Recap of a series of events that had little or nothing to do with me (or each other)

Monday: Metro accident. I take the red line on the way home, which was affected by the crash. I left after the accident, and just before I stepped out towards the escalator leading down to my train, my husband called to inform me. “Hm, okay,” I said, not knowing the full details. I stepped onto the train thinking “Oh, perfect for the news, they just love to blow things out of proportion.” Nope, this time it was legitimate. 9 people died and all I faced was a 45 minute delay. Don’t you feel like an ass when you assume it’s probably not a big deal? I do. It was the deadliest accident in the entire history of the D.C. metro system.
Oh, and Ed McMahon died that morning. I have him and the Saturday Night Live parody of him to thank for belting out “YOU ARE CORRECT, SIR!” in my loudest voice as a plebe, at breakfast and lunch tables whenever the table commandant answered a trivia question correctly. The West Pointers will know what I’m talking about. Anyone else reading this, sorry, there is nothing you’re missing. It really was as silly as it sounds.

Tuesday-Wednesday: The governor of South Carolina, who was AWOL, took a trip to Argentina. These two days were used to air his dirty laundry. He didn’t tell his staff. His wife had kicked him out. He sent emails and we have them. He likes tan lines. He likes 2 magnificent body parts. After 49 years of living, he’s kind of corny and uptight, even in a “racy” email message.

Thursday: Farrah Fawcett died in the morning. I didn’t watch her special chronicling her cancer treatment. I wasn’t a huge Charlie’s Angels fan, so while this is sad news, I wasn’t floored by it. Maybe losing a parent made me hard hearted. People die every day of terminal diseases and they don’t air their treatment specials on major networks. I feel a bit annoyed when people capitalize on their situation because their celebrity status allows it. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. Anyway, this news was topped by the death of the King of Pop.
Yep, unless you’ve been under a rock, Michael Jackson died (I learned this through various Facebook status updates). I didn’t even own any of his music, yet I know so many of his songs. My sister convinced me that it wasn’t cool to like Michael. Actually I did like the Billie Jean video and I appreciate his music now that I am married to a fan. His dance moves were fluid. He was a natural talent. I’m more sad for whatever happened that made him change from that cute little boy and young man to the cosmetic surgery experiment he became.
The footage was nonstop. We even watched the helicopter carry his body from the hospital to the L.A. Coroner’s office. While I am guilty for observing something so macabre (complete with commentary), I realize there is this need to show all of it. Thanks, O.J. Now that everyone has seen the Bronco car chase live, we feel entitled to watch everything, even if it’s not all that interesting.
While this is sad news too, I am sorry to say that I didn’t see him making it to a ripe old age either.


And that's not all...

We live in a society obsessed with multitasking. I’m not just talking about doing two or more things at once so you can be more efficient in using your time, I’m talking about products that serve more than one purpose. They save space and you feel so clever when you can use something in more than one way, don’t you? Isn't that the allure behind the Kirby vacuum/spray painter/dog groomer sales pitch and Ron Popeil's informercials? We love things that can serve as inanimate jacks of all trades.

Universally approved products:

Read a few columns of Hints from Heloise and you’ll quickly learn that baking soda is the mother of all multitaskers. Yes, you can bake with it, but it also sucks up stinkiness found in the freezer, the litter box and a multitude of other places! Mix it with vinegar (another favorite, and possibly the father of all multitaskers) and pow, it’s an effective cleanser. Need to make a volcano for the school science fair? Make sure you use baking soda. Out of toothpaste? Not a problem, just rub some good ol’ baking soda across yer teeth and keep it moving!

There are some other things people like to push as having multiple uses. Hair conditioner as shaving lotion is one. I can see how this would be a good idea if you don’t like using it in your hair, but sometimes that stuff is expensive. I mean like $10-20 a bottle. Yes, you save space in the shower, but use the $1 bottle of Suave if you insist.

Another suggestion I’ve heard about is using anti-chafing cream as a make up primer. Yes, someone actually compared the ingredients and figured out you could buy the cheaper crotch cream and use it on your face. No, I’m not testing it.

