Ode to COB

Dear COB (colleague of blogger) took care of almost everything while I was away on vacation.  He tried to hard to let me rest, refraining from telling me — how shall I say — “human interest tidbits” so I could really disconnect (as much as one can) from the office. 

Occasionally, he would catch me on Facebook with an off-line sidebar on the trials and tribulations of being both of us for one week.  I get that.  Being one person is hard enough.  Talking like me while wearing my clothes is really close to impossible for such a big guy.  His poor back.

In these days of shifting allegiances and loyalties in every area of life, it is good to know someone has your back at work, so you can focus on your family.

COB, you rock.  And I got yours, too.

Calm in between the Storms

New York, along with most of the rest of the country is under a siege of extreme weather conditions. (Can you sa-a-ay, “global warming”?  I knew you could.)

I think it is part of the human condition to look at events like sappy metaphors.  (Proof positive: the popularity of Made-For-Lifetime-Channel movies.)

So, I think about enjoying the respites between the real snow storms as a reminder that we must enjoy the respites between life’s storms.  There are more and more challenges and less and less easy answers.  There is so much uncertainty about jobs, about global threats, about economic, social and emotional recovery in this nation.  As we get older, we understand that good health is a gift and not a right, and that our days are numbered whether they be measured in days or decades.

Now, I look for the small moments, not the big triumphs.   My son was so excited that I picked him up from school today (his babysitter flaked out a little).  He hugged me and introduced me around.  In the cab (of course, I am such a princess), he said, “E-Mom, this is maybe the best part of today.” I wanted to bottle that (even with the “maybe” qualifier). I wanted to record it to play it back when he is a teenager and he hates me.  No such luck (or quick thinking).  But what a beautiful moment in the middle of the calamity we call the “new normal”.

My son has already forgotten those words, but for me, for me, it made me feel as if all was right with the world.

Politics, Politics

Ok, the rant is building, building, building . . . here it comes!!

I liked the State of the Union address.  The President could have touted that he saved the car industry, that he kept the country from economic free-fall, that the US and Israel disrupted Iran’s nuclear capabilities, but he didn’t.  I think he should have because America needs to remember all that he has accomplished.   But that is because I am partisan.  I think he struck the right tone as willing to make principled compromises. Besides, he had one hour to say all things to all people.  Hey, now that’s a reasonable expectation.

The sign that he did a good job was that he was being pilloried by MSNBC, CNN and, even without watching it, FOX.

Oh, and, apropos of nothing, Speaker Boehner has a bad body colorist.

In the GOP retort, Paul Ryan said investment is a code-word for spending.  It is not.  There is no code. Investment is spending.  When I invest in real estate, stocks, etc., I am spending money, with an eye toward making a good return on my investment.

So, the three things that distinguish the GOP and the Democrats is who should do the spending, on what and how much.

I believe in spending on education and innovation.   I believe that these will provide a good return on the money invested.  The GOP believes that investment should be made by private enterprise.  How private enterprise would have developed the Internet and GPS or will develop high speed railways and clean energy without government grants is beyond me.  And should we abolish public education?  No, but the GOP wants to starve it so that the little money spent on it would be a waste.

We pay the least amount of taxes of the industrialized nations.  Before WWII, tax rates had some people paying 80%.  So everyone, chill out on taxes.  Remember the GOP spent willy-nilly (not a usual phrase for me) on two wars and kept it outside the budget so that the American people wouldn’t know.  So, now, NOW, we have to worry about taxing the top 2%?  Did you ask me?  If you did, I would tell you to keep my tax cut and buy some muzzles for the Tea Party legislators.  Now, that is a good investment.  Do you think it is really tea?  It is a dry weed-like substance.  We should try rolling that “tea” and seeing if smoking it give us delusions of intelligent impact on the national discourse, too.

Paul Ryan seems like a lovely guy but I was distracted by his perfect hair and a little freaked out by his Biblical references. And why is your part half way between the middle and one side?  Isn’t that radical?

