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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Observations and Junk Mail

Some people are not very observant. It probably means they carry less stress than I do. I remember being a freshman in college and talking to an advisor (a non-academic advisor, as it happened) about how to find out what was going on around campus by reading the sidewalks and bulletin boards. I confessed that I probably read 70 billboard flyers a day. I’m sure she was skeptical. Later in the week, she saw me reading flyers in the union. “Ohmigod,” she said. “You really do. You really do read all those.”

And the weird thing is, I could read all those flyers and sidewalk chalk signs and still miss important events that I would have wanted to attend on campus. It seemed I always saw flyers for great shows the week AFTER they were actually playing. Great speakers, same thing. I did a lot. Saw a lot. Participated in a lot. Still, I feel like I missed out on a lot MORE. Things I promised myself I would do during freshman orientation I never did in my four and a half years on campus. I never saw a movie in the Union Theater. I never cross-dressed and attended the showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show in the Greek Theatre on Halloween night. I didn’t attend a single football game – which is probably not that much of a loss. I lose interest in sports when they aren’t being played by clumsy six year olds.

Fast forward nearly two decades, three states, and too many cities to count, and I find myself needing to be observant again. I did some (precious little) research on my new town while still in my old one. And then after I’d arranged what belongings I wasn’t keeping stored in boxes, I set out to find more friends and do more things. After finding a few groups via Facebook, I went to another old haunt,, and found a few more groups to join. Two have proven very valuable. And when I tell others about them, I realize that there are people who don’t know about sites like Meetup. And then I realized that a site like Meetup could be a way for my single friends to get out and meet people without the stress of online dating.  But then I realized I couldn’t say that tactfully. I can think it, but it’s impolite to say unless the conversation works around that way naturally. Which of course now it won’t.

So I’m two months in a new place --- starting the third. And really I think I’m doing rather well. But then it hits me that some of the things I researched early on I still haven’t checked out yet. So that’s on next week’s agenda, having decided to leave this week open because of the school event that’s happening Friday.

Still haven’t decided what of that is trying to pace myself and what is fear of rejection and all that creeps in when I’m trying to busy myself with other things. And I wonder to what extent other people deal with the feeling that they’re missing out on something wonderful. Sometimes I get glimpses from others on Facebook. Sometimes I just have to guess.

And then my junk mail puts things into a weird kind of perspective for me. Three years ago, when my husband and I put our home on the market, this one realtor started to send us info cards and calendars and things in order to get our business – either to allow him to sell our house or to use him in picking out our new house. We didn’t ever use him. We sold our house and rented and now we have moved out of state and are renting again. We got a postcard from that realtor with the change of address sticker. I thought that would be the end of it.

Nope. In the mail today was another postcard – this time with our correct out of state address. And I wonder if I should email or call him to get taken off his mailing list. I actually waste time worrying about what this piece of my junk mail is costing HIM. Who does that? That question is rhetorical, of course. Though if someone wants to throw me a bone and tell me they worry about other people to this mind-numbing extent… Or tell me that it would literally cost this guy more to take my name off his mailing list than to keep sending me junk mail. I should toss it in the recycle bin without a second thought. But it will sit on my table for a week, and I will stress about it. 

A photo posted by Phyl Campbell (@phylc_author) on

And then along came a spider...

And as I wrote that last bit, I had to stop and swipe off a spider that was crawling up my arm. Now I don’t see it anywhere. I usually don’t kill spiders because they eat gnats and things. But I killed a brown recluse in my bathroom over the weekend because they are poisonous and I killed a wolf spider yesterday because it was moving too fast for me to see what it was, then was hiding on top of the light on my ceiling fan. I should have realized it wasn’t a recluse because recluses don’t spin webs.

And then I saw it. And of course my phone is dead because I was playing Candy Crush Jelly Saga while trying to get stations on my TV – I REALLY wanted to watch Lucifer – then remembered it’s done for the season. The point is, my pictures of the spider on my wall and ceiling aren’t very good. Is it a recluse or not? I simply can’t tell. 

It has a few less than eight legs – that’s probably my fault for swiping too hard instead of flicking or blowing it off like I know I’m supposed to. And it very patiently moved around a bit – even waited for me to get a stepladder and put the portable charger on my phone to try to get a better image of it. Of course it did. 
This is a brown recluse. Bigger butt than a wolf spider. Image courtesy of Terra.

It’s a wolf spider, but the cat eye is very difficult to see on this one, and it’s colored more recluse-like than wolf-spider-like. And with less than eight legs, it’s walking much more slowly – like a recluse.

If it will get off my ceiling and walk across the panels, I will knock it off to a box lid and release it outside. If it gets any closer to my bed, it’s going to be a goner – it’s already been on my arm and we both know how I reacted to that. Come down, stupid spider. I don’t want to kill you. It hardly seems fair to throw you out into the rain, but you could be very comfy on or under my porch.

Excuse me.

[muffled shuffling, a brief struggle, a door slam]

There. Much better. Spider and a plastic tub lib are outside on the porch. Yes, the spider could crawl right back in any number of cracks – especially the large one under the door. But perhaps it will think of the legs its already lost and value its life enough to stay outside.

And I won’t tell you how many times I got sidetracked in the course of writing this post. (If you believe that, you obviously don’t know me.) Let’s see – the fight with the TV that got 33 channels yesterday and 0 today, no matter what I do/did with the antenna. I was hungry, so I got a snack. I had a bill in the afternoon mail, so I made sure it was paid. It was. I checked my email – dealt with a notice from the PTA and a request to go over a cover letter for a relative of a former student. I got further distracted by a couple of articles about the Target boycott – which I do not support, BTW. A text conversation with my sister and a PM conversation with another writer. I forgot I was working on this post until the fellow writer said something to make me remember it. Then the spider on my arm. Skulking on my arm. Walking like a recluse would – slow and deliberate. And I could take and process all of that in the time it took me to realize it wasn’t my hair and raise my arm to knock the spider off. Then try to find it. Turn on all the lights. Don’t see it. Go back to writing and all of the above. Then see it on the wall, heading toward the ceiling.

Is it observant to notice the spider? Weird to let it live? Without some of its legs, should I have put it out of its misery? What is misery to a spider? Am I observant to have seen it again? What if it was a different spider? What if, in some weird kind of universe with spider solidarity, it was attacking me for killing the other spiders? What if ALL the household spiders decide to make me a target? More importantly -- why haven’t I internalized yet that I am thousands of times bigger than spiders are? It’s ridiculous to be bothered by the things – I don’t freak out in the same way when a fly lands on me. But logic fails me when it comes to spiders, especially close to bedtime.

One more thing to worry about. Despite the absolute lack of good worrying does, I do quite a bit of it.

One more pointless observation.