Don’t ever do this:

Hand lotion as hair conditioner
Growing up was hair hell for me. I have a mother with wash n’go hair. She really uses nothing in it. It’s a little oily, so maybe she will use shampoo, but even then, it doesn’t even matter what kind she uses. She could probably use dish soap if it came to that. Someone like this does not need or use conditioner. In fact, to a person with such easy hair, conditioner may be looked upon as an unnecessary thing marketed to suckers who will buy anything they see advertised. I can tell you firsthand that some of us need and benefit from conditioner. That 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner stuff won’t cut it (see, sometimes the multitasking product comes prepackaged). Some of us need conditioner, and sometimes we need more conditioner than shampoo. Sometimes hair just laughs at you until it’s properly tamed and moisturized. Once my mom thought she could get by using hand lotion. Why? I guess because it was already in the house and didn’t require a purchase of that made-for-suckers-only conditioner. It was a pointless venture. Please, if you even think about hand lotion as hair conditioner just forget it and buy the conditioner. Don’t try to be clever about this, hair can not be fooled.

Bar soap as shampoo

This happened in a hotel. I would have been better off just leaving my hair alone, but no, someone suggested using the hotel soap as a shampoo (I guess this was before shampoo in the hotel bathrooms became standard, or before we started staying in hotels where it was standard). What resulted was a dry crispy mess. I didn't really care because it was just too cool to rub the bar of soap on my head. Yes, at one point in my life I was really that easy to please.

Bug spray as lice remover
One of the benefits many black people have is that they don’t catch lice. The shaft of the hair is oval, which means the little buggers can’t hang on. Unfortunately I didn’t inherit this trait. I still remember scratching and scratching like mad and insisting “No!” whenever my mom would ask if I had lice. Well, how was I supposed to know? I was 6 and it didn’t occur to me to check myself in the mirror. I just thought my head was hot and itchy.
Maybe my mother didn’t know they make kits specifically to handle such a crisis. Maybe she thought it was another marketing ploy for all those suckers whose kids had lice. All I know is that our lice kit consisted of raid and a plastic comb. Why run out to the store when you have everything you need in the spray bottle marked with a skull and crossbones?
So I sat there getting sprayed and combed. It seemed to go on for hours. I don’t know if that stuff permeated my skin or if the fumes went to my head, but I do know that I smelled like bug spray for hours, possibly days. I believe I blocked most of it out.

Peroxide as hair color

Notice a trend? Much of the don’ts have to do with hair. If you have high maintenance hair like mine, the best thing to do is to find what products work and stick with it. Maybe it likes expensive products, but think of the money you’re saving. If you try a cheap product and the experiment goes awry, you will probably have to spend even more money to fix the mistake. I'm sure you know this already, but the subplot to this entire entry is this: Be nice to your hair.

Peroxide was a favorite of my sister. It’s what, a dollar a bottle, you can apply it undetected, and all you have to do is walk out into the sunlight. Mere hours later, you have changed the color of your hair. It’s like the sneaky teenager’s dream. It works okay for people with lighter hair, but if yours is dark brown or black, guess what? You end up with orange hair. ORANGE. I guess this is a good thing to some people, and it was rockin’ in the 80’s, but if you’re a self respecting adult, just pony up for a proper dye job.


The Secret

I met with an old friend over the weekend. She is single and living life in the bay area. I am married. I’ve been married almost 10 years now. To some people that seems like an eternity. For some reason a decade seems to be the time required to convince people it’s not a fluke.

“What’s your secret?” asked my friend.

It’s not the first time I’ve been asked. I never know what to say. I could pretend to be some wise old sage, but the secret is, I don’t really know what the secret is. I have been married for ten years and I can’t attribute that to anything specific that I’ve done. I tend to be selfish and constantly in need of time to myself, so it’s sort of a mystery that I’ve made it this far. My husband probably deserves more credit than I’d like to give him. I’m not an easy person to live with but he claims to be happily married and appreciative of every day we share together.

A few years ago, we asked friends of his parents their secret. “Do you give 50-50 in the relationship?” They said.

We nodded automatically, but it was a trick question.

“No!" they both replied, smirking. "You give 100% each.”

Then the advice went on. “I keep a clean house. I cook.” Said the wife. “I do everything inside, and he does everything outside.”

