Thursday, June 16, 2011

My New Phone: Or, How I Made an Ass of Myself at the Phone Store

I just traded in my old-school flip phone. It's the one that flew out of my back pocket while I was riding my scooter and still worked. But it's also the one that took a lesson in zen patience to text with: 3(D), 8-8(U), 6(M), 2-2(B), 7(P), 4-4(H), 6-6-6(O), 6-6(N), 3-3(E). And it was one of many reasons my middle school students make fun of me. When they're not busy pointing out how my arms flab about when I erase the board, how the food I brought for lunch "looks nasty," or how the running man is not a dance anybody does these days. What do they know.

My phone contract (seriously? contract? I've been committed to the 2 cell phones I've had in my life longer than most of the relationships I've been in)- was up this summer, so I took it by the local phone place for an upgrade.

The following shitty thesis goes out to the one or two students who read this blog:
In this paper, I will tell you about how I don't know much about today's phone technology. And also how I make an ass of myself. Often.

"Hello, what can I help you with today?" says the Sprint guy. Normal question. Deserves a normal response, like, "Oh, I'm ready to upgrade my phone." That's all that's needed, really. I'm apparently sometimes incapable of delivering all that's needed. I give unwanted garnish (like verbal parsley) or sometimes the wrong dish altogether.

"Yeah...uh...." (while I dig in my bag for my old-school flip phone) "'ll see what I need help with here in a sec" (Phone dude stands still, eyebrows raised. I locate the phone and pull it out, flipping it open.) "BAM! Check out this old-school business. I'm only missing the big ol' bag that holds the battery and plugs into the car. Right? Right? Remember those? No, you're too young. Check out my texting skills." (I go into a pantomime of pressing buttons over and over while making a face that, I think, says, "Damn! This is taking a looooong time to text my message.") All unnecessary things, I see now- in the light of day.

"Well. Yes. I can certainly help you with that."

We go to the counter and he takes some basic information, including asking for my driver's license.

"Yeah. That was my soccer mom phase. See? In the photo? Don't I look all, 'Hey, neighborhood kids! Get in my minivan and I'll take you to practice!' Yeah. I do. And I was like, 20 pounds heavier. Right? Isn't my face puffy? You know it is. Don't lie."

Phone guy probably thinks to himself, Um. I'm not lying. I'm not even talking. I'm just trying to enter your information into the computer.

"For security reasons, what is the street that you grew up on?"

"SHAF-tes-burrrry. Shaftesbury. Sounds like England, I know. But it's in U. City. Uuuuuu City. I love U. City."

At this point, I'm aware that my chatter is on hyper-drive, and I really have no idea why. I don't do speed. I wasn't, like, ridiculously excited about a new phone or nervous about talking to a stranger. I did just have a big cup of coffee, which is like speed. So, I guess I do do speed. (I said "do-do.") Anyway, sometimes I talk too much. Quickly. And not anything of particular substance. I've been told this.

"Okay. Come over here and take a look at a few of these phones."

"Alrighty then."

We walk about 15 feet to the display phones. I manage to say nothing, nor do I adopt some kind of wacky gait. I do no dance moves. I appear almost mature and normal.

"This one is the one I have. It has wireless capabilities Over here. Don't touch that."

I've begun poking at nearby screens with my pointer finger because they're there. I can't tell you the restraint it takes me not to press all buttons on an elevator. It's only because my desire to have strangers (say, on an elevator) like me is greater than my compulsion to touch all elevator buttons that I don't do it. Anymore.

"Sorry. It's just- okay. Sorry. What were you saying?"

"This one has 4 Gs."

"I'm already G enough! I don't need no 4 extra Gs, homie!" (Yeah. This was definitely funnier in the split second it lived only in my head and not out loud. And it certainly didn't need to be said with my mock gangsta hand motions.)

"Oh. Ha. Right. No. This gives you instant connection for your internet." He snaps his fingers. I wonder if they taught him to do that in cell phone selling class. I used to wink my right eye and make a clicking noise at my customers when I was in retail. I have no idea where I picked that up, but it was about as creepy as you're picturing it to be.

"Okay. I'll take it!"

"Wait. Do you have any questions about-"

"Can I do facebook on that thing?" (Oh, man. I'm an idiot.) "And locate Starbucks? Because I really only want to get on facebook and find Starbucks. And maybe text some people." (Wow. How to make yourself come off as the biggest moron. And I somehow know this, but I can't keep my mouth shut. My inside thoughts become my outside words in a split second. *snap*)

"Yes. It can. I'll go in the back and get one for you. Hang on a sec."

