As one of those rare, and perhaps weird, individuals who actually pay attention to TV commercials, I have made the following observation. The mattress industry is out of control! Apparently, as a nation with approximately 70 million Americans suffering from some form of insomnia, we are fixated on getting a good night’s sleep. Anyone in the market for a new mattress today has my profound sympathy. Given the proliferation of choices, making the right decision is enough to cause anyone many wakeful hours.
If restless leg syndrome is keeping you awake, try the Purple Mattress. If vegan is your lifestyle, there’s Avocado Green, a mattress which is neither. And the good old Sleep Number so you and your partner can exist in harmony and never have to compromise. And if the partnership still dissolves, perhaps you can include your personal sleep number in your dating profile.
A while back, I wrote about my own struggles with insomnia. With all this focus on the perfect sleep, I thought it would be timely to revive it. Obviously, my head and tush were not in the perfect alignment required for a restful night. Or the memory foam had a senior moment. Perhaps if I had known about Casper in a Box, and/or My Pillow, my sleep deprivation would have been one less thing to complain about.
The Insomnia Games
I am not a competitive person. If I even so much as win at Scrabble, my inclination is to leap over the board, hug the loser, and say “sorry.” Yet, each morning, upon opening my eyes, I find myself engaged in a verbal duel.
I’m not exactly sure when this began. Perhaps it started on that critical birthday when one’s bladder decides to stop cooperating with one’s need for hydration and becomes demanding during the night in two-hour intervals. Which I think is very spiteful.
I’m reminded of my former dogs. When they aged, I’d remove their water bowls no later than 5:00 pm to prevent them from awakening me in the middle of the night. While I don’t have to go outside to pee, I’m definitely considering rolling back happy hour.
What’s referred to as “a good night’s sleep” has become elusive. My husband swears he hasn’t slept through the night since he was 10 months old. His parents are both deceased so I cannot confirm this report, but I do know that a factor in my sleepus interruptus is the glow of his iPad at some ungodly hour.
As a result of this pernicious insomnia, we’ve become quite competitive, constantly challenging each other as to who has had the worst night. A typical morning conversation might go something like this:
“How did you sleep?”
“Yeah, well, I slept worse.”
“I woke at 3:00 and haven’t slept since.”
“So? I woke at 2:50.”
“No you didn’t. I saw you. You were sound asleep.”
“I was pretending.”
“So how come you were snoring?”
“I had to go to the bathroom three times.”
“I went four….”
“Yeah, well, I had leg cramps.”
“I know. I heard you marching around the bedroom.”
“No you didn’t. You were sleeping.”
The verbal jousting is halted by the current dog, who is covering his ears, and our need for coffee, requiring someone leave the bed, usually me.
I’m sure competitive not-sleeping isn’t limited to us. At this stage of life sleep deprivation may be the latest status age-related deficit, edging out contenders like number of body part replacement, knowing the best doctors, and HDL scores. Instead, we discuss the virtues of Ambien over Lunesta, or how spraying lavender on your pillowcase is very soothing and will lull you to dreamland. I tried that. It resulted in a damp pillowcase and an allergy attack.
As for me, I’m tired, and want to withdraw from the game. I’d gladly relinquish the gold medal in exchange for a few nights of solid, restful sleep. And when my husband laments in the morning about how bad the night was, I’d gently pat his hand, commiserate, and try to refrain from gloating. After all, I’m not a competitive person.
No, I did not invent that word in the title. It’s real. But I’ll get to that in a moment. First, I have to own up to the fact that the subject of today’s essay is definitely a reflection of having entirely too much time on my hands.
Like everyone else, I don’t get around much anymore. (Hey, great song title!) I’m at home most of the time, unpacking my Amazon boxes and grocery delivery orders. Or living my so-called life on-line.
I fill my time with Zoom happy hours and clink my wine glass against the computer screen. I do virtual lectures, Ted Talks, museum tours around the world, including Margaret Mead’s habitat on Samoa. This last tour did not use up many idle minutes as she occupied a single room. But it was interesting, none the less.
I read, I stream, and watch entirely too much TV news, which lately has been focusing on the states with the most coronavirus cases. I wondered how the average Texan, Californian, or Floridian was coping, and were they living the same as I, in a primarily virtual world?
