"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Really in the ears (with apologies to Steely Dan)

We were making idle chit-chat during dinner with friends, and I mentioned I'd be taking my car in for its 12,000-mile service. "But you just bought that car 7 months ago!" my wife Carol exclaimed. "How does it have 12,000 miles on it already?" "Well...," I replied cautiously, "that's because I've... driven it 12,000 miles since I purchased it." Carol looked at me intently and then said, "Really?"

A host of ripostes came to mind, most of which are not suited for a family audience, so I just chose to respond with, "Yes, really," and let the matter drop. But it was the latest example of Carol offering an incredulous response to something I've said that seems quite matter-of-fact to me. Here are some other examples:
  • On a recent lazy Sunday afternoon, Carol mentioned she felt tired and I encouraged her to take a nap. She agreed on the condition that I not let her sleep past 3 o'clock. At the appointed hour I went up to the bedroom and gently shook her shoulder while whispering in her ear: "Carol, it's time to get up... Honey, you said you didn't want to sleep any later than this." With her eyes still shut, she sleepily mumbled, "What time is it?" I said it was 3 o'clock. She opened her eyes, looked at me and said, "Really?"
  • I was watching the evening news while Carol finished making dinner. She called out to ask me what the next day's weather was going to be. I said it was going to drop well below freezing. From the kitchen: "Really?"
  • I reminded Carol that I'd be leaving early the next morning to go to the dentist for a cleaning. "Didn't you just go to the dentist?" I replied it had been six months since my last appointment and now it was time for the next visit. "Really?"
  • Carol was baking cookies and asked for my help in getting ingredients measured and ready to add. "OK, what's next?" she inquired. "Let's see..." I reviewed the recipe and said, "Next is a teaspoon of baking soda." "Baking soda? Why did you say 'baking soda'?" "Well... that's because the next ingredient listed here is 'baking soda'." "Really?"
And so on. Hardly a day goes by that at some point our conversation isn't peppered with a "Really?" Checking the time, mentioning we're out of peanut butter, reviewing the evening's TV listings ("Is there a new episode of The Big Bang Theory on tonight?" -- "No, it's a rerun." -- "Really?"). Now, from Carol's perspective this is just a conversational "tic," a form of benign acknowledgement; the equivalent of saying, "Oh!" or perhaps, "I didn't realize that." But to my ears (and psyche), I interpret this as her ongoing sense of disbelief in the veracity of whatever I am telling her at that moment. I think she thinks I don't know how to tell time, or how to read, or -- in general -- how to tell my ass from a hole in the ground.

My fear is that she will provide that same response when I need her to take immediate action related to an urgent request -- such as:
  • "Sweetheart, we need to leave right now or else we're going to miss the start of the movie." "Really?"
  • "Honey, please don't flush the toilet while I'm taking a shower; the water gets scalding hot." "Really?"
Now if I were to invite Carol to comment here, she'd likely say I'm exaggerating; stop it; I'm being ridiculous; of course she would attend to any medical emergency just as soon as she finished scrolling through the latest posts on her Facebook page.

I suppose I should be fair here. I imagine I have a behavioral tic, maybe even two, of my own that get under Carol's skin. For example, I... uh, let's see -- sometimes when I... hmm; nothing is coming to mind off the top of my head. As a matter of fact, as a result of this thought exercise I've come to the conclusion that I'm pretty damn terrific and Carol's lucky to have me as her husband, and I plan to tell her that. But I already know what her response will be:
  • "REALLY?"

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Climb Every Mantra

Carol asked me the other day if I'd be interested in going to Kol Nidre with her that evening. I was confused by her request, since: 1) it wasn't anywhere near Yom Kippur, and 2) Carol isn't Jewish. When I asked her to clarify the reason behind her inquiry, she said it would help us learn to focus and relax. Now I was completely flummoxed, so I turned down the TV, pulled out my earphones, stopped scrolling through Facebook on my phone and stepped off the treadmill. "What exactly is it you want to do tonight?"

Once I was paying closer attention I understood she was asking if I wanted to practice Yoga Nidra with her. Ah, OK -- to the untrained ear, Aramaic and Sanskrit sound an awful lot alike. I was forced to admit I knew as much about Yoga Nidra as Carol knew about Kol Nidre, so I asked her to provide a brief explanation. She said it was a method of achieving deep relaxation; getting the mind and body into a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. I said I wasn't sure why this was something that required practice, since that's how I spend most of my days. She went on to clarify that the focus was more on achieving a "wakeful" state while still being very relaxed, and when one reaches such a condition the body rejuvenates and the mind opens to profound insights. I said I wasn't sure this was all that different from attending Yom Kippur services, which also cultivated drowsiness while requiring you to remain attentive. Carol said the two were nothing alike, and suggested once the Yoga Nidra session was done we could go out to eat. I said she was further proving my point; the highlight of the Day of Atonement is the meal when it's all over. But because I am open to new experiences and also because Carol gave me "that look" -- I agreed to go with her.

