A day in the life

Today was just too weird. As I observed in a tweet,

I did come across a deer leg bone in my gardening tote while I was looking for a fresh rat trap … but that was yesterday.

So today the trouble started, as it often does, when I left the house. I had planned to go to the grocery store, not to the County administration building, but now I was doing both. Oh joy. Before I could go to the County I needed to make a photocopy of what I was submitting to them. Our all-in-one machine makes copies and they look great but it’s so tedious at doing double-sided stuff that I just take all that to the nice new machine at the library.

Now, if you don’t know me IRL you need to understand that I have a thing for photocopiers. Dude, not like that. Like, I’m the photocopier whisperer. Every place I’ve ever worked at has had a photocopier and I have established myself as the in-house expert every time, without fail, and usually within a day. At several companies making copies was my primary duty. I am not the god of photocopiers, because people disobey gods all the time. I am the R. Lee Ermey of photocopiers. Photocopiers stand at attention and shit their pants when I walk by. (Is that metaphor weird?)

So you’ll understand my confusion and anger when the photocopier at the library defied me. You hear people say all the time that a machine ate their money and I don’t know if they’re being serious or if that’s just something people say when they wish they hadn’t spent their last handful of laundry quarters on Cheetos, but today, for the first time in my life, it happened to me. I shoved at least twice as much money as was necessary in the coin slot (I like to empty my coin purse into the thing and then leave the overage for the next person) but the screen acknowledged only about 2/3 of it. Still, this should have been enough for my five double-sided copies. I put my stack o’paper in the document feeder (the thing in the lid you’ve never seen anyone but the repair person use) and watched it do its thing. I pulled out the resulting copies and … the fuck? The second to last page was blank on the front. On the *front.* Now, this is weird because it should have scanned that side of the page first and if anything was going to go wrong it would have either jammed before scanning the front and beeped at me to help it or it might have failed to copy the back side because it jammed when flipping the page. But no, without the tell-tale crumple and beep of a jam it just flat out refused to copy page 9. But it was fine with page 10 for some reason? And it was still on the back side even? (Is anyone still reading?)

So now I’m 5 cents short of being able to make a single photocopy and since I haven’t used this machine in like a year I can’t remember how to orient the paper in the side feeder tray so it will take at least two copies to put page 9 on the front of page 10 because I have to run a test first. (And fight with a library employee because the side tray makes the same beep as the “help this asshole” beep and they think I’ve broken the machine, particularly since none of them know how to run it and they have never seen the side tray used.)

There’s a coin machine but it only takes cash and I don’t have any cash. Time was I would have just asked someone at the front counter for 15 cents and then tried to pay them back the next day and they’d politely refuse. But all the nice people have quit this branch and been replaced by mean people and personality-free customer-avoidance-specialists I would like to subject to a Voight-Kampff test.

So I drove five miles home to dump out Matt’s coin jar on top of my dresser, like an adult.

Copies made, I went to the County. Karl’s driver’s window is on the fritz and in order to roll it down you have to press the button a random number of times between 12 and 64. Usually it’s in the 30s. Today, as always, I started pressing too late and my window was still down when I got to the machine in the parking garage that you take your ticket from. But before I could even get my door open to reach the machine the guy in the kiosk has run (run!) out and around (he’s not actually supposed to ever need to get out on the entry side, since there’s a machine there, so he doesn’t have a door on that side of his kiosk) and smacked the button and shoved the ticket at me. His face is pure hatred.

“Oh, you remember me,” I said with the fakest innocence and casual laugh since the invention of reality TV.

A whole month earlier I had rolled into the parking garage jabbing wildly at the window controls and paying little attention to my surroundings. I was unaware of the ticket machine but fully aware of the gate barring my entry without a ticket. The kiosk attendant was not aware that I was aware and, thinking I was going to roll right through the gate, exited the kiosk flailing and hollering. So I guess my unusual car and I made an impression.

My business upstairs was a failure, as expected, though not the specific variety of failure I expected, and I was soon headed north again, into Marysville, to do my grocery shopping.

In the empty parking lot of a church, parked smack in the middle, at an angle, there was an old man getting out of his car as I was driving past. From a distance I thought, “What nice pants. How unusual for a man of that age to be so up to date on fashion. Those are some mighty skinny pants, Mr. Oldman. But what a nice shade of camel! Almost toffee, almost … MOTHER OF GOD THOSE ARE HIS LEGS WHERE ARE HIS PANTS?” As I passed he finished unfolding from the car and I could just make out the tiniest sliver of hazard-yellow boxer shorts peeking out from under the hem of his purple t-shirt. (The peculiar purple shade of a Hypercolor shirt, my harassed brain noted.)

He looked confused. I’m sure I did, too.

A few blocks later I passed this thing, which I photographed from behind so as not to attract the notice of its owner, who was wearing a black and white studded leather Evel Knievel ensemble and sitting on the roadside in a black and white lawn chair, conducting the worst “music” I’ve ever heard (and I’ve been to a Slayer concert), which sounded like it had been created by scratching a fork on a plate. You should zoom in and read all the painstaking stenciling.


WinCo at last. I should be safe now. This is my turf.



OK, so there was an entire family dressed as The Incredibles.


(I wasn’t gonna post the picture but Matt was like “They’re wearing *masks.* It’s OK.)

So at first I think this is great, because the mom is addressing all the kids by their character names. (Matt, again: “That movie is older than you think. Those could have been their real names.”) Someone asked the mom if they were going to a party and she tossed her head and said “No, we’re just incredible.”


