Word salad

This morning, I was sitting in my cubicle when the confidential secretary walked by.

B. yells out to her: “Hey, tell us some secrets, will ya? Whatdya got that’s confidential?”

“Well, C and I were just in that office with the door closed fixing her underwear. She has a really cute outfit on, but needed her underwear hitched up.”

“Oh. That’s it? No other secrets?”

I stare at my computer, and see a request from a coworker asking if I’d return a call for her. I do.

“Hi. This is Betsy from blah blah blah. Did you have some questions about property?”

“Jesus Christ! I just poured the milk on my cereal, and now you call. It’s going to get all soggy.”

“Uh… I could call back, or you could call me when it’s convenient.”

“Oh, never mind. You’re here now. The damage is done.”


“So, did you have questions? Maybe about property?”

“Yes. But don’t use a tone with me that’s too firm for the occasion. That really stresses me out and it takes a long time for me to meditate my way back to where I am now. Days, sometimes. I’ve called the aid cars 23 times for this. I have a heart condition.”

I write down the phrase, “tone too firm for occasion” on my yellow legal pad.

“Okay. So, do you have some questions?”

“Well, I have property that’s zoned R-6. I want to know what I can do with it.”

Well, that zoning means…”

She cuts me off. “Do not ever interrupt me.”


More silence. I can hear her eating the cereal, which doesn’t sound at all soggy. I wait for several seconds, and she starts up again.

“I was told that this zoning means that I all I can do is create a roadside attraction. Build a monument, and have people come see it.”

“Um, ...is that your goal?”

She cuts me off. “No. Of course I’d rather build a house, but I’m told that in this zoning I can only do a roadside attraction. Like, build a monument. I told the truth. There were a few trees, and I was told it was okay to cut them.”

“Okay. Do you have any questions I can answer for you?”

“Well, I was told I have to talk to you first. Before I can do anything.”

“Well, do you need us to look for critical areas? To get that started, you need to fill out an application…”

She interrupts. “I already did that. I was in your offices, and someone told me I needed to have that done.  I didn’t have  cash with me, so I took the paperwork away.  I fully meant to come back the next day. I said I would. And when I say something, that’s what I do. But I was driving home from your office, and someone from the county called me on my cell phone and said they’d come do the work right then, and I needed to meet them in an hour with $100 cash. I met the person, and gave him the cash, and he said everything was fine.”

"So, they called you before you'd even applied?"


“Hmm. That doesn’t sound right. We don’t collect cash. Did you get a receipt? Or a name?”

“No, but I bet if you look around your office, you’ll find that $100 in a coffee cup somewhere. I bet that person just put it in a coffee cup. There’s a cup there somewhere, I know it. Have you even looked?”

She sounds irritated that I haven't already conducted a search for the the $100 cash that she gave to someone in March that I just learned about. “Hmm… I’m really sorry, but that sounds like fraud. We have no record of any of this, and we don’t do it that way. Do you have any information about who you gave the money to?”

She ignores me. “Well, anyway, I’m just glad I’m done with that part. So what’s next?”

“Uh, I’m really sorry, but you aren’t done with that part. You’ll have to fill out the application…”

We go around a few more times, and I start to fear that if we go around again, I’ll start to use a tone that’s too firm for the occasion, so I try to wrap it up.

“Well, I hope I’ve answered your questions…”

“Well, no, you haven’t. You haven’t at all.”

We start at the beginning. “What can I help you with?”

“Well,” she begins, “I have to go into the bedroom now. I have some papers in there. Under the bed. About all of this. Oh, I remembered my question. My lot is a perfect rectangle. And I mean perfect.”

I’m looking at a map of her 4,000 square foot lot, and I agree. “Yes, it is.”

“Well, there are 6 more like it across the street. One person owns six rectangles. Are you following me?”

“I think so.” But I’m sort of hoping that I’m not following, like maybe there's more to it.

“I don’t know what she needs with all six. Do you think I could buy one from her? For $5,000?”

“Uh, I really don’t know. Are they for sale?”

“Oh jesus. You’re no help at all. Forget it.”

She hangs up, and I sit there, doodling on the words, “tone too firm for the occasion” for a long time, and having a little bit of regret that I didn't ask her about what sort of roadside attraction she wants to build.


  1. I thought my work place was interesting but maybe not so much. None of the stories I have to tell are of much interest to anyone that doesn't work there.

    Perhaps you could place a Monument on the property topped with a bronzed coffee cup and $100 bill.

  2. Gal, you have got to turn this into a book someday.

  3. Have you searched for that $100 yet?

  4. my wager is that the $100 is in the vicinity of the cat pee pants.....meg


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