Wednesday, June 2, 2010




: leaving the nest soon after hatching

This word is the sum of Latin's nidus (nest) + fugere (to flee). Knowing these roots implies a sense of urgency not present in Mirriam's above definition. Leaving, after all, means something entirely different than fleeing. I periodically leave to go to the market or get away from an awkward party, but I have only fled from cities, relationships or jobs.

My friend Julie and I were once in Stop & Shop outside of Providence, Rhode Island, waiting in line at the customer service desk. I don't remember why we were there—for some reason I think I was cashing a check, although I cannot remember why or how I would be doing that at the customer service desk. Oh wait! They had some policy through which one could cash employment checks under the amount of $1,000 or something. Yes, this is correct.

Anyway, this rather versatile service counter also sold tickets for the metro train to Boston, which departed only a short walk from Stop and Shop's front entrance. On that particular day, there was a sign posted atop the counter that said something along the lines of:

Dear MBTA Customers,

We regret to inform you that we are currently out of one-way train tickets. Sorry for any inconvenience.


Julie and I stared at the sign for one of those memorable pauses right before things become hilarious.

Julie: Dude. Do you see that sign?
Me: I don't even know what to say.
Julie: There must be a ton of people trying to get the hell outta town today.

At this point we started laughing hysterically, barely able to hold ourselves upright in a line of depressed and indifferent patrons waiting to buy scratch tickets or return dented cans of diced tomatoes. When we finally reached the front of the line, I asked the girl behind the counter if I could borrow the sign to make a photocopy. She didn't understand why it was so funny, but she shrugged and pushed the plastic sign holder in my direction.

What's the point of this story? The point is picturing a line of individuals clad in trench coats and carrying overstuffed suitcases, rushing the Stop & Shop service counter to pay cash for one-way train tickets to somewhere, anywhere, far away from where they stood. Why is this funny? For three reasons:

1) The hilarious image of a NIDIFUGOUS* swarm of people trying to leave town juxtaposed with the service counter at a major grocery store instead of the romanticized dismal waiting room of a bus station,

2) The fact that a venue, in the 21st century, can actually sell out of one-way train tickets, as though a train ticket is not just a computerized printout, and

3) The desperation of a one-way ticket, the loneliness in a mass exodus, the urgency that would induce a run on one-way tickets, and the sadness of having to share those last moments of familiarity with a disinterested employee at the local Stop & Shop.

*Okay, so I admit this is a stretch, realizing most of these hypothetical people are not fleeing a nest, but a marriage or a family or a life. Close.

1 comment: