Familiarity and its offspring

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Then seat yourself

The sign as you enter the restaurant says, “Wait to be seated.” So we waited last night until the young hostess appeared. She asked if we would mind using a booth and then pointed behind us and said, “Over there, it’s the only one open. You’ll figure it out.” I suppose I should have been flattered that she believed a woman my age recognized what an empty booth looked like and wouldn’t accidently sit in some gentleman’s lap and complain about the lumpy cushions. After we sat down, my brother, who is ten years younger, suggested we trip her the next time she walked by. When she asked why, he would say, “You’ll figure it out.” He refrained.

Then our nice young waiter brought me some bruschetta chicken that looked like it had crawled onto the plate by itself and collapsed just at the edge from all that effort. “It kinda slid on the plate on the way over, but it’s okay; it’s still good,” he explained, but without the punctuation. The little icicles of cheese dripping slowly over the edge of the plate gave it a somewhat festive look, but Christmas is over, so it didn’t make me feel jolly.

The restaurant, named after a piece of fruit and some insects, serves average food at average prices to average people, so I wasn’t expecting to be greeted in French or have a personal sommelier. But it was so informal that I expected I would be asked to take my plate to the kitchen and wipe the table before I left. If I wanted to be treated like that, I would have stayed at home.

When my children were small, we didn’t want them to call adults by their first name without using a Mr. for men and Miss for women. It’s a Southern thing. When we lived in Japan, and one of the children used Miss in front of a married woman’s first name, the woman patiently explained to that child that Miss was only used for unmarried women. The woman was American, but she was not from the South, so it may have sounded strange. Eventually, she warmed up to it and grew to like it.

I like it, too. Formality is the fence around my house. It’s not so high that you can’t see over it, but it’s there. On the gate is my name: my full name. If the gate’s unlocked, you can ring the bell or knock on the front door. I’ll invite you in; I’m on the friendly side. Get to know me well enough, and I’ll tell you to just open the gate, and if the door to the house is open, walk in and make yourself at home.

But if you have never once been around the block, and then climb over my fence, barge into my house and help yourself to my food or my chocolate and talk to me like we go to junior high school together, we are gonna have words, and it will not be purty. You can run, but you cannot hide ’cause I have a broom, and I know how to ride it. When I catch you, you had better be prepared to call me  ma’am.

This is a rant.

(Photo on loan from: http://the-travel-garden.blogspot.com)

Every story needs to end

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I recently read a collection of short stories and hated almost every minute of it. If they were so bad, you ask, why didn’t I just close the book and move on? That’s a question for a different post. So, I finished the collection with my hate in tact because most of the stories didn’t have a resolution.

 

Many things drive me wild, but lack of resolution in a story drives me wilder. What is it with these writers? They get to the next to the last paragraph or the next-to-the-next last one and stop. The reader (me) is left thinking – oops, maybe they accidentally printed the draft or ran out of ink. But no, it’s supposed to be that way – very cool and artsy. There is no end to the story.

 

Author, why do you feel compelled to leave me hanging? Do all these unanswered questions and possibilities reflect some kind of existential angst based on your philosophical underpinnings? Author, unpin thyself from this philosophy.

 

I just want an ending to the story all right already. Step by step (often through misplaced cow pies) the writer brings the reader (me again) up to what I think is the last door opening into a room where I will come face to face with the Resolution, who always looks taller in person. (Of course, I have to stop and clean off my shoes because of those cow pies.) Mr. or Ms. Author opens the door slightly, and then says, go down that hallway and pick another door. And every one of those doors says “Exit.” When I turn around, the author is gone. Wait, I call out, come back! Sometimes I call very loudly, which disturbs my husband.

 

Stories have beginnings, middles, and ends. Remember all those cartoons we watched as kids? When the action was done, two little words appeared: The end. We learned that a story – always the same one, Sylvester the Cat or Wily Coyote being creamed, diced, or sliced in any number of satisfying ways – began, something happened, and then ended satisfactorily for Tweety Bird and the Road Runner and gloriously unsatisfactorily for the bullies.

 

Haven’t any of these writers read any fairy tales? How about Shakespeare?  Good guys don’t always win, but somebody does, or it’s a draw and it’s clear. When you get to the end of the story you know it. You may not like it, or may wish it were different, but you know it is the end.

 

That’s all, folks.

 

The Law of the Toilet and Stephen Hawking

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This is a rant and it’s short. Like my temper sometimes. Or my dollars. (A day late and a dollar short.)

 

It’s bad enough that toilet paper in public places has to be locked up in plastic boxes. Boxes designed to hold two rolls: a new roll on one side and a roll with five sheets of paper on the other side.

 

There’s a reason for this. It’s the law. Physics said so.

 

You may remember learning about the law of the toilet in physics class. This can be written as N > 5. Let N stand for the need of the toileter who gets down to business and 5 stand for the maximum number of toilet paper sheets allowed on the first roll.

 

Dispenser designers are constrained by this law. They must obey. This means you have to put your hand up the contraption to push open the plastic flap that is hiding the new roll of toilet paper. Said plastic flap only opens about an inch, so you have to use your fingertips to spin the toilet roll in hopes that you can find that loose piece of paper that gets the whole thing rolling. Good luck with that.

 

That was actually my pre-rant.

 

Maybe the designers had an Edison moment and all their light bulbs turned on at once, or maybe they heard that some talented people with long, skinny fingers were getting the second roll started and so the thrill was gone. We’ll never know (unless we hunt them down and force them to talk). But one day, they decided to make it easy for us to get all of the toilet paper we want.

 

They designed dispensers with a small hole at the bottom. These have one gigantic roll of toilet paper in them, and there is always a sheet or two hanging out for you to start pulling. Go ahead, take as much as you would like. Thoughtful, no?

