Some days I make hemp necklaces while sitting in the parking lot. On weekday afternoons, it’s usually slow enough to get some work done between collecting parking fees from the drivers of cars that pull in. By the number of comments I receive, my handicraft is at least as interesting as the trees.
One day, several people (including my boss) thought the bright blue and red hemp I was working with was wire, even though the hemp cord’s not nearly as stiff as wire.
One old woman must not have believed me when I said it wasn’t wire because she reached out to touch it. She didn’t ask permission, just reached out. I drew the cord closer and closer to my body, and she just kept reaching. I suspect if I had lain the cord across my bosom, she would have gone ahead and felt me up in the process of fingering my materials.
Oh! I exclaimed. You’re just going to touch it?!(My implication was not You only want to touch it? but You’re just going to touch it whether I want you to or not!)
Yes! she said, and she did!
I was in a state of disbelief, and my slow brain couldn’t even get it together to say, Back off! or Don’t touch me! or Excuse me? or simply No! This stranger thought it was ok to touch my things, things sitting in my lap. Not ok, lady! Not ok!
But she did it. She reached out and touched my hemp cord. I don’t think she even know her behavior was offensive.
The big question when people see me working on a craft project is, What are you making?
A flat answer of a necklace is meant to discourage conversation. I can’t sell the necklaces in the parking lot, so I don’t much want to talk about them.
Another old lady saw me working and said, Boondoggle!
What? I asked. I was really confused. I thought boondoggle was related to snafu. My hemp wasn’t in a knotted mess. Everything seemed ok.
That’s what it’s called, the old lady said to me.
It’s macramé, I told her.
Same thing, she said and wandered off. (At least she didn’t touch me.)
I looked up the definition of boondoggle. This is what I found, according to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boondoggle:
Simple Definition of boondoggle
: an expensive and wasteful project usually paid for with public money
Full Definition of boondoggle
1 : a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide, hatband, or ornament
2 : a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft
Did You Know?
When “boondoggle” popped up in the pages of the New York Times in 1935, lots of people tried to explain where the word came from. One theory traced it to an Ozarkian word for “gadget,” while another related it to the Tagalog word that gave us “boondocks.” Another hypothesis suggested that “boondoggle” came from the name of leather toys Daniel Boone supposedly made for his dog. But the only theory that is supported by evidence is much simpler. In the 1920s, Robert Link, a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, apparently coined the word to name the braided leather cords made and worn by scouts. The word came to prominence when such a scout boondoggle was presented to the Prince of Wales at the 1929 World Jamboree, and it’s been with us ever since.
The woman was a bit confused. I wasn’t braiding. I wasn’t working with leather. I wasn’t a Boy Scout. But I don’t think she was implying my project was wasteful or impractical, so I’ve decided not to be mad at her.