Oct 14, 2011

The Need to Pee

Have you ever suddenly had to pee in a very non-pee-friendly place?  Like a tiny boutique in which the young clerk, who must still have a bladder like a Sherman tank (just like yours used to be!) says, "I'm sorry ma'am, we don't have a restroom for the public.  The Walgreens  across the street, down two blocks and through that little walkway, they have one.  Wait, did Walgreens move? No, it was the CVS that moved."

By this time your bladder is in full panic mode with its metaphoric air raid sirens filling your entire consciousness. And you just know there is a closet-sized restroom in the back of the boutique, past the Employees Only Beyond This Point sign. You know, because she didn't say "no restroom," she said "no restroom for the public" and you've cracked that sneaky code.

You're wondering if you could somehow get past the clerk with a boxing feint. You wish you had a friend with you because she could distract the clerk by climbing atop a display table and singing the "Star Spangled Banner" or tossing all the New Zealand wool sweaters on the floor while you rush into the back, find that bathroom and plop down on the toilet, the door not quite closed behind you.

How did things get to this state??

I never took an anatomy class but I don't think the human bladder shrinks to the size of a grasshopper's as we age.  Does it?  (If someone Googles that, let me know what you find.)  So why do I suddenly have to pee every twenty minutes?  Every twenty minutes gives me time to drive somewhere, pee, do something brief like drop off the dry cleaning, pee, do something else brief like buy a single banana, pee, etc. You start to see the pattern emerging.

And have you ever had to use the facilities in a supermarket? First, you're in trouble because you have a cart full of potentially melty stuff that you have to temporarily abandon, and second, their bathrooms can be a hefty hike from the part of the store we customers see.  You walk through a big set of white swinging doors, past the meat department, beyond the shelves of cans, down a long industrial hall and into the gender specific restroom with an Employees Must Wash Hands sign.  Whew! You are definitely doing that bathroom dance by the time you get there. Then there's the long walk back to your cart, now holding room temperature items that you will be very tempted to switch out for still-frozen treats.

I think when you reach a certain age, city hall should send you a map of all the restrooms in your town, color coded as to likelihood that you will actually be able to use them.  Is a purchase required? Blue. Do you just have to smile and ask nice?  Green. That sort of thing.

And if you're reading this but not of a certain age, if you're still walking around carefree for hours at a time, it's not too early to prepare.  Keep a notebook.  Map out all the back alleys, shortcuts, really leafy bushes, and you just may be okay when the time comes.  Trust me on this. You won't regret the notebook.

Oct 12, 2011


Today I received a package from the Fulfillment Center!  You can just imagine how my heart soared, how my imagination went wild. The Fulfillment Center!? I had no idea such a place existed. What might they be capable of?

And the return address was Kansas, from which odysseys to magical lands of witches and talking lions begin. Fulfillment in a plain brown box?  This was not how I had expected fulfillment to arrive, so nondescript and anonymous.  I had pictured perhaps the Pulitzer spokesperson calling to tell me my work was the absolute best.  They had considered all those slackers and wannabes and chosen me instead.  The spokesperson would spend an inordinate amount of time gushing over my writing, I would finally have to make up an excuse to get off the phone because his compliments would become tiresome.

The Nobel Prize committee spokesperson would have called, too, to tell me that despite my lack of a single published book, they wanted to reward my potential, much like awarding the Peace Prize to Obama just before he doubled down in Afghanistan.

If only I had known about the Fulfillment Center when I was a teenager.  I would have saved all my waitressing money and sent it off to the FC (that's the kind of relationship we would have had, in which I called them the FC), and asked for remittance of 1) popularity, 2) good hair (curly dark hair was not fulfilling, believe me), and 3) a tan.  What's that you say?  Fulfillment is more of a Buddha thing?  More spiritual and monkish?  Really?  I had never heard that.

And what was actually in the box, you might ask.  A magnifying mirror I ordered.  Darn.  Looking at my face in magnification will definitely not be fulfilling, I can tell you that.

Oct 5, 2011

The Art of Conversation

At the risk of getting all Miss Mannersy on you, we really need a National Conversation Initiative.  There is at least as big a conversation crisis in this country as there are drug and education crises, and the three may be related.

What typically passes for conversation these days goes something like this:

Jan: "How've you been?"

Angie: "OK, my brother came to visit last weekend."

Jan: "My sister came to visit, too! She has a new boyfriend.  We haven't met him yet but she's really into him.  She has a new job in marketing.  She told me about a great new book she's reading so I'm going to read it when she's done."...and on and on.  Angie is now leaning back on her heels and waiting for the wind to subside.

What went wrong here?  The first is when Angie failed to ask how Jan is.  That's Conversation 101.  "How are you?"  "Fine, and you?"  The second is when Jan took the idea of siblings coming to visit as her turn to toss in everything she could think of even remotely connected to the subject.  Not to ask everything she could think of, but to say everything she could think of.  No, no, no, no, no!

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I am certainly not the standard bearer in conversation. I, too, fail to ask questions, fail to engage the other person, get too involved in telling my story, and just generally take up too much airspace.  I am fully to blame in our national conversation crisis.  But look at what we all lose when we allow monologue to pass for conversation.

We don't connect.  We don't learn about each other or ourselves.  For that matter, we don't learn much of anything.  And then we feel isolated and go home and check our email for human contact.  Those online snippets of 'conversation' become the main points of contact we have with other people. We pour another glass of wine, play another game of Bejeweled, and wonder why our attention span is shrinking to that of a flea on speed.

People who are genuinely interested in you, who ask endless questions, never look at the clock, have no deadlines more important than their time with you, are so rare and almost shocking when we meet them.  What if we all tried to be that person?