08/26/11 12:37pm
08/26/2011 12:37 PM

One Saturday afternoon, my stepdaughter Angela and I were sitting at her kitchen table kibitzing about this and that. While pouring me a cup of tea, she sighed and said, “Saturday is my laundry day and I dread it. I don’t know anyone who likes to do laundry.”

“Really, Angela?” I said. “I like doing the laundry, especially the folding part. Bring it on.”

Angela eyeballed me for a long moment, then replied, “Ceil, I love you and all, so don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re weird!”

Angela excused herself and disappeared into the laundry room. She returned a few minutes later carrying two large baskets of clean laundry and plopped them down in front of me. And so it began.

Being called weird is nothing new, what with loving winter and my water drinking peculiarities. (I drink water out of a favorite glass that’s inscribed with “Spaghetti Factory.”) However, this column is not about my weirdness; it’s about my fondness for doing the laundry. But wait, maybe to some folks, the laundry thing is weird.

As the oldest of six kids, laundry became my job. Mom would sing, “Celia, you have laundry” to the tune of one of her favorite opera arias. Laundry-loving isn’t genetic, since only one of my sisters also enjoys doing laundry. Another sister can take it or leave it, while the third will go out and buy new underwear when her laundry backs up. I haven’t a clue about my brothers’ laundry predilections. Obviously, Mom wasn’t crazy about doing the laundry, either; after all, she pawned it off on me.

By the time my sons, Greg and Jeff, came along, I was well versed in laundry dos and don’ts. Moreover, folding laundry proved relaxing. As my kids grew into their teens, chaos ruled; but nothing much changed in the laundry department, except that there was more of it. Control freak that I am, I suppose seeing their clothes neatly folded gave me some semblance of order. But before they left for college, they learned to do their own laundry. Nowadays, much to the delight of my daughters-in-law, my sons don’t mind doing laundry. Hmm. Maybe it is genetic.

Back when I was gainfully employed, it was mandatory that all medical personnel wear white uniforms. Saturday mornings found me in the basement starching and ironing my uniforms. I loved the sizzling sound the iron made and the smell of starch. (OK, weird.) Gradually, the whites gave way to pastel scrubs. I still passed an iron over them, but nixed the starch.

Frank is always neatly dressed, although when we first started dating, I noticed that he always wore the same six or seven shirts.

When I suggested that we shop for new shirts he said, “Nope, got lots of shirts — some I’ve never worn. Angela buys them for Father’s Day.”

The next time I visited with Frank in Rocky Point, I peeked (well, snooped) in his bureau drawer and, sure enough, I found rows of neatly stacked shirts. After some detective work, I discovered that he never rotated his shirts. He washed his clothes once a week and placed his clean laundry on top.

When I ran this laundry article idea by Frank, he joked, “What are you gonna say about me this time?

Before I could answer, he added, “And watch it, Ceil, you’re gonna have people ringing our doorbell with baskets of laundry.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“You never know, Ceil.”

Just then, the phone rang. It was Angela inviting us over for the following weekend. After checking our calendar, I called her back.

“Angela, how’s Sunday after church?”

“Ceil, can you and Dad come on Saturday?”

“I guess.”

Even though Angela considers me weird, we enjoy a close and loving relationship. But lately, I’m getting a tad suspicious about these Saturday soirees. Methinks it has something to do with her laundry.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

07/18/11 2:51pm
07/18/2011 2:51 PM

In the hit movie “Love Story,” Ali MacGraw’s character, Jenny, utters this now-famous line to her husband, Oliver, played by Ryan O’Neal: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” The film is a tearjerker and is considered one of the most romantic of all time by the American Film Institute — and I get it. However, that sappy line is the dumbest declaration I’ve ever heard. Saying I’m sorry is always appropriate and, occasionally, saying I’m sorry is simply not enough.

