Archive for April, 2010

Pride and Prejudice

April 29, 2010

Late yesterday afternoon the doorbell rang. I don’t always answer the door when I am home alone, but I was expecting a delivery of some plants, so I went to get the door. I live in Utah, and most of my neighbors are Mormon, so I don’t get the boys in black suits trying to proselytize me. The neighbors gave it the old college try when we first moved in, we firmly and pleasantly turned down their invitations to ward and stake activities, and we have co-existed in a friendly but distant way. We wave at each other when we drive by, and we have gone to a couple of block parties. We all keep to ourselves.

Yesterday the guy standing on my front steps was dressed in a too large, black puffy coat – it was cold and rainy. He grinned at me and said, “Isn’t it a fine Wednesday afternoon, Mama? You having a fine Wednesday afternoon?”. I nodded. The hook was in. I was engaged. He was very large and very black. Which I am sorry I have to mention, but this is whitebread Utah, where almost everybody is white or Hispanic, so you tend to notice things like a huge black guy standing on your porch, grinning and talking a mile a minute. He rattled off a series of questions and patter, and I stepped out on to the porch with the storm door sheltering me. He told me his name and that he was from Milwaukee, and commented on the mountains around us and asked a bunch of questions that he answered himself, frequently holding his hand out for a knuckle bump or a palm slap. He told me his age and that he was from the “hood”. I managed to cut through it to ask what he was selling – what else would he be doing here on my front steps? This led to a monolog on my fine neighborhood, my fine house, and who cleaned my fine house? Aha, we were getting down to brass tacks. He whipped out a spray bottle from behind him and proceeded to take the tarnish off my brass doorknob. He showed me the check one of my neighbors had given him, mentioned her name and how he’d taken the fingerprints off her appliances. He was pressuring me to define my worst cleaning problem so he could come in and show me how his product would take care of it. Uh uh. No way. Not coming in my house. Sorry folks, I am not letting any strange guy come in my home and inspect my carpets or mildew or windows, even if he is black and the liberal part of me wants to prove I am not prejudiced. I am also not stupid. Part of me detached and watched this whole situation, while part of me managed to stay afloat amidst the jive and chatter.

I am a generally a hard sell. I don’t let phone solicitors or door-to-door folks get very far with their spiels before I turn them down firmly and finally. I have walked out of home refinance deals when they changed some numbers. I have left car dealerships when I felt too pressured. After one bad experience, I turn down the sad looking guys who try to sell me tamales in the grocery store parking lot. I have also, and this is important, fought off an assailant who tried to rape me in a laundromat. I have radar. I have developed a “spider sense”, and I know when a situation makes me uncomfortable, to listen to my gut. My gut was doing spirals and nosedives yesterday. I cut through the bullshit. I said, “I’ll take it”. We did not dicker about the special one time offer and future deliveries. I’d made my stand. One bottle of the stuff. That was it. As I turned to go back in the house to get my checkbook, he said, “What you snackin’ on in there, Mama? Peanut butter and jelly?”. Huh? Did I smell like peanut butter? What was this? Turns out he was asking for food. “Haven’t eaten all day”, he said. I stood there dumbfounded, and then said I had some cheese. “Yeah, cheese and meat, that’d be good”. Like a robot, I went in the house, closed the door behind me, and went to cut some cheddar and put it in a baggie along with some Triscuits and some pepperoni. I took a deep breath and went back outside and handed over the baggie, and sat down on the front steps to write a check. I didn’t have enough cash, and wasn’t about to use a credit card. I told him he was some salesman. I tried to reclaim some control, but it wasn’t easy. I was so done with this whole situation, and now I wanted it over. I noticed the neighbor across the street glance over as he retrieved his trash can. That comforted me. Then we had to go through the whole “would I be around later, when he delivered the goods?” I hedged. We negotiated that he would leave it on the porch. I closed the front door and locked it with a huge sense of relief.

I was not proud of myself in one way, but I was in another. I felt like I had survived a whirlwind, and while I capitulated, I had minimized the damage. I could afford to buy the exorbitant cleaning solution. I had wrested some control over the situation and cut the whole experience short. I knew exactly how I’d been played, and how I felt subtly intimidated, and I didn’t like it one bit. My self esteem took a beating. I had to recognize the fact that the guy was black, put a whole ‘nother spin on the situation. I didn’t like it, but facts are facts. I did the best I could do, under the circumstances. But there I was, alone and uneasy in my home, feeling like I needed to lock doors, floundering around, way out of my comfort zone. Had I been in Utah too long? Was I turning into a nervous, middle-aged white lady? Well, I cut that whole train of thought off at the station. Sometimes it just is what it is. I got in the car and went out to the store, buying myself a little distance and some deli turkey. Gave myself a chance to decompress. On the way home, I noticed another black guy in a puffy black coat standing on a corner with a bottle of cleaning solution. He smiled and waved, and I waved back. Sometimes, it just is what it is. Deal with it.

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Spring Interlude

April 23, 2010

His eyes met mine in the rearview mirror. I bit my lip. I didn’t know when I’d see him again. I’d stolen a few days away from my husband – to visit family, I said. As I drove away, I thought about the long walks we’d taken. The way he loved it when I stroked his head as he lay it in my lap. The intense way he watched my every move, ready to do anything, just to spend time with me. His brown eyes were so eloquent, and I swear I could see sadness in them as I pulled out of the driveway. Then I thought about the cute way he kind of growled in his throat when my attention wandered. And the goofy way he looked when he caught a donut on his nose. Yep. I would miss Riley, the Wonder Dog, Border Collie extraordinaire. I’m a cat person, but that dog and I dote on each other.

