Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Memoir Monday: “The Power of -ish” by Lisa S. Harris

“-ish” changed my life. It sounds a bit overstated, but it’s true.

In the early days of Video Library, I tried hard to get the store open on time. But as Yoda says, “There is no try, there is only do or do not.” Unless I am up against an immovable deadline, like catching a flight or making a movie on time or else, I only can do or do not, but generally, I’m afraid, it’s do not.

Being on time is tough for me, since I have been running late since five minutes after the dawn of time. This is a fact. For I was supposed to be born at the end of June, but kept my parents-to-be waiting and didn’t manage to arrive until six laborious weeks later, on August 7th.

I haven’t been on time since.

True, it’s not always my fault to be exiting the house later than I should to get the store open on time. People who know me realize I have always lived with many animals, and I mean many. So, with feeding, cleaning, playing, and dealing with the frequent artful escape, I’m almost always running behind schedule.

I have to admit, it’s not always the animals. The other morning I was in the driveway, car running, almost gone, and when I glanced in the rearview mirror and, to my utter horror, I saw I’d forgotten to put on my mascara. That’s like going out naked! So naturally I had to run back inside, apply the precious stuff, and run get back into the car, making me four minutes tardy, when for once it actually had looked as if I were going to make it on time.


For a long time, I tried to make up for lost time by being an observant and opportunistic driver. Not aggressive, oh no, not me. Since I have driven the same route to work for decades, I well know the one current ultimate set of directions that quickly will get me through traffic. Those driving directions include: Take Cerrillos only in the morning, never at noon; Avoid the Plaza, too many pedestrians; Evade the RailRunner wherever it crosses the road; Remember the efficient UPS drivers’ mantra of “Right turns only”; Be open to opportunity; And always have one eye scouting for a new, shorter back alley route that gets me to work quicker. On a good day, like a Sunday morning when all the lights are with me, the drive can take eleven or twelve minutes. A bad day, like one with a downtown Special Event Ahead!, or with encountering some jam-up due to road construction or a detour, it can be twenty.

Still, my husband Casey says my philosophy of motoring always reminds him of that Stephen King story “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” based on King’s wife Tabitha, about a woman eternally obsessed with finding the fastest way from one point to another, but it sure costs her. I do not necessarily count myself in that category, but that’s what Casey says.

Man, I really do remember this one particular morning, as I was characteristically running behind. There I was maneuvering through traffic as usual, when suddenly a bicyclist comes out of nowhere, and I mean nowhere, like out of another dimension, causing all the cars to slam on their brakes simultaneously. In about two seconds, we all went from doing forty to going zero. I was surrounded by, and immersed in, screeching tires, fishtailing autos, and panicked lane-changing. I rose out of my seat as far as the seatbelt allowed and literally stood on the brake pedal, shuddering to a halt after several            l-o-n-g seconds.

I recall so many details. The scared face of the driver in front of me as reflected in her rearview mirror. The terrified pedestrian who had appeared seemingly out of thin air. The huge truck behind me that was drew closer without apparent slowing. Then, at last, the adrenaline jolt that flooded me as I realized it was over and that nothing had happened. Astoundingly, no one had hit anything! No sickening crunch of steel to hear eternally, no horrifying splattered person to haunt my three a.m.’s forevermore. A total escape, accomplished only by timing and/or fate.

Traffic flow resumed haltingly. Deeply nerve-rattled, I continued to wend my way to The Vid, despite a now-nauseous gut and the familiar metallic taste of fear in my mouth.

As I pulled into the Vid’s parking lot, I saw a woman waiting for me. When I stopped, she hurried up to my driver’s side open window, thrusting her rental in my face, belligerently saying, “This didn’t work. So you owe me.” At that moment, I realized I had raced, risking my life and others’, simply to get to my store so that somebody could yell at me, first thing.

Not worth it.

Never again.

That same morning, after unlocking the door and getting ready for the day’s business, I collected all three of the signs displaying our business hours, erased the hours, and re-wrote our opening time as “9:30-ish.” Every day. The near-miss changed my driving habits and helped cure that ulcer I was working on.

So I never set a new record getting to the store any more.

Reassuringly, most of my customers have embraced “-ish.” A few have brought their out-of-town guests by just to see the signs. Sometimes in summer I see tourists walk up to the window and take photographs.  Personally, I have to say, I like the unforeseen way that “-ish” resembles my initials “lsh” in lower case, like it’s fate, like it began at birth. Like I have always been right on time.

©Lisa S. Harris 2014

In 1981 Lisa S. Harris opened the first video rental store in New Mexico. She has been behind the counter of Video Library dispensing movies, recommendations and therapy ever since. She loves Casey, cats, movies and bacon.


  1. Pat Harris says:

    She can’t help it. It’s in her genes–from her father’s side.

    Lisa’s Mother

    • Susan Tungate says:

      Hi, Lisa’s Mom,
      Lisa is worth waiting for, with or without
      the -ish. Your daughter is a jewel.

  2. Freddi says:

    “ish” works for me. I’ve been using it for years.

  3. jon harris says:

    So well put. Time is relative. And you can always claim that “… my watch says…..” At least, there once was some variance in time on different watches and clocks. And if one forget to update for DST, you could be really early (or late).

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