Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur



Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 12:06 pm

Strangers talk to me. The beautiful and the scarred; the healthy and the damaged; the brilliant and the addle-brained; the shy and the outgoing: it doesn’t matter who they are, strangers talk to me. Standing in the grocery store, waiting for a bathroom stall, in an elevator, in a restaurant: it doesn’t matter where I am, strangers talk to me. Embarrassing, droll, touching, lecturing, exciting, furtive: it doesn’t matter what they talk about, strangers talk to me. Yet, every conversation is as different as the person.

Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), Essays, First Series: Prudence, 1841

Since I am the common denominator, most people think it’s my fault. They tell me that people talk to me because I’m compassionate, but I don’t really care about them. Other people tell me that it’s because I ask too many questions, but many times I never get a chance to ask any questions. I’ve been told that it’s because I am the type of girl who looks you straight in the eye in a world of people who tend to look at their feet in public. The truth of the matter is that I like to hear stories. I think people can instinctively recognize a willing audience. Part girlfriend, part priest, I can turn any place into a confessional.

Confession of a Sister

We were at the now defunct Utah Fun Dome. When I was a kid, it was called The 49th Street Galleria, and it was home to the local arcade, indoor miniature golf, roller skating and bowling. She sat next to me on the bench outside the bathrooms. As we waited for our family members to come out, I observed the declining condition of my beloved childhood playground. The ventilation cover above our heads had dust and grime clinging to it like algae on the side of a dirty aquarium. A rogue balloon flopped helplessly against it. This time, it was my fault. I started the conversation. “Walt Disney would have had a fit if he owned this place.” She followed my line of sight and shook her head.

“My sister worked at Disneyland. She said they were the best years of her life. They wouldn’t let something get out of hand like that. Everything is clean. She had to move back here.” I nodded and she continued. “Now she stays at home with her kids. She said Disneyland was the best place to work.” My husband came out of the bathroom and I stood up and said goodbye.

She left me with the vision of a beloved sister. The heroine sister: the kind that gets a great job at Disneyland. The prodigal sister: the kind that returns reluctantly to the fatherland. She ended up raising children in the homeland and considers working at Disneyland better. This sister, who has offspring and the luxury to stay at home to make sure they get the best of care, would rather be cleaning vomit off a Doombuggy. I want to talk to that sister. I want to wake her up.

Instead, I politely say goodbye to the sister that always stayed home. The dependable sister: the kind that stayed here to quietly raise her own children. The loyal sister: the kind that cherished her homeland more than adventure. This sister, who took her children to the dying and decaying Utah Fun Dome and happily rested while they noisily went to the bathroom, told me a sad and disturbing story in just a few sentences. I didn’t need to talk to this sister. She was already awake.

Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live. Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850)


Confessions of a Reader

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 6:57 am

People who don’t know me want to talk to me. I was sitting alone in a fast food restaurant and I could see him out of the corner of my eye. He was waiting in line to order his healthy sandwich with less than six grams of fat. He wasn’t staring at the menu. He wasn’t staring at the rack of potato crisps and fat-filled snacks. He wasn’t staring at the dim-witted lady behind the counter who made my sandwich so efficiently that I was grateful for those rare people like her. He was staring at me.

If an idiot were to tell you the same story every day for a year, you would end by believing it. Horace Mann (1796 – 1859)

I have been spending my lunch hours reading “The Summing Up” by Somerset Maugham. I had already enjoyed my Seafood and Crab sandwich (not under six grams of fat, mind you) and was having trouble reading because the guy in line was staring at me. I casually took a sip from my straw and looked him straight in the eyes. I was trying to tell him, “Leave me alone. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t really care what you have to tell me.” That’s not how I usually handle things, but I was an unescorted and married female. I’m not supposed to talk to strangers. My glare didn’t matter, though, because it didn’t work. He was so excited to talk to me.

“Have you read ?The Razor’s Edge’?” I shook my head and replied, “No. I think ‘Of Human Bondage’ is his best. ‘The Moon and Sixpence’ is good too, but it’s heartbreaking.” I’ll give him an essay question answer. That should make him leave me alone. No such luck. “Yeah, but that’s the best kind of story to read when you want to cry.” Wow, this guy wants to talk. “Well, I run a quotations website, so I’m reading for quotations. It’s a different kind of reading. This guy is great for quotations.” The dim-witted counter lady finally got his attention and he reluctantly turned around and ordered his sandwich after mumbling something positive. I sighed with relief.

