Vermont: Leaf Peepers, Mushroom Poachers & One Frugal Doctor


I recently moved from San Francisco to Burlington, Vermont where the among other things the weather is quite different. Mainly, it gets damn cold here. I’m thankful that it has been a warm October with temps now only ranging from the mid 40’s to low 50’s. But the hawk (winter) is just around the corner.

By this time of year all but the last of the leaf peepers are gone. Last month, they descended upon my new state like a plague of locusts and left just as suddenly after filling what must be thousands of mini, micro and standard SD cards with millions of pictures of our fall leaves, while leaving us locals to fill hundreds of bags with the, hmmm, the leavings.

Although the motels are barely 50 percent booked and the roads and restaurants are much quieter I’m far from bored with my new digs. You see what is also different about Vermont, besides the weather, are the people and I am I must admit I’m being immensely entertained.

Sitting on my front porch this very morning I noticed a van pull up across the way. A young feller I’d say in his mid twenties hopped out while his female companion kept the engine running. The chap, carrying a black plastic garbage bag, headed straight for the Honey mushrooms dotting my neighors lawn. These fungi tend to proliferate after particularly soggy weather and we’ve had plenty of that lately.

Pulling a large pocket knife out of his jeans, he made short work of the mushroom blooms, stuffing them in the bag as he marched around looking for more. I decided, in very unVermont behavior, to engage, “are those mushrooms you’re after?” I called out..

He looked startled by the question, as any native Vermonter would be by a transplanted New Yorker who likes a bit of confrontation once in a while.

I followed up with, “are they edible?” a very silly question since why else was he picking them?

He finally found the wherewithall to speak.

“Yes, Honey mushrooms. But they look just like a very deadly mushroom that grows around here.”

Being a cynical New Yorker I’m pretty certain he wasn’t worried about my health. Rather, I think it was his way of keeping any possible competiton at bay.

“Read a book” he called out as he jumped back into the van, plastic bag bulging, and they took off.

Did he mean I should mind my own business rather than asking dumb questions or did he mean read a book about mushrooms so you don’t eat the wrong kind? Vermonters are extremely polite and very helpful? I guess I’ll never know.

Leaving the mushroom poacher behind let’s turn now to my new doctor. .I had a first time appointment with him that very afternoon. I wouldn’t mind telling you why I had to see a doctor but I believe HIPAA rules won’t allow me to even talk about my own health.

Waiting in the examining room I noticed a red Sears Craftsman tool cabinet right beside the examining table. When the nurse came in to take my blood pressure I asked her why. She told me the doctor doesn’t believe in spending a lot of money on a physcians instrument cabinet when a tool chest would do just as well. I had the temerity to tell her that it didn’t exactly inspire confidence. I think my wry comment went over her head or was she just ignoring me?

When I got home I did do some investigating of my own to see how much my frugal doc was actually saving. Quite a bit it turned out. 

A Paragon Medical Cabinet was priced at $611 while the Craftsman Tool Chest,  just about the same size rolled in at $258.39. And if you’ll notice the Craftsman comes with wheels.

Well, that was one of my first days in Vermont. But there something I would like to clear up about this state. It is not true that there are more cows than people here. It only seems that way.

Photo credit for Sears Chest from Sears.
Ephraim Schwartz
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