As I pondered about Texans and Californians, I had the eye-opening revelation that people from various states were able to be described by where they came from.
I used to live in New York. I was a New Yorker. I worked in New Jersey with mostly New Jerseyites. I’m currently a resident of Florida, so I’m a Floridian.
But I also once lived in Connecticut. So what was I then?
Texans come from Texas. Idahoans come from Idaho. Mainers came from Maine. But what do you call people who come from Connecticut?
Having no satisfactory answer to this burning question of regional identity, I decided it was worth at least an hour of my spare time to figure this out.
And that was when I discovered the “demonym.” A demonym is a word that describes where people come from. It’s such a rare word that the spell check in my word processing program keeps underlining it in red.
Nevertheless, Microsoft, it is a real word!
The word “Connecticut” is in itself difficult to pronounce. We tend to glide right over the middle “c” as if it was a tonsil, or some other dispensable body part. So imagine trying to figure out a suitable suffix for the purpose of identifying people of the Nutmeg State.
Over time, several demonyms (there goes that red line again!) have been proposed for residents of Connecticut. “Connecticotian?” Seriously?
Then there was the even more preposterous “Connecticutensian.” I dare you to say that three times quickly. Or even one time slowly, for that matter.
And the latest, take it or leave it, is “Connecticuter.” This label actually appears on the U.S. Government Publishing Office Style Manual.
Bet you didn’t know that the U.S. Government published a style manual. Well, it does, and it lists the appropriate demonyms for all 50 states. Excellent use of our tax payer dollars.
Why do I even care about how to refer to people from Connecticut? I do still spend some time there, when being a Floridian becomes a very steamy experience.
Connecticut is not the only state with an awkward assembly of consonants and vowels. Massachusetts is in a similar predicament. On the official list of demonyms incluced in the style manual, a resident of Massachusetts is called a “Massachusettsan.” Which does not roll trippingly off the tongue. So you might want to think twice before you decide to move there. Or to Utah, for that matter. Unless you don’t mind being referred to as a “Utahn.” How does one even say that?
But don’t despair. If you care about your demonym, you still have 47 states from which to choose.
I will end now because it’s almost time to get ready for another Zoom Happy Hour. And this evening I shall try harder to not splash wine on my computer.
Earlier this month I was interviewed for the Second Act Stories podcast. The result is “Humor Me: A Speech Pathologist Finds A New Voice.” I hope you’ll give it a listen.
If you are an experienced podcast listener, you can connect to the Second Act Stories podcast on Apple Podcasts (for iPhones), Stitcher (for Androids), Spotify, GooglePlay, iHeartRadio and others. And if you are new to podcasts, I might suggest streaming it from the Second Act Stories website. Once you’ve clicked on the link below, just scroll down and hit blue triangle “play” button under my photo. It’s about 21 minutes long and at the end includes a reading of one of my blog posts titled “High Maintenance." See the link below:
Stream from Second Act Stories website
Hope you enjoy and feel free to share with others who might be considering a career or life change.
Thank you, HBO for the resurrection of Perry Mason. Although my taste for police procedurals and courtroom drama has more recently been satisfied by every Law and Order series, including rerun binge-athons, the intrepid criminal defense lawyer as portrayed by Raymond Burr, could never quite be replaced. So when the trailers for HBO’s new version appeared on my TV screen, I must confess my heart skipped a beat.
For 40 years, beginning in 1933, the character created by Erle Stanley Gardner, appeared in more than 80 novels and short stories. Like my favorite police procedurals, the stories all followed a formula. A client was accused of murder, but during the trial Mason, aided by sidekicks Della Street and Paul Drake, would uncover and implicate the true guilty party, who would then confess.
Beside the novels, there was film Perry Mason, radio Perry Mason, TV Perry Mason, all recognizable and consistently dependable. Until now.
HBO Perry Mason is not the Perry Mason of The Case of the Velvet Claws and rest of the “Case of the’s.” This Perry Mason is not a lawyer, but a melancholy, shell-shocked WW I veteran who is a gum shoe, a flat foot, a tail. In other words, a private detective in noir-ish 1930s Los Angeles. That’s not right!
But wait, I get it. Matthew Rhys is prequel Perry Mason, the character before he became a lawyer. We’re only up to Episode 2, but should I surmise that by the end of the series, we’ll witness Perry taking the California bar exam?