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people. Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941)

After he left, I congratulated myself for turning on the school-marm attitude and scaring him off. After writing this, however, I regret it. I asked for advice. I wrote my weblog and asked the universe if I should dare to read another book. When the potential for an answer came, I scared it away. I should have said, “No, what is it about?” Instead of fearing him because he was a man and probably a pervert, I should have asked him my question, “I find his work disturbing. Should I dare read another book? Is it worth it?” Now, I’ll never know. He was so aching to talk about that book to someone that he was willing to talk to a stranger. I guess now I have to read it. I owe it to the stranger because I judged him unfairly.



Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 9:15 am

There are a slim number of people who don’t talk to me. They seem to be immune to my superpower. When a ride of more than five floors on an elevator is enough to hear the life story of a normal mortal, these people seem superhuman to me. I can know them for only a minute in the checkout line and recognize their immunity. What is worse is when I know them for years and they are still closed to me. Worse still, I have no stories about them.

Silence propagates itself, and the longer talk has been suspended, the more difficult it is to find anything to say. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

A typical story sounds like this: There was a woman that I worked with for three years at UBTL. She worked in the Histology department. They even put me in Histology temporarily when another girl went on vacation and I never got to know this woman. We played tennis together once and I learned no more than the fact that she had an antique typewriter stored in her closet and was wondering if she should sell it or give it away. It took me three years to learn that she had a typewriter in her closet that she never used and was unsure of how to dispose of it in an honorable manner. Three years?

There was a guy who worked in the sporting goods department at K-Mart when I worked there as a teen. He was a year younger than I was and he went to a different high school than I did. Even though he lived nearby (within skateboarding distance of my house), he went to Granger while I went to Kearns High. That’s all I can tell you about him. We had hours of lunches and breaks together in the few years that the two of us worked at that store, yet I couldn’t tell you one thing about him. He was must have been smart because he went from porter to the sporting goods department in a manner of a couple of months. That I learned just from observation. Anything else about his private life was a mystery to me. Years together and I learned nothing about him, when five minutes is usually enough to learn an entire life from a normal human.

I have often regretted my speech, never my silence. Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims

Don’t tell me that these people are shy. The shy flock to me. I know shy. I married shy. I am friends with the shy and the outgoing alike. Shy people love to tell me their stories while their family members look on in amazement. Shy people confess things to me that their clergy would be surprised to hear. These people are not shy. Well, that’s a lie. These people are shy, but that isn’t their power of immunity. These people are so guarded that not even I can learn about them. That isn’t shy. That isn’t even uber-shy. That is another animal altogether.

I don’t believe these people fear me. It’s not like they are wary of the information that they will give me because I will hurt them with it. It’s not like they don’t trust me. It’s almost like they have no need to share. It is so rare when another human being is willing to listen to us that when most people find me, they want to talk until they are empty. It is only time constraints that stop them: the elevator opens, the lady behind the counter asks them to pay or their turn for a bathroom stall arrives. No, these people who don’t talk to me don’t fear me. They just don’t need to tell me their stories.

And what a shame that is because I would like to know their stories. Where are you, Sporting Goods Guy? Did you follow the typical path of a Utah Mormon boy? College, Mission, Marriage, More College, Job, Family, Bishopric? Maybe you were too smart and your dark night of the soul got the best of you. Maybe your path was College, Mission, More College, Loss of Faith, Grief and Separation from The Church? Are you grieving your life? Are you celebrating it? Where are you?

And what about you, Histology Nun? Were you ever married? If you were, what happened? If you weren’t, what about the one that got away? You worked at a dying biomedical testing laboratory. When they went under, where did you go? What is your story now? Did you go to a hospital? Did you go to the University of Utah? Did BYU hire you? Where are you and what is your life looking like now?

Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time. Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881)

These people are like the dragonflies to me. I don’t know where they came from and I don’t know where they went. They were in my life for a brief moment and they didn’t deliver the message from the gods that they were supposed to give me. They didn’t tell me which of my habits were healthy and which were damaging. They flew and danced so quickly that I could barely see them when they were here. They remained silent when the world was screaming its stories to me.


