Literary Laziness

Predictable plots are downright irritating.

When we were newlyweds, Dear Husband was often shocked at how frequently I could predict plot twists in movies. But unfortunately it is all too easy to do, if you know what signs to look for. If you don’t already have, and don’t want to have this self-spoiling plot twist radar, you may want to stop reading now.

Still with me? Good. First, it’s important that you don’t lose yourself in the story. Don’t get so caught up in the scenery and the romance and the fun of it all that you forget that you’re a person who is sitting on a couch, probably eating junk food, and you’re watching a product that some writer created while they were also most likely sitting on a couch, eating junk food. That is even more true in this pandemic era.

Don’t think about the movie. Think about the person who wrote the movie. Think like a writer who is in desperate need of a paycheck. That’s got to be stressful. And stress often makes one lazy. When writers get lazy, myself included, they become predictable.

Ask yourself what destination that writer is trying to reach. And what is the shortest, and thus most profitable route to that destination? That is the well-trodden path that most storytellers take. You could walk it in the dark, such is the groove that it has imposed upon the landscape of humanity.

For example, I genuinely believe that murder mysteries are the simplest things on earth to write. All you have to do is write them backwards. Start with how the evil deed was done. Then think of what clues would be necessary for someone to figure out who the culprit is. Then go back and scatter those clues, subtly and strategically, throughout the preceding chapters, along with just the right amount of red herrings to throw them off the trail. Maybe distract your readers with a bit of sexual tension for good measure, and throw in a lot of superfluous characters, but make them seem important. And there you have it. Murder mystery.

Also, keep in mind that there are 7 Classic Story Archetypes, and they have been around since before stories were written down. Shakespeare’s plays all fit into them, as do the books of the Bible, and the vast majority of all the foundational myths from every culture throughout the world. On the most fundamental level, there really is nothing new under the sun.

Armed with that knowledge, you only need rely on your pure instinct to take the final steps to arrive at a conclusion. If something seems off to you in a story, there’s most likely a good reason for it. Trust your inner voice.

Did a character bring up something that seemed random or unnecessary to you? Did you wonder why that thing even came up, since it didn’t seem to advance the plot in any way? Then rest assured, that thing is significant. If you’re watching a romance and they suddenly have a brief discussion about elephant’s toenails, then rest assured that elephant’s toenails will figure prominently in the subsequent twist.

Also, if a character seems to be demonstrating a particular quality over and over and over again, that’s significant as well. Is the writer really going out of the way to try to convince you that someone is lovable or heroic or evil or sneaky? (A good writer would trust the viewer to do more of the heavy lifting, but a lazy one will beat you over the head with the information.) Odds are good that the twist in the end will be that that person is exactly the opposite of their ham-handed portrayal. Someone who seems weak or foolish will turn out to be strong and wise. If the writer keeps having the main character do saintly things, you can bet your life that that character is actually a sinner.

I don’t think all wordsmiths are lazy. When one manages to surprise me, I have nothing but admiration for her, him, or them. When a story feels fresh and unexpected, I know that I have truly been given my money’s worth, and then some. I am always grateful for that gift.

But if you’re playing the odds, the information above will let you win more often than not, if knowing how a story is going to play out can be considered winning. Most of the time it’s kind of a disappointment. Sometimes it’s downright irritating. But on a positive note, those lazy writers sure do make me appreciate the good ones. Talent should never be taken for granted.

Hey! Look what I wrote!


“Don’t Stop Until You’re Proud.”

There’s a certain beauty in doing our best.

I wish I could tell you where I read this quote or who said it, because it’s really sage advice. It made quite an impression on me. I can’t get it out of my head. But the rest of the details seem not to have been filed away in the dusty attic of my mind. In fairness, I’m certain that this concept did not originate with me. I wish it had.

I also wish I had heard this earlier in my life, because I employ it only sporadically. There are some things that I’m extremely proud of, such as my marriage and the way that I take care of my dogs. I also think I’m a darned good bridgetender, I am quite proud of my little free library, and I’m very proud of this blog. But other things… not so much.

For example, even though my dogs are very well cared for, I’ve been a bit lax on the training. They behave well enough, most of the time, and that satisfies me, most of the time. I also have a “Life’s too short” attitude when it comes to organization. I’m not sure when I turned the corner on that. When I was younger I was very organized and on top of things.

I do often hear myself thinking, “Screw it. That’s good enough.” I tend to quit long before a perfectionist would. Because of that, I deprive myself of the opportunity to be proud. But then, perfectionists don’t ever seem to be satisfied, so I suspect they’re not in the proud zone very often, either.

