterious to me than the fact that the whereabouts of the roast beef, the weapon in question, “remain unknown”. I am assuming, unless the attack shredded the packaging, that they took it  home with them. I would have taken it home with me.

I have always hoped that their relationship survived this incident. If it did, I also hope that he was never sent in to the store for cold cut turkey and came out, instead, with a frozen bird. Being knocked around with a frozen turkey would definitely smart a little.

I owe them, whatever their current relationship status, a debt of gratitude. Their story, which I like to think of as “A Christmas Eve To Remember”, has long been one of those stories that I harken back to when I need a laugh, when one drink seems like a good idea, when I send my husband out for lettuce, and, most importantly, when I need a reminder about how incredibly fortunate I am that my life is peppered with people who not only love me, but always know exactly what story I need to hear at exactly the moment I need to hear it.

Do you live in a small town? Do you have a favorite small town story? If so, I would love to hear it!


















Small Town News: I Am Not Surprised

smalltownnewsiamnotsurprisedI was at my local market yesterday, which is not unusual. I am a frequent flyer there, so much so that I am often surprised not to be greeted enthusiastically and in the same fashion as was “Norm”  in the 80’s television series, Cheers.  (A chorus of “JACKIE!”  would not, in other words, be out of place.) It is just that kind of local place. They may not serve beer or have my barstool waiting, but everyone knows me just the same.

That being the case, it is often surprising that whilst grabbing a carton of eggs, a handful of leeks, or a bottle of soda, I have borne witness to my fair share of “yokels behaving badly”. These people never seem to care that everyone, figuratively and, at times, even literally, knows their name.

It is sort of funny to have a front row seat when some of the townsfolk — many of whom seem relatively normal as they dive into a bag of zeppoles at the annual church carnival  or peruse a fashion magazine at the municipal pool — have highly emotional and, yes, outsized, reactions to the absence of things like kumquats or candied orange peel at the local market.

I have been downright shocked to observe certain people, when they think no one is watching, getting handsy with the cheese samples. The forward thinking and generous folks at the market conveniently place toothpicks next to the complimentary cheeses to avoid just such unsanitary behavior. (Use them, Mrs. W., use them!)

The powers-that-be have done their due diligence on the toothpick front. I don’t hold them responsible for the Mrs. W.’s of the world. You can lead a horse to water and all that.

The expectation that the toothpick stockers can foresee and avert a run on niche produce or citrus confections, well, that is just ludicrous. More ludicrous, though, are the reactions of those who pop into the market to purchase such exotica only to find the shelves bare.

To say these kumquat seekers feel thwarted is to put it mildly. Judging from the exchange that I was privy to recently, one would think that the market managers wake up in the morning and hatch an evil plan to remove certain products from the shelves just, you know, because they can. Just because “that guy” will be in later seeking them.

“That guy”, a guy that I do not actually know, but whose act I am all too familiar with, was carrying on — to a powerless cashier, mind you — about the availability or, to be more precise, the lack of availability of fresh squeezed juice.

I didn’t even know the market carried fresh squeezed juice! In the interests of full disclosure, I am not much of a juice drinker. Still, I think I would have noted its presence. It really must be tucked away in some dark corner. Maybe it is nestled amongst other healthy items that hold no interest for me — the quinoa, the granola, the wheat germ — if it were housed near the chocolate chip cookies, I surely would know of its existence.

While there are many things that I do not know, there are a few things that I do. For example, I know “that guy” — not by name, but certainly by face. His act and his expectations were no different on his recent visit to the market than it frequently had been when I was forced to wait on him at the small local restaurant where I was, recently and briefly, employed.

He liked to create the impression that he was a very important person by barking at whoever he was on the phone with — and he was always on the phone with someone. That he “dressed for success” in basketball shorts, two-dollar flip-flops, and a stained t-shirt was, I always thought, part of another statement that he was making — that he was too busy to care about his appearance when it didn’t matter, when the only people he was going to come into contact with were the peons that would be doing his bidding, peons like me. Peons like the market cashier.

When he came in with other people — people who I assume he was selling something to (I think he may be a realtor) — he presented an altogether different appearance: a suit and tie, shoes with laces, and, of course, the requisite pinkie ring. Yeah. He is a real operator, a bona fide mover and shaker. He is also a world-class boob.

