Sunday, August 31, 2014

Don’t Want To Be Any Trouble

I like lattes. I like made-to-order sandwiches, from places like Subway. I like smoothies.
What I don’t like is ordering any of these. I know the whole point of the coffee bar, the Subway, the smoothie place is to make and sell their offerings, but I always feel like a jerk for ordering them. They take a long time to make. I feel bad making the person behind the counter make a ridiculous coffee concoction or smoothie. It feels like the line is piling up behind me. I especially hate to be a single person in the Subway or Starbucks line with a big multi-person order.
Does anybody else feel this way?
Some clearly don’t. I was recently in a newly opened ice-cream shop. The line snaked all the way along the counter, zigzagged through the store and extended out the door. It was full of small children. And the woman at the head of the line kept asking for tastes of the different ice-cream flavors, unable to make up her mind. It was like the decision of what ice cream to have was, for her, equal to deciding whether to sign a disarmament treaty or a ceasefire agreement.
And there’s a coffee bar near my house where one of the baristas LOVES to tell you all about coffee. He practically pirouettes around the machine as he makes yours, then takes the time to make a little design in the foam with a wooden stirrer as the finishing touch, waiting people be damned.
Marketers probably have a clever name for shoppers like me, the person who doesn’t want to ask for help, doesn’t want to make people wait, doesn’t want to be a pain in the ass.
Maybe I need to loosen up.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Day in the Life of Lola the Dog

She's lucky she's cute.
Be awakened by the sound of someone heading to kitchen.

Go get a treat.

Be cajoled into going outside. Insist that someone accompany you – or refuse to go further than the back step.

Poop, ideally on top of the garden hose or in the middle of the driveway for everyone to admire.

Get a treat.

GO IN THE CAR!!! The destination doesn’t matter, as long as it is not the groomer.
Yay! A ride in the car,

Get a treat upon return.

Follow the Woman of the House everywhere, in case she does something out of the ordinary. Try to be under her feet when she is carrying something. Also, cut in front of her when going down stairs.

When she sits down at her desk, conk out and snore.

When the Woman goes for other drives, stay behind, though not by choice. Check the kitchen garbage; strew it all over the floor, if the Woman forgot to take it out. Check for bread on the counter, even though you don’t eat bread. Drag it and any other items of interest you find into living room.
Ever hopeful by the treat bin.

When she returns, get a treat. (This doesn’t work if she left the garbage or the bread where you could get it.)

GO FOR A WALK!!! Poop and do the happy dance. Practice your pulling.

Return for your daily meal. Also, a treat.

Wait charmingly at the back door when you hear the Man of the House’s car.

Then, when he and the Woman talk while making dinner, bark for treats. If the Man puts you out onto back step, bark for treats from there.


Bedtime! Conk out on your couch in bedroom. Ideally, they will have left a pile of clean but unfolded laundry for you to lie on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Like Local Newspapers!

I don’t watch television news.

Except at the gym, where, on the elliptical trainer, I know, unlike at home, how to work the TV. I find myself switching between the channels in disgust. It’s either that, or if Fox turns one more thing into a screed, however tenuous the connection, against Obama, or if CNN shows that 6-second snippet of footage one more time, I am going to put my fist through the screen.

But I digress.

I do read the New York Times online and I read the Houston Chronicle, the one citywide newspaper left. But the Chronicle often just reprints articles and editorials from news services and other newspapers. I don’t get that. Nor do I get when television shows report on articles that have appeared in newspapers and magazines. Already seen it, thanks. Shouldn’t they be coming up with things of their own?

In fairness, the Chronicle does some very admirable reporting, such as its coverage of child immigrants or this series on dozens of homicides the Houston Police Department seems to have never investigated.

But, again, I digress.

My favorite newspapers are the super-local ones, like the Houston Leader-News that appears free in my driveway every Thursday. Recent sample headline: “Serial Defecator on the Prowl Again.”

The Leader’s website is here, but doesn’t seem to be working, a downside to local newspapers. Then again, no newspaper website, with the exception of the one for the New York Times, works well for some reason.
Again, I digress.

I also like the Provincetown Banner. Way back when it was the Provincetown Advocate, the editor-in-chief was divorced from the town selectman. Reading the editor’s coverage of her ex-husband and then his letters-to-the-editor replies was fun, even for a 19-year-old college kid with zero interest in local zoning.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

And You Are?

Have you ever found yourself in this situation: you are assembled with a group of people you don’t know – maybe it’s a meeting, maybe it’s at a party – and no one introduces themselves?

I once had to meet all my son’s teachers at a new school, in a single meeting. I introduced myself, multiple times – but not a single one of them, despite being seemingly friendly, thought to tell me who anybody was. I had no idea.

This was an extreme case; usually, I’ve got to say, when you introduce yourself, other people will respond with their names.

But sometimes, when no one steps forward to orchestrate the whole introduction thing, even when it clearly needs doing, I don’t either.

So, it doesn’t get done.

I used to be afraid that if I got the name of a person I just met wrong, they’d be mad or hurt. So, even if I was pretty sure I knew their names, I wouldn’t use them.

But people always get my name wrong. “Cheryl” sounds like “Sherry,” “Sharon” and “Carol.” My own husband-to-be thought I was “Shirley.” (I think, 90% of the time, the problem isn’t “remembering” someone’s name; it’s making sure you heard it clearly in the first place.)

But my point is: I don’t care when someone gets my name wrong.