We live in a world where some folks feel they can get away with stuff that no sane person would tolerate, as long as they apologize. I’m not referring to a heartfelt apology, but rather to those folks I’ve dubbed “habituals” — a term I’ve coined for want of a better word.

Not all politicians are philanderers, but for those who have strayed, technology hasn’t proven user-friendly. An embarrassing photo is posted on the Internet, a child pops out of the woodwork, the ever-vigilant paparazzi catch an intimate moment, etc. Then — oops! Caught. Denial is the first order of business, followed by a variety of tall tales. (Remember the politician who said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail via Argentina?) Finally, they stand tearfully before the cameras and apologize to the wives, kids, constituents, country and pet dogs — after the fact. Would they have come clean if they hadn’t been caught?

Most of us have encountered the disloyalty of the now ex-friend. You know, the one who blew us off because something better came down the pike, or the one whose loose lips disclosed a confidential conversation. Then there is the ex-friend who talks about everybody, so we gotta assume she’s yakking about us, too. The friend may be contrite or, more often, said friend is clueless regarding her behavior. However, here’s what the friend failed to remember: This is not the first occurrence and, sadly, we wise up and realize it won’t be the last.

Many gals (guys, too) suffer from domestic violence. The abuser tries to maintain control by isolating the victim through physical, verbal, emotional and psychological abuse. After the abuse, an apology usually ensues. Unfortunately, until the victim sees through the apology, or suffers severe harm, these abuses can escalate. And here’s the kicker: Sometimes, when the police respond to a domestic violence call, they are turned away by the victim, who says the abuser “is sorry,” and the abuser promises, “It won’t happen again.” Only it does.

Of course, there are things that aren’t deal-breakers, but can annoy us to the max. I purchased an engagement gift online and somewhere between Ohio and Jamesport, the package went missing. My credit card was charged and repeated inquiries proved futile. The upshot? The package never showed up, the engagement party came and went (I bought another gift), it took months to straighten out my credit card and everyone was sorry. Really, folks, sorry just didn’t cut it.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Humankind is beset with frailties: We make mistakes, we misspeak, we’re judgmental, we get angry and say and do regrettable things. We may inadvertently or perhaps by design cause another to become enraged at us, and although we’ve apologized, the tensions may remain and even grow.

Ah, me. Perhaps the relationship remains frozen because our apology consists of empty words. I’ll bet if one puts feet on an apology and does something to make amends, then it becomes more about forgiveness and redemption, and none of us is without the need of forgiveness.

I suppose most of us can be labeled as “habituals” at one time or another. As Martin Luther King Jr. aptly put it, “There is some good in the worst of us and evil in the best of us.” Saying I’m sorry may or may not be enough, but, hey, it’s a start.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

07/06/11 10:54am
07/06/2011 10:54 AM

“You know, Molly, I ain’t stupid, right?”

“Let’s say you’re no intellectual, no Jean-Paul Sartre …”

“Who’s this Jean-Paul? You never told me about this old boyfriend.”

“He’s French …”

“Don’t tell me more. How could you ever go out with some dumb frog?”

“Fred …”

“I’m so angry. I don’t even like people looking at you on the street.”

“Listen to me, Fred, he’s not only French, he’s dead.”

“Well, that’s good news, Molly, and he’d better stay dead or I’ll kill him.”

“And he’s not only dead, he’s famous and I never met him. He was a writer …”

“You mean books?”

“Yes, that kind of writer. Writers write, cooks cook, bakers bake. That’s life. We each have a job to do.”

“And me?”

“Husband, friend, dog walker, caregiver, driver, barbecue engineer, carpenter, plumber, everything …”

“Lover, too?”

“That also. No need to be jealous. I’m your woman. Your old woman, I’m afraid. Nothing I can do about that. Jean-Paul had more than one woman at a time. Don’t do that to me. I couldn’t handle it. You might as well forget the young waitresses.”