On reflection, I find the reinvention of the character inspirational. Which leads me to my current project. What if we took other iconic TV characters from the late 50s-early 60s and transplanted them to the present? Below are some thoughts about how this might play out.
I LOVE LUCY. Here we find modern-day Lucy Ricardo as a young widow. Ricky has died of the Cuban flu, leaving her alone to care for their child, Little Ricky. To make matters worse, she has lost her job as the Vitameatavegamin Girl, leaving her financially destitute. Landlord Fred Mertz, who has had his eyes on Lucy for years, tiring of dowdy Ethel, tells Lucy he will not evict her if she will grant him sexual favors. Seeing little choice, she agrees, until one day she has had quite enough of lecherous Mr. Mertz. Lucy rebels, and along with Alice Kramden, who has grown sick and tired of threats to her kisser and trips to the moon, joins the #METOO movement, and becomes its vice-president.
MARCUS WELBY, MD. On Father’s Day, this kindly California general practitioner receives an unusual gift from one of his adult children. It is a membership in Ancestry.com. Marcus is thrilled, having always wanted to search the roots of his family tree, and perhaps discover if, with a name like Welby, he was destined to become a doctor. Eager to go forward with his search, he cancels all of his appointments for the following Monday, telling each of his patients to take two oxycodones and call him in the morning, and logs on to begin his adventure. He is initially disappointed to learn that none of his ancestors date back to the Mayflower. However, he is later elated to discover that he is a third cousin twice-removed of Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is so excited by this information, that he gives up his practice, moves to Washington, D.C. and joins the COVID-19 task force. Henceforce, he can be seen at the podium during the briefings. He’s the one wearing the colorful tie carefully chosen to compliment Dr. Deborah Birx’s scarf of the day.
GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. Years have passed since the S.S. Minnow, on a three-hour tour from Honolulu, ran into a typhoon, leaving its passengers shipwrecked on an unchartered island somewhere in the Pacific. The show opens with the final survivor, Gilligan, whose first name we may never know. The Skipper, the millionaire and his wife, Ginger, Mary Ann and the professor have all died. Gilligan is now alone. The only companionship he has is a basketball that has washed ashore, which he has named “Wilson.” I can definitely see Tom Hanks in the lead role.
BATMAN AND ROBIN. In this updated version, millionaire Bruce Wayne/Batman and Dick Grayson/Robin remain as crime fighters, saving Gotham from super-villains that the police are unable to catch. Bruce and Dick have been living together for many years, Wayne having been named as Grayson’s legal guardian when Grayson was an orphaned high school student. Spending many hours alone together in the Bat Cave, over time the relationship shifts and the two acknowledge that they have developed feelings for each other that far transcended the father-son relationship. Who can blame them, strutting around in those tights! Batman and Robin remain in the closet, or in this case, the Bat Cave, for many years. Only Alfred knows the true nature of their relationship, as well as their secret identities, a heavy burden for an old butler. By the third episode of this new series, Bruce and Dick decide it’s time to reveal to the world that they are, in fact, a couple, but no less effective as crime fighters. Bruce donates a large portion of his wealth to the Gay Pride movement, and the two become staunch defenders of the LGBTQIA community, fighting for their right to continue adding letters to the abbreviation.
I’ll end now because all this creativity has left me positively exhausted. But if anyone out there is interested in backing any of these concepts, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Until then, I can be found, every Sunday evening at 9:00 PM eastern time, sitting in front of the TV, eagerly awaiting the next episode of the new Perry Mason, and wondering when he will actually apply to law school.
So it’s June and we finally made the seasonal move. We left hot and steamy Florida for the cooler air of New England. We were a month later this year, attributable to the COVID-19 induced fear of flying. But when a high-humidity bad hair day commences at 7 in the morning, one is inclined to take a risk. So donned with masks and gloves, and Sam the Dog, we boarded a plane.
Due to the compulsive need to leave everything in perfect order, as if no one ever lived in the house, I experienced the same week of pre-move craziness that I’ve written about in the past, up to and including waking with a start at 3 am because I had neglected to vacuum the lint trap in the dryer.
