This blog is officially "retired," but my other blog,
"The Lair of the Silver Fox," is still open for business!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The "Crappy Day Job" Town (An Exercise in Not Getting to the Point)... plus a bonus!

I've lived in Massachusetts all my life. I was born in a Worcester hospital back in nineteen-fffrfrfhhff. For the first couple of years of my life, my family and I lived in a town called Sutton. Then we moved to Oxford, where I resided for approximately seventeen years.

I liked Oxford a lot.

Then I moved to a town called Southbridge, and frankly, I never really warmed up to it. People would say, "Oh, you're from Southbridge?" and I'd issue a verbal disclaimer to the effect of, "Uhhh... no, actually, I'm from Oxford. I've only been living in Southbridge for about two years," or whatever the time period was.

I kept doing that.

"Oh, you're from Southbridge?" "Uhhh... no, actually, I'm from Oxford. I've only been living in Southbridge for about four years."

"Oh, you're from Southbridge?" "Uhhh... no, actually, I'm from Oxford. I've only been living in Southbridge for about seven years."

"Oh, you're from Southbridge?" "Uhhh... no, actually, I'm from Oxford. I've only been living in Southbridge for about twelve years."

Yeah, I know, I know. By that point, it was getting pretty freakin' lame. But I still kept on doing it, to the point where, at thirty-eight years of age, I was actually saying, "I've only been living in Southbridge for about nineteen years," and one day I realized, "Dude. You've been living in Southbridge half your life? Start saying you're from Southbridge, or move."

So that's the story of why & how I moved to Webster, Massachusetts, where I've lived since I was thirty-eight years old. Webster is a relatively quiet little town in the southernmost part of the state, right on the Connecticut border. It's also the location of a moderately famous lake named -- take a deep, deep breath, here -- Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.

No. Really. That's its name.

Most people think that the name translates as "You Fish on Your Side, I Fish on My Side, Nobody Fish in the Middle" -- a translation which even made its way into an episode of Gilmore Girls! -- but it doesn't. That's a lie. Well... a story.

It actually stands for "Englishmen at Manchaug at the Fishing Place at the Boundary," but since that's not nearly as colorful, nobody likes it. Or repeats it. Ever.

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Ya think?

But I digress. What the hell else is new, right?

Anyway, just a handful of years after I'd finally "escaped" from Southbridge and moved to Webster, I left my crappy day job (also in Webster) for what began as a much better day job. (This "much better day job" eventually morphed into The Granddaddy of All Crappy Day Jobs, but that's a story for another time. Maybe.)

There was a slight drawback to this "much better day job," however.

I was stationed in the company's Southbridge branch office.

But now that I've left The Granddaddy of All Crappy Day Jobs, you may think that once again, I've been able to "escape" Southbridge. And, unfortunately, you'd be wrong. My mother and sister live in Southbridge. Not only that, but a theatre group I've again become involved with -- after a hiatus of over 25 years -- is located in Southbridge, as well.

So, for me, anyway, there really is no escaping this town!

(Congratulations. In the tradition of Arlo Guthrie's "but that's not what I came to tell you about" -- from "Alice's Restaurant" -- and Bill Cosby's "I told you that story so I could tell you this one," you've just been suckered into reading what is possibly the world's longest introduction for a relatively short anecdote. But it was necessary background info to now and forevermore explain why I am cursed to keep going back to the town I have hereby designated as the "Crappy Day Job" Town. In other words, it was stuff you'd kinda/sorta need to know anyway... I mean, if I hadn't filled in those details, it would be a perfectly natural response for you to say, "Well, if you dislike the freaking' place so much, why do you keep going back there?" So... now you know.)

Anyway, here's my real story.

Neither my mother nor my sister (who both live in Southbridge, remember?) have internet access. And although my last Crappy Day Job (which was also in Southbridge) did supply me with internet access, it prohibited my visiting things like personal email sites. Therefore, I was -- and occasionally, still am -- forced to go to Southbridge's town library to check email, make PayPal payments, etc.

At the time I started doing this, their policy was that you had to have a Southbridge library card if you wanted to use a computer. If you didn't have one, you had to leave your driver's license or other form of ID with them while you were online. At first, I didn't have a Southbridge library card because I didn't live in Southbridge, but I eventually applied for and received one, just to expedite matters when I wanted to use one of the library's computers.

That was the theory. However, as I've pointed out numerous times in this post, I don't live in Southbridge, and since I'm the type of person who hates carrying an abundance of ATM cards, ID cards, business cards, supermarket cards, etc. in my wallet, whenever I "clean house," as it were, things like out-of-town library cards are the first to go.

So, one day, my travels and necessary errands brought me to the Jacob Edwards Library (the official name of Southbridge's library), where an exchange approximately like the following one took place:

Me: "Hi, I'd like to use a computer."

Librarian: "Do you have a library card?"

Me: "Yeah, but not with me."

Librarian: "No problem. May I just see your ID instead?"

Me: "Of course." [The librarian began to explain that she merely needed to hold onto my ID while I use the computer -- in other words, the policy I was formerly subject to -- and I politely interrupted.] "Oh, I thought you just needed it to verify my ID so you can check that I have a library card on file here, and... "

Librarian: "No, we can't do that."

