sixtiestosixties

I was something in the 60s but now I'm just sixty something.

Heat Wave

The weather this summer has been misbehaving! Rain, floods, fires, rain, tornadoes, rain and then, after some more rain, straight into the annual heatwave. This year’s heat wave is a bad one. It just seems wrong when summer temperatures are higher in the northeast than they are in Florida. This can really confuse the snowbirds and affect their migration pattern. A FB friend of mine posted a picture of some neighbors having cocktails up in her summer lakeside community. In the bedroom. No, it wasn’t one of those kinds of parties. (Much too hot for anything like that.) It’s just the bedroom has an air conditioner and it’s been in the 90s.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Hot! Hot! Hot!

I grew up in upstate New York in the 1950s and 60s. Not what you would think of as a warm climate but at least once every summer we would get a stretch of killer hot, muggy, weather. And we really weren’t equipped to handle it. My mother always complained about the humidity in Schenectady in the summer. As a point of reference, she moved there from Houston. We lived in a Levittown-esque, Cape Cod style home with an “expanded” second floor. Translation…my brother and I essentially slept in our separate halves of an attic. Big rooms with tiny windows. The only air movement we got upstairs was the heat rising from the first floor. We had one floor fan in the small hallway between our rooms. Since my brother was older and more manipulative  wiser than me, the fan was usually pointed toward his room. The theory was that the intake on the fan would pull the air from my room across to his room to create a breeze for us both. Bullshit. The fan blew on him. My side stayed a stagnant attic. All I got from the fan was the fun of talking through it when it was too hot to sleep.

Occasionally, when it got really oppressive, we were allowed to drag our bedding downstairs and make a pallet on the living room floor. This was like being released from the gates of hell. We had a screen on the front door and my parents would let us sleep with the door open. My parents had their own fan in their bedroom. As long as they kept their bedroom door opened for cross ventilation it kept them just cool enough to get hot with each other. At the time we didn’t realize why we weren’t allowed do that every night in the summer.

Turning on an oven or stove to cook in those little houses would bring the temperature in the house up at least another 5 degrees.(Probably 10 upstairs.) Consequently dinner was whatever didn’t need to be actually cooked. My mother would spoil us in the heat wave with a fun meal of huge bowls of vanilla ice cream loaded with fresh sliced peaches, plums, and nectarines. She first tried this light meal with cottage cheese but since as a child I equated cottage cheese to bleached out vomit she gave up and allowed my brother and me to have our fruit with ice cream. I’m convinced this was in part to ease her guilt for making us sleep upstairs and not buying one more frickin’ fan. Really, how much could it have cost?

At some point in the early 60s my parents bought a window unit air conditioner and put it in the tiny room in the back of the house where we all crammed in to watch TV. My mother went into that room in mid June and came out around Labor Day. From there she issued orders and ran the family. The room was meant to be a bedroom but my dad removed the door because it opened inward and hit the huddle of furniture surrounding the TV altar. This was counterproductive for air-conditioning so in the summer we tacked a sheet up over the door frame. I can still see my dad batting wildly at that sheet and moving it aside on his way to the kitchen to refresh those ice-cold martinis my parents used to keep cool. He was a master at cracking ice against the palm of his hand. Then, if I was lucky enough to be around, he’d grab the back of my neck with that icy, cold hand. I’d squeal with a mixture of annoyance and delight. After that first shock, it felt good on those hot, sticky, summer evenings.

How did you beat the heat?

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Jury Duty

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I recently had the privilege of upholding my civic responsibility and reporting for jury duty. I want to be clear that I am very thankful that I live in a country where we have well protected legal rights. That being said, I still hate jury duty and I am stuck in a vortex where I get summoned over and over. I keep moving from state to state yet they still find me. When I complained to a friend, she first shamed me and then suggested I might get an interesting trial. Really? Has she ever had jury duty? It’s boring minutiae and I have the attention span of a rabbit on crack. Luckily this time I was able to take the ferry downtown and walk the few blocks to the courthouse even if it meant taking two hours to travel five miles. Still it beats the usual driving all over the city  looking for a parking space that costs more per day than the juror’s “pay”. Nothing like jury duty actually costing you money.

