PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

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Honk If You Love To Park In Front Of My Driveway

 

The penchant that some people have to roust friends from their couch potato lairs by leaning on their car’s horn is something that we as a nation should study, I believe. There is much to be learned from our loud, honky neighbors, most importantly how to stop them. Who hasn’t had an otherwise pleasant morning suddenly interrupted by one of their noisy interjections? Perhaps a member of our nation’s roster of unemployed sociologists might look into why these honkers don’t expend a calorie or two by getting out of the cars and making use of doorbells. Tackling this and other pressing sociological questions would, at minimum, begin the process of rebuilding our country’s decaying sociological infrastructure.

The study might also address the tendency of some folks to park in front of other people’s driveways. By “other people’s driveways” I mean mine. The wide expanse of residential streets around my home are free and clear to park as you wish, so it’s confusing why anyone would need to make it impossible for us to quickly exit our property when, say, my wife goes in to labor.

No, my wife is not pregnant. Enough of the rumor-mongering! I was talking about when she goes in to labor at the office. (Or, how about this, “when she goes into the office, to labor at her desk?”) Anyway, you’re missing the point. What if, one day, she gets a kidney stone, or goes into anaphylactic shot from a sudden allergy to sautéed dandelion greens? How can I get her to the hospital at a moment’s notice if you’ve decided to park in front of my driveway instead just a few feet in either direction of it?

I smell a movie script about a middle-aged white guy in a suit and tie who goes off the rails because of honkers and driveway-cloggers. Check your local listings.

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Unlucky

 

A newish pair of Lucky jeans, one of the several pairs of denim trousers I own, busted its stainless steel button closure a few weeks back. There was no theatrical “boing” sound, no comical launching of the button-part across the room; instead, there was a just a sad little bounce of the object on the carpet, and a sudden feeling that I’d lost some weight.

I found pliers to “repair” the part and fearlessly worked the rest of the day in those jeans, even as I knew there was at least an outside chance that my trousers would drop to my ankles unexpectedly, causing little old ladies to hoot and holler at me like a bunch of construction workers.

Then, just a day or two ago, the same button broke again. This time, half of it dropped into a toilet in the men’s room at work – a toilet, I should add, that bore evidence of recent use. So the question was, do I reach into the commode and retrieve my button half (then fully sanitize myself), or leave it and hope the local dry cleaner might be able to help with a new, authentic-looking button.

I opted to be cheap. While getting myself emotionally prepared to reach into the chilly, unclean public waters, I must have shifted weight a bit, and suddenly the auto-flush mechanism sent my forlorn button into the sewers of Cambridge, never to be seen again.

Farewell, button friend!

 

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To Hide And Hide Not

 

When I was just a teenage lad in Syracuse, NY, working mindless summer jobs for a temp agency, I was sent to one of the big area hospitals to labor for a few days as a grunt. I was a pretty good grunt back then, willing to sweat hard for my paycheck by doing the kinds of things that grunts were meant to do: move junk from one supply room to another; hump around desks and other heavy stuff; grunt a lot.

The guy I was sent to work for, whose name I can’t possibly remember, divulged to us temps that he had a side of beef in his freezer at home. This would supply his family with food for something like a year. He had steaks and burgers and filets and so forth, all butchered up and neatly packaged to be defrosted for family meals. What a bargain! None of us grunts had nearly that much cow in our freezers . (By now, this man is probably dead from heart disease, but that’s another story.)  

On the first day I was there, the side-of-beef guy that I was sent to see – let’s call him Nick – brought me and the other grunts to meet the head honcho, a mean guy behind a desk whose job clearly did not involve a lot of grunting. He had seen thousands of young jerks like us, and he wasn’t going to take any of our BS. We temps all got a stern warning: “Don’t hide. If you hide, I’ll fire you.”

What was this guy talking about? I had no intention of hiding.

The hours in this job wore on the way they do in all such jobs, in excruciatingly dull minutes, and you embraced actual tasks that you could sink your teeth into: get all those desks in that storage room and get them over to offices X, Y, and Z; wear a cheap paper mask and get rid of the radioactive waste in the radioactive waste room; etc. Hospitals are incredible mazes that take years to figure out how to get around in, and moving stuff from here to there meant you’d be wandering hallways and getting lost a lot, now and again walking in on an appendectomy. At one point, I opened a supply closet to get something and found a custodial staffer hanging out in there wearing nothing on top but a bra. She giggled when I opened the door (I think she might have been intellectually challenged, as we say these days). Was this “hiding?” Yes, it must have been, although it looked an awful lot like she might just have been changing clothes.

One day, around 11:30 in the morning, "Nick" realized that it was too late to get any meaningful work started on our new assignment of moving filing cabinets or secretly dumping used syringes before lunchtime. “You got about half an hour,” he said. “Go hide.”

Now I understood! Go wander the halls is what he meant, and act like you’ve got something to do. By the end of my stint at that hospital I was as good a hider as I was a grunt.

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Totally Unrelated

 

For a while there around the latest turn-of-the-century, I’d frequent Matt Murphy’s Pub in Brookline Village, where the host would seat you and your dinner companion at tables with perfect strangers, who don’t have any obligation to welcome you to the table or even acknowledge your existence.

Once, my wife and I went there and were seated beside a famous historian, who was having dinner with his daughter. I got my wife’s attention and made eyes at her; she furrowed her brow at me in return: “What?” As discreetly as I could, I tried to get her to notice who we were sharing the table with, gesturing with my eyes and making little jerky head motions. I could tell she had no idea what I was trying to convey. Finally, I wrote on a napkin that we were sharing a table with…you know…wink, wink (and his daughter, which was really of no consequence to either of us.)

Our dinner was now spent listening to this important man converse with his attractive twenty-something female offspring, instead of concentrating on own lives while drinking pints of draught beer and eating rabbit pie. They had sat down not long before us, and there was plenty of time to eavesdrop during our own silences. The historian was going on and on about something, and his daughter had grown not just bored, but actually really irritated. The famous professor was talking philosophically about the nature of love and said “Now, if you’d like to talk about romance—”

“I wouldn't,” snapped his dinner mate. At that moment, it suddenly occurred to me that the woman, who was about 30 years younger than the historian, was very likely not his daughter after all. And here I’d been wondering why the two were dining way across town and hadn’t thought to invite mom.

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