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure he cocked his head to the side and squinted his eyes in that parental, "I'm going to leave you alone for a minute but don't you touch anything, missy" kind of way. I touched things. Just to spite him.

Out came my new phone in a box, and as he sat behind his computer and did more computer-y set up things, I proceeded to take the phone out of the packaging and begin poking around. I'm holding it like it has cooties and turning it over and over in my hands.

"Where's the talky part?" I ask.

"The what?"

"You know. The HELLO! HELLLLLOOOOOO! IT'S MEEEEE! part." (I'm yelling into the bottom of the phone.) "There is no talky part. With holes. Little holes. You know, like 'HELLLLLO!"

"No. It's fine. Put it up to your-"

"HEEEEEELLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOO!" I'm yelling and flipping the phone around. My phone guy's manager has come out from behind the little divider and is looking at me.

"Hi," I say to him. "Where's the talky part? Remember on the old phones, the rotary ones, I mean, how you could unscrew the talky part? Yeah...The cell I'm getting rid of had the holes. You know. The holes that I'd talk into. The talky part."

"Ma'am," the manager explains. "Just hold the phone up to your ear."

I oblige.

"And talk."

"HELLLLOOOOOO! Like that? Where's the talky part? Seriously. Like, where does my voice go into the phone."

They both sigh and I decide that I'll save it for someone else. Lucky someone else.

In 45 minutes or so, my phone purchase is complete. I have a little guilt over abandoning my old phone, just like I did when I traded my last car in and then drove away all teary. I hate to think I'm hurting anyone's feelings. Anything, I mean. Anything's feelings. Because we all know how sensitive cell phones are.

So, now I'm at home. I've figured out how to download "apps" (the word irritates me) and can now locate a Starbucks no matter where I am. I've refused to download "Angry Birds" for the same reason that I refused to see Forrest Gump when it came out: everyone said how much they liked it and that somehow fundamentally pissed me off. (I did end up seeing Forrest Gump, by the way, and I liked it. But I'm not giving in to "Angry Birds.")

I skipped over the parts in the manual that might actually help me understand my phone better, but I did read all of the caution parts because I find them entertaining. I now know not to pour liquid on my phone. Or go into a grain bin with it, where I might explode.  Or give it to a kid who might chew on it and choke on the chewed off parts. It didn't tell me not to take the battery out and put my tongue on it, but I'm going to pretend that's in there, too. Because I kind of want to. And I think it might not be good for both the battery and my tongue.

I also know to "take lots of breaks to stretch and relax" while texting to avoid injuries. This caution was my favorite. I'm taking a break from texting right now to write this blog. And it is, indeed, very relaxing. Perhaps I'll text someone about it when I'm done.

So, I'll return to school with a piece of new technology that my students both recognize and know how to operate. By the time I catch on, it will be outdated, no doubt. And that's okay with me.

I still have the running man.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Monkey-Mind and Some Patio Observations

I'm trying to be okay with the fact that the elderly woman sitting across from me, snacking on apples, cheese slices, and bits of turkey, sticks her tongue out nearly to her chin each time her fingers guide her food's way to her chomp-hole.

She's not doing anything wrong, really. Just having a little afternoon snack along with her frothy coffee drink on an outdoor patio on a beautiful day.  And I could choose to look away. But I'm mesmerized.

She did it again. It's like her tongue makes a little chin-bib in case anything were to miss her gaping mouth. Once the bit of apple or cheese makes its way in, her tongue retracts and does what it's supposed to do. Flipping around chewed up mash, I guess. Pushing stuff to the back of the throat. Crimeny. I've seemed to have lost my appetite for the rest of the day.

I'm trying to be happy for this lady. I mean, here she is, making healthy food choices and enjoying some leisure time alone. She's even pouring over a newspaper. A concerned citizen. A member of our world's society. When's the last time I read a newspaper? I mean really read it, like she's doing. Not just skimming through the obits looking for good names for future fictional characters. Great. Now I'm irritated not only by her unsightly eating habits, but also how her newspaper reading is making me feel bad about myself. Knock it off, lady.

She's balled up her trash and put it in her purse. Her napkin has been shoved, I kid you not, into what one may call her "private parts." I mean she's clothed, mind you, but you get the idea.  Vigorous stirring of her frothy coffee drink has commenced. So much so that her little shoulders are shaking as if she were the recipient of a forceful, hand-chopping back rub. Pause for an audible sip. Stir again. Pause and sip. Stir. Sip. Stir. Sip. Stir. Sip.

She's doing that on purpose.