Rep. Ryan said something like our regulations were fine, it was just the corporate and governmental evil-doers that stole our prosperity.  But, wait, that happened BEFORE President Obama was president.  Remember, that Decider guy?  Yeah, that one.  He was running the show.  And, wait for it . . . he is a Republican!!!  Omigod, how embarrassing, Paul.  Still, with that gaffe extraordinaire, your hair did not move.

And, will you stop about small government?  There are 300 million of us.  We need hordes just to pave roads and administer social security and Medicare, run the military and veterans benefits.  You don’t mean to scrimp on these things, do you Paul?  You even referred to the days of Lincoln as an example of small government.  Those crazy, high energy, innovative days when were no fair labor laws, children worked 14-hour days, no food or product safety laws and, oh, yes, no truth in advertising or disclosure by companies.  So we could die in the factory, die from rotten food or poisonous products or lose our life savings to corporate con men.  And, as a student of history, you know that our nation went through boom and bust cycles every decade because of the inability to regulate the unbridled greed of speculators and market makers.

Oh, yes, sign me up, Paul, for your vision of America.  Or I guess I could just go to a third world nation for the same experience.

The Differences

There are obvious differences between males and females.  Some, while not subtle, don’t seem to correlate to the different anatomies.

(And, for the record, I believe there are two genders, but three types of people: man, woman and transitioning (either way).  I don’t understand why some people talk about six genders.  I am too old to be edgy, cool or thinking outside the box.  I live in a box.  It is on top of three other boxes in a building of boxes.   Many people in New York City live happily inside a box.  Some have outdoor space, so those people are LIVIN’ LARGE in and out of the box, baby.

But I digress.  AGAIN.)

Where am I going with this?  Today, I was subjected to a maddeningly persistent, non-anatomical, yet somehow hard-wired, difference.

Two men were talking about how a package needed to get from point A to point B but neither made any effort to undertake the details necessary to make that dream a reality.  Then they both look at me and I, startled, look at them and then turn around to see what’s happening behind me. Nothing.  Really?  Really?  Are you both really incapable of having your assistants help you with this, or G-d forbid, do it yourself?

I bet you stand in front of an open refrigerator and ask your wife where the carton of milk is (as in the one right in front of you).

Oh, Blackberry

This weekend, I read about a mother unplugging her kids from their various anti-social devices — smart phones, laptops and TVs — so they couldn’t engage in anti-social-yet-social activities like texting and Facebooking (is that a word?).

I had a smug moment about how we carefully monitor our son’s time on these devices — ok, he is only 8.5 years old so he doesn’t have an email address or a Facebook account.  And, thank G-d, his fine motor skills are not the best, because that will delay texting (and therefore sexting, G-d help me).  Bottom line: I have nothing to be smug about because I don’t have these issues YET.  But let me enjoy the moment however ill-deserved.

The very next day the “ALT’ and “a” keys on my blackberry stopped working.  I was frantic.  Karma is SUCH a brutal boomerang.  The blackberry provider which shall remain nameless (Verizon) wouldn’t honor the warranty without some trouble-shooting, even though I explained that it was a mechanical and not a software problem. 

Trouble-shooting?  Was a technician going to reach through the phone or computer and unstick my keys or relieve their key fatigue? 

So, I am on the phone with a technician and she says, “type the word, ‘blackberry’.”   Ok ok ok ok ok ok ok.   I CALMLY say “I can’t.”   She asks, “why?”   WHY?????  WHY????  WHY????  I CALMLY tell her, “it will come out ‘blckberry’ because the ‘a’ doesn’t work”.  Ahhh, now she understands.   She is no longer puzzled and frustrated.  How NICE for her.  She determines I need a new device.  Brilliant. 

Now, you think I am over-reacting.  I am.  I am hooked on my blackberry (karma being a brutal boomerang after my smug thoughts).  But there were 36 hours between the initial SOS to service provider which shall remain nameless (Verizon) and the actual trouble-shooting call.  And then 24 hours after that.  So, for 60 hours, I was typing emails that looked like “ttched is drft of the lon greement” (not really, because, G-d bless spell check).  All I can say is that it is hard to think of words that don’t have “a”s in them.  Try it.  And when you are typing messages that look nonsensical without the “a”s, you feel like you are either drunk or using someone else’s glasses.

