Sunday, November 27, 2005
These days you take your internet life in your hands when you open up your email. This week my bulk mail box has been full of warnings from the FBI and CIA regarding the illegal sites I’ve been visiting. I’ve also been notified by lots of people I don’t know informing me – “hi i ve got a new email address” and several Admins telling me that my delivery has failed or they have some very important information for me. And they have all had that little icon next to them -- which means I delete them immediately. But yesterday one arrived in my inbox that I didn’t have virus protection for. There was no indication that it was any of the latest threats that have been circulating and yet it was one of the most malevolent emails I’ve gotten since I logged on to the internet over 10 years ago. This one came from Kurt and it said, “We have a reunion announcement for you!” I opened it, against all my better instincts, and it said, “we’re planning our 30th reunion – are you coming?” Now if that isn’t malicious, I don’t know what is.
I blame the internet. A couple of years ago, I signed up with one of those “keep in touch with your high school friends” websites, I forget why. I wasn’t in one of the popular cliques, nor was I involved in sports, so I didn’t really have entire groups or teams of people to keep in touch with. I must have done it as a lark and then lost interest after a couple of months. Occasionally I get an email from them – the website – not the friends – and they pretty much want to stay in touch with me, as long as I pay the low, low membership rate of way-too-much per month for such a service. Frankly, I figured my registration had just faded away, much like my stint in high school.
And yet…here they are and there is an event planned. I suspect that the only reason I got this email is because I am registered -non paying member though I am. All of us 76ers must have gotten this email through some kind of mass generated announcement function. I am not at all under the impression that my name was picked from a list for inclusion. I may be delusional with many things in my life…the way I look to the public versus the way I look in my head, for instance (pretty much like Kim Basinger in my head…pretty much not to the public) but I am not delusional about my high school life. I had 3 friends. Maybe five if you count the 2 Nancys but I have no idea where they are now. Diane, Elizabeth and Pam are still in Louisville, I think. No, I was completely under the radar in high school. Once, I was turned in for cutting a geometry class when I was sitting right there in the front row. That pretty much sums it up.
Then, I graduated and went to college and high school became a distant memory. Really distant since now I can barely remember what I did last week, much less in high school. So why has this electronic missive become one of the most evil emails I’ve ever received? It reminded me that high school was THIRTY years ago. Thanks, friends. I’m old enough to have done something 30 years ago and now have to reunite with people to prove it? Ugh. Now I am going to start thinking about high school, an experience which was best left distant. When I signed up on the website, it was under my control. I could peek in and see what some of the people were doing and they wouldn’t have to know I was there. (What else was new?) I think the message boards call it lurking. I would lurk and leave – as soon as I got those uncomfortable twinges of not fitting in or belonging anywhere. It’s amazing how quickly – and easily – the old feelings of being awkward and an outsider come roaring back. Even with all I’ve done – and do – in my life, in an instant I become the Cindy I see in pictures in my parents’ photo albums. Seventeen years old, completely at a loss of how to navigate the halls of high school life. My shoulders are usually hunched as if I am literally shrugging and saying, “I don’t know how to do this – help!” I think I have a pained expression on my face, my mom thinks I looked “just like Karen Valentine” I didn’t.
Are high school memories so difficult for everyone? Do the popular girls ever think back and say, “Gee, that was awful being every boy’s wet dream”? Do the cute boys sit around drinking beer 30 years later going, “Man, I wish I had been liked for my math prowess”? Although I don’t begrudge anyone their personal pain, I think not. For some of us, high school was four years of unrequited crushes and social pain sporadically peppered with keg parties from which you left alone and crying while your girlfriend pledged undying gratitude for taking her car home so she could stay with the wrestling captain – “just this once”
I’m not sure if I’ll go. It’s a long trip, my family doesn’t live there anymore and I don’t even know if my 3 (or 5) friends will be there. I could check the website and see who’s going. But even then, I’m not sure they’d even have a name tag at the table for me. And yet, part of me is drawn to actually attending. I’m not the same person I was then, but then again, I guess no one else is, either. It would be fun to see if the Geek made millions, if the Most Popular Girl has lost her figure or if the Party Guy who smashed beer cans against his forehead is even there at all. If I go at all, I’ll go as Invisible Girl. That way, I can and lurk and leave without anyone noticing. As if….
