I was going to ask this question around Christmas, but, you know, life. I’m still curious, though, so I’m asking it anyway, and now you have a wealth of recent experience to use as examples for your answers, which you are surely going to give me.
Okay, a couple of scenarios.
One. You have a group of people you exchange gifts with. Family, friends, whoever. Just people you regularly buy for. And you set a gift budget for the group as a whole – like you’re going to spend $150 on each person. That’s a made up number on the high side, or the low side. It’s made up. It doesn’t matter. So you’ve got $150 to spend per person. Obviously not strict – if you find a great $145 item for someone, you don’t scramble to find a $5 thinger to make it exactly even. In the same vein, if you spend $160 on someone for the perfect gift, no big. You get me. $150-ish. Now, say you find the perfect item for someone. It’s what they want/need/secretly desire in their heart of hearts or whatever. And it costs $150. Perfect. Except, you get some insane deal on it. Like, totally insane. You’ve got a coupon and reward points and there’s also a sale and it turns out your giftees tastes match up with no one else’s so this item is totally unfavored by the rest of the world so it’s also on clearance. You end up spending, say, $50 for a $150 item. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s clearly an expensive item, anyone who sees it can ballpark the price, etc.
Now, keeping in mind that your budget is not a shared budget, it’s just what you’ve decided to spend on each person privately, not a group agreement, what do you do? Do you think, all right, extra money in the budget! And buy that person an extra $100 gift to go with your sweet $50 deal, bringing their total actual value of gifts up to $250 while you spent $150 on everyone else in the group? Or, do you think, all right, extra money in the budget! And redirect your saved $100 to Christmas eve dinner, or a bonus gift for your spouse, or, surprise!, you needed new tires right before Christmas because you were driving to Disneyland and didn’t actually check the tires well in advance to prepare for this possibility, which was surely going to happen regardless, because that’s just how your life goes, and even if you had checked them in advance and budgeted for them, your dog certainly would have eaten a glass ornament or something just to fuck with you?
Two. Work gift exchange, or secret santa with your volunteer group, or teacher gift, or something like that. Public budget is set and it’s $10. Unlike the scenario above where you set your own budget for the group of people you’re giving to, independent of their budgets, and everyone gets each other what they can comfortably afford to spend and everyone appreciates everything regardless because we’re all good people and we all know good people, in this case, the budget is set and public, fair and agreed upon by everyone, and everyone in the exchange will be getting each other gifts around the same value. You pull someone’s name, a friend, right, or someone you comfortably know. And it just so happens you have a $10-$15 item at home that you were given, new and unopened. It’s not a crap regift, it’s good. Maybe you were talking to that person about a thing you own, and they say they always meant to get one, and then, surprise, you were gifted a duplicate! Something you might have bought for your giftee anyway.
So, you decide you’re going to give your person this $10-$15 item. You acquired it at zero cost, therefore you’re putting out no money on the exchange, when everyone else is, in theory, spending $10-$15. In this case, do you grab another $10 item and include it, so your giftee does have more value in their gift than the rest of those in the exchange, but you haven’t spent any more than anyone else? Or maybe tack on a $2 or $5 item just so you feel like you also spent something? Or just give them the brand new perfectly suitable gift, knowing it meets the budget, and save your $10 for when your dog slams himself into a wall trying to run away from home inside the house because the sonic booms from the ceremonial F-4 Phantom II retirement flyover shook the houses on base so badly someone’s door actually fell off and your dog is a giant wiener and maybe you can put that $10 toward his prozac prescription?
Two different scenarios, right? I’m sure you’ve come across these more than once in your life, maybe even this year, because we’re all similar people, right? And you know what’s written on my family crest. Never Pay Full Price. So we all get killer deals here and there from time to time. But how do you handle them with gift giving and budgets?
To recap, in scenario one, your budget is private, just what you personally have decided to spend on each person in the group. Each person in the group may spend differently – more or less. No one knows your budget. You’ve just set an even one for each person. In scenario two, everyone knows the budget, and everyone has the same budget, and everyone will exchange gifts together in some kind of horrific forced fun holiday thing in a conference room where most people are checking their email on the phones, and two people are wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and continually turning up the volume on the Christmas carols playing over someone’s iPhone WITHOUT EVEN A BLUETOOTH SPEAKER ATTACHED.
I am interested to hear what you do.
When I went to start this post, I kept trying to open the dashboard on Temerity Jane, probably because I’m about to write about some shit that annoys the hell out of me and that’s my habit. I’m going to eventually move those archives, most of them at least, over here, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. That doesn’t have to do with this post, just a thing that happened that now I’ve written down.
Okay, two things that I’m real het up about this morning.
First. There’s another one of those memes going around with a bunch of little girls dressed as princesses except for one who is dressed as Batman and it says something like be a Batman in a world of princesses or whatever. It’s cool for a lot of reasons. One, Batman is cool. Two, it’s cool that little girls are into dressing up as Batman if they love Batman. Three, it’s always cool when a kid breaks from the pack because that’s not always an easy thing to do. HOWEVER. It’s also not cool. It implies that breaking from the pack automatically makes you superior in some way. Sometimes the pack likes awesome shit because it’s awesome, you know? And it’s fine if you – or your kid – wants to like that awesome stuff, too. It’s like shaming someone for liking pop music because it’s popular. Shut the fuck up. It’s popular because people like it. You’re a people. Do the math, jerk.
It also implies that choosing a superhero is superior to choosing a princess, and that is some bullshit internalized misogyny to stick on your four year old. “Boy” stuff is not inherently better than girl stuff. Girls who are into “boy” stuff are not “cooler” than girls who are into “girl” stuff. Yes, it is very awesome that more and more little girls are becoming comfortable with choosing superheroes over princesses or choosing to like both. But your daughter’s preferences of one over the other don’t make her a better or worse child than the one next to her. She is not more awesome, more evolved, or more cool because she wants to be Batman instead of a princess. You stop telling her that. You don’t let her think that. You let her know that whatever she likes, whatever she wants to do, whatever she is interested in – it is all fine. And whatever the little girl next to her likes, whatever the little girl next to her wants to do, whatever the little girl next to her is interested in – that’s all fine, too.
If you send the message to your kid that she is better (and I’m using the general “you” to encompass the dickbags I’m talking about here) and heap praise upon her for being such a cool girl for choosing Batman over Sophia, she’s going to think it is better. She’s going to think she’s made a better choice than the Elsa next to her. She might grow up thinking that the superior way to be is whatever way chooses the least “girly” option possible, because the “girly” choice is the lesser choice. And it’s not. It’s a valid choice, too. These memes and ideas – you know, where you see a little girl dressed up as Superman next to two of her friends dressed up like Cinderella, and someone comments, “you’re raising her right!” – are the ones setting these girls up to spend their younger years claiming to “not be like other women,” which, in addition to being a dick thing to say (which, still, most of us have said/legitimately felt at some point or another), also sets her back many, many years in developing the female friendships she’s really going to want and need someday.
