5

Sleeping On A Couch

If you’ve been wondering where I am and what I’ve been doing for the past few days, the answers are still in Madison, and attempting to keep my parents fed, watered, and entertained while doing the grad student thing as well.

Oh, and sleeping on my couch.

My parents coming to visit me is a wonderful thing. They are two of the most wonderful people I know, and that’s not just because they made me.who I am today. 90% of the time they are agreeable and not super paranoid or weird or obsessive like some other peoples’ parents I know. Well, my dad is obsessed with baseball and my mother with talking with her friends about how great retirement is, but none of those hobbies involve criticizing me, my life choices, or asking me where their grandchildren are (Answer: In time out like all of the rest of the naughty children). Also, they trust me most of the time, which is good, because they should.

I could go on about this, but the main gist of the story is that there are also some bad things about their visit. Usually imaginary, but they’re there. I become a nervous wreck. I have to hide everything in my apartment that could be perceived as a questionable object or risk them asking about it (why do you have a rotary cutter, Jacob?). I have to make sure that they are watered and fed the appropriate amounts at the appropriate times or they get crotchety. Usually my dad more than my mom, but he is also four years older. I usually clean, but my mom cleans it better so I should just remember not to clean for next time. My mom understands, though, that when we are in Madison, we go to Target and Kohl’s and Metcalfe’s, and that we can walk places. She actually does exercise, walking every morning for at least an hour and swimming later in the day. Unlike my mom, my dad hates anything having to do with shopping and will complain whenever his legs or feet start to hurt.

Of course, since this week is the Epic company’s medical conference, just about every hotel room in Dane County is booked, and even my friend who works at a hotel could not override the system. So, when my parents told me that they would just stay with me, I was like…

And that’s why I’ve been sleeping on my couch.

Now, this is not to say I dislike my couch. I actually really like my couch, and it is quite comfortable for activities such as sitting or napping or cuddling. Sleeping one night on it, not too bad. But sleeping multiple nights on it? Yeah, not so much. I know that it’s petty and a small price to pay, but three consecutive nights on the couch is not fun for my back, which must go in weird, spasmodic positions. Two nights ago, I actually slept fairly well. Last night, I think I tried to pry my arm off in my sleep because it was getting in my way, which took a surprising amount of energy.

In general, though, I dislike sleeping on couches. I would probably rather sleep on a floor, unless it is a couch actually made for sleeping and not sitting on, like my sister’s sofa sectional in DC. That sentence had too many letter “s”es in it. I used to be much pickier about where I could and could not sleep, but somewhere along the line, I began to fall asleep in weird places. This probably merits a future entry, but started in high school (face down, sprawled out at an airport), college (under a table in a conference room at a hotel), post-college (in the waiting room of an urgent care center), and in several different hotel lobbies in Houston.

Anyway.

Two nights down, one to go.

But then my parents will go home, I’ll miss them, and my apartment will never be this clean again.

2

All You Nosy People

Yeah, it’s that kind of day; I had to go to J. J. Fad to get a title idea.

Anyway.

So, now, here’s something I don’t understand: what is up with nosy people? I mean, I just don’t understand it…who are you serving? Because if it’s yourself, then clearly you’re ready for the check because…ohmygod, stop.

Okay, context.

A few days ago, my dad was complaining of blurred vision, and wouldn’t you know it, apparently he had a detached retina. Or something like that. I mean, that’s what the optometrist thought initially, but it actually was something similar but a lot less severe. He can still see out of both eyes, but he’s wearing a little clear pirate-shield-thing over the affected eye. He’s been having tests and seeing doctors for the past few days, and today he had surgery, but he’s still doing almost all the normal things that he does, except driving and discovering cures for cancer. Well, not so much the second thing, because he doesn’t have a degree in the sciences. Even though he and my mom canceled their flights to Madison next week (not mine though, thank God) after yesterday’s appointment, he had a surgical procedure done today and he’s cleared to fly; that means he’s doing better than most expectant mothers in their third trimesters.

