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True South

Make a Note of It

A catalog of the oddities of life

By Susan S. Kelly

For a certain kind of writer — OK, this kind of writer — what’s in your Costco cart, and what you do at night to get ready for bed, is invaluable and fascinating. Unfortunately, this sort of ephemera, discussed offhand in a grocery store parking lot, or city park, or next door on the treadmill, or at the office water cooler, tends to get lost, forgotten or ignored while you’re bringing in the trash cans, refilling the copier paper tray, or debating shredded or chunk parm.

So I make a practice of writing everything down, copying it to the computer, printing it out, punching holes in it, and filing it in notebooks under tabs, just like you did in fourth grade. A new year seems like a good time to revisit these collected works, and reconfirms my opinion that people will tell you anything.

What you may classify, in today’s parlance, as oversharing or TMI is pure gold for a writer. You never know when you’ll need an offhand comment like, “My grandchildren all sound like outlaws or whaling ships: Sophie Morgan. Casey Jackson. Wyatt James,” to punch up a scene. Or my friend’s house cleaners, a gay couple that comes while she’s at work, and routinely leaves complaint notes in the fridge saying, “Why don’t you get something decent to eat?” And while we’re on the subject of fridges, there’s my friend who told me she looked so terrible one day that she couldn’t go out in public. Instead, she went to the drive-through window at Krispy Kreme and bought four bottles of milk. Because she remembered that, as a child, Krispy Kreme had the best milk.

It pains me that I will likely never find a place to use this email: “Remind me to tell you the story some time about the husband of our class valedictorian (who herself picked her nose and ate it in class) who came to a hometown funeral and his tooth moved when he talked. I didn’t see it, but it was well reported by another friend.” Still, I’m comforted that, sooner or later, I’ll probably be able to fit in my Charleston friend’s road trip with her history-buff father to visit all the Civil War battlefields. But only the ones that the Confederacy won. So much for revisionist history. And Gettysburg.

Next time you make a move, stay focused on what’s really important and do what one friend did: While everything’s being wrapped, packed and stacked, draw a big smiley face on the box that has all the liquor in it.

Embarrassment tales are a dime a dozen, but here’s one I bet you won’t find in that long-gone “Was My Face Red” page in Reader’s Digest. The day after giving birth, a friend was immensely relieved when the doc came into her hospital room. She opened her gown, showed him her breasts and said, “I am sooo glad you’re here. My milk has come in and they hurt so badly and can you look at them and tell me if they’re normal and give me something for them?” The doctor looked at the floor for a long minute, then said, “I’m the pediatrician.”

But seriously, what is it about underwear? Stories tend from the mild — the friend who stained (OK, steeped) — all her heirloom linens in tea for the perfect antique shade, which was inspired by the memory of her mother boiling her bras when she came home from boarding school, to the lawyer who took off his blazer at work, not realizing a pair of underwear was stuck to the back of his shirt. Let that be a lesson to check your lint traps. Tricot has a natural affinity for non-iron Brooks Brothers shirts.

Underwear-related and completely unedited from the notebook original, this gem of a tail, I mean tale:

I know airport toilets are all about efficiency, but they are over-zealous. The best news is that every toilet I visited had seat covers plentiful, and I visited plenty between RDU, Dallas and Denver. So, I head for the toilet with 90 coats, backpack, luggage. As you disrobe, the toilet flushes because you’re moving. Then, I get the toilet cover assembled, and another auto-flush because you’re moving. Which creates the problem, because you’ve set the cover on the seat and it flushes the cover down, so you have to get another cover assembled. Of course it flushes again as you turn around to take off pants to sit down, but this time you’re holding the cover, but it keeps flushing forever and your cover is fairly mangled, so by that time you are holding it, trying to undo your pants and sit on it while it’s flushing, but still maintain sanitary integrity holding the seat cover and you sit down in a hurry still holding the seat cover that is trying to go down the toilet. It was exhausting and a complete waste of water.

And it’s only January.  OH

Susan Kelly is a blithe spirit, author of several novels, and proud grandmother.

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