Parking Lot Rage

Scary ManI just got yelled at in a parking lot for taking too long to push my cart. The woman (not young or old) in a big white van shouted, “Get a move on!”

It’s true, I had a momentary mind lapse in front of PetSmart, my cart full of a heavy box of litter and canned food, as I watched her coming along. I couldn’t tell if she was going to stop and she didn’t seem to be slowing down, so I paused. Then for a few seconds I turned my head in the other direction to look at some new construction. When I turned back, she had sort of stopped, that is, the van was inching along. That’s when she yelled.

I pushed my cart in front of her, willing myself to remain calm and not flip her the finger. I didn’t really feel angry. I considered blowing her a kiss and shouting, “Mellow out honey buns.” But I did feel hurt and violated and a semi-humorous albeit sarcastic response was too nice for her. By the time I got to my car, I wanted to cry.

I watched the van charge ahead toward the exit, where she ran into the construction blocking her way out. She then had to zig zag back through the parking lot and through a gas station to find another driveway into the main street.

Sadly, I’m used to the rudeness. In La Jolla, mothers in big SUVS texting and cutting other cars off. Businessmen in black Mercedes not stopping in intersections. In Pacific Beach, the impatience of many young people, music booming, trucks bearing down.

But this was the first time someone actually yelled.

Admittedly, there have been times when I’ve felt impatient crawling through a parking lot behind a group of people not paying attention. Often the same mothers or twenty-somethings who tailgate or rush around on the road but amble, take … their … sweet … time, four abreast, on the sidewalk or in the parking lot aisle.

But I would not assault them with words anymore than I would with a gun.

Two extra minutes is not going to make a difference in my life. Barring emergencies, does it in anyone’s?Seniors Speed Limit

Why did this woman, not young or old, in the huge van, feel the need to yell?

Her words weighed on my slightly stooping shoulders the rest of the day.

What if I were really old and slow? That day is closer than I care to admit and it makes me sad, really sad, to think further insults await on the road ahead.

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The Smart Phone Dumb Ass Dance

Pay Attention
Viral Pirate, March 28, 2016

Are we like frogs in boiling water? Adjusting to increasing discomfort until it’s too late to hop out?

Most of us by now are used to cell phone conversations invading our ear space. I may not LIKE overhearing detailed medical or romantic problems while standing in line at the grocery store or even while sauntering down the sidewalk, but I am no longer as uncomfortable as I was a few years ago. I’ve gotten used to it. Is this a good thing or not? Are cell phones turning us into blabbing idiots and giving us cancer? Maybe we are already brain wave scrambled.

I confess I answer phone calls in public sometimes too, but because I am quiet by nature, I try to sneak into an unoccupied nook (not a bathroom stall, I learned the hard way) and keep my voice down.

Now what is taking me by increasingly unpleasant surprise is the cell-phone shuffle, the zigzagging around those walking, noses into texts and Facebook on their phones, totally unaware of surroundings. Which includes me and hundreds of others.

I think it’s getting worse. In fact, almost every time I go somewhere now, I have to maneuver around several people with their heads down, headed straight for me or stopped right in the line of traffic or a doorway. All ages and types too, teenagers, businessmen and women, families, seniors. The ones who scare me the most are the young parents with strollers. It’s hard enough getting around them when they are not on phones, but when they are, they are like rogue missiles.

And even when I am being watchful, amping up my vigilance and doing this dance, there are surprises. The other night at the movies a woman slammed into me from BEHIND. We were less than 30 seconds from filing out after the movie and she was already checking for messages, in the middle of a moving mob. To her credit, she did apologize. The implications of this are scary. What if we were escaping a fire? Would she still be reading texts? Frankly, if she stopped, she’d be trampled and deserve it. However those around her would not deserve to have their buns toasted.

We’ve been warned about the dangers of texting and driving and it’s even illegal in some states. Maybe it’s time we thought more about the dangers of texting and walking, which are actually greater? Many studies point to an increase in pedestrian injuries and death due to cell phone use (talking and texting).