What was different this year, however, was packing. Typically I’m way too insecure to leave very much behind. You know what I mean. The very handbag that I decided not to take would be the one that would be perfect for this evening. But lately, this evening, and most all evenings have included a home-cooked meal and Season 4 of another Netflix series. And one certainly does not require a handbag to travel from the dining table to the couch in front of the TV.
So when it came to clothing, we did travel light. Dress-up shoes, pretty blouses, and fancy pants were left behind in exchange for Clorox, anti-bacterial wipes, counter spray, masks and disposable gloves. And 18 rolls of much coveted toilet paper. Just in case.
We arrived in Connecticut a few days ago, and are still settling in. I’ve been very busy stowing the disinfectants and the 18 rolls of toilet paper, and figuring out how to acquire groceries without actually going to a store.
So instead of focusing on a new essay, I’ve spent two days trying to figure out how to change my address on Instacart. I think I finally did it, and have allayed my fear that my Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream would be melting at my front door in Florida.
But I certainly cannot leave the page without my usual offering of warped wisdom. Fortunately, a friend of mine, who is a source of much good humor, recently sent these clever comments concerning the current state of things amidst the second quarter of 2020. Enjoy!
Since the onset of Covid-19, we have been experiencing a Zoom boom! The company, which has existed since 2011, has suddenly become everyone’s favorite vehicle for virtual social contact. It’s the go-to app for flat screen, two-dimensional relationships. And, you don’t have to wear a mask.
Everyone’s doing it. Businesses, book groups, Cousins’ Clubs, Uncle Leo, even Great Grandma Bessie. Zoom has become the people’s chat room.
No more hugging, kissing, fist bumps, or secret handshakes. Now we sit in front of our favorite internet device, click on a mile-long stream of letters and numbers, and invite all these various people into our homes. Well, not the people exactly, but their virtual representations sitting in little boxes reminiscent of Hollywood Squares.
I, for one, am grateful for Zoom. I can talk to someone face-to-virtual-face without being concerned that I haven’t yet brushed my teeth. Or applied deodorant. And I find some of the Zoom options very enticing. Like the ability to silence someone who talks too much. Unfortunately, live people don’t come equipped with “Mute” buttons.
Which brings me to the core of this little essay. Appropriateness. What is appropriate in this new social order? Is there a whole new set of behavioral rules? Do’s and don’ts for Zoom encounters? For example, in pre-Covid life, it would seem impolite and downright weird to greet someone from a distance of six feet. Unless one of you happened to be in prison. Now, being apart the length of a tall person is the new normal.
So are there rules for a Zoom meeting? I thought you would never ask! Below please find some preliminary suggestions for avoiding Zoom fail.
But for now, abide by these simple rules, and you will avoid a Zoom disaster. Most important, as you prepare for your meeting, don’t forget to floss!
My husband, bless his soul, has figured out a unique and effective way to guarantee social distancing. He has grown a mustache. While I believe that I’m as affectionate as the next guy, it’s hard to arouse enthusiasm about puckering up when I feel I’m about to kiss my hair brush.
I think it’s only fair to mention how it started. My husband had some minor surgery above his upper lip and wasn’t able to shave for about a week. But then the week turned into two. I knew I was in trouble when I spied him gazing into the bathroom mirror and cooing softly as he stroked his newly acquired stubble.
I admit it. I’m having a hard time getting used to the new him. Although he’s been cultivating it for several weeks now, I often startle when he walks into a room. Fortunately, I recover just in time to refrain from dialing 9-1-1 to report a break-in. Who are you and what have you done with my husband? At other times, I’m convinced that I’ve inadvertently channeled Groucho Marx.
Men who sport facial hair, please don’t take offense. For some, mustaches work very well. Like, if you happen to be a Mexican revolutionary, or a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher who operates a meth lab in an old RV.
I guess it’s all about what you’re used to, and I’m definitely not acclimating well. I’ve been with this man for over 40 years, and he’s never had more than a two-day growth.
However, there was a brief moment in time many years ago, when he did grow a beard. He shaved it off rather quickly though, after he was approached by several men in long black coats who addressed him as “Rabbi.” Not that he has anything against rabbis, or men in long black coats, for that matter. I think it was more of a concern that they would ask him for some profound interpretation of the Talmud, or if he was available to perform a bris. Neither of those requests was he equipped to handle.