But I did have fun torturing my assistant with “a”-less emails, like “plese mke reservtion for three t [name] resturnt” or constantly resending of “I cn’t use the LT or _ button”.   As if she didn’t know.  But you can’t spell TEAM without an A and so she needed to live this crisis with me.  And well I am better for it.  She, she, had to leave early with a migraine.

My new blackberry is synching now and I am humming right along with it.

a Day in the Life

This morning, I got on a plane to Chicago for a meeting.   The plan was, that after the meeting, I would take a cab from potential client back to the airport for a plane to take me home.

I hear they have these new-fangled things called telephones and video conferencing that makes one-day round-trip travel less necessary.  Actually, most times, the older and ever more quaint tradition of meeting someone and shaking his or her hand is really the best approach to sealing the deal that turns a potential client into a new client.  But I still need all of the gadgets and technology to meet somewhat far flung potential clients in real time and in the flesh.  So neither alone works as well as both do together, in the right proportions.  (If we are talking about teenagers and adult email/text junkies, then you need to send them to a monastery to start a 12-step program before even talking rationally to them.)

As I am floating along in a technology-induced empowerment daydream (it is early for me, remember), I realize that this morning’s trip is on a put-put plane.  The gangway doesn’t go all the way to the plane.  We have to step outside in the sleet and the rain and jump over puddles (that could qualify as rivers) in order to climb the thin (as in one-at-a-time only), small staircase into our claustrophobic airplane.  So much for my earlier comments on the power of technology.  I am no longer dreaming.  I am awake to the reality of a cold, wet, snowy day with wet feet and barely two inches separating me from my fellow passenger.

There is an woman in row 7 indirectly trying to get the attention of the flight attendant who is attending to things behind row 22. The woman is being very passive-aggressive about it all — telling everyone that the flight attendant is avoiding her.  Clearly, the flight attendant doesn’t hear her.  Finally, I ask the woman if I could help get the flight attendant’s attention.  She responds, “it’s her job to notice me!!!”  Ok, forget the personal touch.  Get me the hell out of this plane.  What is wrong with video conference?  I bet a new rainmaking tactic could be handwritten letters (in crayon, of course) sent by snail mail.  No.  No.  I will not let this woman ruin my dreams of global domination by charming and cajoling and pleading with potential clients far and wide.  No.  No. So I motioned to the flight attendant that the woman needed her.  Had it been an hour earlier, I would have left the plane and took a cab home and hid under the covers.

It seems that the woman — an oversized person — was promised a seat in an exit row because of the extra leg room but she was seated in row 7 — not an exit row.  The flight attendant couldn’t re-seat her until everyone was seated.  The woman was not pleased and she showed it by griping and grousing at an anger level and amplitude that was just criminal at 8am.

Ultimately, she was able to be re-seated in an exit row.  But the seat didn’t recline because there was a second exit row right behind the first one.  (The put-put plane that had more exits than windows.)  Sooooo, slowing our departure further, Goldilocks had to try the seats in the second exit row.  Those seats reclined.  Ah, she found the one that would do ju-u-u-ust fine.  [sigh] Wait, uh oh, the seatbelts don’t fit.  A cruel joke engineered by Papa Bear because he hates when Goldilocks comes, tries everything and leaves a mess.

So, in the end, she moved back up to row 7, opting for a reclining seat over leg room.  I would have opted for leg room with no reclining seat.  Ultimately, I am glad she was not in charge of the exit doors. I didn’t agree with her judgment call.

Goldilocks caused us to miss our place in take-off and we sat for one hour on the runway.  No wonder Papa Bear hates when she comes by, which happens many times, every night, given how many times the story is told on any given day around the world.

Back to my business meeting.  It went well.  Groveling in person is often effective.  Then I got in a cab to start the journey home.

I was able to get an earlier flight, at a cost of $75 (which I bet would have been $50 if I had checked luggage for $25). Regardless, getting home earlier is priceless and I did, in fact, use a MasterCard so I lived that commercial.

