Monday, August 15, 2016

Pet peeves #2: any irritation is worse after you've spilled coffee on your face

Here is my pet, Gus, and here is his
peeved face.  It was a perfect storm for a graphic. 
I knew I would write a pet peeves post after I misjudged the fullness of my coffee cup last week and spilled it on my face. Oh, haha, I thought at first, look what I just did.
But then I dropped my toothbrush paste side down. And then I found a very old life insurance bill under many pounds of clutter in my giant purse. And then I forgot to bring my artfully organized and lengthy list to the supermarket. And then I parked too close to a curb and gave my tire a boo-boo, for the second time this year. 
It was one long-ass week of hold music and missed calls and things I forgot to write down, I'll tell you what. 
Usually, I look outward to feel better. But a perfect storm of poor attitude on my part and inconsiderate or clueless behavior on the part of others made me look inward instead, where I found this list of pet peeves already writing itself. 

Herewith, things that are easy to overlook unless you started the week googling "spatial awareness issues."
1. People who say "perfect storm," a serious and rare meterological event, to describe things that are just coincidental.

2. People who approach a door to enter a place while someone on the other side wishes to leave, and go first anyway.  I think some of us may not know that is has been the rule since God was a toddler to let people come out with their bags, before you go in with your nothing. Ditto elevators. Let them come out, and then go in. Them out, you in. 
3. It's not "could of," it's "could have." It's not "your being a jackass," It's "you're being a jackass." "Expecially" is still not a word, and neither is "irregardless" even though the dictionary finally gave up and said, "Okay, fine but we're putting informal next to it." If people lose it on Facebook, they should avoid undermining the credibility of their rant with errors like these. Maybe not, though. It's kind of funny when that happens. 
4. People who see that a lane will end a half a mile away,  race to the point where they merge and then huddle in wait for the driver they can cut off  to jump the line, which is five years long. In truth, they save little time as the already annoyed drivers in that line form a collective, massive attitude of "the hell you will." 
5. People who walk very slowly, two or three abreast, in the middle of anything, including aisles in supermarkets, parking lots, sidewalks and everywhere else. I wish I didn't feel as irrationally trapped as I do when I'm behind them and can't find a way to slip past on either side, but at least I'm nice enough to consider them clueless and not inconsiderate. 
6. People who are not clueless but inconsiderate. This includes smokers near doorways, right lane drivers who accelerate as you're attempting to merge, and people on airplanes who occupy their space and yours with too loud talk, too odorous food, too much perfume that smells like grapes. In general, people who know it might bother others but not as much as it will please them to have their way. 
7. People who half-shuck an ear of corn at a farm stand to inspect it, then reject it, then do the same thing to one ear after another until the bin is left full of half-stripped corn, which is off-putting for other customers, and probably mortifying for the corn.  
8. People who enter a parking space via the one in back of it to enter the space nose-first. People, (well,  I) tend to pull into spaces quickly, and I know if I'd collided with someone after giving my tire a boo-boo, I would have been worse than unpleased. 

That's it, it's only eight. After a week that nipped at my heels like an annoying dog after the coffee cup incident, I thought it would be longer. 
I must be on the mend, mood and fate-wise. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

While the spirit is a puppy

Here is the man I never married
and these are the kids I never had and 

I look nothing like that woman either.
When I was eight or nine, I went on regular trips to a local amusement park with some best friends. Inside the park's giant arcade, across from the rows of pinball machines were coin operated machines that produced things like fortunes and predictions, like the machine that sends Tom Hanks into adulthood overnight in the movie "Big." 
One of them, for a quarter, would show you your future spouse and children. The weird, grainy photos were all 1920s era and featured unsmiling, long suffering souls who looked like they'd been forced to pose for the picture or else. 
Usually, the men sported handlebar moustaches and suspenders and the women wore long skirts. Standing between them were always a gaggle of morose kids who stared flatly into the camera as if it had ruined their lives.   
Forget the roller coaster or round-up,  this was the attraction we hit first in our summer shorts and striped shirts, our overbites not yet corrected, our quarters gripped by fingers sticky with cotton candy. 
Photos in hand we'd huddle to view, and then argue with the results: 
"Mine looks like Curly from the Three Stooges."
"Mine's all dressed up but he's next to a tractor and a bale of hay"
"What'd you get?"
"Lemmee see yours."
And so on. 
Because young children worry about things like being kidnapped by spies, or attacked by bears, I wondered briefly what would happen if my future family were anything like this.  I remember thinking about that while walking barefoot to a store to buy candy because walking around town in bare feet wasn't horrifying yet. 
What would I do if he had a moustache? 
Eventually, my head was turned by a boy on the bus and I was able to advance to more serious things, like what if bear jumped out of the woods near the bus stop? 
There was horror in the world, both of the natural and manmade variety. There was a fire in France that killed 142 people. There were hurricanes and tornadoes and trains that ran over people.  For a while, everyone talked about Charles Manson. There were the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.
My biggest problem however, was what would happen if my cat Mittens went out and never came home? 
What would I do without Mittens? 
Fifteen years ago, in the ghostly aftermath of 9/11, I watched our young kids watch us, watch their teachers, react. I worried that they would now begin to see the world as we adults did at that time – unpredictable, terrifying, a place that seemed impossible to control and where it would never again be possible, not really, to completely relax. 
But it struck me then and now, that to watch young children at play, particularly when they  don't feel watched, is to witness spirit as a puppy, in its most hapless and sprawling state, not yet curbed, still so infused with curiosity, imagination, and spontaneity, it can have the power to dwarf the hardest reality.    
For a while. 
I wish for us to make it last. To not over-inform. To not caution too much. 
I wish for us to know that despite incomprehensible changes in our adult worlds that fray the edges of our own spirit, we are still former children. For the sake of our current children, I wish for us to remember the days when we were more fascinated by what we didn't know, than fearful of it.   
Children did then, and children do now fill their minds with fantastic predicaments of their own making – of cats not coming home and  bears popping out of the woods and what kind of a husband that boy on the bus would make – all completely believable in the dark before sleep. But a child's spirit is a puppy, warm and irrepressible, a steadfast ally with the answer to everything and the power to show them a future worth dreaming about. 

To honor and shield that spirit as a puppy is one of the best things we parents can do to honor our child's time in life, and, the memory of the children we ourselves needed to be at such a time. 

Back when we worried about noises in the woods and marrying people who hadn't been around for several decades.