Saturday, December 24, 2011


I had a sixth grade teacher who once asked our class why we had traditions.  At 11 years of age, I think many of us asked her what she even meant by traditions.  She was talking about holidays, rituals and customs, of course.  Mrs. Dickerson posed that question long ago and here I am, 36 years later, still contemplating it.    


I suppose in December it's not surprising to think about Christmas – in terms of holiday traditions that is.  For most of us, there's a routine we typically follow this time of year:  cards are written, we make (and eat) lots of tasty treats, homes get decorated.  We write our lists – and check them twice – ensuring we don't miss a single thing. 


I've mentioned before that I'm an organized, list making person and – if I may digress for a moment – as many know, I've long employed the use of Post-It notes to aid me in my organizational strategy (see 5-23-10 Craig Wilson).  I rely on those little yellow squares to keep my mind calm and clutter free.  With everything that Christmas entails aside, these past few weeks have been busy ones for me and, as such, I had Post-It notes coming out my ears.  I had mini lists organizing what I needed for: my Dad's birthday party, my sister-in-law's birthday party, my impending house guests, my Thanksgiving contributions, and last, but certainly not least, the snack bag for our upcoming trip to Disney.  I'm already a single woman with two cats; did I really need to be that lady, too?  You know, the one with Post-It notes tacked all over the place?  What would be next, hoarding?  No, I'm not a hoarder.  I'm too neat and tidy to be in jeopardy of that, but the lists… (insert eye roll, add Oy vey).  To gain control over a burgeoning compulsive behavior problem, I pulled them all off the front of my fridge and stacked them in their chronological order of importance and placed them discreetly along side my grocery list.  Okay, disorder averted, back to traditions.


I mail Christmas cards out right after Thanksgiving.  In many of the cards I receive back, "Yours was the first one I got this year," is written in as a P.S. For these folks, that kicks off their holidays – "Oh, her card is here, 'tis the season!" 


I make peanut brittle each year for a few people who tell me Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it – and, naturally, that's why I do it.  I'd rather be a contributing part of their experience than one who diminishes it somehow by not having the crunchy confection for them. 


And, of course, the biggie – I decorate my house the very same day I put away the autumn decorations.  No better example for the passing of time than to box up what's past and prep for what's coming.  I set up the village and put all the knick-knacks in their designated places. 


When my family comes over, it's always my nephew who marvels at all the decorations.  "I turned the lights on in the village," he says with glee.  "They were waiting for you," I say in reply.  Already knowing the answer, he lightheartedly asks, "Are there Nestle Crunch jingle bells in the snowman jar?"  Amused, I just respond with a simple, "Yes."  After all, that's why they're there – I know he's going to ask.  "Oh, I love this guy," he says as he tumbles the small Santa shaker that's enthralled him for years.  Taking it all in, I smile and say, "I know you do." 


His joy has become part of my tradition and even when he's older, when he may no longer light the town, or want a chocolate jingle bell (although this isn't likely) or shake the little Santa snow globe, I'll remember his childhood enthusiasm and cherish the memories attached to those things. 


Griffin's nearing the age I was when Mrs. Dickerson posed that question: Why do we have traditions?  The answer is too deep for a child to really understand.  We have them because they anchor us to who we are, our past and what's important to us.  It's why nostalgia tugs at our heart strings – traditions are the ties that bind.


Merry Christmas,

~ M.   



Sunday, November 27, 2011

The New Dating Game

Have I been out of the dating field so long that they've completely altered the whole arena without me even knowing?  I'm talking about 'style' dates.  Are you familiar with these things, you know, dates with a theme… dates du jour, if you will? 


Here's one type:  Prankster dates.  Example:  Pretend to be a couple looking to buy a new car, maybe.  Doesn't that sound like fun - totally yanking the chain of someone else trying to earn a living?  Or why stop there? Why not pretend to be a married couple who needs to put an aging parent in a home?  Together you can tour assisted living facilities and giggle behind the backs of those showing you around.  Oh, what fun!  They say prankster dates do bring out your playful side.  


Another one is the 'Best Of' dates.  Examples may include trying to find the best ice cream parlor in town or, say, the best microbrewery.  In these instances, while getting to know not only each other, but a particular town, couples can eat themselves into oblivion or drink themselves into oblivion – the best of both worlds – either way, I think chances are good each will end up vomiting – and, really, what better way to get to know someone than when they're at their worst?