None of us are perfect, but there’s a certain beauty in doing our best, seeing things through, and giving things our all. There’s dignity in it. It’s admirable. And it says, loud and clear, that we are here.

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book!


Name calling makes you look like an idiot.

When you work for a government agency, all your office correspondence is accessible to the public. In my case, such scrutiny is highly unlikely, because my job is generally uneventful, and doesn’t inspire those types of inquiries. Thank goodness. Because I don’t really like drama.

So, I definitely could have lived without the excitement when one of my coworkers decided to send me an e-mail entitled “professionalism”, with a copy to two of my supervisors, saying that I was unprofessional and lazy. This really stunned me, because I take bridgetending very seriously. I am proud of the job I do.

Without going into detail, it boiled down to a difference of opinion regarding a gray area in our procedure. He suggested I should lie on the radio to my boaters to keep up appearances. I prefer to be honest, and my actions caused no inconvenience or complaint. And more importantly, no one’s life was put at risk.

But he would not let it go. He went on and on, saying he’d never heard anything so unprofessional in his 19 years as a bridgetender. That kind of made me scoff, because I’ve worked with him for 17 of those 19 years, and oh, I could tell you stories about some of the outrageous things we’ve heard from coworkers. Bridgetenders are a very unique breed.

But he didn’t stop there. After I came back from my days off, there was another e-mail from him, to me and my supervisors, calling me a liar. This was patently absurd, and I could easily prove it. He was really beginning to sound like he had lost every single marble he had ever had.

I basically said that I wasn’t going to have this discussion with him on this public forum, and that if he had a problem he should take it up with our supervisor, and that he needed to stop harassing me.

The weird part about it is that it’s much ado about nothing, and his outburst and name calling made it very clear that he was the one being unprofessional. The irony is that he retires in about a week. I guess he has decided to burn all his figurative bridges behind him. Let’s hope, in his heightened state of agitation, he doesn’t go all literal on us.

I used to respect this man. Now I’m not going to miss him at all. And that makes me really sad.

So here’s to professionalism. Here’s to being kind to one another and treating fellow human beings with respect and courtesy. Here’s to keeping it classy. And here’s to not pulling a b**** move on your way out the door.

Let it go

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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 4: Kitchen Sink Quesadillas

What I love most about this recipe is that it never comes out the same way twice, because I’m usually relying on whatever leftovers I happen to have in the fridge. (And as a single person, I tend to have a lot of leftovers.)

There are some ingredients that are required, of course, and as per usual with most of my lazy recipes, amounts are up to you:

  • Tortillas
  • Shredded Cheese (I like Monterrey Jack, but I’ve also used Cheddar or Mozzarella.)

Optional ingredients:

  • Cream Cheese (Not required, but highly recommended. It makes it smoother.)
  • Seasonings such as Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Cilantro, or whatever else suits your fancy.
  • Cooked leftovers such as: Pork, Beef, Hamburger, Fish, Chicken, Scrambled Eggs, Rice, Sautéed Onions, or Black Beans.
  • Other odds and ends such as Spinach, Olives, or Tofu,  I’ve even been known to add Nuts or Apple slices. Basically, if it sounds like it would be good, give it a try.

Then it’s just a matter of putting your tortilla in a lightly sprayed nonstick pan over medium heat, mixing all the other ingredients together, putting a reasonable amount on the tortilla, and covering it with another tortilla. Heat about 2 minutes on each side.

Done. Simple! You’ll be home and eating before the engine even cools down on your car.

If you feel like getting fancy, serve with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, salad, or soup on the side.


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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 3: Pepperoni Mac n’ Cheese

I never said that all my recipe suggestions were going to be healthy ones. In this day and age, you can get healthy recipes any-dang-where. You certainly don’t need me for that.

No. I’m here to speak for all the lazy cooks out there who long for comfort food, waistlines be damned. (My peeps! You know who you are!)

Any hardening of your arteries is your own responsibility. We’re all adults here. All I can say is this stuff tastes good. And it’s easy to make. So here goes:

Pepperoni Mac n’ Cheese

One box of Mac n’ Cheese

Pizza Sauce


Prepare mac n’ cheese as per instructions on the box. Add pizza sauce and pepperoni to taste. Mix all together. Done.

(I also strongly suggest you start buying pants with elastic waistbands. You’ll need them.)

Any other pizza toppings you’d like to add, including extra cheese, would probably be yummy, too. Just a thought. Mmmmmm…

The next best thing to pizza.

