An Open Letter to Washington Mutual Bank

Dear WAMU,

Honestly. “Whoo Hoo?” That’s what you came up with for your newest ad campaign? Have you completely lost your minds? Been reading the latest self help book about how the most obvious thing is usually the best answer and you took the first chimpanzee noise you heard your kid make and labeled it pure genius? Because it’s not. This is not even close to bad. This is lazy. The worst. I suppose I can’t blame you entirely. You hired a young, snappy marketing team, I’m sure, to help with this. Some group of extremely unimaginative but extremely well dressed men and women with artistic glasses and blocky jewelry. They probably took a look at your monkey language scribblings and rubbed their chins thoughtfully and nodded to one another slowly and made you feel really important and smart for an hour. I would have been taken in too. I watch TV. I know how enchanting the well dressed can be. Especially if they smell good and shake your hand, and say words like “move forward” and “branding” and “product placement” too.

It’s impossible to miss the damned billboards. I pass at least two of them on the way home from work. Which is, I’m sure, exactly what the well dressed people in the artistic glasses, and you, wanted. I know enough about advertising to know that McDonald’s doesn’t make the best burgers …but they do have enough real estate such that at the moment you get hungry on the road, you are never more than five minutes from a McDonald’s. And you are reminded of that fact with a 40 foot McWhatever-It-Is plastered onto a billboard every 80 feet or so. Is that what you were you’re hoping to accomplish here as well? Like, maybe I would be thinking about buying some coffee on my way in to the office, but then, Whoo Hoo! I would see your sign and be overcome with unmitigated joy at banking with you so that when I got to the store I wouldn’t just buy a coffee, I would buy a to-go mug and a t-shirt and a key chain as well, charging up a storm with my WAMU credit card, exclaiming Whoo Hoo! with every item I picked up like some crazy locomotive/cash register hybrid?

Try this: take the money I give you and DON’T invest it in crap like this. Take it and do something interesting and worthwhile, like that Wamoola for schools thing you started a while back. You do know we’re headed towards a recession, right? That the Fed just dropped the interest rate for like the 78th time this year? That means you have less available to pay me in interest… so please don’t take the very little I’ve decided to stick in the meager interest bearing account I have with you and waste it on giant blue and green and orange billboards that read “Whoo Hoo!”.

Oh, and don’t send me a form letter back. I hate those things. Take the time you were going to spend going to your My Documents folder containing “We’ve Read Your Letter And Are Trying Our Best To Serve You Better Letter To Complaining Customers” and hitting “print”, and save it. Save the money you were going to spend on the paper and the 15 minutes it was going to take your executive assistant to prepare an envelope and hand it to the mail guy… and just meditate for a moment. Think about all the paper you’ve used making this beast. Think about the money I’ve trusted you with. My money. The money I work very hard for.

Think about all the nonsense out there you and I have to stomach every single day. Think about the visual bombardment, the cacophony of noise you and I have to endure just to buy a t-shirt, or pay our phone bill online. Think of the pop-up ads, the junk email, the telemarketers, the guy standing out there on the sidewalk wearing a “Liquidation Sale Today!” sandwich-board sign on his body and waving laconically at you. Think about how much junk mail you throw into the garbage every day. There’s a lot of “stuff” out there already. Did WAMU really feel like it needed to join the fray?

Here’s something else: Think about how much energy and toxic chemistry it takes to manufacture an adhesive strong enough to hold a polymer to a piece of plywood in 20 mph gusts of wind. Think about the electricity it takes to light a sign all day and all night. Think about how many landfills are already full of the latest and greatest cool billboards approved of by well dressed people in artistic glasses. Think about how much waste and noise you’ve just put out there in the world to promote, not a money saving tool, or a loan product, but a catch phrase having nothing to do with banking.

Now think of the opposite of all that. Think about a clear view of the mountains in our state, unimpeded by big orange signs. Think about our water unpolluted with manufacturing waste runoff. Think about being able to offer your customers more than catch phrases. Think of the opportunity you have in this country, what with the sub-prime mortgage crisis and all, to help people save money and stay in their homes. Think about the money you’ve just saved by being a more responsible, environmentally friendly, and consumer-conscious bank. Makes ya want to say, Whoo Hoo, doesn’t it?

Yours Truly,
A Loyal Customer

Spoetry

America, this is what I’m talking about. This is what we’re not allowed to say on TV or on the radio, but this is the kind of thing that IS allowed into my junk mail box.

These are subject lines taken directly, without alteration, from my junkmail box. I think I’ll call this one “Why Power Tools and Weapons Belong Outside And Not In The Bedroom”.

Why be a tiny cocktail sausage when you can be a mighty weiner?

Blow her away with your giant weapon.

Be a winner with the ladies with a huge lovestick.

Make her cry in pleasure when you enter her deep and full

Lengthen your male aggregate length and girls will love you promptly.

It’s time to bring your good willy hunting.

Change your garden tool into a POWER TOOL.

Increase your male aggregate and you will sex giant.

It is greater than the oscar there will be blood
Armed with our rods, we thrust forwards.

FIN.

An Update on The House and Why I Should Never Be Allowed To Touch Appliances

CLH did something very special today. He wired an electrical outlet onto its own circuit. I don’t even know if I’ve said that correctly, but it was incredibly impressive to me to see. Yesterday the basement was a black smelly void and today it’s a well-lit smelly office space. Being deathly afraid of electricity, I avoid the remodeling tasks that involve electricity. Move furniture, paint rooms, tear down molding, hang curtains, change light bulbs, haul trash, build garden, mow grass, polish floors, yes. Touch the wiring? No freakin’ way.

The last run-in I had with do-it-yourself wiring involved a puff of black smoke, a clapping noise, and a temporary power outage in the office. I was there on a Saturday. That should give you a good indication of where my head was to begin with. I had just taken the job in the front office and, since we were switching over as a company to computers from typewriters and carbon paper, i thought I would usher in some newness of my own by painting and redecorating my office. There was one giant problem: the walls were covered with bulky sliding door cabinetry from the ’70s. I can’t quite remember the color of the things. It was something in between steel gray and failure. Anyhow, I called a friend to come with me to the office so she could help out with the removal of these cabinets around my desk. She was a good friend.

It seemed simple enough: just unscrew one end and then the other, having helper hold the end not being worked on with screwdriver. The unscrewing was easy. It was the little flourescent light that threw me for a loop. I’d forgotten that little sucker was mounted underneath the cabinets. (Sidebar: now that i am thinking about it, this was the second office I worked in the late nineties/early 00’s that had these revolting cabinets on the walls. What was it with me and a) missing the dot-com boom, and b) working with people who liked working on the set of the Mary Tyler Moore show?) Anywho, the light. I’d forgotten he was up there. And he was up there GOOD. Mounted to the underside of the cabinets (needed another sized screwdriver to de-barnacle the cabinet) and then hardwired into the wall. Hardwired. No little cord running to an outlet. When these people said “seventies”, they’d meant it.

Well, I knew that the little guy wasn’t getting replaced, and I wasn’t going to be plugging in anything else at 4 and 3/5 feet off the floor, so I just yanked the wires from the fixture and let them hang out of the little holes in the walls. One of the wires had a little (orange, was it?) cap hanging from the end of it. The other didn’t.

But now I had these hang-y cords coming out of the wall. Definitely not part of the redecorating plan. I had to do something with them, and I just figured I could ask one of the shop guys on Monday to just clip ’em… so i did what any idiot with compulsive tendencies toward order and who knows nothing about electricity would do: i shoved the one cord into the cap with the other cord.

Enter the smoke and the flash and the comment, “So THAT’S what burned flesh smells like…” I don’t know what we did, exactly, or what actually happened after the BANG noise, i just know that on Monday, my computer and my phone had both lost power, and, when asked about it, i just shrugged and backed up nervously to block with my body the black soot stain on the wall.