Anyway, there’s a lot of points to be made from that and I could keep going, but you’re all smart people who can totally extrapolate further and get everything I wanted to say from the disjointed mess I left up there.
This is the other thing that is bothering me a lot. I’ve been buying a lot of stuff on Etsy (STICKERS IF YOU MUST KNOW), and I’m in a lot of Facebook groups for handmade things (ALSO MOSTLY STICKERS IF YOU MUST KNOW), but this applies to most small business/WAHM-type things. I am really, really over poor customer service/cutting some slack for slow shipping and poor communication being the rule rather than the exception lately. I don’t understand why people who are running a business at the same time want to be treated as someone who is doing me a favor.
Mostly what I have been running into lately is incredibly slow shipping. In some ways, I’m fine with this. Most shops post lead times. Those lead times factor into a purchase decision, right? If I need something in two weeks and the shop lists a lead time of 4 to 6, then I can’t buy from that shop. But if they say they ship in 4-5 days, I should be able to expect I can give them my money and get my item. That’s not a crazy concept. But people are making me feel like that’s crazy. The date the item should arrive goes by and nothing has even shipped. If you ask in one of the groups dedicated to these items, you’ll get responses like, “I always give it a week or so more” or “you know, it’s a one woman shop,” and things like that. Like I am supposed to be cutting some slack because, hey, one person is doing this all on her own. But but but I gave you money and you said you could have it done by this time. That was part of the whole arrangement. There are ways to avoid that, like not making more sales than you can handle – Etsy does allow you to sell certain quantities, but many shops insist on making to order so they can sell unlimited numbers. Or you can put down an honest lead time with cushioning. I feel like a lot of shops avoid listing long lead times because people won’t buy if it’s going to take that long. No, they won’t buy if you miss your fake deadline by weeks or months. They’ll be pleasantly surprised if things show up early.
What’s making me so mad about this lately is that yeah, most of us do want to support small businesses. And we do want to shop small. And we’re being encouraged to do this, to choose little companies making their own shit over big, faceless businesses. You want to be the company I choose over Amazon, Walmart, etc, but at the same time, you want special treatment, too? And the people jumping in to defend the small Etsy companies just make it all worse. You have to cut her some slack, she’s doing this on her own, what do you expect? I expect that when I give you my money, you’ll fulfill your end of the bargain with a the product you promised in the time frame listed. I’m not even saying you can’t list a two month turn around time, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you actually meet it once you set it. And buyers are put in a position of actually feeling like an asshole for expecting to receive what they paid for in a reasonable amount of time. How very dare you, the shop owner has children, the shop owner has a lot going on, the shop owner was abducted by aliens, you have no idea what’s going on in her life.
Listen, I paid actual money to buy a thing. I didn’t use my special money that I set aside for special businesses who can just, you know, keep it until they feel like they’re up to doing the contracted work someday. I won’t keep buying cool handmade shit for myself and for gifts if I’m always expected to be understanding and give leeway and look the other way and not file PayPal claims and not leave bad reviews when things don’t go right. This is not… we are not friends. You are not doing me a favor and I am not doing you a favor. I give you money, you give me things. That is what Amazon and Walmart and everyone else do for me. I’m sick of being made to feel like the Great Satan for having expectations of receiving products in exchange for money. How is this a thing that is happening?
AND DON’T GET ME STARTED on the ones that print the shipping label on the very last day of Etsy’s turn around time window and then just LET IT SIT THERE and then claim “oh I shipped it, I don’t know what’s wrong” like I’M NEW HERE NONE OF US ARE NEW WE ALL KNOW WHAT “PRE-SHIPMENT INFO SENT TO USPS” MEANS IT’S 2016 COME ON.
I want to start this post by saying that I know that there are people with anxiety and other issues that make every day tasks very difficult. I also want to say that I know that the majority of us do not have those issues but still find many every day tasks and interactions uncomfortable and difficult, but more in a “wow I need to adult the fuck up and just do this” kind of way. I want you to know that I know that there are definitely differences between these two groups of people, and I also want you to understand that I am addressing the second group here, and I apologize for not including everyone in this post, but if I included everyone, someone would get offended and I don’t want to offend anyone. So is that out of the way? You know that I know that some people really would find this situation cripplingly difficult, and I have great sympathy for them but I am not talking about them. Okay. Okay. We’re all set.
So here’s a thing that happens that I think is THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN. That’s not entirely true, not in, like, the grand scheme of the world, but in that moment, there is not a worse thing that could happen.
So you’re at the grocery store, right, and you get all your stuff – maybe a lot of stuff or maybe not a lot – I don’t think that has anything to do with when this sort of thing happens but I’ve never worked at a grocery store, so I can’t say. Maybe there’s some kind of item number vs time taken to scan math that goes into this, but I assume they cover that in grocery store training. You’ve got your stuff and you find an acceptable line that is not too long for the amount of time you’ve got available, and the cashier is there cashiering and the light is on so you get in the line and put your stuff on the belt or just hold it if you’re hitting up the $1.25 Reeses pumpkin things my Exchange had on all the registers for a week or so before they SOLD OUT ENTIRELY and I had to buy regular circle peanut butter cups, which, don’t get me wrong, I totally love, but you have to admit that with the different shapes come different pleasing texture differences and sometimes a lady wants a pumpkin.
You’re in the line and you’re at the end of the line, and the cashier turns her light off. Now, you’re already in the line so you’re fine and you don’t have to go anywhere else, unless the cashier tells you that you have to, in which case you probably just should, definitely if you only have an item or two, though I’d be super annoyed if I had already unloaded a full cart onto the belt and was told I had to move, but I’m pretty sure that’s such a rare occurrence – it’s never happened to me – that you could probably assume there was some kind of cashier emergency or even personal emergency that the cashier must attend to, and soothe your annoyance by reminding yourself of that.
But in this situation, the cashier doesn’t tell you to go somewhere else. You’re already there so you’re fine. Instead, she tells you, “you’re my last customer, ok?” Why would she have to tell me that? I’m not a total asshole or anything, but I have to say, I really do not care what you do and with who after our personal transaction is finished. I don’t need to know that I’m the last one. So you know why she is telling me?
BECAUSE IT IS NOW MY RESPONSIBILITY TO INFORM ANYONE WHO COMES BEHIND ME THAT THEY CANNOT JOIN MY LINE.