I hope, like the beard, the mustache passion will quickly fade. But I’m not so sure. Lately, he’s taken to tenderly grooming it, then proudly pointing out the results of his tonsorial dexterity. I confess I am not enthusiastic in my admiration.
Because of the mustache, I have begun worrying about things I’ve never before considered. Potential mustache hazards. Like, what happens when men with mustaches eat soup? Or worse, what if a man with a mustache gets a really bad cold. And sneezes. How do you blow your nose with a mustache? Does “it” land on the hair above the upper lip? And what if there’s a nose bleed? These gross thoughts have begun to keep me awake at night, while he and his mustache are peacefully asleep.
So what does sporting a mustache say about a man? Is it masculinity and power? Is it his hipness, or perhaps even a fashion statement? Can I blame it on the coronavirus?
I realize that men are more limited than women when it comes to opportunities to alter their appearance. They are rarely spotted at a cosmetics counter in Bloomingdale’s getting a complete makeover. And growing a mustache is a lot less expense than spending hundreds of dollars on products and promises.
I have to reread our pre-nup. I’m pretty sure there was a clause that stated I relinquish my right to the TV remote control. And he relinquishes his right to grow facial hair. But I could be wrong.
If this fixture upon his face becomes permanent, or even semi-permanent, I suppose I’ll have to change my attitude and my outlook. My associations with mustaches will have to become more positive. Less about Stalin, Hitler, and porn stars, and more about Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, my very nice next-door neighbor, or The Village People. In fact, there may just be something in this for me. If he’s going to walk around resembling Sonny Bono, perhaps I should start dressing like Cher!
And so we begin a new chapter in our forty-year marriage. And I hope it’s a short one. One that closes before he starts to resemble Yosemite Sam, or I develop a rash from kissing a Brillo pad!
The daily paper tells me that today is Monday. I’m not due to publish this until Thursday. No problem. That’s three more defrosted dinners until the deadline. I may be out of touch with the days of the week, but fortunately, I’m still able to remember what I’ve eaten.
Let me clarify. These are not TV dinner-style frozen meals, but neatly wrapped little packages of whatever was available in the meat case the last time I went food shopping, which now seems like a year ago. Even in these challenging times, we are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, with a balance of protein, vegetables, and Cheerios.
I’m still cooking a lot, and practicing avoidance techniques when it comes to exercising. But there have been some small changes since my last entry. For one thing, I’m no longer talking to my shorts. Instead, I’m talking to my shoes. Not the worn-out Skechers in which I clop around the house. Nor the practical sneakers that I lace up when walking Sam the Dog. No, those get plenty of attention.
I’m referring to the chic, impractical now-neglected shoes that sit on the shelf gathering dust. You know the shoes I mean. The strappy ones with heels greater than an inch that are only good for following the restaurant host to a table and immediately sitting. I offer apologies for the disuse, and tell them it’s not my fault. Perhaps I should consider wearing a pair each night as we dine on the evening’s defrosted special?
And speaking of Sam the Dog, I do believe this social distancing thing is taking a toll on him, as well. He seems really sad lately. I think I know why. But how do you make a dog understand that he can’t engage in a decent butt-sniff because I must maintain a six-foot space between me and that other dog’s owner? I’ve tried, but I might as well be talking to my shoes.
I figured with all this new found time, I might try something new. You know, move out of the old comfort zone. So I decided to take my writing in a different direction – poetry. Hey, why not? I know a lot of rhyming words. I did take a stab at it, which I will modestly share with you now. It very much expresses the agony of today.
There once were two lovers from Florida
Who felt things could not get much horrider
When you’re six feet apart
It tears at the heart
You can’t f**k from two ends of the corridor.
I hope my use of language did not offend. I know a took liberties; “horrider” isn’t really a word.
I’m pleased to say that my color-coded food storage container idea has been working out very well. As are my alphabetized spice jars, and books organized according to number of pages. For my next project, I think I might arrange the groceries in the pantry according to size. I’m sure this will serve no useful function, but it might be more aesthetically pleasing than seeing a squat can of tuna abutting a large box of cereal. I’ll let you know.
The other day I downloaded instructions for making a face mask out of a T shirt. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s next on the list after the pantry. I might have to sacrifice my Willie Nelson for President garment, but hey, it’s for a good cause. I’ll let you know how that goes, too.
That’s it for now, diary. The anticipation of all this activity is exhausting. I need a nap.