Or how about this: Scavenger Hunt dates.  This is apparently the adult version of that childhood classic I Spy with my Little Eye.  Example:  "Would you like to go to the boardwalk and see how many people we can spot wearing hats?"  I don't think I need to add any additional commentary on this one, do you?  Seriously, could you imagine being asked out on a date like this?  I mean if you're already in a relationship and happen to be out taking a walk and decide to throw in something like… like… nope, not even then, forget it.  What would follow a date like this, you know, assuming the relationship progressed?  "Say, honey, how about a road trip?  Let's see which of us can find a license plate from Alaska first."  Unless you're dating a seven-year-old, I'd say this indicates your search for Mr. Right (or Mrs.) is far from over.    


I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Errand Date.  Pretty much self-explanatory, and again, picture you're not in a relationship with this person, you're being asked out on a date.  "Say, if you're not doing anything this weekend, the hull of my boat needs refinishing…"  It's not a euphemism.  The theory behind this one is that tedious chores become fun dates.  Could you imagine?  Think about it, yard work, grocery shopping, house cleaning, ooh, laundry – you know, with this line of thinking the fun is nearly limitless – and why not get to know someone by sorting through their dirty laundry?  This is what seems to interest people nowadays, anyway. 


I don't know.  It's probably just me (it usually is), but does anyone ever just do dinner and a movie anymore?  Maybe this sort of date could regain its popularity if it had a trendy name?  What do you think about The Retro Date?  Call me old-fashioned, but I kind of like the sound of that.


~ M.



Sunday, October 23, 2011


October is the perfect month for Halloween – the days are shorter, the air is crisp and there's a slight howling to the sound of the nighttime wind.  Leaves blow around and trees look dead.  Throw a full moon in there and you have all the makings for a full-on creep fest. 


Halloween, as it's become, is a far cry from its Festival of the Dead origins.  I don't believe that spirits rise and wreak havoc on this day, as some do; no, for me, I think of Halloween as a day for kids to dress up in costumes and amass a lot of candy.  Still, with that said – and even though it's just one day – I think all the associated autumn decorations can add a certain degree of spookiness to the entire month of October.  A spookiness that could make someone a little jumpy, maybe… especially if that someone is me – someone who gets creeped out by little things like those fake spider rings that kids like to leave lying around.  And, if I don't care for fake spiders, you can bet I'm not that fond of the real ones.  Now listen, spiders outside – even tarantulas – don't really bother me, but in my house, that's a different story.


My blood ran cold and my heart skipped a beat as my breath caught in my throat one night when I came in late and found a spider the size of a plum clinging to my kitchen wall up where it meets the ceiling.  As I stood there, frozen in fear, I couldn't imagine what I was going to do.  My ceilings are 12'-0' high.  I knew I couldn't leave it there.  What if it wandered off?  Where might it go?  Where might it lay eggs?  These are just a few of the things that went through my mind as my heartbeat picked up speed and I began to perspire.  I mulled over my options:  call my brother for help, no; spray with Raid thereby saturating my wall and ceiling, no; could I leave it there, no – definitely not.  I knew what had to be done and I was the one who was going to have to do it.


I steeled my resolve and got the necessary supplies – namely, a telescoping duster and what I call my scorpion killer, which is really just a Swiffer sweeper wrapped in paper towel.  (That's a story for a different day.)  The plan was to stand on a stool and using the fully extended duster fling the eight-legged wonder to the floor after which I'd hop down and exterminate this poor in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time creature with the use of my previously prepared squisher Swiffer. 


Here's where my plan went awry.  Standing on the stool, I had to stretch over my hutch to reach this thing and as the duster grazed one or two of the legs, it didn't fling him – as I had hoped – but merely knocked him off his perch.  I nearly fell off my own perch as the spider wafted down the wall and fell behind the hutch.  I quickly grabbed the Swiffer and got on my knees to locate the fallen threat on the floor beneath the hutch.  The problem was he wasn't there.  Oh my. 


I was in a full body sweat at this point.  Where did it go?  Placing my cheek to the wall, I strained to look into the ½" space behind the hutch.  Ugh, there he was, clinging to the back of the hutch, hanging on like… like… well, like Spiderman.  Now what was I going to do?  That hutch weighs a ton and it was too close to the wall to get anything behind it.  It's amazing what a little adrenaline can do.  I managed to move it about an inch and half, and still, my adversary held fast.  This was becoming a battle of the wills. 