Here in San Diego last Christmas, a young man plunged 60 feet to his death off our oceanfront cliffs while using his phone. A few months earlier a texting teenager was killed stepping off a curb into a truck. In Florida a woman walked into a train but survived, getting clipped. She was fortunate. Others have hurt or killed themselves by falling off platforms, or into manholes and fountains.

Some cities are putting “bumpers” around lampposts. School and colleges are hanging signs in stairways reminding students to look up. Apple is working on making screens transparent so we can see ahead of us while looking at the phone.

All these could be helpful, but they don’t really solve the problem of not paying attention, of being considerate of those around us. Why should it be something we adjust to? Is it time to hop out of the hot pot while we still can?

 

Saying Thanks

The other morning I was sitting at the hairdresser’s letting my color sink in. My iPhone rang. I almost didn’t answer, since one, I did not recognize the number, and two, my iPhone is new and the last thing it needs is a color job. Something made me accept the call anyway, holding the phone a few inches away from my ear.

It was a gentleman – I say this in the full wonderful meaning of the word – calling to thank me for a story I’d just written about him in the local newspaper. I was so surprised I almost fell off the swiveling chair. Do you know how seldom anyone I write about says thank you?

It has been a full year. In that time, I’ve written 14 stories about local churches and synagogues. Of all the ministers and rabbis I interviewed, only one said thank you. (One accused me of misquoting him, but that’s really another story. Okay, I did get a word wrong, but he invented whole paragraphs!)

039Before that, maybe two people sent thank you cards and took me to lunch in three years as a way of thanking me for stories. In general, saying thank you has fallen by the old-fashioned wayside. Thank you cards belong to another era. Nowadays when someone, especially a young person, sends a card, it’s considered exceptional.

Why is this? Is there a decline in manners? Are people too busy? I leave it to historians and social analysts to answer. My guess is that there’s always been a mixture of civility and rudeness depending on time and place. Loosening standards of dress and social interaction is not always a bad thing. Working hard and having less time for tea parties and calling cards is not always a bad thing. Two parents working because they love their careers and also need two incomes is not a bad thing either. But do we have to let go of all standards of caring, all time to say a thank you and teach our children to say thank you? I hope not. And hope is out there in cyberspace in the many creative forms of insta-thank yous.

Nowadays there is a lot of emphasis on “expressing gratitude.” Feel grateful for all we have! Take time to thank the universe for every morning and night! Thank our bodies for getting us out of bed and walking us through the day. Thanks for friends, family, dog, cat, parrot, food, yoga, music, new book ….. you get the idea. Even express gratitude for BAD things. They are teaching us something, even if it is just new swear words. I assume death lets us off the hook here, that we can then be eternally grateful, ungrateful or just plain non-existent.

The problem with gratitude is that it only goes so far. It is like a selfie of the soul. It’s silent and yeah, selfish. Thank you universe for acknowledging wonderful me.

145Not thank you OUT LOUD to another human being. Thank you for being a good friend. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for being there. Thank you for helping me move. Thank you for keeping your advice to yourself. Thank you for the birthday wishes, the Christmas present, the dinner you cooked.

Thank you for the wonderful story you wrote. I tell you, that made my day. And my week and my month. And it may have to do me for another year.

Love Thy Selfie

Since we now can take and post instant pictures of ourselves online, have we become more self-preoccupied?

Not necessarily, according to Grant Barrett, co-host of “A Way with Words” on KPBS radio. In an interview last December, he identified selfie as one of 2013’s new words. People have always been self-absorbed, according to Barrett. Now it’s just more evident.

Who posts the most selfies and where? Nearly half of all selfies are posted on Facebook and the median age of self-snapping posters is 23. More women college students post selfies than men. The city with the most selfies on Instagram is Makati, Philippines and city with the second-most is New York.

It’s not at all surprising that younger people lead the photos-of-me pack. They use social media more, they’re having fun, they’re showing off to one another for sex or romance or just because. And let’s face it, no pun intended, they have better-looking faces and bodies to show off! Most people under 25 look good in burlap sacks in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

Nor is it surprising that those whose work depends on physical appearance post more photos of themselves. Actors, models, physical fitness buffs have always loomed large on billboards, magazine pages, paparazzi viewfinders. I’m getting used to seeing photos of my yoga teachers demonstrating poses or new forms of yoga, such as shavasana in a trapeze or down dogging on a paddleboard.