Court employees in San Diego really are nice though in that So Cal  “chill, dude” kind of way. Once we were all settled in they showed us the cheesiest instructional movie I’ve ever seen. It begins with beautiful shots of California to manipulate you into feeling pride and then hits you with the bad news. “California has crime that needs to be ‘resolved’.” Since I’ve lived in ten states and I found them all beautiful and crime ridden this didn’t exactly move me to tears.

I noted a few descrepancies between the movie and my personal experience:

  • The movie informed us , “You may make friends on the jury who you’ll stay in touch with.” Right. Nobody stays connected with anybody in California. That’s why everybody moved here to start with.
  • We were assured, “Everyone gets called…even lawyers, judges and elected officials.” True. They get summoned. They just never actually get put on a jury.
  • I observed the men in the movie were dressed in coats and ties. The guy next to me was wearing shorts and flip flops.
  • The jurors in the film were interested and attentive. The potential jurors in the jury lounge were texting or working on their laptops.

In typical Hollywood spillover style the list of credits for this film runs longer than the film itself. Every lawyer, every judge is duly noted. Good to know they were real people because they sure as hell couldn’t act. But hey, at least the court was attempting to make you feel like part of the process.

We were informed there was a five week trial, a six week trial and several 3-7 day trials on the docket. I started to sweat. What happened to the one to two day ordeals I usually got stuck with? Like the ones back in South Carolina where if you weren’t a native you were screwed since three quarters of the jury pool were excused for being related to the defendant, having taught the defendant in third grade, or belonging to the same church as the defendant’s mama. I told myself to calm down. But five or six weeks? How would I ever survive that? I had no excuse to get out of it. You had to prove you’d lose your home or starve to death in a week away from work. Or be half dead.  Not being able to pay attention that long was not going to cut it. I wondered if they would strike me if I burst into tears.

I got through the morning without being called. So far so good. On lunch break I decided to eat real food in a real restaurant. I really wanted a glass of wine but decided drinking on jury duty was not being a responsible citizen. Returning to the jurors’ lounge, I waited again to be summoned to a court room. People were called away by the dozens. It was getting to be well into the afternoon when I noticed there were only about 15 people remaining of the original 400-500.  And then we were dismissed! I couldn’t believe it! I’m good for a whole year! I’m never this lucky! Maybe I should have hopped a flight to Vegas.

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The Pope App

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The world has a new pope! Now we should all download the new Pope App so we can keep up with whatever archaic business Pope Francis is up to. I wonder how much the app will cost? A tenth of your income perhaps? There has been a lot of hoopla about this as if it really means we will see any significant changes in the Roman Catholic Church. This use of technology is supposed to help draw young people back into the faith. Somehow I can’t see the younger generation jumping on the doctrinal band wagon just because the Vatican is using social media. On the positive side, Pope Francis is a Jesuit and Jesuits are known for their smarts. Young people like smart. He’s also from South America and is a product of the Liberation Theology movement which swept through the southern hemisphere in the 1950s and 60s advocating social, economic, and political justice. Young people also like this ideology since when they were growing up everybody got a blue ribbon. But he has already spoken out against women priests and gay marriage. Oops! I guess it’s just social equality for some. Women and gays are to remain behind in limbo. I doubt this line of thinking works for the younger generation. Frankly, it doesn’t work for me either. I expect we are all going to hear the same old stuff, albeit preached a new way.

Still, this new connection from the Vatican could have far-reaching implications throughout Catholicism. This could be the biggest thing since the Church went out on a limb, got rid of Latin, and began proclaiming the faith using languages people actually understand. It took great courage for the Church to risk understanding among its followers. The people began to realize that molesting the altar boy was not actually part of the mass.

Now we could be entering a whole new format for worship. Maybe there will even be a Vatican 3.0. The future generations of Catholics, instead of staying home and watching mass on TV in their pajamas and getting into the wine early on Sunday, can go to church by simply logging in. Finally, all those well-chosen confirmation names will have a purpose. They can become holy passwords.

Think of the choice of parishes!

At St. Twitter’s…. when the priest tweets, “Peace be with you.”,  we can all tweet back, “And also with you.”

At Our Lady of Pinterest…. we can “pin” the virtual holy communion where we can visit it all week to remind us that no matter how many sins we are out committing we can repent repin next Sunday.

And for those special services how about Holy Facebook Basilica ?

Pope Francis shared Easter mass.

Sunday at sunrise.

“Christ is risen!”

1.1 billion likes.

This is not as farfetched as it may seem. The new mystery of faith is how a person can type a few words on a keyboard and the whole world can read them. Gives a whole new meaning to the term “religious icon”.

How about it? Do you think it can work?

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“The Plan” Diet

Flax seed granola anyone?

Flax seed granola anyone?

I’m working on The Plan by Lyn-Genet Recitas. The theory behind it is that inflammatory responses to foods can cause you to gain weight and feel like crap. Current thinking purports that all disease is derived from inflammation. Since these reactions are very individual and can occur from healthy foods, finding our personal triggers will (supposedly) make us healthier and slimmer. Maybe. I’ve been getting more aches and pains lately and can’t seem to shed the extra five pounds that have attached to my waistline so I figured I’d give it a try. What the hell.

This diet is basically an elimination diet which begins by eliminating just about everything edible so your body can heal. Then gradually you test new foods. (Kind of like weaning a baby onto solids.) It starts with a three-day cleanse in which you survive on flax seeds, kale, carrots and gallons of water which are all apparently non-inflammatory. (I’m not sure this will help you heal internally but I guarantee it will make you hungry.) After three days you introduce a small portion of a new food and see if you react negatively. If the food triggers inflammation you might feel crummy the next day. Or you might gain half a pound to two pounds overnight from your carrots, kale, and new food… say…pizza goat cheese. (Dream on. It could take a couple of months to eat pizza because you would have to do a separate test for each ingredient.)

In preparation, I pigged out over the weekend and went shopping for the essential carrots and a lot of what I would classify as weeds and seeds. Then I went home and started cooking…and cooking. I have never spent so much time in the kitchen producing such tasteless food. For a big burst of flavor there’s a recipe for “Spicy Coco Sauce” concocted from onions, garlic, ginger and coconut milk. If you like Thai food you might think it’s OK. I hate Thai food. In my world coconut should only be paired with chocolate. And ginger belongs in little men you assign names to and then bite off their heads.

Day one I started by guzzling water and drinking Dandelion Tea which is hailed as a liver detox. I figured I could use a little detoxing since I had been down at the Del drinking G&T’s all Sunday afternoon. The tea tastes just like the dirt from my childhood front yard. (I did lots of face plants over the years in that yard so I know.) Then I tucked into a big bowl of flaxseed for breakfast. On to thin, tasteless, seed garnished, pureed carrot soup for lunch, accompanied by weeds mixed greens (with more seeds) and steamed broccoli. Dinner was kale with the nasty coconut sauce and a shredded carrot and beet salad. They put shredded “beet root” in everything in Australia and my grandkids will eat it so I figured it might be pretty good. Ever see an Australian cookbook? Guess why.

Day two I was hungry, exhausted and cranky but also down a pound and a half. The weight drop was just the proverbial carrot I needed. Too bad I had to eat more carrot soup too. I also had to return to the store. Who knew eating such a skimpy amount of tasteless food could get so expensive?

Day three I awoke having dropped another pound and knowing I was thankfully done with carrot soup. Then I cheerfully spent the morning chopping vegetables to make another crappy soup that uses the horrid coconut sauce to enhance the bad flavoring. But I did get to eat 2 ounces of chicken breast. Hallelulia!

Day four “the cleanse” was over and I had dropped another pound. Just three days and I was down three and a half pounds! But as slowly as new foods are tested meals won’t be changing much for a good while. Forging on, day four I was allowed a whole serving of  chicken with mango salsa. And guess what? As soon as the pepper in the salsa hit my tongue, my nose started flooding. I was up half a pound the next morning and my arthritis was raging. Just like the book said it would. So who knows. Maybe there is something to this. The trouble is, I’m just not sure how long I can keep this program going before I cave in and order a pizza. But at least I’ll know to hold the peppers.

What my husband gets to eat.

What my husband gets to eat.

My dinner.

What I get to eat.

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Giving Thanks

Let’s Talk Turkey

Thanksgiving is upon us once again. I look around, and like many of us, I get enraged at things such as politics, General Betray us  Petraeus, my diminishing retirement account, and the San Diego Chargers. I hear myself grumbling,”What the hell is there to be thankful for?” Then from somewhere a Sunday school voice pops into my head and whispers to me to count my blessings. I know there are many things I have to be thankful for. But the Litany of Thanksgiving is rather obvious and overdone and can make you feel guilty and like an ingrate. I think this year we should all look beyond the usual. Sometimes it really is the little things in life that bring us the most joy and gratitude.

Here are some of the things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving:

1. Chocovine. I mean red wine and chocolate all in one? Can it get any better than this?

2. My son lives in town and has two dogs. Now I don’t have to get one.

3. Despite my gym being closed for repairs for the last 6 weeks my pants still (barely) fit.

4. I am in no way related to the Kardashians.

5. I am still able to lift the turkey in and out of the oven by myself.

6. Skype. My grandchildren live over 7,000 miles away. Yes, that’s 7 thousand miles. Now if the technology gods could just come up with a way to beam them up from ” down under”.

7. Despite our dismal economy and the phenomenon of a generation of workers being forced to hit the reset button over and over my three kids are finally all happily employed at the same time.

8. Blogging. I can actually write and be read without having to have an editor. There are no rejection letters. OK, so there’s no money either but I get to hit “publish” all by myself. That’s POWER!!!

9. I don’t eat Twinkies.

10. The gift of laughter. It is the  simplest and most useful of life skills and I could not survive without it.

Think outside the turkey this year. What are some of the little things you are thankful for?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Seasonal Affective Disorder and Growing Fur

I am fighting my annual war of avoiding pseudo hibernation. If you have never pseudo hibernated it involves a lot of sleep, TV and carbs. Wine can also play a part in this but given the length of the evenings this time of year it can be difficult to manage. I hate how short the days are now. I am one of those people who is extremely sensitive to daylight (or lack thereof). I just want to eat, sleep, and grow fur (although I am pretty sure PETA would object to this.) While some people love to go outside and take in the crispness of fall I just go to the refrigerator and take in what’s in the crisper. And since I don’t actually have fur to thicken, my waistline thickens instead. Basically, autumn just makes me hungry. And SAD.

Kicking up the exercise a notch usually helps with this. But to make matters worse, there was a construction “oops” involving water pipes in the building where my gym is located. So far the gym has been closed for a month. (So have the mouths of all the parties involved in this mess. I wonder how many lawyers are going to Disney World on this one? ) I have been unduly upset about this. I had just splurged on a very expensive gym outfit as a motivational tactic to prepare for the challenge of changing the clocks back.  Now I am all dressed up with no place to go. Maybe I’ll wear it to happy hour instead. My friend Michelle (name changed to protect the guilty) told me her butt has fallen two inches as a result of not having access to her favorite exercise machines. I had not even considered my butt!  She made me realize that with the gym closed and all that I eat at this time of year I am in big trouble. So now I have been trying hard to avoid three-way mirrors. Unfortunately, this eliminates shopping, which, like exercise,  I find to be an excellent adjunct therapy  for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I was taking out the garbage the other night and could hear the musical notes of  “Retreat”  drifting over from the navy base as they were lowering the flag for the evening. I went into shock. It wasn’t even five o’clock! I wanted to scream, “Stop,you can’t do this yet! It’s too early to be getting dark!” I had just been considering hopping on my bike to pedal over to the store for some sour cream to blob onto the giant carb laden potato I was planning to bake for dinner. The bugle made me realized I might be too late. And sour cream had sounded so soothing. Frantically I looked around. The shadows were rolling across the yard just like the fog does. I ran into the house and turned on the outdoor party lights in an attempt to chase away the fast approaching night in what seemed to me should have been late afternoon. All they provided were a few twinkles. My glorious, life sustaining  sunshine was gone.

Sadly, I groped my way into the darkened kitchen and found the light switch. I poured a (big) glass of wine, put the potato in the oven and plopped down on the couch with the remote and a big faux fur throw. I felt defeated. I had lost the day. I know my brain will adjust to this cruel trick of nature. It does every year. In the meantime I will finish off the Halloween candy. Chocolate works wonders.

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Elections and TV Coverage

The public peacekeeper.

