Between A Witch And A Hard Place

I’m working on my October attitude.

I should have a good one but I don’t. Which doesn’t make sense if I’m going to be logical about it.

I live in New England, the most beautiful place to appreciate the Fall. The air is crisp, the sun is strong, the birds sing heartily, and jewel-colored leaves fall from the trees. We get to go apple-picking and pumpkin-picking and spend every weekend at a different fair. And we have Salem, Massachusetts, home of the witch trials, home of Haunted Halloween, which amounts to four fun-filled weeks of spooky activities.

One might consider me particularly lucky since I don’t only live near Salem, the mecca of witch museums and reenactments and fortune tellers and parades and midnight spook tours, I live less than a couple of miles from the center of the city, the epicenter of Halloween, the place to be in October.

That, my friends, is where “one” would be wrong. That, my friends, is where tourists and potential tourists do not appreciate the perspective of the local.

The town where I live is a peninsula. If you aren’t traveling by boat, there are only two ways out of town, and to get anywhere that I go during my daily life, one of those two routes, the only way to get where I am going, is through Salem. Fun-filled, tourist-filled, costumed crazies-filled, traffic-moving-at-the-speed-of-sludge Salem.

During the month of October, everything I do takes an extra twenty minutes. Each way. On a good day. Early in the month. Usually before dawn.

I may exaggerate a little, but imagine knowing that every time you leave your house for the next thirty days, you will have to sit in constant traffic, follow cars with unfamiliar license plates braking every two seconds and not turning when their blinkers are clearly indicating an upcoming turn, and dodge people wandering through the streets as if the streets were sidewalks or boardwalks or open fields.

You may be a better person than I am. A less tense one. Somebody who feels like they have all the time in the world to do the things they have to do and want to do. If you are, can we switch personalities for the month?

Knowing the whole personality switch is not a likely option, I’ve decided to approach this October from a new angle. I’ve decided to accept the truth of my normal October experience. I’ve decided to try to recall the joy we experienced back when my kids were young and we visited Salem in October with their Girl Scout troops or their friends or visitors from out of town. I’ve decided, when I can, to pretend that I am not a local.

Today was my first day of attitude adjustment. My daughter had a soccer game at 4 pm at a school that is normally a half an hour from my house. At twelve-thirty, I headed into Salem.

First stop, Starbucks. Coffee in front of me, I spent an hour and a half reading and writing and listening to the conversations of people with accents, speaking different languages as they entered and exited the shop. Despite the continuous inflow and outflow, I managed to get some work done.

At two o’clock, I put my work back in my car, refilled the meter with coins, and walked into the heart of the city. I didn’t have enough time to spend participating in the activities offered but I did have the time to scan the area, take a few photos, and to think about what my options were for things I can do later in the week or next week when I take on the role of tourist, something I intend to do.

Walking through Salem is a very different experience than driving through Salem in October. It was a sunny day, people were smiling, everything was colorful and alive and full of excitement. I could feel myself getting into the spirit of the season, against all expectations.

The ride out of Salem and to my daughter’s game was less stressful than usual because I’d let myself enjoy a little of what the city is all about. The drive back at 6 pm was not quite as low-key but still, some  of the calm from earlier made me snap at drivers a little less and sing to the music on the radio instead of finding the choice of songs and the DJ talk an additional annoyance.

Will I ever be happy about the added time and frustration to every trip I make during the month of October? No. But, do I think it is possible that I will find some pleasure in my visits into Salem, providing some balance for the irritation I can’t help but feel when I drive in and out of town? Yes.

I live in a pretty great place. All my belly-aching about the month of October does nothing for me except to make an annoying situation much worse. So I will try to make the best of it. No promises that I will become a better person as a result. Hopefully, though, I will smile a little bit more and not feel compelled to add to the town-wide complaining about Salem in October.



I write about daily life, arts & culture, food, books, nature, animals, parenting, relationships, self-discovery, & more.

I'd love to hear what you think. Share in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Please share my posts with your friends by clicking on the FB, Twitter, or email share buttons found below. And if you like what you've read, click on the Facebook like button.

You won't miss a post if you sign up to receive my musings by email (see the sidebar on this page).

Latest posts by Sara (see all)

9 thoughts on “Between A Witch And A Hard Place

  1. As one who has travelled to the area, I think you know that many streets are not marked, as they are in other places. Having stayed in Salem and driven on your peninsula, I can say that it is somewhat-to-very frustrating for the out-of-towner, who is looking for a strange place and is wary is getting lost by making a wrong turn one more time. None of that would keep me from visiting that lovely area again, but…have pity on the muddled tourist.

    1. I DO have pity on the tourist. It IS a hard place to get around and the street signs are not very good when they exist. Actually, I love the tourists in Salem during the last week of the month, when the city goes crazy. Nothing more fun than people watching when each person is dressed up stranger than the next. Joan, I hope you will come back soon and visit! Maybe I’ll see you and Gary when I am in Baltimore in a few weeks?

  2. Oh, honey, I’ve been in Salem in October – as one of those tourists you’re so fond of – and I totally feel your pain. Your strategy sounds quite brilliant, though, and I hope you have some fun over the next few weeks!

    1. It’s not worth fighting them, so I’m joining them. It is a crazy and amazing place to be in October. Hope you come back soon. It’s a fun place even in the non-October months, you know. 🙂

  3. New England sounds pretty nice. I was actually born up there, but we moved to Texas when I was four, so I don’t remember too much…it wasn’t until I lived in Wisconsin that I really got to experience living in a place that had more than two seasons (which are basically summer and not-summer).

    1. The grass is always greener. There are days, usually around February, that I wish I lived in a place that was summer all of the time. I will admit that the weather is beautiful in New England right now though.

  4. 1. My immediate reaction was WWII novel about possible a Russian woman….maybe an accomplished violin player and her escape to freedom and quest to continue playing her violin which is her passion.

    2. Definitely heavy

    3. Yes….but I can’t think of the name…have to ask the kids. It was a book they read at Hillel about what I mentioned above, but the woman was a piano player.
    4. The title definitely intrigues me and it definitely provoked wonder and interest.

    See you Friday! 🙂

So what do you think?