Monday, March 1, 2010

Famous in a Small Town

Bad day. My home town was mean to me and I, in turn, destroyed my home town. I will begin at the beginning.

The wedding is over and the bride and groom are sunning themselves in the Cayman Islands. I'm stuck here in Vermont for two weeks as I wait for my MRI, which is scheduled for the middle of the month. In case you have never seen Vermont in mud season, let me tell you that it is misery. The lustre and brilliance of winter has melted into shabbiness and filth, huge piles of snow crouch defiantly on the sidewalk, and the twisting tire tracks in the mud roads freeze into deep ruts in the evenings.

I decided to take both dogs, Hometeam and my parent's dog Latte, into town to run some errands. To begin with, it took me forever to get out of the house. Nothing new there. Then on the way out the door I ripped a giant hole in my jeans against the side of the barn.

'Hey- relax!' you say, 'It's just pants! You could have easily gashed a hole through your leg!' In theory I agree with you, but having spent the morning reviewing my finances, I took a decidedly darker view of things. The way I see it, I own one pair of jeans- one- and based purely on my current income, I will not be able to afford another one until I am eligible for social security.

Now my pants provide the world with a window into my thigh, and things will be quite drafty south of my waist for a while.Then I got in a big fight with the woman at the bank.

I have a habit of picking up any lose change that I come across, and squirrelling it away in a
cheerful polka dotted tin. Some day after I find enough, I will put it into a high yielding online savings account, amass a few hundred thousand in interest, then write a charming book called "Spare Change" or "Spare Penny For Your Thoughts" or "The Wishing Well- How My Wishes Came True One Penny at a Time."

Today, after scouring the couch cushions, I had aggregated enough change to fill up the tin. So I was bringing it to the bank to be sorted and exchanged into bills, always a fun occurrence. At the bank outside of town, a nice white haired lady directed me to the other branch of the same bank, in the lovely stone building in the center of town. That branch had possession of a coin sorter machine, and they would be happy to help me.

I leashed the dogs up and headed for the other bank, where I happily explained that I'd been sent there to use the coin sorter. After a long ugly look, the large lady behind the counter, Diane, asked to see the coins. With a flourish, I presented her the polka dotted tin.

'This?' She asked, blinking at it. 'This is it?'

'Well, yes.' I felt deflated- this was an entire month's worth of coin hunting!

'And they sent you here? They could have counted this themselves at the other bank.'

'They said you had a coin counter here.'

'Well, we do but it's such a small amount it's going to be faster for me to just count these out by hand- Linda! LINDA- look!-' she held up my tin to someone in the back room. 'The other branch sent her here to count this!'

'Can't you just use the coin sorter?' I asked again.

'I am not going to bother. It will be faster this way'.

'Diane, please,' I said, 'Be reasonable, it's a coin counter, it's a machine, how could you possibly be faster-'

I was interrupted by the sound of coins hitting the counter as Diane poured out the tin. She shuffled the coins around with a single chubby finger and one by one began stacking up the pennies.

I just couldn't let this go. 'I'm sorry but- if there's a machine here, how could it possibly be easier to do it yourself? It's a machine!'

Diane did not look up at me. 'Because there are not enough coins to warrant using the machine.' She had taken on the tone of an irritated 2nd grade teacher.

'Yes but what difference does it make-

'It's easier for me to count it-

'But it's a machine! it's a COIN COUNTER! It COUNTS COINS that's what it does!'

'Listen' she hissed, learning forward. 'I'm not going to get up and go over there for this. I'd have to go and put the coins INTO the machine, and then take them OUT of the machine. This is much easier." (I'm not making this up).Next to us, an older man had handed over an envelope to the teller in the next window. She walked behind Diane, clicked on a small machine, poured in the coins with a satisfying jingle, and in two seconds returned to the counter. "Six dollars!" She said cheerfully, handing over the money.

Diane continued to slowly count out each coin. She had moved on to the nickels.

Finally, she was finished. "Ten dollars and thirty seven cents." She said, pronouncing every word carefully. She handed me the money.

At this point, I had declared Diane my enemy. I was about to open my mouth and tell her how ten dollars is A LOT OF MONEY TO SOME PEOPLE and you SHOULD NOT MAKE
PEOPLE FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. Do not judge me. Do not shame- but at that moment Hometeam urinated on the rug.

I don't know what was up with her, she's never done that in her life. And if no one had seen it, I would have whisked her out and not mentioned it. (I'm only being honest.) Unfortunately for me, a few customers in line had witnessed the crime and were looking at me expectantly. Knowing there was no bathroom in the bank, I yanked both dogs outside and tied them up in front of the restaurant next door.

I ran to the bathroom to grab some paper towels, and returned 20 seconds later to find Latte lying lose in the middle of the sidewalk, her leash dragging. Hometeam was gone. In an instant, I realized what I had done. Unknowingly, I had tied them up to one of those weird, tube-like cigarette holders with the base full of cigarettes. In my brief absence, the dogs had dragged it halfway down the sidewalk, where it had toppled over and broken in half. Hundreds of rain drenched cigarettes butts and red tobacco juice had spilled all the quaint corner of Main Street and Elm.