Confession of a Security Guard

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 6:05 am

The Luxor hotel doesn’t have elevators, they have inclinators. Inclinators are kind of like Wonkavators in that they don’t just go up and down. They actually tilt at a thirty-nine degree angle, move up the side of the pyramid and then right themselves at the end of the ride. They were invented specifically for the hotel. The advertising for the hotel brags about them. It makes people curious and they want to ride them.

Of course, you’re not allowed to play on the inclinators. Only hotel guests are allowed to take a ride on them and the Luxor pays security guards to watch them 24 hours a day. Guests must show their hotel room keys to the security guard. It’s a royal pain in the butt for guests because you have to fish in your pocket for the key just to get into the inclinator instead of at the door where it is more logical. If you needed a functional room key in order to call the inclinator, I would have no trouble with that, but there is that person there, waiting for my fingers to find that damn room key.

There is that person there, wanting to tell me a story of his life. I showed him my room key. My hands were full of sushi, chopsticks, edamame, wasabi, and napkins. I fished awkwardly for the key and showed it to him so that I wouldn’t feel like a criminal. Mike wasn’t back from getting his dinner yet and the plan was that I was supposed to wait for him at the inclinator. In retrospect, I should have stood just outside the inclinator to wait for him, but I wasn’t expecting to be called to duty in a Vegas casino. I started the conversation. It was my fault, but I felt like I had to explain to the security guard why I wasn’t going up immediately, “I’m waiting for my husband. He wants a hot dog instead of sushi.” The guard nodded, “This is the place to get both.”

We were quiet for a moment and I thought that I would be able to just wait quietly for Mike, but he spoke again, “Where are you from?” It’s an innocuous enough question. People get asked where they are from all the time without confessions. I shouldn’t fear it, but something about the fact that he started the talking again braced me for the inevitable. “I’m from Salt Lake.” He nodded and asked if I drove. We did. How long did it take me to drive up? About six to seven hours. He was surprised. It usually only took him five. I made an excuse about the weather, not wanting to explain my aversion to committing crimes in a bright green Volkswagen Beetle.

“I love that city. We used to go up there all the time. I haven’t been up since before the Olympics. The freeways were all torn up and you only had two lanes with those wall things on each side.” I agreed about the “Salt Lake Auto-Luge Run” and waited for him to continue. “I usually ski at Alta, but I don’t stay there. It’s way too expensive to stay there.” I nodded thinking about the horrendous price I paid for the room upstairs just so I could have a jacuzzi tub and access to the inclinators. “I used to stay in the Ramada downtown, but now I have a roommate. His sister lives there, so we’re going to be staying with her.” I nodded and made a comment on his thriftiness. “Everything is so expensive there.” I looked at my sushi. I had paid twice what it would have cost me at my favorite place at home. “You can pay twenty dollars for a beer up at the resort.” I nodded thinking about the $13.50 I paid for a margarita at Coyote Ugly at the New York New York casino.

“I started skiing when I was I was about five years old. I would always be saying that I wanted stuff at the resort, but my parents just gave me my own cooler. Every morning we’d pack a cooler of food to eat from all day.” I remembered the cooler that my parents packed when we went to Lagoon. I remembered wishing that we could eat the greasy burgers and fries from the concession stands. If only we weren’t poor, then we could eat the burgers. I found myself wishing for the ham and cheese sandwiches fermented with mayonnaise. Nothing tasted like a sandwich that had aged half a day in a well-iced cooler. No burger or nachos from Lagoon has ever tasted as good as one of those ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo. Both are just as unhealthy, but the sandwiches taste so vividly like Lagoon. That alone may be the reason that Lagoon hasn’t been as enjoyable to me. Now that I have the money to buy the pizza at the stand, Lagoon just doesn’t taste right.

This realization came to me like a flash. To the security guard, I was a polite tourist, listening to his memories of skiing as a child. Within a second, the realization that Lagoon with a cooler is an entirely different trip than Lagoon without a cooler. He continued talking, “This time when we go, I’m stocking up my cooler every day. I’m not going to pay twenty dollars for a beer.” Mike walked up with two tiny cups of ketchup in one hand and a bag that smelled of cheese fries in the other. The security guard pressed the button to call the inclinator. I wished him well with a mind full of ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo that had been aged in a well-iced cooler.



Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:22 am

It’s hardest when I receive a confession from a friend who didn’t mean to tell me. When strangers confess their lives to me, it rolls right off my back, but when it’s a close friend, it is much harder. I haven’t gone back through my journals to track who the first confessor was, but Calvin was pretty close to the first. For all I know, adults were confessing their lives to me and I didn’t recognize it for what it was. I have received many difficult confessions, but the worst was a horrible, four-day confession from another close friend of mine that is still unspoken between us to this day.

I am still friends with this person. I want to tell the confession, but it has remained unspoken between us for so long that talking about it even as much as I am right now might shatter the entire facade. He confessed so much that I know things about him that only a lover would know, yet I’ve never been intimate with him in any way. His wife suspects that I have and it hurts like a wound every time I think about it.

I know that I receive these confessions for a reason. Even the strangers who confess what amounts to insignificant things to them, tell me stories that become embedded in my body like broken glass. Sometimes I can remove the shards, but others are difficult to pick out. Eventually my skin grows over the glass, but they are always with me and sometimes I bleed.

I have been bleeding for over sixteen years and I don’t know how to remove his confession from my skin. I received a particularly disturbing confession from an acquaintance almost a year ago that was so similar to my friend’s confession that the wound opened fully. I thought that treating the acquaintance’s confession in the manner that I felt like I should have treated my friend’s confession would heal the old wound, but I’m still bleeding. 


Confession of a Gym Babe

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:47 am

I’m still not comfortable in the locker room at the gym. Something about it just makes me think about Janean Hunt looking at me undress and asking me, “Why would you wear those pants?” Adults aren’t as vicious as teenagers, I’ve heard, but that doesn’t stop me from cringing when I have to change clothes. I’m torn. Should I hide in the changing room and make everyone think that I’m so self-conscious that I can’t let another woman see my body? Should I just change in front of everyone, subjecting myself to potential comments?

I decided to fake it until I got it. I will pretend that I’m beautiful. I will pretend that I have nothing to hide. I will keep pretending until it’s true. So, I go to the gym. I change into my jogging bra in front of all the other women. In some respects, I would rather change in front of men. They would be appreciative. Women can be ferocious. Every day, I take that leap of faith and hope no one will attack me or my pants.

Two months ago, she spoke to me. I had seen her before. She’s tiny. She wears a dark layer of mascara and eyeliner in the blackest of blacks. She has that perfect hair that never gets frizzy when she sweats. She spoke to me.

I like your hair.

I waited for the insult to follow it for only a second before I added my own.

It can be unruly. It took me so long to learn not to comb it.

It’s so thick and curly. You’re really lucky.

That was how quickly the conversation went. I was coming in while she was leaving. Over the last couple of months, I have seen her many times and greeted her cordially. I say hi. She says hi. That’s the extent of the relationship. I don’t even know her name. Last Tuesday, that all changed.


Hi. You’re breathing kind of heavy.

I am training for a 5K and today was a hard run.

I used to run a 5K, but they didn’t have it last year.

We talked about running and racing. I don’t have much time on my lunch hour, so I had to change clothes. I had to change clothes in front of her. I saved the jogging bra for last. It’s a compression bra that makes me look substantially smaller. Taking it off feels like releasing the innards of a Jimmy Dean sausage. I kept thinking that if I just did everything else, maybe she would go away before I had to release “the twins.” She kept talking to me, so I finally just took the leap of faith and changed right in front of her. I cringed, expecting some sort of catty response. Instead, the locker room became a confessional.

If the doctor knew that I was at the gym right now, he’d be angry.


I just had two biopsies taken from my left breast. That’s why I’m all bound up over here.

She indicated under her shirt. I couldn’t see the bandage, but I know that biopsies can be incredibly painful when the anesthesia wears off.

What are you doing here?

I just worked my legs. I didn’t do any upper body. I just have to exercise. It is such a stress reliever for me and I’m pretty stressed. They could have taken just one biopsy, but there were so many in there that they said they better take samples for both. They ended up giving me a hematoma, so they bound me up really tight.

You should go home and rest.

Yeah, I think I will.

I still don’t even know her name?



Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:25 am

He told me the confession from the other side of the wall. It was like a real confessional. I couldn’t see his face to see if he was lying. He couldn’t see my face to see if I disapproved.

For the last four nights, I’ve been drinking hard liquor until I pass out.