“I’m too busy for that. But I need your help. All these years and I still can’t sew a button. How do you explain that? What’s wrong with me? Needle and thread and I’m lost. As confused as a chicken who’s found a knife in the grass. What will I do in the middle of the Atlantic with torn sails? All by myself.”

“You’ll never be in the middle of the Atlantic alone. Have you got secret plans?”

“I’ve been thinking …”

“That’s when you get in trouble. You need action.”

“Yeah, I like throwing them charcoals in the fire, flipping the burgers.”

“Sewing buttons, it gives you too much time to think.”

“What about a one-button shirt? Bet nobody thought of that. One big button, no more needle.”

“Except that one big button needs to be sewn, too.”

“I’ve been thinking about it in my sleep. A young waitress could teach me …”

“NO. No young waitress in my house. I’ve tried to teach you. It’s like having our dog Muffin read the Bible. Hopeless.”

“I built our house and I can’t sew a button. Don’t make sense.”

“But you can change the oil. You’re good with cars. The old Mercury Grand Marquis looks dead in the backyard among the weeds, with stuff growing inside. You sit in it, Fred, for two minutes and the engine shakes and growls, ready to go. I hear it from my bed. I love the sound. It means travel, happy times, the winding roads, from Orient, on to Southold, Riverhead, New York, down South to Florida till you can’t go no further, Key West. You know how to make it happen. Who cares about sewing buttons as long as we can dream.”

“You may be right, Molly, but so many idiots are sewing buttons around the world and I can’t do it! Billions of people are sewing buttons at this moment except me. Billions except for one little guy on the North Fork. Am I smart or what, tell me.”

“Some people build houses, some write poems, some race at Indianapolis, some plant tulips or do embroidery. Everyone has a story and a tune.”

“And some idiot, he don’t know how to sew buttons.”

“I’ll teach you. Tomorrow. All your shirts are missing buttons. I feel terrible. It’s my fault. My hands, my eyes, nothing works.”

“You was good at it, Molly. The quilts you made, the one everybody wanted to buy, but I wouldn’t let it go, even the little winter coat for Muffin. People ask where they can get one for their dog, and I say, my wife she made it, she designed it, not for sale anywhere. Your hands, they’re incredible.”

“Tomorrow I’ll teach you how to sew a button. We won’t quit. Remember the president: “Yes, we can.” You can, too. It won’t affect the future of the world. But it will make your world better. It’s a very peaceful thing to sew buttons. You’ll see.”

“Well, thank you, Molly. It don’t mean much to most people. But my first button, that will feel good. Now I’m taking Muffin out for her walk. Then I’ll flip the burgers.”

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. Email: [email protected]

06/14/11 2:14pm
06/14/2011 2:14 PM

While sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, I picked up a magazine and started thumbing through the pages. An article titled “Taming your monkey mind” sparked my interest. However, before I could read the first sentence, I was summoned into the exam room and that was that.

I was curious and clueless about the monkey mind thing — but not for long. Upon returning home, a quick Google search turned up the following: A monkey mind is best described as the endless chattering of one’s mind. The mind jumps from thought to thought, like a monkey jumps from tree to tree.
Yikes! The description fit me to a tee.

We live pressure-filled lives; therefore, our brains are constantly hijacked with anxiety and distraction. The experts say that stress is public enemy No. 1 (all right, outside of Osama bin Laden, who is no longer with us). Stress can cause a myriad of physical and emotional symptoms that may lessen our resistance to disease; stress can kill.

Luckily for us, there are numerous stress reduction techniques that are effective in lowering tension, and I’ve tried a good many of them. Exercise is a great stress-buster. OK, so I’m somewhat fanatical about getting in my daily walks, but with good reason. Walking usually fends off my “crazies.” Sometimes, though, the crazies get the upper hand and, well, you can guess the rest.

I practice yoga regularly at home. Occasionally, while relaxing into a pose, my monkey mind will taunt me with thoughts like, Am I doing this posture correctly? or Watch that knee! Twenty minutes of deep breathing is calming, except when I’m waiting for the timer to go off, signaling the end of my session.