I wouldn’t buy a penny candy from him, but I know for sure that his clients are not privy to who he really is. When he was wining and dining someone, he would deign to speak to me — like one human to another; when he was alone, with no one to impress, he would, if I was lucky, grunt his order at me.

When I was unlucky, which was most of the time, our entire discourse would be conducted through the use of hand motions. He would wave away the menu I was presenting, indicate that he wanted a drink refill by holding his glass aloft, and order soup by miming a spoon-to-mouth gesture. If he wanted another bowl of soup, which he almost always did, he would charmingly tap his empty bowl on the table and then tilt it to demonstrate its emptiness.

While Mrs. W.’s attitude toward food safety may have come as a shock to me, “that guy” berating a cashier didn’t surprise me at all. Not one little bit.

Had I not been getting “the eye” from my husband, who sensed that I was about to spring to the cashier’s defense, and had the cashier not handled herself with aplomb — had she looked upset or been younger, for example — I would not have hesitated to open my mouth. On some level I would have loved an excuse to call “that guy” out, but I am happy that it didn’t come to that. (I daresay my husband was also very pleased at my rare show of restraint!) The seasoned cashier, to her credit, did not need my “help”; she was perfectly capable of handling “that guy”.

I did manage to catch “that guy’s” eye, though. He knew exactly who I was. More importantly, he understood that I knew exactly who he was. I took some satisfaction in the fact that I did not have to behave badly myself, that by simply making my presence known “that guy” scurried away — as quickly, let me just add, as his skanky flip-flops could carry him.

For my next passive-aggressive act, I would love to catch Mrs. W.’s eye when she gets busy fondling the cheese.

Small Town News: I Was Not In My Pajamas Chasing a Garbage Truck!

smalltownnewspajamasLiving in a small town can have its benefits. Everyone, pretty much, knows everyone else. Sometimes by name, sometimes just by face. As my daughter’s peers have aged I realize that I know a lot of faces, but am fuzzy on some of the names. I spent years volunteering in the school system and in town in one capacity or another. As a result, I know quite a few people here in Mayberry.

Admittedly, this can be annoying under certain circumstances, like when you are chasing the DPW truck and hauling your garbage can up the street whilst in your pajamas, and out of the clear blue you hear, “Hi, Mrs. D! How’s Fangette doing?” It is in these moments that you find yourself thinking, “Good Lord, do I look like I am any condition to hold a conversation?” But I still do. As I hand some young man my garbage can and thank him for holding the truck for my sorry ass, I say, “She’s doing just fine. Thanks for asking!” And then I skulk away before he has time to notice the condition of my hair (sticking straight up!) or my teeth (unbrushed!).

There are other situations, though, in which the whole, “Hey, I know her!” can come in handy; when it can get you out of a jam. Take today, for example.

Late this morning I was very nearly involved in fisticuffs with a well-dressed, but  ill-tempered man. Seriously, he appeared to be on the verge of, like the kids say, “throwing down” . This guy really needed to chill out, to put things in perspective. Luckily, while I can be a hothead myself, I chose to take the higher road with this insaniac — plus, as you shall see, he rather quickly and unexpectedly became outnumbered. (Don’t mess with a former PTO President in small town America, folks!)

The events that I am about to recount transpired as I was returning home from a job interview. I am happy to report that I am, once again, in possession of two jobs. Yay, me! Hopefully this one will be far less stressful than the one I just left. It’s a bartending gig and, as such, is far more in my comfort zone. As the entire interview was conducted in an elevator while standing up, I have a good vibe about the far more relaxed nature of this outfit. While this establishment is much fancier than the last place I worked — there are actual tablecloths in this joint — they seem to take themselves far less seriously.

Prior to stumbling upon my new employer in the elevator I was in the midst of several text conversations with people from my main job, mostly regarding shift switches and one concerning the proper etiquette for tipping furniture delivery people. I was eagerly waiting on one of my co-workers to get back to me regarding a shift for this evening, as there had been some confusion regarding this shift — confusion that had, up to that point, not been resolved to my satisfaction. I was still unsure — and had been for most of the week — whether or not I was supposed to work tonight.I don’t mind going to work, I do mind going to work for no reason.

