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Things I Didn't Know

I can rant about stop sign gridlock or ramble about things I didn't know. Let's ramble.

I had trouble deciding what to write about this week. Should I rant or ramble. Ramble or rant. Hmmm.

The stop sign at W. Evelyn Avenue and Castro Street downtown was at the top of my rant list.

That intersection drives me absolutely crazy and, unfortunately, I drive through it often. When it isn’t bottlenecked by drivers too timid to attempt merging or crossing the tracks or clogged with pedestrians coming or going to the train, traversing the intersection works just fine. But when it doesn't work, it’s a nightmare. Add a commuter train to the mix and it’s agony.

There’s no place worse—except maybe the stop sign on E. Charleston Road just to the left of the parking lot exit.

If you want to make a left turn across the creeping line of traffic entering 101 during rush hour, I suggest you turn around and find another route. Even when freeway traffic is at a standstill, the drivers entering the freeway only begrudgingly allow cars to make the turn. I’m always amazed how often entering the 101 traffic queue surpasses simple courtesy.

Both places frustrate me and make me want to rant; let me switch to a ramble.

I went to an end-of-concert-season dinner the other night with my handbell group. It was a lot of fun. No driving was involved—I took the train.

The evening progressed with witty conversation and wisecracking, and we did a lot of tasting of each other’s entrees—squid ink pasta (a bit too sea weedy for my taste), wild mushroom pappardelle, sea bass and pizza. With thirteen people there were lots of yummy dishes to sample.

But the best part of the evening happened during that inevitable lull in conversation, the one that happens when the tastiness of the food outshines the banter. Someone asked each of us to share something about our first job or our most interesting job. One of those non-threatening icebreaker kinds of questions meant to establish a higher level of camaraderie.

I, of course, thought I knew a fair amount about the people in the group. Surprise, surprise. It turns out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, and I wasn’t alone in that realization either, which was equally eye-opening.

One woman told us her first job was working in a steel mill as a scraper. I was impressed. Someone else revealed she was a smudger in college, and she wasn’t referring to eye make-up or a healing event either. She was talking about setting out oil-burning devices in the wee hours to keep the frost from destroying fruit trees. In Tehachapi. (Do I even know where that is?)

Someone else explained one of her early jobs was making labels for a company that manufactured Funny Face Drink Mix. The company also sold mugs and dolls to match the drink flavors—lefty lemon and rootin tootin raspberry. Mid-sentence the steel worker shrieked, “I still have my autographed Rootin Tootin Raspberry Doll!"

Even with all the laughter you could hear the ice cracking at the table.

One person casually said if he told us what he did, he’d have to kill us. He did not elaborate. I admit I’m curious.

There are a few young folks in the group who haven’t had many jobs, and some like myself who’ve had dozens and dozens. I couldn’t decide which one was the most interesting, so when it was my turn I shared about the job I didn’t get instead.

I wanted to be a Playboy Bunny at the club that was opening in Boston. I went to the tryout, but didn’t make the cut. I did make the evening news however, which my dad saw. Busted!

Not to get too touchy-feely here, but I have to say the evening was a great success, and I definitely know my fellow musicians a bit better now. In fact it was so much fun, I might ask that same question at a future dinner party. Who knows what connections or stories are waiting to be revealed?

Oh, and the next time I'm waiting at either of those stop signs, I'll think about some of those interesting jobs and smile. Better than getting frustrated, don't you agree?

Loni davis May 29, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Playboy Bunny!!!! I'm speechless :)
randy albin May 29, 2012 at 04:15 PM
how do you sum all of this up? the bay area has changed over the years. somebody can remember the landmarks from yesteryear yet still see the changes that occured over the years. focus on the open spaces and parks like shoreline, etc.
Claudia Cruz (Editor) May 29, 2012 at 11:57 PM
I think Joni meant to acknowledged that part of the changes over the years is the increase in vehicular congestion. Knowing Joni, she probably agree that there should be more open spaces!
Joni Ratts May 31, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Like I said, The things you didn't know!
Joni Ratts May 31, 2012 at 06:09 PM
You're absolutely right, Claudia, we need open space. Unfortunately it's disappearing as I write this comment.
Christine Spaulding August 04, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Playboy Bunny in Boston?!!!!! I am impressed, speechless, but I guess not as surprised as I think back, back, back...we go way back. Sister Emily Ann would be chuckling! Can you remember her funny laugh? I can almost HEAR her. Good for you! lol.

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