i guess what finally did it was seeing 60 percent of my clothes hanging in a single closet. that motivated me to want to see all of them in there. the master bedroom closet in this house is huge. it holds all the clothes i own, and then some. i’m trying to think when the last time i was able to see all my clothes in one place, instead of mostly in boxes, partially in other people’s dressers and closets. i guess that would be ... never? the last time i had my own place was when i was living in miami, and that house had tiny apartment-sized closets, so i had to keep off-season stuff in the second bedroom. i rented a house in sunnyvale for a year since then, but i never felt at home there, my work situation was too precarious.
i just signed a year lease. my new landlady went over how i could get out of it if i decide to bail, and the terms are not very onerous. but now i guess i have to admit that i’m stuck here for awhile, even though i don’t want to be, in my heart of hearts. i guess i can’t complain too much. i turned down two firm job offers that would have taken me to los angeles. given the way california turned out for me last time (read: BAD), i am not anxious to try again, unless the situation feels pretty close to ideal. and i’ve inexplicably found myself in a job here locally where i am an important contributor who writes key pieces of software that are currently in heavy use. i can’t do much better than that, given that i don’t really want to be in high-tech anymore.
the first day i was here in nolensville, i talked to a confident 15-year-old kid named nick, who was removing every tiny blemish from his car with paper towels, much like i did with my first car when i was his age. he had parked right at the end of my driveway for some reason, so it seemed natural to go down there and introduce myself. he’s well-spoken and easy to talk to. i bet he’s popular at school. i asked him, “which family around here is the [last name]s?” “that’s us,” he said. “well, i guess i’m using your wireless network, then. there wasn’t a password set or anything. i hope that’s okay!” (his family set their wap name to their last name.) he said he thought that was okay, so i’m sponging wireless internet off the neighbors until i can get comcast out here to hook up my own. it’s a little slow, but beggars can’t be choosers. i live on a cul de sac with three other houses, and all three of them have visible wireless networks. i named the ones i can see from my mac, and nick told me which house each signal was coming from. one of them is called “3girls.” i’ve only seen two of the girls going in and out of their house so far. they are seven or eight years old and cute.
this has been more of an adjustment than i thought it would be. there are two grocery stores fairly near to here, so i decided to try the publix on nolensville pike first, about five miles away. i could say that the people there were “polite,” and you would create a mental picture of what i’m talking about, but you would be pretty wide of the mark. i’ve taken to using the automated checkout lanes at most groceries, but the store was very clean and very bright and the employees were groomed and clothed like they were being filmed for a publix ad and the vibe was very friendly, so i decided to try going through one of the standard human-powered checkout lanes. it wasn’t very busy, so i had three people checking me out. the first woman swooped in before i could even get to the lane, and said “here, let me get that for you,” and started taking stuff out of my cart and putting it on the conveyor belt. “thanks,” i said, but my expression must have conveyed my real reaction, because the woman behind the register said “unlike some other places, we actually like to work.” she wasn’t kidding.
i got to the end of the line and there was a 16-year-old kid ready to bag my groceries. he was handsome, his hair was slicked back, his clothes were perfect. i didn’t look that good even when going out on dates, when i was his age. “good afternoon, sir!” he said, beaming. he wasn’t just “smiling.” it was downright creeping me out. it was the kind of smile he should have reserved for his first blowjob, rather than wasting it on some random idiot in line down at the publix. my big-city instincts were going “okay, there’s something seriously wrong here. DANGER DANGER DANGER” but no, he really was that happy just doing his job. i hope i was able to adjust my attitude quickly enough that i didn’t seem cranky.
now i see why i stopped going through the human-powered checkout lanes. i would have said that the automated ones are more efficient, but that wasn't the real reason, was it. if every grocery could get employees like this, we wouldn't all be interacting with machines.
“do you have a cat?” he asked, as he bagged some cat-related items. “that’s for a neighbor-cat who comes around sometimes,” i said. (the cat was first mentioned here, and he’s since made another appearance, when i was sitting on the porch last night. looks like i’ve once again adopted about 1/7th of a cat, much like the black-and-white one that came around my house in coral gables sometimes.) “aww, that’s nice,” one of the checkout ladies said. “buying stuff for neighbor cats.” “yeah, i do that sometimes,” the other checkout lady said.
it was an honestly nice gesture, that these total strangers were making such an effort to be friendly with me. not just forced friendliness because their boss told them to, but the genuine article. i guess this kind of behavior is fairly common in small cities in the south? nolensville has about 3,000 people. the way they were acting, you’d be surprised to learn that a city the size of nashville was even on this planet, let alone just 20 miles away.
i think it might be unsettling to have people all up in your bidness all the time, though. what if i was buying condoms, what would the fresh-faced 16-year-old kid say then? “i see that you and your legally wedded wife have decided that you already have enough children, is that right, sir?”
okay, that was mean. i’m not going to delete it, because i was genuinely thinking it, but i’m leaving it in here only as an attempt at exorcism. i bet that kid in the grocery is three times happier than i was at his age, and he’s probably a better fit for his environment right now than i ever will be, at any point in my life. other people can and do have their own ways that work for them, regardless of how foreign those ways might seem to me. i don’t want to be the snark guy for the rest of my life.
later on in the day, i tried the piggly wiggly that’s about a mile from my house. it’s not as big or as bright as the publix up the road, but it’s homey, and they’ve got a better deli, and i could walk there, if i had to. i got yet another insanely nice checkout lady, who asked me if i wanted paper or plastic. i haven’t heard that question in five years, at least.
they’ve got a different kind of people out here, that’s for sure.
EDIT: i made two grocery stops the next day. distance was not an issue, as i drive past both groceries frequently. i picked the piggly wiggly both times. publix has a generally better selection of stuff, and i know those people mean well, but i can’t stand being bombarded with nuclear-level friendliness very often. the checkout people at piggly wiggly don’t have to wear uniforms, and i got one that was — gasp! — shy!, and wasn’t able to deliver the full force of aggressive friendliness that her overlords no doubt expect of her, thereby saving my jangled nerves a little wear and tear.