My hyper-focus on this woman, someone's sweet, sweet Granny, no doubt, is put to rest while I do some damage control for the accidental "come-hither" vibe I may have just given the man who has joined the patio. I've been writing, comfortably, and as a result, I've flung my legs over the side of a chair, leaned back and have otherwise established a Renoir-like pose. Cheddar-eating Granny didn't seem to mind. But I was suddenly aware that felt like a comfortable writing post just moments before Mr. G.Q. sunglasses/five o'clock shadow guy came out here suddenly feels...centerfold-ish.

I shift myself back into a determined, feet on the ground, back straight, position and study both the leaves of the rose bush on my right as well as the freckles on the back of my arm. "Not interested in the least, buddy." That's the vibe I put out now. "Not even a courtesy smile from me, mister. Try the frantic coffee stirrin' Granny to your left." I don't say these things, mind you. I think them in my little head.

All snacks have been consumed, her tongue has returned to its restful position, the remainder of the trash has been shoved into her now empty plastic cup. And Granny continues to read her paper. I'm telling you right now- I have not the attention span to even make it through the headlines in her paper. Granny's more focused, and as a result, smarter than me. I'm mad at you, Granny.

I refuse to look over at G.Q. guy, but can make out that he's got a laptop open- a manly black one- and may be typing away. He may be writing a business report. He may be looking at porn. I have no idea. I don't care. I'm not looking.

He just got his foot-tap going when Neil Young started begging to his Old Man to take a look at his life over the speakers attached to the outer brick wall behind me. G.Q. guy could be emailing his own old man. He could have daddy issues. He could be tearing up right now. I want to look but I won't.

Maybe he's a teacher. Maybe he's on summer break. Maybe he is faking like he's just looking around to give his brain pause, but is quietly observing those around him. The wonderfully kind old woman to his left, now writing a shopping list on the back of a receipt. Nothing about this irritates him. He smiles, reminded of his own grandmother, who he loved dearly.

He sees the red-headed lady intent on whatever she's typing on her own laptop. He doesn't note that her unnaturally-colored hair contradicts the dark brown and silver roots beneath her lime-green headband. He's not bothered by the fact that each time she takes a swig of her coffee, she tosses her head back like she's swallowing a pill. Her bobbing right leg doesn't distract him. He doesn't feel the need to describe the obvious pimple on the bridge of her nose or wonder why someone with gray hairs (although covering them- poorly) still breaks out like a teenager.  He's just watching.

Not judging.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Choo-Choo! (Hear that? It's the motherhood train passing me by.)

Sometimes I hear the whistles a-blowin'. The motherhood-train whistles. It sounds like velcro diaper strips being pulled apart and the clicking of a wind-up toy that plays tinny music and the pat of chubby baby hands crawling across a tiled floor.

And I smell it before I can see it. It smells like Desitin ointment and baby powder and no-tear shampoo. It smells like spoiled milk and spit up and pungent poo.

Then I see it. The first car is full of young women. Twenty-somethings. A few in their early thirties, but not much older. New mothers-to-be. First marriages and "We weren't even trying yet! We thought it would take longer!" Some still hold onto their positive pregnancy test in joyous disbelief.

The next car has women who are visibly pregnant. Swollen bellies are being cradled by expectant hands. Sometimes I can feel his little elbow. Wait. Here. Feel that? Oh! He just moved. This little girl is doing flips in there. What does your nursery look like? Wait- do you have to go to the bathroom, like, every five minutes? Me, too! Cameron. That's a great name. We're naming ours Grace. After my grandmother.

I recognize women in the next car. This is the car they don't tell you about when you're 12 and picturing your future-self married with children. In this car are the women who have only recently become pregnant after years and years of trying.  Miscarriages. Failed IUIs. Failed IVFs. Hope followed by devastation followed by hope followed by devastation- month after month. Now they are pregnant. No one wants to celebrate too soon.

I know some women in the next car, too. A mom who desperately wanted to become pregnant but was told she'd never be able to due to a medical condition.  A teacher mom who decided to adopt one of her students when that student was a struggling teenager. A mom who experienced the death of a baby and had a chance of giving birth to a baby with the same life-threatening condition. A mom who, despite years of fertility treatments, was unable to become pregnant. A single mom who, at 40, decided not to wait for a partner to seek out motherhood. The women in this car are moms, thanks to adoption.

On and on the train cars pass with a rhythmic thump-thump, thump-thump. It's moving slowly enough for me to continue to see in.

Births. Smiling husbands. Teary new grandparents. Wrinkly toes. Baggy onesies. Blue bubbly snot-suckers. Goopy eyes. Newborns.