I once again grabbed the extended duster.  I swooshed it along the back of the hutch.  I missed.  I swooshed again.  Success!  He dropped to the floor.  I grabbed the Swiffer and pushed it back and forth under the hutch until the paper towel revealed the tell-tale wet spot of a spider that once was.  With legs loosely strewn about, I had squished him into oblivion.  It was horrible, but I did what I had to do.  Many of our spiders are poisonous and I couldn't just leave it there. 


I don't advocate killing

It's certainly not thrilling

But when the fear is bone-chilling

You've got to be willing


They'll creep and they'll crawl

And they'll cling to your wall

With eight legs in all

They're not likely to fall


Some are tan, some are brown, some are black

All will send chills up your back

You cannot cut any slack

You must give them a whack


You simply can't risk being bitten

These are lethal spiders, not kittens

For 'kill or be killed,' it is written

So, adios, Spidey – good riddens


 ~ M (the exterminator) 



Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unplug and Get Connected

I subscribe to Real Simple.  For those not familiar with this magazine, it often contains bits of wisdom, useful advice and general suggestions to make your life easier – in fact, that's its tag line: Real Simple ~ life made easier.  It typically features product comparisons, frugal repurposing ideas and organizational strategies, not to mention quick-and-easy dinner recipes – all things designed to help you manage your life.  But one of the other things it has that I enjoy is 'the simple list' – a monthly dose of entertaining trivia tidbits, as it were.


In the September issue, the list included this little gem: "53% of 16 to 22-year-olds around the world would rather give up their sense of smell than their favorite personal technology device."  Did you catch that?  53%.  This statistic was derived from research culled by McCann Worldgroup.  Could that really be true?  53%?  That's over half.  Sadly, I guess it is.  Don't these people realize that without a sense of smell, there isn't a sense of taste? 


Hey, if I could digress for a moment – and I can – perhaps this could be an answer to the burgeoning obesity problem, you know, if there was actually a way to cut off one's sense of smell… I mean, why eat if you can't taste anything, other than for fuel, of course, and let's face it, people pushing high triple digits aren't eating just for fuel so… I think I could be on to something here.      


Anyway, back to my point (yes, I have a point).  People shouldn't be that attached to electronic devices that they'd be willing to compromise a basic bodily function.  I think attached is the key word, and it reminds me of something I read once from The USA Today's Craig Wilson.


In one of his columns he talked about sitting on his porch watching people pass by.  All were occupied with one device or another – Bluetooth, iPod, Blackberry – people just strolling along talking, toe-tapping, texting and tweeting, with unseen entities, not engaged in the immediate world around them. He said it was a while before he spotted one "sad sack" walking by with only his own thoughts for amusement.  I can't remember now for sure, but I think he, like me, identified with the sad sack. 


I think there's something disengaging about being plugged in all the time.  It's not real living – not really. 


I had a conversation recently with a fellow hiker about a similar topic:  Is texting real communication?  My opinion is no.  Our discussion got a little heated as she ardently defended that it was.  She's obviously a big texter – and texting is fine, it certainly has its place – but I held fast to my opinion.   Think about it.  You get a long-awaited promotion, achieve a life-long goal, get engaged, have a baby, whatever the case may be, do you text this news?  Got it! Did it! Gonna do it! Done it!  Maybe it's just me, but that seems a little dry.  Or, how about the flipside, when the news is not so good?  Say you lose your job, or your health, or worse, a loved one.  What do you do then? Send out an email blast?  Got fired.  It's cancer.  They died.  No, I say in these moments, you need to reach out, if not face-to-face, at least voice-to-voice, and connect with another human being.


It's like I told my niece, who has hundreds, if not thousands, of Facebook friends, this type of communication is simply not real – and I couldn't resist pointing out that her Facebook friends aren't real either.  She disagreed, of course.  She's only 11, and I didn't want to scare her, but that didn't stop me from pointing out that 'Katey' in Boise was not only not a real friend but could potentially be a 47-year-old deranged man sitting in some basement somewhere.  When she asked why a grown man would pretend to be a young girl I told her to ask her father.  The point I was trying to make was that she doesn't truly know who these people are.  It is not real! 


Attention all Facebookers, Ben Johnson once said, "True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in the worth and choice."  I don't know who Ben Johnson is – I got that quote from a daily inspirational calendar – but he seems pretty wise to me.


