Last week, I nearly came unglued as I sat at a small gas station by my house for 15 minutes as I watched four cars sit empty at the gas pumps. No one inside them. No one pumping gas. No gas pumps actively engaged in the gas tanks. The cars just sat, while I seethed.
Their owners shopped for donuts, cigarettes, and lottery tickets inside the convenience store like they were strolling around a Saturday morning farmer’s market. All while I prayed to the gas station gods that I would make it to work on time.
This, however, is not my worst pet peeve. It is second only to one thing that will make me froth at the mouth — I cannot endure anyone who elongates their vowel sounds. Period.
I am a New Yorker. I was raised by New Yorkers around a large amount of other New Yorkers. Oddly, this did not happen in New York but rather in a slightly scrappy suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. Go figure. My people stick together.
I first noticed this aversion on a summer vacation in between my sophomore and junior years in high school when my parents took my sister and me on a vacation to Southern California and to Universal Studios.
The most chilling moment of that tour should have been the house from Psycho. I was wrong about that.
Our shuttle tour guide smiled gleefully and noted points of interest around the park. It was fine until we got to an overlook where she told us that if we looooook to the leeeeeeft we’d seeeeeee the beauuuuuutiful Saaaaaan Fernaaaaaando Valleeeeeeeey.
I shot my fast-talking mom a look that begged, “What fresh hell have you gotten me into, woman?”
In middle school, we called this Valley Girl Talk. It was funny because we, my motley crew of friends whose Italian last names all ended in vowels, didn’t think it was real. It stopped being funny when I realized people actually did this. All the time.
Twenty years later, I found myself in a place where no woman who is freshly divorced and now a single mother of a toddler should find herself. I was on a bus with a bunch of other women who had just become provisional members of the Junior League.
Part of our provisional year required us to take a tour of the city and several places where the organization had completed projects. We were assigned bus buddies. Grown-ass women, apparently, need bus buddies.
My bus buddy was a chipper, bright-eyed, blonde twenty-something with energy I had not seen since before I passed a live human from my body. I had already cried once that morning trying to get my toddler to pee in a location in my house that was appropriate. The struggle bus had made its full loop before I embarked on the one where I was currently seated.
As we drove around she gave me unsolicited highlights of the area. If there was a fee for this service, I would have declined. I would have paid extra to not receive the service.
“Oh my Gaaaawwwwwd! There’s Pizzeriaaaaaa Biaaaaaaancoooooooo! It’s my faaaaaaaavorite! Have you beeeeeeeen theeeeeere?”
What fresh hell had I gotten myself into?
I looked at her. I can’t remember her name but I am sure it was Lindsey. Or Ashley. Or Brittney. Definitely, something that ended in an -ey.
I was crabby and tired and just wanted to grab her by her shirt and yell, “No! No, I have not been there! I am a single mother of a toddler who just peed in the dog’s bowl! My last fine dining experience was Chuck E Cheese, you nitwit!”
Was that an overreaction? 100%. Did I actually say that? No. Would I have felt bad if I did? Also no.
I learned at an early age that if you had something to say, you spat it out. If you had the floor at my house or with my friends, you used it quickly because Lord only knows when you were going to get it again.
Last week, while visiting my boyfriend, we watched an old Saturday Night Live skit where Cecily Strong portrays a woman you wish you had never met at a party. Part of the hilarity is her elongation of vowel sounds. It’s funny when you’re not sitting next to it.
Over the course of the weekend, we joked about it, and I made several comments in the same character. We laughed but he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Please do not ever actually talk like that.”
He is my people. He understands. He is also from Texas. That is a whole other world of elongated vowel sounds and I could see years of politely tolerated pain in his eyes.
What sets us off, sets us off. I don’t think we get to choose it. It’s part of how we’re wired. I make no apologies. I own the weird idiosyncrasies that make me who I am but I still feel the need to be understood. It’s odd. It’s conflicting. It’s okay. As Whitman said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.”
I don’t want to be a jerk and throttle strangers. I certainly keep it in check. I will be polite but I will cut and run in a New York minute from someone who has no idea how to land the damn plane. And God forbid you stick me next to Brittney on that plane. If you do, we will have words. Short, chopped, rapid-fire words.