Once we arrived at the yoga studio, I had to sign a release. "Release from what?" was my question; I had to agree I wouldn't hold the business liable for any injury that might occur during the session. I asked what kind of injury could possibly be inflicted while trying to achieve a state of deep relaxation while stretched out prone on a mat at floor level, unless I somehow managed to be lulled into an irreversible coma? Again, Carol gave me "that look" and I acquiesced and signed the paperwork. We ditched our shoes and I dropped my attitude.

This was a popular program; there must have been at least sixty people in the room. I wondered how anyone could achieve a state of deep relaxation in such a crowded, enclosed space. I thought perhaps the tight quarters combined with deep breathing would lead to elevated levels of CO2, and therefore people were confusing profound insights with hallucinations brought on by oxygen deprivation. Now I was understanding why I had to sign that release.

The session got underway with several basic yoga poses, focused on gentle stretching and alignment, which caused me to break into a sweat while fighting off foot cramps. About fifteen minutes in we began to work on our state of consciousness. We lay still while listening to our instructor, a very knowledgeable and charming woman named Sagel, review the seven chocolates. There are *seven* kinds of chocolate? Let's see: there's Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Twix, KitKat, Mounds, Almond Joy.. I was drawing a blank on the last one. I whispered to Carol on my left to ask if she knew, and she replied we were supposed to be focusing on the seven chakras. Well, Jesus -- I could relax, or I could focus on chakras, but how could I possibly do BOTH AT THE SAME TIME?

I don't recall the specifics of the seven chakras because, in all honesty, by that point I was craving something sweet. Once we were done with the chakras, Sagel had us direct our focus on individual parts of the body: sections of the arm; the leg; the torso, head and neck... She named every appendage by name except for the tingly parts.

Next came instruction to focus on the breath flowing through each nostril, individually. I could pick out the left (I don't mean "pick" that way) but couldn't manage to isolate the right. Left-breathing is supposed to lower your blood pressure, while right-breathing raises it back up. The risk of lapsing into a coma was inching closer to reality.

Since the class had people ranging from novice to expert, Sagel said we should each do whatever we felt was necessary to relax. So... I got up and dashed into the pub next door for a quick beer. I would have slipped back into my spot unnoticed except for belching as as I resumed my Savasana pose.

We completed the session after another thirty minutes. Sagel then guided our return to a "normal" state of awareness. Well, for everyone except the woman who was on my right -- she was sleeping like a baby. I kneeled down, gently putting a hand on her shoulder while leaning in close to her ear to say, "WAKE UP! IT'S OVER!!" Everyone rolled up their yoga mats, re-folded blankets, returned blocks to storage, and exuded a sense of calm and well-being. I have to admit -- I enjoyed the session more than I thought I would, finding it very peaceful. I felt more centered than when I arrived, and actually had an insight unearthed from deep in my subconscious which helped me resolve an issue that had been preying on my mind for much of the evening: the seventh chocolate is a Milky Way.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

How I know I had the worst cold ever...

There was nothing "common" about the cold I just got over. Here's how I know:
  • My head snapped forward and back so violently when sneezing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had me give demos for their crash test dummies.
  • I was so stuffed up, a taxidermist commented on how life-like I looked.
  • I went through so many trees' worth of tissues, Julia Butterfly Hill unfriended me on Facebook.
  • I drank so much chicken soup, all across the country matzo balls were left stranded high and dry.
  • My eyes watered so much, I placed a rain barrel next to my side of the bed.
  • I sneezed so hard, I launched a loogie that struck one of the cats in the head and knocked it unconscious.
  • My voice got so low and raspy, Tom Waits asked me to be his vocal coach.
  • I blew my nose so frequently, I jump-started a wind turbine.
  • I sucked on so many cough drops, the Smith Brothers came back from the dead to revel in their second fortune.
  • I gargled with so much salt water, ocean levels dropped a foot.
  • My nose ran so much, I bought it a pair of sneakers.
  • I drank so much tea, I sprained my wrist from dipping the bags in the teacup.
  • I popped so many decongestants, I'm now on the DEA "Watch List."
  • I took so many supplements with Vitamin C, orange juice futures closed at an all-time high.
  • I smeared on so much Vicks VapoRub, I'm planning a swim across the English Channel.
  • My ears were so plugged up, I thought Mariah Carey sounded fine on New Year's Eve.
  • I hugged the hot water bottle so tightly, my wife is naming it a co-respondent in her divorce filing.
But the ultimate factor that tipped the scales to "worst ever" is because it was MY BIRTHDAY in the midst of the period I wrestled with this affliction. Didn't want to drink or party one little bit. Well, now that I'm finally on the other side of the experience I plan to make up for it this weekend.

