Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Road Rules

I'm on my third kid learning to drive.  And through the process of teaching kids to drive, I've learned a few things myself.  Mostly, that I don't remember the actual rules of the road because I learned them 30 years ago.  Because I only know the practical rules of the road.  The things that everyone does, but knows that they aren't exactly legal.  Like you can go at least 5 mph over the speed limit without getting a speeding ticket.  When in reality: 1. this isn't true 2. there are douchebag cops out there who will go out of their way to prove it.  Which might by why my most frequent teaching technique is by bad example.  Did you see that thing I did just there?  Don't do that!

Not only don't I remember the rules, a lot has changed in 30 years.  There were no protected left turns indicated by a green arrow when I was learning to drive.  Only one solid green light and you had to judge, calculate and risk it.  Can I make this turn before that oncoming semi-truck obliterates me?  Let's see!  Because if you didn't risk it, you'd never get where you were going.  You can't just make right hand turns through life.  That's when my kid asks,  if she's at a stop light with a protected left turn, but it's currently solid green with no oncoming traffic, can she make a left turn?  Of course, I said.  But, you should probably look that up to see if it's legal though if you want to pass the test.  Did I mention back in the good old days there were no coddled protected left turns?

In addition, there were no seat belt laws or airbags when I got my license.  And bike lanes?  Are you joking?  There were no designated bike lanes on roads in the 80's.  No one biked for exercise back then.  Well ok... stationary bikes, indoors wearing leg warmers with a sweat band compressing your mullet like extras in a music video for Physical with Olivia Newton John.  Oh, yeah, and I drove way back before cellphones and blue tooth, so all you had to listen to was the radio.  (Because the cassette player ate all your tapes you got conned into ordering from Columbia House.)  So, really you were stuck listening to either Journey or Michael Jackson on repeat, depending on which of the two radio stations you could get without static.  But, the bonus was, if you crashed, you were pretty much guaranteed to certain death because you weren't wearing a seat belt, so that ended your musical misery pretty definitively.

Between my own exploits driving as a teenager and having already taught two teenage boys to drive, nothing scares me about getting in a car with my teen at the wheel anymore.  Besides my monthly car insurance bill.  Well, the music that my daughter listens to while she's learning to drive does concern me a bit.  I mean, I didn't raise my kids to like country music!  Where did I go wrong?  But, I think the thing that pisses me off the most about my kids driving is that parallel parking isn't on the driving test they have to take to get their license.  WTF?  Everyone knows the hardest part of driving is parallel parking.  I could easily ace that driving test!  Except for all those pesky rules of the road.  

Kids these days are living on easy street!
Which sounds exactly like what an old person would say.
OMG, I'm old!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How to End a Conversation

We've all been in this situation: you see someone out in public, you know you know the person from somewhere.  But where?  You quickly scroll through your mental rolodex, but not before attempting to hide in order to avoid having a conversation with this person.  Because how do you talk to someone when you don't know the context of where you know them from?  Unfortunately, we all know hiding and/or pretending not to see the person rarely works.  But somehow, it's still always Plan A.  Then...they see you, make their approach and start talking to you.  They're ridiculously chatty.  They always are.  And they seem to know everything about you.  Like everything.  And you still have no idea who the hell they are.  For some reason, asking them who they are seems out of the question.  You just want to be invisible.  Or for the Earth to swallow you whole.  Anything to escape the hell that is small talk with a stranger.

 How can I make this conversation end?
Here are some suggestions:

