Tag Archives: Dysfunction

Invasion of the Toll Plaza

I miss the days when someone could dive-bomb a military base without getting shot out of the sky.

Many years before 9/11, but a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, my mother decided to get her private pilot’s license. I mention the third item here because I believe in grouping disasters.

So one day in the ‘60s, my parents are flying a Cessna in circles over the desert, either lost or pretending to be a fuel-powered vulture. Suddenly Mom spots a landing strip, yanks the yoke, and takes the plane into a sharp bank towards the ground.

Dad is concerned because he’s always worried about having married a lunatic, but now he’s got more reason to worry because everything he sees—hangars, aircraft, ground vehicles—is decorated in camouflage.

In as casual a manner as possible, he says, “Please don’t land here.”

Mom lovingly asks, “Why the hell not? We need directions.”

“I wasn’t looking forward to being shot today.”

Mom mutters something about “being a wimp,” and she dives for the landing strip.

Dad doesn’t need to worry, though. They receive a festive greeting just like when tourists land in Hawaii, only with way more machine guns pointed at them.

I inherited my mother’s excellent navigation and listening skills, although I don’t have a pilot’s license, probably for the same reason that Paul doesn’t want me to get a gun permit.

I’ve always felt directionals—such as east and west, for example—are arbitrary suggestions, like stopping at red lights or not flossing in restaurants.

This belief has led to many exciting adventures, especially when we lived in Upstate New York, a land riddled with mysterious natural phenomena known as “toll roads,” thirty-mile-long stretches of wasteland where drivers can be trapped for days, not being allowed to stop anywhere except at Antarctic-sized service plazas populated by angry motorists, vending machine snacks, and restrooms that are always “Closed for Cleaning. Thank you for your patience!”

My favorite is Pembroke Plaza. It must be because I accidentally drove there four times in two months.

Desperate for attractions, New York gives this toll plaza its own Facebook page

Pembroke Service Plaza
                                                         Another lovely New York State Park

The second, third, and fourth times I headed home, Paul said, “Remember, even though you want to head west coming home, you have to take the 33 East to do that.”

I replied in a patient tone, “You don’t need to tell me that. I know where the hell I’m going.”

Every time I reached the 33 West exit, which I unfortunately had to encounter before I got to the 33 East exit, an invisible force took control of the steering wheel, jerking the car onto 33 West.

I was quick to realize my mistake, usually within the first mile. Then the locals were treated to a lilting twenty-nine-mile soliloquy of swear words until I reached, once again, Pembroke Travel Plaza. So it was a great time for everyone, really.

I always had to buy a phone card to call Paul and tell him I would be home a little late because I didn’t have the sense to buy a cell phone. And I also enjoyed it every time he asked, “You did it again?”

I’m looking forward to the day when science can find the part of a person’s DNA strand that says, “Can’t navigate for shit” and replace it with “Great singer.” I know Paul wishes for this too, especially when I sing in the car.

stuck-in-pembroke-page-001.jpg
Image brought to you by paper, scissors, and kindergarten skills because I haven’t bothered to learn my photo-editing software. I don’t wanna talk about it.

 

Communicating with Clicks

I’ve wanted to learn a second language for years—besides cursing, which I’ve yet to master, so I keep practicing.

But I just realized I do speak another language, and I understand when others use it. It’s ghosting with clicks. I’m going to call it “Ghostickit.”

When I recently had no idea what to say in an uncomfortable electronic confrontation, I asked Paul for advice. Big mistake. I prefer being straightforward, and he’d rather confront Ebola than interpersonal tension.

Predicto-Paul said, “Just ignore the message.” Click. Offline. Ghosted.

This person had the courage nerve to question why she was being ignored, and despite savoring the sensation of being an asshole, I decided to be candid. I feel better, but I still feel like a jerk, so it’s a win-win, I guess.

But this shit happens to me too. Like with the justifiably overpriced hair salon I used to enjoy.

One day the receptionist, who previously appeared sane, had a monster meltdown at my expense for me. It was the fun kind of moment where you can see yourself being interviewed by a local news crew. “She always seemed so quiet. I never would have imagined she could shoot up an entire lobby full of customers. Good for her that she’s finally expressing herself.” Or something like that.

When I told my stylist—let’s call her Avoidy Girl (AG for short) because she’s great at addressing issues—she was unsurprised and offered a heartfelt shrug, which made me feel special and appreciated.

When I expressed my fear appreciation to the manager—let’s call her Fluffy because I take her seriously—she took a generous bite out of my ass for being so unkind about a woman whose husband had died two months before. I agreed that it was appalling and inconsiderate of me, not using my telepathic powers to figure out why this woman was losing her religion all over me.

Still, I didn’t want the honor of being Among the Many Dead the next time I wanted a trim, so Fluffy told me, “Come see AG again. We’ll make sure you don’t have to deal with the front desk.” When I questioned how she could manage to make that happen, she said, “No problem. I’m fantastic at my job as long as nothing is going wrong.” Or something like that.

