A few weeks ago, one of my editors at Quilter’s Home, Jake Finch, told me that she would be in the Baltimore area for a couple days in July and expressed her hopes that we might be able to meet up while she was here. Jake, as I’ve probably mentioned before, has kind of been my champion ever since I first submitted an article to QH last year. She and her partner-in-periodical-crime, Melissa Thompson Maher, have published my humor in every issue since then, and since I lost my job earlier this year, have given me feature pieces to write as well. And these two crazy women not only want me to keep writing for them, they also want me to be, let’s say, more fully utilized by the magazine, and are actively working to make that happen. So, I was thrilled to be able to meet one of them in person, though of course my social neuroses were on high alert and kept trying to convince me that she would hate me as soon as she realized I have bad cuticles and eight chins.
We arranged to meet at a restaurant near her hotel, and since she was traveling with her husband and daughter they came along as well. I elected to leave my family at home, so that I might have the occasional opportunity to say something other than, “Please don’t put that in your nose.” Honestly, I can’t take my husband anywhere.
I recognized Jake immediately from her pictures, and I was relieved to discover that she is not a scaredy-hugger, because naturally I went for the big bear hug right away. Do you know what I mean by scaredy-hugger? Those people that hug you as briefly and loosely as possible, like they might catch your cooties? It drives me nuts, and all I can think after I discover that someone is like this is that their sex life has got to be AWKWARD. I am pleased to report that she big bear hugged me right back, thus leaving my mind relatively unsullied.
As we were making our plans a few days ago, Jake warned me, “Do NOT get sucked into a discussion of politics with my husband.” AND HOO BOY SHE WASN’T KIDDING. Fortunately, I have lots of practice in avoiding political talk. My dad has a family rule that we don’t discuss politics or religion, because the topics are just too volatile. We are a family of believers and atheists, Democrats and Republicans, and we have enough to fight about already without bringing essential polarities into it. Not that this stops my dad from trying to get something started on occasion anyway.
But the real practice came when I was in retail as an optician, because when you are repairing or adjusting a pair of glasses, the customer is sitting right there watching you, and feels compelled to chat. And many people see this as perfect opportunity to expound on some nugget of political wisdom that they’ve obviously been chewing on ALL DAY. So they’ll find any means to segue into what they want to tell you.
Me: Sure is hot out today, isn’t it?
Customer: Yep, it sure is. Can’t even get out to do any gardening today.
Me: Oh, you have a garden?
Customer: Yes, I do. And did you know that the President is going to force all of us to grow turnips in our bathtubs and feed them to lepers while dancing the tarantella?
Me: And where did you hear about this?
Customer: WHY, THE GOBLINS IN MY EAR HAIR TELL ME. HAVE YOU MET THEM?
Me: My, that’s a lovely watch you’re wearing.
I learned how to smile and nod and say absolutely nothing in return that could be construed as agreement or encouragement, and to steer the conversation in a different direction as soon as possible, often just by guiding it back to the course it had been on originally. I couldn’t risk getting into a debate with a customer, because my job was to sell them things and make them want to come back and buy more things and if the situation ended up with me going, “GET OUT OF MY STORE NOW,” it could make them reluctant to shop with us again.
So Jake’s husband did his darnedest, but I managed to duck most of his shots. So, other than how the government is going to run out of money and collapse and force us into some sort of oligarchy, we talked about kids and jobs and the magazine, and it was great fun. For me, anyway. I have a suspicion that people who know of me through my writing believe that I will be just as funny in person as I am on paper, and that ain’t the case, certainly not the first time you meet me, anyway. So, I fear they may have been disappointed, and even if they weren’t, I’m pretty sure I lost them when they kindly walked me to my car AND I COULDN’T FIND IT. They were exceptionally nice about it, but I have the feeling that if we ever meet up again the first thing Jake’s husband will say to me is, “Do you remember where your car is? Should we go make a map now, to save us the expedition later?” And then I will call him a smartass and ask him how his ear hair goblins are doing.
Honestly, though, they were very nice, and Jake is as down-to-earth and funny and sweet as I thought she’d be. I am very, very lucky to have someone like her take me under her wing and do so much to give life to my insane rantings. She is the sort of person who inspires loyalty, who knows how important it is to do so, and those are the best kinds of people to work with and for. I sincerely hope that someday I’ll have the opportunity to do for someone else what she has done for me. Assuming, that is, that she still wants to do so after the cuticles and the chins and the thing with the car. It probably depends on what her ear hair goblins are telling her.