This is my home game entry for The Real LJ Idol. I am not competing this season but invite you to read the many fine submissions here. This is a free week, meaning there will be no elimination vote, with two possible topics: "Giving of Thanks" or "kthxbai". I chose "kthxbai"
Gluten-free pumpkin pie
Now that I've been living in Philadelphia for eight years, I'm used to the custom that, if you talk to people, they talk to you, as well. Not so in Central Pennsylvania, as I'm reminded every time I visit my folks. My hometown is slightly less taciturn than Minnesota.
I know this from experience. Shortly after getting married to my first husband, The Seeker, we took an aimless honeymoon, heading first to the annual Rainbow Gathering (a sort of hippie convention), held that year in Missouri. We got tired of the heat and the bugs, so we headed north along the Mississippi River, discovering that the further north we got, the less people talked to you. In Minnesota, if you try to make small talk to the cashiers, you get a sense they're reaching one hand under the counter, just in case they need to press the panic button. After all, only someone unbalanced and potentially dangerous would try to speak to a COMPLETE STRANGER.
In my hometown, the ratio is more like 50-50. About half the time, you can strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger on the street (about their cute dog, which looks like a poodle but which they assure you is a terrier), and about half the time, they look at you as if you have a communicable disease.
This morning, my husband, The Gryphon, and I headed to the local grocery store to pick up a few items he needed in order to prepare the turkey for a small family dinner (this year, just my parents, us and a couple family friends). In the deli section, he got himself coffee and discovered there were no lids. I told him to ask the woman at the far end of the counter, who was in about her 50s. She was happy to get us more lids and engaged us in a cheerful conversation about how busy it had been and how many people were grabbing coffee before going home to prepare their feasts.
Then, in the checkout aisle, we noticed a tabloid that advertised a photo spread on the "Best and Worst Beach Bodies." One of the supposedly "worst" was someone we had trouble identifying but was labeled as "Nicole."
"Oh," I said, "it's Nicole Richie. They should give her a break. She just had a baby." Then, one hand on my belly (now, at my 13th week, starting to show), I turned to the cashier and said, "I'm glad no one's going to be following me around with cameras after I give birth."
The cashier, a 20-something woman with mousy brown hair who clearly wanted to be anywhere but working the checkout line, continued busily running items over the scanner and bagging them. She refused to look up, the universal sign of ignoring someone.
Well, I told myself, she's too young to be sympathetic about a pregnant woman's concerns anyway. Maybe such talk makes her uncomfortable.
She looked up briefly when she'd totaled our purchases, in order to tell The Gryphon the total and take our money. Then, immediately, she looked away again, as if busy. As we gathered our bags, The Gryphon told her, "Have a nice Thanksgiving," something she was clearly unlikely to do, stuck in the checkout line as she was, but it seemed like the thing to say.
"Yeah," she said, glumly, and began running the next customer's items through.
If I had been anywhere but Central Pennsylvania, I would have assumed that her reticence was due to having to work on the holiday. Let me assure you, however, that this is simply the way things go in my hometown. Half the time, you roll the dice and get a conversation. Half the time, it's "kthxbai."
With a little snow and some 50-foot-tall statues, my hometown could be a stunt double for Minnesota.