Readers say the darndest things

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Writer's block isn't really the right phrase to describe my column-writing endeavors this week.

It's more that I have some ideas I would like to write about, but the timing isn't right. Or I don't have enough knowledge to make it accurate.

I could write about my family's Christmas party, which was held last weekend. Or about how I'm freaking out about not having my Christmas shopping or card mailing done.

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But I wrote about Christmas last week and next Wednesday is Christmas Day (so be expecting a some holiday cheer in next week's column.)

I also thought about writing about Jennifer Lopez's new movie "Maid in Manhattan." It was the top-grossing film of the weekend, much to my dismay. Lopez stars in a stereotypical role as a hotel maid who wins the heart of a rich politician, but he thinks she's rich as well. The politician, evidently, is the man of her dreams but she's afraid he will find out who she really is.

I wanted to write about how the movie reinforces stereotypes about race and gender, but to be fair I would actually have to see the movie.

I can't bring myself to spend a dime on it.

Another idea was to write about my boyfriend's move to Iowa and how he is in the same spot I was six months ago -- new job, new town, new apartment.

Then I thought about how much has happened in those six months. And how this column has been a big part of the adjustment.

It feels kind of strange when people recognize me or start talking to me because they've seen me in the paper.

Most say they recognize my picture.

"Oh, you're from the Herald. I see your picture in the paper."

Some say, "You're the girl in the box," and proceed to form a box with their hands.

And then many will quickly add, "I mean, I don't read it or anything."

One acquaintance went so far as to say he laughs every time he sees my picture and tossed his head to the side to impersonate my mug.

Then he added he didn't actually read the column.

Others may comment on one of the topics. One reader said he identified with a column I had written about moving away from friends and family.

Another told me I didn't seem sad enough in my column about my dog's death.

Some will comment out of the blue.

"You have a problem with television," one person said as I walked by.

When I asked him how he would know that, and he held up his hands like he was reading the paper.

"Keep doing what you're doing," he said.

Which is an encouraging comment, but only puts more pressure on me to do a good job.

And all that attention may be why I'm having trouble focusing on a topic. I'm realizing that people actually read this part of the paper every Wednesday and have their own opinion about my opinion.

So I take solace in a comment a recent reader said.

"You can't make everyone happy."

With all these comments, including the e-mails and phone calls, it's good to know people are reading (or at least paging through) the paper.

Even if today's readers will have to put up with my random ramblings.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at