I found Hometeam two blocks away outside a ladies' clothing store drinking from a puddle. There was a middle aged man standing outside his car watching her. "Ohh..." he said to me as I ran up. "I was just waiting here because she looked like someone may have lost her"

"YEAH AND SHE'S A BAD DOG A VERY BAD DOG" I grabbed her and jerked on her leash. The man got in his car, but not before hitting me with a look reserved for bad dog owners and women who hit their children in the grocery store. And I would have BEEN one of those people if my dog were a child. And we were in a grocery store.

At this point, the mess I had planned to clean up at the bank had already dried into the carpet, so I just walked in, approached the counter and said to Dianne 'By the way, my dog peed on your carpet. Sorry.' As I walked out I was thinking 'DON'T YOU WISH YOU HAD JUST USED THE COIN SORTER NICE AND QUICK??'

I brought the dogs back to the car and tied them up on the meter. I reached into the trunk and grabbed a box of Bunny Grahams I have stashed for emergencies. In my frustration I ripped the bag open and the little bunny cookies flew everywhere, a tremendously exciting event for the dogs. At this point, my phone rang.

I wouldn't have bothered to answer it except I recognized the ringer as being a foreign number. It was my school, calling from Chile for the first time since the earthquake.

"Hello?" I asked. I heard the crackle of static. "HELLO?" A young, well dressed couple was approaching me on the sidewalk. I kept shouting at the phone. The dogs and I were taking up the entire sidewalk, and the couple had to sidle over the snowbank to get around me. The moment they passed, I heard a voice come through the other end of the phone line. "OH MY GOD CAN YOU HEAR ME?!" I shouted.

The couple swiveled their heads around, the man looked bemused but the woman shot me a dirty look. I covered the mouth piece and mouthed the words 'Earthquake! They were in the earthquake!!!' As they passed, her in her stylish red wool coat and he with smart suit jacket, I could see their pace quicken.

I could only imagine what I looked like to them, standing in a sea of bunny grahams and shouting into a phone, completely blocking the sidewalk with my unruly dogs. They turned the corner and I could picture the man saying soothingly to his wife, 'Oh, now, let' s just take pity on her. Did you see those torn jeans? She probably only has 10 dollars and thirty seven cents to her name.'

'Mmmmm' the woman replies, slipping a gloved hand through his arm. 'I wouldn't even bother to use my coin sorter for that amount.'


bjacobs said...

Brilliant. I rarely laugh out loud at things I read online, but you got me this time. You rock.

Andrew said...

Isn't it just peculiar how in those types of situations, strangers on the street always know much money you have? Lucky guess, I suppose. Also, I am sorry about your day. There will (hopefully) be a letter from me waiting for you in NC.

fozz said...

i love your life... even if living it can be a little difficult. in related news i walked by a homeless man on the way to a coinstar machine yesterday. that was a little awkward.

Ali said...

A homeless man tried to hit me and Bobby with an umbrella the other day...but I think you win for worst day.

Woodstock Coffee and Tea said...

You made me laugh like an old fat woman. That's my secret, truly ammused laugh.... And I refussed to use my damn spellcheck. Good, goooooood ending!!
2 hours ago ·

Colleen said...

wow....really no other words, just wow.

Ali said...

Also, Latte's black skin-stache is quite wonderful.

Cassandra said...

F*ing Diane.

The couple at the end made me fly backwards off the couch laughing.



Adriane said...

Ah, you are such a good writer. I read this aloud to Anthony and I could barely read through my laughter. Darling, come get an americano some day soon.

And don't feel bad about your little beastie, the Pipster likes to frequently "puppy protest" in the middle of town in which she realizes she's going home, lies on the ground and won't budge. Nothing says "worst dog owner ever" then yelling at your dog to get up- eventually dragging her along-ugh, or picking her up!- to everyones utter disgust.

Melina said...

Adi- I did come in for an Americano, and I hung out with Tristan who cheered me up. I was SO sorry you were not there, I would have accosted you with hugs. But then the internet wasn't working. Blah.

Melina said...

Fozz, your comment made the "comment hall of fame!" Actually, it was the creation for the catalyst of said "comment hall of fame". Brilliant.

Melina said...

Ali, I completely understand. In Seattle, a homeless youth once threw up on my shoes.

kt said...

And now WUHS has a puddle to deal with thanks to you.

Dr. Unk said...

That was great! I have the video of a small town bank in my head...great stuff!

Dr. Unk said...

That was great! I have a video of a small town bank in my head...

Emily said...


Elle said...

OMG! I'm so glad I found your blog! You crack me up!

Lorri said...

Hi. I'm the creepy person from Austin who has probably given you 100+ hits in your data log over the past week, as I have apparently decided to now read your blog from start to finish. (found it through Kelle's blog)

And while I love all of them (seriously. it's like crack. i can't stop.)this has been my absolute favorite post so far.