Have you noticed that most public places that blare TV at you are no longer tuned to news programs but to ESPN? It’s a matter of security. I feel certain this is to avoid fistfights. It’s an unwritten policy at my gym not to have any news networks tuned in as the owner has had to eject grown men from the premises for throwing punches at each other during a news show. I noticed ESPN was even on in the airports and hotels when I was traveling the last couple of weeks. It is, after all, an election year and the closer it gets to Nov.6 the angrier people are getting. Now there is even arguing about whether given the choice you would vote for Romney’s Irish Setter or Obama’s Portuguese Water Dog. What the hell is wrong with people? Don’t they know both of these breeds are fairly stupid dogs and we would all be better off with a German Shepherd? There’s a clue here.

A far better choice.

ESPN is winning the public space ratings primarily because news stations aren’t really news stations anymore. They are loud, obnoxious mouth pieces for political parties and we all know which ideology controls which stations. It is human nature that people only want to listen to their chosen pack of lies and want nothing to do with the lies of their opposition. We want our lies validated, not challenged. Thus, must of us only want to hear from our chosen “news” station. The thing is, if it were really news the stations would all be reporting pretty much the same “facts”. (Remember Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite?) Instead, today’s news shows all but incite riots. I personally don’t want to hear any of the political pundits shouting across the airwaves because I think they are all a bunch of asses but it doesn’t take long for ESPN to bore me. (Also,as far as sports go,  I am a Charger fan and just like the politicians they start off the game with big promise then fail to deliver in the end. I’m not sure how much longer my  TV can survive without a shoe going through it.)

On the news shows we have to hear the spin doctors trying  to make a bunch of stupid, immoral, politicians look good.  On ESPN we have to listen to the spin doctors trying to make a bunch of stupid, immoral sports figures look good. Do Americans really swallow this stuff? It scares me to think so. I think most of us would agree that the vast majority of sports stars are majorly sleazy but as long as they win we don’t care. So the sports talk shows provoke fewer fights. Unless of course there is an actual game on in which case public venues are better off turning to the Food Channel because this is obese America and we all like to eat. And we are able to have civil discourse on which fatty, over salted foods are best for the country.

It’s even getting risky to watch the election coverage in the privacy of our own homes. At my house we make sure we are fortified with wine before the debates start. Then we start yelling at the TV. Fortunately for us we are pretty much on the same page politically. Basically, we think they are all morons. But in many homes family members are having intense, ugly battles over this stuff. (Fox News and CNN are probably the real reason Arnold and Maria broke up.) I often wonder how my in-laws would have fared in this political climate if they were still living. My mother-in-law was a die-hard Democrat her whole life and my father-in-law was a staunch Republican. They watched and listened to all the news available in the old days and read two daily papers front to back. They passionately argued politics for 66 years. But they did it with respect and conceded points to each other. Maybe we would all do well to take a page from their book. Until we do I’ll just keep ordering wine by the case.

The candidates? The news team?

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Leaving on a Prop Plane

Just three planes and I”m home!

I just had the joy of flying across the country and back in one of America’s luxurious airliners. I needed to travel to a small airport which has limited service but an abundance of fog. This meant multiple legs on the trip and an extra hour of circling the runway at midnight in a really loud prop jet hoping the fog would lift so as not to have to land 90 miles away and board a bus. This kind of stuff can’t really be helped so although it’s added misery I made up my mind to just grin and bare it.

But we all know air travel could be improved.

I’m not going to run on with the usual gripes about the airlines: the way we are crammed in, the lack of food and drink, and the surliness of so many flight attendants. You know what the problems are. I am used to bringing my own food and plenty of water because I can count on the airlines not to offer me any. Three ounces of water is not sufficient to ward off dehydration on a five and a half hour flight.  I don’t mind bringing my own but I figure they could at least come by with the trash bag. Most of the time I see the attendants sitting in their little service area eating their own lunch. I hate to interrupt them by handing them my trash but there really is no room to keep it in the seat pocket. That space is already taken by my knees.

Neither am I going to say much about the TSA although I can’t understand how you can get through security quicker at LAX than at an airport that has four outbound flights a day. In such a small airport the TSA doesn’t really have much to do so they go through everyone’s luggage right as it’s checked. Helps with the boredom. I really don’t like people perusing my dirty laundry (literally or metaphorically). And I absolutely hate it when I have to stand there and watch. I prefer to be humiliated anonymously. Do I need someone to judge my underwear?

The real problem though, as I see it, is the other travelers. Rudeness rules the day. So does poor hygiene. People are just nasty these days in all possible ways. And animals? I love animals and have sat near dogs many times. They are usually better behaved than their owners. But I draw the line at having to smell cat pee for five hours. The smell of cat pee is exactly why I don’t have a cat. This was the first time I ever saw a cat on a plane and I hope I never have to smell see one again.

And what don’t people get about “a small personal item”? This does not mean a backpack that would be a challenge for a marine to carry. Or one that bounces off the heads of everyone already seated on its’ way down the aisle. And yes, shopping bags count. Not really a carry on?  Yeah, right. It’s packed with more stuff than checked baggage. What useless stuff are all these people buying on vacation? Planes are SMALL folks. Really small. And no one is that special.

Did anyone learn anything on “Watch Mr. Wizard”? If not, here’s a science lesson for you: gas expands at high altitudes. If you have a sealed bag of something like chips or crackers you will notice the bag will blow up full and tight. You can pop it like a balloon. The gas in your stomach expands too. But unlike the sealed bag there is a way out for intestinal gas subjecting all aboard to recycled farts for hours on end. That little air blower over your head doesn’t get any new air once those doors are closed in preparation for take off. So everybody keep on bringing those fast food fries and onions on board so we can all breathe them in both before and after they are consumed. The smells blend in nicely with the germs from all the coughing and sneezing. Best to pack something to hold over your nose and get a flu shot.

Who do the airlines think they are kidding when they say “sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip”? It actually pisses me off to hear that. Just hurry up and come by with the beverage cart. Then I can buy some alcohol to get through the whole ordeal.

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Funeral

Laughing all the way.

” Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

Now that I have made it to the other side of a cluster of funerals, I can draw a deep breath, dry my eyes, and see that people plan funerals with the same personal flair they plan any other event in their life. For example, my mother-in-law’s idea of a dinner party was to serve cocktails made of lemonade and cheap whiskey and boil up some meat. I never could understand this bland streak in her as she was a very talented artist and knew how to put verve in a painting. Never the less, she buried her dearly departed husband in a nice shade of beige. His face so matched his jacket I had to do a double take to see if he had been dressed at all. Her plan was to give him the same type of Catholic service she took comfort in her whole life. A mass with the right prayers, the right eulogy, the right decorum… the right rites. Something in perfect control. What she did not plan on was the homeless man who wandered in out of the rain, sat right next to the family, and began to join in the responses and sing off-key. The church funeral committee was flustered. The priest looked nervous. My Alzheimer stricken mother-in-law was terrified. And I was choking back laughter at the whole bizarre scene. Nobody knew what to do with him. I just figured we should let him be. It was a church after all and as they say “WWJD”?

A few months later when my dad died, he had picked out everything and pre-payed his bill. I don’t want to say my dad had no taste but he did have a tendency to gravitate to the tacky side. So when the funeral parlor brought in his casket, in my highly emotional state, I blurted out ,”Look, he blinged out his coffin just like his Cadillacs.” Really, it had way too much detailing. Fortunately, not many people had arrived. This was, after all, retirement Florida and I could have offended a number of people who had gone for the same upgrades on their cars and caskets. And speaking of funerals in Florida, the people come dressed in their golf clothes so they won’t miss their round for the day. You never know, it could be the last one. Some of the gentlemen were wearing the same outlandishly styled plaid pants they wore to my mother’s funeral some 17 years earlier. I wonder what their caskets will look like?

