Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Monday, April 28, 2014

Blurred Lines

Sometimes, the lines that define the relationships around our house get a little blurry. Like a recent Sunday morning, when I served up a hot breakfast, including cinnamon rolls, to my husband and daughter. Breakfast for three. Easy, right?

The patrons sat down at the table, side by side, eyeing one another’s portion of potatoes, looking disgruntled. She stared at his plate out of her peripheral vision. Knowing what she was up to, he did the same thing to her plate. I ignored them. Until this:

Dad: You got more sauce on your cinnamon roll than me.

Landry: No I didn’t.

Me: I poured the sauce myself. It was exactly the same on both.

Dad (under his breath, head ever-so-slightly tilted toward Landry): Well, you did.

Landry (louder than necessary): Did you hear what mom said?

Me: Really, you two? Were you siblings in a past life?

It was a rhetorical question, but I knew the truth: they were siblings in a past life; they were a mutant brother-sister combo that spent the majority of their time planning ways to one-up the other. No plot was too wicked. No insult too petty.

It wasn’t the first time I suspected they’d met before.

A few days before that, one of them stood at the sink doing dishes, and the other sat at the counter (see if you can figure out who was where), I walked into the kitchen and heard this:

“Would you just stop and let me win for once?

“Would you just stop and let me win for once?”

“Gosh! So stupid!”

“Gosh! So stupid!”

“I’ll tell you what’s stupid.”

“I’ll tell you what’s stupid.”

“Your face!”

YOUR face!”

Having a hard time figuring out which one is the kid and which one is the adult? Welcome to my world.

“Aren’t you going off to college soon?

“Aren’t you going off to college soon?

“I already went off to college.”

“I already went off to college.”

Unfortunately, the abuse they inflict on one another does not stop at verbal. Here’s a transcript of what happened recently, when I returned to the cuckoo’s nest after attending an AA (Alcohol in Abundance) meeting at a local wine bar with my girl friends.

“I’ve been getting beaten all night!”

“So have I!”

“She’s hurting me!”

“He started it!”

“She’s strong!”

“He’s got wimp-alitis!”

They can’t even walk by each other in the hallway without provoking a situation. The really frustrating thing is that it always starts behind my back, or out of eyesight (but within earshot, unfortunately). Like the other day, when one simply tried to pass the other in the hallway near my office. He did the head fake and foot shuffle, as if to make an aggressive move, and she pounced. Then comes the discussion that makes everyone stupider just for having heard it.

“Why is she so violent?” my husband pleaded in my general direction.

“He started it!”

“I started nothing. I was simply standing here talking to Mom.”

“He shuffled his feet at me!”

“I did not. I was preparing to walk down the stairs.”

“You did too!”

“Did not!”

It’s not all bad, mind you. I quite enjoy their British “Tea Time” routine. Most recently, it happened on the way home from practice with my son, who finds their British schtick slightly less amusing.

“Dear brother, how was practice?”

“Shut up, Landry.”

“Father, I’m afraid poor Jackson has had a dreadful time at practice today.”

“There, there, my boy. Sister is just concerned about how your practice went off, as am I. Tell me, dear Son, did you have a smashing good time?”

“Shut up, Dad.”

“Oh dear! I’m afraid we’ve gone and poked the hornets’ nest now, Landry!”

“Father! (glancing in the mirror). Jackson is pointing the finger gun into his mouth!”

“Dear god, Son!”

“Dear Brother, don’t do it! Don’t use the finger gun!”

Click, click—Bang!

Ahh, if only it was tea with the Queen more often, instead of meth with honey badgers.

And they wonder why I lock the doors after they leave. They think it’s because I’m afraid of maniacal strangers wandering in. They’re partially right: maniacs, yes; strangers, no.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I Love You, Long Timers

Recently, I was invited by my mom and aunt to be their guest at the Long Timers’ Luncheon. This group gets together once a month (some say it takes the place of that other thing that happens to women once a month that none of the members have to worry about, “thank Heavens!”). These lovely ladies visit, eat, and compare aches, pains and funny memory lapses. For example, at the most recent luncheon, the third I have attended, our table was called to enter the line for the buffet. We all got up and toddled over. When a certain lady with whom I share DNA returned, she placed her plate down on an empty table near the one at which we had been sitting, prior to getting up. I spied this from my vantage point at the correct table, the one that the rest of us had made it back to. I immediately leaned in and whispered into the ear of the gal sitting next to me:

“Hee hee, look at ________. She went back to the wrong table.”

