Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

The grocery order

August 17, 2021

A report from my grandchild Opal a few weeks ago, about one of their adventures as a customer service employee at a Redwood City Safeway supermarket / grocery store. In this event, they observed as another employee coped with a male customer who had come with a small but somewhat eccentric shopping list from his wife (who he had on the phone) and needed help in finding the items. (I’m telling the story from memory and no doubt have gotten some of the details wrong, and have embroidered on some of the others; an experienced story-teller always reserves the right to improve on their tales.)

First, some soap. Bar soap. Lavender bar soap. Possibly it had to be some specific brand. I’ve picked a very earnest lavender bar soap to fill this slot.

Then, Vaseline. The original petroleum jelly — once from Chesebrough, now from Unilever, still available.

Then a third item I’ll put off. It’s the clincher.

As it turned out, the store had no lavender bar soap, though stores very close to it carried some. And then, somewhat surprisingly to me, they had no Vaseline either, though neighboring drugstores did. Well, for a Safeway it’s not very big, and it’s in a shopping center with lots of well-stocked specialty shops, so it’s inclined to focus on, you know, groceries. Anyway, she wanted all three together: the order was coherent, serving a single purpose, not a random assortment of household items the woman needed (cat fd, loaf pumpernickel, tampons, grn chartreuse — that sort of thing).

Stop for a moment to reflect: what might unite the lavender bar soap and the Vaseline? (My friend and helper Kim got it right off, called it out, even before I got to item #3.)

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Sports commentary

December 20, 2018

Thanks to Facebook friends who provided a link to an xkcd cartoon from way back (5/27/11): #904 Sports:

The point is that sports color commenators treat essentially random day-to-day fluctuations as indicators of trends — because they have lots of time to fill and not a lot of substance to fill it with (play-by-play coverage is something else), and because like all of us they are narratophiles (lovers of story) and seek to find a coherent narrative in pretty much anything that happens. Meanwhile, color commentators can fall back on all that accumulated data, to wield fan statistics as another time-filler.

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The stories of our lives

May 29, 2015

Yesterday’s Calvin and Hobbes:

From a 4/4/09 posting:

Human beings are story-tellers. As Erving Goffman once observed, we spend an enormous amount of time telling each other the stories of our lives. We use stories to make sense of things.

And we tell the stories of our own childhoods to our children and grandchildren, hoping to give them some sense of history and change, My daughter and I often do this with her daughter — who, unlike Calvin, seems to welcome the stories, even when she finds some of it incredible: did we really grow up in neighborhoods, and go to schools, that had essentially no racial or ethnic diversity? What, no Chinese or Indians, even? (In my case, no Jews, all the way through high school.)