My mother-in-law had been planning her own funeral for years. She had written down all the things she wanted to be buried with as if she were an ancient Egyptian. Her’s was to be a Catholic mass…the higher the better. Her eyes sparkled in spiritual ecstasy when she talked about it. (We did not call her St. Dorothy for nothing). I know she envisioned a church full of mourners. But she outlived everybody. Including the people she knew from church. So what she got was a deacon darting into the funeral parlor to say a few words. Apparently, if you outlive your tithe you don’t warrant a mass. I kept expecting her to jump up and tell us we were all going to hell for treating our beloved mother so badly by not having communion. We were maybe a dozen strong for the actual “mc service”.  We did have a woman show up like she was going to a Victorian funeral. Saint Dot would have approved of her attire. The woman was dressed in black from head to toe including a veiled hat and gloves. Really creepy. She went on and on about how she used to go to my mother-in-law’s art shows. I was thinking, “That’s nice but who the hell are you?”

There have been other humorous moments in the midst of extreme sadness. We snickered at Uncle Pete, who at 96, was buried without his teeth which was appropriate because he wouldn’t wear them when he was alive either. My daughter-in-law’s father, who was a great kidder in his 50 years, found a way to play one last joke. When a snake crawled out of a floral arrangement in the middle of his funeral everybody figured it had to be his doing. And even at my precious nephew’s funeral, who died way too young at 27, we laughed at his antics as they were recounted by his many friends.

So how about you? Have you ever laughed at a funeral? Were people appalled? Or did they laugh with you?

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Customer Service

Do you see a package here?

I’m so glad big companies did away with their outsourced call centers. You know, the ones where we couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. Things are so much better now that nobody at all is working in customer service. At least the automated voice doesn’t hold it against me when I tell her to bite me.

I ordered a replacement water filter for my refrigerator and after being assured it was in stock I chose to pay extra for a quick delivery. When it hadn’t arrived in two and a half weeks I decided I should call the appliance company back and check on my order. I began this ordeal with an attitude of patience because if I spent time doing this I could put off something I wanted to do even less. There was the usual “push 1”, “push 2”, “your call is important to us” bullshit. If they really thought it was that important they would actually pick up my call. Their real strategy is to make you give up and hang up. When I finally got through to someone she assured me that according to the tracking number my water filter had been delivered. Wrong! I know it never landed on my doorstep. I paid for three-day delivery and was watching for it. I know what time the truck comes down our street. I was home that day at the exact time of said delivery. The appliance company told me that since they had received confirmation of the delivery it was up to me to deal with the delivery service.

Next I called the delivery company’s 800 number whose mechanical voice gives you three options, none of which is to report you didn’t get your package. Neither is there an option for speaking to a real person. They did offer a list of local stores with addresses and store hours. This might have helped if I wanted to send something instead of receive something. Then I discovered if I waited around and pushed “1 for more information” I could get a phone number to a local store. I doubted the locals could help me but I figured they would know who could.

So I called one of the local stores and a real woman actually answered the phone! I asked her, in pressurized speech, before she could hang up or put me on hold, how I was supposed to report that I had never received a package that was recorded as delivered when the number you are supposed to call doesn’t allow for that. I concluded she must get this question frequently because she answered in an equally manic voice that if I were to press “0” four or five times at three-second intervals I would get an operator. Then she immediately hung up before I could thank her. Or ask her anything else. No one calling the 800 number could had uncovered this information simply by listening to the menu. Do they actually want customers?

So again, I call the 800 number for the delivery company but this time I am running out of patience because by now an hour has passed and I am beginning to think of all those things I hate to do that I could have gotten done in that time.

Then I found myself in conversation with a machine.

“Press 1 if you…,” the mechanical voice chirped.

“Bite me. I’m pressing 0,” I replied.

“Press 1 if you… ”

“F*** you. I’m pressing 0.

“Press ‘1’ if you…”

“Ha! You think I’m stupid? I’m pressing 0.

And so the conversation went until at last I got a real person. I explained my problem to the man and was then put on hold until I could to talk to “someone who could help me”. While holding I’m wondering what the first man was paid to do if he couldn’t help. At last the lone customer service worker in this multi-billion dollar shipping company cheerfully explained to me that the appliance company I ordered from was the account holder and they would have to initiate the tracer investigation for claim purposes. I bit my tongue until it bled because she was real and obviously overworked  and my mother taught me not to swear at people. Then I dialed back right where I started from.

In the meantime, there is a bright, blinking, annoying warning indicator on my refrigerator lighting up the kitchen at night. And although I have paid for a replacement part I have no idea when or if I’ll ever get it. Anyone want to place any bets?

Could it be here somewhere?

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