Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Story #2: High Noon ([Ar] 4s1 5d10)
Downtown Smalltown U.S.A. has two places to eat at lunchtime within walking distance from the place where I work, and around the corner from where Lauren works. Lauren and I choose to go to the Café by the courthouse, a little brick building shared with a New Age hippie-esque candles and perfume shop next door.
The Café, like any other ordered system, has rules about how it gets filled up. These rules were defined many years ago, and go like this:
1) The Aufbau Principle: In any given group of open tables, the one that requires the least amount of energy to get to is filled up first. Therefore, people will fill the tables closest to the door first and keep filling tables progressively further away.
2) Hun’s Rule: Atilla being a generally irritable person, he decreed during his invasion of Gaul that nobody could sit with him when he was eating. He later extended this rule to his army; thus, whenever they stopped for a pit stop at the local McDonalds his troops would go in and sit one to a table until all the tables in a building were occupied, and then and only then would his troops start to double up.
3) The Pauly Exclusion Principle: Pauly was a Smalltown lady of ill repute in the 1970s, and ran many of the shady lunchtime escort businesses in the county during that time. In order to maintain the exclusivity of her clientele and maximize profit margin, she decided that only one person of each gender may sit at each table, and therefore each table may only have 2 people.
Lauren and I are quite clearly unaware of these rules, because at 12:01 pm when we enter the restaurant and sit down everyone stares at us. This is turning into kind of a tradition; as Lauren and I don’t know anyone else here, we spend a good deal of time running around and generally raising chaos together. This leads to a lot of staring.
And speaking of staring…

Story #3: Yankee Doodle (CH3OOH and CH3OO—)
Lauren and I end up going to dinner at the Pine Mountain Grill, a uniquely American/Smalltownian experience that is 0.3M gift shop, and 0.5M restaurant. Afterwards, we decide to cruise town a little bit. Having heard rumors (true or false) that there is a Wal-Mart in Smalltown, we started to drive that way and ended up at a small-town-merchant-killing, environment-hating, globalization-homogenization-spewing Wal-Mart so small and weak and pathetic you almost wanted to wrap it in a blanket and take it to a rescue shelter. In all seriousness, I have seen FamilyMarts and 7-11s and some European countries larger than this Wal-Mart.
We enter, and spend 20 minutes trying to find the office-supply section, and probably about 40 trying to find a bath mat. Meanwhile, bemused, amused, and abused Smalltownians cause immeasurable blunt trauma to their internal organs desperately attempting to keep from bursting out in laughter at us. Finally, we approach a tiny home improvement section that would make the founders of Bed Bath and Bodyworks Beyond sad. I latch onto a beautiful and cheap (relatively- $9.86) white bath mat, all soft and fluffy to keep my feet from sogging in dampness all day. Here is the exact transcript of the discussion that ensued:

ME: Lauren, I’ve found it! Eureka! It’s my bath mat!
LAUREN: That goes around the toilet, hon. See the giant hole in it?
ME: Yeah, but it’s cheap!
LAUREN: It’s also the wrong color.
ME: What’s wrong with white?
LAUREN: You’re in a house with cats.
ME: The cats have white on their paws.
LAUREN: [Shakes head] Boys. [Picks up an ugly brown bath mat] See, this one would go so much better with the décor at the Casa…
ME: Uh huh. [Under breath] Oh sweet Lord, we’re turning into an old married couple. [Bashes head against the shelf] [Discovers shelf is a bit more rickety than it appears] [Screams as entire shelf full of bathroom decoration goes tumbling down like the walls of Jericho]

Basically, we neutralize each other entirely, and no outside interference is able to change the overall balance, or find a different solution.
As we walk out of the Wal-Mart bickering, we become aware of people trying to be discreet as they look at us out of the corner of their eyes, kids staring at us openly, dogs barking at us, and birds turning their heads to catch a glimpse, then turning back to their course just as they run smack into the automatic glass door that guards the entrance of the store. I consider what might be going on here. Then it dawns upon me that in addition to being naturally amusing to the locals as Yankees (despite Lauren having a thick West Virginia-Southern accent and me with my accentless Midwestern), we are being perceived to be much older than we are, Lauren because of her mature features and me because I am Asian.
Crap, I think to myself, we’re the new yuppie couple in town.
Lauren is sporting a black sundress, Paris Hilton model brown sunglasses, Coach bag and a (presumably) Asian trophy husband being toted around in a flamboyant cherry-red Volvo screaming up and down the “four-lanes” (highways). I am in my standard-issue collared golf shirt and some not-inexpensive jeans donated to my fashion-poor cause by a caring, charitable relative (Me being a 501© means I am completely tax-writeoffable; thus, the donations). We could not be more conspicuous in this relaxed little hip town if one of us was being titrated.

[Note from K: I don’t think titrated was the word you were looking for there]

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