When I receive confessions like these, my first instinct is to not believe them. My psyche cries out, “No!” and most of the time, my mouth does too. It wasn’t refuted and then I instantly wanted to disbelieve it. He’s lying. He’s just telling me that to make me feel sorry for him. He’s just telling me that to make me think he’s tough.

What am I supposed to do with knowledge like that? If I’m just supposed to butt out, why would he tell me? Was it just a slip? Was he lying? Please let him be lying. Am I supposed to intervene? Am I supposed to hire the A-Team to find him drinking himself into a stupor every evening and rescue him from himself? Maybe Charlie’s Angels would be better. How do I hire Charlie’s Angels?

I went from denial to savior within seconds. You should? What you need is? I’m sure it just sounded like blah, blah, blah? My mothering routine is so tedious, it actually bores me. Even when I give advice to others, it makes me want to rebel against myself. Before I could stop myself, I was spewing advice. Worthless advice, I realize. Hell, if I had said, “You need to adopt a cat,” that would have been better advice. He didn’t even ask for advice.

He gives me the impression of a man who has been worshipping at the same altar for too long. So many prayers given to a graven image. Even though the god doesn’t reply, he keeps sacrificing at the same altar. What could I have said to this man?


Confession of a Restaurant Owner

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:09 am

It’s a nice place, so Mike and I go there pretty often. It’s a cross between fast food and a sit down restaurant. You go up to the counter, order your food and pay, then the staff brings your food to your table. No tipping allowed. The owner of the restaurant helps cook and wanders the tables, making sure that people like their food. We see him so often that he knows our faces and welcomes us back.

Last Thursday, I ordered the Mushroom Stroganoff with Beef. It comes covered with freshly grated parmesan cheese on the top. While I was stirring it in, some of the parmesan fell out onto the table. I don’t like to eat at a messy table, so I gathered the cheese and placed it on our receipt. By the time he came to the table, I had forgotten about the cheese and was happily enjoying my pasta.

“Hey, welcome back! I didn’t see you in the line. How is everything?”

Mike and I extolled his praises, but I don’t think he heard it.

“What is that? Did a sprout get into your dish? Are you sure everything is ok?”

He pointed at the cheese on the receipt. It looked like I had rejected some of my food. I tried to explain that the food was excellent.

“Oh, that’s just some cheese that fell out of the bowl. I just put it over there to keep the table clean.”

“Wasn’t your table clean?”

“Oh, I’m sure it was immaculate. It’s just that if food touches the table it feels contaminated in my mind, so I won’t eat it. It’s my personal psychosis. I love the food and the restaurant is always clean.”

I had visions of the nice girl that I’m not allowed to tip getting reamed in the back room because Mrs. Moncur doesn’t think his tables are clean. It seemed like I convinced him. Then, from out of nowhere, the confession came.

“You know, we all have weird things. Like when I’m watching television and the volume is displayed, I can’t let it be a prime number.”


“Yeah. If I’m at someone else’s house, I’ll ask them to turn it up a notch or down a notch so that it won’t be a prime number or I’ll just try not to look at the television.”   “What if the channel is a prime number?”

“That’s just fine. It’s just the volume. 17 is bad, but 18 or 16 are just fine.”   “Wow. That makes my cheese thing look a whole lot less psychotic, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s just a glitch in the Matrix.”

“Yeah. Well, have a great day.”

He shook his head briefly as if to clean the idea of prime numbers on the television screen from his memory and continued greeting customers and bringing take home boxes to ones who are unable to finish their tasty dishes.

As far as confessions go, that one is mild. I wonder if I’ll start noticing the volume numbers when I watch television now. Will his glitch in the Matrix affect me? Is it like a virus? Maybe it will work the other way. Maybe he will feel more comfortable with those pesky prime numbers the next time he sits down at a television. Maybe his confession relieved him of that fear. I’m going to pretend that’s the case. I can’t be receiving these confessions for nothing.


Gym Babe Update

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 1:44 pm

I talked to the gym babe today. I had seen her yesterday, but I was upstairs on a treadmill and she was walking out the door. I had to find out how the tests went and whether they were going to cut her up.

The tests were negative, but the doctor still wants to cut her up. She’s going to a different doctor because this one just seems to want to give her a mastectomy. She will see the new doctor in a week or so, so she’s going to go tanning. Running from one cancer into the arms of another. I recommended that she go see Iris instead.