1.  Whatever you do, don't make direct eye contact.

2.  Silently mouth your 'to do list' while they chatter on.

3.  Clean out your ears with your car keys.

4.   Mirror their every gesture like a mime.

5.  Scratch yourself vigorously like you have lice or fleas.

6.  When they pause for a moment, ask "Sorry, were you talking to me?".

7.  Take one giant step towards them until you're uncomfortably close.

8.  Stroke their arm like you're petting a cat.

9.  Pull out your phone and start scrolling.

10.  Put your index finger up to pause them.  "Sorry...Mexican food..." and race to the nearest bathroom.  

I admit, I haven't tried any of these.  Although, I've been extremely close to using that last one out of necessity.  (Thanks Chipotle.)  I know the reason I get cornered by people like Chatty Cathy (yammering on about how she's gone gluten-free) is that I lack the social skills to deal with this situation. Because I'm an introvert's introvert.  Not only that, but I'm also socially anxious and a dedicated people-pleaser.  Which must be why I foolishly try to act like I remember people when I don't.  And then nod or say "uh-huh" at the appropriate times during their monologue about their gout.  Thus, giving the extroverts of the world with extra time on their hands, like Blowhard Bob, free reign to waste my time.  Which I'm more than capable of doing by myself while I'm blissfully alone.    

I don't even think there is a polite way to end a conversation.  
So why not give one of these suggestions a try and let me know how it goes. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

History on Repeat

I know I'm not the only one who feels like the world sucks right now.  That humanity seems so off course, it's inhumane.  Not only do we abuse each other, we've also desecrated our habitat; the environment.  And things only seem to be getting worse.  But are they?

There have always been natural disasters mixed with unnatural, unspeakable atrocities. There have always been wars, powerful tyrants and disease.  Pick any point in history and you'll see that it's always been a shit show.  Always.  And every generation has always been fearful for the next generation will inherit a world different from the one they had.  Which they will.

But, it's not all bad.

I mean most of it is, but not all of it.  They're always been people who give to complete strangers, who stand up for the voiceless and the sick.  Ones who fight for humanity armed with compassion and empathy.  Who seek cures for diseases and protection for the environment.  It's just so hard to find them.  Not because there are so few, but because they are reticent and don't seek recognition or rewards.   

There are two motivations for people:  fear and love.  Fear motivates us to protect ourselves from threats real or perceived.  Love encourages us to protect others from threats real or perceived.  They coexist and are intricately intertwined.   Not only is some fear healthy, it's necessary for survival.  And indiscriminate love is as ignorant as it is ill fated.  It sets us up to be taken advantage of.

Throughout history, these ideas have been doing battle for power.  Protect ourselves or protect ourselves as a society?  Whenever we make progress as a society, a backlash occurs and we retrogress  to some extent.  This is why history repeats itself.  But, that doesn't discount the growth and advancement of civilization as a whole.   

The thing we should fear the most is feeling disenfranchised.  Because the powerful prey on the disenfranchised. Thus, giving power to whomever sees fit to abuse it.  And some one will.  Some one always does. Just look at the history books.  

RECOMMENDED READING:  On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


I was reading in my favorite chair in the bedroom when he approached and told me he had a surprise for me and asked me to stand up.  Don't most people get asked to sit down for a surprise?  Was he going to kiss me?  I mean, I know reading Dostoevsky is a huge turn on and all, but in the middle of the day?  With all the kids at home?  That's when he went down to the garage to get some tools. When he came back up, he locked himself in the bathroom where I heard him screwing around.        Then he invited me in.  To see the lighted, magnifying mirror he'd installed.


Sure, things had gotten bad over the years.  As my eyesight worsened, I began to need to wear reading glasses to pluck my eye brows.  And while the glasses make it easier for me to see the stray hairs, the frame of the glasses impede my ability to get to them with the tweezers.  I should mention that bathroom lighting is the worst for such a delicate procedure.  Every woman knows that there is only one place where you can see every single outlying brow hair.  And that's in the review mirror of your car.  Which is why I started plucking my brows in my minivan. Which might be why he bought this mirror for me in the first place.  Because it might be embarrassing when the neighbors see your wife walking out to sit in the car parked in the driveway in her pajamas to pluck her eye brows.   

But, have you looked at yourself with a lighted mirror at 5x magnification?  It's horrifying!  You can see every pore, black head, zit, age spot, wrinkle, chin hair and potentially cancerous legion, not to mention my moustache.  Since when do I have a mustache?  Why didn't anyone tell me how hideous I am?  My husband did tell me he originally ordered a mirror with 10x the magnification, but when it arrived broken,  he sent it back and got the more myopic option.  Thank god!  You can probably see the microscopic bugs on your skin with that kind of amplification.  And no one wants to be reminded that we are actually vile, disgusting creatures chock full of bugs and bacteria!  