Me: "You... can't."

Librarian: "No. So we need to either hold your ID, or have you fill out an application for a new library card."

I opted to leave my ID with her. That time.

The next time, months later, I once again explained (to a different librarian, one who was just as agreeable as the previous one) that I did have a library card on file, but I didn't have it with me. I was once again told that I could leave my ID with her -- something which, I should stress, I had no objection to -- or fill out an application for a new library card.

"Look," I began, "I'm fully aware that you don't set policy, but this" -- "this" being the license I was waving in the air -- "proves who I am. Can't you just delve into your system and see that there is a library card already on file in my name?"

"No, I'm sorry. You either have to leave the license with me or fill out an application for a brand new card."

"Again? Doesn't that strike you as being a waste of my time, your time, and your money?"

"Our money?"

"Well, it must cost something to print those little plastic library cards and their little protective paper envelopes, which you do every time I fill out another application." She nodded. I continued, thinking aloud, "Thank God my bank doesn't do this. I mean, what if I wanted to discuss my checking account, but left my checkbook at home, and the teller said 'Oh, then we can't discuss that account at all, even with your picture ID... But we'll be happy to open a brand new bank account for you... '"

She smiled while I rambled, and when I finished, said, "Well, sir, as you were nice enough to point out earlier... I don't set the policies here."

Usually, in similar instances, I find myself dealing with retail clerks who don't really understand what I'm ranting about. Librarians, due to the nature of the job, tend to be more intelligent than other types of service personnel. Usually, when I attempt to go off on one of my polite, public mini-rantZ I get a look from the clerk or cashier like, "Dude, I just work here twenty hours a week, after school. I really don't care, okay?"

I guess all I'm saying is that it's nice to be appreciated, even in small ways.

Just an observation.

Now... Before I thank you for your time, I want to give you a totally unrelated bonus. Just call it your reward for having made it all the way to here without giving up and leaving:

And now... Thanks for your time.


  1. If you think Webster is a quiet town, you've not heard my upstairs neighbours( a bloody rugby team is not this noisy ). An I know you get writer's cramp writing the lake's name. Most of the out-of-towners just call it Webster Lake. My auntie just had to get a blinkin' pic of the entry signage. She didn't believe the name 'til she saw it on the marque.

    I get the same question as you( also the "are you related to the Webster founders" ). I just tell them "No, I'm just stuck in friggin' Massachusetts. As you know, I tend to assimilate into my surroundings and even sound like the locals.

  2. Well, the town as a whole is pretty quiet. Or you may substitute the word "boring," if you wish. And even the residents refer to Chargoggablahblahblah as Webster Lake. The only ones who ever use the full name are people who are just trying to prove that they know how to say it. I almost scanned a postcard I have of that "entry signage" you mentioned, but since the blog post was primarily about Southbridge, showcasing Webster would've been a bit "off."

  3. I nearly got confused then. My brain started throbbing.

    We have an Oxford too.

  4. When I say 'we', I don't mean I own the UK.

    That would just be stupid.

  5. Jayne:

    I knew you had an Oxford, too. You had yours first, of course. We stole the name from you.

    And when I say "we," I mean the USA. I personally didn't steal the name. I'm old, but I'm not that old.

    Hell, I live in the northeast part of the USA, in the region known as "New England." We stole that, too!

  6. 1) Are there at least any good DINERS in Southbridge with decent PANCAKES?
    2) Did the librarian pull the bobby pins out of her prim and proper pug and shake it all loose and whip off her glasses and you said, "No, no. Please put your hair back the way it was?"
    3) If I was a librarian--and I WAS a librarian, kinda, many years ago--I would have listened for 10 minutes and told you "SHHHHH!"
    4) Just kidding in #3 above. I just like to say "SHHHHH!" Still.
    5) I love libraries.
    6) I love the name of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. It sounds like the next death rattle noise my car will make!
    7) I have an Oxford shirt, but I'm not sure whether it hails from Olde Englandddde or New England. It ain't talkin' so I can't hear its accent.

  7. Do children in your town get writer's cramp anytime the write this lake's name?

    You're up late Sparkle.

  8. Ishat:

    That's a good question, but I don't really know too many of the children in town. Maybe I should start questioning them. I know! I'll start parking my car near schoolyards, and start calling the kids over, one by one, to talk to them. That should work. I'll let you know how it goes.


    1. HA! (Sorry to yell.) Southbridge doesn't even have any diners. (And only three or four real restaurants for breakfast, not counting McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts.) See? It sucks.

    2. Nope, sorry, nothing memorable or librarian-type-stereotypical, either.

    3. My verbal rantZ don't go on anywhere near as long as my written rantZ, so I wouldn't have broken the "SHHHHH" barrier. And... "kinda?"

    4. It's okay, cutey-pie, you can "SHHHHH" me any time. Or deal out any other discipline you'd like to administer...

    5. I do, too. I especially like libraries that are horribly underfunded so that they haven't been remodeled or updated in ages. I enjoy the old-time atmosphere at their expense, I guess.

    6. No comment necessary.

    7. As long as it doesn't give you poison ivy....


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