Don’t Harsh My Mellow, I’m Only Doing What Mom Taught Me To Do

Mom was a proponent of a good lollygag and fritter.

To be clear she accomplished things in her life, but she also took the time to not be focused on her To Do List, allowing herself to let go of the need to accomplish things all hours of the day.

To wit, yesterday afternoon her daughter, moi, was out running important errands when it dawned on moi that spring had finally arrived.

The sky was medium blue with gorgeous white clouds floating across the it.  The trees were sporting bright green leaves again.  The temps were in the 70s so that I was wearing capris + sandals.

Thus, channeling my mother + remembering her admonishment to lollygag and fritter, I decided to toss my To Do List aside and stop at Home Depot to wander aimlessly through their garden nursery department.

I half-filled a shopping cart with herbs and annuals.  Nothing exotic, just tasty and pretty plants.  Then I went to pay for them at the checkout counter where the sales clerk, dispensing with your traditional “hello,” asked me:

Are you having a productive day?

And you know what, my gentle readers?  Her question about productivity, asked in that moment, peeved me in a way that surprised me.

She was, I believe, harshing my mellow.

Was I not, I ask you, paying tribute to my mother’s memory by lollygaging and frittering in the garden nursery department, not bothering a soul with my mellowness?

Why yes, Ally Bean, you were paying tribute to your mother’s memory by doing that which she taught you to do.

However, putting my snitification aside, I also believe that, knowing Mom’s sense of humor, she was laughing from heaven above about my irritation over a small thing in life on earth.

Yep, she was probably lollygaging and frittering on a beautiful white fluffy cloud– like the ones I could see floating overhead while I mumbled something to the sales clerk about being productive enough… for today.

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Ally Bean

Observant. Humorous. Adaptable. Happy enough. Midwestern by chance. Kindhearted by choice. Usually.

96 thoughts on “Don’t Harsh My Mellow, I’m Only Doing What Mom Taught Me To Do”

  1. Almost the same thing happened to me a few weeks back, although I didn’t go all crazy or anything with the salesperson. I had a basket full of flowering things because I enjoy my tiny little garden and wanted to be out enjoying the sun not because I had a mission or goal or needed to get something done right then and there. I just figured that perhaps she sees so many people trying to hurry through life, and their yard work, that her assumption was such that my basket meant the same full-on race to accomplish a major task.
    Stay calm, and carry on Ms. Bean 🙂

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    1. Deb, this sales clerk’s question was not said in a mean way, but my head was in a totally different place than thinking about getting things done. She kind of jolted me back into reality. Like you said, most wisely, so many people are hurrying through life that she assumed I was, too. But for once, I wasn’t.

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        1. nancy, that’s a good point. It was the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week, so I’d think that more people than just me were having themselves a good lollygag and fritter. Honestly…

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    1. Margaret, indeed it is– and we congratulate you on accomplishing that in a day! But for once I was intentionally being unproductive, and brought up short for it. Honestly, people need to learn to lollygag and fritter more often.

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    1. Tara, I told her I was being productive enough for the day. She looked bewildered, but went with it. I’m not sure how many people actually answer her question at all.

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  2. Yep, she’s laughed. So did I – thanks. I firmly believe one can be a very productive lollygag and frittered through well-honed techniques developed over years of experience. Well done.

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    1. Zen-Den, I like how you think! I try to emulate my mother’s well-honed lollygag and fritter example, but sometimes the people out there in this world don’t get it. So sad.

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  3. “harshing my mellow.”—Love that term! Maybe you should trademark it. 😄

    Good for you for taking some mellow time. If we don’t do that from time to time, we’ll become cranky critters, and that’s no fun for anyone.

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    1. Carrie, my mother figured out the necessity of not always being on a mission to accomplish, and made it clear to me that it was a good thing! You try to do like your elders taught you… and then this. 🤷‍♀️

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  4. Remembering and following mom’s guidance is a wonderful way to honor her, Ally. I think it’s fun to watch our day roll past and change it or monitor it as one of our parents would. And, I love the word ‘lollygag’ – great post!