Now instead of zoning out looking at the magazines and evaluating all the shapes that chocolate and peanut butter come in for possible pleasing texture differences, I have to stand there ALL STIFF and on HIGH ALERT thinking about nothing but the desperate hope that people will be decent people and not approach a checkout with the light off, even though you know full well there are people who will see that the light is off but also see that I’m standing there and decide they can jump onto the end of the line, even though we all know the universal lights off signal means that the person already in line is the LAST PERSON and you are definitely trying to cheat the system while FULLY AWARE that you are doing it.
So that’s what makes it the worst, because you’ve been told that you’re the last, and by telling you that, the cashier is letting you know that she kind of expects you to play End of the Line Police, but her light is out, so in theory no one should be getting in the line and you should be saved from having a 2.5 second mildly awkward in a non-consequential way conversation with an absolute stranger, EXCEPT for the fact that of the two kinds of people who will get in line behind you anyway, one will be clueless and just have not seen the light off and apologize and walk away, and the OTHER kind will certainly have seen the light off but figured they could sneak onto the end of the line like they’ve cracked the big grocery store code that no one else knows about. AND THAT IS THE PERSON YOU WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH.
To sum up, my favorite cashiers are the ones that will say, “I’m closed now but 3 is open” over your shoulder WITHOUT BRINGING YOU INTO THE SYSTEM AT ALL.
This was part of a way bigger post I have shrunken due to excessive… me-ness.
This is something I need to make sure Penny knows before she leaves our house someday: she’s got to know where money comes from. I mean, I know she knows I go to a job, and I know most kids know that’s where money comes from, but where it really comes from.
I go to my job and there are things that need to be done. It’s not a hard job – you don’t need any experience or special talent to become a good employee really quickly. But you have to work. You have to show up and do all the things that need to be done. I’ve got an eight hour shift, and I go there, and I do things for eight hours – the whole eight hours, I do the things that my job requires. Then they give me money for that.
It’s not a hard job and it’s not a hard concept. But the kind of turnover you see in food service and similar make it clear that not everyone – like maybe people who are new to working or maybe just this type of person who exists – really has a firm grasp on the concept. Talking to my sister, who is a manager at a restaurant, makes it clear that it’s obviously not just something I’ve noticed.
I need to make sure Penny knows where money comes from. That you go to a job and do the job and that’s how you get the money. Not by just showing up, not by getting a job and then calling out a lot or not calling at all and not showing up, not by doing as little work as you can possibly get away with. If someone is going to pay you to do a thing, you must do the thing. That is how work works. It is not going to always be fun, but it’s also not very difficult – show up for your assigned shift and do the tasks assigned to you. That is the whole thing. You get money for doing that. No, there’s not a lot of time to socialize, and no, you can’t really dick around on your phone the whole day. But all you have to do is do the work you’re supposed to do during the time you’re assigned to be there. That’s it.
If someone is willing to pay you to do something, that means your work has value. If you’re taking money for doing something, that means you have to do it. If you don’t want to, or you find ways not to, or you make things difficult on everyone else, there is someone else out there who is willing to do those tasks for that amount of money. The money comes from doing the work.
I know Penny knows we go to work, and I know she knows we have money to buy things. I’m reasonably certain that she gets the work/money connection. But before I send her out to get a job of her own someday, I swear to you, Penny’s future employer, I will make sure that she understands that the money you are willing to give her is conditional on her doing the tasks that need to be done. That anything that someone will pay you for is work, and that the work matters to her employer. That if she won’t do the work or tries to find ways out of the work, then she won’t get the money. That there is no task or work duty that she is to good to do, no matter how tedious and un-fun. If someone wants to give her money, the work has value, and she needs to do it. Even if she thinks it’s a stupid way to do things. Even if she’s bored. Even if she’d rather be somewhere else doing anything else. Money comes from work and work (in most cases) is not just showing up.
There are a lot of things we need to teach Penny, so much that it’s overwhelming when I start to think of it. How to be a good person. That she doesn’t have to light herself on fire to keep other people warm. That she’s in charge of her body. That not everyone is going to like her and that’s okay. That she’s not going to like everyone and that’s okay, too. How to honor commitments and make phone calls and take care of her belongings. So this is just one of them, in a really long list of stuff, and I’m not saying anything about any other parents, or about any particular generation of children, or anything about anyone specific when I say that I hope you will make sure that your kids know this, too. That they don’t just understand that you leave all day and then buy them things. That they really get that when you leave, you do things that have value, and that value is reflected in your paycheck. That you have to earn the money, it doesn’t just appear. And that they’ll be expected to do the same thing someday, too.
Obviously if you’re working in retail or food service, you’re going to have some complaints about the way people behave. It’s fun and/or cathartic to bitch about these things to people in similar jobs. Basically my entire text message thread with my sister is us complaining back and forth to each other about the shit people do, and it works because the shit people do is the same everywhere.
But it’s not as easy to complain about these behaviors to other people, or to people in general, or on a blog or whatever, because first you’ve got the people who will respond by saying, “Well, I do that.” And there’s an expectant pause where you’re supposed to tell them no, no, it’s fine when you do it. Or, “Well, I do that, I guess you hate me.” Which is irritating because maybe I hate you and maybe I don’t, but if I do it has nothing to do with this one specific behavior you engage in, and if you don’t do it, you almost certainly do other stuff in your life that I don’t care for, same as I do in mine. Something can annoy me without me hating every single person who has ever done it, and something can annoy me without me hating anyone at all, but rather hating the repeated behavior. Like, okay, I’m going to give you an example and if you get your feelings hurt, I’m really sorry. Here is an annoying thing people do. They order together, then play fight over who is paying, going back and forth and back and forth and both waving their cards at me, saying, “Take mine!,” “No, don’t take his, take mine!”
First of all, I will tell you, one time I got in one of these credit card battles with my friend, years ago, and I lost when he told the waiter, “Don’t take hers, she’s saving up for the methadone clinic.” So maybe consider going right to that if you find yourself engaged in this sort of skirmish. Second of all, I can’t tell you how very, very little I care whose card I take. I will take the first card that lands in my hand and run it and be calling for the next customer before the battle can begin, if I can see it coming and cut it off at the pass like that. Now, the people who do this are not assholes. In fact, they’re all very likely very nice people. And it doesn’t really bother me. But it happens a lot, and I am working, and I am not at all invested in who is paying for your drinks. Just give me a card and move to the side.
This isn’t something that makes me angry or makes me visibly roll my eyes (they’re rolling on the inside) or hate anyone who does it. I don’t. It’s just one of those little things you see over and over and maybe commiserate with someone else in the same line of work about it, and go on with your day. I don’t spend all day thinking about it, I don’t slam into the house and regale my husband with my irritations. It’s a thing that happens a lot, you notice it, you sigh, you move on.