We shouldn't go through life with glazed-over computer eyes, with a residual ringing hum in our ears and cramped fingers.  We should be engaged in living in the real world with real people making true connections – so, turn off the computer, pull out the earbuds and put down the device.  Hey, here's an idea, why not go out and take a walk with friend, and who knows, maybe stop along the way and smell the roses – while you still can!


~ M.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hmm? I wonder...

Throughout life you'll often come upon points to ponder.  Sometimes they're profound existential type things and other times it's inconsequential stuff; either way, from time to time, we find ourselves musing, "Hmm, I wonder why…" or, "Hmm, I wonder what…"  Sometimes it's even where – as in, "Hmm, I wonder where I left my keys."  You can always recognize a contemplative soul-searching thought by the way we momentarily freeze while our eyes dart round as if they're looking for the answer in the back of our heads.  Perhaps, though, as we age, the answers aren't to be found there.


As Bill Cosby opined years ago, the brain may actually be located in the behind.  The way he told it was something to the effect of you find yourself getting up for something, but then you stop in your tracks because you don't know why you're up or where you were even headed, so you sit back down.  Just as your cheeks hit the seat, you remember.  "Oh, yeah," you proclaim as you jump up again to resume the task at hand.  I don't know if this has ever been scientifically – or anatomically – proven, but I think he may have been on to something.


I've often remarked about the effects of aging, and really, all the comments have had to do with what happens to us physically, I've yet to discuss the mental side of things (could be denial).  I'm beginning to think that along with flapping triceps, cleavage wrinkles and muffin tops, a slight decline in mental acuity may be part of the inevitable process of aging.  I shudder to think that, but I think it just the same – and I'm not the only one.  The folks at Shoebox, you know, that tiny little division of Hallmark, they think so too. 


A card I purchased recently for a friend's birthday read: "Is this the birthday when you start asking yourself life's big questions?"  The inside message continued, "Like, why did I come into this room?  I knew a minute ago."  My friend and I are both in our… mid-to-upper 40s and we can easily relate to this.  The fact that the card exists is proof to me that we are not alone.  Maybe reaching this point in life – when we experience little mental lapses – is a mid-life rite of passage.  Who knows? 


Speaking of age and birthdays, here's something that's plagued me for the past few years now – it actually started in my late 30s.  I'm never quite sure how old I am anymore.  Should I be worried?  I don't think so.  It's not like I think I'm 14, I just always seem to make myself one year older than I actually am.  See, I'm the baby of my peer group, so my friends are always turning the next year older before I do.  One can get conditioned to hearing a particular number, you know.  And the other thing that stumps me is when I try to rely on math to calculate my age.  This never works.  I was born in October so subtracting the year of my birth from the current year doesn't help at all because I won't be that age until the 10th month.  What this really means for me is that birthdays have become a little anti-climatic.   


In a few years I'll be 50 (ooh, I got chills), but I can just see it now.  When I turn 49, I'm going to think it's my 50th, then I'll spend much of that year thinking I am 50, and when I actually do turn 50 the following year, I'll be thinking, "Wasn't I 50 last year?"  See?  Anti-climatic.  I've digressed.  Shocker?  No?  I know. 


To be frank, I'm not so sure I really believe these mental lapses are truly due to an aging brain.  I just think as we get older we have a lot more going on up there.  We're juggling schedules, taking care of homes and family matters, dealing with work responsibilities, fulfilling commitments to organizations, etc… We're processing a lot of data, and as women, we are processing much of it all at once. 


So for me, I'll try not to worry if I find myself in a room without immediately knowing why I'm in there, or if I age myself prematurely, or if I find Pledge in my refrigerator (didn't actually happen, almost happened – as I stood in front of the open fridge, with can in hand, I caught myself and asked, "What the hell are you doing?").  None of these things are that tragic. 


What is beginning to worry me, though, is forgetting my train of thought while in the middle of an actual conversation.  Forgive the pun, but this one gives me pause.  Has this happened to you yet?  You're clipping along, "Blah, blah, blah…" when all of a sudden you have no idea what it was you were talking about and so you're forced to ask your listener, "What was I saying?"  They respond, "You were telling me a story."  "Oh," you say, "was it any good?"  That's when you have to wonder.


~ M. 


Sunday, July 31, 2011


Murphy's Law ~ a universal rule, standard or regulation that dictates a customary course of conduct for forces which conspire against you in a manner that contradicts all expectations: i.e. what you don't want to happen will and, conversely, what you'd like to happen won't.


