Monday, November 19, 2007

Just the way it is.

Sometimes it seems like I just have to learn lessons the hard way, over and over again.

The lesson this time?

The illustrious lyrics from John Mellencamp's Crumblin' Down says it:

You can't love 'em
You can't trust 'em
No good deed goes unpunished


'nuf said.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The grey was only in his hair


My father's life was one of opposites. Born into big city life in Chicago, my dad lived most of his school years on an apple orchard in upstate New York. My father's father was an artist, and after studying in Cincinnati and Chicago, he moved his wife and two boys to the orchard where he painted trees and lush landscapes, sprawling skies and tow-headed boys in knickers. When the depression came, they made their way back to the city, this time to Brooklyn, where my granddad made advertising art and book illustrations to put food on the table, and my dad learned to pitch a mean curve ball.

Though he'd been raised by an artist and a dancer, my dad and my uncle both became scientists. I'd beg my dad to tell the story of how as a little boy, he'd brought a handful of rocks to his mother and told her he wanted to "be the man who studies them" when he grew up. He never changed his mind, and the Columbia PhD in Geology--funded by the GI bill--was just the jumping off place.

He spent five years in the Army Signal Corps in North Africa and Italy during WWII, but I cannot remember him ever telling war stories. What happened there, what happened to him there, he took to his grave. At his funeral his best friend told me that when they arrived back on US soil after so many long years my dad said all he wanted was "a fucking glass of milk." I'd not only never heard my dad tell a war story, I'd sure as heck never heard him use that word.

My dad's life of polar opposites continued when as a new geologist, Sinclair Oil offered him a position in either Ethiopia or Ardmore, Oklahoma. He'd had enough of North Africa, so he headed off to the tumbleweeds and black gold of southern Oklahoma. My dad used to love to tease us that both choices seemed just as crazy to a yankee.

From city boy to country kid. Artist's son to scientist. Soldier to father. Yankee to Okie. My dad's life sometimes seemed striped in black and white. Somewhere in the almost non-existent grey area is the belief that no matter where life takes you, no matter what life brings, you do your best. You try. You "make the best of it."

My Pops did that his whole life. I wish he was here to help me do the same.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Melt down in the fast food lane

Or was it at the Stupor Center? Probably both.

I'm admittedly old-school when it comes to customer service--too many years of retail clothing sales at fancy-schmancy stores will do that for you, but I'm just so over pulling up to a drive through and hearing, "how ya doin'" followed by...nothing.

I'm waiting for someone to say something like "may I take your order?" or "what may I get for you today?" or anything that indicates they're ready for me to start rattling off what unhealthy mishmash of deep fried gak I want. Last week I was zipping out West Chestnut, on my way to the Chicken Killing Heaven we know as Butterfield, Missouri, when I decided to drive through Hardees for cheap coffee. "Welcome to Hardee's" I was told. Then silence.

"Well, thanks a heap for the Ozarks welcome, but let me know when you're ready for me to tell you what I want."

I didn't really say that, I just wanted to. Badly.

Instead I meekly asked, "Are you ready for my order?" Between chomps of chewing gum, she replied, "Yep."

Sometimes I just feel invisible. I wonder if maybe I've died and I just don't know it yet. Like yesterday at the supercenter--this woman almost runs me over with her basket (she was in a hurry to get to the cat food specials), and when I say, "Oh sorry" she simply glances my way and says...nothing. Maybe I'm simply a spirit--I see her, but she doesn't see me.

If I had a little less impulse control I would have leaned over my own basket and used my "outside voice" to say: "OH EXCUUUUUSE ME!!"(yeah, Steve Martin is my hero)

The "ignoring people" rudeness happens more often than not in the mall, at certain clothing stores, grocery stores, even Target. You say "pardon me" or "sorry" or such, and folks not only don't get out of the way, they don't even respond. I'd rather they tell me to "eff off," as the Young One would say, than just act like I'm an apparition. People put their shopping baskets in the middle of the aisle, or they stop to have a discussion with their long lost buddies smack dab in the center of the escalator exit, or meet up with an old boyfriend in front of the soda case and refuse to move. Maybe other people want to hear their stories but I don't. I just want to buy a freaking coke, okay?

Since I'm allowing myself this little blogger's meltdown, I'm also having a hard time with the recorded voices on the information operator and cell phone companies systems, etc. Her voice is just so "hip" that I want to reach through my cute little flip phone and choke someone. "Okay!" Ms. Recorded Coolness will say, "hang on while I connect you with someone!" Oooo! I can't wait!! Couldn't you please, oh please, just connect me with the human being to start with? Please?

Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing had it right when he wrote about how we tend to mentally turn other people into "petrified wood." But manners are not over-rated. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, even if it is just for a minute.

That said, watch out for the tall blonde Okie chick pushing a basket at the supercenter...she may just go all Dexter on you.