I encounter them up close and personal in bulk foods. Just after I snapped the stalker pic the kids run down an aisle and throw themselves on the ground to tussle like mustelids. Mom stands in front of the bulk honey dispensers (which used to be cooler, see:)

DSC00133(Sorry about the phenomenally bad flip-phone pic. But they used to keep the honey dispensers inside real wooden beekeeping supers with these great acrylic plaques on them. People freaked out on the regular.)


Mrs. Incredible is addressing the honey dispensers, apparently, because I am the only other person in earshot and I am innocently bagging broccoli in the adjacent organic produce section (I get wild on pay day). She surveys her options and fairly shouts “But I need *raw* honey!”

screams internally

I am so sick of the words “raw honey” I could burn the place down. The only people I hate more are the ones who think GMOs are evil. The only people I hate more than GMO haters are antivaxxers.

The heavens open and I am temporarily gifted with a spine, which I immediately regret using. I have been given this gift, apparently, that I might see that l’esprit de l’escalier (and screaming at my steering wheel all the way home) is infinitely preferable to actually speaking up when the moment calls for it (and still screaming at my steering wheel all the way home).

“All honey is raw,” I call out.

Shit, y’all. She put her hand on her hip. “But some of it’s pasteurized.” The look on her face is 100% “Whatcha got ta say bout *that*, hmmmm?”

“If it’s pasteurized it’s not honey. If you pasteurize it then it changes the chemical structure and –”

“I seen it. On the label. Pasteurized.”

“Then the label should also have said ‘honey product’. There had to have been other ingredients. Honey by itself has too much sugar to go bad on the shelf. You just filter it and put it in a clean jar. That’s all I ever did.”

“Yeah well I doubt you were a *professional.* I doubt you were a *commercial* beekeeper.” There is actual hatred in her voice. This is the voice that parents use when someone without kids tells them they shouldn’t let their kids trespass, kill small animals, or drink out of mud puddles with a sheen on them.

WTF, lady.

To keep myself from saying what I want to, which is “Yeah but I’ll wholesale kick your fucking ass” I hold up my hands in the “back the fuck up” gesture and say “Just trust me, OK. All honey is raw honey.” And I fled like the coward I am.

Groceries have been procured but my day is gone. I can’t fathom trying to make lasagna, which had been the plan, so I very easily talk myself into pizza. Back on State Avenue I head south again to get me some Papa Murphy’s. Going north is a pickup truck with high wooden sideboards elaborately bas-relief carved and painted. What with I couldn’t tell you because I had very little time to look and what caught my eye was what was in the bed: two figurines. At first I thought they were papier-mâché but later realized they must be wooden, perhaps chainsaw carvings, in keeping with the carvings on the sideboards. They were both as big as me. One was unmistakably the Energizer bunny in Pepto-Bismol pink, and the other was a giant green army man. (I initially thought he was a German soldier from WWII but reviewing my mental footage I think green army man is much more likely.)

So, that was my day. How was yours?

— Amanda





My mother-in-law, Mickey. Matt took these pictures when he caught her, her sister Lyn, and the grandkids guerrilla gardening at his first house.

It’s been a year now since the untimely death of the my mother-in-law. My dad and I have always both said how we lucked out in the mother-in-law department. People traditionally hate or resent their mothers-in-law, but we married people whose mothers were welcoming and not adversarial, judgmental, or possessive.

I know how cliche it sounds to say that it seems like just yesterday that we drove through the Darrington 4th of July parade the day after her death, simultaneously smiling with joy at being alive and surrounded by friends and family, and as raw as if our hearts had just been belt-sanded. But I don’t know how else to phrase it.

I also don’t know how to adequately explain the feeling that she has been deleted. There’s no Mickey-shaped hole – there’s just no Mickey. She doesn’t call us, we don’t call her. She doesn’t holler “come in!” when we show up unannounced at her door. Her chair is still at the kitchen bar. Her name is still in our phones. One of her plants is thriving on top of one of my bookcases. Her husband still gets mail in her name. Her handwriting is still on the chore chart for the grandkids. Her jewelry is still in the bathroom. Her voice is still on the answering machine.

But she’s not there.

matt & mickey graduation

Matt and his mom on his graduation day.

A year on, I have found a coping mechanism: when I start to feel that tightness in my chest after thinking about her for too long (like right now) I remind myself that over decades of official and unofficial counseling Mickey talked sense into a whole lot of people. I console myself with the thought that, in a world that has people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson and kids who kill their parents to hock their electronics for smack, there are also people who are in desperate times and might resort to desperate measures except that they stop and ask themselves “If Mickey were here, what would she tell me to do? What would she think of this bullshit plan?” She isn’t physically there to open her doors and let them crash in her back room, but she’s there in their minds, nonjudgmental, offering sage advice, keeping them calm: mothering.

I get it now, the line about how someone lives on in our hearts and minds. I thought that meant simply that we remember them, but now I see it means something more. We’ve all downloaded the Mickey algorithm and it’s still humming away and doing its work in our brains. She’s still mothering Matt and her grandkids and a host of kinfolk and near-strangers. And maybe they’ll unwittingly spread that benign virus, that natural vaccine against cruelty and malice and stupidity.

It’s a thought that doesn’t exactly ease the tightness in my chest (in fact, sometimes it brings on a lump in my throat and a prickly behind my eyes) but it does change the tone of my feeling from bewildered to hopeful.

— Amanda