Articles of Annoyance


i.                     Business and Commerce

a.       Cram to complete a project on time and the minute it's finished the deadline is postponed.  Murphy!

b.      Wait months for responses to work inquiries and they all come in the day before you leave on vacation.  Murphy!

c.       If you stand and watch a multiple page fax get pulled through the machine every page will go, but look away for a minute and pages get pulled through together – and the recipient never tells you, "I see you were trying to send seven pages, but I only got six."  Double Murphy!

d.      Throw away some old files and you will need one of them the very next week.  Murphy!

e.       You finally make a purchase after much deliberating and it goes on sale the next day.  Murphy!

f.        You book a non-refundable airline ticket and the following day you're notified of an on-line super-saver special.  Murphy!

g.       Discard a coupon declaring that you'll never use it only to find yourself in the issuing store shortly thereafter.  Murphy!

h.       Unable to locate an item in a store you finally ask for help only to have said item pointed out right in front of you.  Murphy!


ii.                   Automotive and Technology

a.       When you're already late, you get every light red.  Murphy!

b.      When you're in no rush at all, you sail through every light green.  Murphy!

c.       Your car makes a funny noise so you bring it in for service; of course, now it purrs like a kitten.  Murphy!

d.      You finally get around that jerk on the road only to have him sit right behind you at the next red light.  Murphy!

e.       You're running late to the airport so, of course, your flight is on time; but arrive a little extra early and your flight is delayed giving you even more time to hang out at the gate.  Murphy!

f.        You're waiting for an important phone call, but you have to go to the bathroom.  The minute you sit down the phone rings.  Murphy!

g.       Just as you're making a phone call, Call Waiting beeps in.  Murphy!

h.       Bring your phone to the couch while watching TV and it will not ring, but leave it in the kitchen and it rings every time.  Murphy!

i.         Lie down to take a nap and the phone will ring.  Murphy!


iii.                  Leisure and Entertainment

a.       You play Solitaire to kill time and win the first hand.  Murphy!

b.      You get up early every day – whether you have to or not – but on the day you must be up early, you oversleep.  Murphy! 

c.       You struggle to get your kids up for school, but on a Saturday, they're up at 6:00 am raring to go.  Murphy!

d.      You almost always have an umbrella with you, but the one day you don't, naturally, it rains.  Murphy!

e.       Routine weekends come and go but then you get invited to two events on the same day.  Murphy!

f.        Dinner's on time and your guests are late; guests are on time, dinner isn't ready.  Murphy!

g.       You'd like the refrigerator door to stay open while putting groceries away but it closes constantly; yet, reach in for one thing, expecting it to close behind you and it stays wide open.  Murphy!

h.       When doing a Word Search, if you start at the top, the word you're looking for will be at the bottom and vice versa – start at the bottom and that word is hiding at the top.  Murphy!

i.         Ideas come to you when you're without any means to record them and when you do get the opportunity to write them down you can't remember a single thing.  Murphy!

j.        Tell someone repeatedly about a funny show they just have to watch and when they finally do the episode they see is a clunker.  Murphy!


ODE TO MURPHY – that cosmic mo-fo


What would we do without you?

You're reliable, dependable, steadfast and true


We count on you, time after time

To annoy us as you mess with our minds


We expect one thing and another will happen

That's just how it is and always has been


I don't like to grumble, I don't want to complain

But it gets on my nerves and drives me insane


I'd like to turn the tide, if only I could

If it were possible, believe me, I would


I'd like to get you – just once – for a change

I know this vendetta may sound kind of strange


And, of course, I'm aware that it simply can't be

So I'll just grit my teeth and blurt out "Murphy!"


Constantly vexed…

 ~ M.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Adjectives are Subjective

Adjective: n. a word used to modify a noun or other substantive


Okay, I'm pretty sure we all know what adjectives are, but have you ever noticed how their meanings can vary depending on either who's using them or the situation involved?  Take adjectives like pretty, hard or scary for example.  I think we're all familiar with these words and their definitions, but let me illustrate what I'm talking about. 


Pretty.  A fellow hiker once told me I was the prettiest girl on the trail.  After an uncomfortable moment I said, "Really, even with my gray hair, pointy nose and this fang?"  Then, after flashing a smile to reveal said fang – to which he was largely unamused – I just humbly said, "Thanks."  See, that's what he thought and he's entitled to his opinion.  Who am I to argue with what he deems pretty.  Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. 


