Turning blue in a small-town rut

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I woke up Tuesday feeling kind of ... regular.

My dream filtered back to me in little segments. I was at work. I had a meeting in the conference room with the editor and publisher. I had a cocktail with a girlfriend. I folded some laundry.

Then it hit me: My dream was an accurate replay of a typical Wednesday. Which means even my dreams aren't interesting any more.

I'm settled into a deep, deep rut. The most interesting thing that has happened to me lately is this: I had my toenails painted electric blue a month ago to match a dress I was wearing to a wedding.

The polish is still on and attracting a lot of attention, which leads to the following conversation over and over again:

Fellow Rut Dweller: Whoa! That is some BLUE toenail polish.

Me: Yes. I had it done a month ago to match a dress, and it's still on.

FRD: You must not wash your feet very much.

Me: Heh, heh.

Due to the rut-induced lethargy I'm experiencing, I won't take the polish off until it gets chipped. At this rate, that will be roughly when the toenails are long enough for use in digging a winter hibernation burrow. The Other Half's legs will be slashed to shreds in his sleep.

Of course, the toenail polish exchange is just one of the many rote conversations I experience in the course of a day. You know you have them, too, with your family members, friends and co-workers. "How was your day?" "Fine. How was your day?" "Fine." And so on.

I've ceased e-mailing my dearest friends because of my messages' content. They've got stuff going on. New jobs. New husbands. Babies on the way. Birthday bashes. Trips to exotic locations.

Me? There were doughnuts at the office Tuesday. Oh yeah! I'm trying a new shade of eye shadow. "Currant."

Other than that, I considered going to the movies on Monday night, but opted to stay in and rent a DVD -- probably due to my last movie experience.

The film was "Holes" -- the suggestion of a friend -- a sweet Disney picture about how what comes around goes around. We were seated in front of a woman who had to explain all the subtle nuances to her friend.

"SEE!" she said in the loudest whisper ever. "THAT'S HOW COME HE'S CURSED!"

I took all my restraint to not turn around and yell, "Yo, Ebert, it's a *(@#%& Disney film made for 8-year-olds. You don't get accolades for figuring out the plot."

Determined to break out of my rut of light comedies and box office smashes, I rented Oscar-nominated David Lynch's film "Mullholland Drive." Turns out "Oscar nominated" is not a synonym for "enjoyable," "understandable" or "the director was somewhat lucid during the making of this film."

Trouble is, I like my little rut far too much. My morning papers with a Kashi bar. Unlocking my office and turning on this computer. Lunch with co-workers. "Law & Order" in syndication (stupid NBA playoffs on TNT!) while pedaling my stationary bike at a leisurely pace.

There's stopping for lipstick or a magazine at the 24-hour drugstore on the way home and the clearance racks at my favorite dress shop.

There's running into acquaintances while grocery shopping and during oil changes.

There's actually having some idea of what I'm doing on the job instead of going someplace strange and intimidating.

Maybe a rut, for me, is simply small-town life and all its comforts.

In that case, I'll probably just use my blue toenails to dig in deeper.

Heidi Hall is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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