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    1. Dan, that’s a good point. I’m old enough now to see myself doing what a parent did, and it doesn’t bother me that I’m doing it. Lollygag is a sturdy old-fashioned word that needs a resurgence. Think of this post as leading the way!

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        1. If you like the word “lollygag,” go back and watch the shower scene “Bull Durham” where the coaches yell at the players and end up calling them “lollygaggers.”

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    1. teacherturnedmommy, that is exactly what I was doing. I allowed the lollygag to lead me to the garden nursery, wherein I inadvertently became productive. Life is so topsy-turvy sometimes.

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  5. ‘snitification’ – I’m going to remember that, Ally. I give the clerk props for engaging you with something other than the weather, which I consider the generic of engaging. I do it all the time. 😉 But I get how that could ‘harsh your mellow’ (phrase which I also love). Nobody in public has ever asked me if I was having a productive day.

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    1. Elen, you’ve hit on the true weirdness of this interaction. Who asks you about your productivity? Only your boss or your thesis committee chair! No stranger has ever asked me this question before– and so earnestly at that.

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  6. Ally, I learn so much from you! I love “Snitification” and “harshing my mellow.” Definitely a strange question to ask someone, although I used to ask “What are you making with these?” when checking out a customer at Michaels. No one ever told me to mind my own business but I suppose someone could consider that a too personal question. I was just trying to make the interaction a more engaging one.

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    1. Janet, I’m not sure if snitification is a real word, but I use more often than I care to admit. I bet that you’re onto why this sales clerk asked the question she did. She was pleasant, but there was no “hello” first… just straight to business. On the upside I got a story out of it, and the plants are doing great.

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  7. Our society has that need to be productive with scorn for those who are less so I think. Since I’ve retired, I’e been battling that ingrained need, working hard to adopt the “one chore a day rule”. If I do laundry, I can’t mow the lawn. If I mow the lawn, the kitchen be damned. Kinda like that.

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    1. Carol, you are right about our society’s need for all of us to seem productive. It’s ingrained, so much so that we have to remind ourselves to lollygag. I’ve not heard of the the “one chore a day rule” but I can understand how that’d be difficult to do. Once I get moving, I want to keep going.

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  8. I totally get this. It’s almost a loaded question. A waitress recently asked us at the end of a meal, “Was your meal excellent?” There were so many snarky ways to answer that, but I just said it was fine. Lollygag to your heart’s content, and just ignore that snarky question. – Marty

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    1. Marty, you’re right it was kind of a loaded question. And it came at me when my mind was far away from the concept of getting things done. I don’t like the question your waitress asked you. It’s twisting your answer into what she wanted to hear.

      Oh well… the flowers I bought look pretty and the herbs are healthy so I’m a cool bean. Let other people ask the questions they do.

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  9. Your mother was the kindest, funniest, sweetest, most laid back woman I’ve ever known! I can hear her now laughing at your conversation. Walking through aisles and aisles of flowers just taking your time to experience each one is a great way to lolligag! Happy spring!

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    1. Beth, you described Mom to a T. She could be a hoot, if she wanted you to know that about her. Otherwise she’d do her teacher glare thing that was most intimidating. However as I wandered around Home Depot I was thinking about the Mom that you and I knew– and then when the checkout clerk asked the question, I just knew Mom was getting a kick out of it.

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  10. Once again, I was ‘smiling out loud’ before I even got past the title. The fact that you were up, out of your PJs, and in a public place buying herbs and annuals was very productive. You could have just decided to sit on a park bench and watch the white fluffy clouds roll past. In my mind, that would have been quite productive too!

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    1. Donna, I like how you think: EXACTLY, I was out of my jammies and into the world so that alone meant I was being productive. Sorry I didn’t think of that answer to say to the sales clerk. But I still had a good lollygag wandering around the garden nursery department, even if it ended with an unusual conversation.

