Off to Europe

With just a few hours separating me from London, I find myself at a loss for words.  What am I supposed to complain about now?  How can I gripe about problem customers and Corporate now that I’ve finally bid goodbye to The Shop?  What am I going to do without Stupid Sally and the rest of South Philadelphia’s scrapbooking fiends?

Enjoy my summer, that’s what.  But happiness does not make for very good blogging.  I am on the lookout for misery-inducing circumstances (Philadelphia’s heat wave might do the trick) but right now, sitting in the air-conditioned coffee shop with my large iced coffee (free! thanks to all of the other large iced-coffees I’ve squandered my paychecks upon for the past two months), I can’t think of anything to complain about.

Actually, the traffic lights at the corner of Washington Ave. and Front St. have stopped working.  They’re just blinking, in both directions, but this doesn’t qualify as misery-inducing.  This is just plain life-threatening, and where’s the fun in that?

I wish Census Girl was here.

What’s that?  You haven’t met Census Girl?  My mistake.  Here’s the deal with Census Girl:

The United States is in the middle of conducting a census.  There are TV commercials for the census, tote bags for the census and even an official Census 2010 theme song (I know this because it was playing—on loop—in the Jury Selection Room when I was called to perform my civic duty back in April).

In the good old days of data collection, you had to go to the town of your father to be registered (extra points if you bring along a virgin riding on a donkey and carrying a child who’s not actually yours but who’s going to be very important someday nonetheless).  But since the Roman Empire isn’t what it used to be, the 2010 Census is being conducted by recent college grads.

Census Girl is one such worker, and like all recent college grads not working retail, she’s on a bit of a power trip.  She has a small army of local Philadelphians under her control.  They’re mostly housewives and senior citizens and they have to go door to door to chase down defiant types who refuse to complete the census.

Census Girl may have a cushy government job that pays and ungodly hourly rate but she does not have an office, hence our interactions in the coffee shop.  I have no desire to talk to Census Girl when I come in for my iced coffee (indeed, I regard my usual table in the back as my office) but this doesn’t stop her from involving the entire coffee shop in her meetings.  She spends the majority of her time lecturing her minions, very loudly, about their paperwork and she doesn’t have the greatest of people skills.

Once, I overheard her telling an elderly gentleman, “I know they didn’t have computerized testing back when you were in school, but nowadays everything is scanned digitally.”

“Oh, I see,” replied the man, trembling as he tried to spread the cream cheese on his bagel.  “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” she snapped, reaching into her official US Census tote bag for a handful of new forms. “Just stay within the lines!  You’ll have to re-write all of these forms.”

Unfortunately, Census Girl is just one of many such 21-year olds gallivanting through Philadelphia these days.  I happened upon another at the Starbucks by Temple and he too was lecturing a hapless octogenarian on his inability to stay within the lines.

But Census Girl is not here today.  And the sky has acquired that dark, about-to-thunder look, which means that pretty soon I won’t even be able to complain about the heat.

It’s just as well.  I’m off to Europe for three weeks of My Favorite Things: airports, my overseas Quaker buddies, the London Tap Jam, old friends in new cities (Lyon and Brussels!), a visit to Oxford (for the first time since I called the City of Dreaming Spires “home”) and the annual conference of the Society of Dance History Scholars (which will involve, in addition to my academic debut, a discussion of dance scholarship over a glass of wine with my dissertation supervisor.  And I’m not making that up; she’s already requested it).

Ah.  Here’s the rain now, right on cue.  Too bad I actually like thunderstorms.  Of course, the novelty of rain may wear off once I’m back in the UK but that’s a risk I’m more than happy to take.

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