That brings me to the second kind of people who will respond, the people who are MORTALLY OFFENDED that you get annoyed by customer behavior, because this is your job and they are your customers, and how very dare you. To those types of people, I just want to say, come on. Shut up. Being annoyed by a customer doesn’t mean I’m anything less than polite to them. Disliking a certain common behavior doesn’t mean I’m spitting in drinks. It’s part of the job, yes. We all have parts of our jobs we don’t like, but it seems like only customer service people are supposed to not only accept these things as part of the job, but also either enjoy these things or get the fuck out. And again. Come on. Shut up.
ANYWAY, those are two of the reasons it’s just generally not a good idea to bitch about this kind of stuff on your blog. People get offended for various reasons, both reasonable and assholeable. But I have been thinking about something people do, something that can get real awkward for both parties involved – you and me. This mostly applies to food service people, I assume, and maybe even especially to baristas. Since it gets awkward and potentially embarrassing for both parties, I figure it’s safe to tell you so that you can be spared the potential pain yourself.
In any kind of food service, there’s a lot of turnover. If you have a place you visit multiple times a week or even every day, you’re going to see a lot of new faces over time. That’s common, I guess. But it’s when you get used to seeing the same people over and over that you get into trouble with this situation. Especially because remembering the faces of the people who serve you isn’t exactly top priority. And I’m not saying that like, damn, people are assholes, they don’t even recognize me after I’ve made them coffee? Of course not. Why would you? There’s only so much space in a person’s head and memorizing the face and name of a person you interact with for two minutes is not top of the list, and that’s FINE. This is definitely true when a rotating cast of people wearing the same clothes occupy the same spot on different days. You don’t have to remember. You’re not expected to remember.
But on the SAME NOTE, you can’t expect those people to remember you, either. And that’s kind of comforting in a way, like when you were younger and buying like, 8 bottles of lube and a gross of condoms and was worried about what the cashier would think. Maybe he went home and told his spouse, “hey, someone bought a fuck ton of lube and condoms today,” but maybe not. And he almost definitely won’t recognize you if you come through the line again another day. And he probably wasn’t thinking about you as soon as the next customer came up. That’s comforting.
If you go into the same coffee shop several times a week, you’ve probably got a regular order, and maybe the person who works there knows your regular order, but sometimes those people change. Actually, often those people change. But if you’re consistent, pretty much everyone will eventually nail down your usual order. But consistent to me probably means something much different than consistent to the average coffee customer, right? Say you come in twice one week a new person is working, and you order the same thing both times. Then the next week, you come in again, and you say, “I’ll have my usual.” Don’t. Don’t do that. You’re setting up the awkward moment where I feel like I’m supposed to know what you want and don’t, so I can’t just punch it in and start making it like you’re expecting, and I have to tell you, actually I have no idea who you are or what you like to drink so you’re going to need to tell me. And I feel like I have to fall all over myself apologizing, saying I’m new, saying I have a bad memory, whatever, anything to ease the brief awkward tension where we both realize you think I should know who you are and I don’t know, and me wondering if you’ve confused me with the other girl who used to work here but looks nothing like me.
If I see someone come in and I know I’ve seen them before, I might say, “Hi, how are you. Remind me what you like to drink again?” to kind of avert that moment. But chances are if you’re not an every day, same time, same drink customer for many days in a row, it’s not going to stick for quite a while. I mean, eventually it does. When I’m making a big chain of drinks and this one older man comes in, I pop his iced coffee cup right on the end of my line and he reaches around the register to lay down $3.05 for me to get to when I get to.
OH SPEAKING OF THAT MAN, he’s the sweetest, he’s really kind and gracious and says how much he appreciates me and compliments my multitasking skills. He reminds me a bit of Mr. Rogers, if you can imagine that, always with something kind of meaningful to say and just really nice. So I’ve got this mental backstory going on that he’s probably a serial killer, and I can’t seem to shake it every time I see him, but you know, if he is, he’s probably really successful because he’s just so nice, who would even suspect?
(ME. I SUSPECT.)
Anyway, this is my point. It’s all right if you don’t recognize that it’s someone new behind the counter, but if you’re not very certain this is the exact same barista you’ve been seeing every morning for a year, maybe just state your drink order to be safe. And if it is a new person, and you recognize them, maybe don’t order with the phrase “I’ll have my usual” until that specific person has confirmed verbally, at least once, that she can recite your order from memory.
I dunno, maybe it’s not awkward for customers to say, “I’ll have my usual” and be met with a blank stare. Maybe that doesn’t bother anyone but me. But I am telling you anyway, just because I’m nice and I swear if you say, “I’ll have my usual” and I have no idea what it is, I am definitely doing a panicked mental inventory, trying my very damndest to remember it for you, because everyone likes to feel like they matter or make an impression or that their presence is noted, even for something small like a latte, and I would spare a person that tiny deflation of ego (you don’t remember ME?) or embarrassment (I didn’t even recognize that I’m talking to a different person than I usually do and I am an asshole) if I can.
I promise you though, if you do go, and you go often, and you order a consistent drink, they WILL grasp it fairly quickly and you’ll shave like 45 seconds off the whole transaction. More if you have a fussy drink. (Which are fine. It can be as fussy as you want, I promise.) ALSO if you go often and you order a consistent drink, like, say, you German man with the tall non-fat latte, and then one day order a tall mocha TOTALLY OUT OF NOWHERE, I will definitely say, “HEY!” and give you a disgruntled look. A good-natured disgruntled look. But notably disgruntled.
FIRST OF ALL, I have a confession. A couple of days ago, I posted on Twitter about a miracle that had occurred. I used up a bottle of shampoo and a bottle of conditioner on the exact same day in the exact same shower. I know, I was shocked, too. But it happened. I chalked it up to cutting off over a foot of hair back in the fall. It’s long again now because my hair and my butt and boobs are the only parts of me that have ever reliably grown, but still.
So I was in the store with Phil the other day looking for new shampoo and conditioner, and mentioned to him that they didn’t have the one I like, and he said, “Oh, I guess I shouldn’t have used so much of your shampoo, then.”
THANKS FOR TAKING AWAY MY MAGICAL MOMENT, PHILLIP.
SECOND OF ALL, remember the other day when I complained a lot? I had forgotten one of the complaints. I’m well-rested right now so I’m not feeling as uppity about it, but I’m going to tell you anyway – here’s a thing that annoys the shit out of me: songs and other media talking about how a woman doesn’t know she’s beautiful and that makes her beautiful. What. Why can’t she know? Did you see that post on reddit or somewhere a while ago where a woman was on a dating app of some sort and started responding differently when guys told her she was hot or whatever? Like, instead of blowing it off, she said, oh, thanks, or something like that. And she got responses that were crazy. There was this one where a guy is like hey, you’re hot, and she said, oh, thank you, and you know how he responds? WHOA WHOA WHOA, a little full of yourself, eh? And she’s like, huh? And he TELLS HER, you’re supposed to say something like, oh, no I’m not, or something like that. Like he actually expected her to deny that she was hot, EVEN THOUGH HE HAD JUST TOLD HER SHE WAS, and her failure to do so revealed some kind of massive personality flaw. There was a screen shot and all that went along with it, but half-assed combinations of “lady says ok when a guy thinks she’s hot” pulled up nothing I was looking for, imagine that.
