Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A to Z: Test Drive

There is really nothing to compare to buying a car. All those car dealerships on every street corners, the salespeople hollering like prostitutes offering two-for-one's, the rush to get you to buy no matter what.  It is horrible, and a lot of the time people will buy a car just to stop the madness.

My mother-in-law is already a little crazy. She is so overanxious that she is paralyzed whenever she has to make a decision. Since she is alone now, she is supposed to be able to take care of herself and make her own decisions. So far, the only big decisions she has made seem to involve calling or texting her son so he can make the decision for her, whatever that decision might be. (Either she doesn't realize that she is driving her son crazy, or she realizes it and just doesn't care how disruptive she is; it's all about her.)

Larry wants to be a good son, so when her car finally gave up the ghost, he tried to help her. He asked her what kind of car she wanted, and where she wanted to look. These questions sent her into paroxyms of indecisiveness. She wanted what she had. They don't make those cars anymore. She wanted Larry to decide, and Larry was just as determined not to decide anything. He told her about several websites where Ruth could look at a variety of cars and prices while she was at home; she wasn't comfortable with that, etc.

Finally she was ready to go to the lot and choose. Larry went with her, and after awhile, I started getting these texts. These texts let me know how things were going.

"I am in the backseat while she is test driving," read the first one.

"Valium would be nice," read the next one.

And so it went, my husband freaking out over his mother's mad driving skills. I felt a little bad for him, having been driving with my own mother and her tendency to slam on the brakes 300 feet from the intersections. I hoped his mother would be able to make a decision soon.

"I hope you have some idea of how nerve wracking this is," read the last one.

It sucks to be old, I am sure. It must doubly suck to be old and crazy. Finally, Ruth selected a car--and immediately found something wrong with it.

It's always something.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A to Z: Silliness

Silliness should be a virtue. As adults, many of us spend way too much time being serious. There certainly are a great many reasons to be serious; bills to pay, kids to feed, work to be done. It gets to be an avalanche of duties and responsibilities. I find myself at the end of the day, teeth clenched, my shoulders hunched. So much of what we do as adults is boring, repetitive, and dull; something is needed to break up the monotony.  There is so much beauty in the world, and we miss it, our noses to the grindstone, oblivious to what is out there. One day, we tell ourselves, as life passes us by. I think that it is time to stop all that. I think we need to start taking time to be silly.

Silliness is good for our health. A good belly laugh does wonders; loosening those muscles we didn't even realize we were clenching so tight. The laughter created by silliness erupts from our core, clearing out the debris of the past in one fell swoop. The chest opens up, and we can breathe freely once more. Those frown lines disappear, and for a moment we are young again.

Silliness breaks up that monotony, that boredom, that keeps our creativity stagnant and state. Being silly frees us from the "must" in our lives that keep us working late instead of being at home with our families. One of my favorite movies is Parenthood, and one of my favorite lines is when Steve Martin angrily comments, "My whole life is ' have to'".  That character was too focused on the 'musts' in his life. He forgot to be silly. That was a wakeup call for me.

So how to be silly? I know how to be serious, but silly is hard.

Silliness doesn't involve elaborate preparation. All you need is something to laugh about. It can be a picture, or a word, or a person. Silly websites with silly cat pictures is another way to get into a silly mood. Talking to your friends can also help.

The very best experts in silliness, however, are children. Silliness and play are their jobs, and they do them well. If you truly want to learn the art of silliness, spend about fifteen minutes a day with a child. You'll have tea parties, and run around in the rain, and before you know it--Boom. Silly.

Suddenly the laughter comes bubbling to the surface, and there's no stopping it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A to Z: Really?

Race is not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. Why would I? It's not something that I care about, so I just don't think about it. I have all sorts of friends from all over the globe, and we all get along famously. Occasionally, however, I run into situations where I can't help but think about race or ethnicity. And then I have no idea what to do.

A teacher was showing off a picture of her son at lunch, and everyone was 'oohing' and 'ahhing'.  I dutifully looked at that adorable face and beatific smile, I complimented her. 

"What a beautiful boy!"  I exclaimed.  The others at the table agreed with me.

"He looks white," the teacher replied cheerfully. "But he's really Mexican!"  

She then left the room, oblivious to the sudden discomfort in the air of the teacher's lounge.  We all sat quietly for several moments, afraid to voice what we were all thinking.  I know what I was thinking.

Really?  That's all you got out of that?

Because anything that any of us would have said at that moment, positive or negative, would probably have been misinterpreted.  The fact was that none of us wanted to start any sort of an argument.  We were just admiring her child.  Nobody had said anything about that adorable boy's skin color.  All I saw was a child who bore a strong resemblance to his mother with a beautify smile.  Did she not see that?  

I've thought about the entire incident quite a bit since then.

Was I wrong?  Should I be looking at skin color when parents show me pictures of their children?  And should I have responded to that remark?  What could I have said that would have only been interpreted as courteous?  I've decided that it was best, in this situation, not to have said anything.  The teacher likely made a thoughtless remark.  Maybe she really feels this way, or maybe not.  She probably forgot that she said it the minute she walked out the door.  That's how these sorts of situations usually play out.   

It's probably going to bother me, on the other hand, for a long time.