I’ll Trade You One Mandarin Speaker for a Pound of Pain

corn manWe live near Seattle.  We’re close enough that the commute is decent but far enough into the nowhere that we’d be more likely to go cow-tipping than clubbing on a typical Thursday night. 

We have a slightly smaller public market than the big city, slightly more people dressed as giant cornstalks in the Fourth of July parade and our newspaper is much quirkier than the big city variety.

In my local paper you will find a section called Police Beat, eerily similar to the section of the same name in my college paper.  The only difference is that in BYU’s Police Beat, the articles would nearly always end with “The situation is under investigation” while my new town’s Police Beat articles end with something more like “There are no suspects, witnesses, clues, evidence, interesting details or real crime of any nature at this time.” At least in BYU’s Daily Universe, someone was still investigating the stolen cheese sandwich or the man who gave a woman a strange look across the parking lot of her dorm building. 

I’m quite surprised I haven’t made it into the paper yet.  The other day I parallel parked for almost two full hours right on Main Street when the sign clearly states that 2 hours is the LIMIT.  Even if we don’t make Police Beat, I know our family will make it into the paper somehow.  One of my kids is bound to join the chess club at school or earn their Eagle Scout award.  If one of us manages to save a salamander from untimely mangling, I’m sure we’ll make front page for the heroics.

How much of a dork am I that I’m suddenly scheming about how I can get on staff to write some kind of weekly parenting spot?  Yeah…..

My favorite part of the paper has to be the classified ads section.  Nearly every ad is in its own special section.  Here are a few of the headings:

Cemetery Lots
Mandarin Speaker (Dan speaks Mandarin and our marriage is not perfect, but I would never consider selling him in a small-town newspaper.  I don’t care if there is already a section for it.)
Miscellaneous (This section only has one entry, which I find amusing.)
Pain (This section also has only one entry.  I hope I called in time to snatch it up.  No one answered the phone.  There was just this amazingly high-pitched screeching noise.  Man, that still kills! )

When we first moved here, things got a little crazy and I was behind on my bill-paying.  I had to take my utility check into “city hall,” a little structure that looks about the size of my garage from the outside.  I parked in one of the three spots in front of the building and walked in, licking the envelope as I approached the desk where a tiny box labeled “utilities” sat.

The girl behind the counter called out, “You don’t have to lick that.”Â  “Oh, thanks,” I said as I stuffed the open payment into the slot.  The envelope stuck out about an inch.

“Um, excuse me.  The envelope is too tall for the box.”

“That’s okay.  I’m just gonna take it out as soon as you leave anyway.”

Look for twisters Dorothy.  We’re not in Seattle anymore.

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21 Responses to I’ll Trade You One Mandarin Speaker for a Pound of Pain

  1. grammyelin says:

    I love that you’re not part of the big city anymore. I love that someone dresses like a giant ear of corn for the 4th of July (I’m sensing that this is somehow deeply significant). I love that there is only one entry under misc. and that you would never sell Dan. I do wonder what they are talking about in the “Mandarin Speaker” section though. There is alot more mystery in your small town than I had realized at first visit. I’ll just have to come back some time for further investigation. Keep us posted!

    Love you!

  2. Tess says:

    wow, licking utility bill envelopes optional! love the small town description and the walking cornstalk

  3. Becca says:

    Random question–which mission did Dan serve in? I was in Taiwan, and I love hearing about other Mandarin speakers. Not that it does me a whole lot of good in suburban Utah, but at least I can show off for my kids!

  4. wendy says:

    I love our small town paper, too! Our family has had the honor to be in the paper and on the local news 3 times since we moved here 3 years ago! Wowza – we totally rock!

  5. Is there ever a good time for the mangling of salamanders? 🙂 We used to live in a tiny town off the Oregon coast and my mother would die laughing at the police reports. “A dog barked at a little child.” “Someone cut a man’s garden hoses.” “A chicken was stolen from a house.” It’s good stuff.

  6. amy a. says:

    Our paper accepts my submitted photos, my children’s poetry, and virtually anything that comes in the door. Big news are the festival queens, new teachers, and any sport played locally. One letter to the editor requested replies as the whether or not cats have souls. I love it! Yay for small towns.

  7. Heidi says:

    As time went by we kept moving further out from Seattle before hopschotching over a few states. The last town before the jump had one 4-way stop. Period. Granted, this was 16 years ago, but I’m guessing you’re describing our former municipality (if you can even call it that). We loved the small town charm.

  8. I have some friends who live in a small town in NW Arkansas and once when I was visiting, on the front page of their little local paper was – I kid you not – a lhalf page picture of a chicken crossing the road. Which begs the question.

  9. Mary says:

    My roommates and I tried desperately to get into the Daily Universe police beat. We would have loved the feeling of celebrity that came with it!

    I miss small-town life, especially in the Pacific Northwest. There are always lots of characters!

  10. super-cute, lady. Your town sounds like somewhere I would like to live. Maybe someday I will. 🙂

  11. Michelle says:

    I took Newswriting in college and the prof was a stringer for the SLC Tribune. He’d bring in the Universe everyday to show us what not to do. My personal favorite was the headline that read, “Students Help Rape Victims.”

  12. Amanda says:

    I want to live there! We may be moving to L.A. next year and I find myself silently saying goodbye to the trees and the mountains and the lakes and the rivers and the BLUE sky and everything else.

  13. Anne/kq says:

    So you could technically just walk up and hand her the check? 😮

    See, I find that inordinately creepy. That is why I am an L.A. girl and always will be! (BTW, I have been in the paper five times in my life, and my daughter got in for the first time at the age of 15 months. I guess you just have to be able to spot the reporters and give them a winning smile?)

  14. Heather O says:

    Schemeing to get a job writing for the paper? Heck, I’m still trying to figure out how you scored getting paid to blog at Parenting. You are my hero,, and if I could figure out how to make somebody pay me for spewing out my parenting wisdom, I’d be pretty psyched. Plus, my MIL couldn’t then condemn blogging as an utter and complete waste of time.

  15. Jen says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the Police Beat. Oh…how I lived for that section during college! It always amazed me how many people reported their scriptures as stolen….really? you think someone stole your fake leather triple with your name engraved on the front?

    Once I inadvertedly got locked inside the outdoor track, climbed the fence, got my shorts caught on the fence, and a byu cop had to come and save me. He took my name for his “report.” I waited nervously for the paper to see if I had made the big time…but alas, I did not.

  16. Becky C says:

    I grew up in a small town like that and boy, does that bring back memories. Around homecoming time, the homecoming court would have their pics in the paper too. How’s that for small town?!

    I totally LOL’d at the comment from the utility lady.

  17. Kris says:

    Don’t cha love living in a small town? My small town isn’t so small, but it looks and feels and acts just as you described! When I go to Starbuck’s I feel like I walked into a Sesame Street Skit “People in Your Neighborhood” because I know the cop, the hairdresser, the teacher, the plumber, the mayor, and the interior decorator.

  18. sare says:


    I’m just going to take it out as soon as you leave… but not right now, while you’re still watching. That would be too unprofessional.

  19. Sketchy says:

    Now I need to go and check the classified section of our local freebie newspaper instead of just chucking into the recycling bin like I usually do!

  20. Sonia (DDM) says:

    ACK! I wanna know what town you’re in!! It sounds an awful lot like the one I worked in for several years.

  21. Sunflower says:

    Dan speaks Mandarin?! I’m Chinese and I don’t even speak Mandarin!! Well, enough to order food but that’s about it… (so important, being able to order food.)

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