Here's another one: Hard.  When I first started doing crossword puzzles, I found them challenging, and since their difficulty increases as the weekdays progress, the NY Times Sunday puzzle was extremely hard for me – well, often the Thursday puzzle was just as tough (as any puzzler knows) – but that's not the case anymore.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that they're effortless, but they've gone from hard to, not only doable but, enjoyable.  So, although I wouldn't describe these puzzles as hard anymore, others still may.  Or on a completely different note, take push-ups.  Many people can do these – some can even add fancy claps in between or do them on one hand.  I can't do them at all.  So, where brain-teasers are easy for me and hard for others, push-ups are easy for some, yet hard (more like impossible) for me.  Get it?  The meaning changes depending on the person.


Or how about this: Scary.  There are those (who are out of their minds) who enjoy bungee jumping.  These folks describe this activity as exhilarating.  I'd describe it as scary – more like terrifying, actually.  Now, I've performed live on stage many times, which I find exhilarating, but I know there are others who find that prospect terrifying.  In fact, I know people who'd rather jump off a bridge than perform on stage – see, it's subjective.


So, here's the latest contradiction of terms, if you will:  Fun/Humiliating.  My sister-in-law asked me to participate with her in a fashion show at our local Anthropologie.  "It'll be fun," she said.  Fun?  Nothing fits me in that store.  I'm a shoulder less, small-chested, short-waisted, long-legged deformity with a big behind.  Fun?  Try humiliating.  And to really seal the deal with that one, I'd have to walk in heels while showcasing my flouncy outfit.  I've been in sneakers and flip-flops for years.  When I walk in heels I look like a man in drag on his first day on the job.  At the risk of being redundant, fun?  Fun for whom, exactly?  Well, I'm a good sport if nothing else, so without mincing words, I agreed.  "Yeah, okay," I said, "it'll be… fun."


Well, what could have been disappointment to someone else was a major relief to me.  Turns out they had enough participants (read: people who actually wanted to be there), so my services were not needed.  (I feel I should tell you that their roster was full and I was excused without ever being seen.)  But here's what's interesting – once the pressure was off, my initial relief did sort of turn to a mild disappointment.  You know, it might have been fun.


~ M.



Sunday, May 29, 2011

To Tip or Not to Tip?

Granted, this may not be as deep as contemplating one's mortality, but still, I think it's a question that bears some pondering.  Not that long ago, this was basically a non-issue.  I don't mean that people didn't tip.  I just think it was pretty clear on who did get tipped – not so much nowadays. 


Because they work at a reduced rate, waiters and waitresses have long received tips/additional compensation from their customers which naturally encourages them to provide decent service.  It's similar with bartenders, and this can work greatly to your advantage.  If you go up to a bar that's three deep and generously tip your mixer, you're guaranteed to get good service the rest of the night.  It's a two-way street, you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-your-back, quid pro quo sort of thing.  People wanting good service, from people providing a service, are able to reward those for said service, acknowledging the quality of the service provided.  Too wordy?  You get it, though.  It's a win-win.  No problem tipping these folks.


Then, of course, there are what I call seasonal tips.  These were probably born of a time when workers received Christmas bonuses and liked to spread the wealth – so to speak.  To digress for a moment, this was so long ago that they were actually called Christmas bonuses without any fear of PC repercussions – that wouldn't fly in today's standards, but most don't get bonuses (by any name) anymore so… In spite of that, though, we still have those who get a few bucks or a "holiday" gift card from us at the end of the year: postal carriers and/or regular delivery/service people, for example – but should they?   


And what about others, like, say hairdressers or pet groomers who may be seen regularly throughout the year?  Should I be giving year-end, seasonal tips to them, too?  I don't.  I tip these people at each service – never mind that they're owner/operators and tip etiquette dictates they shouldn't be tipped at all, I still do.  They don't seem to mind. 


But does everybody deserve a tip?  What I'm getting at is the tip jar.  The ubiquitous tip jar.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's on almost every counter nowadays: delis, Starbucks, ice cream shops, mailing centers, dry cleaners, the list goes on – basically you'd be hard-pressed to come across a service counter without a tip jar.  Now the thing is I can't go behind the counter and make a bagel, pour coffee or scoop gelato, nor can I ring up packing popcorn or retrieve my own dry cleaning.  This is why these establishments hire employees, and they pay them accordingly to perform these services – some even have health benefits.  This overhead is built into the cost of the consumer goods.  So, if we're already paying $2.50 for a bagel, $5.00 for a froo-froo cup o'joe or $6.95 to have a shirt cleaned, I say we're already doing our part – get rid of the stupid tip jar already.  I don't even like when grocery stores let teens come in and bag groceries for tips – and this has nothing to do with the fact that they don't understand simple bagging techniques.  This is a service the store should provide.  I think the teens can come in (squished fruit aside), but the store should make the donation – maybe on an hourly rate, whatever they work out – not the patron.  It's enough already!  