The Pale Blonde Confessor

Filed under: General,The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 2:17 pm

I saw her sitting on a chair in the locker room after my workout. She looked incredibly sad and held her head low. In her right hand, she had a cell phone. Her pale face just looked at the phone in her hand. My instinct was to ask her how she was doing, but everyone keeps insisting that I start these confessions, so I kept my mouth shut and started changing clothes.

I automatically assumed that she was love sick. She looked like he had just broken up with her and left her hanging by her little blue phone in her hand. She sighed heavily and I still resisted the urge to ask her what was the matter. No matter how silent I am sometimes, the confession still comes to me. Her cell phone rang.


“Hi. I’m at the gym. I’m feeling really sick. I always try to eat before I work out, because if I don’t, I’ll get sick. I didn’t eat this morning.”

“I’m just feeling really nauseous and dizzy.”

There went my love sick theory out the window. She was so young that it never occurred to me that she could actually be sick and trying not to puke. I felt like a heel for not asking her how she was doing and giving her some sympathy.

“I was going to go tanning, but I think I’ll just go home.”   “I don’t know. I’m not feeling very well and I look like…”

The voice on the other end of the line talked for awhile and she listened with her head nearly between her knees. I tried to change quickly so that she wouldn’t notice that I was eavesdropping on her conversation.

“I guess we could go to lunch if you want.”   “Well, you just can’t have a day without seeing me, can you?”

There went the love sick theory, again. Not only was she not jilted, she was pursued and desired by the voice on the other line.

“Well, I just came from the gym, so I’m not pretty, but I’ll see you.”

By the time she hung up, I was at the makeup mirror. She was still sitting on the chair, hunched over and sighing. Her long blonde hair was tied haphazardly in a blonde knot of frizz and strands, but she was very wrong. She was perfectly pretty and I wanted to trade her lunch date for my engineers waiting for me to type their letters.


The Familiar Stranger

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The Familiar Stranger is a person who you see on a regular basis, but choose to ignore. He is the walking guy with the cowboy hat and the trench coat in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />West Jordan. He is the homeless guy on the corner of I-80 and 700 East. She is the girl at the gym who exercises every day at lunch time on the elliptical trainer. She is the person who drives the neon green car in the opposite direction every day. You never talk to them, yet you recognize them every day. You miss them if they aren’t there.

I had never heard the phrase before May of this year, when Boing Boing directed me to this article at The Feature. I now know that the paper describing this strange relationship has existed since 1972, but I’m so behind on reading obscure research papers from psychologists that I don’t think I would have ever gotten to that one on my own.

Stanley Milgram was the same psychologist that brought forth the idea of Six Degrees of Separation. His idea of The Familiar Stranger is also concerned with knowing people, but these are people that you choose to ignore. Berkley is doing more research on this idea.

Ever since I heard about this concept a couple of months ago, I have been thinking about it. I thought maybe that it might explain the confession problem that I have. Maybe, I thought to myself, I’m talking to familiar strangers, breaking the “ignore me” rule. Maybe that misstep of unspoken etiquette is the explanation for varied and personal confessions I receive on a regular basis. Maybe I notice the familiar strangers in my life a little more than other people do and I end up inviting them into my life by talking to them instead of ignoring them like I’m “supposed” to.

Since my discovery of this concept, a movie is in the works. Some slasher movie, I guess. Sure, the familiar stranger could be malignant, but the idea of the familiar stranger being your savior is more intriguing to me. Why don’t they write a movie about someone who is on the subway every day and sees the same people every day and the train gets stuck or maybe it’s an elevator to a huge building like the World Trade Center that houses many different businesses? These people who see each other every day really get to know each other and eventually fight to stay alive together, creating a bond. I’d rather watch that, but it’s so hard to convey the idea of a person who you see every day, but choose to ignore. How do you do that on film?

This whole concept has me thinking about all of those people that I see every day and ignore. Would I live a fuller life if I talked to them? Would I just be inviting more strange and heartbreaking confessions? Should I ignore them? Should I avert my eyes? Am I overstepping some invisible line every day, causing discomfort in others? Should I just stay in the house and avoid human contact at all costs? Should I get a BlueTooth phone so that I can see how many of my familiar strangers are nearby? Should I purposely go to different places in the city to avoid these people? Do people on the Internet count? If I read someone’s blog, but never comment, are they a familiar stranger? What about the people who lurk on my blog? How does whuffie fit in to all of this? This whole idea has my head spinning and I don’t know how I think about it all.