Obviously there’s this whole problem a lot of us have with taking compliments, because compliments can be uncomfortable, and that’s something we’ve all got to work on personally, as adults, but at the same time, you’ve got people actually believing that not acknowledging your good points is a huge part of what makes them good points. That shouldn’t be a thing. Why is a girl not knowing she’s beautiful part of what makes her beautiful? Is it that you want to date an idiot? Or are you an idiot? Because I am telling you, if she is beautiful, she probably knows, and if she doesn’t know, she will know some day when she grows up and gets comfortable with herself and stops dating morons who want to be the only one to be allowed to confer the word beautiful onto a woman.
THIRD OF ALL, someone damaged my scooter in the parking lot at work. They didn’t hit it, because it’s always parked in such a way that that’s not really possible. There’s scratches in the paint down one side, at the back end and front end, and also the end of the brake lever is damaged, as well. It looks like someone dropped it and it hit the curb. However, if it had been actually knocked over, the cowl bars would have taken the hit, and if they didn’t and the panels hit, they would have cracked. No, what clearly happened (you’ll have to trust me because this is my scooter and I know it) is that someone was ON it and was surprised by the center of gravity on it. That takes a bit to get used to, it’s low and heavy. So they lost the balance – I’ve done it. Once it starts to tip, if you’re not very strong or very tall, it’s very hard to keep your grip without shoving your body under it as leverage. So someone was on it and it tipped, and they didn’t drop it straight to the ground, but more held it and slowed it as it went down, and banged it off the curb.
THERE WASN’T EVEN A NOTE.
Who DOES that! Who just GETS ON someone else’s vehicle in a parking lot, let alone damages it and doesn’t say anything? I’m so upset. I wanted to be the first one to damage it. Not really, but you know what I mean. I have insurance, but I don’t feel the deductible is worth it for some scratches like that, especially when I’m such a new driver and likely WILL scratch it myself. We’ve kind of decided to just let it go for now, and in a while, after I’m done getting all my beginner scratches in, we’ll get it fully painted so I can have the pink scooter I originally wanted. But I have to SEE the scratches all the time and it just REALLY CHAPS MY ASS, not because the damage is so upsetting, which it is, but because I find it SO BEWILDERING that it’s something people will do. Touch and potentially harm something that IN NO WAY can be mistaken as belonging to them. You can’t just DO THAT. Except clearly people do, and this is definitely one of those “two kinds of people” situations, because it would NEVER CROSS MY MIND to do such a thing.
LASTLY, yesterday I was at work, and I had made new CDs for the coffee shop a couple of days ago because the old ones have been there for years and I couldn’t listen to one more Jason Mraz song. A couple came in and the lady was pregnant. They got two coffees and were leaving when the song changed to Ben Folds’s Gracie, and the man goes, “Aw,” and the lady said something I didn’t hear, and the guy said, “Do you want to sit and listen?” So they sat down on the couches and sat there quietly, and after a minute, the guy wiped his eye a little, and when the song ended, they got up and left. Guys, I think they’re having a girl and I think her name might be Gracie.
You know how in your marriage, or your relationship, or in your whatever you’ve got going on or not going on that works for you, you eventually fall into these little routines, like a kind of division of tasks, the smaller ones. Not who does the yard work and who doesn’t do the yard work and instead sits vulture-like at the window to make sure not a single half-blade of shorn fresh grass makes its way into the house, but I mean how other things are broken down. Like if I am getting ready to take Penny somewhere, Phil makes her a roadie and loads her in the car for me, then I take her away and he sits and stares at the wall for an hour, I assume, because that’s what I do when I’m suddenly left alone in the house and overwhelmed with the possibilities of doing things in my own home without interruption. You know, however you break stuff up. Routines and all of that.
And I’m not talking about how a marriage works, specifically, because there are people who have Very Firm Ideas on how marriage in general should work and will not hesitate to tell you you’re a bad wife or bad husband or bad whatever your role is. There’s this really strange – to me – idea of fairness that people like to apply to marriage in general, the idea that it should be 50/50 or otherwise equitable, which, okay, I get that, but those same people also want to be the ones to decide what is fair or equitable, and that’s… not a thing. You can’t apply one standard to all couples, like Person A does tasks X, Y, and Z, and Person B does equally weighted tasks of T, U, and V, and that’s fair and how it should be, so if you’re only doing X, leaving Y, Z, T, U, and V for the other person, you are definitely doing marriage wrong and you’re terrible at it and you’re probably going to get divorced. You can’t do that, though, because you can’t be the arbiter of how tasks are weighted universally, and also about what other people consider a good partnership, or even be the person to decide that it should be fair. Do you see a ferris wheel? Do you see a man selling tickets? IF NOT, IT’S NOT A FAIR, SO FUCK RIGHT OFF WITH THAT SHIT.
I admit this is a very personally irritating topic and most other people probably don’t give it much of a thought, but I have learned by now to not talk specifics about how my own marriage works, because it will not be long before I am told it is WRONG and I should STOP and be DIFFERENT, and that is just infuriating in its stupidity, because you’re not a part of this, Lemon. But while I am now wise enough to not put that kind of business out there, it does not stop me from wading in to infuriating arguments on Reddit on the same topics, and really, I’m getting all heated up just thinking about the last one I threw myself into.
It’s especially irritating to me, likely, because I know we’re operating outside whatever a bunch of people may consider the norm to be, and people are prickly about stuff they’re insecure about. Not that I’m insecure about my marriage itself, or maybe I am, but that’s not the topic or anyone’s business anyway, so I’m going to leave it there as an either or – either I am or I’m not and both are equally possible – because I don’t want anyone thinking too hard about my marriage because I find that upsetting. Actually, I don’t like it when people think too hard about anything about me. I don’t like to be thought about. It makes me anxious and uncomfortable. I want to be The Silence of humans. Just forget I exist entirely until I appear in front of you. Then we’ll probably do something nice together instead of me kidnapping you and turning you into a murderous astronaut, but up until the murdery part, I’m The Silence, ok?