Just then, ________ looked up, rolled her eyes and laughed out loud. Then she hustled over to her spot at our table.

“I wondered where the hell everyone went! You guys were ahead of me!”

The Long Timers are an exclusive club. Applicants are subjected to an intense screening process. This interrogation, I mean, interview, takes place in a broom closet, which is lit by a bare light bulb swinging from a frayed wire hanging above a wobbly card table. At the center of the table sets a candy dish with a crocheted doily underneath. The interviewer is all business. I won’t mention any names, but it rhymes with “Margie Piccardo.” Rumor has it that not only did Margie hold the pink slip of the “Straight Talk Express” bus before eventually selling it for an undisclosed amount to John McCain for his failed presidential bid, but she was his first choice as a running mate. Unfortunately, her refusal to disclose the coordinates of her favorite fishing spot at Silver Lake during the Secret Service’s vetting process eliminated her from the running.

Here is the complete transcript from a recent Long Timer inductee’s membership interview:

Margie: Do you have anything better to do?
Applicant: No.

Margie: Have you been alive a long time?
Applicant: Yes.

Margie: Congratulations! You’re in!
Applicant: In what?

My first experience with the Long Timers was in November of last year. That luncheon was held at St. Sava Mission. I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than some good grub, since the Lady Serbs were cooking.

Settled into my chair, nestled between my aunt and my mom, with my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law at a nearby table, the event’s hostess began calling off the November birthdays, including age. I was beaming—not because I had a November birthday, but because every name/age they called was decades older than me. I felt younger by the minute—right up to the moment I overheard this from across the table:

“For God-sakes! I can’t seem to ever use that cross-town freeway in Stockton without missing the exit to Hwy 88!”

Hold the phone! Had I found my people? Was I home? I looked around, into the soft eyes of those seated near me, and began picking up snippets of conversations. I noticed the confused look on the faces of the people asking the questions:

“How ya doin’?”

“Been pretty regular, so I can’t complain.”
“How’s your bunions?”

“Great! I planted two rows yesterday!”

It was the very same look my kids display when they talk to me.

“Where’s Dad?”

“Dad who?”

“What time will dinner be ready?”

“You need dinner again tonight?”

I noticed other similarities, too, such as the 10-second threshold for reapplying one’s lipstick after the last bite of food is finished. My weapon of choice may be lip gloss, and not the opaque, coral-colored glue-stick preferred by my new pals, but nevertheless, I proudly applied it several times throughout the afternoon, knowing that nobody was judging.

Back to my most recent visit to the Long Timer’s Luncheon. With Maura behind the bar, and Bart on the food (literally…what a mess) what could go wrong? I breezed in at the end of cocktail hour, which meant that I ran past my mom, waving, as I hurled myself in the direction of the bar before it closed. What happened next was not my fault.

I ordered a glass of wine. Maura poured it. Everything seemed fine, until I sat down at the spot my mom had reserved for me at her table. My glass was twice the size as everyone else’s. Crikey! Maybe they wouldn’t notice, I thought to myself. No such luck. Not only did they notice, but it was the first thing they noticed! Comments flew in every direction:

“Good gravy!”

“Look at the size of that!”

“Well! I guess you rate!”

“Super-buddy courtesy?” I said meekly, shrugging my shoulders.

Luckily, just then, one of the gals near me spilled her wine. I jumped at the chance to leave the table and get her a refill. Off I went.

“Maura, __________ spilled her wine. She needs another glass. And they all want to know who I had to sleep with to get such a big glass. I told them Bryant.” (Maura’s 23-year old son, who happened to be standing right next to her, wearing an apron.)

Maura: “Hahahaha.”

Me: “I’m not joking. Four of them have already asked me for his number. ”

Bryant: “Right on!”

