My husband and I often touch base on chat when we first arrive at our workstations. Here’s how that went this morning, when I got to campus after dropping Little Boy off at daycare:
Me: At school. Grumpy boy this morning.
Husband: No kidding.
Me: He was OK playing with stuff while I signed him in, but got very sad when I handed him to [Teacher A] outside.
Husband: I don’t know what’s up with him lately.
Me: Me neither.
Husband: Well, daycare’s problem for a while.
Me: Yes, thank goodness.
Me: “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!”*
Husband: Heck yes.
Me: I think it used to be more culturally acceptable to say that. Now we have to go through this act of how much we miss our kids when they start school.**
Husband: I’m going to channel Red Forman.
*For those who don’t immediately recognize it, this is a line from the carol “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”
**To be fair, I did miss Little Boy when he started daycare. But that was one of the best things that’s ever happened for our mother-son relationship.
Scene: Crazy Grad Mama meets a newly-arrived postdoc. We’ve established that I am a grad student.
New postdoc: “So, how many years have you been here?”
Me: “More years than I care to admit.” [laughs]
[New postdoc laughs along.] “Almost done, then? Finishing soon?”
“Well, soon-ish. Another year, maybe two.”
“How do you like it here?”
“I… I think I’m going to have to get to know you a little better before I can honestly answer that.”
I know, I know. I’m bad at small talk.
Me, reading package: “‘Tea is a Gluten Free Beverage.’ [yes, it was capitalized like that] Well, yeah, it’s tea… are there any beverages that aren’t gluten-free?”
“I guess if you put non-dairy creamer in coffee that would maybe have glu-”
“Oh yeah. Beer. Definitely beer.”
As you can tell, we don’t do ingredient-avoidance diets. Or drink beer. (Wine, on the other hand…)
Really obvious labeling on food tends to amuse me. At least “Gluten Free Beverage” could perhaps represent some kind of standard, indicating that the company was committed to avoiding cross-contamination to ensure that those with celiac disease could safely enjoy its product. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, though. More likely they’re just pointing out tea’s natural lack of gluten as an advertisement.
I’ve seen this sort of thing before. Extra-virgin olive oil with a shiny “Zero Carbs!” sticker. Marshmallows that proudly proclaim they are Fat Free! (Like every other marshmallow on the shelf.) Aligning yourself with the latest food fad is a good way to make your product look healthier than the competition without actually doing anything different.
But my favorite superfluous food label has nothing to do with health fads and everything to do with not wanting to be sued. Or maybe just mass production.
At some point when I was roughly middle-school-aged, my mother purchased a large tub of peanuts at the grocery store. It was a transparent plastic container, about as wide as a dinner plate and several inches tall, clearly containing uncountable numbers of shelled peanuts. Across the top, in block letters, the label warned, “May contain traces of peanuts.”
“… and your brother’s probably not the right choice.”
“We are not naming my brother as guardian in our will. Can you imagine? It’d be like Three Men and a Baby.”
“Only less cool.”
“With more math. And less drugs.”
“He’d bring him to your parents’ house on the weekend with his laundry and go, ‘Here, he needs a bath.’ ”
(Sorry little brother. I love you. And I know you do your own laundry. Just in other people’s washing machines.)
“This song came out when I was in middle school, which was when I was still making up my own language, so I translated it. I’ve forgotten almost all of it but there’s one line that I still remember really clearly every time.”
“You made up your own language?”
“Yeah. I made up a whole country. It was an island in the Pacific… an island inhabited by humanoid aliens who came to Earth because their star was about to explode.”
“I can still remember the whole national anthem – ”
“It had a national anthem?”
“Yes, and I can still remember it because it turned out to be the right tempo for running, so I would recite it in my head – all three verses and the chorus – while running up hills.”