He’s going to make it.

So, yay for my dad!

After his successful surgery this morning (though it seems like forever ago, with what I’m about to tell you), it was taking a while for my dad to get checked out of the hospital. My mother had driven him there and waited. She was watching the clock because she had to get him home so she could get to her book club meeting at the library, and when she asked the desk how much longer it would be, they said “fifteen minutes.” Fifteen minutes later, they said the same thing to her. Normally, not so much of a problem, but a) my dad was fine, and b) she had somewhere to be, so she called me to pick him up so she could get to the library on time. I get in the car, pick him up, and bring him home; he and my mom have been awake since pretty early this morning, and even though it’s only about 1 PM, he’s just had surgery, so he goes to take a nap.

Maybe a half hour or hour later, the phone rings.

It’s not my mom, obviously, because she’s at her book club; it’s probably not my sister, who’s working; and I wouldn’t call the house phone just to talk to myself, but I pick it up anyway to stop it from ringing. It’s not a doctor or someone from the hospital, so guess who it is. Actually, don’t, because you’ll be wrong, but you could probably guess what he/she said after the greeting.

“So, how’s the patient?”

Uuugggghhh, really?

I wasn’t really in the mood to expound at great length on my father’s condition to one of my mother’s nosy friends, so I gritted my teeth and said something like, “he’s fine, he’s had a really rough morning though and he’s trying to rest.”

The response? “I was just asking, you don’t need to be so touchy.”

My response? “I’m not, I’m just telling you that we just got home from the hospital, he’s been up for a while and he’s trying to get some sleep, is there anything that you need?”

“No, I was just asking how he was.”

“He’s fine. He’s asleep. Can you call back later?”

“Sure, okay.”

::hang up::

If you couldn’t already sense it, my face and my palm got very chummy at that moment.

Let’s back up for a minute.

Part of the problem is my mother, telling every person she knows every detail of our lives, because that’s what she does, but that notwithstanding, I get the fact that you’re trying to show that you care, you mean well, you’re trying to be nice…but obviously, you know that my dad was in the hospital this morning. That’s the whole reason you called, isn’t it?

But think about it for a second.

You’re calling the house of someone who has just had surgery done this morning. Unless you are an immediate family member or a doctor, there is no reason that you should be calling at this juncture, even if it’s just to “check in.” Because chances are, you’re disturbing someone, either the person who had the surgery or their family member. Surgery is tiring. Hospitals are exhausting places, whether you’re undergoing surgery, sitting in a waiting room, or, you know, working. No one ever leaves a hospital bouncing up and down like Tigger, eager to share every intimate detail of their hysterectomy. Especially with someone who does not fall in the category of close family or primary care provider. This might not be true in the case of someone like Kate Middleton, but most of us are not her, and you are not the editor of Star.

So, give it a rest. Give it some thought before picking up the phone that very same day of the surgery. In fact, give it twenty-four hours worth of thought, and call then, if something else hasn’t taken your attention. There should be some sort of grace period for these things. Leave people alone for a day to recover, and then continue to barrage them with questions and ask for every excruciating detail. I mean, isn’t that why they don’t allow cell phones in maternity wards? I may or may not have made that last fact up, but seriously, my mother has some nosy friends, because I had the above conversation no fewer than three times today, and my parents fielded a few as well, although probably with more patience than I did.

But honestly…who needs to know, that badly? Do you have that little of a life that you must know everyone’s business, every minute of every hour of every day, and if you’re not the very first person to get all the details, you will explode in a mushroom cloud of nuclear anticipation?

If we wanted you to know, we would call you and tell you ourselves, and just because we did not report to you within the hour doesn’t mean we’re having a secret “let’s-tell-all-the-gruesome-details-of-the-eye-procedure” party that we’re not inviting you to, although that would be fun. Or, on second thought, I could look up the name of the procedure and do a dramatic reading of the Wikipedia entry on how it’s done. “Well, since you asked, after sedation, the doctor took a tiny chainsaw and made an incision into the eyelid, and after wiping away the excess blood, inserted a small device behind the eyeball, and…” Bet that venti soy latte tastes super right about now, doesn’t it?

