Monday, November 12, 2012

Just One of Those Things You Always Remember

I was fourteen then and in the ninth grade.

Back in the Mid-Jurassic Period, students were allowed to leave the school grounds for lunch. On that particular day, I was walking to the diner with a friend who was in the eighth grade. I’ll call her Lily, but that wasn’t her real name.

We were halfway there, when Lily stopped in the middle of the street, grabbed my arm, pulled me closer, and whispered in my ear, “See that guy coming toward us.”

How could I not see that guy coming toward us? He looked nasty—scowl on his face, black leather jacket, tight jeans. The word hood popped into my head.

“That’s [Tough Guy],” Lily said. 

Although I hadn’t been formally introduced to Tough Guy, I knew some things about him, and they were not good things. He was a person whose reputation preceded him.

“He had to get married,” Lily whispered as he strutted past us. “Now he has to get divorced because he has to get married again.”

Yikes, I thought. “That’s crazy,” I said. “And anyway, maybe you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.”

Actually, Lily sort of heard right. The timing was a little off though. Tough Guy did get divorced within a few months. And he did have to get married again, but that happened about five years later.

He married Lily.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ain't Misbehaving Much

When I was growing up in the Mid-Jurassic Period, my friends and I looked forward to wearing costumes and going from house to house on trick or treat night. We enjoyed doing this every Halloween until the year I was in the ninth grade. That year, we got a lecture instead of treats. A woman at the first house we went to yelled at us, saying we were too old for trick or treat. “You should be ashamed of yourselves,” she said before telling us to go home.

That woman took all the fun out of trick or treat night. But, even though she turned us away, we never even thought about playing tricks on her. We didn’t go to any other houses. We were afraid that those people would also turn us away. We went home empty handed, figuring that our trick or treat years were over.

They weren't. Sort of.

The next year, my friends and I came up with an idea to have what we considered a little harmless Halloween fun. We decided to do some window waxing, but we wanted to make it easy for people to clean up. We knew that removing wax from windows was a chore; so we “borrowed” bars of soap from home. About 8 p.m., we went to check out the window-waxing possibilities on the main street of a neighboring town. (Yeah, in retrospection, that was sort of dumb.) That town was larger than the one where we lived. We figured we wouldn’t be recognized if we were caught in the act.

While my friends scouted out their territories, I claimed a spot in front of a TV repair shop that had a Closed sign in the window. I could see a light at the back of the shop, behind an open door that led to what was, most likely, office space. Probably left the light on to discourage thieves, I thought.

I started spinning soap circles all over the window. A few minutes later, I glanced up and saw a man standing in the back of the shop. He was laughing, but I freaked out anyway. I dropped the soap and took off. I found my friends, and we got the heck out of there.

From then on, I behaved. Well, at least on Halloween.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bus Lines: They Can't Arrest You, but They Can Shoot You

I’ve been a bus rider since I was thirteen. Yes, I do have a driver’s license, a brand new one, actually (lousy picture, but thank you, California). However, I’ve found that, for me anyway, using public transportation is more convenient most of the time. I don’t have to worry about finding a parking space or dealing with distracted drivers, meandering pedestrians, and a variety of emergency vehicles. And riding the bus is less expensive than adding a second vehicle to the household.
Several times during the week, I’ll take the neighborhood bus to the downtown transit center (DTC). From there, I’ll walk to either the library, Starbucks, or Barnes & Noble. All three are within reasonable walking distance, and I can use the exercise. I don’t know who or what created the bus schedules, but whoever or whatever was responsible for them did a great job. Most of the buses arrive at and later leave the DTC at the same time. If I want to travel to one of the outlying shopping centers or to another city, I generally have a short wait before transferring to another bus.
Once in a while, the neighborhood bus runs late, and I miss my connection. That’s when I spend twenty or thirty minutes doing some serious people watching. Hey, it’s a bus station, and bus stations do tend to attract “interesting” people. I try to be inconspicuous when observing fellow bus riders (or the individuals who seem to just hang out there every day). I admit that I sometimes pull a notebook and pen out of my backpack and jot down my observations. Discreetly, of course.
Well, no one has asked me why I’m taking notes. Not yet.
Several individuals roaming around the area have (unsuccessfully) asked me for money, but people usually mind their manners. So far, I haven’t witnessed anything wilder than a man screaming obscenities at no one in particular. (I moved away from that one pretty darn fast.)
Last week, I overheard a driver and a passenger discussing a fellow who has been permanently banned from the DTC. Among other things, he made inappropriate suggestions to a female bus driver. “It takes a lot to get you banned from the transit center,” the driver said. “Whenever that guy shows up, we call security.”
Security, in this case, is the transit police. The transit police can enforce rules, resolve conflicts, and order people off the property. Sounds like they mean business, and they do. However the business they’re allowed to mean is rather limited. I recently learned that the transit police are not authorized to make arrests. In the event of a serious issue (I don't want to even imagine what that might be), they must send an SOS to the city police. That seems a bit odd because the transit police are armed.