Which reminds me of my roommate when I had a baby. Every time the nurses came in, they would cheerfully greet her as “Mrs. So&So.” And she would correct them: “It’s ‘Dr. So&So.” And the next time the nurses would sing out, “Hello, Mrs. So&So.” Over and over.

Meanwhile, my husband was happily answering to “Mr. Ursin.”

I’m just going to plunge in with names. If I get someone’s wrong and they have an issue with that, maybe it’s not such a loss.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Picture This

I don't think that pictographs work anywhere near as well as their creators think they do.

Not to perpetuate stereotypes, but I picture an engineer, who would have trouble communicating with another person face-to-face, happily coming up with these pictures, absolutely certain their meanings are crystal-clear.

Recently, I was musing over a laundry label.These two pictographs meant nothing to me until I Googled them:
The first one means "non-chlorine bleach" and the second means "no dry cleaning." Doh! Of course, a triangle with slanted lines can only mean non-chlorine bleach. And the "no dry cleaning" symbol should not be confused with this:
Which means, "Do not tumble dry."
Then, this light went off on my car's dashboard:

To me, this looks like a rear-end.

But, no, it means the pressure in one of my tires is off.

I can't even show you the ones on my printer, since the designer helpfully printed them black on a black background and located them near the hinge where the copier cover opens only so far. You actually need to use a flashlight to sort-of make them out. Just what I want to do when my freaking printer doesn't work.

Still, it is this pictograph, located in the trunk of a car, on the escape latch, that remains my favorite:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Three Lefts Make A Right


I have a terrible sense of direction. No joke: I routinely get lost trying to make a block.

So, the routes I take to get to places are a little, shall we say, unique.

I wonder what someone tracking my movements – and my car’s GPS keeps track as does my phone, so that information, as boring as it is, is out there somewhere – would make of me.

There’s the short way, the long way, the scenic route – and then there’s my way. Plus, there’s all the times I get lost.

The thing is, I think I get to see more interesting things than I would if I took the conventional route. Certainly, city streets have more going on and country roads look a look a lot nicer than highways.

And sometimes when I get lost, I find myself in a pretty, and otherwise hidden, residential neighborhood or in an area that’s just interesting. (“Wow, look, an entire neighborhood of strip clubs.”) I see shops and restaurants I’d like to try – or that just make me happy. For example, I know where, in Houston, to buy a player piano.

The trick used to be finding these places again, but that problem’s solved with GPS. (GPS = Best Invention Ever.)

Incidentally, I think giving directions might be a thing of the past. Thank God. I hate when people try to give me directions. Because I am NEVER going to get it, no matter how many times they repeat themselves or how many nifty little maps they draw for me. Just let me use my auxiliary brain, I mean my GPS, to get there.

And if I end up wandering around a little bit, that’s OK.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Obedience Is Overrated

Some recent comments on “Motherlode,” the parenting blog at the New York Times, made me feel sick.

One woman said, “I told the teacher that there was only one rule in our house … And that was ‘Obey’” and then later added, “I didn't even want to hear ‘Yes, ma'am’ when I told my son to do something. As I told him, all I wanted to hear was the sound of his feet moving to do what I told him to do.”

Unlike this person, I don’t think you have to be a dick to raise children. In fact, I think you shouldn’t be.

My mother said the best advice she ever got came from our pediatrician. He said, “Try not to say no. Say it only when you absolutely have to. But once you do say it, stick with it.”

He was referring to the very few things a parent needs to stand firm on: not running into traffic, for instance.

I guess demanding obedience seems simpler. Plus, I suspect some parents get off on it.

But it doesn’t work. You can’t order a toddler to sleep, though you can battle her down. Forcing a kid to choke down food he doesn’t like is a sure-fire way to make sure he never likes it.

And, in the long run, if all you ever do is order your children around, don’t be surprised when they never come to you for advice.

Ironically, teenagers LOVE to talk about sex and drugs and other issues they face.

But they won’t – can’t – talk to a drill-sergeant parent.

And they need to talk … preferably to you. It’s how they’ll understand why you think what you do. It’s how they’ll learn to think for themselves.

And that – rather than obedience – should be the goal.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why Do People Get Tattoos and Piercings?

From, an Australian news site
I know people with tattoos, as well I might: 20% of Americans have at least one. And I know a few with piercings.

While I admire the artistry in some of my friends’ tattoos … I remain uneasy about them being tattoos.

Most often, the people I know in real life, as well as online, say tattooing and piercing are simply ways to decorate yourself, like clothes or haircuts.
I prefer painless, nonpermanent hennas.
Done by Soniya Gheewala Ekici

They skip right over the parts about pain and permanence.

I realize I am dating myself.

Then again, there’s evidence that tattoos and piercings will eventually date you as well, like those old women who have to draw in their eyebrows because, when they were young, they copied Joan Crawford, who had shaved hers – only to have them never grow back.

Even now, those statistics show the age group most likely to have a tattoo is 30-39.

Scroobius Pip, a British hipster, sees two possibilities: that it will either become cool and daring to not have tattoos (what I’m hoping for when it comes to my kids) or that, seeking to push the shock envelope, younger people will do more extreme things, such as scarification and nose gauges. (Don’t click unless you’re prepared to be grossed out. The first comment on the scarification video is, “this is the only video ive seen on youtube that has made me physically puke,” while putting a large gauge in the side of your nose creates an ant-farm-like display of the inner workings of your sinuses.)

I tell my kids two things: (1) There’s a difference between good attention (“Look at the cool thing that person can do!”) and bad attention (“What the hell is that?”) and (2) If people realize your only goal is to shock, they won’t find you shocking, just pathetic.