Oh, and one final thing. That line, “so, how’s the patient?” Wow, original. You are so clever! I can’t believe it, it’s like you’re pretending to be a doctor, but you’re not! Kind of like they did in that movie that one time! Classic medical humor. This is not 1862, we’re not in a tent at Antietam, and we’re also not characters on Scrubs, so act normal or you’re looking at a pretty big malpractice suit.

I don’t care if you do have a clipboard at the other end of the line.

1

How To Get On My Bad Side On A Road Trip

I like adventures as much as the next person, and nothing says adventure like a road trip. I can never refuse an offer to get up and go somewhere.

But if I’m the one doing the driving (which I normally am), you better follow my rules of the road.

1. Don’t play your own music if/when I’m playing mine.

I don’t really care if you play your own music, but at least have the courtesy to ask, rather than just turn it on to try to overpower my music. And if it’s really bad, I have the right to claim it’s making me tired. Which brings me to number two.

2. If I’m doing all the driving, we are taking breaks when I say so.

People who don’t drive don’t understand how tiring driving  is. Driving is fun but extremely tiring, even if you’re the Energizer Bunny. Which is why you never see him drive. If it means that we have to stop every twenty minutes so that I can stretch or find a bathroom or sit and not be in motion, we’re stopping. Drivers need breaks. And no, you’re not driving my car unless you have a license, insurance, and the ability to get me a better car should you damage mine.

3. If you volunteer to navigate, navigate.

Yeah, I do some research before road trips, but if it’s somewhere I’ve never been before, there’s the possibility I can make a wrong turn somewhere. I have a GPS on my iPhone, and you probably do too. Don’t offer to do it and then fall asleep or sit there doing nothing.

4. If I ask you to navigate, navigate.

Sometimes you just need some direction. If you’re sitting in the passenger seat and my phone is right there, take a look at it and tell me if we’re going in the right direction. And don’t make me ask twice. Which brings me to number five.

5. If I ask you to stop doing something, stop doing it.

This list of activities includes horseplay, making horse noises, sticking your head/face/camera out of the window, having a too loud conversation, arguing/yelling, or just being annoying. Leading up to one of my least favorite things.

6. Never play with the windows.

I don’t care if we’ve been in the car for two hours and you’re bored; you should have brought a book. Putting the windows up and down is annoying enough; at least ask me before going ahead and doing it. Sometimes people don’t like getting a blast of cold air in the face. My parents always used to tell me to leave the door closed in the summer because we’re not paying to air-condition the front yard, and though I hate to admit it, they were right. If you want A/C, I’ll put it on. If you want windows down, we’ll do it that way. But we’re not doing both; it’s harmful enough to the environment as it is, and I don’t need you to make me feel guiltier. If you insist on having the window down, the A/C goes off. And if I ask you to put it back up, I’m not trying to bake you alive, I just want to put the A/C back on.

7. Don’t spill in my car.

Okay, so accidents happen, but my car is pretty new and I’d like to keep this one pretty at least for a little while. Just be careful.

8. Don’t offer seats in my car to people.

This car’s not your car, this car is my car. I operate it, I pay for the gas. If we’re going somewhere and you have a friend who wants to tag along, ask me. Most likely I’ll say yes and I won’t even ask them to pay. But also understand if I say no. Don’t promise someone a ride and then tell me.

9. I am not your personal car service.

I understand if we’re going shopping and you want to go into stores you see, or you have to pick something up, but I’m not going to drop off every single person anywhere they please. If there are a group of people in the car, and we’re heading home, remember that I’m tired and I want to get home too. I don’t care if you want to get home in time to watch the basketball game. If you want me to leave earlier, don’t ask when we’re there, ask me earlier than that. I don’t care if you’re going to be late to meet your friend; I’m not going to risk an accident or a speeding ticket for you. Actually, don’t take a road trip with me and make plans back in town with another friend on the same night.

