Monday, September 24, 2007

Angel of Death? Please Hold

I have some older folks in my family who refuse to use voice mail. My mom has it on her cell phone don’t bother leaving her a message. She’s not checking it. I’ve shown her how, but just having a mobile is as far as she is willing to go on the tech front. This is a woman who doesn't have e-mail or an ATM card, and doesn’t want them. How she survives without the modern convenience of computer viruses and ATM fees is beyond me.

Older folks seem equally unenthusiastic about text messaging. For them the opposable thumb is merely a symbol of human superiority; a reminder of why we - for good or ill – are the species in charge. Historically, the thumb has gotten a bit of a work out from hitchhikers and Fonzi fans, but hither to the fingers that did the most work were the index and middle.

Who foresaw the rise of texting and the active role the thumb would play? The muscles and fine motor skills of older thumbs are not always up to the task of texting. They require a full size qwerty keyboard to express their thoughts. And most can still proudly do so at 80 to 100 full, correctly spelled words a minute; sans cute abbreviations, a la LOL.

Fresh in my memory is The Great Text Messaging Debacle of 2005. I won’t go into it, but suffice it to say: if someone (who shall remain nameless, but we’ll call her, "Mom") is unfamiliar with text messaging, explain it to them first so the messages and sounds don’t surprise them and make them think their phone is broken or, god forbid, "possessed."

I have a few aunts and uncles who are truly old school. They don't have cell phones, voice mail or answering machines. If they're home they answer the phone. If they're not, they don't. And I love how they answer. They are the generation that still actively practices telephone etiquette. They don't pick up with, "Yo!" "Wuzzzup!" "Speak!" "Who dis?" "Where you at?" They are so polite and formal I sometimes think I’ve mis-dialed and reached a business.

Lately when I call I hear worry and hesitation in their voices as if they are finally beginning to regret not having an answering machine to screen their calls. I hope hearing the voice of their favorite niece, god daughter or cousin will dispel their disquiet, but it doesn’t. Why would they be worried about talking to me? I’m not calling to borrow money.

The problem is I’m just a special occasion caller. And since I call so infrequently, they assume that when I do it’s going to be bad news. They expect the worst. They expect death. When I called one of my Uncles to invite him my birthday dinner. We were barely through the pleasantries when he said, "Is everything okay?" Sub text: "Who died?"
"Yes, everything's fine," I said. Sub text: "Nobody."

He went on to say, in his ever so poetic way, "At my age, I never know when someone is calling to invite me to sing 'Nearer My God to Thee.'" Well if that doesn’t make me feel like the angel of death, I don’t know what does.

Mike Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, is considering a plan that would send text messages to the citizens of Gotham in case of an emergency. It could say: "OMG! BFD! Get your BFF, leave NYC, PDQ! GL, Have a GR8 day!"

Translation: "Oh my, God! Big freakin’ deal! Get your best friend forever, leave New York City, pretty damn quick! Good luck, Have a great day."

Is this "Logan’s Run" for the new millennium? Text messaging ensures that the Razor, Sidekick and Black Berry crowd will survive the next calamity, but the older people are on their own. They’ll be standing around wondering why they’re cell phones are flashing and beeping. The ones with answering machines will be screening their calls. Those with neither modern convenience -- what's left of The Great Generation -- will have to resort to the classic duck and cover. GL.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Milkshake Brings My Dog To The Car

We have a tradition in our family. After a visit to the Veterinarian, which is very traumatic for our eight year old cocker spaniel, Rolie, (he trembles pathetically and looks at us with big, sad eyes as if to say, "Please don't leave me here. These people are animals.") we buy him a milkshake. Now the dog doesn't get a whole milkshake. We’re not that indulgent. We share. Apparently a Vet visit is traumatic for all of us. And nothing soothes the nerves like a vanilla shake.

We discovered his love of milkshakes early on. One hot Summer day my husband and I picked up a couple to cool us down. Previously lounging in the back seat, Rolie became suddenly alert and excited, as if waiting patiently for his turn at the straw. Intrigued I held my empty cup out to him and he ever so gently took it from my hand and licked it clean. Note to self, the dog likes milkshakes.

Rolie also loves car rides, except when they end up at the Vet. The other day when my husband was dropping me off at the train station, Rolie decided he wanted to come along. By decided I mean when we let him out to run around in the yard a bit before we left, we had a difficult time getting him back in the house. We called. He wouldn't come. We’d get near him and he stealthily evaded capture. He doesn't normally act like this. (Oh God, I sound like one of those parents who's in denial about their child's aberrant behavior. This doesn't bode well if we ever have to raise a human child.)

I was running late so rather than continue the struggle we took Rolie with us, which I’m sure was his plan all along. That's right. Two adults caved in to a manipulative cocker spaniel. But it's not just any cocker spaniel, it's Rolie. And what Rolie wants, Rolie gets.

The problem is that His Lordship is absolutely adorable. Shiny black coat, soulful eyes, cute nub of a tail. I'm also a sucker for a sad story. His previous "family" abandoned him. We adopted The Old Man (he's eight, with a distinguished ring of grey around his muzzle) since his foster family could not keep him. He survived kennel cough, two ear surgeries that have rendered him partially deaf and he takes medication every other day for his thyroid.

Thinking about what he's been through makes us feel sorry for him and perhaps be a little more lenient than we should. Yup, old fur face has got us tightly wrapped around his well groomed paw. At this rate a kid would walk all over us and make us beg for more.