Attending church has a soothing effect on my psyche, unless, during the homily, the vicar brings up a line of reasoning that I hadn’t previously considered. Then, it’s the same-old, same-old me.

There is one thing that tames my monkey mind every time. I rendezvous at a spot that is conducive to relaxation: soft music, low lights and scented candles — and it’s not what you may be thinking. I rendezvous at a spa where I indulge myself in a full body massage. If you’ve never tried it, do so; or if you have, don’t you agree that receiving a massage is better than chocolate? Well, some may argue that chocolate rules, but, hey, it has calories.

Upon entering said spa, my body readies itself for relaxation; my monkey mind, however, is still at it. Unlike in the game show “Let’s Make a Deal,” it doesn’t matter which door I enter, the treatment room is a haven unto itself. I disrobe to the extent that I’m comfortable and crawl under the light cover. Then the massage starts: I do not speak (quite a feat for me), and slowly, my body begins to yield; my mind becomes extraordinarily quiet. Truthfully, I have no idea what happens during my massage; moreover, I don’t care. All I know is that afterward, I am tranquil and could use a spatula to help pry me off the table.

Because we spend so much time in our heads, doesn’t our body deserve a maintenance plan? Shouldn’t we care for our body as well as we love and take care of our car or home? Learning to love and nurture our body is a prerequisite to a more peaceful life.

Frank knows how much I enjoy my massage experience. Consequently, when there is a special occasion, he presents me with a spa gift certificate. And, sometimes, he has surprised me with a “just because” spa certificate. Hmm. Kinda makes me wonder.

I’m certain that Frank presents me with said spa certificates because he loves me; he knows how much I value my serenity. I’m also certain that Frank wants to deflect the unfortunate spillover of my monkey mind into our daily lives.

Ah, yes. My Frank is nobody’s fool.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

05/17/11 12:29am
05/17/2011 12:29 AM

Celia Ianelli

Frank and I were dining out with friends and, as usual, the conversation was lively and varied. Unusual, however, was that the chatter bypassed our health and settled on kids: our kids, grandkids and everyone else’s kids. Several times during the meal this question was raised: “What‘s wrong with kids today?”

Although this column is titled “Forward Living,” let’s rewind to the ’50s and ’60s, when some of us were kids.

Differentiating between the sexes was easy: Gals wore skirts, dresses and jeans (at the time known as dungarees). We rolled up said jeans and paired them with our dad’s white dress shirts. Guys wore button-down shirts with cuffed jeans or white T-shirts under black leather jackets and boots.

Friday-night dances were central to our lives. Gals sported sprayed-to-death bouffant hair and wore crinolines under poodle skirts. This getup gave us a circumference of five feet and added two inches to our height. (We thought we looked chic!) My favorite guys slicked backed their hair into a DA; others had crew cuts.

We slow-danced to Connie Francis crooning “Who’s Sorry Now” and Elvis singing “Love me Tender.” At the CYO dances, the nuns patrolled the gym and strictly enforced the “no close dancing” rule. Actually, the crinolines made close dancing a moot issue.

The nuns relaxed while we jitterbugged to Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock around the Clock” or Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” However, they frowned when Jerry Lee Lewis belted out “Great Balls of Fire.” (Hmm — I did catch Sister Josephine tapping her foot.)

Gals loved Elvis; some guys didn’t get Elvis, yet they took pains to imitate him. Chubby Checker taught us two new dances: the Twist and the Pony. Alan Freed, Cousin Brucie and Murray the K were the iconic DJs that dominated the airwaves.

Television needed no parental controls. Shows like “Leave It to Beaver, “Father Knows Best” and “Happy Days” idolized the American family. TV kids were polite; the dad dressed in a shirt and tie — and always knew best. The mom, a homemaker, wore shirtwaist dresses, high heels and a perpetual smile.