I wonder if there is any correlation between age and the size/closeness of ourselves in our selfies? The older we get, the less inclined we are to stick our wrinkled noses on the lens or open the aperture to bare midriffs. But we can still look reasonably okay as far away as our arms will take us standing near the oldest tree in the world, or even better, the oldest person.Monkey selfie

To me, the fun part of selfies is sharing what we are doing, alone or with others. Exploring a new restaurant, city or country. Reuniting with family or old friends. Celebrating birthdays and other special days. Taking in a sunset, welcoming a new dog or cat.

Recently I knew three couples who don’t know each other who were in Paris at the same time. Sure enough, there they all were on Facebook, smiling and smooching in selfie close ups, the Eifel Tower rising from their heads.

I have other FB friends who seldom, if ever, post selfies, preferring jokes, hi-tech advice, cat and dog videos, political opinions, interesting articles and creative work. These are all good too, and maybe the fact that they don’t have to post selfies is a good thing. They care more about the life of the mind than they do outward appearances. Their ideas are more apt to help the world than one more shot of us smelling flowers.

Or are they? Maybe our selfies are a way of reminding ourselves and others that we are here, every day. Every moment of every day, no matter how small.

Quick! I see a photo op. Good light, the right angle … click!

The Big To Do

There are certain people who make a big To Do, wherever they go, whatever they do. Even the most mundane tasks become big deals, much more complicated, obstreperous and time-consuming than necessary.

I’ve long been fascinated by this behavior, wondering where it comes from. Is it caused by obsessive-compulsive or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders? If so, the sufferers have my sympathy. They probably would like to mellow out if they could.

I enjoy doing many tasks as efficiently as I can, and figuring out new and improved methods. Not that I rush, but I don’t like to waste time, especially on unpleasant chores. When I was a teenager, I fell in love with Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, the mother and father efficiency experts in “Cheaper by the Dozen,” a memoir written by two of their children. At that time, I wanted many children and, despite the Gilbreth family efficiency, they seemed to have fun. After having two children (and also realizing the many benefits of birth control), I changed my mind. Family efficiency can work, but is more often a distant ideal, especially at 7 a.m. when you’re rushing out the door and realize one son doesn’t have shoes on and the other has knocked over the fish bowl.

HyperThe two activities where I’ve noticed people can be inefficient is doing laundry at the laundromat and setting up yoga mats. Fortunately, it’s been years since I’ve observed laundromat behavior in person, but I recall it vividly. My own approach was simple: take basket of clothes, detergent, quarters and book or magazine to the laundromat, throw clothes and detergent in washer, read, throw clothes in dryer, read, throw clothes in basket and get the hell out of there. Sort the clothes at home – that part I actually enjoy.

The Big To Doers were in the laundromat before I arrived and after I left. They had brought and lined up several baskets, carts, racks, hangers, boxes and bottles of detergent, bleach, softeners and other additives. They never sat down, even for a second. Their complicated routine went something like this: Carefully pre-sort, turning some items inside out. Pop a few in one washer, a few in another, pull some out, start a dryer, then back to another washer. Pull clothes out of dryer, hang some up, fold some, back to washer, back to dryer, back and forth, constant motion, washer woman or man whirling dervish. I never was able to figure out what they were doing, or why. Maybe they have 12 children. Maybe it’s the highlight of their day. Maybe they just enjoy making a simple task as complicated as possible.

The Big To DoThe other Big To Do I find fascinating is the setting up/setting down of the yoga mat that some yogis elevate to a ritual before class. Most of us walk in, bend or kneel down, unroll our mats and lie or sit down. Sometimes we walk over to the prop wall to get a cushion or a strap or to the cubbyhole wall to store a wallet or purse.

The show-offs walk in (or sometimes rush in late), unfurl their mat in the air and drop it on the floor. This makes a loud noise and sends a whoosh of air out over those of us already on the floor. They then unfurl a second cloth mat over the first mat. Because these slip, spray bottles are provided to dampen them with water. That’s right – spritz, spritz, spritz. Then the lining up begins, one mat over the other, and both in line with the lines on the floor. Then several trips for props and blankets. But not the cubbyholes. No, they prefer placing water bottles, coffee, keys, wallet, jackets, cell phones around their mat on the floor.