Sunday, November 20, 2005
So, I’m in the gym trying to literally work my ass off. It’s a nice gym and I go there lots of times during the week. It’s not full of hard bodies or 16 year old nymphs with writing all over their bottoms advertising either their availability or naiveté- I’m never sure which – so that we 40-somethings don’t have to feel too uncomfortable red-faced and gasping on our 2.5 mile treadmill hike to nowhere. To make the trip more interesting, I grab a couple of well-thumbed magazines from the revolving rack near the cardio room. I set up my water bottle and towel on the right, my mags on the left, punch in the appropriate data into this fancy, electronic treadmill and “push start to begin” As I ease into this regimen, I place the first magazine on the little ledge in front of the odometer so that it covers up how slow I’m going. There’s Brad and Angelina walking on the beach. That’s nice – they have the kids with them. I can’t tell if it’s an actual photo or a composed one, but they seem like they’re having a good time. And that’s when it occurs to me…What Will Jennifer Do?
For a few months now, I admit, I’ve been pretty captivated by Jennifer Anniston’s life. I don’t know her, really, but I watched all 10 seasons of Friends and we share a birthday. None of that gives me access to her actual life, but I am interested anyway. Why? I don’t know…let’s not delve into that right now. But anyway, here she is, pictures of her sprinkled through the magazines I pick up from the rack to make my treadmilling go a little faster. And week after week, I read…
Oh, cool – she’s in Chicago filming a movie.
Awww, there she is at little Coco’s christening.
Hey – look – she and her friends are out on her back deck having a little party. Is she smoking?
Huh, looks like she could use a rest – aren’t those bags under her eyes?
Isn’t that nice, she’s signing autographs for those cheerleaders – right there in the street.
See? I knew she liked Vince…they’re so cute together – and look – it’s kind of blurry, but I think they’re even kissing behind that potted plant on the deck of their hotel room….
Eeeyyyyuuuuuu…what am I saying?!
That’s the photo that stopped me. The photo that I was squinting at to make out, because it was so hard to see, was Jennifer Anniston and whomever sharing an inarguably private moment. And here I am – me and millions of other people – looking right at it as if it were a photo in our own family album. Suddenly I felt as if I had begun flipping through some stranger’s personal belongings. I felt like I was intruding on a stranger’s private moment…and I was. What Would Jennifer Do?
It felt kind of innocent for awhile. Celebrities just invite that kind of interest. Who do they like, what do they wear, what do they eat, do they workout? I live thousands of miles away from Jennifer or Britney or Jen and Ben so what does it matter that I am reading a magazine with pictures of their grocery shopping trips, their quick dash out in slippers to get the paper, or a candid shot of their unkempt appearance as they enter the doctor’s office? I used to think that celebrities just whined too much. “Wahhh…get that camera out of my face”. Whatever. What did they think was going to happen when they chose a profession in which not only their faces, but their voices, their interviews, their pets and their work would be plastered all over billboards, television, movies and the internet? Beamed into homes across the world every week. Making millions of dollars and spending it on $500,000 airplanes, $1,000,000 weddings, $4,000 handbags and $900 shoes. If they wanted to go to the nail salon without 25 photographers following, they should have gone into banking or real estate. Am I right? Could I summon any less sympathy at all for the celebrity who complained about getting too much attention while parking their Bentley out front of the Starbucks while they run in for a latte? Nah. There is a certain amount of attention one would have to just deal with, I think, when one chooses a career and lifestyle that just begs attention.
On the other hand…when I find myself squinting at a blurry photo of a man and a woman sharing an intimate moment and wishing that the photographer had moved a little to the left before snapping the picture…well it’s time to say, “enough” I have lots more feelings about celebrities and who deserves the acclaim and who doesn’t. Let’s just say that when I hear “the last time I saw Paris” I’d rather it refer to old women selling flowers in markets at dawn. There’s a lot of inequity in a country where actors make tons of dollars and teachers don’t – but that’s a whole other commentary. But no matter how much we make, we are all accorded the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And when there’s a big nosy photographer standing on your balcony as you pursue that happiness, well that’s just wrong.