This marked the moment when I began to tune out. The HOA takes care of most of the “outside” part of our house and I’m the one planting the flowers. I like washing my car by hand (yes, I mean *gasp* outside). My husband is an able bodied adult who will clean the inside of the house more thoroughly than I do. He is generally the one wielding the vacuum cleaner too. Obviously this advice, while it worked for them, elicited a bunch of eye rolling from us.

One couple’s secret may not work for another couple.

I mentioned I’m selfish sometimes. I know it’s not the best quality, but it’s good to recognize it in yourself. I tell my single friends to appreciate their alone time. After you get married you might lose that time. If you have kids, you can count on losing that time. It’s nothing personal against your husband and kids—you don’t love them any less, you just miss doing things you want without having to get a vote, or do a chore, or make sure someone is fed, bathed and put to bed. You don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself.

My husband said “Sometimes you seem like you want that apartment in the city with your single girl life.”

I said “Well, I’ve never had that.”

Yes, I really said that. What a brat, right? I think anytime anyone wistfully looks at someone else’s situation as ideal, they do so without considering the flaws in that kind of thinking.

Dating—I am damned lucky that I didn’t date more. Sometimes I think maybe I could/should have but I’m kidding myself. I found a great guy. He is not perfect, but who is? I’m not. So why am I thinking this way? Because every date I’d have (in my mind) would have been with some other great guy who whisked me off in his:

a) exotic sportscar
b) private jet
c) 70 foot yacht
d) Exotic sportscar which is driven to the airport, where the private jet awaits for our flight to the island paradise where the 70 foot yacht is docked

What I don’t imagine are the ones who would have been awful, or scary, or creepy. You don’t think of the ones who are obsessive, shady or who have poor hygiene. The bad possibilities count just as much as the idealistic ones.

I also forget that there is no back up when you are on your own. You’d better get a job, or hope you have some rich, generous family members or else you’re shit out of luck. There’s a co-pilot there when you’re married. Yes, it’s good to be able to work and contribute, but depending on your agreement, one of you could opt out, or go to school, or do something else knowing you’re supported. If you lose your job, you will be okay. For richer, for poorer.

You also have to do all of the bullshit work, not just the tasks you don't mind. I hate the phone. I hate ordering food over the phone, answering the phone, calling people on the phone—all of it. Guess who does that for me most of the time, without bitching? I know it’s called being an enabler, but you can get away with it as long as you’re married to someone who doesn’t mind handling it. Conversely, this same person likes to eat but isn’t a fan of cooking, so guess who cooks breakfast every weekend morning, and does it so often that it’s just kind of expected. Guess who doesn’t mind most of the time? Me. It’s fine. We trade. I don’t have to do it all and neither does he.

There are good and bad parts of being single and being married, but the secret is this: you can be happy either way.

Never say die

Last weekend I went to California to visit my best friend. I’m sure it sounds silly for a 33 year old woman to say she has a “best friend” but it’s a title that was established early on and it seems equally silly to stop using it just because adults just don’t say that anymore.

I try to visit every year. If she can’t make it to me, I go there. For me, there is also the added bonus of getting to see where I used to live. There aren’t any roots for me in my current locale, I could take it or leave it without feeling like I’ve suffered a loss. I go to California knowing that I get to see some of the old stomping grounds, even if the people we used to know have moved on.

My flight was on an Airbus jet, which is the same manufacturer of the Air France plane that disappeared over the Atlantic. Woo, big deal, I know, but when it’s just a few days after such an event, your mind can’t help going there. I am generally not afraid of flying, but that kind of disaster makes you wonder what would happen if you found yourself in such a situation. You find yourself keyed into the noises and movement of the plane when it takes off. Your eyes pop open when there’s turbulence and as you’re jostled around in your seat, you try to determine if the turbulence is getting worse or going away. Then you land, and once all of the wheels are safely on the ground again, you exhale. You live to fight another day.

I know that is overly dramatic. Plane crashes are pretty rare when you consider how many flights there are every single day that land safely. It’s just that when something goes wrong in the air, there’s a pretty good chance that no one’s getting out alive. You just have to board the plane knowing that. You also have to realize every day there are a million other things that could lead to your untimely demise, but those things happen in onesies and twosies. Anything that involves losing hundreds of people all at once is bound to make the news.