So the next time I was foolish wise enough to go in, there’s Batty Betty, greeting me with a smile as she hid an Uzi behind her (I reasonably suspected). AG rushed to me and apologized for not greeting me first, then said, “Oh, I should have told you I’m at a totally different location once a week. You didn’t even need to come here to have your hair done.”

At this point, despite my gratitude for being charged more for one visit than my weekly grocery bill, I decided to move on. That was a couple years ago, and I’ve calmed down. Mostly.

So I decided that because I don’t go to the salon often, I’d give the outfit another chance—as long as I don’t have to deal with Mercurial Mona and Fair-Weather Fluffy. I figured that’s pretty magnanimous of me, and there would be truckloads of gratitude.

So I contacted AG on social media, and you guessed it. I got ghosted, which is chickenshit but fair. I get it because I speak Ghostickit. So I wished her well—and surprised myself by mostly meaning it. Then I blocked her. Click. Ghosted.

So it turns out I do speak another language, and I certainly understand it. Good for me.

Annie Oakley_public domain
                                                                 “AG is ready to see you now.”

Bonus feature:

Me explaining why sticks, grass, and total isolation are better than people.

Keeping the Squee out of Squeamish

Please don’t tell me about your sex life. If I know you, I consider you asexual, sort of like a bacterium with a driver’s license.

But I’m not uptight, mostly. I figure why get tense over fiction? Anyway, if I want to know about it, I’ll watch porn involving bees doing it with birds. If I watched porn. What’s “porn”?

Besides, my mother already regaled me about her sexcapades when I was fifteen and she burst out of the closet to date my fellow high-schoolers’ older sisters.

She was kind enough to include every graphic detail, and her thoughtfulness resonates with me to this day. And with my therapist. And sometimes with Paul as he chats with his divorce lawyer.

It would be selfish of me to bogart these stories, so it’s everyone else’s turn to hear about your sexy parties. Anyone other than me. But thanks for offering.

Queen Victoria_public domain
“We know what you are doing. We just do not need to freakin’ hear about it.” – Queen Victoria may have said

 

The Latent Accountant

I’ve been chastising myself lately, and not in a fun, sexy way.

It’s about money management. I keep wondering why it’s taken me half a century to focus on financial responsibility in a somewhat grown-up way. My mother modeled great fiscal behavior, and my father offered sound advice, but I suppose when we’re young, that sort of thing doesn’t get through.

My mother taught me how to stick to a grocery list, fiercely, so that I could plunder the impulse purchase area at the grocery checkout. This resulted in a lot of quality time with my dentist.

And when I was fifteen, she was generous enough to hook me up with the guy who had the best pot prices in town. There’s no sense in overspending when you can avoid it. Such an important lesson.

My father didn’t model anything until his last years of life, when he married a woman who took him from the edge of bankruptcy to wealth (and back to bankruptcy and a fatal level of debt without his knowing it; he died believing he was a rich guy. She was a great wife and stepmom, bless her).

He did offer several pieces of monetary and general life advice, though:

“Marry someone safe, and be a secretary.”

He offered this advice when I was ten. For years after this statement, I thought of myself as a rebel. No way was I going to do what my father said – until I married an Air Force officer and became a secretary. But I was steadfast in my belief that his words had no influence on me. Such an unappreciative daughter.

“If you want to go to college, get a scholarship.”

He tossed this ditty at me as he strolled through the living room and disappeared down the hallway, and he lovingly allowed me the room to figure out what a scholarship is. I was also ten with this one, so there was plenty of time to research it.

He had a habit of offering life tidbits as he was passing through rooms.

“You should take up the clarinet” was one. He was thoughtful enough to suggest this when I was wearing braces. I remember lots of tears. Probably of joy.

“You should take up stamp-collecting,” whoosh, gone. Although this is possibly the most boring sport in the history of humankind, there is a bonus: I learned what “philately” means. It’s an awesome Scrabble power word, and someone always insists on challenging it.

“Buy real estate from women who just became widows. They’re vulnerable and ready to sell at any price.”

I was so lucky to be thirty-two when he imparted this one – and even luckier that he didn’t leave the room this time, so we could finally have a great father-daughter talk. I could appreciate the point he was making even though I didn’t fully grasp the wisdom of it in the moment.

We were sitting in his den, waiting for his mother’s wake to begin, so my grandma’s death was pretty much on my mind. My father and I were getting into the innocuous sort of chitchat that happens right after death, kind of catching up on family members. He mentioned that my stepbrother was going to visit Seattle.

I said, “Oh, Ricky will love it. It’s so beautiful.”

Dad said, “Yeah, and I told him he’s going to find great pussy there.”

Instead of berating myself, I’m going to appreciate that I’m now paying attention to my finances and be thankful for the nurturing guidance of two caring parents.