Because we married young, most gals skipped over college, although some of us earned our degrees later.
Methinks we never fully outgrew the doll phase; instead, our girls were clad in frilly dresses with matching hair bows and white Mary Jane shoes. Our boys wore saddle shoes and knee socks with short pants. (Forgive me, my sons.) Shoes required white shoe polish and those shoelaces! Lest you think we were too neurotic, our kids wore sneakers and jeans for play.

Back to 2011.

Jeans, unisex clothing, girlie-girl outfits, neon hair and guys sporting earrings are some of the norms. I don’t get Lady Gaga arriving at the Grammy Awards in an Egg; nevertheless, the gal is engaging. Pink and Kesha, aka Kes$ha (not a typo), although glitzy, are entertaining. But wait! Didn’t Elvis dress in flamboyant jumpsuits? And remember his swivel hips?

Today’s TV families are more grounded in reality. (Lord knows how many cumulative hours our generation spent in therapy bemoaning the lack of a perfect family.)

Many kids send and receive 2,000 text messages a month. Yours truly had the telephone cord stretched into the basement (no cordless phones) and yakked for hours. Mom couldn’t hear me whispering, “I dig … Joe is groovy.”
Two incomes are a necessity. Most moms multi-task and don’t have time to play dress-up with their kids. (Lucky kids!)

What’s wrong with kids today? Nothing!

If you’re in doubt, check out the song “Kids” from the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” Here’s a sampling.

I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Who can understand anything they say?
Why can’t they be like we were.
Perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?

Incidentally, “Bye Bye Birdie” is a satire on American society in the ’50s. Wanna guess who they were singing about?

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

04/10/11 7:00am
04/10/2011 7:00 AM

There seems to be complete agreement. The North Fork is special, a place set apart. No need to list our blessings. We know we’re unique.

And yet in just a few hours we will forfeit that uniqueness and join with the rest of the country in doing something pretty ordinary. We’ll wake up to income tax day. Twenty-four hours of struggling with the checkbook and promising ourselves to set aside a few more dollars for next year.

Now, I know taxes are necessary. That I was carefully taught. But there is something I don’t understand. For years I’ve paid estimated taxes every few months. And yet, when April rolls around, I always owe more. If my grocery estimates were so inaccurate, I’d never have enough food in the kitchen. If my husband’s estimates were so faulty, he’d never have enough wood in the garage for projects not yet dreamed.

I suppose I know what I’m looking for. I need a way to bridge the gap between taxes withheld and the check I send to the IRS in April. Year-long small savings might do the trick, and since North Forkers appear to be frugal forkers, sharing our little money-saving ways might prove helpful cometh the tax man.

Only fair to start with me. I confess to saving soap slivers and fashioning them into soap balls (about the size of tennis balls). It’s always bothered me to throw away those tiny bits of soap that collect in a soap dish. So I put the soap bits into a huge glass jar I keep in the cellar. When a goodly amount of soap is saved, I put it in a big pot, add a little water, heat and stir. Meantime I spread some waxed paper on the kitchen table.

When I’ve a gooey mass in the pot, I ladle out, onto the paper, 20 or so soap mounds. Then I shape those mounds into soap balls. Careful, they’re hot.

I store the cooled and hardened soap balls in a bag under the kitchen sink. Since I don’t have a dishwasher, I use the balls for mealtime cleanups. Think of the money we’d save if every North Fork home had its own soap balls!

And we’d save quite a bit if we took a tip from Anthony Flynn. I found out about Anthony from his wife, Jodi, who works in Mattituck. Anthony and Jodi are married just a short time but, oh, did the young wife quickly discover her husband’s secret passion.

Stashed away on the top shelves of closets and stacked in the garage are the boxes Anthony simply has to save. Small cellphone boxes, slightly larger shoeboxes, all the way up to a carton once containing a vacuum cleaner, another that once held a lounge chair. Dozens and dozens of boxes.