A madcap recap

It’s the last day of January. For bookkeepers in the US, it’s New Year’s Eve. In four minutes, it’s all over. Anything i file after this day is late, and oh-freakin’-well.

I’m exhausted. I’m a list maker.

1. I shaved my head recently. Not bald. Just shorn. I’ve received several semi-uncomfortable extra-long looks from male clients who, judging from the way their mouths curled into devious smiles, were grappling with whether or not they should tell me aloud how sexy they thought it was. Several have. Some have asked to rub my head. I’ve let them.
2. I turned 31 and spent my birthday at a spa. I think I actually sweat out every last drop of fluid i had drunk in the last 6 months and replaced with fresh water. It was a thoroughly cleansing and remarkable experience.
3. I have been working 12 hour days for almost 20 days straight.
4. I want to live on a sailboat. I’m guessing it’ll be in 2 to 5 years from now. I want to sail around the world, too, but that might be because i don’t know how it feels to be pummeled inside the tiny hull of a boat by a twenty foot wave. I have never sailed before. I am slightly phobic of water.
5. I’m reading “Island” by Aldous Huxley and I’m amazed at how timely it is, even now.
6. I’m moved by how emotional people are getting about the upcoming presidential election. I wonder how many people will turn out for the vote. The current president is still an idiot.
7. I’m currently doing books for a family that is going bankrupt and might have to sell their house to pay off their debt, and another individual who is battling for custody of his kids, and everything he’s got. I am working on setting emotional boundaries and it is difficult.
8. I call my brother daily. He was involved in a bad car accident in December and had to have part of his face reconstructed surgically. Getting injured in America without insurance is a terrible and unjust thing. I often wonder how a country that won’t provide health care services for all its citizens thinks it’s qualified to teach the rest of the world about democracy and freedom.
9. The sub-prime crisis has hit home. My home equity line of credit was frozen two days ago. I also wonder how a country that allows its citizens to be dispossessed of their houses because of a failure to mandatorily educate them about the predatory practices of its economic system thinks it has a right to label who is a terrorist and who is not.
10. It’s February. Hallelujah.

Everything Is On the Internets

CLH just sent a virtual hug to his brother via Facebook. I don’t know why that bothers me so much, but it does a little.

We just found a picture of a friend of ours featured prominently (and nakedly) on Wikipedia under the term “Naked Cyclists”. I am guilty of looking at pictures of old classmates online like I would look at a car crash: one eye closed to shut out the horror, the other open in morbid curiosity. People have found me, too. I’m creeped out by it every time. “Hey, is this the same Lauren that did so and so back in ’89?” Eeeeeeesh. It’s weird being found. I never think anyone’s looking for me. But they are. Think about how often people are googling your name. Lots of people have googled me and it’s weird that I can be found so easily. And with such a random attachment of stuff to my name. I write poetry. I sometimes update this blog. There’s another one of me in California, somewhere, and she’s an actress. Here are other things that you won’t know by googling me, but should, if you are to really know me:

I like popcorn. A lot. I make it the old fashioned way: in a pot with oil.
I have completed several jigsaw puzzles with over 3,000 pieces.
I like to make art out of junk.

I have a client whose employees google just about every customer who contacts them. Just out of curiosity, they say. Y’know, for fun. There’s a link to almost all of us out there somewhere. Isn’t that odd? Isn’t it weird that someone knows your shopping habits? Can track your credit card purchases? Knows your cell phone calls? I’m not talking in my conspiracy theorist voice, either. I’m talking in my David Byrne, “Isn’t Technology Weird and Wonderful?” voice. There’s a trail of ones and zeros behind all of us, stuck like toilet paper to the soles of our shoes and we track that stuff around everywhere we go and we can’t shake it loose. Some program, right now, is plotting to put ads along the side of my email homepage based on the words on my screen. Some program, right now, is pumping out hundreds of junk emails to be sent to me because I am an identity that is a series of numbers and letters that most of the world can access if they just put those numbers and letters together in the right sequence. Who was I before I had a data trail?