10. Under no circumstances should you unbuckle your seat belt, open the door, or exit the car until I’m parked and the car is off.

This isn’t just a road-trip-with-me rule; this is a rule everyone should know. You can jump on or off the back of a truck in the Andes, or a bus in Israel, because I’ve done both, but never, ever exit the car until the vehicle is in a fully stopped and off position. You’d think that this was common sense, but I had to learn to tell people this, and I learned the hard way. One of my housemates in college managed to break rules 8, 9, and 10 in a single night. He and I were going to a mixer at Mount Holyoke College, the girls’ school in South Hadley, about 15-20 minutes down the road from Amherst. Before we left, he told me that we’d be giving his friend Norman a ride.

And yes, I believe that is his real name, but I don’t care about this one. Not only did he tell me we were doing this, a) I did not know who Norman was, b) who was going to take Norman back, and c) Norman wasn’t even coming to the house, my housemate had offered for me to pick him up at his place, which was in the middle of nowhere, and he didn’t even give us a decent address or directions.

We finally find him, he gets in the car, and barely says a word to either of us. We drive in relative awkward silence down to Mount Holyoke. I turn into a parking lot, and before I stop the car – in fact, before I even decelerate, I was going at least double-digit miles per hour, I hear a click, his seat belt is off, and without even saying thank you, he jumps out of the car like it’s on fire, slams the door, and takes off running towards the library. Turns out he wasn’t going to the mixer at all, he needed to go study or meet friends or something there and didn’t even have the courtesy to ask me. For some reason, I wasn’t tipped off by the fact that he brought a backpack to a mixer – maybe he kept his wallet in there? Anyway, my housemate starts to do the same, and I grab his knee with my free hand, and yell using his full name, “don’t you dare get out of this car until I am in a parking space and the motor is turned off.”

I’m normally very calm and forgiving, but I spent the next few minutes actually shouting at him while leaning on his knees to keep him from leaving. Since he had a brain – and needed a ride home – he sat and listened to me yell my head off about every single way he fucked this evening up before we even made it inside the mixer. I had half a mind to actually take him right back home, but then I realized that I couldn’t take away his allowance and hey, I wanted to go to the mixer too. But he did apologize, he learned his lesson, and we became closer friends after that. The only reasons I gave him another shot are because he did some really nice things for me, he bought me a full tank of gas even though he didn’t need to, it’s hard to stay angry at someone you have to live with and see every day who could potentially turn the rest of the house against you, and overall he’s a pretty great guy, and I knew that social skills were not part of his expertise.

To this day, when I am driving, if I even hear a click of a seat belt before the car has stopped moving, you are getting yelled at without warning and are in danger of becoming banned from my car.

On that note, let’s go and have some fun!

 

 

 

2

Mr. Know-It-All

I am a pretty calm person when it comes to dealing with other people. I have a pretty thick skin and I can take it better than I can dish it out. But there are some things that people say and do that just rile me.

Like know-it-alls. Know-it-alls come in all types. There’s the child know-it-all, one part wunderkind, two parts annoying; the best friend know-it-all, which can be comforting at times but grating at others; the sibling know-it-all, known to be the cause of rivalry (but deny it to the death), and then there’s the worst type of know-it-all.

Yes, I’m talking about the know-it-all religious figure.

They’re the type of people who give your religion a bad name. For all the wonderful people I’ve encountered in my religious circle, unfortunately it’s the ones who act like bigshots who often have the most visibility. Not to say that others are shrinking violets, but the outspoken nature of the religious know-it-all overshadows all but the most bold of their compatriots.