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A Rant About Smokers

I’m sure that the very people who need to read this the most will be the very people who will not do so, but I feel the need to get this off my chest. I hate smoking and everything about it. I’m tired of soft-pedaling that attitude simply because it’s an addiction.

I’m quite sure I’d be just as addicted to nicotine as the next person, but here’s the difference: I chose never to start smoking. If you did not make that same choice, it’s on you. Own it. Yes, tobacco companies tend to target youth, who are more apt to make stupid choices, and heaven knows none of us are the same people we were at 14, but even so, you made that choice. Take responsibility. Stop making excuses.

And for God’s sake, stop throwing your saliva-soaked cigarette butts on the ground. It’s disgusting. I used to love to walk in the rain. It makes the world seem so fresh and clean. But the last time I did that, I had to wade through about a thousand soggy cigarette butts, and it left me dry heaving. I’d rather look at dog poop. Yeah, you’re addicted. But that doesn’t give you license to be a pig. And any smoker who tries to say they’ve never thrown a butt on the ground, not even once, is lying to themselves and everyone else. And as one of the unfortunates who has to clean up after your lazy ass, know that I’m cursing your name with every butt I have to pick up.

And then there’s the stench. You are so used to it that you probably don’t even smell it anymore, but trust me: you reek. Your house stinks. Your car is even worse. When you sweat, it oozes out of your pores. It clings to your hair and your clothes. (My mother died 26 years ago, and her raincoat, which I inherited, STILL stinks.) And if you leave ash trays around, that disgusting odor permeates the room. Many of us believe that you render yourself unkissable and undateable.

Growing up, the first sound I’d hear every morning was my mother’s smoker’s hack. Do you have any idea how terrifying that is for a child? It’s awful knowing that something is wrong with the person who is supposed to keep you safe. Sure enough, she died of cancer when I was 26.

And I suffered from chronic bronchitis because she chose to expose me to that secondhand smoke at a time when my little lungs were still developing. That’s one powerful addiction if you choose it over your child’s health. Shame on you. And don’t even get me started about women who smoke while pregnant. Would you inject rat poison into your own placenta? No? That’s what you are doing to your unborn child.

And if I hear one more smoker complain…actually have the nerve to complain about not being able to smoke anymore in restaurants or on planes or in other public places, I hereby reserve the right to slap the shit out of that person. Even heroin addicts have the sense not to gripe about these things.

The worst part about all of this is that you are an unbelievably selfish human being. You are killing yourself. You know it. Everyone knows it. You are committing suicide in the slowest possible way. And that hurts the people that you love. That leaves the people who depend upon you vulnerable. That in turn puts an unbelievable strain on the economy and the health care system.

You are shitting all over the incredible gift of life that you have been given. And because of that, while I might like you or even love you, I have zero respect for you and your effed up life choice. Zero.

End of rant.

smoking rant.jpeg

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.

Not My Problem

I spent the first hour of my shift today with a battery operated leaf blower, cleaning off the sidewalks and the bike lanes of my bridge. A clean bridge is a happy bridge. At least that’s my motto. I take pride in showing this drawbridge in its very best light, and in my quarterly reviews it’s usually noted that this is the cleanest bridge in the system.

Leaf blowers are fun. They give you this sense of power that is normally beyond your reach. Out, damned spot! Out I say! You just have to be careful not to get so caught up in your own head trip that you get mowed down by a bicycle. Talk about a reality check.

The only down side to blowing leaves is that you’re not really getting rid of your problem, you’re just relocating it. Which is fine, if you follow through and bag them afterward. But I’ve seen many a landscaper just blow them down the street. “Not my problem anymore.”

Yeah it is. Because a certain percentage of them are going to blow back into your yard eventually. Count on it. And if everyone has your attitude, a whole lot more debris is going to be blown into your yard by the equally lazy people up the street.

This is also why most medical funding is not focused on prevention. Even though prevention has proven time and time again to give you a much better return on your investment, society in general is much more willing to deal with the problems that have already occurred, when there is no longer a choice.

It’s the same with the environment. Does it really surprise anyone that so many people are willing to ignore global climate change? We’re doing all right for the time being. We still can fill our bathtubs and eat our avocados out of season. Why make sacrifices? And I’m not just shaming the climate change deniers, here. I live in one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the entire country, and yet even as I write this I’m looking out on a highway that is so choked with vehicles that they can hardly move. And yes, I drove home to write this.

One of the few problems with short terms for politicians is that they, too, can blow their problematical leaves down the street. “Let someone else deal with the tricky stuff a decade from now, once I’ve retired.” We now find ourselves hip deep in a political leaf storm, people. Having fun?

