Wow. Is it ever murky outside. Radar promises another day like Tuesday — i.e., all-day rain — and at the moment it’s about 8:30 p.m., light-wise. Lucky for me I have this glowing screen to make rod-and-cone destruction that much easier.

Moments in My Career When I Realized I’d Bet on the Wrong Horse, a continuing series: When I learned that the Boston Globe labor agreement with copy editors included two 10-minute “eye breaks” to preserve the rods and cones of those required to stare into computer screens all day. Although, for whatever it’s worth, I’ve never experienced so-called eyestrain in my life. Like heartburn, for me it’s essentially mythical.

The real toll computer work takes on your body is elsewhere — wrists (repetitive strain), shoulders (hunched and knotted in fury as you hammer out angry blog comments), back (connected to shoulders; see above). And you don’t hear much about Secretary’s Spread anymore, do you?

That’s because everyone has it.

Yes, it’s another one of those mornings, folks. Freaky dreams, grounds in my coffee, cascading rain. And then there was this story in the NYT, about a family of five that was killed in Montreal after a sinkhole opened under their house and swallowed it justlikethat. The incident, the story said, was “a stark reminder of a hidden menace under many parts of Quebec, one that dates back 10,000 years to an ancient inland sea.” What the what?

Michel A. Bouchard, a professor of geology at the University of Montreal, said the area around St. Jude rests on an unusual variety of “sensitive clay” that was originally the bed of an ancient sea. Lake Champlain is a remnant of the sea.

Because the clay formed in salt water, Professor Bouchard said, the molecular structure of its particles resembles playing cards arranged as an unstable house of cards, rather than stacked in a deck, as occurs with clay formed in fresh water. A variety of events can break the molecular bonds holding the clay particles together. When that occurs, the clay can spontaneously liquefy with little or no provocation.

“Even a fly landing on the surface can set it off,” he said.

I love it when experts describe these things as “reminders.” Like whoever built this house knew it was going on a “sensitive clay” with the molecular structure of a house of cards that could be collapsed with the additional weight of a fly, and just…forgot it, somehow. Look at that photo and note the tiny red dot near the bottom, where the road enters the sinkhole. That’s the truck owned by the world’s luckiest motorist, who suddenly found himself falling into muck and took an hour to crawl back to safety.

The whole thing was so silent and sudden, the story says, that neighbors were left wondering only why the power had gone out.

Someone should write a scene like this into a movie, and wait to be massacred by critics who would call it a wee too deus ex machina for belief.

In other news at this hour, the Freep presents the results of a reader survey on their Top 5 turnoffs in restaurants. No. 1? Being called “you guys” by overly familiar servers. Get used to it, I’d say. There’s a hipster-doofus outdoor store in our neighborhood called Moosejaw, where “you guys” is the height of formality. I haven’t been called “dude” there yet, but I fully expect it. I will roar Dentu-Creme breath at them when it happens. Sorry, grandma.

And that’s all I have today. What a lousy week. I can sense readers flowing away like rainfall in the gutters. Oddly freeing, somehow. And yet, sometimes the fields have to lie fallow for a while. This might be one of those weeks.

Posted at 9:51 am in Current events |

39 responses to “Swallowed.”

  1. jcburns said on May 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I really, really hate “you guys” as a collective plural, especially when addressing men and women..uh..collectively. PS. Youse kids get off my lawn.

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  2. coozledad said on May 13, 2010 at 10:21 am

    I guess you could use “you folks” but it conjures images of stern Bavarians with toothbrush mustaches and lederhosen.

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  3. John said on May 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

    “HEY YOU GUYS! We’re gonna turn it on, we’re gonna bring you the power.”

    I love all varieties of “you guys”, but then again, I grew up in the South where “you guys” was way cooler than “y’all”.

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  4. Jeff Borden said on May 13, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I see the beloved governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, continues her warm-hearted outreach to non-white citizens by signing into law a measure ending the teaching of ethnic studies in high schools. Those dumb Mexicans and Native Americans! Don’t they understand that Arizona simply did not exist until enough white folks moved there in 1918 to qualify for statehood? The very idea of suggesting there was any kind of activity in the Grand Canyon State until Lord Caucasian arrived! Horrors.