Today, I had Shabbat lunch and third-meal at the home of a local rabbi, whose name I am not going to say, mostly because I can never remember what it is (one of the good things about rabbis – they all respond to the same name: rabbis). He’s a good guy, as most guys are, but sometimes there’s this smarmy aura about him, as if he imagines himself as the center of the universe. I’m not knocking his religious education, but one of the things about rabbis is that they shouldn’t put you down, or speak to you in a way that is a direct judgment on your character.

Lunch was fine, but at dinner, the topic of religiosity and religious parenting came up. I know I was kind of setting myself up here, but someone else at the table mentioned that her parents came from two very different religious backgrounds, neither of which were Orthodox, and I added in that my parents also came from two very different religious backgrounds, with one Orthodox and one not so much, causing Rabbi Know-it-all to say:

“It’s impossible to raise a kid with one Orthodox parent and one non-Orthodox parent. It doesn’t work. It’s too confusing.”

Oh boy…

“Mine raised me Orthodox,” said I.

“Tell me more,” says the rabbi.

Me:

<Regret>

So, I go through the basics of how my parents met, how they raised us, and how I am today vs. how I lived when I was in their house, ending with “…my parents taught me that Shabbat was important but that my studies were as well, and if that meant doing homework on holidays/Shabbat, so be it. ”

</Regret>

His response?

“Well, that’s a mixed message, you could just as easily go to a club on Shabbos and they’d never know. It’s like a gateway into breaking Shabbos ::smarmy smile::”

Um, wha?

First of all, you don’t know me. Okay, that’s more of a gut reaction and a copout. But seriously, second of all, you have never met parents, lived in my house, or experienced my childhood. Third, and the most hurtful of all, is that you’re basically telling me that I have no self-control and that my religious views/my parents’ are based on lies. Is that something a religious figure and role model should be saying? No. That’s what a petulant, nose-picking moron on the playground or in the hallway would say. Everyone judges and gets judged by others over the course of his/her life, and that’s fine, but keep it to yourself unless you’re certain that the person might have a serious problem, in which case talk to them privately about it, if it matters that much to you. Also, you don’t have a say in how religious I am, and when you put it out there like that, I’m less likely to believe things that you say in the future. And when you jump to conclusions, bring a parachute; you might knock yourself into a hole in the ground.

I thought I would have more to say on this topic, but I think I’ve said my piece for now.

There is one kind of know-it-all that I can tolerate, and that is my parents. Don’t mess with them; when you insult them, you insult me.

15 Life Lessons Learned From "As Told By Ginger"

5

Things I Don’t Like About Returning Home from a Trip

Today, I flew back to Madison via Tampa after four days of fun with the family that included a little relaxing, watching baseball, enjoying the beach, and the first geocaching I’ve done in months. I really enjoyed that, but part of me just wanted to be back home, in my normal routine, sleeping in my own bed, and having some privacy.

But then, the time comes to actually go home.

First thoughts: Yay! I get to fly! No more crappy hotel bed!

And then reality sets in, and I realize the things I don’t like about returning home from a trip.

  1. Goodbyes. I honestly don’t know when I will be seeing my family again. They get on my nerves sometimes, but they’re family, and remarkably we all really got along well on this trip. I miss them already.
  2. Realizing that responsibility awaits at the other end of the journey. Nothing but cold, hard responsibility. Isn’t life great?
  3. Waiting and waiting. The flight was on time, but the bus left ten minutes late, and because of several stops and traffic, it took about two hours to get from Milwaukee to Madison, a trip which normally takes a little over an hour. We stopped somewhere in downtown Milwaukee to change drivers. At least I got a lot of reading done.
  4. Unpacking. After the long, uphill, windy trudge home, I was planning on dropping the suitcase and then relaxing for awhile, but then I notice that my apartment is being shown tomorrow morning, so I better unpack now. This sucks. Yet, I still haven’t done that.
  5. No food in the house. Before I left, I either finished or tossed all the perishables, and I didn’t think of buying many groceries because I was going to be gone for five days, and I could just stock up when I got back. Fast forward to me walking in my apartment at 7:30, exhausted and not willing to exert the energy to cook, instead resorting to tortilla chips and salsa for dinner. Seriously, unless I want to defrost something, I’ve got nothing.
  6. Trying to figure out what to do first. Usually, sitting and doing nothing for awhile takes first priority with me, but I think that’s most people…except to a much lesser extent.
  7. Realizing all the things you have to do. So far, I’ve got a paper to revise, some readings due Monday, to take out the trash, and gas up the car.
4

