The Town Hag

I have such a raging Type A personality now in my mid-forties that I get things done well before their deadlines.  It annoys most people because I brag about it all the time.

Like, I’ll be in a teacher’s meeting and suggest that we move dates up: “Why wait until January 5th to finalize grades for the quarter? Why doesn’t everyone just have them in before we leave for Christmas Break like I do to make it easier on the secretary since she’s the one who has to print the hard copies?” 

I put that phrase “like I do” in italics because I hope it helps you to visualize how I drop my voice a hundred octaves and flare my nostrils self-importantly when I say something like that.  It sounds more like “LIKE IIIIIIIIIIIIIII DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” in the obnoxious tone of a braying beast.

It reminds me of this annoying girl who lives a couple of neighborhoods over from me. I call her the town hag and I try to avoid her, but in a small-ish city like ours, you can’t help but run into each other occasionally no matter how many grocery store aisles you duck behind. 

One evening a few years back she knocked on my front door, and my heart skipped a beat before sinking all the way to the pit of my stomach when I realized who it was. I widened my eyes, placed my index finger to my lips, and pointed to the front door.  The dog was barking wildly as my kids and husband and I ran around the house, turning off all of the lights and TV’s before lowering ourselves slowly…quietly…to the couch to sit in frozen silence away from any windows.  (It went so perfectly that you’d have thought we’d practiced it like the tornado drills kids have in school.)

I didn’t get one peep of complaint from either of my two boys or my husband about what might have seemed, to some, to be an over-the-top response on my part to her knock on the door.  No, they remained as still as statues.

They understood.

It took fifteen minutes for her to take the hint and leave even though she had to have noticed the lights blazing when she pulled into our driveway.  It’s like the tough love advice my dad gave me about a boy when I was 16 years old:  “How many days does he have to not call you for you to get the point?”

One time a bunch of us were thrown together at some event and I tried to get away from her, I really did.  But I’m magnetic, you guys.  People are drawn to me like a moth to a flame.

It’s both a blessing and a curse.

(I went to college at Mizzou, and there was a bar and grill there called Johnny's Beanery.  Every Sunday and Tuesday, The Beanery hosted a packed house—sometimes standing room only—for karaoke.  There was a girl there who sang Janet Jackson’s That’s the Way Love Goes every single karaoke night they had for at least 2 years, and now I cannot ever hear that saying without seeing her in the booth against the window by the side door, eyes half closed with emotion as if she were Janet Jackson herself performing in front of millions, blonde hair swinging as she bobbed her head and repeated 300 times: 

Like a moth to a flame, burned by the fire
My love is blind, can’t you see my desire)

Anyway, there I was, semi-deep in conversation with someone about a new Chinese restaurant that had opened in the next town over.  “Oh, I love Chinese buffets,” I said pleasantly. “Do they happen to have sushi, by chance?”

Listen.  If there’s one thing I know from my hangover days of the past, it’s Chinese buffets, and the really good ones have sushi.  One of them in my hometown used to have a whole station where real sushi chefs complete with the fancy bandanas made it fresh right in front of you—for no extra cost.  You could even buy it by the pound for the same price as you could buy things like mashed potatoes and pudding, which they also had.  It was nuts.

There came a point when my sisters and I became afraid to approach the sushi station.  Word had gotten around about us, you see, and the chefs had begun to sneer at us as they begrudgingly piled all of their beautiful, freshly made sushi onto our outstretched plates.

Sometimes they would hand it to me piece by tiny piece, glaring at me, daring me to stand there for one second longer and accept another precious morsel. And even though I was kind of embarrassed, the pull of the sushi was simply too much. I would hold my plate out for so long that it would start to shake and I would fear that I’d drop it and we’d have to start the whole humiliating process all over again.

Sometimes I felt like I was in one of those state fair competitions: Whoever holds their full beer out for the longest without bending their elbow wins the stein!

Anyway, my sisters and I started sending our dad—who enjoys that type of confrontation (“I paid $9.99 for this buffet; I am allowed to get as many salmon rolls as I want!”)—to the counter to get our several pounds of sushi.  He would smile innocently as he continued to hold one plate out…then another…then, finally, the third plate out for more. 

We could’ve taken a picture of him standing like that, arm stacked to his shoulder with overflowing platters of sushi, and attached it to his resume if he ever wanted a job in the service industry. He’d have had his pick.

He considered it his workout for the day, which was fair because I know my arm was always sore after an evening of sushi-collecting back in the days before my dad did it for me.

Sadly, that Chinese buffet went out of business. I blame myself.  And my sisters.

But mostly my dad.

Anyway, like I said, I know my Chinese buffets and I know my sushi and by god, as I was talking to this lady, I wanted to know if this new Chinese restaurant had sushi included in its buffet. But when I asked her, the town hag—who wasn’t even involved in the conversation—cut her off before she could answer me.

“Wheatzieeeeeee," she said, convulsing this way and that in her self-righteousness, “SUSHI is”—here she paused to suck in a deep breath before delivering her final word—“JAPANEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESE.”  

Her head swung wildly from side to side as she said “JAPANEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESE” and I got a little bit scared.  I don’t know if you know this about me, but some of my closest friends are priests and I have them on speed-dial. I almost called to see if any of them were qualified in exorcisms. 

She made that word last, too, spreading out the syllables to “Japanese” for so long that 15 seconds later, her sad verbal assault only ended because she had no more breath to lend to it and she’d begun gasping for air.

Alas, she ended up catching her breath and was fine, and I can’t remember exactly what I said back to her but it must have been not very nice and delivered perfectly and just the way I wanted because it made her face flush a bright shade of red and then—glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit—she stomped away in a huff.

The entire table burst into applause, and I stood to take a bow, my own face blushing slightly at the praise.

Okay, that last part didn’t happen, but it should have, and I can remember the story any way I want, and that’s how I’m going to remember it ending.

Anyway, all of this is to illustrate the point that I’m not proud that I’ve become so annoyingly Type A that at times I want to slap myself in the face to make it stop—because I don’t want to be like the town hag.

I’ve tried to stop, you guys.  I have!  But sometimes I simply can’t help myself. It’s like something overcomes me and I start to twitch.  I can feel my body going into the pompous pose—neck jutting, nostrils flaring, head bobbling almost uncontrollably—but as my brain screams “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO don’t do it Wheatzie!” my mouth doesn’t listen and out come things like “LIKE IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”

I mean, I might as well walk around whipping my head from side to side at people and saying, “It’s JAPANEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESE.”

When I behave this way in a teachers’ meeting, it usually earns me several dirty looks from other teachers, maybe a rude gesture just above the lip of the table where nobody else will see it.  My boss will roll his eyes, shoot me a small smile from the front of the room, and say, “We’re very proud of you for being so good at what you do, Wheatzie”—I’ll beam even though I know he’s being sarcastic—“but we’re sticking with the original date.”

But in the past?

I was NOT obnoxiously Type A in my past. I wasn’t Type A at all!

Why, there was simply no need for me to be since good things just happened for me. 


Artist's rendition of the town hag

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