    I genuinely try not to judge an entire political, social, economic or philosophical viewpoint by the actions of the most extreme elements, but I am just about at the point where I can honestly say, without nuance, that I hate Republicans. Perhaps this is just a phase, but right now, this is a political party that exists solely on anger, resentment, envy, phony religiosity, xenophobia, bias and bile.

    Democrats have their own issues and I am hardly a card-waving fan of the party. But my God, how could I ever cast a vote for anyone from the GOP?

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  5. Julie Robinson said on May 13, 2010 at 10:42 am

    We have the same crappy weather here in the Fort and I was having a little pity party until I looked at Moe’s blog. She’s having surgery today to remove a lymph node and have it tested. Suddenly my little problems are miniscule. More warm fuzzy thoughts for you, Moe.

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  6. Jenine said on May 13, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I know I’d rather be addressed as “you guys” than asked how I’m doing tonight?!

    The unstable clay reminds me of the Marina neighborhood in San Francisco, built on rubble infill on top of marshland at the edge of the Bay. The marsh/rubble ground is prone to liquefaction during a good strong earthquake. Scary to think about.

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  7. Chris said on May 13, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Nancy, everyone has weeks like this. You kept me reading until the end.

    I’m not a fan of you guys and I can’t stand dude. A former employee once addressed me as dude. I’m a pretty laid-back boss, but I suggested he should remember in the future to whom he was speaking.

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  8. Sue said on May 13, 2010 at 11:18 am

    My biggest restaurant turnoff is packed seating. I stopped going to one of my favorite places after I couldn’t even pull my chair out to sit down without hitting the back of the chair behind me. Then, because we were practically sitting in his lap, we got to listen to the young man at the next table pouring contempt on any and all news stations that are not Fox. An email to the restaurant’s website didn’t get a response.
    On another topic, did anyone see Lewis Black on Daily Show last night? “Nazi Tourette’s”, hehehe.

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  9. Deborah said on May 13, 2010 at 11:19 am

    I love you guys, how are y’all doin today?

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  10. Dorothy said on May 13, 2010 at 11:28 am

    In Pittsburgh it would be “yins”, not “you guys.” I’m not offended by either, but maybe it would depend on the way the phrase is delivered.

    Fingers crossed for Moe today. Our weather is also crap but I’m taking the afternoon off to cut the grass since I’m out of town all day Saturday, and tomorrow I think we’re getting more rain. Mike’s working on a landscaping project (very heavy blocks for a wall) that I’m unable to help him with, so I’m the grass cutter. Actually I’m always the grass cutter. I love like hell using our Massey Ferguson red tractor! Do any of yins have one?

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  11. Chris said on May 13, 2010 at 11:49 am

    The Lewis Black clip made me laugh so hard I cried.

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  12. nancy said on May 13, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Ditto. Alan always notes the resemblance, in looks and manner, between Lewis Black and my brother. Imagine our holiday dinners.

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  13. MichaelG said on May 13, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I must admit that “You guys” drives me nuts. Check too late also bugs me. I feel as if I’m being held hostage to the check. I’m ready to leave and can’t. Too early? Doesn’t bother me. If I want something else it’s their problem to refigure the check. Don’t ask about change. Just bring it. And break that large bill while you’re at it. I had breakfast in Barstow the other day and the tab was nine bucks and change. Dumb ass waitress brought me a few coins and a ten dollar bill. How was I supposed to tip her? I had to ask her to go break the ten. I wonder if she’ll ever figure out why her tips are so low.

    I lived for years in San Francisco’s Marina District at Francisco and Broderick and later at Francisco and Diviz. It is truly one of the world’s great neighborhoods. What a wonderful place to live. Loma Prieta sure did demonstrate liquefaction.

    All our best, Moe. We’re pulling for you.

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  14. paddyo' said on May 13, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    How about “How’s your meal so far?” mere seconds after the entrees have been delivered?
    Almost as good/bad as the grocery store check-out clerks’ two most irksome lines:
    “Did you find everything today?” (uh, well, yeah, or I wouldn’t be here checking out)
    and . . .
    “Do you need some help out with that today?” (after buying two or three items in the “express” checkout lane, which is anything but, but that’s another grouse . . . )
    Ahhh, thanks, Nance — my inner Andy Rooney has been released for another year . . .

    BTW, about that Canadian sinkhole:
    Evidently the patron saint of hopeless cases was not on duty that day in his NAMESAKE TOWN.