I say this like I would be perfectly okay if I got onto a plane and something went awry. I’m not. I could spend hours pondering what will happen after I die. I think the death of a parent or a close relative makes you extra aware of your own mortality. It also makes you thumb your nose in the face of it. Sometimes I think we’re ill-equipped to accept that it will all just fade to black and that’s it. We invent an afterlife that’s the equivalent of Candyland with everything you could wish for, all hours of the day, all days of the week. The earthly bullshit just fades away and you’re on cloud 9. While I would love for this to be true--I hope it is—but the truth is, I really don’t know. No one does. You hope, you believe, you trust it will happen that way, but you don’t truly know.

I also think that people who have seen death close up are a bit cynical. From what I’ve witnessed, we’re going to say someone “died,” rather than softening the blow with a euphemism. I was talking to my best friend about this very thing. My particular beef is with the term “passed away.” Away where? It sounds so peaceful, like the person just floated out to sea on an inner tube. It sounds nice, but it’s not exactly honest, is it? Sometimes people just say “passed,” which is even more vague. Passed what? Passed the 7-11 on the way to Heaven? Passed the final exam? Passed a kidney stone? Gas? It’s really not clear. Why don't more people just say “died?” What’s wrong with just saying exactly what you mean? Isn't that the key to effective communication?

When I got home, my husband asked if I had visited my father’s grave. Until he mentioned it, I didn’t even give it a thought. I have gone twice in the past year, and you’d think that would reinforce the idea to go, but it honestly did not occur to me. I said this and the look of shock on his face told me he believed I was being thoughtless. He even tried to give me "the guilts" over it. "Maybe I'm more sentimental" he said, but I don't think that's really it. I am happy that he can feel that way and that he doesn’t actually know what it would be like to bury an immediate relative and visit their grave, he doesn’t understand that my connection is not to a grave. It’s why I don’t want to be buried. I think people would visit for awhile, but after a couple of generations (if you’re lucky) you’re going to be forgotten. People will glance at the headstone and comment (maybe) but otherwise, your time and the memories of you have already passed. I don’t need a nice box with all the fixings. I’m pretty sure it won’t matter anyway. I would also feel like a physical grave puts a burden on the living to visit and tend to it. I’m high maintenance enough as it is alive, the least I could do is give my loved ones a much needed break after I die.


If you wait till the last minute...

A month ago I received a notice that my car’s registration was up for renewal. It’s the third renewal since I bought the car, and luckily you do not have to take a number and wait umpteen hours at the Motor Vehicle Association (DMV for anyone living anywhere besides Maryland) to pay your fee. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can do all of it online.

Here’s the problem about the convenience of doing things online: if you’re a procrastinator, that online convenience just bought you a little more time towards putting it off..

People that are prompt about taking care of their affairs don’t understand why anyone would procrastinate. They methodically accomplish their tasks as they’re received, no fuss, no muss.

A go-getter would go about renewing a vehicle registration like this:
Receive notification, go to computer, log into website, purchase registration, wait for new stickers to arrive in the mail.

Done! The registration renewal is officially a thing of the past. Nothing wrong with that, right? Technically no, but this is incredibly boring, don’t you think? Part of procrastination is injecting some self-imposed drama into what would otherwise be a mundane task. Clocks tick, adrenaline pumps,and you panic (or is it the other way around--the panic causes the adrenaline to pump? Well if I'm wrong, I'm sorry, and we'll just call it creative liberty.)

Here’s how a procrastinator handles a registration renewal:

Receive notification, think: Has it been two years already? Well, the sticker says “09.” I guess it really has been two years.

Lament over the passage of two years.
Stick envelope on the dresser. It’s been two years, but this is the beginning of May and technically the registration is good till the end of May. Plenty of time!

A week later, glance at the notification while searching for some other piece of mail. Oh yeah that, you think, but it’s still pretty early in the month.

Three weeks later while away from home, the thought pops into your head: Don’t you have to renew your registration? Then you think: damn it, one more thing on the credit card. I just bought two new tires and I still have to pay for that registration.

Two days out from expiration: Better renew it soon. I’ll do it Sunday. I won’t forget.