Diary? Whom am I kidding? Keeping a diary implies that you know what day of the week it is. Which I don’t. For any orientation at all, I rely on the daily newspaper delivery, which miraculously arrives at our house each morning.
Part of my husband’s physical fitness routine is walking to the edge of the driveway with a pair of repurposed barbecue tongs. With these, he lifts the paper and gingerly brings it into the house, removes the plastic wrapping, and skillfully lowers it into the garbage pail. I note how deftly the plastic never touches his skin. It took about a week, but with diligence and determination, the entire operation is now a well-oiled machine.
And so begins the day. Which day? Any day. It doesn’t matter. All the diary entries would be the same.
This morning I think I’m scheduled to participate in another Zoom meeting. This presents me with a big decision. Is this encounter make-up worthy? I haven’t worn make-up in weeks. I think I’ve forgotten how. But I can tell you this. I don’t miss having to remove it at night. One less ritual standing between me and my pillow.
I’m expecting a grocery delivery today. I think it’s today. I know it didn’t come yesterday. I have been cautioned about going to the super market, so I now use a service which provides me with a personal shopper. I’ve always thought that having a personal shopper would be very nice. But this is not exactly what I had in mind. My ideal was a person who would select my spring wardrobe, not a head of lettuce. But let’s face it. What would I do with a spring wardrobe right now? A head of lettuce on the other hand, after it’s carefully disinfected, is a nice touch with my tuna sandwich.
My home is becoming very organized. In my last essay (I think it was my last essay) I told you how I busied myself by refilling my spice jars. Then arranging them in alphabetical order. Well, today I color-coded my collection of food storage containers. Now, at a single glance, I can tell which top goes with which bottom because the set will have a matching gaily colored dot that is dishwasher safe. If you’ve ever rummaged through your food storage drawer looking for a lid that fits, then you’ll appreciate what a time-saver this can be.
I’ve also reorganized my clothes closet in an effort to rail against the urge to throw on the same pair of sweat pants every day. Instead, I have neatly lined up my shorts (remember, I’m in Florida) and made myself a promise to don a different pair each day. Kind of like the old-fashioned set of undies with the day of the week sewed on the tush, but sans the embroidery. I still don’t know what day of the week it is, but it’s working nicely. However, should I be worried that I am now talking to my pants? Okay, gray, I just put blue back on the hanger, and today it’s your turn. I don’t know. It seems harmless enough. I’ll save the concern for when they begin to answer me.
I need a haircut. Do I dare? The beauty salons are all closed, so I have no choice. I have a pair of scissors. A little snip here, a little snip there. How much damage can I do? And who would see me anyway? Just my husband. And Sam the Dog. Sam needs a haircut too. Maybe that would be a good place to start. Fortunately, I had the foresight to go au natural a few years ago. At least I don’t have to obsess about my roots growing out. Or do they grow in? Whichever, but no longer my concern. Now if I can just find Sam….
I’ve been cooking a lot. The other day my neighbor shared some produce with me that was straight from the farm. I’m not sure where the farm was located, but by the size of the vegetables, I would guess it’s somewhere in the Amazon jungle. I received a large eggplant, an enormous green pepper, a zucchini that could double as a battery-operated vibrator for Mrs. Green Giant. That should provide plenty of ho-ho-hos. And, oh yes, an armful of tomatoes. So, adhering to the “if life gives you lemons…” philosophy, I produced a vat-full of ratatouille. It was quite good actually. Even the second, third, and fourth time that we’ve eaten it.
I should be doing more exercise. I certainly have the time. But apparently, sheltering in place hasn’t ebbed my avoidance strategies, like rearranging all my books according to number of pages. Do you think frequent washing burns significant calories? I could be wrong, but to me, my hands look much thinner.
So, dear diary, that’s enough of an entry for one day. Or has it been two days? Sam, where’s that darn newspaper?
First of all, I want to make it perfectly clear that none of this is my fault. Yes, I know, I recently posted that blog about wanting to slow down (see To Do or Not To Do). Two essays ago, when I was overcome by self-reflection brought on by another birthday, I wrote that I was going to take another shot at learning to relax, not overbook appointments, and figure out how to enjoy life in the slow lane. But believe me, this is way more than I had in mind!