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  15. JC said on May 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    The best advice my boss gave me during my short career as a waitress: Never ask “Do you need change?” when the customer hands you cash for the bill. Don’t assume you’ve earned the tip.

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  16. LAMary said on May 13, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I have tendonitis from using the damn computer mouse too much. Same thing tennis players get. The software I use has lots of dropdowns. Employee health will give me vicodin if I want it.
    I’ve had for the most part a crappy second quarter. I won’t go into detail but between car problems, money issues connected to the ex and work ugliness it’s been sucking around here lately. But I’m still working. The money issues will make things dicey for while but we like rice and beans at our house. My car is running fine now. I keep moving forward, wading through the treacle, trying to learn from the mistakes so I can avoid them in the future.

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  17. beb said on May 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Lewis Black rulez!

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  18. Scout said on May 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I never will get tired of nn.c. Nancy, even when you’re busy, tired or down-in-the-dumps, this blog is worth reading. I quite enjoy the interaction between the regulars and find myself checking back several times a day to see who has chimed in.

    I too have been following moe’s blog and I agree wholeheartedly with Julie. I’m sending healing thoughts moe’s way as I “speak.”

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  19. MichaelG said on May 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Yeah, Paddy. That “How ya doin” thing gets me as well. Invariably they ask when your mouth is full. If they would pay attention to their tables they would know when somebody needs something.

    That other stuff about the grocery store is true to. It’s a forced bonhomie that always rings so false. It can’t be done to a script like restaurants and grocery stores, etc. impose on their employees. They’ll never learn.

    Cheer up, Mary. It’s going to be a nice weekend. And believe me, I know about financial issues with the ex. My sympathies.

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  20. LAMary said on May 13, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    The tiny upside of my financial issues with the ex is that part of the problem is I make more than he does now. He’s been with the same company for 26 years. I was a stay at home mom for ten years until I went back to work in a job I had no experience for ten years and two months ago. He works from home in Malibu and has not been without a tan in years. But I just passed him and his business degree right on by.

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  21. deb said on May 13, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    LA Mary, good for you — living well really is the best revenge.

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  22. brian stouder said on May 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    But I just passed him and his busi­ness degree right on by.

    I’d say you earned a Doctorate (Cum Laude) from the Leona Helmsley School of Business, years ago.

    Along those lines, the most common cause of an unpleasant experience for me at a restaurant is when some simple thing goes wrong, and then it doesn’t get dealt with. While a newly minted 19 year old wait staff person may not realize it, one would think that a restaurant manager worth her salt would instruct her people that the key to the business is People Coming Back. Avoiding errors in the first place is a good thing, but when things go sideways – make it right!! I’d almost say – treat an error as an opportunity to make a lasting, positive impression on the customer.

    But if you argue with me over a forgotten baked potato (this happened last week), what are the odds that I’ll come back?

    And, here’s hoping Moe’s biggest concern in the next few days revolves around what’s for dinner; and indeed, that Alex’s dog is OK.

    And for something completely different – how about flaming acetylene tanks rocketing into traffic in Dallas?


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  23. Colleen said on May 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    “Do you need change” is sure to set my mother off. If it’s all for you, don’t worry, the customer will say so.

    Joining the chorus of good thoughts for Moe.

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  24. Rana said on May 13, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    *sending good thoughts moe-wards*

    Ah, Moosejaw. I’ve ordered one or two things from them, and I have to admit that I find their website amusing. There are a few too many babes in tight shirts for this woman’s comfort, but the irreverence can be refreshing.

    (Of course, I’m the person who graduated from a school that sent out an application form that said, in the series of little boxes normally labeled “for office use only” the following: “Don’t write here.” “Nor here.” and, finally “Nope! Not here either!” It was a sign to me that I was applying to the right place.)

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  25. alex said on May 13, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    That “How ya doin” thing gets me as well. Invari­ably they ask when your mouth is full.

    Invariably they do ask when your mouth is full, yes indeedy, but their eyes are on your cocktail glass, if you hadn’t noticed. At least that has been my experience.

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  26. Cosmo Panzini said on May 13, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Lewis Black? I had no idea.

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  27. Dorothy said on May 13, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    paddyo – I too can’t STAND the “Did you find everything all right?” line. It seems to follow me everywhere I got – Kroger, Wal-mart, the shoe store, etc. Drives me bats. I fight the temptation to become Crazy Middle-Aged Woman and rant about it every time I hear it. I guess it’s an alternative to “Have a nice day!” but still…I’d rather they say nada.