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  11. Ha ha Ally Bean! Lordy, I’ll never be able to say marshmallow again. Harsh and mellow – Well, at least Home Depot gal didn’t say ‘and have a good day further’ – have you heard this one? I do not know from whence it came but people on the telephone are always saying it. ‘Gay food further’ I want to say back to them. Keep on lolly gagging or golly lagging or gaily logging or snitting …

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    1. Susan, I didn’t make up “don’t harsh my mellow” but I like how it summarizes certain conversations with people. I’ve heard “have a good day” but there was no “further” involved.

      Golly lagging is a delightful way of describing what you might not be doing instead of what you should be doing. I like your word play– and I shall not be snitty about it.

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    1. Janis, I’ve not heard “don’t harsh my buzz” but I can envision many situations in which it could come in handy. The productivity question startled me. Your answer to it is perfect. Mine was more along the lines of HUH?

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    1. Akilah, oddly enough I think that my lollygagging and frittering in the garden department ultimately was extremely productive. After I got home with my plants I realized that I’d purchased plants for all of our pots– without using a list. 👏

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  12. I’d never harsh your mellow Ally, but only because I”m serenely lost in the land of lollygagging and the frontier of frittering. Gold stars to you for being such a good pupil of your wise mom’s example. And like you, Spring has finally arrived in all it’s glory, literally overnight turning things into lush abundance. Let the flowers be planted!

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    1. Deborah, I appreciate how you are part of the lollygag and fritter tribe. We are the people who get things done, just not in straight lines. Yes, spring just appeared here, too. In about 72 hours we went from late winter gloom to S-P-R-I-N-G! I’m loving it.

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    1. Anne, thank you. I’m glad that you didn’t gag on my lolly. Nicely said. I tell you though, sometimes I find myself in these peculiar situations, like being asked about being productive at the one time I’m trying my best to not be. Go figure.

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  13. I am also a person who would not like that question. No likey. You’ve triggered a rant. I mean, inspired me once again.
    Right good reaction when asked about productivity on what was clearly a lollygaggin and fritterin kinda day. (My mother and I are piddlers.)

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    1. joey, the question struck me as odd, but it didn’t stop me from buying anything. I adore the idea of being a piddler. No doubt piddlers and lollygaggers are related somehow… maybe second cousins once removed?

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    1. jesh stg, your answer would have been better than mine. I was surprised by the question, both the timing in my life and the assumption that everyone has the goal of being productive. I dunno about that, but it made for a good blog post.

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    1. Joanne, laughing here. I want a do-over, YES! On the upside of this experience, I have terra cotta pots filled with pretty flowers and herbs– and a story to tell. But it was an odd question… considering.

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      1. Very odd question! Productive is such a subjective word. I’ve gotten to the point where productive for me means doing what I wanted to do … which doesn’t always mean the same thing as what I needed to do 😉

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        1. I agree, definitions of productive can be subjective. In fact, the word can have a negative connotation at times– especially when standing at a cash register with a cartload of pretty posies on a bright spring afternoon.

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  14. That’s quite a peculiar question for her to ask. Maybe she was trying out different adjectives she could use instead of “nice” or “good” when asking how people’s days are (?)
    At work, I’ll usually ask open questions – something like “how’s your day going?” or “got much planned for the rest of the day?” Leaves it open for people to say “No, I’m just gonna go home and sleep”, which is a perfectly fine answer too. If anyone ever responds with “lollygagging and frittering”, I’ll be really impressed 😉

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    1. Pistachios, that’s an excellent point about this sales clerk trying to get away from saying “nice” or “good.” I hadn’t thought of that and it makes perfect sense. The woman was pleasant enough and maybe just tired of saying: “Are you having a good day?”

      I like your open-ended questions that you ask. They leave more room for a casual response like: “oh, I’m just going to spend the afternoon lollygagging and frittering, as one does…” 😎

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  15. Never have I had someone ask me that at a retail establishment. Is this something new? Don’t they want you to be unproductive and linger and browse around? I thought there was a study somewhere that said the more lollygagging you do in the store, the more likely you are to pick something up to purchase. Someone needs some refresher customer service training, methinks!

    P.S. your mom sounds really cool, frittering away from above. Hopefully she meets up with my mom, who could’ve used some frittering and lollygagging advice in her younger years.

