Monday, October 11, 2010

Suburbs of Our Discontent

Et tu, Fluté?

Last weekend my daughter and I participated in a 5K walk to benefit the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. Doug Flutie is, by all accounts, a wonderful person who is making a real difference for an important cause.

But in my little teeny tiny world, he haunts me.

Picture, if you will, a tired youngish mother who has been commuting for three years between her job in Columbus, Ohio and her husband's apartment in the MetroWest Boston area. Now imagine that she has finally landed an interview at a good school ten miles from his. She's made it through the day of presenting her work, meeting students, and talking with Department members. Now it's time for the final dinner with three of her potential future colleagues. She senses that the conversation is starting to drag, that she's losing the advantage, so she pulls out the ultimate sure-thing topic.

“Tell me about the sports at Boston College!” I blurted. (Okay, it's me.)

I hate college sports, but it's a good, neutral topic that always brings out some kind of school spirit crap. I was coming from Ohio State, home of the Buckeyes, so I knew a thing or two about this. I’d watched young men burn couches and cars in the streets of Columbus during Michigan-OSU games. I knew that a Buckeye was a seed nut. Yeah. Sports. I could turn this thing around.

The newest hire stared off into space, probably scrolling mentally through the “T” schedule, wondering how soon he could bolt. But the most senior member of the group seemed engaged.

“Well,” she started. “BC’s football is, of course, nationally known. We have Doug Flutie to thank for that.”

Doug Flutie! I knew that name! I didn’t know any other college players, but I knew him. We even had a road called Flutie Pass in Columbus, named after his famous “Hail Mary” throw that saved some game some time.

“Well, he was at Ohio State, you know,” I said, flush with renewed confidence. I can turn this around. I can turn this around.

They looked at me like I was a lost child.

“He played for BC,” she assured me.

“Well, maybe at some point,” I replied, “but I know he was at Ohio State because we have a whole road named after him: Flutie Pass.”

She hesitated for a moment, torn between her commitment to BC ‘s most famous alumnus and her consideration—or was that pity I saw in her eyes?—for me.

“Flutie Pass is in Natick,” she said. “That’s where Doug Flutie went to high school.”

Natick. Oh, God, of course, Natick. Two miles from our apartment. I drove past Flutie Pass every week on my way to Target and Trader Joe’s. I took it to get to the AMC movie theater.

A panicky clench started gripping its way up my intestinal track. What I experienced probably has a name somewhere in the annals of psychiatric journals: “Multi-Geographical Ephasic Transference” or something. I’d been living in two places for so long that I couldn’t parse their details anymore. Street names, phone numbers, favorite take-out places, all were jumbled inside my brain like a set of Yahtzee dice. I thought I’d thrown my own “Hail Mary” pass, and instead I’d thrown a bunch of useless ones and twos.

I sucked down my glass of wine, and we all spent the rest of the dinner fascinated by the various pasta shapes and fatty cream swirls in our never-ending bowls.

I did eventually get the job, but I remain haunted by the ghost of Doug Flutie.

And then, last weekend, as I was leaving the check-in desk for the Flutie walk, some guy started pointing at my number:

"946! 946! We've almost hit a thousand!" he exclaimed.

"Yeah, yeah. That's great," I'm thinking, as my New Yorker avoidance of stranger conversation kept my eyes averted, propelling me out the revolving doors.

Later, as they were announcing the awards, the same man took the mic and began talking about the foundation.

I had dissed Doug Flutie again. This time to his face.

Which leads me to conclude that in a past life he must have betrayed me and I am destined to misrecognize and disrespect him for the rest of this lifetime. Maybe he was Brutus to my Caesar, or Macbeth to my Duncan.

Or maybe I just need a good night's sleep.


  1. And yet you got hired. It's like a Shakespearean miracle!

  2. Hilarious! Reminds me of the multi-geographic ephasic transference that forever haunts my own waking hours. Freshman year in college, I was obsessed with this girl, Amy. I looked up her picture and stats almost hourly in the Freshman Facebook. Amy Lastname. Dorset Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland. This was good news. My roommate was from Chevy Chase, too, so I had my in. I spotted her in the dining hall one day in line to get jello, mustered the courage, and made my approach. "Hi. You're Amy Lastname, right? From Chevy Chase." Already seconds in, and I flooded the engine. She looked at me, appropriately guarded and weirded out. Who was this freak? "Yes," she said. "How'd you know that?" "Well, my roommate is from Chevy Chase." "What's his name?" she asked. "Corey Lastname. He lives on Dorset Avenue." Corey did NOT live on Dorset Avenue. Amy did. She stared at me quizzically. "I know everyone on the street and I don't know him." As the last drop of blood drained from my face, I quickly rebounded with a subtle save: "Oh. It was a long time ago," took my jello and fled. I'm so happy someone married me.

  3. Oh My God, Adam. It's Michelle here. Wanna hear freaky coincidence? I KNOW WHO YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. I won't say her last name out loud, but it begins with a "C" and has six letters, oui? I grew up around the corner from her!!!! That's seriously weird.

  4. Who'd a thought? The frayed threads of my life all come together on But that aside... Have you seen Amy C lately? Does she ask about me? 'Cause my name's on tv sometimes. She HAS to have seen it. If the answer's yes, tell her I'm happily married, but give her my e-mail. If no, feel free to knock her cafeteria tray out of her hands. She was always so stuck up. "Oooh, I'm from Chevy Chase. Walt Whitman High. I'm going to be a doctor one day..." Who gives a shit? I hate her. I've over her. But give her my e-mail, okay? I'm serious.