Monday, November 26, 2012

A Reunion . . . in a Gated Community

On Saturday night, within 20 seconds of turbulently landing back on U.S. soil, I reached for my phone to check my messages while this tough cookie of an airplane taxied toward its gate. I immediately responded to a missed text from one of my besties, casually mentioning that I’d just touched down at Newark Airport.

She wrote back that she was about to get on a plane in D.C. and her connecting flight was scheduled to arrive at Newark Airport in 90 minutes. Throughout our 15-year friendship, a remarkable range of words have passed between the two of us. This “meet me at the diner in Terminal C” thread was a new one.

In my inaugural blog post, I alluded to having more outlandish stories than most people I know. The “most people I know” qualification had this Jersey-bound friend in mind. She is someone whose stories can consistently top mine.

After a lively dinner, I dropped her off at her next flight’s boarding gate. I wanted to stand by the window and wave goodbye as her plane backed up and started taxiing toward the runway - that’s what my dad used to do with me, during the feel-free-to-escort-your-party-directly-to-the-gate era. But the line of passengers waiting to board my party’s connecting flight was as long as a Grateful Dead show and I needed to race downstairs to confirm that my suitcase – which had been sitting, unattended, in the baggage claim area for 4 hours - hadn’t become the subject of another outlandish tale.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful (A Word You Don’t Hear Enough This Time of Year)

During my younger years, there was one Thanksgiving dinner at my house where we went around the dining-room table and each person had to say what s/he was thankful for. Now that I think about it, I was most likely the instigator of the exercise and my inspiration had been a touching scene from a made-for-TV movie. 

The adults’ answers (“good health” and “this family” were tied for #1) seemed vague and dull. Nobody bothered to elaborate much, and that was what I found disappointing. I’m a stickler for specificity and a sucker for statements peppered with colorful details.

I’ve been incredibly anxious these past few days, dealing with and dwelling on all I need want to get done before this week’s holiday. But what’s calming me down, more effectively than the Tension Tamer tea which has actually played a part in riling me up (don’t have enough time or stamina to get into that one right now), is the memory of those self-assured faces around that long-gone Thanksgiving table, when no one felt a pressing need to focus their core concerns on anything (careers, errands, bills, transportation-related inconveniences, grievances with acquaintances) beyond “health and family.”  

I’m in reasonably good health; although I wish more members of the clan were still living, I have my family; I have a set of other loved ones who have become an extension of my family; all of these people are currently in reasonably good health. Nothing else needs to be said, other than that the type of stress I’m presently feeling is a sign of great fortune.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Sweet and the Shameless

I’m proud of being a pretty good listener. If I had stuck with my late-adolescent ambition of becoming a child/adolescent psychologist, the couch I would have carefully chosen for my office would be plush, pastel, and the talk of the professional community.

I exchanged pleasantries with a boy who could pass for a late adolescent the other night. He’d been sitting on a bench near a sidewalk I turned onto, and when he stood up to nervously approach me I thought he was going to ask for money. I would have given him as much as one dollar - reward money for his spectacularly sweet disposition.

He pulled out his phone, held up a picture of a young woman, and asked if I thought his girlfriend was beautiful.

I’d rather have been asked for that dollar. She is beautiful, but what sidewalk stranger is going to come back with “not really” to such a question?  

He and the 24-year-old girlfriend are two of the new kids in town. They moved to New York to build her street cred as an actress. She has been turned down from the fourth Broadway show she’s auditioned for, thinks it might be due to her recent weight gain, and fears she has no future. (Sometimes I feel so honored to no longer be 24, or any age before rolling with the rejections became second nature.)

The boyfriend is distraught about the girlfriend being distraught. He followed me home and told me everything. I was fine with it until the photos he insisted on sharing went from tasteful to scantily clad. I tried getting rid of him by tiring him out, walking faster than usual, taking him up and down stairs and hills. He barely lost his breath.

All in all, we had a constructive session. He thoughtfully listened to my advice on how to remain a source of emotional encouragement. He also ate up my "This Is a World That Hates Women" sermon, which I delivered from the top of a hill we climbed.

They’re considering therapy. So am I, after some of the pictures I saw. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

‘Twas the Night Before Election Day

I have blood relatives who belong to the Tea Party and blood relatives who belong to the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Even though a few might not believe it, I love them all.

After work on Monday, I went to a local Obama campaign office to phone bank voters in Ohio. I was in no mood to do more work after work, and had Should I go? Should I go? Should I go? on replay in the back of my mind all day.
Reader, I went. Could you imagine if I didn’t go and Romney ended up winning Ohio? My conscience (which is all I have) would be in shambles.
Midway through the Welcome-to-the-Computerized-Phone-Calling-System presentation, the guy sitting in front of me, who had already been acting up for awhile, answered his ringing phone and loudly caught up with his caller. He looked pissed and surprised when another trainee looked, pissed and surprised, his way. The rattled trainer sighed and continued presenting. When the guy got off the phone, he barely paid attention to the rest of the demo because why would he want to do that in lieu of making menacing faces at the woman who’d made a face at him?

The Republicans wouldn’t let an unmistakable liability like this lay a hand on a phone connected to their campaign’s computerized system (to call registered voters in a crucial battleground state on the eve of a neck-and-neck presidential election?) and wouldn’t care whose feelings got hurt. Here, no one kindly but firmly sent this guy off, assuring him that the polls would open at 6 a.m. and the machinery looks forward to tabulating his vote.

Training concluded, the computerized system temporarily shut down, and we were told to sit tight. The only snacks I saw were a box of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins, a bag of stale bagels, and an open container of a spread that may or may not have been hummus. At least one phone-banker, and you know who I’m talking about, may or may not have swept at least one finger through it.

The joint was packed. After an hourlong wait, when it was clear they wouldn’t be ready for me to start making calls anytime soon, if at all, I’d had enough. My time is dear to me – it’s all I have. (Or was that the conscience? I have 2 things – my conscience and my time.) I excused myself (pretending to take an urgent personal call, although the phone I held hadn’t rang, beeped, or vibrated), disappeared through the first set of open elevator doors, and made it home in time for the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills season premiere. But the most beautiful thing I've seen on TV all week came last night at 1 a.m. and took the form of four words: Mitt Romney Concession Speech.

Mitt could use a munchkin. Who couldn’t?