As I headed toward the gate, there was a plane boarding to JFK Airport at the next gate (I was flying into LaGuardia Airport). I wanted to switch again because it was another opportunity to get home even earlier.  Unfortunately, the two airports, although 10 miles apart, are considered different destination cities and there is a big cost differential to change destinations. The plane had been delayed for three hours and there was a line of disgruntled people waiting to board.  I decided that if JFK was that backlogged, that I would save money and not be on a plane ride from hell.

But recognizing the potential for delays and angry hordes, and even though I was assured that LaGuardia was running on time, I decided that an upgrade to first class (not too expensive) was in order, as a mental health prophylactic measure.  Sanity, priceless . . . Another MasterCard commercial.  I am living the dream.  And we were delayed on the tarmac before take-off and we circled before landing, so it was totally worth it.  I had plenty of room and I couldn’t smell anyone’s perfume.  Now, that the Sniffer (see prior blog entry) made me aware of perfume, I really appreciated only have that slightly nasty airplane smell we have come to expect.

So this all started on a put-put plane sitting on a runway on a cold, snowy, sleeting morning. And now I am in my jammies, having kissed my son before he fell asleep and then crawled into my cozy bed and smiling at my beloved.

Another day on the road to Utopia.

Turning the spin on my head

I had a long talk with my retirement coach. 

What, you don’t have a retirement coach? 

Wait, you’ve never heard of a retirement coach? 

Where do you live?  Really, you live on the planet Earth?

Ok, I made it up.  That’s what I call my financial adviser.  Because, why would I need a financial adviser if not to help me retire as soon as possible and preferably before my death.  Otherwise, a financial adviser would just cause me pain every time I followed her advice and lost money.  But, if I call her a coach and I still lose money, then it feels like a competitive sport where I put on my “game face” and try to overcome my losing score to make my coach happy.   You would think every financial adviser would pay me to convince their clients to think of them this way.

The bad news is that I have to give up my dream of retiring at 62 to try my hand at stand-up comedy.  The good news is that I am healthy and can continue to work until I die.

Flying into the Wild Blue Yonder

So, I was coming home from an interminable conference on Saturday night.  I knew I was in trouble when my row was called right after first class and those needing extra help or assistance.  My row was the last row in the plane.  The seat doesn’t recline.  The bathroom was behind me and, behind that, the flight attendant service station.  It was 8pm and I was exhausted.  Someone used the bathroom while the plane was on the ground so I could get a preview of the wooooooshing waterpark experience that would almost consume me by the trip’s end.

I wanted to scream.  The flight attendants were gossiping in loud, high-pitched voices that made me understand air rage.  Luckily, the seats next to me were empty.  At least, I would not feel claustrophobic.  But, wait, a couple changed seats so they could sit together — next to me.  The man sat next to me and sat “wide” in that way that makes you wonder if there is something horribly wrong with his testicles.  Then he opene food that he bought in the food court in the airport, overwhelming me with the smell of deep-fried, faux Mexican food.   So, no sleep for me on this plane ride.

Luckily, Jet Blue provides free TV (it charges for the headphones ($2) and the blanket and pillow ($7)).  So many channels, so little to watch.  I was desperate so I watched a Nicholas Cage movie.  I am sure he is a fine actor, but all I can think about is his financial problems.  (Why do I know this about him?) The man made millions and didn’t understand that buying multiple, multi-million dollar homes could bankrupt a person, or at least cause a cash squeeze?  It is hard for me to watch someone who is either a raving idiot or a male version of a prima donna who can’t take responsibility for his decisions.  The saving grace in the movie was Téa Leoni, who was just enchanting.  She made me think of Ingrid Bergman.  The movie was so plodding that I had to turn off the sound.  Then I remembered (ok, I googled it) that Téa Leoni is married to David Duchovny.  All I know about David Duchovny other than he starred in the X-Files is that he was at some point being treated for a sex addiction.  Why do I know that?  The same way I know about Nicholas Cage and that Lindsay Lohan has a drug problem even though I could not pick her out of a crowd and have never seen her in a movie.  Popular culture seeps through even my best defenses.

