Vicki Wentz: Find yourself in the Ozarks? Bail! Bail!

Mar. 21, 2013 @ 08:28 PM

A while back, I wrote about how it’s important to be nice to fellow human beings on this planet because, you know, it’s the right thing to do, and just in case there IS an angel up there who sits in front of this big book of names and counts up everyone’s good deeds ... well, I want to make sure I’m at least ahead of my sisters.

However, it’s also extremely important to perform these acts of friendship and benevolence in such a way as to be able to withdraw from the scene when necessary. It should be an in-and-out thing.

For example, I wrote about paying for the car behind you at a tollbooth. The theory is that you dart into the booth with your money in your hand and throw it at the startled tollbooth lady as you screech off - this is because you don’t want any thanks. You don’t have to meet the people in the car behind you, who may be serial killers out for a joyride, and you didn’t attract their attention until you have blithely paid their toll, thereby sealing your own fate!

(In fact, I did have someone who raced up behind me, which caused me to go from 25 to 85 mph in six seconds ... turned out to be a lovely family, who stuck with me until they could all wave over at me, but still, you never know.)

So, the ability to evacuate is sometimes key. But I still seem to walk blindly back into situations where I find myself with a new best friend who is telling me things she should tell ... well, a priest ... just because I said something nice to her, and while she’s confessing, I’m silently berating myself for not embracing cantankerousness, and the hell with nice. In-and-out!

Most recently? It was just a quick trip to the Dollar Store to buy some things for the grandkids’ Easter baskets: a pink plastic purse, a telescoping back scratcher, a giant bubble-maker - that’s all I wanted; just pay and go. Wasn’t looking for a Laverne to my Shirley (and, if you’re too young to remember that show, darlin’, just look it up on your iPod-Pad Touch Tablet Bluetooth HD MP3 thingy, but you probably wouldn’t understand it anyway - no Snookies or Kardashians swearing at you).

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the south, it’s how to be friendly and chatty with everyone. (Up north, if you chat with a store clerk, they immediately run your license through the DMV.)

So, as I moved forward to take my turn in the checkout line, I began the checkout chatter, you know, hi, how are you, do you love this weather, can you believe it’s almost Easter, whatever. Then, I made a mistake. An innocent but foolish mistake. I asked the lady if she’d been a swimmer. She just had the look of a student I’d had years ago who was a fabulous swimmer. Just a random thought. Just hit-or-miss chatting.

The woman looked up at me, her face registering absolute horror. I thought for a moment that maybe she’d heard me wrong, like, “Are you a plumber? Are you a scammer? Are you a him/her?” - or maybe I had something in my teeth.

She composed herself, looked to the right and the left, leaned over the counter and whispered intensely, “Absolutely not, ma’am. I’ve been scared to death of water ever since my ex-husband tried to drown me up in the Ozarks.”

You know how sometimes you think about sentences you never expect to hear? Like, “Hand me the flying monkey” or “Put the piano on the ping-pong table” or “Mom, I love your pants.” Stuff like that?

Well, “I’ve been scared to death of water ever since my ex-husband tried to drown me up in the Ozarks” is right up there, isn’t it?

I was stupefied, unsure how one responds to that, although I could tell by her expression that a response was expected.

“Wh-what?” I stammered.

“Oh, yes,” she replied solemnly. “He was crazy.”

“My goodness, (I am nothing if not a lady) how, exactly, did he try to drown you?” (Shut up, fool, shut up!) I glanced behind me, hoping to see dozens of impatient customers which would mean I had to keep moving, darn it, but suddenly the store was an empty, echoing hangar.

“Well, we was out canoeing on this river, and there was six of us, and each couple had its own canoe and then we hit these rapids and...”

It was a good, looong story. I promised to return next Tuesday ... unless I can find a way to drown myself before then. Remember - In-and-out, my friend, IN-AND-OUT!


Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at, or visit her website,