I really do get that his heart was in the right place.  But really, getting a woman over 40 a magnifying mirror is seriously the worst gift you can give.  It really only magnifies all the things you hate about yourself.  Because that's what mirrors do.  I was better off seeing myself through the filter of my failing vision.  Which looks alot like the soft lighting in that Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds commercial.   

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


My relationship with technology can best be described as, "it's complicated".  So when I take an annual camping trip where I know I won't have any cell service, I'm completely elated.  But, also filled with a little dread.  What if something happens to my dad, my oldest kid I left home alone or our dogs in his care, and no one can reach me?  Also, what if someone posts something completely bizarre on my Facebook wall or tags me in a horrible looking photo and it stays up for days before I can delete it?

What'll happen when I'm unplugged?

I'll tell you what happens.  I tune into nature, that's what I do.  Watching the fish jump out of the freshly stocked lake.  Why do fish jump anyhow?  Well, I can't google it, but I bet they're trying to escape because they suspect they're going to get brutally murdered by some guy with a hook.  Then there's all those birds flying in formation like an intricately choreographed flash mob.  How do they all spontaneously know the next move they're going to do like people musicals always do?  All these wonders of nature, drowned out by my kids fighting about whose turn it is in the canoe next.  

Time I would've spent on my phone looking at photos on Instagram, I spent judging other campers.  Like who buys a pastel yellow tent?  It looks like it was meant for a puppet show.  A creepy, stupid puppet show, just to clarify.  Tents are supposed to be classic, neutral shades, like the inside of an Eddie Bauer store.  And what I mean by that is, completely boring.  Also, who brings their own porta potty camping?  The guy across the way from me, that's who.  The only thing worse than using the campground toilet is using one that looks kinda like a shower stall, but with nylon walls that illuminates the silhouette of the shitter who brings a flashlight with him to use it.  I didn't want to know this information, it was thrust upon me.  But, I do want to know who the hell thought that was a good idea and who the hell cleans that shit?  Now, back to the lady in tent the color of a lemon drop who's wearing silk pajamas to bed.  WHO WEARS SILK PAJAMAS?   Does she have a water bed in there too?  Hugh Hefner?  

While over at my campsite, my son brought an MRE from back when my husband was in the army.  Which was over 12 years ago now.  Never mind, that I packed all kinds of fresh food that I painstakingly prepped and cooked on-site, my kid wants a dehydrated, preservative filled meal that was packaged in 1993.  I did not typo that date.  He ate a 24 year old package of chicken and rice, which, I'm sure wasn't even "good" before it expired.  I know it wasn't good when he ate it because he offered me a taste.  And in my defense, I'd already finished the first book I'd brought with me and I'd judged all the surrounding campers, so there wasn't a whole lot left to do.  Except guard the peanut butter from the chipmunks and ground squirrels intent on stealing it from us.  Why aren't ground squirrels allergic to ground nuts like the rest of America is?  I was actually bored enough to google that, if only I had a connection.  But, I probably would have googled how to kill a pesky rodent with the least amount of blood.  Because the blood might attract bears.

The thought of bears did keep me up at night.  Did I put all the food back in the car?  Did I leave the caramel m&m's out on the picnic table?  Wait, did I bring them in my tent to hide them from the kids?  This is how I die.  Attempting to fight off a bear to protect my candy stash.  Sounds about right.  But, that didn't keep me up as long as the incessant owl hooting in the middle of the night.  Which, if you haven't heard an owl hoot in real life, sounds like a person trying to imitate an owl hooting.  And that person won't shut up for like 2 hours.  Finally, when it stopped, that's precisely when porta potty guy started snoring.

The next day, it started raining.  And it didn't stop.  It rained for hours.  Over 20 hours.  You know how the sound of rain makes you feel like you have to pee?  That guys porta potty right next to my camp site started to seem really appealing.  But not as appealing as peeing next to a tree in the rain.  Or in my pants in the tent.  Or getting eaten by a bear.  Although, I hope the bear would see that the lady in the silk pajamas is a much better option than me because she'd go down smoother.


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