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Opinion >  Column

The Slice: Perhaps the bulk food bins will provide some camouflage

Avoiding acquaintances in the grocery store doesn’t make you a bad person.

It just means you’re not in the mood for a stop-and-chat.

And Spokane just might be on a list of national leaders among cities our size when it comes to opportunities for the stop-and-chat.

You know how people here like to say they can’t go anywhere without running into someone they know? Sure. Well, that’s because there are those in our midst who actually do know a phenomenal number of folks. It’s the Bloomsday/Hoopfest dynamic on a person-to-person scale.

But lots of us have our share of acquaintances and bumping into them at the store is an everyday part of Lilac City life. Sometimes though, you’re happily lost in your thoughts when you spot someone you know down at the other end of the canned vegetables aisle. You like that person just fine. Still, you’re just not up for a visit at that moment. Perhaps you are in a hurry. Or maybe you are momentarily blanking on her name. Or you suddenly feel slightly self-conscious about having worn your pajama bottoms to the supermarket.

Do you need to feel guilty about turning around and heading off toward the produce section? Does it suggest something awful about your character if you do a pirouette and hope that acquaintance did not see you? Does it mean you are antisocial?

No. It just means you’re normal.

Sometimes, when you go to the store for milk and bread, that’s really all you want. Small talk isn’t on the list.

Local angle: Colville’s Larrie Waterman wondered what would happen if “Spokane man” got together with “Local woman.”

Well, the possibilities are endless. But there’s always a chance the union could result in an “Area baby” and lives lived happily ever after.

Either that or the issuance of arrest warrants. Though I suppose it could be both.

Asked and answered: I recently noted having watched a cable show based on aerial views of Washington. It didn’t spend much time in, or should I say above, Eastern Washington. So I asked readers what three glimpses of this side of the state they would include in a reshoot of that program.

Here’s Jim Clanton’s list.

“Palouse Falls in the spring after a big snow year.

“The Channeled Scablands. It would be the eighth wonder of the world if the story were widely known.

“And of course, Grand Coulee Dam.

“I was once on a tour of that cute little dam down on the Arizona/Nevada border and the docent was breathlessly telling us that the thing had 4 million cubic yards of concrete in it. I was compelled to point out that our real dam had 12 million cubic yards before the third power house was built. To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee, ‘Now that’s a dam.’ ”

Jim Wavada was thinking along similar lines.

“That’s easy. Think moving water: Spokane Falls, Palouse Falls, Grand Coulee Dam.”

And in the matter of news stories readers would like to be relieved of any responsibility to follow until a certain point, I heard from Glenn Winkey.

“Just let me know when the north/south freeway is DONE. No funding updates, no unrealistic completion estimates. Just take me on a drive, if I’m still alive.”

Names in the news: When Russell Baker died last week, many of his fans recalled favorite things he had written.

One of mine involved a story about a newspaper editor on the city desk in Baltimore who was obsessed with getting an abundance of names into news articles. As Baker recounted it, that editor was so insistent about this that one of the reporters finally resorted to giving him exactly what he said he wanted.

The reporter fed a piece of paper into his typewriter and opened up the phone book.

Then he typed “Baltimoreans include …” followed by a long list of names. Names, names and more names.

The editor in question was only mildly amused when that reporter turned in his “story.”

Speaking of old newspaper stories: Back when I first arrived in Spokane more than 30 years ago, this company still published both The Spokesman-Review and the Spokane Chronicle. This was during the era after the news staffs had been combined.

I still have a business card with the names of both publications on it.

Anyway, I had occasion to phone a Spokane woman named Hazel Barnes. I identified myself as being with The Spokesman-Review.

It turned out Hazel had written for the Chron. She immediately took note of the fact I had neglected to include a mention of the Chronicle when identifying myself. At the conclusion of our conversation, she brought this up again and admonished me to mend my ways.

Funny how I can’t always remember what day of the week it is, but I’ve never forgotten that gentle scolding.

This month’s Slice question: What is your earliest memory of Spokane?

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached by email at

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