So. Mr. GG and I just got back from a road trip. He went to the Society for American Archaeology meetings in St. Louis, and I drove on to Illinois to visit my siblings. Guess who had the best time? Moi. It was summer in Illinois – like 80 degrees warm, sun shining, spring busting out all over, flowers blooming. And my family is wonderful. I lucked out in the genetics end of things. I cherish the time I get to spend with them.

And I really like road trips with Mr. GG. We always talk and laugh and want to stop at the same places. Except for maybe, Holiday Inns. He gets bonus points for staying at Holiday Inns, and they give you free breakfast (which Mr. GG goes down the elevator to get, bringing me back coffee to wake me up, and yogurt and cinnamon rolls). But this time, the universe was messing with Holiday Inns. In Nebraska, we stopped really late, and the one we got to about 10 p.m. had a broken key machine, so very few people were staying there. Because this sweet girl named Heather had to unlock both the outer door and the room door with her master key anytime we left the room. Luckily we were too tired to make multiple trips to the car or to the restaurant.

And the next night in Wyoming, the Holiday Inn there had fixed their key machine (It had broken the night before too – whoa, is someone hacking Holiday Inn computers?). But they had no hot water. When we tried to call the front desk, the phones didn’t work. The phone fix was easy – someone had disconnected all the lines in the room, but we had to wait for morning for hot water. Inconvenient, but small glitches in the overall scheme of things.

After presenting at a session, and listening to countless other sessions by archaeologists from all over the country, Mr. GG had a LOT to tell me. He went on a lot about hermaneutical injustice, which is something to do with the way your language prejudices you to cultural stuff. I don’t even know if I spelled it right. It kinda went in one ear, and then dissipated in my brain. But the thing that caught my fancy was some paper on fecal analysis – somebody figured out that the presence of a particular type of fungus in the soil is an indicator that you had prehistoric elephants in the vicinity. The stuff is called Dung Fungus. Which sounds like a wonderful swear word to me. Except when you try to say it fast, it can come out like Fundungus. Still, I can see this being added to my repertoire of insults. “You stupid dung fungus!”, I imagine myself cursing the driver in front of me who makes a left turn way after the light turns red (this situation is endemic when one drives in Utah).

Much as I love road trips, I love to be home. My tulips and hellebores were blooming up a storm, and I had one day to appreciate them before it snowed. Stupid fungdungus weather.

Aging for Dummies

April 3, 2010

I used to whine because you got babies without an instruction manual. You had to figure out which gurgles were significant, and how to know when they were hungry or wet, or why they were crying – with no safety net, or checklist with bullet points. Once they handed that little bundle over to you at the hospital and sent you on your way, you were on your own. Mr. GG and I came home with the Baby, called everyone we knew, and then sat around and waited to see what happened next. And were busy ever since, since incredible stuff happens and you have to cope. It’s worth it, of course. I’m pretty sure the Baby is my Master Work in life.

I know they make guides for raising teenagers, cause I read lots of them. What I didn’t know was that I was gonna need a manual for myself. I figured I would just kinda slide into old age, suffering a few glitches, losing some agility and momentum, drying up and crinkling here and there. Wrong. This week I found out about eyes. I already knew when you hit 40 or so, your vision got worse and most people need glasses or bifocals. What nobody told me, was about floaty things.

One evening last week, I start seeing flashes of light and then get all these floaters in my right eye. Well, I had rubbed my eyes, after I held a friend’s cat. But those things were annoying. I kept focusing on all these little black threads instead of whatever I was looking at, and gave myself a headache. The next day when this stuff didn’t go away, I Googled it. Okay, you know that was probably a serious mistake… Google always leads me to the worse case scenario, so I slid right into panic when several sites said this flashy, floaty stuff could sometimes lead to blindness. I was pretty close to full fledged panic, and calling around to eye doctors to see how worried I should be. A really nice surgeon got me in that afternoon, and shone a zillion lights into my eyes and put numbing and dilating drops into my eyes and said I was lucky. It was not a detached retina. It was something else that is pretty normal and a RESULT OF AGING. Gooey stuff in your eyeball gets little hard pieces – don’t ask for details because that stuff makes me queasy – and makes you see spider webs and little flakes. You don’t have to worry till the flashes of light (which, by the way, you see even with YOUR EYES CLOSED!) turn into meteor showers and a dark curtain falls across some portion of your vision. Then you get to medical help asap. Meanwhile, you know those floaty things? You get used to them. Yep, that is the answer, sooner or later your brain adapts to them and they don’t bother you. I am still waiting to get to that adapting part, but I am relieved to know I am not going blind. Ordinarily I would take this in stride, but I still have to show up at the doctors this week for the fishing expedition into my uterus for the missing copper spring, and then that check up with the neurologist the next day…. seems like a lot of doctors appointments for stuff that just happens.

However, I am forcing myself into Pollyanna mode, and I am going to be glad for all the things that AREN’T wrong with me. I think I’ll do it alphabetically. You know – A, I’m glad I don’t have anaphylaxis, B, I’m glad I don’t have beri beri or bursitis, C, I’m glad I don’t have cancer, D, distemper. I’ll keep going through stuff, being grateful I don’t have emphysema, irritable bowel syndrome, male pattern baldness, reflux and so on till I get to whatever awful thing starts with Z. And if I am still not feeling perkier, I will start all over again.

But it would have helped it I had known stuff like this happened to people. If the human body is prone to these sorts of system failures, don’t you think someone might have mentioned it? Why isn’t there a check list? Huh? At this rate, I will be compiling my own checklist to spare those younger than I am the kind of hypochondria/hysteria that I have been enduring. So if you noticed I haven’t been blogging lately, it is because those little black spider webs make it a pain to type. Don’t worry, I am sure my brain is adapting, and I will be back to yiping about life in no time.