Breastfeeding. Rocking. Newborn head-sniffing. Bottle-feeding. Shots. Sleepless nights. Diaper changes. Tiny baths. Tiny scoots. Tiny steps. Tiny words. First birthday parties. Kindergarten. School photos. Cuts and scrapes. Christmas mornings. First Periods. Teen poutiness. Fights. Crushes. Broken hearts. You can't make me episodes. Pull away. Move out. Come back. Remember early years. Grow up. Get married. Have kids.

38. I'm 38. I'm not 28. I'll not be dating for a year (or more). Let's do the math. Okay: 39. Fine. Not too old, you say. Right. If I were to include "trying to have a baby" on the list of first-date options, which I'm not. (Sorry, fellas.) So- let's add some get-to-know-you time. A year or two. And that's with the assumption the first person I'll meet will be someone I'll want to have kids with. So, let's throw in some "What the hell was I thinking?" time for disaster dates. 41? 42? 43?

I'm not an idiot. Perhaps it's in the cards for me to get pregnant and become a mom, but it's not likely.  I don't want to raise a child by myself. And I'm not sure I can imagine getting married again. Maybe. We'll see. But really, when I think of all of that ridiculous "alone time" I need and my desire to travel and- well- my inherently self-centered nature (i.e. "Mommy's too tired to fix dinner. Dig around in the cabinet and see what you can find"), perhaps it's better this way.

Perhaps I'm meant to parent in the 8:30-3:12 time slot, as a teacher. Perhaps I'm meant to be an aunt. A godmother. "That wacky lady that we see on Wednesdays."

And part of me is okay with that. Really. As it sits in, I think I can do this "Holy shit- life is not at all like I thought it was going to be- let's see where it takes me" thing.

But, hot damn, if there isn't a women's club out there that no matter how much I'd like to belong to it, I just don't. It's like the ultimate "cool table" in the lunch room. And yes, you can invite me to sit with you for awhile, but I won't get any of your inside jokes. And I will smile when you announce your pregnancy. Your second. Your third. Your fourth, even. And I may go to your baby shower. And I'll let your baby's little outfits and toys and blankies pass through my hands, even the one I bought for you, and I'll talk about how adorable they are. And I'll visit you in the hospital. And I'll take pictures. And part of me will be legitimately happy for you.  And part of me will feel like I just swallowed a golf ball. And I'll swallow that part down. And if I'm lucky, I won't tear up and make an ass of myself. (This is your day, after all.)

And I'll hear the train steadily going down the tracks. The one I'm not on.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Don't Drink That! And Other Advice For Those In High School

1) Unless you're checking the circuit breaker for your parents or getting your bike out of the garage, stay out of basements and garages.

Nothing good is going to happen in a basement or a garage. Because you are too young to have your own apartment in which to do stupid things, you will be tempted to do stupid things in someone's garage or basement. It is, you think, your transitionary apartment. A place untouched by adult vibes and watchful eyes. You will want to plug in a blacklight and furnish this place with someone's old scratchy outdated sofa and you will think you've arrived.

You've arrived, alright. You've arrived at a place where you're about to do stupid things. In this sacred space you will try smoking a cigarette for the first time, or continue your now pack-a-day-at-15-years-old habit. Stupid. You will be lured into someone else's garage or basement, and you will exit looking as if you've attached a vacuum cleaner hose to your neck. No one attaches a vacuum cleaner hose to their neck. We know how you got that. And it was stupid.

You will, in this stupid-doing place, think it's a good idea to make a beer bong and slouch under it, chugging away as your friends cheer you on. You will have photos taken of you. You will post them on facebook. We can see this, too. And believe you, me. We're thinking, "Well, that's stupid." You will get high in this place and think you're really onto something. You are. You're really onto seeing which one of your friends in their 20s or 30s are still sitting in their garages getting high. Which is probably most of them, although you don't consider it now. Write their names down. Wait a decade. You'll see.

2) Almost-in-high-school-gentlemen: Just because you can grow facial hair doesn't mean you should.

There's nothing creepier than a 15-year-old with a full-blown, West Virginian Mountain Man beard. (With the exception of one- ONE- old student, Teddy, who seems to sport his with panache.) It does not, despite what your guy friends tell you, make you appear more manly. It makes you appear like something creepy that shouldn't have a beard on it- in the same category as a grandma or a butt. Somethings should remain virtually hair-free if one can help it. And you can.

In the same category would be those of you who, much to your delight, woke up one day with a mild sprouting of haphazard hairs curling their way from under your otherwise smooth chin or cheeks. This, I'm sorry to tell you, is not really a beard- no matter how much you admire it in the mirror or fiddle with it in class. Get rid of it.