Hmm…. So they can’t arrest you, but they can shoot you.

Monday, September 03, 2012

They're Watching You, Me, and Everyone Else

Recently, I walked into a well-known office supply store, politely declined offers of help from two eager-beaver sales associates, and headed to the ink cartridge display. Right away, something seemed off. Then it dawned on me that there weren’t any ink cartridges on the shelves, just rows of tickets where the cartridges should have been. The tickets read: Take ticket and bring to register.

I didn’t see a ticket for the cartridge I needed, so I convinced myself that the store didn’t sell that type. Or was out of it. Or something. Yes, I could have asked, but I wasn’t that desperate to spend twenty-five dollars. My printer wasn’t in imminent danger of running out of ink. I thought it might be nice to have a spare, but it really wasn’t that important.

So I abandoned my original plan and wandered into the school supplies area, searching for cheap notebooks and other bargains. After telling a third sales associate that I was “just looking,” I decided that I didn’t see anything I wanted to spend my money on. And, anyway, Other Half was waiting impatiently in the vehicle.

On my way out, I stopped to rummage through the sale bins near the front of the store. That’s when I noticed that the cashier was wearing a headset. Hmm, when did that start? I didn’t remember seeing a cashier wearing a headset on my previous visits. I figured she was on the phone with a customer until I heard her say, “Woman in pink flowered shirt and black slacks heading in the direction of the copy and print area.”

Yes, she was describing a customer who had just entered the store. And she wasn’t being quiet about it either. I wasn’t that close to the register. However, I had no trouble hearing the cashier as she alerted the troops. I thought it was more than likely that the woman in the pink flowered shirt and black slacks had heard her too.

Looking around, I spotted several other associates who were also wearing headsets. Oh, I had noticed employees wearing headsets in other stores. But I had never heard of store personnel using them to track each customer the minute he or she stepped into the store. Although I suspected that this was some new security measure, I thought it was a bit annoying.

I was even more annoyed when I realized that the employees must have tracked every move I made. Now I knew why an associate seemed to pop up every time I turned sideways. Silly me. I had thought they were simply being overzealous because, at that time, there seemed to be more employees than customers in the store. I wondered if my very laid-back outfit, an oversized white T-shirt and well worn faded jeans, tagged me as a potential shoplifter.

As I headed to the door, the cashier noticed me and asked if I had found everything I was looking for. My first instinct was to suggest that she should be more discreet when describing customers and their likely destinations. But I was brought up to be nice. So I told her what I wanted, adding that the store apparently didn’t carry that type of ink cartridge.

“Oh,” she said, pointing at the wall behind the registers, “we have those.”

Okaaaay. I’m in that store at least once a week. How could I have not noticed all those shelves stacked with what seemed like a half-zillion ink cartridges? “Have people stolen a lot of those?” I asked.

The cashier nodded.

As she handed me the receipt for my purchase, another customer walked into the store. “Man wearing plaid shirt and carrying messenger bag, heading toward computers,” she announced to the outlying associates.

“Wow,” I said, “you really must have a lot of shrinkage in this store.”

“Yes,” she said, “we do.”