Thumbprints for Christmas

It’s close to midnight and I sliding my 40th or so sheet of cookies into the oven. While I typically shun all things mainstream, I am a total sucker for tradition, including baking my mom’s Betty Crocker recipe cookies for Christmas. They’re made with the three basic ingredients that are almost like swear words around my house: butter, sugar, and wheat flour. My digestive system backs up from too much wheat in my diet, CLH doesn’t eat sugar anymore (and has dropped thirty pounds since), and butter is… well, butter is no one’s enemy. Yet.

I make the same cookies every year: chocolate chip, peanut butter, Spritz, Russian Tea Cakes (which my family calls “snowballs”), oatmeal raisin, candy canes, and thumbprints. The thumbprints are a family favorite. But this year, the recipe didn’t quite live up to its former magic.

I’m not sure what the issue was exactly. I’m pretty sure I put in all the ingredients (although, i quadrupled the recipe, and i may have lost count of the cups of flour in there somewhere). The batch should have yielded 12 dozen, or 144 cookies. I got only 113 cookies out of it. I don’t see how I could have lost almost three dozen cookies in that whole mess, but, apparently, I’m not the only one with a missing cookie issue. Thank goodness for the Internet. Who did I bitch to before this thing was invented?

Now, the original recipe I learned to make these cookies with resides on an oil stained, dog eared, high gloss page in the Betty Crocker cookbook, publication circa 1966 or so. It lives in my mom’s house somewhere… though when I called over there years ago to collect the recipe, no one could find the book. It often goes missing and then reappears like some kind of magical prop. Well, since I had no access to the book, I had to look up the recipe online. And there it was at bettycrocker.com. I’ve made them for several years now, and, since I only make them once a year, I forget what a blatant lie the recipe is. The cookies taste great, but the yield measurement is WAY off, AND, the depression you make in each cookie RISES to meet the sides of the cookie so the whole “thumbprint” effect is rendered null and void.

My recipe was printed from the website, and i noticed on my (oil stained, dog eared) sheet of paper that there’s a link that didn’t quite get all the way printed called “Betty’s tips”. Thinking i had missed a critical clue to making these all these years, I headed over to the computer to log back in to Ms. Crocker’s site. No tips to be found, but I did find a really angry (and therefore hilarious to me) review of the recipe posted by another Betty fan. The reviewer said the recipe didn’t work because “There is not enough ingredients”. I couldn’t agree more, reviewer. I might disagree with your grammar, but I totally agree that the tiny bit of flour and sugar they told you to put in the bowl will not, no matter how you slice it, yield three dozen cookies.

I’m a little bleary eyed right now. I’ve filled most of the lidded receptacles in the house with cookies. I even used the salad spinner bowl. Tomorrow, I start crafting the gifts. Better get to bed so I can get up early and do that. You’ve been warned about the thumbprints.

Down the Slide of The Bell Curve

Listen.

There’s a You Tube video going around featuring some pretty young thing from the South on the game show “Are you Smarter Than A Fifth Grader” grappling with the question of whether or not Europe is a country. She doesn’t know if France is a country or not. She has never heard of Budapest, the country capital she is being asked about, nor Hungary, the answer. The worst thing about this is not that she doesn’t know (I concede that there are probably questions on that show I wouldn’t know either); it’s that she’s unaffected about not knowing. She boldly announces, as if it is pretty common to not know if Europe is a country or not, that she has no idea. She screws up her face and says the word Hungary like the answer to the question was as unexpected and obscure as “cat doo doo” would have been.

Here’s something else: I heard on the news recently that we are trailing quite a few countries in our childhood literacy rates. Amazing, huh? With all this blogging and texting, we don’t appear to be able to read and comprehend any better. I don’t have the numbers, but it appears that girls fare much better in the literacy category all around. US girls carry the US over other countries only because our girls’ reading levels are higher than average. And I just read something the other day about Ian McKewan handing out novels, in a little social experiment, to eager and excited women in London while the men turned up their noses in suspicion.