WHAT I’M GETTING TO IS THIS. You remember that show, Mad About You? Of course you do. It was one of those sitcoms that does a little bit of show, then the theme song comes on, then the real show starts. So there would be this little part or joke, just a minute or so, before the theme music, that wasn’t really tied to the rest of the episode. I don’t know if television shows still do that. I don’t really watch a lot of sitcoms. But you probably remember when that was a thing even if it’s not still currently a thing, so I feel fine moving forward with the description I’ve given there. So this one episode, it opens with one of these little vignette dealies, and Paul and Jamie are standing at the same small sink in their bathroom, brushing their teeth. I can’t remember the exact details, but they’re cooperating, like one toothpastes up and passes the tube and the other turns on or off the water, and it’s clear they’ve done this a million times. Paul leans over to spit in the sink, and he spits, and Jamie leans over, too, and spits right into the hair on the back of his head. He stands up, and he’s got this look of absolute shock and betrayal, and he’s like, “I thought we had this.” And she’s got nothing to say for herself because they’ve been together forever and they’ve brushed their teeth a million times, right next to each other, every day, twice a day, and then she suddenly loses the plot and goes and spits right in his hair, and something like that seems, almost, in some ways, more shocking than if she was like, oh yeah, I slept with six other dudes over the past year or so. Because that at least is so far out there and crazy that it seems more possible than her spitting right in his hair.
I have a point, and the point is that Phil ordered extra cheese on my green pepper and onion pizza last night, and I’m having a really hard time getting over it. I just… what? What, Phillip? In what life that we’ve lived together, outside of parallel universe me, who I remind you that you do not know, have I ever wanted more than the exact standard amount of cheese on anything? Extra cheese? We’ve been together almost eight years, and he ordered my pizza with extra cheese. I’m seriously completely boggled that it happened and frankly, still feeling a little wounded this morning. This was cheese completely out of left field.
There is a really unsettling and then settling thing that I think happens to everyone at some point, or maybe actually it doesn’t happen to everyone, but after it happens to you, you realize it’s very likely it happens to everyone. I say both unsettling and settling because there’s the before, before the thing happens, and then it happens, whatever it is, and it’s so shocking to realize it can happen, and then once you know it can, everything is fine in a new way.
You know those things that happen to other people but definitely don’t or won’t happen to you, whether you consciously think it or just kind of assume in the back of your mind that it’s just not something that happens to you. Maybe because it’s just so unlikely, you’d never expect it, or maybe because you just don’t see yourself as the kind of person those things happen to.
Let me give you a list of the kind of stuff I mean, the stuff that happens to other people exclusively, before the day it happens to you. Other people get in major car accidents. Other people lose their jobs. Other people’s kids grow up to be drug addicts. Other people’s spouses cheat. Other people get divorced. Other people get cancer/some other devastating diagnosis.
So all that stuff happens to other people and you just feel it won’t happen to you, because really the odds are small/your kid is not that kid/your marriage is solid, etc. Then stuff like that happens to people you kind of know, like on the outskirts of your social circle, and it’s shocking. Then it happens to someone you know, and you realize it’s closer. Kind of like, whoa, that was close, because I know that person, but it’s not actually close because life is random, so it’s not like disaster looked at you standing next to someone and chose them instead.
There was this guy, when I first started working. He was from another store, covering another person’s last week of maternity leave. He did a lot of my training, since he was there and I was there and after a week he went back to his own store. I saw him again once or twice when he came to pick something up or drop something off. Anyway, he was at his place and I was at mine. A week or two ago, a lot of the shift managers where I work were travelling up to where he worked to cover shifts there. My boss was talking to me about being shorthanded over there, how they’d lost a shift manager. People are in and out at these jobs all the time, obviously, but she said someone had died. And I said, “You don’t mean Steven, do you?” (That’s not his name.) And she said yes, he’d died. He was coming home from somewhere and his car crossed into the other lane, and that was that. And that’s one of those outside of the social circle things, not someone I considered a friend or knew well, but I knew him, and he was close to my age and worked in my same job and was doing something I do. You know, driving a car. It’s weirdly surreal when one of those other people things happen to someone who is one of your people, no matter how tangentially so. I don’t in any way think his death was about me or that I’m personally affected other than “Geeze, that is fucking sad and I liked that guy,” and I haven’t in any way made it about me, other than thinking over my shock, because that’s what it was, shocking. I mean, people die ALL the TIME. But when it brushes by closely – and I realize this is not that CLOSE but you know what I mean – it’s a little unsettling.
Anyway, all of these things happen to other people. Other people fall asleep at the wheel and drift into traffic. But then, something on the list of things that happen to other people – maybe something you’ve given so little thought that it wouldn’t even occur to you to think about it being something that happened to anyone, but if you HAD, it would definitely be something that happened to other people – happens to you. And that is fucking unsettling. Even if it’s just a little thing, in the grand scheme of things. Because if this can happen, then suddenly all of the other people things can happen, too. There is literally no reason any of those things might not be you someday. Not that there was any real reason they wouldn’t be you before now, but suddenly it’s very clear that you have no secret special protection from life changing, bad, weird, or otherwise giant shit happening to you. (I do realize that coming to this understanding is very possibly a hallmark of emotional maturity I did not possess before a certain point in my life, and maybe normal people achieve that much earlier, and maybe you’re reading this like, “this is not news, you absolute walnut,” but I can only live inside this one head.)
For awhile, it’s really unsettling. A thing happened that wasn’t supposed to happen to you, and now you’re totally open to all the other things out there. Like this one thing wiggled in through your secret force field, the one that you had that was better than the unfortunate others, and tore it all the fuck up and now it’s all coming. You are now the other person. You are someone else’s other person, and shit happens to the other people. Now you will get all the shit, because you are in the other category now, where the shit comes to live.
That’s a long phase, or maybe a short one, I don’t know, because this is all hindsight now, where you’re just braced for all the terrible things that are coming for you now, now that you’re on this other side, and that’s unsettling, but eventually it’s not anymore. Eventually, it flips to the other side. Okay. Something that happens to other people has happened to me. Being the incredibly self-absorbed person that I am, that leads me to believe, finally, what was definitely true all along – that there are no other people. I have long considered myself to be the most average person I know, and if I’ve suddenly fallen into the other category, my self-centered mind gradually shifts to the understanding that of course I am still normal and average, and it’s not that these things happen to other people. They happen to normal and average people, of which I am one. And everyone else is one, too, except for the people on the ends who make averages like me possible.