Humanity has a lot of growing up to do. We have to start behaving like adults. We need to take responsibility. We need to act with integrity. We need to take society’s ills seriously even if we aren’t feeling particularly feverish as individuals.

It’s time to start bagging up our leaves.


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I Don’t Feel Like Adulting Today

Just for today, I’m going to leave my dirty dishes sitting in the sink. I’m going to eat things without worrying if they’re healthy. I’m not going to run my errands. I’d say I’m not going to exercise, but who am I kidding? I never do anyway. And yes, my laundry will remain in a big jumbled pile on the chair.

I plan to sit in the sun, if there is any, and read a book. Or take a nap. Or take a bath. Or watch Star Trek reruns on Hulu. Or all of the above.

I’m not going to watch the news. I’m not going to answer my phone. I’m not going to reach out. I’m not going to ask questions. I’m going to let the world take care of itself.

No doubt it will all be there, waiting patiently for me, in the morning.


Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book!


When someone gets hurt on a drawbridge and it’s determined that it’s the bridgetender’s fault, you’d think it would be a newbie who was at the controls. But no. It’s almost always an operator who has been on the job for many years.

If anything, someone new to the job tends to be hypervigilant. When you’re training someone, you can feel that person’s nervous energy radiating throughout the room. Newbies are like coiled springs. I’ve never tested this theory, but I’m fairly certain that if I were to walk up behind a new operator and say, “BOO!” that person would be clinging to the ceiling like a cartoon cat.

If you make it past your second day, you’re usually a keeper. You’ve seen how quiet and isolated it can be, and yet you’ve come back, so you can handle it. You’ve also seen how important it is that safety be your top priority, and you’ve chosen to take that responsibility on board. Welcome to the trenches!

After a while, you’ll start to relax. You’ll get the hang of things. You’ll know where things are. You’ll have experienced a few bridge malfunctions, and you and the bridge will have survived. You’ll get familiar with every creak and groan that your bridge makes, and what each one means. This is a good thing.

But now your real challenge begins. From here on out, you have to constantly battle complacency. Don’t get lazy. Laziness in this context can equal death. A little voice inside your head might start saying, “Why bother walking across the room to check that blind spot? No one is ever standing in that blind spot.” Or maybe you’ll start rushing from one step to the next. A bridge console should be played like Clair de Lune, not like the Minute Waltz.

You may not even realize you’re floating down that lazy river of complacency. I suspect it happens in increments. You slack off a tiny little bit, and it’s almost unnoticeable. And then a year later, you slack off even more. Before you know it, you’ve developed some really bad habits.

But on this job, laziness can kill someone. And the one time that you assume that no one is standing in that blind spot will be the one time that someone is standing in that blind spot. The bridge Gods can be cruel that way.

So every day when I come to work, I remind myself that what I do is important. Most people don’t even know I’m here, but I have their lives in my hands. That’s a heavy responsibility, and one I take very seriously.

And every day when I leave work in one piece, and no one who has crossed over or under my bridge has been harmed in any way, I give thanks. The biggest thanks I give is to myself for not having gotten complacent, and for never having forgotten why I’m here.

Avoid that lazy river of complacency.

Honesty Takes Less Energy

Here’s a bit of honesty: I’m an inherently lazy person. I avoid wearing clothes that need ironing. I take great pains to dirty as few dishes as I can. I am an expert at consolidating all my errands into one trip. My energy is limited, so I try to use it wisely. It’s just how I roll.

The same goes for my mental energy. I don’t know where people find the strength to be disingenuous or manipulative. I’d find it entirely too stressful, and I’d have to spend a great deal of time trying to remember which lies I had told to whom.

Fake people really amaze me. It’s been my experience that one’s chickens always come home to roost sooner or later. At the end of the day, I want my chickens to be nice to me. There’s nothing worse than a pissed off chicken.

Reality shows fascinate me as well. Even with a camera present and thousands of people watching, some people just can’t seem to resist taking their moral compass and jumping up and down on it while wearing cleats. That seems a bit self-destructive to me. Just sayin’.

The sad thing about people like that is they assume that everyone else in the world is the same way. If you know someone who believes that everyone lies all the time, I’ll bet you my next paycheck that that person lies all the time. It must be exhausting to live in a world where you think everyone around you is as horrible as you are.

I can’t imagine that the average parent teaches his or her child to go to the dark side like that. Where does it come from? What’s the long term payoff? I don’t get it.