Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: jan harold brunvand

The Vanishing Hitchhiker

the vanishing hitchhiker

I have this sudden need to create a pie chart of my reading data, so this year I have started an excel spreadsheet and I’m adding books as I read. This morning, after I finished The Vanishing Hitchhiker by Jan Harold Brunvand, I opened up my file and added my latest book. And then I spent thirty minutes trying to intuitively add a pie chart of the books I’ve read so far. I didn’t get anywhere. Excel is not “intuitive” to me at all. I’ll need to look up a how-to article.

I’m so obsessed with it that I am considering spending time entering last year’s data and making charts, just for fun. Yeah, I have a problem. I’m a geek when it comes to data charts. Last week, I took a screen shot of gas prices from Simply Auto, an app I use every time I fill up my truck. Check it out.

This is five years of gas prices all in one picture. No rumor, my actual data.

Back to business!

Yes, I finished reading The Vanishing Hitchhiker. It was a short book and a little old but not outdated (1981). There were a lot of the classic stories I heard as a kid, brought back some great memories. I think what struck me most was the fact that those stories are so universal across the country. It feels like a bond between us.

Urban legends are cautionary tales warning us to about the dangers our society faces, well…we THINK we face anyway. The old ones were about young women staying away from strange men, babysitters lacking in focus, technology or big business fears, and keeping an eye on your children. They are the same now, but they spread in different ways. Some of us believe them as real more than others.

There are a few that have circulated around social media: they’ll take your data if you don’t copy paste this statement, random violence acts against specific people, poisoned Halloween candy, etc. I used to love going over to Snopes and seeing what they had uncovered about these so called “reports,” but recently I haven’t felt like they were that credible either. There were so many pop-up ads and shared articles from other sources, it made me feel like they weren’t doing the work.

I’d also heard that Snopes had become biased politically, leaning to one side or another depending on who was telling me the story. So maybe that’s an urban legend as well.

I spent some time searching the internet for “modern urban legends” but found only the old ones I heard as a kid; pop-rocks and diet pepsi, grandma died on vacation and they had to get rid of the body, and ghost stories about a person that died in the area harassing the neighborhood. What about the crazy stuff that’s passed around social media? The so-called “fake news” and “misinformation?”

This book reminded me that this kind of stuff has always been going around. Rumors and gossip, even when shared by a reputable source, are not something we should be basing our decisions on. They are just stories. The internet only shares them faster and more widely. It makes even the real and most isolated incident feel as if it’s happening everywhere, all the time, and we should take immediate action.

What can we do? I like to presume that anything I read online is probably not based on fact. I also don’t “copy, paste, and share if you care” or “pass along a warning I heard from…” I don’t lament the invention of the internet or argue that the world is going to hell in a handbasket because people just don’t have the common sense they used to.

I take that part back. I have lamented and argued, but I know I’m only being dramatic. Reading books all these years has shown me that human nature has not changed much in thousands of years. The fact that we can now speak to each other all over the world, instantly and constantly, only speeds up and emphasizes what we already know: we’re all a bit irrational and crazy. We love a good scare story, no matter the source. And we all think the other side is out to destroy us all.

Do you know any modern urban legends? Can you remember any recent posts that might be considered an urban legend if researched? Do you still use Snopes?

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on The Vanishing Hitchhiker, I posted a little about it in Lunch Date Leads to Self-Discovery and One Big Life Lesson?

What’s next?! I’ll have to find a new book off my TBR shelf before tomorrow morning comes!

Lunch Date Leads to Self-Discovery

Let’s see here…what do I want to talk about…everything! Yep, that’s me. I’m a compulsive communicator, and this blog gives my mental health a huge lift. There’s just so much to tell the world. Maybe if I still worked at an amusement park, I’d have plenty of people to harass with my random thoughts every hour, but YOU, my dear reader, will receive the brunt of my self-discovery now (insert evil laugh here).