A little germ has wreaked havoc on the world as we know it, and has forced us to remain in place. So how have you been coping? Well, I hope. If you live alone, this social distancing thing has got to be particularly difficult. But if you live with another person, may I suggest that you hide all sharp objects.
Me, I’ve been learning to appreciate the simple things. Like the other day, when I refilled my spice jars. Then rearranged them all in alphabetical order. Or my texts from Amazon telling me that my order has been delivered. Sometimes they even include a photo of the package sitting in my driveway. That’s a special treat. As is the surprise of opening the package, after I douse it with Lysol, because I have no f’n idea what I ordered.
I did buy a small clock with a second hand that I placed on the window sill behind my kitchen sink so I could accurately time 20 seconds without having to sing two choruses of Happy Birthday. I swear, for the rest of my life, whenever I hear that stupid song, I will reflexively, like Pavlov’s dog, run to the nearest source of running water and wash my hands.
Life is very hard right now, and what’s going on is no laughing matter. So why are jokes and cartoons targeting COVID-19 springing up all over the internet? And late night TV hosts performing without an audience, some of them from home? Why are some standup comics recording specials from their living rooms and posting them on You Tube?
Because at a trying time like this we need the therapeutic effect of humor more than ever. Humor soothes the nerves and decreases stress. It makes us more resilient. Your sense of humor is one of the most potent tools you have for coping. And it’s important not to let that sense of humor abandon you when things go wrong. Humor, hand-washing, and social distancing are the best defenses against the current universe.
Last summer I wrote an essay that seems particularly appropriate right now, so I’ve decided to repost it. The significance is easily recognizable. I know that doing so will make this blog longer than usual. But seriously, what else do you have to do?
What’s Wrong with this Picture?
Question: If I asked you to write a caption for the photo above, based on what you see, would it occur to you to write “Four Friends Having Lunch Together?” No? I didn’t think so. And yet, that is what the photo actually depicts — four friends, seated in a zigzag pattern, having lunch together, at separate tables. And, why are they all smiling?
Children of the 50’s, does the term “separate tables” evoke a memory? Well, it did for me. But unlike Terrence Rattigan’s drama circa 1956, the setting for the current dining experience was not an exclusive seaside hotel in England, but merely a plebian lunch joint in a small Connecticut town. And, unlike the characters from the play-into-movie who were separated by lofty emotions such as angst, loneliness and alienation, these characters, seated diagonally across from one another other in the current drama, were separated by something far more mundane and perilous — germs!
“Please explain,” they cried. And so she did.
First of all, let me give each of my characters a name. And since I’ve been briefly touched by a wave of 50’s nostalgia, I will borrow my labels from the movie version. Therefore, my lady on stage left in the rear will be known as Rita (Rita Hayworth), the lady in red, we shall call Deborah (Deborah Kerr), the person zigging to the back shall henceforth be known as Wendy (Wendy Hiller), and finally, the one zagging to the right front corner (whom you may recognize) we shall call Gladys (Gladys Cooper).
The date for the luncheon appointment was set well in advance, and was to be a reunion after a winter of separation. It required, as do all our gatherings, a considerable amount of negotiation. (See “Girl’s Night Out,” Oct. 15, 2018.) So, after 13 emails, 5 texts, a couple of actual phone calls, and Gladys conceding to participate in the one meal of the day that she hates, (see “Let’s Undo Lunch, "Oct. 31, 2017,) no one, and I mean no one, was about to break this date!
Rita, Deborah, and Wendy were already seated at a table for four, and chatting away when Gladys arrived. (An aside to the audience: She was not late; the others were early!) Gladys, who had recently returned from spending seven months under the palm trees, was greeted warmly with outstretched arms and puckered lips. But hugs and kisses were not to be.
Making the sign of the cross with left and right index fingers, Gladys quickly warded off their advances, explaining that perhaps it was best to avoid physical contact at this particular time. She was coming down with a cold. And while her throat was a bit sore, she was not yet coughing or sneezing, so merely sitting together seemed perfectly safe. Upon hearing this, no one noticed that Rita, normally very fair anyway, had turned paler at the prospect of “catching something.” And when Wendy commented that she too, felt something “coming on,” Rita just had to speak up, declaring that the innocent-looking lunch table obviously was no longer a safe place. The rest of us did not disagree.
