Lately, checking out of any store goes exactly like this.

"Did you find everything you need, sir?"

"Sure. Let's say that."

"What's your phone number?"

"No."

"It's for our rewards program."

"Still no."

"Are you signed up for our rewards program?"

"No, and I don't want to."

"Do you want to sign up for our rewards program?"

At this point, I look at the poor people behind me in line, each silently praying that I don't make them run even later. 15 minutes ago, I was them.

"But if you signed up for our rewards program, you'd save $1.12 on today's purchase."

"No."

"I don't understand. Cheaper is always better."

"No."

"Okay," the clerk says, rolling her eyes at my stupidity. "Do you want to round up and contribute to orphaned monkey babies with cleft pallettes?"

"No, but you can round down and contribute yourselves." 

"I don't understand."

That's a fact.

When your arm is in a sling, strangers are suddenly incredibly thoughtful. "Can I help you carry that out to the car?" I hear every single day. People lunge to open doors for me. If there's no task to perform, they simply ask me how I am doing, with genuine concern.

"Now I know how it feels to be a hot chick," I remarked bitterly.

"You know," Inger began, "That stuff doesn't happen as much as you'd.... think... for.... ummmmm................. people.... that.... other people... might.... consider... attractive..."

role model

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"Good lord!" exclaimed my boss, Sal, when he saw my Inbox during a meeting. Specifically he saw that one guy sent every visible piece of mail, some 25 in a row. This guy is Barry. Barry works for Sal, too.

"Yeah," I said. "I've been assuming that you don't want me spending several hours a day reading all the crap he sends me."

I assumed correctly. Sal raged at length about how Barry never does what he's told, and he does what he's explicitly told not to do. Sal's patience is clearly at its limit.

"I mean, I sure as hell don't have to repeatedly tell you to not work, John. You hear that and run."

get busy living

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Faced with weird new shoulder pain after my head-on collision, I've been grappling with the possibility that my shoulder surgery, which had a 50% chance of failure before the accident, is likely to fail. I lived without a rotator cuff for months and got fairly good at coping, but the fact remains that I would never be able to lift much again. Or throw anything. Or play a sport. Or defend myself. Any 100 pound girl could beat the crap out of me. It's like I have a gaping wound and only one arm. One weak, uncoordinated arm.

It's the vulnerability that bothers me most. At one especially low point, I lamented this to Allie. "I am not living like this. I can't defend myself."

"Defend yourself from what?" she asked, incredulous. "I never have to defend myself."

"People. It happens more than you'd think."

"You know, you could just not put yourself into positions where you're likely to get punched. Maybe not call assholes assholes, for starters?"

"I'm not living like that, either." There was a long silence.

"So basically, you want me to be a different person," I said.

"Pretty much since we met, yeah."

totally

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Last Thursday, I was driving in a straight line when a car suddenly pulled across my path. If that sounds familiar, it's probably because it happened in September, too. This isn't to be confused with the boulder that destroyed my Jeep in December, necessitating the purchase of the car which met its end Thursday.

My driving record enjoyed 27 years of nothing, but that was followed by three accidents and two totallings in seven months. All caught by my dash cam, which I bought eight months ago.

Florid Stank Troll John was the first to suggest causality. He would not be the last. Many have chimed in: it's the dash cam's fault. "You should give it to someone you hate," said my boss, Sal.

I walked into the same dealership I entered not four months ago. The same salewoman spotted me. "Do you hate the car I sold you that much?"

"I'm returning it. It's defective," I said, showing her the photos of the totaled car.

"What is it with you?"

What indeed.

i'm not doing this right

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A quirk that I associate with Cooterville is the 55 year old great-grandparent. They crap 'em out young here, and they think nothing of it. I, myself, think something of it. Specifically, I think "Yeah, I guess my life would suck ass too if I'd tried to have babies as a teenager."

Inger's mother is exactly my age. Normally this would creep me out, but see above. Ain't my fault generations of babies had babies. But Inger is 1) visibly younger than me and 2) visibly at my house all the time. She threw herself into my shoulder situation with gusto. First, she brought pizza to my hotel room on the evening of surgery. The next morning it was doughnuts. It really hasn't stopped. She unpacked most of my stuff. And she'll be bringing me doughnuts this morning when she comes over to paint. Normally I wouldn't allow her or anyone else to baby me like this, but times being what they are...

My new neighbors have noticed. If they haven't referred my wife outright, they simply ask if she's my wife.

Inger is a single mother of three. She's had two heart attacks and a stroke, stemming from an onslaught of medical issues that include kidney failure and, most recently, cancer. Thanks to chemotherapy, she's been vomiting between unpacking boxes. She is a spectacular mess.

"So is that girl your wife?" asked a new neighbor yesterday.

"Yeah. She's my participation trophy wife."