That fact that I can have to find my laptop, think, type out and then post what I want to communicate is a good thing. It slows me down and makes me think about what I want to say, if only for a few minutes. In person, I tend to talk off the top of my head, say whatever comes to mind. If I weren’t in the awesome circumstances I am in right now (i.e., far fewer people to talk to on a daily basis), my mental health would probably benefit much from working on my mouth filter.

This is one of the reasons I took social media off my phone and leave my laptop off. I found it far too easy to post a thought for the world to see and that led to some awkward situations. Text is far too subjective. If I were standing next to you telling you a joke or laughingly grumping about a situation, you’d be less likely to smack me for my behavior because I’m pretty cute. But in text…well…sarcasm just doesn’t work that well.

What kind of “seasoned” are we talking about? Taco? Italian?

But I digress. Some self-discovery is what I really came to tell you about.

Yesterday, I was not feeling well, mentally well. Lately, I’ve often found myself in a sad funk, like nothing matters, wanting to hide away, disappear. I’m tired of everything. It sucks. It’s not a new feeling. My closest friends and family know my pattern of despair. It passes and nothing is lacking or wrong, not really. Note to family: Do not read my journals. They will terrify you.

And, yes, I’m working on some better choices, eating better, less alcohol (don’t cry, a good tequila is still on the table, just not so many, so often), and getting some exercise. I fell away from a lot of that the past couple of years and it’s starting to show.

Yesterday, I had a lunch date with a dear friend scheduled, but I woke up thinking, “I should not share this shitty feeling with a friend. I am wasting my time and theirs trying to be sociable.” I texted to cancel and then promptly started crying…again. I moved on to my yoga practice but couldn’t focus. She replied, but then I immediately asked if I could change my mind. I needed to get out and do something. I jumped in the shower and headed out the door.

As I drove, I noticed something important. There are two ways my feelings can go when I cancel something I planned on doing: relieved or hurt. When I cancel something and feel relief, set the phone down, move on with my day or evening, that tells me that it was the right thing to do for ME. What I had planned was not something I wanted to do. When I cancel something and feel hurt or sad, set the phone down and cry, that means it was the wrong thing to do. My plans were hard, or I was not in good mood, so I was giving up.

One of the biggest things I get sad about when I attempt to give up is this stupid blog. It means the world to me and I’m not sure exactly why. Every time I get frustrated with technical problems, grow sad about a lack of readers or growth, get angry at myself for my lack of consistency, I start to think about deleting the whole thing and walking away.

You should have heard me this week. “It’s a waste of time,” I told myself. “Just think how much more housework I could get done, yard work, maybe I can get chickens, if I weren’t spending so much time tapping out words on a screen.” Then the sad moved in on me and I felt like I’d lost my best friend.

It was ugly, trust me.

So, I’m afraid the internet is stuck with me.

My VW bus looks like it would
be in one of these Urban Legends!

That being said, that book I started reading yesterday, The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand, is so good. It was written in 1981 and it has all those oldies we loved as kids: the hook in the car door of the kids making out, the alligators in the sewer, pop rocks candy exploding in a kid’s stomach and killing them. There are more, and ones I hadn’t heard before, like the cat dies and they package it up to take it somewhere to bury it, but it gets stolen by shoplifters.

It makes me wonder. With the invention of the internet and social media, I’m sure there are new versions of these old tales, wild stories we swear are true because it happened to a friend of a friend, or it was in the paper, so we share them to warn others. Do you know any?

Oh, wait! I forgot to tell you the OTHER thing I discovered yesterday! I wasn’t in the mood for podcasts yesterday while I drove, so I turned on the radio and stumbled across a “New Country” music station…and liked it. I know! It’s crazy. I’m a classic country fan: Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Alabama, and others. I grew up in the 80’s so I’m also a fan of Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks. I’d heard some new country years ago and HATED it, but this was different, or I was. I fell in love, wrote down snips of song lyrics so I could look it up later (stupid radio), and added them all to my Spotify playlist when I got home. “You Time” by Scotty McCreery and “Like a Lady” by Lady A are the two that I loved most yesterday.

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