Sadly, I understood why. Although I like certain stores in that area, it’s not the greatest neighborhood. I realize that it’s in the store’s best interest to maximize security in order to minimize losses. However, tracking every customer who walks in the door just seems too tacky and a tad disrespectful. And that policy probably will not encourage people to shop there.

On the way home, I imagined how the cashier might have described me: Woman wearing jeans, a tan bucket hat, and a white T-shirt that reads Saguaro Romance Writers. She’s dragging a blue rolling back pack. Stopped at the ink cartridge tickets. Hmm … looks confused.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Must Rescue Newspaper---Again

When we moved from Arizona, I thought my days of “rescuing” the newspaper were over. So not true. I still have to take in the newspaper first thing in the morning, which currently means around 5 a.m. These days, however, all I have to do is open the door and pick it up—providing that it’s there, of course.

Arizona was a different story. Prior to escaping from the desert heat, we spent almost fourteen years living in a small apartment complex. Hoping to discourage door-to-door solicitors and other perceived undesirables, The Powers That Be fenced in the property around 2006. Until then, the newspaper delivery guy (NDG) dropped the newspaper at our back door. After the fence went up, NDG was literally on the outside looking in.

Other Half (OH) was most unhappy. He just couldn’t do without his morning newspaper. So I called the circulation office and told the customer service representative what NDG would have to do in order to keep OH from cancelling his subscription. I wasn’t too hopeful, but the CSR went for it, probably after considering the decline in newspaper sales.

For the next four or five years, each weekday morning around 6 a.m., NDG wheeled into the unfenced part of the driveway, leaped out of his SUV, and lobbed the newspaper over the exit gate where, I suspect, it ricocheted off the neighbor’s bedroom window.

Each weekday morning around 6:15 a.m., I trudged out to the parking lot and picked up the newspaper. On weekends, NDG had the courtesy to show up at 7 a.m., which was great, because I had no intention of getting up early on those days to rescue a newspaper that I suspected wasn’t worth the price of the subscription.

The newspaper usually was right where it should be. But maybe ten or twelve times a year, it went AWOL. Most of those times, I’m sure it wasn’t delivered for some legitimate reason. Maybe NDG got sick halfway through the route, maybe he ran out of newspapers, or maybe he was on vacation and the substitute NDG didn’t have a clue as to who got a newspaper.

At other times, I’m fairly certain that another tenant grabbed the newspaper. Why? Well, some days I’d hear someone walking through the parking lot, or I’d hear a car stop and a door slam before the car drove out of the yard. And then, when I went out to pick up the newspaper, it wasn’t there.

When the newspaper goes AWOL here, in the land of better weather, I figure it’s just an oversight on the part of the current NDG. Maybe he’s on vacation. (I’m fairly sure it’s a he because the newspaper is delivered around 4 a.m.) Or maybe he’s sick. Or something.

And, anyway, this is a 55-plus apartment complex. I’d really like to believe that 55-plus persons ceased pilfering newspapers years ago.

But then again, who knows?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bus Lines: Viewer Discretion Advised

People should use discretion when posting on Facebook and other social media sites. Everyone knows that, or everyone should. And everyone also should know how to exercise a little discretion and a lot of common sense when sharing personal information in public places.
For example, take this little scenario that happened recently.
A woman got on the bus, plopped into the seat in front of me, and called a friend. I'll call the woman Loud Lady, because she was. “You'll never guess who I slept with last night,” Loud Lady said.
Ears perked up at the front of the bus; a couple of heads swiveled around.
I wondered if the friend guessed right.
“No,” Loud Lady said, giggling, “not the one I’ve been going out with. The other one.”
Oops. After that news flash, the woman realized she had a captive audience. She probably figured it out when she noticed several passengers glaring at her, including the woman accompanied by three small children.
“Well, I guess everyone on the bus heard that,” Loud Lady told her friend.
“Yep, we sure did,” the fellow sitting across from her piped up.
I thought about advising her to try texting the next time she has a news flash.
I thought about it, but I didn’t.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How Did This Happen?