Day of expiration: Luckily this hotel has wireless internet access. Let me log in and renew that registration.

Upon seeing that the title number is required: Damn it, that’s at home.

D-Day: After renewing (and printing out temp tag since the stickers will need some time to arrive): That took less than five minutes. Why did I put it off?


Do you just check "I agree?"

hen youre accessing software, or a website, or something that has some legal document provided for your review, do you actually read that agreement, or do you click agree and get on with it. It's okay, you can be honest. I won't tell.

We all know it's a good idea to read the fine print, but what happens when the fine print would take roughly 1-2 hours of reading to complete? Should you just check "I agree" and hope you didn't promise the impossible?

I was downloading a song from itunes when the "Terms and Conditions" popped up. I've agreed to these multiple times now, but every time there is a software update, you have to re-agree all over again. I'm guessing the document is revised with each update, but I've never stopped to actually check. I read the first few lines (usually IN ALL CAPS), my eyes glaze over and I check the "I agree to these terms and conditions" box so I can download my song. This time around, I scrolled to the bottom. As my mouse hovered over the "I agree" check box, I noticed words that had nothing to do with downloading movies, music or podcasts. I went to the printable version to make sure I wasn't seeing things. There, at the very bottom of the document, was the following statement:

"You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, missiles, or chemical or biological weapons."

Unfortunately I had already checked "I agree." There go my plans for the weekend.


Fortunate mishaps

A couple of weeks ago, I was heading home along my usual route. I pulled up to the house and saw that the other car was parked at a diagonal in front of the garage, which meant, a) park elsewhere, b) park elsewhere, get out and move other vehicle, get back in car and park in usual space inside of the garage or c) call husband and try not to sound too annoyed while asking him to please move the other vehicle.

I went for option b. I backed up my car, yanked on the parking brake and exited. Then I heard the hissing noise. I circled the back of the car and found that the tire on the rear of the driver’s side was hissing! Oh! Air leak! I knelt down for closer inspection and saw the shrapnel embedded in the tire. By now, my husband had emerged to move the other vehicle. “Take it to Pep Boys. You’d better hurry.” He said.

I hopped back in and drove across the street to Manny, Moe and Jack’s place (yes, I live right by Pep Boys as well as many other fine retail and service establishments—it is generally a plus to have so much available at such close range, but sometimes it’s a curse. But this time it was a plus.). With hazards blinking, I rolled into the parking lot with just enough time to spare before it went completely flat. If it had happened just a few weeks later, I could say that I made it to thirty-four years of age without catching a flat. Oh well.

Here’s the lucky part—I didn’t break down on the road. If I had, I don’t think fix-a-flat would have saved me. Why do I have fix-a-flat? Because the supercharger in the already small engine compartment effectively pushed the battery to the back of the car, where in non-supercharged models, the spare would have gone. This is why the car comes with runflats as standard issue. But runflats wear out, and when mine did, I went with four conventional tires that cost almost exactly what one standard issue run flat would have cost. It was a gamble, and if I had to catch a flat, I caught it in the best possible location. Well, no, the best possible location would have been IN the Pep Boys parking lot, so getting a flat tire at home was the second best location.

What are the chances of two unlucky things happening in relatively good circumstances? Well last month it happened twice. I was sound asleep on Thursday night when my husband’s voice woke me up. “Are you running the water? There’s water coming into the living room.”

Half –asleep, I got up and checked the sink. It was definitely not running. I reached under the sink and twisted one of the valves (I did this not knowing if I was accomplishing anything, I just did it to fulfill that urgent need to Do Something)

Then I went downstairs to see what was going on. Water spouted from the ceiling in the spots where the fire extinguisher/sprinkler, the light fixture and the smoke detector were hooked in. The smoke detector sounded off. I watched the ceiling go from dry white to damp gray as the water spread. Back upstairs, the hallway carpet was sopping wet. I pulled towel after towel from the linen closet in a weak attempt to soak it up.

How is this lucky?

We were home when this happened.

My husband fell asleep on the living room sofa. It happens sometimes. I usually go to bed early, while he stays up late. Sometimes he just thinks he can stay up late, but sleep catches him anyway. If he had been upstairs with me, we probably would have slept through all of it. For once, sleeping on the couch was actually a good thing.