So, I guess I will pick up the Time magazines that are also on the revolving rack of periodicals at the gym. I am definitely not ready to browse through those awful “Women With Great Looking Bodies and How They Barely Do Any Exercise At All To Get Them” journals. It won’t matter that I stop picking up the gossip magazines as I head to my treadmill. Legions of photographers will continue to follow Jennifer, Vince, Angelina, Brad, Jen and Ben and whoever is next in line in that hit parade. My one woman boycott of those publications won’t make a dent in their business, but at least I’ll feel better by not contributing to it. That’s What Cindy Will Do.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
I think I’m about to coin a new term…ready? “Civic Delinquency”. You know what I’m talking about. No? Well, welcome to Civic Delinquency 101. This is not anything like civil disobedience which is tolerable – and actually obedient, really, in its practice of demonstration against government without antagonism or anger. No, this is more insidious and rampant. Civic Delinquents are those people who behave in a way that negates anybody else’s existence or importance in the community. Civic Delinquents can be male or female, young or old, rich or poor. They can be in positions of authority, like an elected politician or just your basic Joe (or Joan) Schmoe on the street. Civic Delinquency seems to be hereditary, unfortunately, and is passed down to the young in alarmingly increased numbers. This is evidenced by the amount of squished bread at the bottoms of grocery bags across the nation, thoughtlessly packed by neophyte Civic Delinquents at their first jobs.
Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “what the hell is she talking about?” I’ll elaborate. This is a typical scenario in which you will find a Civic Delinquent (CD): You’re in the grocery store after work, picking up a little something for dinner and trying to remember if you bought mayonnaise the last time or do you already have 4 jars of it at home? Lots of people do this at the end of a long work day. Everyone is in the same boat; busy, stressed, hungry and wanting to get home before LOST comes on. You’re halfway done…heading down the home stretch and suddenly you are stuck. An abandoned cart in the canned vegetables section is angled between the ill-placed display of turkey basters and your only clear route. There is no driver – she’s down the aisle looking at soups. After a polite “ahem” doesn’t grab her attention, you attempt to move her cart enough so that you can get by, but by this time there’s an oncoming cart and visions of twisted metal and spattered beet juice are all you can see. You think about picking up a 2 lb can of peeled tomatoes and heaving it at the absent cart driver’s head but you’d probably miss anyway and now a cart jam looms so instead you continue to try and reach over the seat of your cart to jockey her cart out of the way so that you and the now other person behind you along with the oncoming cart may safely pass. At this point the CD looks up and sees you handling her cart and gets up and walks toward you as if to apologetically help clear this potential disaster. You start to smile as if to acknowledge this momentary lapse in good sense when you realize – she’s pissed at you! She snatches her cart away without so much as a “sorry -thanks” or glance at the pile-up she’s caused and strolls indignantly on her way. Clearly you crossed boundaries by touching her stuff. And the whisper that escapes out from under your breath is … “bitch” You’ve seen her, haven’t you? Grocery stores are veritable breeding grounds for civic delinquency, both in customers and employees. Any retail establishment for that matter is obviously the perfect place for a CD, because they are always standing at the front counter answering “No, we don’t have that” to before even a question forms in the customer’s mouth.
But by far the activity that contains the biggest possibility for civic delinquency is driving. Cell phones make it practically suicidal in taking your car on the road anymore, but that is an entire commentary in itself. We even had a guy wearing a hands-free headset nearly run us down one time, so keeping both hands on the wheel clearly isn’t the problem. I’m talking about the woman in the big brown Hummer parked in the right turn lane in across from the church last Sunday evening, ostensibly to pick up someone, but who knows? No blinkers, no visible emergency like smoke pouring our from under her hood. Just parked because it was easier than making a left into the parking lot or parking across the street and actually walking to where she needed to go. Another one of my favorite examples are the people who are visiting your neighbors and park in front of your driveway. Now, sometimes I don’t even have to walk out of my house, much less take my car and go anywhere so it doesn’t really hamper me, but seriously…in front of my driveway?
I could go on and on…and I just might. But it gives one pause…what the hell are these people thinking? Its as if no one else exists in the world and that they are entitled to land anywhere they want to without regard to anyone else who might be in the vicinity. You can see it in the CD’s eyes – they’re a little more distant than others because they are probably thinking of the next thing that they need. A parking space, a can of soup, that lane on the highway (the one you’re in, but they’re behind you and you need to MOVE! Who cares if there is a semi on your right?) And one of the more disturbing manifestations of civic delinquency is litter. I guess the anti-litter campaign in the seventies really hit its mark with me, because when I see all the trash that is collected on sidewalks or around doors to public buildings or on the roads and in the parks, I have to wonder – who still thinks its ok to throw garbage on the ground? It must be Civic Delinquents!