And you know, that’s fine. Realizing you’re not secretly protected from these things should be unsettling, and it is, but then it’s really, really, fine. Understanding that the crap that only happens to other people could be lurking right around the corner for you, too, is kind of calming, in a weird way. This is life as it happens to all people and you’re going to keep living it. It’s easier to be gracious to people who are having a hard time, even if you can’t imagine yourself ever having the same kind of hard time, because of course you could have the same kind of hard time. It’s easier to swoop in and ask for what someone needs when they’re struggling, when before you would have been the type to hang back, not get involved, or not intrude, because it’s suddenly so much easier to imagine yourself in their shoes, or even kind of assume you will be in a similar set of shoes some day. It makes it easier to motivate yourself to work to keep what you have, stay healthy, talk to your kids, dedicate yourself with renewed energy to your marriage, not out of a “please let it only be them and not me” kind of motivation, but out of an understanding that no, not everyone gets to keep what they have, and there’s no criteria for choosing who does and who doesn’t get to hold on to it all.
I realize now this sounds like some kind of deep philosophical bullshit, or more likely one of those obnoxious “live every moment like it’s your last!” inspiration type crap heaps, and I hope you know me better than that. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life because I don’t really care, because I am totally self-absorbed and I accept that about myself, and you should, too. About me, I mean. I don’t care what you accept about your own self. It’s just one of those weird before/after realizations, where life is one way before and another way after. Like when I found out the plural of beef is beeves. You can’t come back from that shit, you know?
When I started working at the coffee shop, the girl who was training me made sure to point out the regular customers and their regular orders. It helps, a bit, when you’re very busy, and you see someone you are familiar with come in, and you can just tack their drinks onto the end of the chain you’re making and ring them out when you get a second. The way this coffee shop operates is that one person works alone from open to close, so when it gets busy, little things like that aid you in keeping things moving along.
The coffee shop is located on a military base, so, you know, I see a lot of military people. Not just USAF, though. There’s Italians, British, Germans, and French, as well. Groups of them are really regular. Germans come in around lunch, Monday through Thursday, and they mostly drink lattes, and they take over the sitting area of the shop for 30 or 40 minutes, and it’s very reliable. A little earlier in the day, the French guys would come in. There were about 6 or 7 of them. Two would come together, and order a double espresso each. The other group would come in a bit after and order double espressos as well. All of them, double espressos, all the time.
One of them is just really friendly and chatty and was always interested to know about whoever was working there, talk about what he likes about New Mexico, how it’s different from France. He wanted to know what our husbands did and talk about what he did (a fighter pilot). And another was very big and very gruff, and he would sometimes drink 4 double espressos in a day. IN A DAY!
Anyway, these French guys, they were the first guys I got to “know” working there. I knew their drink (singular, because they all want double espressos, all the time) and they knew the exact cost, but I would always ask them what they were having, and they would pretend like they might order something else. “Oh, hmm… double espresso?” And they would put their change out on the counter and count it out together and pay in exact change every time, and I’m not communicating this well, but they’re adorable and I really enjoyed them and how reliable they are.
As you can probably tell by my awkward switching back and forth between present and past tense – because they still ARE French guys and they still DO drink double espressos – the French have left. In the last couple of days they were here, they were paying in more and more coins, trying to shed all of their American money. One said they were leaving soon, and it turned out to be within a couple of days, then they started coming in out of uniform, as they were preparing to leave, and then one by one they would tell me it was the last time they were coming in.
The big guy came in for the last time on Tuesday, and he walked in and kind of just spread out his arms, like, “Well.” And I was so bummed. I don’t even know how to explain. I put an extra shot in his cup and slipped my own $.75 into the register, which is not something I do, because I can’t be buying drinks all the time for people or I would be poor. I didn’t even tell him I did it, I just did it because I wanted to, and whether he noticed or not, who knows, because he was The Last French Guy, all of his friends had already flown out and he wasn’t hanging around in the shop like he had every single day since I started working there. I asked him if he wanted his receipt, like I always do and he always declined, and he declined this time, too. I guess he was not especially interested in making his last visit symbolic, because of course not, these guys travel a lot and this was just another coffee shop on yet another base. The really nice guy told me that one of them was going home and then deploying 15 days later, and the rest would likely be deploying in a month or so, so they are busy guys, those French Air Force guys.
It is kind of ridiculous how bummed out I have been about the fact that they’re gone. Today was the first shift I worked with No French Guys, and it wasn’t weird or notable, except that I only had to refill my espresso beans just one time instead of two or three or four. And more French guys will be coming in a month or so, and I expect my espresso sales will go back up to former levels, but they will not be the same French guys, so they will not be MY French guys, and I don’t know, I think this has given me unexpected ennui.
I remember my first non-training solo encounter with one of the French guys, and he was very nice, and when he left, he said, “Good bye, madame,” and I was so fucking charmed, I texted Noemi immediately to tell her, because, I don’t know, she’s French, they’re French, and I’m really only capable of the most basic of social connections. One of the girls I have trained recently is a lesbian and I’m surprised I haven’t texted Noemi about that, too. “Hey, I met a lesbian! You’re a lesbian!” and then the conversation would peter out from there because that’s really all there is to say about that.
But the French guys. Maybe because they were the first customers I knew? But I also know a lot of the Germans quite well – and by know, I mean, I recognize them and they recognize me (probably because I am dependably behind the counter and making coffee for them), but I don’t know their names and they don’t know mine (I mean, I assume – theirs are on their uniforms as is my own, but I haven’t registered them so I assume they are the same). And I would miss the Germans, if they left, which, you know, I don’t know if and when they will or when new Germans will rotate in. And the French guys weren’t the only customers I know. There’s a really lovely gentleman who comes in three or four times a week and he wants black iced coffee, the cup filled to the top with ice and as much coffee as I can get around the ice, and then he will put the lid on it himself, and when he sees I’m busy, he reaches around the register to lay $3.05 on it and hangs back to wait patiently. If I’m very busy, he makes sure to compliment what a great job I do, and today, he took the time to tell me that the girl I trained recently, who worked her first solo shift yesterday so I could get a day off, after only one real day of training – that girl – he took the time to tell me that she had done a wonderful job and “tell her we’re all proud of her.” How fucking adorable is that.
I love the coffee shop. I really, really do. I especially love the regular customers, because they are so regular and dependable and unfailingly kind and understanding that this coffee shop is a one lady show. When I kind of “took possession” of the coffee shop, though – it’s not mine, it’s just that as the regular part-time person now, who gets the bulk of the hours, I don’t just come in and work a shift anymore, but am now also responsible for doing all the ordered and dealing with the vendors and making sure everything is running when I am not there, so it feels like mine and my boss treats it like it is mine – when I took it, there were The French Guys, and they have been a massive part of this whole thing. And it doesn’t sound like a whole thing, because it is just a job, but what had happened was I started working at first in December, and I was also hired for another job, off base, at a coffee shop in a bookstore. I told my boss about needing to schedule around another job, and she said she’d wished she’d known I wanted to work in a coffee shop, because they needed someone in our coffee shop. Things worked out so that I didn’t take the one off base and trained to work as kind of a respite type of help in this coffee shop instead, and that started in January. By February, I was working there 2 and a half days a week by myself, and by the end of March, it was my coffee shop. It feels like a whole thing, because it happened kind of fast and now I am kind of a mini-boss of the place, like one of the “your princess is in another castle” Bowsers, and it’s nice, really. I genuinely liked coming in and working a shift at whichever restaurant I was meant to be in that day and going home, but it’s also nice to have a feeling of ownership over this little shop and my boss empowers me to really just do what needs to be done and trusts me to just Handle Things, and that’s nice, too. It’s responsibility, but not Responsibility. I guess it depends on how you look at it. It’s manageable responsibility. Comfortable responsibility. Busy and vital, but not stressful responsibility.
