Friday Five

1. I was subway surfing on a very crowded 2 train during the morning rush, my book clutched to my chest. A man, mere inches away, said, “You like that book?” I’m not sure how he even knew what book it was as only the top corner of it was visible. And it was the back cover at that. I nodded hesitantly. I am only a few chapters into the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, but I do like it so far. I wasn’t lying. The man nodded as well. “He’s my brother-in-law.” I told him that I’d seen Foer on Good Morning America or some such program recently and decided to get a copy. “Yeah, he does the circuit. Yeah,” the guy said, a bit wistfully as if maybe he, too, is an aspiring writer and his brother-in-law is stealing his potential. At that point it felt like it would have been a bit tacky to ask if he knew Foer’s editor at Little, Brown.

2. A second ocean garbage patch has been found floating in the Atlantic between the Azores and Bermuda. Like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch discovered a decade ago, the one in the Atlantic is thousands of square miles wide. A vortex of currents swirls together all of the deritus (mostly plastic) making it hard to see from the surface. It goes without saying that this is terribly harmful for the sealife who try to eat it and birds who get entangled in it. One of the research teams even found a trigger fish trapped alive inside a plastic milk jug. It’s estimated that as much as 80 percent of marine debris comes from land, according to the United Nations Environmental Program.

3. I learned an interesting lesson at work. It had nothing to do with my job of course (which shouldn’t be surprising). My boss was telling a few of us standing around the proverbial water cooler about her daughter who plays on an intramural soccer team. At a recent match every time the girl missed the ball or was out of position, she shyly shrugged her shoulders as a kind of apology. My boss tried to explain that doing so invites criticism. It allows others to offer their two cents in a way that a tall and confident attitude does not (aka the “You talkin’ to me” pose). I’d never thought about it before, but this is exactly the trait native New Yorkers exude in spades, self-assurance combined with the vaguest hint of threat.

4. This week I was sidelined for about 36 hours with a migraine. I get them regularly, often enough to have some serious (read expensive) prescription medication. Joan Didion wrote a great essay, “In Bed,” about suffering from migraine. As a child, her doctors thought she was making it up. (One prescribed an enema to cure her.) Over the years Didion pointed out that research has proven it is a real affliction, affecting mostly women (though notable men include Thomas Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant) who “tend to be ambitious, inward, intolerant of error, rather rigidly organized, perfectionists.” Umm… But a most interesting side effect of migraine came to light recently when a British woman found herself speaking with a Chinese accent. I wonder how I’d sound with a French accent. Oui.

5. I had a dentist appointment for a routine cleaning. I’d made the appointment months ago as it seems that is how long it takes to get in when the office is only open from 9-4 Monday -Thursday and they close for lunch. When I arrived, the girl (I’ll call her girl since she didn’t look to be older than 15) behind the desk told me that I wouldn’t be seen today. See, despite having said on no fewer than 3 separate occasions that I have a new dental insurance plan (even when they called the previous day to confirm the appointment), I wasn’t told that I had to “choose” my dentist.  Apparently it was my fault because she never, ever forgets to tell patients that they have to do this. And all receptionists in medical offices are angels. Despite that it took me 20 minutes to get there and that I had this appointment for 4 months, rules are rules and they in place for a reason. She looked at me as if she was dead inside.  That was it. Case closed. End of discussion. Not a problem. You want me to choose my dentist. I won’t be choosing this one.

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