But, then, this morning, my husband and I were on our way back home from the gym. (You don’t even want to know what some “lady” civic delinquents do there to the ladies room!) We approached a crosswalk in front of the library where we could see 3 kids waiting to cross. In our town we have a rather loose “law” regarding crosswalks – stop or not…we really don’t know what the actual law is. These boys were about 12 and they stood at the sidewalk watching both ways on the lightly trafficked road. We saw them in time so we slowed to a stop. These boys didn’t just dart across the road as if everyone would stop in their presence. They waited – acknowledged that we were in fact stopping and the first kid gave a wave with his hand, like – ok – we’re going for it! They trotted across, made it safely to the opposite sidewalk and started to walk in the direction of the local movie theater a half a block down. As we passed them, I watched as one of the kids looked back at us while we drove by – and smiled and gave a little wave. I waved back. And smiled. There’s hope yet.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I was talking to a friend the other day. We were lamenting all the projects at work we have been toiling at that require a lot more time to finish. Also, we each had tons of errands that needed to be run due to our lack of time in view of our demanding work schedule. But the weekend was coming up, so she asked what my plans were for the weekend, since she intended to catch up on the errands as well as go to a dinner with friends and even paint something like a door or dining room set or some kind of project like that. I replied that my weekend was booked. What was I doing? Falling Back.
This is not simply an hour long thing, this Daylight Savings Time. It requires much time and considerable effort. To think that it only means turning your clock back one hour is to not fully comprehend the magnitude of the event. (Did you know you don’t have to stay up until 2:00 to do it, that you can turn it back, say, when you go to bed?) It requires preparation, stamina, vigilance, a positive outlook and a healthy dose of carbohydrates. Preferably the kind that go with salsa. The foreboding of Friday night is not unlike the night before a doctor’s appointment – you know the kind I mean. There’s also this nagging feeling, like when you leave the house and just know you have left the stove on. Friday night is like that, only depressing. Saturday dawns bright and sunny, but almost mockingly. You know that in just 24 hours (Or is it 23?) there will be much less light! All day Saturday, you have to mentally prepare for the loss. If you go to the store, you have to say to yourself, “I can’t stay as long as I would like, because of the hour change” If you plan to take a walk or get some exercise you have to say to yourself, “I shouldn’t over exert, because of the hour change” Even if you want to go out to dinner, you have to remember – “I shouldn’t have that second glass of wine, because of that hour thing” It is an entire day of grieving the loss and practicing acute self denial. That is a very draining, taxing and demanding undertaking. In fact, it’s probably best if you clear your calendar (as I do) and lay in supplies for the long, hard time change.
Sunday, as a result of the previous day’s tension, is a complete washout. Friday was foreboding, Saturday was self-denial. Sunday is sloth. Just because you’ve “gained” an hour, you know that’s a lie. You’ve already lost sleep, especially if you stayed up until two to change the clocks. If you did what was required and carbo-loaded, you are going to feel stuffed anyway – the only answer is to continue with the carbohydrates and possibly add a very limited amount of exercise, like getting out of bed. Don’t over do it! It’s important to retain some sense of stamina, even if it is only in your head. Don’t talk on the phone, don’t try and communicate in any way. Don’t write anything down, unless it’s an 800 number for something important like a sleep mask or a corset that magically melts away 25 pounds. Don’t make so much as a list and especially, most importantly – don’t go outside. It will only remind you of how much you have to deal with on Monday as far as environmental changes. You already know the negative impact of less light on a human. Just because we get it at the beginning of the day – so what? It’s the morning! Who’s awake enough to be motivated to do anything then? It’s just plain too much to expect that we humans can be willing to a trade off that iniquitous. In fact, it may be best to give yourself an entire week to fully assimilate this unnatural phenomenon into your body’s regular rhythms. It’s the 21st century – be kind to yourself.
And who tells the animals by the way? The downright cruelty of this event must have originally been brought about by some evil empire wanting to take control over the United States. My cat doesn’t know about time. She wants her food – NOW! Meow! How about birds? Do they know about this time thing? Shouldn’t someone tell them so that they can start chirping at a more reasonable hour and not mess up this “extra” hour of sleep?
No, it’s all cruel and unusual punishment and after years of research, I feel my own outline for survival is the best. It’s safe, simple and easily adapted to fit into any schedule. Hectic, fast-paced, stressed, with kids or without kids. My simple guidelines can accommodate all lifestyles. It’s probably best to practice, too. Because due to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, we’ll have to get used to a whole new system. Beginning in 2007, daylight time will start on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November. The biggest impact of course will be Halloween – it won’t be as dark for the kids. In fact, that’s probably why they did it. So, in the interest of self preservation, every couple of weekends – just clear the calendar. Do nothing. Store energy. Of course the doom and gloom characteristic of the last weekend in October won’t actually be present, but with practice you may develop the skills you will eventually need to deal with the actual event. Because in a little over six months, you have to do it all over again – in reverse. It’s the same thing actually, but with less sleep.