Tuesday, September 06, 2005

All That and a (Small) Bag o' Chips

“Did you ever have to make up your mind?”

This song lyric keeps running through my head. I don’t know the artist, don’t really care to. Most of the tune has nothing to do with my current situation -- it’s about some skeazy guy who can’t decide whether to stay with his girlfriend or “get distracted by her older sister.” I’m playing my violins for you, buddy.

No, it’s time for me to “make up my mind” about bigger issues. Or the issue: my entire future.

Got any suggestions?

At the moment, I’m asking myself if I’m an editor with a side interest in psychology or a psychologist with a side interest in editing. Reading between the lines of this sentence, you might conclude that I won’t go back to Tulane, or even back to school. But anyone who uses the cliche “reading between the lines” (or the often unnecessary adjective "current") probably shouldn’t be a professional editor.

Last time I checked, neither editors nor psychologists routinely use the word “skeazy.” Maybe I should be a blogger.

“It’s not often easy and not often kind.”

No, not kind at all. There are few feelings I hate more than uncertainty. Humiliation, looming confrontation, and toe-stubbing come close, but lack-of-direction sends me into padded wall mode. My biological father used to say, “I don’t want to be well-rounded. I want to be pointed in one direction.” That’s me, too.

I’m not really seeking ideas. Or pity. I’ve received more than my deserved share of both. Though Katrina has left me disoriented, it hasn’t really displaced me -- I have my home in Tennessee; lovely friends; and, oh, one other thing: a big chip.

I don’t mean Dorito. This chip is on my shoulder, not in a bag. It’s not large and triangular (or nacho cheesy). It’s really more Frito-sized. But it’s long overdue.

Though I’m unsure of many things, I know that, pre-Katrina, I was the least assertive person you’d ever met (or not met). You might have called me a doormat, but I prefer to think of myself as a welcome mat. Telemarketers, you are welcome to chat with me for 5-10 minutes. Red Honda, you are welcome to cut in front of me; your destination is likely more important than mine. Drunken frat boy, you are welcome to hit on me, and I’ll just smile and ignore you. No need to say “thank you.” You’re all welcome.

That was then. Enter: hurricane. Exit: welcome mat.

What’s the psychology of this phenomenon? (Psychology, editing, psychology, editing...). Again, it’s pure selfishness. I’m not Jesse anymore; I’m The Hurricane Victim. You’re welcome to step on or over Jesse, but for The Hurricane Victim...you better stand up and recognize, boy, or step aside.

Example #1: The exodus from New Orleans. Pre-hurricane, I suffered minor auto-phobia. As in, I wouldn’t drive. Okay, if I absolutely had to drive....If your head is falling off, I’ll drive you to the hospital. If it’s just an arm or a torso, maybe you can hitch with someone else. Driving requires assertiveness, even aggressiveness. Once you’re behind the wheel, there’s no way of saying “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry.” I’d like to get in your lane, but you won’t scoot over, so nevermind. I kind of wanted to go to this strip mall over the interstate, anyway.

Something about the word “evacuation” changed my driver’s mentality. Perhaps because “safety” is a slightly more important destination than “Wal-Mart.” On the Saturday of my flee from N.O., I took Andie Acura on the road for the first time in five days -- since my mother left the city. I can now personally identify with road rage, or Darwinism. Blinker be damned. You are going to let me in your turn lane right now. It’s survival of the fittest, and my sedan is in far better shape than your SUV.

“Did you ever have to finally decide?”

Example #2: Chicago. There are lots of stories from Chicago (more to come), but for this post, I’ll only share one. The setting is Friday, 9/2, on the steps outside the Hancock Tower Cheesecake Factory. The characters are me, Jessica, Jessica’s boyfriend Nick, and a leering, beer-in-paper-bag-drinking homeless guy. To be fair (and PC), the guy might not have been homeless, but he was jobless. I know this because he told me.

Scenario: Jessica, Nick, and I are chatting while waiting for our outdoor table. Beer Bag Guy totters over and plops down at my knee. He extracts a cigarette from his paper bag and puffs amiably in our direction. That’s fine, but Jessica is asthmatic, and I can’t say that I enjoy secondhand carcinogens. So, the three nonsmokers shift a few steps away from BBG. Less than a minute later, he’s at my knee again. “What the hell, lady? Hey, I ain’t got a job....”

Hold on a minute. Before the hurricane, I would have smiled sympathetically, opened my wallet, engaged in the requisite 5-10 minute conversation.

As I’ve said, that was then. BBG got on my chip. It’s not that I have some Scrooge-like grudge against charity. I don’t want to “decrease the surplus population,” but I do think charity should be, well, charitable. Not bullying. Time to scoop up the welcome mat.

“I don’t have a job either,” I snapped. “I just evacuated my home.”

BBG took his Budweiser and left.

“Did you ever have to make up your mind?”

I realize this all sounds a little b-witchy. Wait a few weeks, and I’ll be the Statue of Passivity again. Give me your tired, your poor, your homeless, your dateless, your call-plan pushing. Whatever.

But in the meantime, let me in your lane, and please, change the radio station.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Blessed is he who in grace turns the ewe on the spit"
--Evalita 6:22

7:57 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

More comment spam. Avoid it... unless you have bad credit.

There's nothing wrong with chips. In fact, they're good every once in a while. Stick with the low-fat variety and scarf em down. You've earned it.

But, forgive me. You're not looking for advice (or pity), so instead.... a bad joke:

A dog goes into a hardware store and says, "I'd like a job please."

The hardware store owner says, "We don't hire dogs. Why don't you go join the circus?"

The dog replies, "What would the circus want with a plumber?"

10:11 PM  
Blogger Jesseanna said...

:-)

That is much like the gorilla who walks into an ice cream parlor and orders a milkshake.

Thinking that the gorilla is none too bright, the clerk charges him $5.50. "We don't serve many gorillas here," he chuckles to another customer.

The gorilla says, "At $5.50 a shake, I can see why not."

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, these are strange comments for sure. Apparently you've expanded your audience! I think I like Jesse with a chip. I imagine it makes you fiesty (which I hear is a great way to make acquaintance, hint hint). Remember how you were my conversation starter last week (well not starter but a way to talk to people who I don't know who talked about the hurricane)... They are all asking about you, wishing you well. They'd send you gifts but, uh, I figure I shouldn't give out your address to strangers. However, I know that if the right person walks up, I'll pass that address on with a one-way plane ticket to your 'burb. -A

11:23 PM  
Blogger Jesseanna said...

To anonymous (whom I erased): Actually, I didn't cuss out the homeless -- he cussed out me. If he was, indeed, homeless.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bitch, just give him a dollar next time

9:16 PM  

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