    Lewis Black has that same effect on me, Chris. Laugh until I cry, or pee my pants, I’ll laugh so hard. Either one.

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  28. Dexter said on May 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Dissatisfaction and …jealousy! Yes, I am jealous of an NN.c er. I am stuck in the same lousy weather , downriver and west of our blog host by a few hours.
    I would rather be where MichaelG is, readying to go do his thing for the fabulous Tour of California which starts Sunday.
    It’s gonna be great and it probably won’t have all the cold rain they had last year. All the big names in cycling will be there, and through Versus Network I will be following the man who has made it “his tour”, Levi Leipheimer.
    But there is joy in Mudville, as the hated Yankees, all cocky this year, had their pinstriped asses handed to them by the Detroit Tigers today, for a 3-1 series win. Derek Jeter has that Kalamazoo connection, so I like him. but he sucked really bad…one hit for the four games.
    And!—The SUN just appeared! I can’t believe it. I am off to ride my bike until the damn rain comes back. All the severe Ohio weather was down by the Ohio River today.

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  29. Dexter said on May 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Lewis Black on Comedy Central

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  30. MichaelG said on May 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Good for you, Mary. As long as he doesn’t come sucking around for alimony or something.

    The cold rainy weather was the reason they moved the Amgen from Feb to May this year. It should be low 80’s. I got some good pix last year. We’ll see how it goes on Sunday.

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  31. LAMary said on May 13, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Not going to happen, Michael. For one thing we are still technically married. If you worked out how much he kicked in for the previous eight years when he was making more than I, it would take a while before I started owing him anything.

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  32. moe99 said on May 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm


    Here’s some fun. I’m specifically thinking about coozledad here…

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  33. coozledad said on May 13, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Moe:I don’t know what I’ve come down with lately, but I’ve used the internets to narrow the possibilities. If I go with the “It’s the result of long term personal neglect” and enter the symptoms, I get Ideopathic Intracranial Hypertension, the treatments for which are listed in descending order as diuretics, trying in earnest to shed some of that damn weight, and, if it keeps up, having a surgeon pull your eye part of the way out and slice along the optic nerve to reduce the pressure. The other three diagnoses are Lyme disease, heartworms, or Congo-Crimea hemorrhagic tick virus (somewhat unlikely). Actually I felt much better after a nap today.
    But then there’s always equine encephalitis…

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  34. A. Riley said on May 13, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    The restaurant thing that bugs me is “No problem.” Grr.

    The other night we went out to a recently redesigned restaurant in town — good food, snappy decor, v. nice wine list, ambitious prices — and the waitress was so poorly trained and clueless it was infuriating. And also way over her head with that menu — she would have been a lot more comfortable at a Bennigan’s or something. That’s the management’s fault, not hers.

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  35. Kim said on May 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Been meaning to say for days now that after seeing what, four weeks of Treme, that it is fab-u-lous. Completely worth the ridiculous amount of cash we spend on cable and HBO. The Ashley channeling – though I “knew” the guy as well as I know any of you (the exception being Bob Not Greene and anyone else I actually know know who hasn’t yet piped up) – is precious in a good way. I love seeing all those Wire guys in different skins. And it reminded me of Jane Hansen’s 22-part series in the Atlanta J-C titled “Come Hell or High Water,” the story of a public hospital’s struggle during and immediately after Katrina. Read it if you haven’t. It’s not about music; its tiny stage is Charity Hospital, across the street from a private hospital that could afford to evacuate everybody – some with helicopters.
    Thanks, Nancy, for the slow day (though I also read everything, as usual).

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  36. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 13, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Didn’t Jethro Tull write “Wading Through the Treacle”?

    Nice one, LAMary. KBO.

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  37. basset said on May 14, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Far as I know, I’m nnc’s resident Beatles obsessive – which is how I run across stuff like this:


    and it runs all the way up to 1966 if you care to follow.

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  38. Dexter said on May 14, 2010 at 12:49 am

    Creighton Bernette’s book topic (HBO’s Treme)

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  39. Hattie said on May 14, 2010 at 2:39 am

    I come from the original “you guys” place: California. As a little girl I would say,never being as fast as my friends, “Wait up, you guys.”
    Wading through the treacle. That is good.

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