Why am I posting this? I’ll tell you. It’s one part confession, and one part record keeping. It’s a little self aggrandizing and probably smacks of “I Told You So”, but I’ll say it anyway. When the shish hits the fan, and it will, I want the world to know I was a witness.

I was there when gas prices crept up from record lows to record highs. I was there when people complained and talked about the magical boycott of the big oil companies that would happen if it ever reached such and such a price. It never did.

I was there when children shot other children in their schools and we blamed things like music and the Internet for their disturbing behavior. I was there when we called the victims heroes and installed police officers and metal detectors in our learning institutions.

I was there when our junk mail folders were filled for ads for male enhancement drugs but we couldn’t say “fuck” over the airwaves. I was there when we banned insurance coverage for women’s contraceptives, and bombed abortion clinics. I was there when gays were not given the same civil rights as heterosexuals.

I was there when our magazines were filled with ads for plastic surgeons and we hated ourselves and each other so much, we cut off pieces of our bodies and filled them with agents to plump and distort them so often, we considered this normal and created TV shows around it.

I was there when one in three women had been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. One in three. One in three. One in three. One in three. Our mothers, our sisters, our lovers. One in three. One in three. One in three.

I was there when big box stores replaced independently owned stores and these stores became the places where most people shopped most of the time. I was there when people loved their low low prices but did not understand where their jobs and their sense of community had gone.

I was there when we launched a campaign to crack down on illegal immigration and people installed themselves on the borders of our country to shoot at people trying to get in. I was there when the idea was tossed around to build a wall, a security fence, around our country.

I was there when we were told that a terrorist threat was imminent. I was there for the imprisonment of people without charges at Guantanamo.

I was there when people went bankrupt paying for medical bills and insurance could not be provided for free for all from taxpayers’ dollars. I was there when insurance rates went up every few years while the insurance companies cited reasons like “more diabetes”. I was there when energy drinks, packed full of caffeine and high fructose corn syrup, were available in every convenience store. I was there when we took our kids to coffeeshops and allowed them to drink “coffee drinks” in plastic cups. I was there when we threw these cups away, at a rate of thousands per day, into the garbage. I was there when we still couldn’t decide what to do about global warming.

I was there and watched it all happen. I took notes. I smelled our demise coming. I felt hopeless. I felt I had to survive. I slid down the slope of the bell curve knowing what was at the bottom and I went anyway.

My metal heartbeat

Lately I’ve taken to pounding out letters to my two brothers on my old Royal typewriter. I happened upon the thing in vintage clothing store (which also stocks old typewriters and typewriter-themed clothing. Odd. And perfect.) I have been longing to replace the one from my youth for years now. (It suffered the scourge of one of mom’s manic cleaning frenzies back in the day. Probably wound up on the sidewalk next to the trash can, which was fitting, since that’s where my grandfather found it several years prior when he decided to take it home and restore it). I don’t think this model is exactly the same. I remember ours being slightly darker in color, but it’s nearly a dead ringer. Apparently, gray was THE color to make these suckers out of back in the day, and I have come across varying shades in my travels. This one most closely resembles the gun metal gray of my childhood typewriter. I remember, too, that ours had a case that fit over it. It was made of the same steel the typewriter was made of. The whole thing must have weight 30 pounds or so. It could have herniated our backs several times over, but that didn’t stop my brother and I from moving it around the house when we were kids.

I’ve been searching the Internet for the past hour for images of Royal typewriters. The one I own now is the KMG model (i think). The M in the middle stands for “Magic Margin”, a feature which is not so much “magic” as a series of levers and release buttons that allow you set up and then remove a few margins along the length of the roller. Ah, the 40’s… a time when machinery that outperformed your expectations was dubbed “magic”.

