Saturday, May 19, 2007
You Can Take the Girl Out of the City...
I just got back from the north where I reverted right back to my rude and aggressive ways. I had to. It’s either eat or be eaten up there. I got cut off, bumped into, short-changed and given the evil eye all on the first day. It wasn’t pretty. But that is one of the reasons we hightailed it out of there. Lots of people are leaving. They’re leaving in droves. There are actually bumper stickers that say, “Will the last one who leaves N.J. please turn out the lights?”
I had to go up 95 instead of my favorite way up 81 because I was meeting my daughter in Delaware at her apartment and then shooting over the bridge the next morning to her college graduation in Glassboro, New Jersey at Rowan University. When I got closer to D.C., people got mean and the grills on the beamers and cars with government issued plates looked like grimaces. I tried to mind my own business. I got out of their way quickly when they tailgated me in the fast lane even though I was going 5 miles over the speed limit, which everyone knows is the real suggested speed. I locked the car doors when I stopped to go pee.
I gave that up down here. Locking things. I picked up better habits like making eye contact and saying hi to people you pass. It took me a while to get used to that, making eye contact. When I was up north, in my daughter’s high-rise apartment building, it now seemed strange to me to pass someone in the hall and look straight ahead without acknowledging a person’s existence. I started a friendly chit-chat with a strange man in her elevator.
“Do you know him?” Jamie asked me.
“No, I thought you did.”
“I never saw him before in my life.”
“That’s probably because you look away. He’s your neighbor!”
She rolled her eyes. She was graduating college but I still get the rolling eyes.
I cried when Jamie graduated. With the exception of my favorite cousin Jeannie, who graduated from Parson’s School of Art, Jamie is the only one in our family who has gone to college. It was powerful, just like you see in the movies. The music—daaa, da, da, da, da, da…..daaa, da, da, da, da…. There were round pillars two stories high holding up a cement apron on the front of the building that said, “Rowan University.” And scholars. Everyone looked scholarly. There were professors in gowns and renaissance-style caps with feathers sticking out of them. These were the guys who sat behind stained glass windows and figured out formulas or who wrote great poems up in the bell tower. I couldn’t believe someone in our family was a part of this.
After the ceremony, we got something to eat. It was there that Jamie’s boyfriend, part of the scholarly crowd of great thinkers, tried to break a record by eating the biggest hamburger in the place. It was called the Colossal Burger and was known far and wide as being uneatable by anyone except the biggest pigs around. But if you could do it, you would get your picture taken and put up on the board where other pictures of other pigs were thumb-tacked on for everyone to see. Like Lou’s roommate, a school teacher, who beat the record six times straight and had taken to bragging to his students and anyone else who would listen.
Lou, being not only scholarly but determined, didn’t wipe his mouth while he was eating so that the telltale evidence would remain as proof that he had really done it. In fact, I believe he purposely allowed some of the condiments on his Colossal Burger to drip onto his chin just to get a laugh. Jamie indulged him by placing a slice of onion strategically on his cheek and then when the last piece of gristle was gone, he informed the waitress that he had finished and demanded to get his picture taken.
“Uh, you have something on your face,” she said apologetically.
“Huh? What? Oh, don’t worry about that. Just take the picture.”
When we left and were driving down the highway back to Jamie’s apartment, I needed to make a left turn. In Delaware you can turn left off a highway just like in Virginia. In New Jersey, you have to make a right and take a jug handle to go left, which is a whole other story. But in Delaware, there were no jug handles. However, the openings weren’t as big as they are in Virginia. My ass-end was sticking out into the highway even though I inched up as far as I could go. Part of the problem is I have a truck and trucks are in the minority up north. I nervously waited for the traffic to pass so I could go, praying I wouldn’t get rear-ended by all the cars rumbling up behind me. Suddenly a car stopped and wailed on his horn. It shook me up even more. But I couldn’t move. He could see that! Where did he want me to go? Did he want me to pull out in front of that Mack truck? Finally, I was able to get out and I stepped on it to get out of his way. He passed me and we continued on with our conversation about Lou’s tummy ache and what we got out of the speeches at the graduation ceremony.
Then, lo and behold, the guy who made me jump out of my skin by rudely honking at me, was now in front of me trying to make another left off the highway. This time his ass-end was out in the road.
“What should I do? What should I do?” I asked everyone in the car.
“Beep at him!” They all said. “Lean on it!” And so I did.
I thought I saw him jump as I flew by. His little Honda shook in its tracks. That’ll teach him. I thought, “Wow, I am becoming mean and nasty again.” But it felt good. We may have infiltrated the University, but we’re still the same old Kelly family. Jamie leaned over and picked a piece of lettuce from Lou’s hair. Then we resumed our conversation about how nice that speech was that the judge gave and what we learned from listening to such refined and high class people like the senator.