Last week, I received a catalog from a jewelry making supply company. I’ve ordered items from this company six or seven times during the last twenty years. Although I haven’t ordered anything from it in at least two years, I find a sale catalog from the company in the mailbox three or four times a year.

So I wasn’t surprised to get the catalog. What surprised me was that it was addressed to me at my new location. No, there wasn’t a yellow sticker from the USPS attached to it with my forwarding address. And anyway, I don’t think the post office forwards catalogs.

My current address was printed on the back of the catalog? I haven’t notified the company regarding my change of address, and I don’t plan to do so unless I order something from it online.

So now I’m wondering: How did that company get my new address? And who or what else has it?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Date Did NOT Set My Best Friend on Fire

One February, way back when we were teens, my best friend, Kate, talked me into yet another blind date. The guy she liked lived ten miles away. He didn’t have a car, but his friend did. We met the guys at a nearby restaurant where we sat and talked for a couple hours.

Well, Kate and “Donnie” talked for a couple hours.

As for me, I wished that I had stayed home and read a good book. My date, I’ll call him “Joe,” was not someone my parents would have approved of. I won’t go into details, but I did notice that he had a lot of gray in his hair. I suspected that he had probably graduated from high school shortly after the end of World War II. Fortunately, Joe dozed off about twenty minutes after we were introduced.

Hey, I wasn’t that boring.

Thirty-plus years later, I wrote an anecdote about that bizarre double date and entered it in a Worst Date contest sponsored by a newspaper that no longer exists. Of course, being a writer, I, um, embellished the story a bit.

On Valentine’s Day, the newspaper published an article written by one of its reporters. The article included several worst date anecdotes submitted by readers (with no last names mentioned). Mine was the lead in. I knew it couldn’t miss. It began with, “My date set my best friend on fire.”

My entry related how Donnie had lit a cigarette and tossed the match into the ashtray. The hot match scored a direct hit on the cellophane cigarette wrapper, which burst into flames. I wrote that my dozing date woke up, assessed the situation, and started huffing and puffing. Thanks to Joe’s lung capacity, the mini torch went airborne and landed on Kate’s fuzzy black sweater.

Well, that was my story then, but I’m no longer sticking to it.

The reality: My date did not set my best friend on fire. I confess that I combined the blind date story with another “incident” that happened when Kate and I were at the restaurant a few months earlier. Yes, the ashtray fire really happened the way I wrote it, but Donnie and Joe were nowhere in sight.

Today, when friends read the tear sheet of that article, I tell them the truth: “Actually,” I say, “I’m the one who set Kate on fire.” But not to worry, Kate wasn’t hurt. Her sweater was only slightly singed, and the Pepsi stains came out in the wash.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Cinderella, Snow White, and the Elves (Yes, Elves)

Way back when I worked full time, a coworker told me about a research paper she had written for a college class. I don’t remember the name of the class—something to do with child psychology, most likely. Her subject was fairy tales.

I’ll call my coworker “Susan,” although that wasn’t her real name. Susan interviewed several women while researching her project. She asked each woman what her favorite fairy tale was when she was five years old.

According to Susan, whatever your favorite childhood fairy tale was, that’s how you thought your life was going to turn out. In other words, if your favorite fairy tale was Cinderella or Snow White, your five-year-old self figured you’d grow up, meet a handsome prince, and live happily ever after.


Unlike my friends in kindergarten, I wasn’t impressed by Cinderella or Snow White. I liked the story about the elves and the shoemaker. I thought it was really neat that the elves helped out the tired shoemaker and his wife by making shoes while the couple got a decent night’s sleep.

I guess my preference meant that, when I grew up, I thought I would find someone to do my chores for me. Chores like cooking and cleaning for example.

As it turned out, that did happen. Sort of. Other Half retired many years before I did. So, while I worked full time, he did most of the housework.

But no longer. Now that I’m retired from full-time work, Other Half figures that he’s retired from doing just about anything around the house.

So I do it all now. And I’ve accepted that. But I’m also beginning to suspect that the shoemaker took advantage of the elves.