And here's the latest.  In the early Spring, I was traveling for work, and as such, stayed at a hotel – not some cheesy little flea-bag motel, no, a pleasant hotel designed for extended stay business travelers.  I've stayed at this place before.  I like it because their rooms are suites with nice amenities.  On this most recent visit, the clock in my room displayed an incorrect time.  Now I'm fairly bright and up until this point I'd never come across a clock radio with programming that was beyond my capabilities but, darn it, I could not figure out how to reset the time. 


"Well, I won't use the clock," I thought, "I'll just phone down to the desk for a wake-up call."  Who was I kidding?  I'm too OCD to have a clock display the wrong time.  According to the time on my cell phone, this clock was 3 hours off local California time.  I was still on MST which already had me off by an hour, so between my phone, my watch and this clock, I was in quite the time warp.  I had to fix it.


Willing to risk looking like an inept fool – is there any other kind? – I called down to the desk to inquire about fixing the time.  "Oh, we'll send someone right up," was their reply.  I responded, "You don't have to do that, just tell me how to do it."   "You can't do it," they said, "it's locked."  Locked?  Has there been a run on time-setting tomfoolery that I don't know about? 


Anyway, the maintenance guy comes up, unlocks the back of the clock and resets the time.  Easy-peasy.  Even with the chit-chat, this only took about a minute and a half.  While thanking him, I gestured toward the door.  To say he was lingering is an understatement.  He didn't move.  Thoughts raced through my mind.  Am I supposed to tip this guy?  I'm not tipping him.  It's not like I requested some special service – no, I'm not tipping him.  This room costs over $200 a night, the clock should have been set correctly – I refuse to tip for this.  If the clock wasn't locked (ridiculous), I'd have fixed it myself.  I am not tipping this guy.  I turned, walked to the door, opened it and thanked him once more.  Clearly put off by my lack of tipping, he left.  "I should not have had to tip that guy," I said aloud to no one.


With that behind me, I grabbed my bag and headed down to the restaurant.  Guess who I met at the elevator?  I smiled, then said, "Oh, by the way, here's a couple of bucks for helping me with the clock."  At the Lobby level, we parted ways.  He was $2.00 richer and I rationalized how it was worth the two bucks not to anguish anymore over not tipping him.  But I gotta tell ya – I shouldn't have had to tip that guy! 


At the tipping point,

~ M.



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Whoa, Nellie!

As I've mentioned, I hike Pinnacle Peak regularly.  I've been hiking that trail for years now and it never ceases to amaze me how, in spite of the fact that it is the same trail, the hikes are always different. 


There are days – probably when I'm a little tired – when the climbs seem steeper than others.  Some times, after a slight rain or a dewy morning, the path is so slick that you really have to watch your step lest you slide right off the mountain.  And then of course, my favorite, days when the wind is so gusty that you feel like you're walking through a sand-blasting zone.  Yes, the hikes are rarely the same. 


Well, recently, my trusty hill offered me a whole new experience – an unprecedented experience (is that redundant?).  I should point out that there are rules and regulations posted at Pinnacle Peak to inform those who may not be in the know of trail etiquette how to conduct themselves.  They're really common sense type things: 


-         No smoking (no kidding, this is posted – like who would climb a mountain while smoking?)

-         Only service dogs are allowed on the trail (how many blind people do you think are hiking up there – and how are they reading the sign?)

-         Keep right (this is a challenge for some, believe it or not – makes me wonder how these people drive) 

-         Runners yield to walkers (makes sense – no need to mow anybody down)

-         People – whether running or walking – yield to horses (horses?)


In all my time up there I've often wondered why they had that note about horses.  I have never seen a horse up there, and even though I've yet to see an actual horse, I finally saw evidence – a lot of evidence – to support that horses may sometime share the trail.  Who knew?


