O my God, You know that as a kid, I got fed up with my life. I threatened to join the circus — but Mom refused to drive me. Now I realize that with my lack of talent, I’d still be head shoveler for the elephants. OMG, thank You that Mom said no.
Some callers vibrate with the enthusiasm of an over-caffeinated game show host. I’ve won cruises, resort stays, free lunches at a funeral home! If I promise to die soon.
I also receive helpful calls from Tibetan yak milkers named Paul: “Your com-pu-ter sick. Do what I say.”
When a caller uses impressive cyber vocabulary, I apply my husband’s astute observation: we can’t reach IT when we need them. Now they’re calling us out of the goodness of their hearts?
Charity calls often are made by ladies who sound like my third-grade teacher. I’m so sorry, Mrs. Daugherty. But, unlike Congress, Hubby and I stay within our budget.
Other callers sound like Al Capone. Because I’ve hidden huge assets from the government, the IRS has custom-designed cement shoes for me. Unless I grant immediate access to my bank accounts, I will take up residence at the bottom of Lake Michigan.
So far, I haven’t had to develop gills.
Occasionally, though, I experience shortness of breath when asked to take “two-minute surveys” that morph into interrogations.
The worst part? They never want to take mine.
I’ve declared myself dead to a hundred insurance telemarketers. Still, they call.
Representatives whose mothers taught them manners inquire, “How are you?”
Since they’re nice enough to ask, I tell them.
“This weather bothers my knees something awful, though my aunt Tildy’s ankles gave her even more trouble. Goose grease worked, but it made her socks slide down. …”
When glum telemarketers call, I make every effort to cheer them: “I feel like singing! Hey, let’s sing together! A-one, a-two, a-three …”
Sadly, few join in belting out “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Despite their lack of patriotism — and my membership on the no-call list — phones keep ringing. Not only do telemarketers inundate my landline, but using local numbers, they now call my cell phone.
I’ve considered answering with heavy breathing.
Friends advise, “Don’t pick up! Ignore a number you don’t recognize.”
But such rude behavior would lower me to their level.
Besides, free speech is granted even to telemarketers. As long as they don’t use abusive language, they can call me.
(snicker) If they dare.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite turn-off-the-telemarketer technique?
Surely, no one deliberately planted flowers of such pathetic pedigree. These gangly commoners share none of the refinement of day lilies, their aristocratic cousins.
Whoever nurtured mine did not stop with signs. She/he invited them to surround the patio, where an army of orange sentinels stand at attention. Neither horizontal rain, windstorm, nor hail beat them down. Nothing short of a nuclear blast prevents their annual return.
I know this because their anonymous planter also nurtured them around our mailbox — until my husband, replacing it, obliterated the lily bulbs.
Undaunted, the invaders returned, only to be mowed down again and again. And again.
Stubborn? Worse than a gang of telemarketers.
Um … maybe the gardener who introduced the lilies wasn’t so dumb. Perhaps, like me, she/he was desperate. I had nicknamed that flower bed the “Sahara.”
Morning glories, petunias, zinnias, marigolds — none of my usual stalwarts had survived it. Would I have to comb the Internet for Martian cacti?
Instead, I planted lily shoots. Three days later, they had not shriveled.
Gasp! What had I done?
Yet, I could not yank them. I just … kind of forgot to water them.
Finally, the hopeful sprigs disintegrated into yellow July dust. I could forget my embarrassing temporary insanity.
Until the following March. Tiny, green leaves stuck out, na-na-na-boo-boo tongues that grew into spindly plants.
How could I pull them? They have flourished unpampered.
Though I wouldn’t mind if they conquered the crabgrass.
Vases chock full of lilies do brighten my mantels. My dining room table. My piano. …
All right, so my deep, dark secret is out.
I have plebian tastes. I like orange lilies.
These flowers scorn Better Homes and Gardens ratings. They grow in vacant lots, parking lots, behind Big Lots. Their determination to cover their world with beauty knows no limits.
Funny, her people bouquets consist of the unsung, too. She gathers needy children, cherishing beauty bypassed by others. Maybe the wealth of orange lilies edging her fence inspire her days.
As mine should.
Anyone blessed with orange-lilyfied street signs — even a dead-end one — is bound to see her world in a beautiful way.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What “plebian” flowers do you like?
Why flop like an emptied-out Raggedy Ann when I could soar like Peter Pan?
My parents, official killjoys of the universe, decreed I take naps, not turn somersaults. Lying still took 10 times more energy.
Why did those fun monkeys stop jumping on the bed just because of the doctor’s orders? The doctor also gave shots. Who in her right mind would trust him, anyway?
Despite adult meddling, children continue to jump on beds — until they graduate to trampolines.
In my first up-close-and-personal encounter with one in high school gym class, little-kid instincts came roaring back. This magic trampoline would morph me, with my uncoordinated-octopus body, into a graceful gymnast.
I climbed aboard. My P.E. teacher droned instructions.
What? I had to jump straight up and down? Teachers showed no more imagination than parents.
She called, “Try a knee drop.”
In order to wow the world and the guys’ class across the gym, I bounced …
“Take it easy,” she cautioned.
What did she know? Boom-ba-boom-ba—
I had just demonstrated before God — and the boys’ gym class — the land version of a face-busting, ego-crushing belly flop.
They all smothered grins.
My teacher didn’t smile. She checked to see if I was alive. Then she did her best to kill me.
Maybe the bouncy life wasn’t so great.
Fast-forward 40-plus years.
“Grandma, jump with us!” My grandsons, ages four and seven, bounce on their trampoline.