So what to do? Do we play it safe and abandon our hard-won reunion? It might be palm tree time again before we could figure out another date when grandkids weren’t having a sleep-over, or when one of us didn’t have a tap-dance class, or a book club, or a colonoscopy appointment.
We searched each other’s eyes, at a safe distance, of course, and also the restaurant, for a solution to our dilemma. Clearly, The Universe was smiling upon us, for in the rear of this otherwise very busy establishment was an empty banquette with four separate tables!
Springing from our chairs more quickly than any of us had in quite some time, with silverware and water glasses in hand, we hastily abandoned our current location for the more antiseptic alcove in the rear. And still fearful of inhaling each other’s microbes, we alternated our seating. And thus we dined together, at separate tables.
Realizing the humor and absurdity of the situation, which is why we are all smiling, we just had to preserve the moment. Graciously, our waitress agreed to snap the photo you see above.
The four of us have since scheduled another lunch date. But there is a caveat. If anyone has any ailment more serious than a hangnail, please phone the restaurant in advance and reserve the separate tables. You can’t always count on the good humor of The Universe.
So your Gen Z grandkid is home from school. (Can you believe she’s in college already!?!) You overhear her talking on her iGen iPhone to her bestie. It sounds like she’s speaking English, but is she? Not that you mean to be nosy, but you don’t understand a thing she says.
But if you want clout, don’t be basic. Simply learn the Gen Z slang and you’ll be totes Gucci.
Yes, it’s time for the annual English as a Second Language quiz. Challenge your brain with these 10 examples of the latest Gen Z code words. Your results will predict whether intergenerational conversation is still possible.
1. Cap/No Cap
a. Indecision regarding use of an upper case letter
b. Do you need a yarmulke in a Reform synagogue?
c. Dilemma over best way to repair a broken tooth.
d. a or c, but never b
a. Latest super food combining a yam and a beet
b. Inquiry to determine if someone already had a meal
c. An Irish poet
d. None of the above
a. The fourth Gibb brother who went out on his own
b. A swing dance done on one leg
c. Someone who is a recipient of a bouj
d. a, definitely a!
4. Go Ham
a. Rooting for the actor who starred in Mad Men
b. Give up being kosher
c. The place where Ba Man lives
d. Are we there yet?
a. A male sibling
b. A sound you make when it’s cold outside and you suffer from indigestion
c. A unisex undergarment
d. Please shoot me!
a. Three consonants in search of a vowel
b. A school started by the Queen of England
c. Sound made by a dyslexic bee
d. All of the above
a. Zeets spelled backwards
b. A sugar substitute made from the steezvia plant
c. Something that belongs to Stee
d. I’m getting a migraine!
a. The thing that holds your bones together
b. Like a stigma, but smaller
c. A scrambled email provider
d. Some of the above
a. Two-thirds of my first name
b. A misspelled cry for help
c. A palindrome signifying nothing
d. Please let this be over soon!
a. Feminine version of hello
b. A place where bada people go
c. Couldn’t decide to name the kid Helen or Ella
d. Who cares?
What the scores mean: 7 – 10 Excellent, you are GOAT; 4 – 6 Pretty Good, but not quite lit; 0 – 3 Don’t even try to talk to a Gen Z.
What the slang phrases really mean: Cap/No Cap – Cap means you’re lying, No Cap means you’re not; Yeet – a way to say yes or express excitement; Boujee – someone who enjoys lavish or extravagant things; Go Ham – explode or respond in anger; Bruh – gender neutral term for a friend; HMU – acronym for Hit Me Up; Steez – when someone is effortlessly stylish they have “steez;” Ligma – a made-up disease; Sus – short for “suspicious;” Hella – many, lots of
Other: GOAT – Greatest of All Time; Lit – when something is amazing; Clout – popularity and fame; Basic – someone who is unoriginal; Totes – totally; Gucci – awesome.
Please don’t be dismayed that this is the last quiz just because we’ve come to the end of the key pad. Next year we go Greek with Generation Alpha, offspring of Gen Y, aka Millennials. OMG! Are they reproducing already?
About the Author
Susan is the author of two award-winning collections of humorous personal essays: “How Old Am I in Dog Years?” and “How to Complain When There’s Nothing to Complain About.” Check out her Author Page HERE.