Now, think about it. Anthony never has to purchase a gift box at the post office or buy expensive plastic boxes to store stuff in. Jodi let me know she sometimes gets rid of a few boxes. But please don’t you tell Anthony. I’d hate to have the young couple argue.

Anthony says he saves so many boxes because “you never know.” Anthony, that’s an admirable North Fork attitude. We’re saving money and we’re ready for anything.

Here’s another small-saving idea. This one’s from Joan Fabian, Riverhead artist. Joan’s watercolors, oils and acrylics are exhibited in galleries from Bar Harbor to Old Town Art and Crafts Guild in Cutchogue. Great work!

But you know what? Joan’s sandwiches are great, too. Especially those with pickles added — sweet and sour, crunchy, perfect. And all those pickles come in little plastic jars with lids. After the pickles are consumed, Joan washes the jars/lids and they join Joan’s painting paraphernalia.

Water, water, everywhere is needed when watercolor or acrylic is the medium of the day. Those little jars, filled with water, are ideal for cleaning brushes during a painting session. You “just can’t have enough jars,” says Joan. And she doesn’t have to buy them in a crafts store. You know what I say? You just can’t have enough pickles.

So save your soap, save your boxes, eat lots of pickles. Chances are, if we do so, North Forkers will have plenty of money to pay their taxes. Better yet, I foresee a cash surplus large enough for the whole North Fork to make a major financial move. I’m thinking we might even outbid Donald Trump for part ownership of the New York Mets. After all, the North Fork has more that its share of “Amazin’s.”

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

03/15/11 5:42pm
03/15/2011 5:42 PM

About a year ago, my sofa and love seat caught my eye, big time! It was as if I had never seen them before, which seemed weird. The set had been gracing my living room since it moved with me from Staten Island.

Most of us don’t discard our furniture as quickly as a dress or a pair of red shoes; we usually give it some thought. Well, folks, I gave it a lot of thought, and finally, during the longest winter in history, I casually broached the subject with Frank.

“Hon, I’m thinking of getting new living room furniture — just a sofa and love seat.”

“Why?” (A typical Frank answer.)

“I want to change the look.”

Frank shrugged his shoulders, glanced at the floral-print sofa and said, “It’s a little girlie anyway.”

“Girlie?” My instincts told me to say no more.

I was clueless as to what my “new look” would look like. However, I did know that my floral-print duo was making me a tad nauseous.

I was a gal on a mission. For weeks I scrutinized different styles of sofas online and was able to pinpoint a design that sparked my interest. I progressed to perusing furniture stores — alone. Really, it would have been counterproductive to have Frank tagging along, looking for a cup of coffee while I was mired in furniture decisions.

While wandering around a furniture store, I hit upon a sofa and love seat that would definitely change the look. The next day, Frank accompanied me to the store and seemed surprised that I was on a first-name basis with the sales staff. However, when he saw my choice, he nodded and said, “Very nice, not girlie at all.”

The salesperson asked if I was interested in a coffee table. A quick glance at Frank told me he was looking for coffee, sans the table.

“Hon,” says I, “what about a new coffee table?”

Frank looked at me suspiciously and said, “I thought it was only going to be a sofa, and love thing — why not throw in a rug while you’re at it?”

“A rug? Good idea!”

Frank and I locked eyeballs; the salesperson walked away.

Frank sighed and said, “Look, Ceil, buy what you want, I’m going to the diner for coffee.”

I did some calculations: I had a consultation job coming up and perhaps I could squeeze in an extra freelance article and… Well, there were more reasons why I should, and so I did.

I put an ad in this newspaper and quickly sold my old furniture. Admittedly, I felt sad when I saw my floral sofa go through the door; after all, we shared a long history. However, the folks who bought the set were happy, girlie print notwithstanding.

When the new furniture arrived, I knew where I wanted the pieces placed. Or so I thought. After the delivery guys left, the furniture looked out of place. (Did I miss my girlie prints?) Frank began mumbling something unintelligible as we moved some stuff around. Finally, things looked right — for the moment, that is.