As I got off of the bus my phone started binging — alerting me to the fact that I had received some new text messages. I took out my phone, planning to check the status of my messages as soon as I had cleared the upcoming driveway that was five feet away from me. Yes, my phone was in my hand. No, I was not looking at it or texting on it.

As I approached said driveway I noticed a car slowing down. I was uncertain whether or not the car was slowing down because the driver planned to pull into the driveway or if he or she was out for a Sunday drive. The driver had decided, for whatever reason, not to use a turn signal. Okay.

I decided that even if this person was planning to turn into the driveway, I still had enough time to clear it safely. The driver had other ideas. Instead of recognizing — based on the briskness of my pace — that I was doing my level best to get out of his way, he chose to speed up and try to beat me into the parking lot. When he realized that he needed to give me two more seconds to get out of his path he began to gesture wildly and make the “on the phone” gesture at me.

Let me reiterate that I was not on the phone. I was not even looking at the phone. I was holding my phone, but I was holding it at my side. It was practically resting on my thigh. So, his wild gestures, which included some angry pointing of his finger, kind of irked me.

I rolled my eyes at him and moved along. I just wanted to get home. Perhaps the fact that I had dared to roll my eyes at this maniac — a person who had just seconds before nearly mowed me down with his luxury car — is what got him hot under the collar. I will never know. Me? I was willing to let bygones be bygones. Honestly, I had already forgotten about it.

And then I noticed that he had jumped out of his car. And he was screaming. Frankly, I thought that he was on the phone. I may have rolled my eyes again as I thought, “What is this idiot going on about now? Who is he screaming at now?” And then it dawned on me: he was still screaming at little old me.

His arms were going a mile a minute, as was his mouth, and his face was beet red. Just as I was about to open my own mouth, a minivan pulled up next to me — a minivan that contained, oddly enough, a gaggle of young men. One of them rolled down the window and said, “Ma’am, is everything alright?”

I just had a second to register the appearance of the minivan when I realized that loony luxury car guy was about ten feet in front of me. I put up my hands in a “stop” motion and told him, “Sir, I don’t know what your problem is, but I am going to tell you right now that you had better ‘step off’ because if you think for one minute that you are going to intimidate me with your blustering and your hollering, you are out of your mind. Let me remind you that I am the pedestrian and that, as such, you must stop for me. End of story.”

He then began pointing at my purse or, more exactly, to a brown paper bag that was hanging out of my purse, while making a drinking motion with his hand to his mouth. I was completely and utterly confused by this.

I then heard a voice behind me. It was one of the young men from the minivan. It occurred to me that I knew him. He was a couple of years older than my daughter and while I could not tell you his name, I recognized him. It became obvious that he knew me, too.

This kid turned to the moron that was now quiet, but standing with his hands on his hips — as if he was waiting for me to say something to him, if I had to guess, I would say that he was waiting on an apology. (He may as well have been waiting for hell to freeze over.) That is when I realized that one of the young men was standing aside of me. He said, “Sir, I know this woman. I would suggest, if you would like to escape with your dignity and your nose intact, that you get the hell out of here because she will bury you.”

I burst out laughing. We all did. Well, the boys in the van and I did. Mr. Luxury Car turned on his heel and left, but not before he made a comment about women who wander the streets drunk before noon. Again, I was confused.

The young man, the one who clearly knew me, pointed to the brown bag hanging out of my purse. It was then when I realized that our excellent driver thought that I was carrying a bottle of booze in my purse. I reached into the bag and produced, for the boys and for the guy who had concluded that I was wandering around taking hits from a bottle of hootch, the ham and cheese sandwich that I was planning to eat for lunch. I held it aloft, you know, kind of like how John Cusack held the boom box over his head in “Say Anything”.

The kid just laughed some more and said, “Mrs. D., you have a great day. Would you like a ride home?” I said, “No, but thank you for coming to my rescue!” He told me it was his pleasure and, with that, the van sped off. And, yes, I noted that the driver signaled to the rest of the world his intention to pull on to the street. For the life of me I cannot put a name to the face of my rescuer or to any of the other inhabitants of the minivan.

It was a great small town moment that was made better by the fact that I was not in my pajamas chasing a garbage truck!