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“Standing On Line” by Kathryn Daniels

You know that game that kids play on road trips, where you add an item to a growing alphabetical list of things you’re bringing to grandma’s house? The first kid might say, “I’m going to Grandma’s house and I’m bringing an artichoke.” Then the second kid says, “I’m going to Grandma’s house and I’m bringing an artichoke and a Basset Hound.” Then the next kid (or the first kid again) says, “I’m going to Grandma’s house and I’m bringing an artichoke, a Basset Hound, and a cocktail,” or some such, until you run out of letters or someone messes up or my mother explodes from the front seat: “What the hell does Grandma want with all this shit?!”

I have an adult version for you. It’s not as much about auditory recall as it is about something that actually happened and continues to happen all the time. Here it goes:

  • Standing in line is terrible.
  • Standing in line at the Olympia mall is terrible.
  • Standing in line at the Verizon store at the Olympia Mall is terrible.
  • Standing in line at the Verizon store at the Olympia mall holding your partner’s notarized death certificate because he’s still in charge of the account and they won’t deal with you over the phone and want you to pay a late fee because you can’t access the account to pay the past due balance on a bill that includes the last puppies-on-stairs videos he sent to you before he died is really terrible.

When someone dies, it’s terrible. Even if they were in a lot of pain. And even if, in some ways, it was anticipated. Sometimes, yes, sometimes a loved one’s death is a relief from terrible suffering, but often, death is terrible suffering all on its own. It feels like, somehow, someone is slapping you very hard while standing on your heart. And it feels like this for a long, long time.

When we die, we leave behind cats and beloved well-washed t-shirts. We leave behind favorite books (or books we published) and lovers and unsaid dreams. We leave behind those people we hoped to grow old and die with. It’s cruel when only the latter half of that gets to happen.

Now, when we die, we also leave behind a shit-ton of technology. We leave behind piles of cable and USB drives that look like exploding ant colonies in our closets. We leave behind total sovereignty at the Verizon store, apparently. We leave behind the new tablet we bought the month before we died, as a “present for those chemo days” that ended up being so few. We leave behind a partner – a girlfriend – who is accustomed to waiting to stream the next episode of Parenthood because we have to wait until the next night we’re both home, because that’s a Show We Watch Together, dammit.

On a side note, Parenthood is a really great show. It can get heavy at times but someone told me it’s uplifting at the end. Has anyone finished it? It’s not sad, is it?

Oh yes. And we leave behind the shared calendar app and the very, very well encrypted home internet access that we set up with best intentions years ago, to prevent hacking and undue government oversight, and that now that same girlfriend – wearing our well-worn t-shirt and wondering if Sarah and Amber will ever learn to just stop talking over each other – now needs to attempt to unravel.

Our digital lives are becoming massive things. How can we ever know how much time we have, and how can we even try to leave our mark on the world without the risk of turning every laptop, blog post and smartphone into a potential landmine for those we leave behind?

I really only have two suggestions about what to do with your browser history. You can delete it. Or you can consider editing and augmenting it for maximum readability and entertainment value. Because the sad girl in the t-shirt needs a chuckle.

Kathryn Daniels is a voiceover artist, writer and adventurer calling Tacoma home since 2016. Nearly everything she writes is written to be read out loud, and every piece has its own voice. Her characters come from her own life and the people she’s lucky enough – or at times surprised enough – to get to know. When not writing, Kathryn works in rehabilitation and critical care medicine, and considers herself a pretty good hiker, damn good open water swimmer, and enthusiastic dog person. She’s been known to throw a mighty fine dinner party with minimal provocation. Prior to Tacoma, Kathryn spent time living and working on the Kitsap Peninsula, acted for more than 10 years in Chicago theater, and grew up in Dallas, Texas.