Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I am an oversensitive doormat. I was raised to be the latter, the former is just an unhappy byproduct. There. I've said it. Hope you don't mind.
I was pressed for time this morning, and as I reached an intersection to make a right turn, I observed a woman crossing the street in my direction, requiring me to wait for her.
Now, this woman, probably a few years older than I, was clad in running gear, and yet here she was, walking across the street; I became instantly outraged (internally, of course - no horn honking or gesticulating from me, no sir). Why wasn't she RUNNING? I was convinced that she was doing this on purpose, to make me wait because she could. Which brings me to my current state of contemplation about how we are the way we are.
If you know me, then it's very possible that you know my father. Our Father, who art in Temecula, is one of my heroes. The older I get, the smarter he is. He has become, and remains, a Great Man. I love him dearly. Having said that, he is also, by both nature and desire, one who turns the other cheek ad nauseum. As my dear Mother would attest, he has turned martyrdom into an art form. All other family secrets and confessions aside, it is alas a mode that I have probably embraced, embodied, and employed to my detriment, as well as, I'm told, the detriment of those around me. I order a hamburger at Burger King the way it comes - their way is fine with me. If I find a chicken sandwich in the wrapper, I'm apt to see it as an indication from the Almighty that I've been eating too much beef, lately; usually preferring to eat it rather than put everyone through the hassle of a "do-over." It's often hard for others to see the value; they think it's spinelessness on my part. I think Dad would agree with me that it's more about being at peace than being "right" - but then you have to have this perspective to begin with. Having children, of course, changed everything. The way we raise children today means constantly making adjustments - and I don't necessarily want my children to be the way I am - they need to make their way in a world much different than mine is. What I'm working my way around to is that how we're changing has been the result of an insidious process, and perhaps we need to think about being more accommodating, some times with each other, particularly strangers. Which brings me back to this morning's runner.
See, the thing is, if the situation had been reversed, I'm pretty sure that I would have run across the intersection, or at least trotted, or in some way indicated that yes, I am holding you up, but making some sort of token (if not real) effort to both recognize your presence and get out of your way. It's politeness, it's recognition of your value, it's a positive rather than a negative moment in a negative world. I remember feeling put-upon when being taught that a gentleman opened a door for those around you, Ladies first, of course, but I've noticed that some people do, some people don't. The ones that don't open a door for me instantly lose all credibility, as far as I'm concerned. I seem to be drifting off-topic. And yet not. It's turned into a mark of character, to some extent.
I made the offhand joke, the other day, that this was all Burger King's fault. "Have it Your Way" has become a mantra, an expectation that has turned sideways into selfishness, and then reversed itself upon us to the point where we have to choose where there were no choices, before. Please apply this concept. Discuss with your inner self. Failure to demand one's own way or show deference to another is now a sign of weakness.
So, I'm confident that I'm going to inherit the earth. Of course, the selfish and the slipshod will have pretty much soiled it beyond recognition by the time I get it, but I'll be happy. I'll be happier if those folk are all gone by then, off to a planet more suited to their tastes.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A show about nothing

It's so very gratifying to realize that my generation is going to remembered and characterized by TV shows like the vapid "Friends" and "Seinfeld." I had the pleasure of watching an old rerun of "Gunsmoke" a few days ago. I remember begging to stay up to watch it as a child. It portrays a world where evil intrudes, moral dilemmas ensue, and right prevails in the end - with humor, grace, and a clear statement of what is right and what is wrong. When James Arness looks into the camera, he's looking me in the eye. When Doc Adams provides medical care for everyone, regardless of social status or ability to pay, the lesson is clear.
It is so much about nothing, these days. I guess I'm succumbing to the attitude of my age - squarely "middle-aged" now - seeing an ever-narrowing window of opportunities, combined with a growing desire for safety - it leads to simmering banality (which can actually be very nice with a good pinot grigio and sourdough toast). There was an old Mr. Rogers Neighborhood parody where the gentle man says, "The universe is entropying. Can you say 'Entropy', boys and girls?" I look at the paint peeling off my house, the back deck decaying, calling me to action, and feel unable and unwilling at the same time.
Multi-tasking tends to rob me of the joy of doing, the loss of the sense of time one gets when singularly focused on something. I'm doing one or two or more things, thinking about another 2-500 others as I work. It reaches a point of critical mass, and then something perfectly innocuous occurs, like Emma emptying a shelf full of something onto the floor, and I'm filled with anger at that one thing that sent the whole stage full of spinning plates to come crashing down. Losing one's train of thought can seem calamitous, and it's too easy to pin the blame on the most innocuous of targets. Like the poorly educated part-timer behind the counter at Wendy's who's fellow team member didn't read the instructions and put dill pickles on your Mediterranean Fish Sandwich instead of the bread-and-butter slices you asked for. We're blowing our mental gaskets at the weak points of our day, instead of focusing on the underlying pressure. The result of deferred maintenance, I fear.
It seems like there are those of us that are able to make great strides on a regular basis, but it's hard to point to anyone nearby that is. Part of the underlying pressure is that we're (I'm including you, now) missing the point that much of what we are doing is important - raising kids, keeping clothes, food and shelter coming, mowing the lawn (yes, I still do), making the occasional assymmetrical "thing" out of wood. I don't always "get it", but I can't quite explain the feeling, like I got last night, when Sam asked me to check his homework. A small, yet profound sense of accomplishment. Yet, while I'm doing this, I'm trying to copy a DVD onto my Pocket PC (Why? Because I can, of course), watching TV, thinking about GSA contracts . . . the moment faded much more quickly than it should have, or at least before I wanted it to.
Is it that so much has already been done, we need to make something out of nothing? I can make my own movies, I can record my own music, I can even publish on the internet to a worldwide audience - all things formerly reserved for various versions of the elite, via their intrinsic processes for those with talent and influence to dominate. Is it democracy or dilution? Am I empowered, or enslaved by the crush of information being pushed in my direction from every device imaginable? Yes and no. Several events have proven that information is power; they have also proven that that distorted information can power some pretty ugly machines - can you spell Schiavo? Now everyone can.
So, back to what I was talking about? Oh, that's right, nothing. Never mind.