 

No, because as you pull it through that hole in the bottom, the nice flat sheets of toilet paper are transformed into toilet floss. Yes, just like the floss you use for your teeth, only not as strong.

 

The two-roll dispensers obey the law  N > 5 and are based on mechanical physics. The new dispensers are based on string theory. I blame Stephen Hawking.

 

Why I Will Never Say “Oh Shoot!” Again

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While in exile, Ovid the Roman poet wrote:

 

The country here is grotesque, the people savage, the weather awful, the customs crude, and the language a garble. . . . [The people] all carry knives at their belts and you never know whether they’re going to greet you or stab you. . . .

 

Like you, when I first read this, I thought, “Whoa. He was exiled here in the States?” But as you know, just as many of his works are no longer extant, he himself is no longer extant. And considering the number of angry people out there, it’s amazing how many of us are still extant.

 

People seem to be getting stabbier. So you’ve got to wonder why here in Wisconsin, we are going to be allowed to carry concealed weapons at our belts or in our pockets or, for larger people, in our coin slots. November 1st we can all start carrying things that make us more confident and sure that we are right, and if you think differently, would you mind stepping over here. I have something to show you that will help you see my point: a gun, or as I like to think of it, a consensus builder. We are the 49th state to get in on all the fun of being not only belligerent, but also deadly. (The very reason I miss Texas so much.)

 

We are going to need new ways to describe new behaviors. Road rage is not enough. To save valuable time for the psychiatrists who will be defending all those shooters who were drunk and temporarily insane, and also were traumatized as children by clowns with inappropriately sized shoes (and, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, balloons!), I have created a list. I’m using bullets because that’s so apropos, and also fitting:

 

  • Avenue anger
  • Boulevard blowup
  • Freeway fury
  • Interchange ire
  • Underpass umbrage
  • Expressway exasperation
  • Street heat
  • Highway hotheadedness
  • Path provocation
  • Bicycling belligerence
  • Overpass outburst
  • Sidewalk surliness
  • Hall huffing
  • Roundabout rampage
  • Footpath frenzy
  • Pew pushing
  • Mall malice
  • Blog bulleting

Concealed weapon and concealed weaponer

F-word Fatigue (Part Two)

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The F-word is getting old

When the f-word rode into town in the early 1960s on his Harley, with his leather jacket, and fresh tattoos, he was everybody’s darling. People just couldn’t get enough of him. He could take people’s breath away just by showing up in a book or on a stage and flexing his muscles.

 

Now he looks a lot like the late Elvis. The extra-wide seat on his Harley isn’t extra enough, and his skull tattoo that used to scare little old ladies is starting to look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Worse yet, have you noticed how often he brings his mother with him when he makes his appearances? I mean, what other curse word does that? I can just hear all the other tough words saying, “Hey, Mr. F-word, where’s your mommy today?”

 

Eventually people are going to tire of him, and stop inviting him over. I won’t feel sorry for him though. He has a cozy retirement home waiting for him over at the OED.

F-word Fatigue (Part One)

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Half a century ago, the Boomers (at that time more like little Poppers) came up with two culture-changing ideas: let it all hang out and tell it like it is. People today take this first idea way too literally. Have you seen how much is hanging out of people these days? We’re starting to look like a nation of vending machines what with our front and back coin slots.

 

We Poppers were young, hip, and oh-so-uncensored when we began telling it like it was. We needed the f-word in our shock and awe campaign to overthrow the establishment and bring peace, love, and drugs to the world. And did we ever bring the drugs. If you have enough of them, you really don’t care about the other two. Mission accomplished.

 

So, the f-word. Go here and type it in the search bar. You’ll see that after a bout of popularity in the 1800s, it went bankrupt, started hanging around sleazy bars, singing for food and sleeping in dark alleys. Now, it’s a celebrity, the kind who is famous for being famous. The kind whose face and body parts are plastered on every magazine in the checkout counter and who keeps appearing on the front pages of newspapers who should know better.

 

That’s why I have f-word fatigue. Every other noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, and interjection is being replaced by some form of this word. (Thankfully, no one uses it as a preposition or conjunction yet, but please keep this a secret, or it might change.)

 

In the future, will we all speak F, formerly known as English?  Or as they say in F: In the f, will f all f F, f-ly f-ed as English? This will cause people to run around saying WTF all the time, much like they do already. Maybe the future is already here and I just need new glasses.

 

Over half a million words are languishing in dictionaries, waiting for someone to adopt them. Do your part, take some home, put those puppies on a leash, and let them chew somebody’s leg or pee on their shoes. Or take pictures of them and post them on the internet. The f-word is a dog that has had its day. It’s time to put it down. 

Warning! This is a Rant

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Long ago, in a century not unlike this one, except that women wore more clothes and you hardly heard the f-word and people were better drivers and they wrote letters. On paper. With ink. And their very own hands. Without the aid of machines! Mind-boggling, no?

Where was I? Oh yes, my rant. It’s about the heights to which consciousness has been and is being raised. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, women met together for consciousness-raising. They were tired of being second-class citizens and wanted equal pay for equal work. Also, they wanted to be viewed as something more than sex objects. When I was in college, I attended some of these sessions. And while I admit that along with the rest of my body, my consciousness may be sagging a bit, there are a lot of consciousnesses out there that needed to be winched up. (WARNING: cane is raised!)

Every time I see young women call themselves whores while wearing their 90%-off clothing (and I don’t mean the price), or hear about a poll in which a majority of young teenaged girls would rather be sexy than smart, my consciousness gets a headache. This is not the road to equal pay for equal work. (What? We’re still on that road? Sadly, yes.)

Now, for the rant: Why,when I was your age, my consciousness was this high (points to head). Yours looks like it’s stuck right there (points to lower body).