Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 06/11/2023

Sometimes we have an issue that we can’t solve, and we call on our community. 

This week, we all came together to help this soul in need: “Urgent plea for a clown costume or any clown costume items, on behalf of an island family who wishes to remain anonymous.“

Someone offers up these odds and ends that they have lying around, by which I mean arranged in a demonic circle, surrounded by lights. It looks eerily like a presidential debate stage, which must be why I find it so unsettling. 

Another islander says, “Let me see if I kept a clown costume someone made for my daughter. Hoping it didn’t get tossed in one of my purges. It wasn’t exactly sparking joy for me.”

Ironic that clowns inspire horror rather than sparking joy. Like, we love vampires and werewolves, whose sole purpose is to kill and eat us, but clowns, who devote their life to making fools of themselves for our amusement, are terrifying. Is it that we don’t trust them? A predator we can understand, but a clown? Is it a trickster? Does it have sinister intentions? Someone get Freud on the line to answer these questions. 

Graduation time has come around again, and with it, the senior prank. It’s a young person’s last chance to steal a car without it being considered a crime. 

I feel like they underdid it with the caution tape. It could also use some silly string, and maybe a purple V sticker on the dash. That’s just some constructive criticism. But the people you should really be asking for aesthetic advice are the ones with the suite of clowns in their yard. 

We reminisce on past pranks. One islander says, “One of the years I was in school a VW bug was disassembled, put on automotives roof and then reassembled.”

Another responds, “One of the years I was in high school can’t remember which but one of the guys put his mini cooper in the lunch room.”

This brings up more memories from islanders. One tells this story about a friend “riding his motorcycle down the hallway of the old high school. Not an end of the year prank as far as I know, just a Tuesday”

Another prank: “Oh boy! let’s see, removing everything from the principals, vice principals, counselors, deans, and main office offices. Even the doors were removed. Everything went into a storage facility off campus courtesy of a former student.”

This actually looks like it’ll help the janitors mop. Just put all the chairs back when you’re done. And remember to clean the mud out of all the wheels. 

“I remember My Senior Prank was letting a Stink Bomb Off in The Men’s Bathroom.” Weak. 2 stars.  next time disassemble the sink and put it in the teachers’ lounge while you’re at it. 

Not only is it graduation time, it’s also cherry season. We have this lovely, anonymous post: 

The first comment: “You’re not the boss of me.”

The anonymous poster might not have caught the humor in this, because they respond by saying, “I don’t want your grubby fingers handling my fruit. Clearly handwashing, too, is beyond your comprehension. 😂

To which someone responds:  “Anonymous member shame on you for not washing your fruit.”

My favorite part of the rants group is how we find a way to assume the worst of people. Oh, you’re ranting about someone’s selfish behavior. Well, you’re just showing us your true nature as someone who doesn’t wash their fruit. 

We get deep into the issue. Is what the person did ok? We get into the nuts and bolts of this ethical debate. Here are some thoughts islanders had: “I have never done that but I would think that if you are buying something by the pound not per bag then you can pick and choose what you want in the bag. It is like buying any type of fruit or produce.”

Another says, “They are prebagged. Cherrypicking to this extent required actually dumping out many bags.”

Other point out that they’re sold by the pound. “Most cherries are in bags for your convenience so they aren’t all rolling around on a table. Customers aren’t obligated to buy what they have loaded into a bag. When you buy a 3lb bag of Cuties they are sealed and you aren’t paying by the pound. If a store loads a brown bag with a bunch of oranges that are $1.29/lb you aren’t obligated to buy every orange in a bag you can take some out if you want. Same with cherries.”

This is what I love – semantic arguments. What does it mean if something is bagged? Is it symbolic of the immutability of the grouping of cherries? Or is it just a fungible convenience? By what means can grocery stores communicate that you can or cannot rearrange the fruit? Is it the nature of the bag they are in? Should there be signs with actual words dictating appropriate behavior? What is the implied social contract around grocery store fruit? 

I need a treatise on the semiotics of grocery store organization, and its relation to unspoken social rules, stat. Have it on my desk by morning. 

Someone points out, “This is like the person who peels their bananas before buying them. Geez.” I get how that would save you money in the short term, but unpeeled bananas don’t really keep. And how would you get them home? They’d get smooshed in the bag. 

Another person says, “I have seen a person go and cut the stem off the broccoli too to not pay for weight they ‘aren’t going to eat’ That’s the best part. Idiots!” 

Of course we have to reminisce on halcyon times when this sort of problem never arose. One long time islander says, “Remember when there was just bins of fruit? And you reached in and grabbed what you wanted? None of this plastic bag bullshit cherries and grapes. I say do whatever makes you happy.”

And there’s even better reminiscing. “It use to be that you could get Cherries for free on the Island. Most people had fruit trees they never picked and were grateful if a neighbor didn’t let them go to waste. Nowadays it’s all about what’s mine is mine…I will let it rot or sell it for an inflated price.”

I like the trees at Ober Park where, if you jump, you can grab a low branch and someone else pulls off any cherries. I plan to bring this story up in thirty years when the only way to get cherries is through a pneumatic tube you control with your brain implant after watching 2 minutes of unskippable ads.

Speaking of trying to buy things, we have this remarkable story: “I went to our post office to buy postcard stamps. After waiting in line there for about 5 minutes I am told that I can’t buy stamps on Tuesday because the 1 guy who sells them doesn’t work on Tuesdays.  Huh?  They have a Stamp Sales guy?”

I love that stamps are a restricted product that can only be sold by licensed providers. Imagine me in a trenchcoat being like, “Hey kid, you want stamps? I got a few in my coat pocket. Lookie here, I got a George Bush Forever stamp, and one with a duck. The first ones free, kid. You know where to find me if you want some more.”

An islander describes the scene inside the post office as such: “There are several signs saying you can only purchase stamps from Window 3. I assumed the only employee could move over to Window 3. Nope.”

Others have had this problem. One says, “It is weird but when this happened to me a few weeks ago, I was told it’s because they were having a difficult time tracking stamps for inventory…so they gave Bob the Stampman job.”

Another islander offers a helpful solution. “I support your rant, and I would like to put out there that I like ordering stamps off the usps website because I enjoy browsing all the designs at my leisure. And they usually arrive fairly quickly.”

Whoa! I didn’t know you could do that. Well, now I know how I’ll be spending my Saturday night.

Honey, bring me a glass of wine and we can look at how they drew the Union Terminal Train Station in Cincinnati!

Others point out that you can buy stamps at the grocery store, but, plot twist, Tuesday is senior day at Thriftway, making it especially busy for our intrepid Tuesday stamp buyers. 

No good rant comes without reminiscing. Back in the days of unbagged cherries and VWs on the school roof, mail was also different. One person says, “Back in the day (I’m going to say 1990’s and prior) you could put your letter in your mailbox w/o a stamp, put the correct coinage on top of your mail, and your amazing mail carrier would take care of all of it!” 

Finally, one islander thinks we have ourselves a local legend. “STAMPMAN sounds like a superhero that comes in the night! But not on Tuesday nights!”

Hey, even God took a day off. Let’s cut the Stampman some slack. 

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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