Friday, February 24, 2006


I work for a media organization and am in charge of a feature inviting our audience to submit their picks for particularly memorable stories we have produced. People will write about that cute pet commentary and how it reminded them of their own animal, or how that story on astronomy was so enlightening that they just couldn't tear themselves away, or how their heart goes out to the person featured in XYZ story, etc.

Occasionally as I'm screening and selecting e-mails for this feature, I receive responses that range from disturbing to disturbed. It gets me thinking about what must motivate people to write messages that are so heartfelt yet so hopelessly inappropriate for publication. It feels wrong to delete them, so I store all of these messages in a file entitled "pain."

This one is the latest and most clearly delusional:

Regions Bank at 1300 W Ksiser Osceola Ar.72370 sent me a letter on the 2-9-06 giving me 10 day to close my account cause i have had 2 picture of Klan on the they being on my check for 33 year now Kait 8 come out on 2 - 21-06 an run a story about it if you like to do one call me at [phone number] i am home by 2:00 pm i was done wrong at Regison bank thank you Your Wayne [last name]

This message is exactly as I received it, except for the deleted personal information. I don't run things at my company but can say with some certainty that we won't be pursuing this man's story offer.

Here is another one:

I don't have a working car... This situation has existed ever since I was illegally fired in 1982 from a tenured, full professorship at Eastern Michigan University. Probably professional jealousy was the main reason from grants and publications I got. Now, I am most concerned the illegal method used to fire me could threaten all tenured teachers since it "worked" with me making me permanently unemployable for the past 23+ years. Thus, no car. Tenure was there to protect teachers from situations just like this. [My wife and I] get away from this by working as volunteer rangers in national parks, e.g., Mount Rainier and Olympic Rain Forest.

Since the other ones involve suicide, alcoholism and molestation, they have to stay in my Drafts folder: strangers' pain with noplace to go.

"Someone was telling my story," one of them wrote, "a story I never knew how to tell."

Monday, February 13, 2006


Before getting into my dentist visit from today, I'd like to give a shout out to the ONDCP for the most disturbing ad I've seen in quite some time. I walked by a mall billboard showing an artificially compressed girl today, after already having been traumatized by the TV version, and watched to see if the teens passing by happened to glance at it and acknowledge how graphically and effectively it represented the difficulties of peer pressure, and how it made them realize that taking drugs just wasn't worth it, man. I think too many of them were distracted by the Abercrombie & Fitch store directly ahead of them, though.

Anyway it's been awhile since I've felt violated by my television, so it's good to know some bright ad whiz out there is earning his or her keep.

Neither infancy nor narcotics can be blamed for my lying passed out in my car in the parking lot outside my dentist today, but there you have it. Let's call it SAD, in one way or another. I nearly fell asleep at the wheel while driving to my appointment in lovely Gaithersburg, Md., but made it there 45 mins. early nonetheless. Instead of going into the waiting room, I cozied up to the driver's side window and took a nap, wondering what would happen if someone came up to one of the cars parked on either side of me. I kept having visions of people laughing it me, or calling 911, but the double-edged sword about suburbia is that you could do anything but have sex in your car and no one is going to notice or do a damn thing about it.

Anyway, I walked into my dentist's office feeling refreshed, yet slightly disturbed at how necessary the car-nap had seemed.

If you know the D.C. area, you might say, gee Christina, you must like traffic! Otherwise why would you go out to Gaithersburg from downtown? Are you a Costco member?

But see, I've been going to this dentist for about 28 years. 28 years and they still call me Christine instead of Christina. They still play some vaguely country music on the loudspeakers, though it's not as hardcore as it used to be. They don't carry Highlights anymore, but they still have Town and Country.

They're still as nice as pie and ask about my siblings, because they remember when we all used to come together, with my mom. No matter how much you go through in life -- peer pressure, braces, aging and pain -- it's always the same at Schneider Family Dentistry. There's weather, there's vacations, there's holidays, there's floss, there's family, and there's your next appointment in six months. That's something. No?