Right, so, when I got the coffee shop, there were The French Guys, and now there are not, and it’s so unexpectedly a thing, I just wanted to write it down. They were here and now they’re not, and I am very, very, mildly bereft.
Phil is retiring from the Air Force next year. Actually, early 2018, but with terminal leave and processing and all of that, we’ll actually be out of here at the end of 2017.
When we still lived in Phoenix and it looked like we were going to be there forever, we really didn’t question the fact that that’s where we’d stay. I didn’t care for it when I first arrived seven years ago, but it really grew on me. Desert living is the life for me, for real. I liked the weather, I liked the town we lived in, I liked the church I went to. I really didn’t like New Mexico, and continue to not like it. A lot of that may be a function of the fact that this base is literally nowhere – there’s a very small town 15 minutes away, and then it’s one hour to Las Cruces one way and an hour and a half to El Paso the other way and nothing at all in between. We have to travel for doctor’s appointments and swimming lessons, and this place has really just not grown on me at all. When we got here, we weren’t sure when he’d be getting out or if we’d have one more PCS before he was done, but it was pretty much understood we’d go back to Phoenix when it was over.
Once we knew that he’s going to finish out his 20 years of service and get out, it became a little less clear. We could really go anywhere we want, provided he can find a job. We’d also like to live near a base and VA medical services, just for ease of life. We’ll still have commissary shopping privileges and the same medical insurance, so that just makes sense for us. But that really does leave the whole country open, for the most part. We made a short list. Phil didn’t have a lot of preferences and I hated all his preferences (I do not want to live in California or the Pacific Northwest, I just don’t), so we came up with a short list: Phoenix, Denver, and Dallas. We were working from those. The main consideration was living somewhere where we – or at least I, because Phil is a bit of a hermit – know some people. Life got really stressful over the last six months or so and moving somewhere without some kind of support network, even just a few friends scattered around, wasn’t going to work for us. So those three cities were our short list.
To be honest, I was set on Dallas. I’ve got friends there, there are good churches there, and Kpop concerts come through there on the regular. Those are all equally valid reasons, every last one of them.
Last week, I posted an article on my cousin’s Facebook wall, something about public school, I can’t actually remember the exact topic at this time but at the moment it was really stressing me out. I posted it with a comment to the effect of, if we ever move back to Pennsylvania – and you should know, Pennsylvania is where my entire family lives, all of them, every list single person I am related to in the entire world lives within about 40 minutes of each other in North Eastern PA – I will home school Penny and my cousin’s daughter, Candy together and use my spare time to make them into a pop duo sensation. They’re only six weeks apart in age, and come on. Penny and Candy. They’d be a massive success.
To my surprise, though I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I know her, my cousin loved the idea and said she wished it could happen. And suddenly… it was a viable plan. Phil and I have always toyed with the idea of homeschooling Penny, but I work now and she really likes other kids, and for various reasons, it just didn’t seem like it was going to work for us and we were fine with that, because, you know, we think public school is just fine, too. Candy’s mom is a single mother and apparently has always wished she could homeschool Candy, but she works, of course, so it just wasn’t going to work out for her either.
But very quickly, we all thought about this, and suddenly decided, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to go back to PA where everyone lives and I’ll homeschool the girls together. I’m kind of conflicted about the homeschooling thing and I keep gut checking myself on it. Do I want to do this because I’m overprotective and want to protect Penny from SCHOOL DANGERS!! and bullying and other things? Do I want to do this because I think she’s a special snowflake who deserves or needs BETTER than what other kids are getting in public school? Those were things I thought about a lot before we came up with this plan, and I would be lying to say those things didn’t factor in a LITTLE, but not that much – because, like I said, we’d be fine, really, sending her to public school, and are going to, actually, for kindergarten and the first half of first grade.
It’s not really that I think she’s in grave danger going to public school, or that she wouldn’t get an adequate education in public school, or she would somehow suffer greatly if she went. I did absolutely fine in public school. So did my cousin. Obviously, that’s not always the case for every kid, but neither of us have any personal evidence or memories for why public school is NO GOOD.
I don’t think Penny is a special snowflake who needs more attention or unique teaching or anything like that. When I really sit and think about it, I think that if all parents could do something to put their child in a smaller class, with interest-directed learning that was engaging, on topics that interested them, with the ability to delve more into things that grabbed their interest, with less focus on statewide testing, more time to play, the ability to move at a pace that worked for the kid and not the whole class of varied learning styles, wouldn’t they? If a parent could place their child in an environment like that, if it was available to everyone, wouldn’t everyone do it? Or most people, at least. But in reality, it’s not practical or possible for most people. It’s like cloth diapering, I think – you could do it and it would probably be good, but it is just not something most families are set up to be able to spend their time and money on, for a whole lot of completely valid reasons.
But this opportunity came up, and I can do it. I realize what an incredible luxury and privilege it is to be able to do it. The benefits of moving back to a state I hate and potential benefits of teaching Penny at home with her cousin have outweighed every other option we had on our list. We’ll feel less guilty about her not having a sibling, for one. She’ll be around all of her family who are head over heels nuts for her, for two. And three, no small thing, she’ll get to get her education at home in a way that works for her.
I’m not going to whip out statistics about how homeschooled children perform and socialize and all of that because I don’t really feel like I need to defend the decision – some people are going to think it’s ridiculous, some people are going to wish they could do the same, and some people already are doing the same, and that covers all the people. I’m not going to be changing anyone’s mind on anything. I’m not trying to. I’m just, you know, putting this update out there. On my blog. Like you do.
I think one of the biggest things for us in all of this, right now at least, is having a plan. Getting out of the military after 20 years is intimidating. We had our short list of cities, yes, but really no idea what our lives were going to look like in 2018. We made the list of potential cities and then stalled. Having a plan, an actual real workable plan that we’re all on board with, has kind of spurred us into action. We have something we’re working toward, and it looks good to us. Life after the Air Force is actually going to happen, and this is how it’s going to happen.
Anyway. That’s it. Going back to the east coast like I was certain I never, ever would. Coming for you in 2018, NEPA.