When my husband returned home from the train station, his route took him past McDonald's, our milkshake purveyor of choice. As the car sped by, Rolie sounded the alarm from the back seat. Our normally quiet and contemplative Spaniel began barking while gazing fixedly at the golden arches as if to say, "Here! Turn here! This is the milkshake place!"

My husband was shocked. We knew His Lordship was smart, but this was creepy; like something straight out of a commercial. "So," I said, "How did Rolie enjoy his milkshake?" "I didn't get him one," my husband said. "What?" I couldn't believe it. "Who are you?" I said. "And what have you done with my husband?"

Part of me was annoyed that Rolie was smart enough in his own way to ask for a milkshake and my husband didn't come across with the goods. A slightly bigger part of me was proud of him for resisting the urge. "It would have set a bad precedent," he said. "Rolie would think it was milkshake time whenever we passed a McDonald's."

Yes, that would be bad. And potentially expensive. It’s already hard to believe that we thought having a dog would be cheaper than a kid. It hasn’t been working out that way. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if we had a backbone between us. But who knows perhaps one milkshake denied in the furry face of adorable brilliance means there’s hope. But to be honest, I’m a little worried about even writing this, since the evidence suggests that Rolie can read.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Judge Not, I'll Try (No I Won't)

The Bible says, "Judge not, lest ye be judged" but that's not enough of a deterrent. Judging other peoples lives and choices is fun, free and entertaining. You just have to pay for the popcorn.

To compound my sin I love watching "Judge Judy." She judges the legal merits of each case. We the viewers judge the litigants. With practice you can even predict the outcome of a case by the outfit they’re wearing. Being sued on national television may not call for a tie and tails, but I think a sweat suit is a tad too casual for court.

The best part of TV judge shows is the post verdict wrap up. This is where the litigants get to speak up for themselves; sounding off about the judge's decision, their opponent and offering sage advice to the viewer. Occasionally there are thoughtful and coherent remarks but for the most part it’s a rapid exchange of insults spewed in a desperate attempt to get in the last word. American entertainment at its finest. Pass the popcorn.

Sadly, the majority of cases are disgruntled couples. They’ve shacked up, procreated, co-mingled finances and when it doesn’t work out, they run to court. The law provides some remedy for marrieds, but even so it can’t fix bad choices or a broken heart. You cannot litigate love. That’s what makes these cases so compelling, yet difficult to watch. We’ve all been there.

A recent case featured a young couple who began their relationship when She was 16 and He was 19. We’re talking statutory rape for those of you inclined to quibble over such trivial legalities. Four years and two kids later they were broken up. Surprising, I know. She was suing him for the return of Her clothes. She and the kids had quickly moved out when She could no longer put up with His controlling nature.

Ah, the impetuousness of youth. The Grown Woman’s Guide to Relationships clearly states, if you’re gonna leave – and deep down you always know – you’ve got to plan ahead. Take everything you have a right to because there’s no going back.

He was counter suing for the return of his dignity.

Their case was pretty straight forward, but as expected the post verdict comments were enlightening.

She said: "He has tons of guns. He'd pull ‘em and threaten to shoot me."
Funny, that never came up in court. She said He was controlling, not crazy. If I were trying to build a case against my ex to get my stuff back I think I'd open with the gun.

He said, "I never threatened to kill her with no gun."

Eerily implying that he had threatened to kill her, just not with a gun. A rifle perhaps? Strangulation? Arsenic?

She said, "If I would do my hair and makeup, I was trying to sleep with
everybody. I told him I wasn't but he didn't believe me."

Of course he didn’t. He couldn’t hear through the deafening sound of his own insecurity.

He said, "She'd never wore makeup before, ever, in her life. And then she wore
it to go bartend at a party, what's that telling you?"

That tempting though it may be, not every woman wants to sashay about town in a house coat and curlers? That’s the trouble with young love. It doesn’t realize that people grow and change. Hell, older people don’t handle it all that well either.

When I was 16 I didn't wear makeup. A little Vaseline mixed with Kool Aid was all the lip stick I needed. A few years later I could tell you every color in the Wet & Wild lipstick line as if I’d mixed in the lab myself. In essence, a funny thing happened between 16 and now. I grew up. That’s what children do.

Did He really think that She would stay 16 and naive forever? Two babies before 21 pretty much put the kibosh on that. You’d think he’d be so busy raising the two kids he already had, that he wouldn’t have time to treat his girlfriend like one. And they say men don’t multitask.

But it’s a catch 22. If she had acquiesced to his wishes by not doing her hair, makeup – oh hell, why even bother bathing – in time he might have left her because she was such a mess. No man wants to be seen with a hag on his arm; especially not a young one. Then we might have seen Him on a talk show telling the world that He doesn’t understand how such a beautiful girl could let herself go; and how He’d love to see Her get a make over.

It makes me wonder if the most famous of young lovers – Romeo and Juliet – had actually hooked up, how their relationship would have faired. Would we see them on "Divorce Court" getting a stern talking to from Judge Toler? Would she urge them to put aside their differences and focus on the needs of their children? Or would Juliet be crying her eyes out on "Maury Povich" as a vindicated Romeo pumps his fist in the air yelling, "I knew they weren’t mine!" The obligatory back drop screen featuring two adorable children who look curiously like Mercucio.

As the bard so correctly said, "The course of true love never did run smooth."

Dammit, I’m all out of popcorn.

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