Stay tuned for my next post: "How I know I had the worst hangover ever..."

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My bathroom innovation will make you flush with excitement

"Honey," I say, taking my wife's hands in mine and looking into her eyes with all the affection I can muster, "I love you with all my heart. Keeping that in mind, I want to let you know the next time I go to use the bathroom and find a roll of toilet paper with only three sheets left on it -- I'm leaving you."

She tells me she doesn't want to waste the remaining paper by throwing it out unused. I respond by asking what exactly can three sheets of toilet paper be used for? I suggest if thrift is her concern then perhaps she could use it to blow her nose, or remove some lipstick, or wipe the smudges off her phone screen and then install a fresh roll with a clear conscience. She says those all sound like silly suggestions to her. I offer another suggestion: if she doesn't come up with some solution -- soon -- then the next time this happens I will signal my displeasure by using those three sheets to start a small bonfire in the bathroom.

She says that's ridiculous. I counter that it's no more ridiculous than leaving a useless remnant of a toilet paper roll in place and expecting the next occupant to assume the responsibility for replacing it at a particularly inconvenient moment.

She says I'm not being fair; there are plenty of times when she finishes the roll and replaces it with a new one. I concede that *sometimes* she does that, but that leads to another concern -- why do I find the empty cardboard center perched on the edge of the sink? "It's recyclable," she informs me. "Yes," I acknowledge. "I am well aware of that, and applaud you for your awareness of the environmental impact. But this is my question: how exactly do you expect that roll to be introduced into the Reuse-Reduce-Recycle triad without actually placing it in the recycling bin?"

She responds that she *intends* to place the empty roll in the recycling bin but occasionally just forgets. I remind her that the road to You Know Where (we used to say "Hell," but now we say "the Trump White House") is paved with good intentions. She looks at me with exasperation and asks why I am making such a big deal out of such a little thing. I say the future of our planet is not a "little thing." She tells me she's getting tired of dealing with my hyperbole. I tell her I'm getting tired of her unwillingness to consider how finding three useless sheets hanging limply, or a forlorn cardboard tube teetering on the edge of the sink, and then having to deal with those situations ON TOP OF everything else I am responsible for around the house drives me nuts.

Now the gloves come off. She asks me just WHAT exactly are all my "responsibilities" around the house? I start to tick off the list: empty the dishwasher, scoop out the cat litter, do all the laundry that's OK to go in the dryer, refill the bird feeders that she can't reach... I tell her I'm just providing the highlights here; there is more but at the moment I am taken aback by her challenge to recite it all from memory. Then I offer this clincher: "There are LOTS of things I take care of that YOU WON'T HANDLE." A slight smirk slowly creases Carol's face as she composes her response: "What exactly do you have to deal with that I can't take care of myself?" I look her straight in the eye and state, "I handle paying all the bills, and I file our taxes every year. I've never seen you even TRY to sign into our online banking or the tax program, much less take care of the monthly bills or our annual returns." Carol smacks herself in the forehead while rolling her eyes and says, "That's because you're the one who set up all the computer-based accounts WITHOUT TELLING ME WHAT ANY OF THE PASSWORDS ARE! I've asked you to write them down for me and you NEVER DO!" I inform her that writing down passwords is not a secure way to share them. I think I see a look of disbelief on her face just before she turns away from me. I realize that, correct as I may be, I have trod onto thin ice and attempt to gingerly work my way back to safer ground.

"Honey," I say, with all the affection I can muster, "I'm not trying to start an argument here."

"Oh, I think it's too late for that."

"Well... be that as it may. Let's see if we can come to an agreement -- you accept your responsibility for replacing the toilet paper and getting the empty roll all the way into the recycling bin, and I'll promise to try and not shrink your yoga pants again. Doesn't that sound reasonable?"

Carol's been up in the bedroom with the door locked for several hours now, so she must be giving my proposal some serious thought. I've been using this time productively by unspooling all the rolls of toilet paper stored in the linen closet and writing "REMEMBER TO RECYCLE ME! :-)" with a marker on the cardboard cores. I'm also reverse-numbering the corners of the sheets so it's clear when we get down to those last three useless squares. I just hope I can get all the paper wrapped back around the tubes before she comes downstairs. I can't wait to witness her response to my latest innovation in the name of household efficiency.
Photo courtesy of the aggrieved author