At the end of the day, it was, as always, a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a couple hours. Not unlike a spa day, a forty-something like me walks away from the Long Timer’s Luncheon feeling wrinkle-free and (almost) fertile.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Commuting to Work, Vegas Style

It isn’t often that my job requires me to travel; in fact, it isn’t often that my job requires me to get out of my pajamas. But once a year, the biggest trade show of the year for electronics manufacturing takes place. For the last two years it was held in San Diego, but this year the venue changed to Vegas. There are few places I’d rather not be than in Vegas. I don’t like to gamble, so that’s out as a draw for me. I also don’t enjoy loud, sustained noises and I’m not a fan of being surrounded by people, especially people who have a cigarette in both hands.
There’s really only one, no two, perks of being in Las Vegas over San Diego: accessibility to food and beverages. At the San Diego Convention Center, the only food at our fingertips is a Starbucks kiosk; we wait for food to be brought in at lunch. When we wrap for the day, I’m either waiting for everyone to finish and piling into a rental car and going with the herd, or catching a cab to wherever I want to dine and then back to the hotel. It’s a pain. But in Vegas, there are no rental cars, no cabs, and no waiting. Dozens of restaurants and bars, including four Starbucks, lined the mile long stretch of enclosed mall that connected our hotel (the Luxor) with Mandalay Bay, where the convention was held. In fact, on my walk to work the first morning, I counted 32 places where I could get a cocktail, which means I made 32 good decisions and my day had barely begun! Wow! What are the odds of that?
The evening commute went a little differently.
After spending most of the day not only out of my jammies and slippers, but on my feet, which had shoes with actual heels attached, I must admit that the lure of Naugahyde lounge chairs was pretty inviting. How cool is it to walk home from work and pass not one, but nearly three dozen places to wet one’s whistle? Who would be able to say no that many times? Not this gal! For all intents and purposes, my evening commute and happy hour "were one," as the Buddhists say, which is why I referred to it as the daily “happy ending.”
Evening commutes of this sort have traffic issues all their own. I tried to call my kids and check in at the first sign of a “slow down” and definitely not during the final “pile-up.” One evening, while “carpooling” with two uber-British colleagues, I decided to phone home. We Facetimed my daughter, who typically just listens to my audio Skype meetings with these two and then spends all day trying to perfect her accent. Our Facetime convo began like this:

“Landry, is it often your Mum Facetimes you from a pub whilst sipping a pint in a fancy frock?”

“Um, no.”

“Well, what do you think of that?”

“Um, what’s a frock?”

               On the downside of the Vegas venue was the lack of fresh air. I breathed nothing other than recirculated air for five days. Sure, I could have stepped outside once in a while, but one thing prevented me: I was in Vegas. My lungs suffered at the expense of sparing my eyes the garish view. On the first day in town, a Sunday, I did take a stroll over to New York New York to meet a couple of co-workers for a beer at an Irish pub called Nine Fine Irish Guys. On this particular Sunday afternoon, it could have been named “Five Drunk Rugby Players,” or “Two Lame Bartenders,” but that’s beside the point. The point is, there is no point. It was Sunday, it was Vegas, and so we enjoyed a couple of black & tans and then went back home to the Luxor, where my cohorts and I decided to…have a drink. Then, in order to walk back to the room, we had to pass some lovely looking establishments where people were drinking, and because there were no doors or walls between the comfy chairs of the lounge and the path upon which I was walking, there was nothing at all keeping us separated from a relaxing beverage. It was kind of like participating in the slowest, stupidest marathon of all time: instead of occasional helpers who lined the route handing little Dixie cups of water to the exhausted runners, cocktail waitresses were sliding cushy chairs under our rear-ends and enticing us with things like “Bucket of Beers for $5” and “Coconut Mojito Madness.”
               Ultimately, quite a lot of work did get done, and I returned home to my family, whose most major disturbance while under their dad’s guidance all week was a farting incident at the dinner table. My husband opted out of admonishing the offender, which upset a certain fair maiden. Of course, had I been there, it would have gone another way; but I wasn’t there. I was in Vegas, probably working, or at the very least, sipping in “traffic.”
               There's an old saying: If one farts at the dinner table while Mom’s in Vegas, does anybody hear it? The answer, apparently, is no. And the Neon Rule is almost intact: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, (except for happy endings).