By this time of year those of us who make a living attending to the needs of the public are found browsing catalogues of polar-fleece garb and hunting paraphernalia, crossing days off calendars with red Sharpies, and getting a little slipshod with the pencil sharpener.

Most of my friends who work around here are, by now, what you call In No Mood. Our little gang of friendlies usually manages to take turns being surly and impatient, one offering wine and cookies, or bacon and eggs, or at least a reassuring word while another is harried sore by a large federal bureaucracy or a wonky machine. But this week, it’s just too hot, and everybody’s got a personal nemesis — human, electronic or institutional.

For me, I am sorely tempted to post signs in my little summer bakery urging customers to limit their non-food-related questions to a rate of speed at which I can still catch a breath. I shall not actually post any sort of snark, however, because some of my customers are also my neighbors, and they are In No Mood either, and I fear they will get mad. They are not ordinarily short-tempered, but it is August and lots of good people are In No Mood.

This has absolutely nothing do to with our island. It happens everywhere. Of course it is especially aggravating when the deeply fatigued laborer is constantly confronted by chipper vacationers prattling on about how relaxing it is to be here.

I have a customer who reminds me very much of one of our presidential candidates. This pathologically narcissistic individual manages to somehow collect up and hoard all the attention, all the time. Even community members who make a concerted effort to steer clear and not think about this person end up thinking about steering clear and not thinking about this person. People stand around comparing notes about this overbearing soul, which serves this particular subject’s subconscious need for continuous, unflinching, steady-on attention. Resistance is futile. It’s a very interesting phenomenon. 

Hell, they even got in the newspaper just now, didn’t they? Truly astonishing how they do it.

Anyway, I’ve recently heard about a helpful tactic in the battle against this sort of work-related, people-related summertime exasperation. It’s a precisely calculated remedy, one so refined that each patient needs his or her own formulation. The medicine is the right song. You get the right words good and stuck in your head, and you’ve got a small piece of defensive armament against the idiots. You see the enemy, and the song plays between your ears, and you laugh.



We can all start out with a healthy tonic of, “There Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues,” and we ain’t talking about teenage romance here. We’re talking hard-core the-boss-is-an-idiot, why-don’t-these-jerks-go-back-where-they-came-from, I-can’t-stand-my-best-customers, dammit-I-hammered-my-thumb-again pain.

It might be that the day goes better with an “earworm” of defiance, like “I’m Free!” or “Can’t Touch This!” or “I’m Alright, Nobody Worry ’Bout Me” or “I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again…” 

Or maybe you need just a random observation, such as, “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on” (courtesy of The Beach Boys), “The pump won’t work ’cause the vandals took the handles” (Bob Dylan), or “The cow is giving kerosene” (The Grateful Dead). The retail worker may discover that a properly timed non sequitur may help where no amount of logic or explanation can force through the dense briar patch of a self-obsessed tourist’s neediness. 

“Every twenty-seventh customer gets a ball-peen hammer, free” (Weird Al Yankovic).

I’m still considering the perfect lyric to silently neutralize my particular favorite customer mentioned previously, a.k.a. Donald Trump (obvious first choice: Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World”). Of course, any song you get stuck in your head becomes the object of contempt, eventually, so avoid leaning too hard on your favorites. At least, being annoyed at the song will give a poor working slob something to be impatient about besides the computer, the postal service, the patron ahead in line who requires that half-caf low-fat extra-foam soy raspberry mess, the people who load their duffels full of pretty rocks and then expect you to load said baggage, the smarmy middle-manager with delusions of grandeur, or the amoebic multiplicity of whiners (not to mention yacht snobs, drunken fishermen, bored adolescents with practiced sneers, and high-pressure women with an accent that sounds like Bugs Bunny doing George Raft).

“Why you have to go and make things so complicated?” (Avril Lavigne).

That probably won’t work; it’s too close to the normal reaction to stress.

“I’m just sittin’ here watching the wheels go round and round…” (John Lennon).

Hmm; a bit too passive an outlook, perhaps. 

“Even the swap meets around here are getting pretty corrupt” (Dylan again).

There you go.