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Encyclopedia of *MY* Ordinary Life: A Plagiarism of the Best Intentions

EncyclopediaOfAnOrdinaryLife

I don’t know about you, but I could use some reasons to laugh this week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just turn on the news. On second thought, don’t. It’ll just bring you down.

Anyway, I have been watching the news, so I’ve been needing a way to cheer up. Today I stumbled upon something in the hidden crevices of my computer that made me laugh and, on the off chance that it might make you laugh too, I’ve decided to share it.

Really, though, you shouldn’t thank me for this bit of mirth. You should thank Amy Krouse Rosenthal (who has a really cool website).

Two and a half years ago, I read Amy’s memoir, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, in which she shares personal anecdotes in the form of an encyclopedia. Rather than try to explain how she turns this classic nonfiction format into something quirky and fun, here’s a picture of pages 108 and 109 in the G section:

The end of the GROCERY CART entry on page 110 says, “unpacking the groceries at home, I realized the rose was still sitting there at the store, paid for, on the bottom of the cart.”
The end of the GROCERY CART entry on page 110 says, “unpacking the groceries at home, I realized the rose was still sitting there at the store, paid for, on the bottom of the cart.”

I loved this book. What a unique, creative idea! And, as with all unique, creative ideas that other people come up with, I wished it had been mine. So, I decided to copy it.

Shortly after finishing Amy’s memoir, I began writing my own encyclopedic snippets, trying to recreate her cleverness. I told myself that my work was my own, that I was simply “inspired by” her book. But after a few pages, I had to admit that it wasn’t so much emulation as plagiarism, and poor plagiarism at that. So I tucked my attempt away and forgot about it.

Today I stumbled upon the file, and it really put a smile on my face. Not only did it remind me of how much I enjoyed Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, which I’ve been re-reading and re-enjoying all afternoon, but some of my anecdotes also tickled my funny bone.

Here are three entries from the ill-fated, quickly-abandoned, somewhat-plagiarized Encyclopedia of MY Ordinary Life. I hope you enjoy them (and that Amy Krouse Rosenthal forgives me for them).

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE

In the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, there is a man who does not speak. He has the words YES and NO tattooed on the palms of his hands. While watching the movie with my husband, I noticed something interesting that I couldn’t wait to talk about when it was over.

Walking out of the theater, I proudly told my hubby, “The words were on the wrong hands! NO was on the right hand and YES was on the left. It should have been the other way around. Your right hand is the one you use to shake and take oaths. It represents your promise, your guarantee, your word. It’s symbolic. YES should be on his RIGHT hand.” I grinned at my cleverness.

My husband responded, “The whole thing was dumb. Is holding up your hand really any faster than nodding your head? I mean, what if he was carrying something?” Oh. Huh. Good point.

MISUNDERSTOOD SONG LYRICS

Whenever I watch The Big Bang Theory (which is a LOT) I can never understand or remember if the theme song is staying “dense” or “tense”. They both seem like they could work. “The whole universe was in a hot ______ state.” Every single time, I have to ask my husband, “dense or tense” and he tells me. And I promptly forget again. Ok, it’s “dense.” I just asked him. But couldn’t the whole universe be in a hot tense state too? Sometimes I think it is.

In the song “No Rain” by Blind Melon, I thought for a very long time that he was saying, “You know I like to keep my cheating strategied (pronounced STRA-ti-ge-ee-ed.” I now know he is actually saying, “You know I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today.” Fine. But really, if you were cheating a lot, wouldn’t you want to have a strategy to keep it all from falling apart?

I still have no idea what the lyrics to “Roam” are, but that has not prevented me from singing along with the B-52’s at the top of my lungs for the past twenty years.

Spider

SPIDER, FAKE

I found my fake tarantula in a drawer in my classroom the other day and decided to bring it home. (I am quitting teaching at the end of this year, so I have been taking home about one item a day from school that I want to keep. At this rate, I will have my entire classroom cleaned out by August of 2013.)* Not having any better place to carry the fake spider, I put it in my purse. (Yes, you already know where this story is going, but I’m going to tell it anyway.)

I have a very short attention span. I am very good about following through on tasks and getting things done, but that is because I write EVERYTHING down. If I don’t, I forget it. I can be less than five minutes away from my house and think to myself, As soon as you walk in the door, go write shaving cream on the grocery list. Do it. Shaving cream, shaving cream, shaving cream, shaving cream, shaving… I wonder if I should postpone that vocab quiz until Friday. And then it’s gone. I won’t realize until I get home from the grocery store the next day and then try to shave my legs, that I’ve forgotten to write down shaving cream. So when I told myself I would take the spider out of my purse when I got home, I didn’t even pretend to believe myself.

The next morning on the way to work, I was stopped at a red light (thank goodness) when I decided to get my work badge and keys out of my purse. Half looking at the road, half looking at my purse, I pulled the silver lanyard out, felt the extra heaviness of it, glanced over, saw that giant tarantula hanging from the clasp by his hairy legs and screamed so loud I hurt my own ears. The whole time my brain was yelling, “Stop, you idiot! It’s the fake spider! You knew it was in there! You knew this would happen! You’re making a fool of yourself!” But my body wouldn’t listen, couldn’t keep up, and was just trying not to have a heart attack.

Afterwards, I didn’t know what to do. I knew I couldn’t put it back in my purse because in just five short minutes I would forget it was there again and repeat the whole process, maybe while going 60 mph. The light turned green, so I stuffed the thing in the glove compartment. And forgot about it. Now, every time I open the glove compartment, I scare myself, but I still can’t remember it’s in there long enough to take it out. **

*2014 Note: I actually managed to clean out my classroom much sooner than that, thank you very much, former self.

** I don’t think the spider is still in there. I’m pretty sure I moved it… somewhere else. ?

That’s all, folks.

I’m going to keep the rest of the entries to myself, since many of them were even more embarrassing than these. But I highly recommend you read Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. It should brighten your day whether the news has gotten you down or not.

Author:

Carie Juettner is a teacher and writer in Austin, Texas. Her poems and short stories have appeared in publications such as Daily Science Fiction, Nature Futures, The Texas Poetry Calendar, and HelloHorror. She is currently working on a novel for the middle grade audience. Well, CURRENTLY she is drinking a cup of coffee and petting a dog, but she promises to get back to the novel in just a few minutes.

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