3) About-to-be-in-high-school-Ladies: When you wear ho clothes, you may feel sexy, and you may be getting attention from a certain population of boys, but- let me tell you, and listen up- you look like a moron.

I've seen it. I've seen it on facebook. I've seen it in person during 8th grade graduation. I've seen you wearing heels so high your ankles wobble each time you step. I've seen you squeeze yourself into skirts that barely cover your under-butt and tops that announce to the world, "Look! I was a flat-chested kid just a couple of years ago but now I have tatas!" We know you have tatas.

I don't blame you, really. You've been given a recipe for how you should dress from the time you started watching television and listening to music, really. You were told "sex=power" and you figured that to be true the first time you got attention from a heightened hemline or lowered bustline. But, let me clarify something. You're trying to attract teenage boys, right? And teenage boys are riddled with hormones that would posses them to hump a tree if they thought no one were looking. They can't help it. Everything is humpable and everything is saturated with sexual energy. You don't have to work that hard. Really. It's okay to be pretty. Attractive. Beautiful. Without the stereotypical look of someone begging to be noticed for their outsides only. Cover the tatas, ladies. Tone down the pumps. Put that out there and you may be surprised by the quality of who you attract.

4) Smoking is stupid. Don't do it.

Yes, I smoked. I was an idiot. And I felt cool doing it. And I looked like an idiot. In fact, a bird shit in my eye the first day of high school because I was lurking around in an alley trying to get a last smoke in before heading in to class. Karma. That's what that is.

Plus, it's like- what?- $4 or $5 a pack now? Well, that's ridiculous. They were $1.25 in the vending machine when I was your age, so- there.

5) Hey, what do you think about just holding off on the whole drinking bit until you're older?

cool? not really. douchebags? yes. 
If you're 21 and still feel like sitting in someone's basement, getting loaded, making out with some guy who moments before you were utterly repulsed by, vomiting in someone's toilet while someone else holds your hair, well- go for it.

Just wait and see if that still sounds like a good idea at 21. Your brain is dumb right now. Remember that. Oh, now- don't go getting offended. It's just a fact. Your dumb brain will tell you all types of things are a good idea, and years later, you'll look back and wonder what in the hell you were thinking. Trust me. This will happen. So, why not just wait a bit. You're not going anywhere. You have plenty of time in the future to make yourself look like an ass in public if you so desire.

6) We, who have done dumb things in our teenage years, know who you are and exactly what you're up to.

Yeah. Sit with that for awhile.

We blend ourselves into what you see as the ignorant and out of touch adult community. That's part of how we do things. To trick you. But, I'm telling you, we know what you're up to. (p.s.- If this statement just made you lower your blinds and check your door to make sure it's locked, you're smoking too much pot, and we knew that, too.)

7) There's nothing wrong with being a nerd or being friends with a nerd.

Fact: The "cool people" you know are more insecure than you can imagine. It takes a lot of cool-being to mask not feeling cool at all. The people who have already decided they're not cool and have no desire to get to a place of coolness are actually some of the coolest people you will ever meet in your life. These are the people you'll connect with 10- 20 years from now and wonder why you weren't friends with them in high school. Try it. Hang out with one of these people for a day. Sit with one of them at the lunch table. Not to mock them or prove something about yourself. Just to get to know someone you may otherwise completely overlook. You'll be surprised.

8) If you're being a bitch, stop it. If you're being an asshole, knock it off.

Enough said.

9) Your parents are only temporarily the enemy because you're probably in violation of one of the 8 things listed above.

1) Stop doing those things and you'll see that you actually might like your parents a little. Otherwise, 2) wait until you're older, 3) go to therapy, 4) blame everything you don't like about your life on your mom and dad, 5) work through it, and then 6) arrive at step 1, where you could have easily been years earlier and for a lot less money.

10) Peer pressure is stupid. Be who you are and no one else.

If you get that funny feeling that you shouldn't be doing something- don't do it. If someone tells you that something you do is "retarded" or "gay" because this is the only way they can come up with to try to extinguish a part of you that may be genuine- ignore them. Be the person who gets up early on the weekend for a run, if you like running. Be the person who goes to see a Disney film because you happen to still like them. Be the person who feels comfortable in your own clothes. In your own skin. Be the person who says, "Fine- you go ahead and snort that if that's what you feel like doing, but I'm not going to." Be the person who says, "Fine- you don't want to date me anymore because I won't (insert any number of sexual things here)? You've done me a favor. You've made it really clear that you're not the person for me."  Be that person. Decades from now you'll look back and know that person was there, and wonder where she (or he) was. Why wasn't she speaking up? The only reason is because you didn't let her. That's it. Nothing else.