We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Cheering Jane in the fierce heat · 20 June 07

Dear Marianne,

This anecdote may be stored under the category: Jane is everywhere. On the back bumper of my still foolishly beloved blue Chevy Cavalier I’ve a white sticker with letters in navy blue reading “I’d rather be reading Jane Austen.”

As I was driving in 100 degree fahrenheit weather (an hour’s drive to where I teach at 3 in the afternoon in a car which is now too old and frail to support air-conditioning while it gets me where I’m going), I found myself stopped at a red light, and heard a horn. I realized someone was trying to contact me.

I look across at another small car whose air-conditioning was not on and see a jolly black woman around 30 signalling me. She calls out firmly: “I like your sticker.” I say, “Thank you!” (smiling). She then says she “loves Jane Austen” and her “favorite one” is Emma. She does like Sense and Sensibility too and has read Pride and Prejudice recently. Which is my favorite she wants to know. I say, well, I like three best: Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion. She looks startled. She had never heard of Mansfield Park. “You mean she wrote others?!” Yes. She risks an accident getting out a pencil and some pad or other. I repeat very loud now “MANSFIELD PARK and PERSUASION!” She gets them down. I call, “There is another one, Lady Susan.” But I wasn’t loud, the moment of the cars next to one another had passed, and I don’t know if she heard.

We drive on for a while side-by-side and when she comes to where she must turn, she beeps at me, and her car moves off. I catch a last glimpse of a happy shared smile.

A cheering moment in my day. A lift for my spirit.


Posted by: Ellen

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