At first there were scattered horseshoe-shaped prints in the dirt.  These were quickly followed by more scattering – and I'm not talking about hoof prints anymore.  There were volumes – wait, is that the right word?  Does volume only apply to liquid quantity?  You know what, it doesn't matter; if it does, it still applies.  There were massive, voluminous piles of horse poop everywhere.  I don't think the… let's call it… output was normal.  Maybe the poor boy (assuming – you know most males can go anywhere) was sick or perhaps he's an I.B.S. sufferer, who knows?  What I can tell you is that the trail was covered in such an unnatural way, it made negotiating it quite difficult.  I guess riders don't have to worry about curbing their horses.


In any event, it reminded me of a riddle I heard many years ago and I didn't hesitate to amuse my fellow hikers with it: 


What's brown and sounds like a bell?   DUNG!   



 ~ M.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Extra! Extra!

I'm a newspaper subscriber.  I know, they say no one's buying papers anymore, or I suppose what's really said is that no one is reading papers anymore.  And, in spite of the fact that I get regular home delivery, I do sort of fall into that category.  I've admitted that I don't get the paper to stay up on events – current or otherwise – although, I do scan the headlines.  No, I get the paper for the puzzles.  Translation = big dork.  There, I've said it (once again).  Hey, I'm not the only one who does puzzles, you know.  It's people like me who make big business for others.  Think about it, where would Will Shortz be without all of us puzzlers?    


There are others, too, whose entire careers lie in creating brain-teasers for people like me – addicts, who are hooked on solving these mental conundrums.  I know I'm digressing but what non-puzzlers don't realize is that these things really do stimulate the brain, and if you do them like I do, over lunch, it helps to pace one's ingestion and, therefore, digestion.  If not for the puzzles, I'd eat my lunch in four minutes flat.  But anyway, as I said, I've digressed.


So, I've been getting home delivery for over seven years.  Every morning, no matter what time I'm up (as early as 4:30 in the summer) my paper is always there, in my driveway, waiting for me.  I have a very dependable carrier.  I've never met him, but we exchange Christmas cards every year.  Without fail, some time during the middle of December, folded within the newsprint, I find a greeting card wishing me all the best for the holiday season.  This enables me to reciprocate with yuletide wishes of my own along with a gesture of appreciation for his steadfast commitment. 


I assume my carrier is an elderly gentleman – possibly a retired veteran.  I say elderly because his name is Newton.  You just don't see that name that much anymore – at least not among the younger generation, that's for sure.  And I say retired vet because of his reliability and dedication to his customers.  I've already told you how my paper is always there, but it's also always tucked safely away in a plastic protective sleeve, and on the rare days we have rain, he double bags the paper.  This is no slouchy young person doing a half-assed job; no, this is someone who takes pride in his work. 


Now this is where I have an issue.  (You knew I had to have one.)  Lately, someone – a likely dog-walker, indeed – is taking the plastic bags off my paper (read: stealing).  I'm sure the perpetrator (correct word for alleged crime committer) doesn't think there's anything wrong with this.  In fact, I'd bet they just assume I discard the bags once I bring the paper inside.  And guess what?  They're right.  But that's not really the point, is it?


Newton places my paper in the protective – operative word here – bag for a reason.  To protect it.  Newsprint is already filthy.  Do I need road dust and grime all over my paper, too?  Or how about bird poop? That's always nice to see while the paper sits on my kitchen island – where I eat!  One day it drizzled and my paper was dotted with water marks.  And another time, on a breezy day, I had to retrieve wind strewn papers from my front yard.  Should I have to tolerate this?  No, I don't think so.  It's my paper – I'm paying for it – and it's my sleeve.  It should remain on the paper, protecting it, until such time when I remove it. 


As I said, I don't think the thief sees the crime, and I certainly don't mean to be petty, but it is my property.  I mean, how cheap can you be?  If you're a dog walker and you know you need to pick up poop, buy a box of bags already.


Well, I did just that.  I bought a box of quart-sized Ziploc bags and placed them in my driveway with a note taped to the top of the box that read: To whoever is taking my newspaper bags, please take this box of bags instead.  The box was never taken – it sat out there for over a week (risking an HOA violation).  But here's the thing, my newspaper bags have remained untouched ever since, and that is a good thing.


Ode to Dogwalkers


I don't mean to whine

But the paper is mine


And I don't like to squawk

But if you've a dog to walk


Who poops as he goes,

Then heaven knows


Prepared you must be –

Bring a bag or two, or even three


Because petty theft, I cannot condone

So, please, leave my paper alone!


Reporting it as it is…

~ M