I wasn’t sure, when I first bought this KMG model, that I was actually going to use it. I thought I might shove it on a wide plant stand and stick it in the hallway for passersby to leave quirky messages on… but, on a whim one night, I took of its dust cover, and started to pound out a letter.

I’m beginning to fall in love with typing on the thing. I can’t type at my normal clip because the hammers get jammed. Instead, I have to be very deliberate with each depression. I have to make sure the hammer has slapped the roller with an “a” before I pound down the “b”. It takes quite the effort to get a rhythm going, but once I do…it’s the sweetest sound in the world. It drowns out all other noise. I become consumed. It’s a wonderful break, too, from a plastic keyboard. By comparison, I am lazy and slack-wristed on the keyboard. The delete key is so handy, sloppiness is always an option. But on the typewriter, because I don’t have the special white correction ribbon, sloppiness is not an option. Which is refreshing, because with the slowing down of the typing comes great intention, and with great intention comes great flow. I find that having to slow down my typing just that little bit gives my brain extra time to think of the next string of stuff. There’s a slight delay between brain and hand motions, and it puts me into this strange and wonderful state of ease. It feels like the most natural thing in the world. Hands take care of last minute’s thoughts while Brain and I starting setting up the next sentence. I can’t express how much more relaxed and spent I feel after typing letters. It’s a full body workout. I think I am beginning to understand how the great novels of the world were created on these things. It’s hard not to write novels when sitting down in front of them.

So far, my brothers haven’t written back. Mom thinks I’m weird for writing them using a typewriter (then again, she’s the one who threw out an antique with the last week’s leftovers, so I’m not going to count that comment). I’m going to keep writing them. Even if they never write back. At some point in the letter writing, it becomes about satiating a need to hear that thwap thwap thwap… the need to hear my writing as regular as my own heartbeat in my ears.

Haircuts and Transplants

Oh, Glory of glories! The spider condos are gone! Removed by my own hand! (and CLH’s). Carmelized then pulverized in the outdoor fire pit. Sigh.

And i thought MOWING the lawn was satisfying. Bah!

Seriously now. I don’t know what the name of those suckers were (the plant books are still in boxes, and I’m not smart enough to figure out to search for a plant picture online without any good criteria), but there were COVERED in cobwebs. It was a low growing bush (when not housing a spider population) sporting tiny waxy leaves and bright orange berries. This one, however, was hardly green anymore because it was so covered in webs. The trunk was gnarled and withered. The spiders had long ago abandoned their 14 story house of filth, but their webs had all manner of decay still hanging around in them. The plant was grey, for god’s sakes. Dis. Gus. Ting. Who knows if it was even alive? All I know is that the thing was creepy, it was half dead/half growing on the side of the house and it looked like hell. So, we cut it down, in the rain, and then we burned the thing.

We had the fire going for several hours. We’d rented a chainsaw earlier in the day and CLH cut up the old Christmas tree and the who-knows-what-other-kinds-of-tree stumps we found in the many “refuse” piles in the yard. (By the way, lawn chairs don’t compost, so don’t fucking add to the piles of organic stuff, mkay?) We had a pretty sizable pile of junk wood going- weirdly shaped roots and dried out thin crispy boughs and stuff, so we got a burn pile going and lit it up. We’d burned most of the blackberries we’d wanted gone (they’re noxious, but delicious, weeds here), and we were just relaxing after a long day’s work, looking around the yard for other stuff to burn (the lawn chair almost made it in) when CLH remembered the spider condos. We both got a gleam in our eyes, grabbed the saw and shovel, and practically ran to the front of the house. By this time the rain was coming pretty steadily. Nothing too heavy- just enough to make all the dirt stick to our clothes. We looked like chocolate bunnies when we were done, but we didn’t care. The spider condos were on their way to a fiery grave. I didn’t leave the fire until every last inch of them had turned to ash.

