Last weekend, I ventured north of Edmonton for the first time ever. Matt lives in a village about four hours north-west of Edmonton, and while I’ve travelled to many parts of the world, I’ve never driven for seven hours straight in my own province before. Or seven hours straight anywhere as the sole occupant of a car before. But Matt is awesome, I have an adventurous spirit and I like driving. So after class on Friday, I packed up my Toyota Yaris with a suitcase, a bag of books and a blueberry pie and hit the road.
This was either going to be the beginning of a very sweet romantic comedy (city girl heads north for rural weekend, brings homemade pie, charms local townsfolk, etc.) or the Worst Horror Film Ever. I must admit that I did have a “What am I getting myself into?” moment when I started seeing the signs for ‘Moose Row’ everywhere. (We actually did see a dead moose up there one day returning from Peace River, so these fears were not completely unfounded.)
But happily, the drive passed without major incident (just minor snow flurries), and for a large portion of it, Mindy Kaling kept me company with the audiobook version of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).
I have mixed opinions on audiobooks. On one hand, I love, love, love Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe stories, as well as the podcasts of his wonderful CBC show. It doesn’t hurt that I got to meet him a couple of times when he was a professor at Ryerson University and I was a star-struck first-year student. He was always very kind. But on the other hand, I was given Eckhart Tolle’s audiobook The Power of Now by an Australian acquaintance who thought I looked ‘stressed’ during my last months in Sydney before I returned home to Canada. While it is a very useful book with lots of good ideas in it that did help during my stressful situation, there’s just something about his voice that knocks me out in about ten minutes flat. Seriously. If you can’t sleep, try The Power of Now audiobook. Works like a charm every time for me. So Mindy was a bit of an experiment.
Jen Chaney of The Washington Post describes Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? as “a breezy, intermittently amusing and somewhat unfocused first essay collection.” She’s not wrong. I liked Mindy well enough – and especially more in the second half when she started talking about putting together her play Matt & Ben and writing on The Office – but Tina Fey and Ellen DeGeneres set the standard pretty high when it comes to comedic memoir-style essays.
There were moments where I had to take a break from Mindy to put in a CD for awhile (The Tragically Hip, a live John Mayer album, the latest Serena Ryder and Jake Bugg, if you must know), but there were other times where I did a little fist pump and actually said, out loud, “Yeah, you go Mindy!” Near the end, she has the kind of observations about her friends’ relationships that from time to time, I have about my friends’ relationships (you see this, married and coupled-up friends? I’m observing you. In a completely noncreepy, ethnographic way, of course).
Mindy writes (or says, I guess, because it’s an audiobook): “I don’t want to hear about the endless struggles to keep sex exciting, or the work it takes to plan a date night. I want to hear that you guys watch every episode of The Bachelorette together in secret shame, or that one got the other hooked on Breaking Bad and if either watches it without the other, they’re dead meat. I want to see you guys high-five each other like teammates on a recreational softball team you both do for fun.”
And because I want that too, I gave Mindy Kaling a little air high five in my car. And I’m willing to give audiobooks another try.