    Deb

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    1. Deb, I hadn’t thought of what you’re saying about lingering around a store, buying more items on impulse. It makes sense. And if Home Depot wants me to buy more stuff there, then *maybe* they need to put less emphasis on me being productive. Of course, many [most?] people are all about being busy so I’m probably the outlier on this idea.

      Lollygagging and frittering seem to be a skill set that some people come by naturally– and other people, like your mother, learn later in life. But I believe that eventually every sane person realizes that a little down time makes you a better person.

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    1. nance, my mother also gallivanted from time-to-time. I’d forgotten about that word, but will admit to gallivanting on some days. I’m not much for traipsing, though. Too much effort, I suppose.

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  16. What a funny thing for a clerk to say to you. Clearly, you were productively shopping! 🙂 I love the idea of lollygagging and frittering, but I have to battle a lot of guilt out of my way if I want to be successful at it. Or at least, justify my lollygagging and frittering and make it look like I’m getting important things done!

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    1. Kate, I was accidentally being productive. That’s how I’ve come to think of this experience. I don’t seem to have any guilt about lollygagging and frittering– of course, sloth is favorite deadly sin so what do you expect?

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    1. J. B. Whitmore, yes, this question did make me feel like I was loitering and wasting time, instead of sending me on my happy way. It was such an odd question in this context. 🤔

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    1. JEN Garrett, I don’t know why this woman asked me this question. I don’t shop in Home Depot often enough to know if this is their signature question, asked of all customers. Your answer would have been a good one… which, of course, I didn’t think of.

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  17. Stuff productivity. I’m a huge fan of to do lists and getting things done. And I CERTAINLY wouldn’t call getting plants and flowers unproductive (in part because I’m three days past when get plants and flowers was on own to do list that was cast aside.)

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    1. Kate, I was accidentally productive in this situation. I didn’t go into the store to buy a thing, just to enjoy my time as a lollygagger on a pretty day. But when I saw the plants I got them because I was there, frittering– which turned out to be productive. Go figure.

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    1. pjlazos, I’m a woman of the list most of the time. But occasionally I remember my mother’s idea that you shouldn’t be doing things all the time. Kind of funny to me that I got stopped in my tracks right when I was trying my best to do nothing. Wouldn’t you know!

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  18. Who was that cashier, the productivity police?! (Note to self. Look into hiring productivity police.)

    I can see why it irked you. It’s like she plucked the absolutely most annoying yet mundane thing she could out of the air. Given your mother’s sense of humor, though, maybe she used a clerk with a wandering mind to send you a little joke. The universe is a mysterious place.

    Your mother sounds like she was an exceedingly wise woman, and you know I enjoy a good lollygag. My mother would also approve, especially because it involved plants.

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    1. Judy, I like how you think! I was accidentally productive when it came to buying posies, but I did adhere to my mother’s teachings. I lollygagged, thank you very much.

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  19. I have spent the last oh too many weeks being hugely productive and I positively ache for a good lolligag and fritter. And whilst my boyfriend’s stuff in storage needing to be moved with only a day’s notice has caused my client room to be trashed, I am determined to avert my eyes and take photos when the sun shines for that is what I like to do. If it rains, I may just read whilst averting my eyes …

    My Mum is also a talented lollygagger, which has required my siblings & I to bring our most productive selves to her current move into a new place. She has a *lot* of stuff & I am suffering from brain-ache trying to figure out how to fit it all in. There are times when it’s a right pain being the planner of the family.

    You were a saint to that sales clerk. The stress of keeping my reply not a punch on the nose would’ve likely given me a twitch 😉

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    1. deb, there’s a balance in life wherein a person can only be productive for so long before said person needs to lollygag and fritter if said person is to not blow a gasket. Or punch a sales clerk in the nose, which did not occur to me.

      I’ve been through what you’re doing– in that I’ve sorted out my mother’s stuff, helping to keep the right stuff with her, getting the other stuff to the right places. It’s all about planning and thinking through all possibilities and [sort of] never letting your guard down while you do it. Stressful and tiring.

      Am hoping that you get the time to lollygag and fritter– soon. It sounds like you could use it.

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