There was something indescribably wonderful about burning all the crap that wouldn’t stack in the pile. It was one part necessity, and one part ceremony. We, without adding to already stuffed compost bin we’d built, or the bulging yard waste container, got rid of the yuck, AND we rid our house of yet one more reminder of the rampant neglect that shows up everywhere here. Even plants can use a funeral pyre. Sure, we could have shoved the things into a wood chipper- but that would have seemed overly brutal and mechanical. The slow burn approach seemed a bit more … noble (even if i WAS doing it with a little bit of sadistic glee in my heart). CLH and I transplanted some lavender and sage plants from the backyard (where they were also looking gnarled and spindly from not being trimmed) to the spot the spider condos had been. The rain came down harder later that night, so we didn’t even have to water them. Now, instead of having our ankles raked by the tendrils of a dying old bush as we walk by, we will be greeted by the soothing (dare I say, therapeutic?) smells of lavender and sage. Ahhhhhh…. I feel calmer already.

Another “I heard it on the bus” blog posting

Let me just start out by saying that commuting by bus from the suburbs BLOWS. I’m about ready to throw in the towel with this whole “living in the suburbs” bit. The highlight of my day: a sweet young girl engaged me in conversation on the bus. Hang on, though. I need to vent.

I used to recoil at the sight of the massive spider webs embalming the pathway from the front door to my car. Now, i’m so pissed off (at the spiders, at nature, at my beep-beep-beep-heavy-machinery-backing-up-at-7-am-neighbor, at the fact that the first thing I see when I walk out my front door is a half dead monkey tree limb laced with webs and spiders the size of my eyeballs, about my too-small kitchen sink and my too-big “camp style” bathroom, about the utter lack of foresight that dictated the position of all the freakin’ light switches in this house) that i just machete right through them with my bare arms. Anyone observing from afar might think a) i have a hard time regulating the swing of my arms when i walk, b) that i’m practicing my judo chop on invisible sparring partners or that c) i’m stark raving mad.

I had to wait an extra forty minutes for the bus home because i finished work late and the buses run with less frequency after commuting hours. And this after a long and tedious day of work. The only thing that kept from going on a killing spree was the book about organic gardening i read while waiting.

The odd highlight of the day was talking to a young girl on the bus on the way in to the city. I didn’t realize until a few minutes into the convo that she was with a group of special needs kids. She shyly asked me if it was okay if she talked to me. Of course, I said. She started in on a story about how she’d won the plastic bracelet she was wearing at a carnival. I was just about to get a closer look when someone from the back of the bus hissed her name and told her to not talk to me. The voice said something like “What did we say about talking to people?” The girl tucked her chin into her neck and paused for a moment – but then she kept on going. Again, the voice from the back of the bus said the girl’s name, adding “This is your last warning”. The girl and I looked at each other; I patted her hand and said, “it’s okay- you can tell me another time. I don’t want you to get in trouble.” I turned and faced forward so she wouldn’t be tempted… but, as we drove along, i kept wondering why this girl needed to be silenced by her authority figure. What she prone to violence or outbursts? She seemed so incredibly innocent and demure… The worst part about it was that I could tell she was used to being told to shut up- but that didn’t stop her from trying to make friends on the bus anyway. I don’t know much about what it’s like to take care of a special needs kid… or what this girl’s particular story was- but it sure didn’t seem like she was hurting anyone by yakking on the bus (hell, it beats staring out the window at the cargo containers on the port). I kept thinking, as I exited the bus and started my walk to work, about how she was being treated like a criminal for talking to me. I don’t mean to turn this into a soapbox moment… but i sorta had this refrain going through my head… something like “what the world needs now/is talking on the bus/sweet talking on the bus”. Maybe that girl’s story would have made some morning commuter’s day… It just seemed, given that the rest of this city’s inhabitants can’t seem to make casual eye contact with one another on the streets (Chicago? Five gold stars for you for your pedestrians’ AWESOME sidewalk-side manners. ) that a little light convo on the bus is just what we need to make being crammed in there a little more palatable. I hope she got to tell her story to someone today…