I was standing in line last night at Key Food, about to grab some food for dinner. It was 7:30, one of the rare nights I'm actually off work at a decent, human hour. Even though there were seven or eight registers, the food mart had only one open. One woman begrudgingly ran our food over the scanner, taking her time. There were nine people in line. I was the ninth.
I have this habit of verbalizing my disgust. It's one of the few things my filter hasn't adjusted to as I've grown up. If I get incredibly frustrated I will breath between my teeth and whisper out whatever is on my mind. When I was younger I would let things fly no matter when, even if the person I was calling a "stupid fuck" happened to still be mere feet away. It caused a problem or two. Picked a fight or twelve. Me and my big mouth. But it's not that bad anymore. Most of the time I'm aware of it, so if I happen to let something slither out at work, I'm usually able to hold if off until after the person is out of earshot. So at least I've learned something.
Still, it hisses out from time to time and I'm not aware I'm speaking out loud, even if it is under my breath. So I was standing there last night looking at all the empty registers and I thought, "If this place had a suggestion box I would write that it's probably a good idea to have more than one person manning the registers when you have eight fucking people in line." I exhaled loudly.
The woman ahead of me snapped her head around and smiled at me. "You'd think that's a good idea, wouldn't you, but when my boys were growing up they went through a real rebellious phase. I couldn't reach them, they thought I was uncool and probably not worth all the hassle. So I told them I was setting up a suggestion box. Anything they could think of that I could do better, I wanted to know about it. No matter how silly it might seem, I wanted them to write me suggestions on how I could be a better mom. I just wanted to be close to them. I just wanted to know them." She paused and laughed. "That turned out to be a terrible idea. They wrote me things I didn't want to know. 'When you hug us there's always this smell, it makes us choke.' 'You embarrass me in public; I don't like being seen with my friends around you.' 'I hate you for grounding me.' 'The present you got me was not what I wanted; I suggest you buy me something better next time.' It was a terrible idea. Of course, they love me very much, and our relationship is much improved, but that stupid suggestion box caused me a lot of heartache. They were little things, you'd think they were insignificant, but they really hurt. Then I decided to throw away the suggestion box. I was their mother. It didn't matter what they suggested, I was going to raise them how I thought was right." She locked eyes with me and smiled. I smiled back.
You rarely get that with a stranger. You hardly ever get that unveiled honesty, somehow one just drops all layers of pretense and decides to tell you a story. It hardly ever happens. And yet it should, and more often too. It was a wonderful little story, and has stuck in my head since.
And yet, despite what I can only assume should amount to a universal truth about the negative effects of the suggestion box, I find myself unable to withhold, or perhaps it's just that the filter isn't there as it should be and I'm about to talk under my breath, just loud enough for all of you to hear here.
The Suggestion Box:
- Dogs shouldn't wear sweaters. They really shouldn't. Not only do they look stupid, they also look humiliated, as though a central part of them has failed. I hate to break it to you people, but as much as that pet is a member of your family and does have a personality, if you were to leave it out among the elements it would probably find a way to adapt. It has fur, despite your every grooming effort, and that fur will grow. The sweater does absolutely nothing but offend its natural animal nature. Please, it's already indoors, and probably loves you, there's no reason to love it back so poorly.
- And booties. Don't even get me started on booties. It's a fucking dog. Take the fucking booties off your little thing.
- And it's never the big dogs that bare these embarrassments; it's the little ones. These things aren't even dogs really. They're rats. They're not even rats, because you don't take a rat for a walk and you don't put your dog in an aquarium. They barely even qualify as pets; it's more like a football with legs. Please get a real dog.
- And if you do have to get a 5 pound bundle of cuteness, there is no reason to carry it everywhere. This. Is. An. Animal. Exercise is probably good for the little tike, and I'm not talking about the near aneurysms it has as it yaps incessantly at me while I cross the street. That's a heart attack waiting to happen. Maybe if you walked it a little more it might find it behaves a little bit like, you know, a wild creature. If you feel the need to take something tiny and dress it up and carry it around do us all a favor and just have a kid.
- Don Cheadle should win Best Actor. There. I've said it. And it's true. As remarkable as Jamie Foxx was in Ray, which is not that good a movie, by the way, what he did amounts to a magnificent impression. I think. I'm not an actor so I wouldn't know. But his job in Collateral was much more natural and effecting than Ray and it didn't have any of the obvious mannerisms. What Don Cheadle does in Hotel Rwanda is heartbreaking. I suggest he win Best Actor. He deserves it.
- Brad and Jen should get back together. I know, I know, I shouldn't stoop to the level of caring about this shit, but it bothers me. It really does. I kind of liked them as a couple, and was comfortable with all their perfection. It was like watching to glowing statues together. Besides, Brad's kind of cool and it was refreshing in an odd way to see such precise human beings seemingly enjoy life together. I'm disturbed by their parting and I want them back together.
- Embrace pop music. Not all of it. Most of it is crap. Ashlee Simpson has no talent. But if you ignore pop music as a pose because you think what Bright Eyes or Blonde Redhead or L'Altra or k-os offer is far more rewarding for the soul (which they are) you find that you miss out on some really good, just fun beats and styles. Nelly Furtado's second album was a beautiful piece of pop. Justin Timberlake had some crystalline moments on his solo debut. Hell, I hated Interpol because everyone liked them. How stupid is that? I didn't even listen to them until Paul Winner tipped me to their second album over drinks one night, and now I can't take them off my damn iPod. Pop music is fun. It can bring balance to your overserious life. Embrace it.
- Buy an iPod. You will thank for this one. Just buy it. It is the greatest and most sinister thing ever invented. Not a day goes by that I don't have it hooked to my ears somehow. I can't wait for the day that they implant an iChip into my brain. I'll be the first in line. After Bob.
- Go see a Broadway show. Some of the most remarkable things I've seen have come on those stages. They change the pace from books and movies and television and there is just something about live theatre that is rewarding in a way few things are. I went to see Wicked with my family a few weeks ago, which is just one jumbled, turgid mess of a musical. But near the end of the first act the sublime Idina Menzel sang a song called "Defying Gravity." I've never seen a moment like it. I've had few moments like it in my life. It was perfect. And that is something that rarely transfers in another medium.
I'm going to stop now. It's getting a little preachy and fluffy, and I think I even wrote something about "holding on to something no matter what anyone thinks," which is just a tad too far down the pretentiousness turnpike. But from time to time I'll pull out the suggestion box and see what's inside. Despite what the lady at the store said. Although she was probably right.