My jump-on-the-bed instincts pop up. Shedding shoes, I stare at the trampoline. Don’t these things come equipped with stairs now? Escalators? Cranes?
“Climb up,” one grandson urges.
The little one offers, “I help you, Gwandma!”
Finally, I sprawl over the edge.
“Ya-a-a-y! Jump!” Both shoot into the air like twin rockets. Boom-ba-boom-ba—
Bleeeaaah. My stomach jiggles. So does my bladder. My internal organs love gravity way, way too much.
Still, I play bounce tag with my grandsons for a few minutes. Will my body parts ever return to their original location?
Soon I resort to the usual grandma functions: applauding, refereeing and preventing the destruction of the universe — at least that of my grandchildren, their backyard and adjoining properties.
Finally, they flop onto their backs and I with them. We discuss why God made the sky blue and trees green, instead of the other way around.
The bouncy life is fun. But know what? This looks like a really good place … for a nap … zzzzz.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever tried to return to the bouncy life?
I spotted curlicue iron tables and chairs my size. Glass cases held hundreds of chocolates, hard candies and jelly beans. Had I reached heaven early? The adult friend who brought me confirmed this with ice cream I didn’t have to share.
Tired of the rock-hard chair, I pattered across the gleaming black-and-white floor to the counter’s red stools. They turned round and round! My friend’s objection didn’t surprise me. Even if a stool was designed to twirl, grown-ups always said you shouldn’t.
An enormous 1908 orchestrion — a self-playing pipe organ with drums, cymbals and triangles — fascinated me. Did jolly ghosts fill the high-ceilinged room with music?
Occasionally, Mama took us to Zaharakos. How I longed to dig into that pile of roasted cashews! But even a small packet cost too much.
My mother’s generation had frequented the place during their teens, so we cool adolescents of the 1960s avoided the fountain as if it radiated fallout. Still, celebrating my first job, I treated my little sister at Zaharakos.
I said grandly, “Order whatever you want.”
We ate huge sundaes. I played the orchestrion and bought cashews, toasty and delicious beyond belief.
Later, newly engaged, I chose fabulous Zaharakos candies for my future in-laws’ Christmas gift.
Fast-forward a few years to a visit by my mother. Adulting had drained away my coolness, so we visited Zaharakos. The mirrors gleamed, but the near-empty soda fountain’s stained counter, dull woodwork and damaged tin-patterned ceiling didn’t brighten our day.
Decades later, I shared a similar feeling when visiting the area. I stopped for a treat, but Zaharakos, a landmark since 1900, had closed. The orchestrion? Sold to a California collector.
Not long ago, though, as I traveled past my childhood hometown, something sent me off the interstate.
Miracles do happen.
Inside Zaharakos, red stools flanked gleaming, marble counters, and mirrors glimmered amid rich woodwork. Pint-sized curlicue tables and chairs again held little diners. The original orchestrion played, grand as ever.
She no longer remembered events of five minutes ago, but she recalled Zaharakos.
The soda fountain had worked its sweet magic once again.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite soda fountain treat?
Is road construction a good thing?
During my pre-driving days, I liked it, especially on long family trips. Bright-colored signs, flags, cones and barricades broke up eternal stretches of highway. Huge trucks, bulldozers, and graders growled and spouted smoke. Burly men (there were no women road construction workers then) drove the heavy equipment. Jackhammers appeared to enjoy breaking up Planet Earth. Lines of traffic snaked along roads, semitrailers’ air brakes whooshed and horns honked — all very exciting.
Road construction kept Dad and Mom occupied. Flapping maps, they forgot to monitor my siblings and me. When who-was-looking-at-whom crises arose, we kicked each other freely.
Dad’s mutterings soon graduated to addressing aloud the sins of fellow drivers and construction workers. A pastor, he did not swear. Instead, he called them Zeke, Pete, Cedric and Mephibosheth:
“Zeke and Cedric, are you going to yak all day? Or actually work?”
“Look out, Mephibosheth! Somebody else, take the wheel!”
He addressed irritating women drivers as Gertrude. Unless he was really mad. Then they became Sister Shumpett.
“Sister Shumpett, are you trying to send us to Jesus?!”
We kids loved the drama.
As an adult, I’m not so thrilled. Traveling anywhere during summer, I go crazy. Hostile plastic barrels target my car. I drive in reduced lanes that can’t accommodate a skateboard, let alone semis rocking around me.
Other drivers go crazy, too. Construction zones become existential: “I drive. Therefore, I am.”
Our Visa bills for gas support that mantra. But that’s all we know in construction areas, as highway signs become mere mirages. Drivers rocket past at warp speed. Others meander across skinny lanes as if they are middle-schoolers riding bikes on a summer afternoon. Pete, Cedric, Mephibosheth, Gertrude and Sister Shumpett are alive and well on summer highways in this millennium, too.
So how can I ask a stupid question like, “Is road construction good?”
Before you add my name to the above list, consider this: The only thing worse than road construction is no road construction. In the Bahamas, Hubby and I nearly drove into the sea because no one had bothered to barricade a washed-out road, let alone, fix it. In Ecuador, we smacked our skulls repeatedly on a bouncing truck’s ceiling, following la calle para burros (the road made for burros).
We’ve also driven in Michigan, a state whose annual highway repair budget is $15.83.
Unfortunately, for family reasons, we continue to drive in Michigan. I may soon pull our pop-up camper, as Hubby insists I learn to spell him.
Look out, Zeke, Pete, Cedric, Gertrude, and Sister Shumpett!
And you thought you already were going crazy.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: So … is road construction a good thing?