Confession of a FedEx Driver

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

“I saw you driving your truck on I-89 at lunchtime. You didn’t see me because I was walking.”

“I try not to hit pedestrians.”

“I was on the sidewalk, so it’s not surprising that you didn’t see me.”

“Did you just want to get some fresh air?”

“The day was so beautiful that I just decided to take a walk.”

“The weather is so nice. I’m just dreading the winter. Once it snows, I’m ok, but until then I just dread it. I wish it was like this all year ‘round.”

Normal people stop talking at this point, but there is something the matter with me and I say the one thing that touches people off.

“Well, then you need to move to San Francisco.”

“I’m actually from San Francisco.”

“Really? That’s weird. Why’d ya move here?”

“Well, my wife is from here. We had four kids then.”

“This is a good place to raise kids.”

“We’ve been here seven years. Two of my kids have never seen San Francisco. I’ve never been back. We were going to go last year, but then we got pregnant. We were going to take the kids to Disneyland. I took them to Lagoon instead.”

“Disneyland rocks compared to Lagoon. You’ve gotta take the kids to San Francisco to see the Exploratorium.”

“Now we have six kids. My oldest is starting college this fall. We just took her up last weekend.”

“Wow! Do you miss her?”

“Yeah. She’s kind of headstrong like I am and I’m even missing the fighting. She’s only up at Snow College. Her roommate has a car, so we are going to see her this weekend.”

I’m feeling uncomfortable knowing so much information about our FedEx driver.

“Well, I’m off tomorrow, so I’ll see you Monday.”

He walks out and I’m stunned that our younger than his years FedEx guy has a daughter who’s going to college this year. I’m overcome with the feeling that I will never see a daughter of mine go to college and I suddenly hate him for it.


Number 10

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The elderly couple in front of us were physically fit and well dressed. It was their first time to the café, so they were confused about the ordering process. The employees patiently helped them and gave them their number to claim their sandwiches. Then it was our turn. We ordered and received our own number. Mike noticed it.

“We’re number 1!”

I wasn’t really listening, but it didn’t take us long before we were quietly chanting it,

“We’re number 1! We’re number 1!”

The couple smiled at us and the wife held up her number. “We’re number 4.”

I laughed and replied, “Well, someone has to be number 4.”

The elderly gentleman answered, “As long as we’re not number 10. In Korea, you don’t want to be number 10.”

For a second, I thought that there was some cultural significance to the number 10 in Korea. I thought that there was an Oriental story behind the number 10. “Why? Is it unlucky?”

The man shook his head, “In Korea, it was dangerous to be number 10.”

I suddenly realized that he hadn’t studied the Korean culture. He had served in the Korean War and he was talking about a sort of soldierly superstition that meant that they had lost more than one number 10. Maybe in a grisly death. An uncomfortable silence fell between us and the happy mood of the café sounded loud and obnoxious for a moment.

“My grandpa served in the Korean War.” I said, remembering my grandpa up in Billings, alone by choice.

He answered me, “He did?” He tried to keep his voice light.

“Yeah, he never talks about it.”

“Yeah… you never talk about it. I only mentioned it… it was a joke…”

I smiled and was suddenly grateful that he shared even that small bit with me. “My grandpa loves that show, MASH. He would watch it every day. Now, he likes JAG, too.”

“He does, eh? It was an ok show, but I wouldn’t watch it every day.”

“When I was little, I used know that grandpa would almost be home when the music for MASH came on. That’s how I told time when I was little, by the TV.”

“Well, when you see your grandpa again, you tell him you ran into a guy who was up on the 38th Parallel. It was right between the North and South Border.”

I repeated his directions and promised that I would talk to my grandpa about him. The man smiled and got his soup and sandwich from the friendly employees at the counter. We nodded goodbye at each other and didn’t say another word.


Overheard Confession at Weight Watchers

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

“He can’t see the color red. Like, if something is pink, he can’t see the red in it. It just looks off-white to him. When we were first married, he brought me roses. He said that he brought me these white roses for all these romantic reasons. You, know, like how the white represented our relationship and stuff. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that they were pink.”

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