One man comes in before class fully dressed in long pants and a jacket and by the end of class, he has stripped down to shorts and tank top, his long pants and jacket in a heap behind him. Sometimes, after all this, a person will decide the space is not right and move – and start the yoga mat routine all over again! Every few months this behavior crescendos and “Yoga Etiquette” guidelines are posted inside the bathroom stalls to remind us. But those of us who set up quietly and quickly don’t need reminding and those who don’t don’t think guidelines apply to them.

To do or not to do. For them, it’s not even a question.

Bite Me. Bad Behavior Sound Bites

Waiting room. Fox News blaring. My personal version of Hell. Trapped with the yelling heads. Everything is wrong, wrong, WRONG! No good in anything.

Another waiting room. A reality show. The sound is muted but subtitles are on and blast across the screen in capital letters. Family members blowing out the words from angry faces. MY MOTHER’S BOYFRIEND IS TOO YOUNG. AND HE’S A NO-GOOD CHEAT.

Bad behaviorWaiting in line for a bagel. A big, older man comes up too close behind me and looms down over me. “What’s good here?” he asks. “I like the cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter,” I tell him. “I’d like a redheaded, hot mama,” he says. “Well, you can’t have this one,” I say. “I didn’t think so,” he answers.

Waiting in line at Starbucks. At least half a dozen people in front of me. A woman breezes in and walks straight up to the counter. Two or three people tell her there’s a line. “Oh, I’m just here for a cup of coffee,” she says. There is silence for a few shocked seconds, then we all say, “So are we!” The woman stomps out.

More bad behaviorWaiting in line in a discount store. Extremely long and close lines. A woman in the next line keeps ramming her cart into me. The woman behind me tells me the thin pretzels are good with the ranch dressing. The woman in front of me puts down her basket in line and walks away. She returns a couple of minutes later with two additional items, picks up her basket. The woman in back of me says, “Boy, I’ll have to remember that trick the next time I’m in here. Save my own place in line.” The woman in front of me turns around and says to her, “Ma’am, I just went nearby for one or two things. I’m very busy and I have to get back to work. And I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.” I decided not to roll my eyes, give the peace sign or say that I had to get back to work too.

A man stands with his young daughter in the middle of the sidewalk. He sees me coming, gently guides his daughter to the side. “We have to watch for people, honey,” he says to her. He smiles at me as I pass by. I smile back. He gives me hope.

Aloha

Such a friendly woman once I got her to smile. I pass her for weeks in the morning, she walking two dogs and I carrying my mat to yoga. She is tall, with a limp in one leg, but she doesn’t let it slow her down, walks briskly and for miles she tells me, after we say hello and introduce ourselves. On Valentine’s Day, she surprises me with a chocolate bar, passing it to me like a baton in a relay as we move along. I eventually learn that she also swims and I tell her I write for the local paper and give her my card.

HibiscusOne morning I am headed in a different direction and I don’t recognize her as she pulls up in a black SUV and parks in front of my neighbor’s house. “You’re early this morning,” she says as she gets out. It takes me a few seconds to see who she is in this different location. And another few to realize she is not stopping to say hello or give me another candy bar.

She walks in front of her SUV and over to my neighbor’s hibiscus trees and starts yanking off the pink flowers. Handfuls of them. “I need these for my tortoise,” she says. “I hope whoever lives here doesn’t mind.”

I don’t know what to say.

Now, the hibiscus trees and flowers surround my neighbor’s corner house and flow over the sidewalk on two sides, so there are probably enough to feed a bale of turtles.

My neighbor is a yoga teacher, a kind and gentle man, and the hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii, so it seems entirely possible that he wouldn’t mind sharing his bountiful blossoms with a hungry tortoise. I might be tempted myself to pluck one for my hair, just as I’m sometimes tempted to grab a lemon from another nearby front yard. But in the spirit of aloha, I think I would ask first before plucking. Or I like to think I would.