Then I remembered a lovely area rug that was stored in the basement. When I mentioned the rug to Frank, he got “that look.” I pretended not to notice and suggested that we put the rug in our dining room.

Frank was perturbed and asked, “What’s wrong with the dining room?”

“Nothing, but the rug would add to the new look.”

Frank and I hauled the rug up from the basement and centered it on the dining room floor. Frank put his arm around me and hopefully asked, “You OK with ‘the look?’ ”


Lately, I’ve been thinking that a fresh coat of paint in the living room and perhaps new window treatments would complete “the look.” But methinks I’ll not mention this to you-know-who. He can read about it in the paper.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

02/27/11 8:00am
02/27/2011 8:00 AM

I received this message from my son Greg, who lives in California: “Mom, I need to talk to you.” Mom-brain snapped to attention: Was my daughter-in-law Julie all right? Was Greg OK? I had to get home, and fast.

While driving home, Mom-brain was spinning scary tales. Then, I heard a bleep, bleep sound and saw a flashing red light through my rearview mirror. I pulled over and … you can guess the rest. How ironic: I didn’t use my cell phone for fear of breaking the law, and I’m one of the folks who complains about cars speeding on Peconic Bay Boulevard.

Fifteen minutes later, I walked through my front door and made a beeline for the phone. Greg and I discussed the matter at hand and then I swiftly dealt with the ticket. I pleaded guilty.

About two weeks later, I received an official letter from the Town of Riverhead. It stated that I had incurred six points on my driver’s license along with a hefty fine; however, I could conference my traffic ticket before the town justice. I called the court clerk and was given a date and time for the conference.

On the appointed day, I drove to court with a la-di-da attitude. After entering the courthouse, I immediately stepped up to the end of a long line. As the line inched forward, I passed through the metal detector, my purse survived its search (I carry too much stuff!) and my la-di-da attitude was gone.

Taking a seat in the courtroom, I thought, “This is the real deal.”

The fellow sitting next to me asked, “Whadjado?”

I quickly replied, “Speeding ticket.” He chuckled and proceeded to disclose his tale of woe.

That morning, I heard many tales of woe. When a recess was called, I had an opportunity to speak with a district attorney. She explained my options, all of which were unnerving.

Right about this time, the lovely gal who serves as a translator walked over to me and asked, “Are you ‘the Ceil’ who writes the column in the paper? I saw your name on the docket.”

“Lordy, lordy,” I thought, “did she say docket?” Wanting to disappear, I nervously answered, “Yes, but I’m only here for a speeding ticket.”

When the court reconvened, I waited anxiously for my name to be called and heard more heartbreaking stories. At one point, some folks in the courtroom snickered. The judge silenced the court by saying something like, show some compassion, everyone has troubles. I was impressed with his own compassion and hoped he had enough left for me.

When I heard my name, I jumped up and faced the judge. The upshot? I received 14 hours of community service and a fine, which will be imposed when I return to court in April.

Tearfully, I called my priest and recited my tale of woe. He told me not to worry; he had plenty of work for me. I vaguely remember the words “indentured servant.”

Frank volunteers on the first Thursday of the month when our parish, Church of the Redeemer, hosts Maureen’s Haven. I tagged along with Frank and began my community service.

Under Frank’s watchful eye, I made numerous pitchers of juice. Other volunteers were busy preparing lunches, setting up tables and heating the donated food. Everything was ready when our guests arrived.

While I was scraping and soaking mountains of dishes, I realized that we volunteers were all our guests had on this very cold night. I wondered what sad tales brought them here.

This whole episode gave me pause. I bumped myself to first class by insisting it was only a speeding ticket when, in reality, I could have maimed someone, hurt myself and caused untold misery to others.

I signed up for another night at Maureen’s Haven; methinks they are serving humble pie.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.