Take Your Toddler Off the Table

One time, I was having a perfectly lovely dinner in Houston with my friend, and her friends, who are a young couple with an adorable baby girl who sat and cooed in her stroller the whole time. What happened after dinner absolutely grossed me out. It wasn’t at a particularly fancy place, but it was gross nonetheless.

They put their baby daughter on the table.

On. The. Table.

I don’t know what possessed them to do that, but they did it anyway. And not only did they put her on the table, they picked her up and put her on her feet on the table as if she was dancing. Dancing. In her shoes. Only slightly less gross than if she were in her socks, or barefoot.

I just don’t get it.

If I put my own feet on the table at any point during the meal, you’d be disgusted. Same goes for anyone putting their foot on any dining table while it is being used thusly. You don’t know what’s on the bottom of that person’s shoes, or if their shoes look nice but their feet are dust mops.

Speaking of complete slobs, I knew a girl in Amherst who was one. Well, at least on the outside. She looked like she never showered or brushed her hair, always wore grungy looking outfits which were usually baggy, monotone, and polyester, and had gigantic, oddly-shaped glasses. But appearances aren’t everything, personality is important too…and personality she had. Of a dirty dish towel. She wasn’t an awful human being, just a dull one. I tried to find something redeeming about her, so I tried to grasp at straws. She was usually barefoot, and her feet weren’t grotesque-looking at first glance, but then, I saw her sit down and put her feet up, and on the bottoms? Let’s just say that she possessed a pretty dark and disgusting sole, times two. That is the image I have in mind whenever anyone’s feet, including an adorable little girl’s, go anywhere near where I’m eating or have eaten. Then there’s the whole issue of parents thinking that everything their children do is cute, but that merits a whole different blog entry.

So don’t put your children on the table and especially his/her feet. Or your own feet for that matter. Ever.

Except if the meal is completely finished, and the table has an inset lazy Susan.

Then, it’s adorable, as seen by Figure A (just imagine the record player inset within the table):

4

Things I Don’t Like: Car Shopping

Today, I agreed to go look at cars with my mom.

I thought it would be fun.

Even though I just found out I have a 4.0 GPA in my doctoral program, my brain just did not think this through.

I remember when my dad took me to look for a new (used) car. I mean, used car salesmen are a different species than new car salesmen, but they’re still both from the same genus. The first place I looked, the car salesmen acted like complete buffoons. They passed me off to one another like I was going to sleep away camp for the first time and they were the counselors. After driving two cars that I didn’t like, with statistics and car facts being casually tossed in a constant stream in my ear. Okay, more like lobbed. When I went to leave, the guy actually said, “let me take you upfront so I can give you your license and we can all say our goodbyes.” Okay, I get what you were driving at (no pun intended) but just take some hints – I’m not interested, so just give me my license and we’ll call it even. I ended up going to a different place where they were nice to me but not overly nice, and ended up buying the first car I tried.

We were “only going to look at two places.” Two times the fun.

At the first place, we were met by this younger guy who seemed kind. My mom asked all the questions and I just kind of stood there for moral support. His appointment came in, so he tagged out for this old guy with both hair and teeth missing, who had a deep voice – not a pleasant bass, more of a “can I get you a drink of water?” voice. We tested the car, and even though he was a new car salesmen, he still didn’t shut up for the whole drive. We left, since my mom wasn’t thrilled with the car, and went to the next place.

The second place, a Toyota dealership, was actually the same place her previous car had come from, so they knew her there. She even had the card of the guy, and called him to ensure that he was there.