My head aches from all of this useless information.  I hope someone devises a brain dialysis soon so we can flush out useless information and reinvigorate those sad brain cells that have to hold that useless information.  Poor, poor, brain cells.  Help is on the way.

Pre-High Holy Days Mayhem

So, because POB (partner of blogger) reminds me that in “good homes” the carpets and the furniture are cleaned annually, and the windows are cleaned twice, before Passover and before Rosh Ha-Shanah, we have been in a cleaning frenzy.  Also the mice episodes gave the cleaning rituals a bit more fevered pitch this year.  Also the bed bug scare in New York had us getting new mattresses, etc.   In short, we are doing what we can to raise the retail sales numbers nationally.  Now, that is patriotism.

Our housekeeper comes on Fridays.  Our housekeeper is a wonderful and robust woman in her 60s who comes from Poland and, as she says, “knows hard vork”.   But since she is in her 60s we try to get others to the hard vork.  In this case, POB and I wanted to lay the cleaned rug down in the dining room (we had already done the heavy lifting in the living room).  This endeavor also involved cutting the mat underneath so that the rug laid properly. 

Here are the many dramas that came into play:  Our housekeeper said, “[Blogger], you are educated; I know hard vork.  Step avay from the mat and I vill cut!”  Ok, POB and I were raised to respect our elders and never to let someone older do work we could do ourselves.  We are also the “employers”, adding another level.  Also, POB is strong like you-can’t-imagine strong. 

So we are all on the floor playing out our social, economic and cultural dynamics.  The window cleaner walks in (we had left the door open for him after the doorman announced him) and sees three woman on the floor with scissors and box cutters arguing over who is cutting the mat that goes under the rug.  He asks, “where do I start?”  Really?  Really?  Is this a usual scene for the window cleaner?

We all stop.  I agree to cede the fight to POB and our housekeeper in order to get the window cleaner guy started as long as I get to move the dining room table.  Pause.  I seeing nodding and I retreat.  A little victory of sorts.

Of course, I should have known that even though I was allowed to move the dining room table, everyone would have an opinion on its precise location.  POB was the most forceful in her opinions.  “A little to the right.”  “Closer to the windows.”  “No, too much.” 

Are you listening??” 

NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I scream in my head, but all that comes out is “Yes, dear.” 

Back in my head, I am thinking you thought we should get our windows cleaned before a hurricane.  This is not like wearing good underwear in case you are taken to an emergency room.  The hurricane won’t treat us any better.  But then the hurricane passes us and POB is right — again.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Long time passing.  Long time ago.

On our way to the beach last week, we listened to 70s music on Sirius radio.  “Afternoon Delight”, “Handy Man”, “Monster Mash”, “Young Hearts, Run Free” and all those other long ago summer time songs had POB (partner of blogger) and me screaming the words as our son looked on in horror and embarrassment.  (He also said, “E-mom, you should blog about this.”  I love my son.)

At camp, we used to sing “Anticipation”, “Circle Game” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Cruel War” at Saturday night campfires.  These and other songs made us both melancholy and grateful for each other in ways I didn’t understand then.

Since those days, we have all lived with not knowing about the days to come, the (stupid, stinking) painted ponies going ’round and ’round the carousel of time, and war and its cruel endings.  Life has, as it inevitably does, lifted us up, let us down and gave us a few battle scars along the way.  And, sometimes, songs sung when I was so young resonate with me now as, with each passing year, I spend more and more on an ounce of (alleged) skin rejuvenation cream.

I firmly believe that, if I slathered olive oil all over my body (instead of throwing gobs of money away on creams and potions), it would give me a more youthful (and, ok, smarmy) glow.  People might also like to brush up against me with chunks of bread.  Maybe if I used extra, extra, virgin (as in the driven snow) olive oil, I would look even younger.  I would do it, but for fear of the inevitable question from a colleague, “did you have salad for breakfast?” or, after a meeting, someone sitting next to me saying, “you know, I have a strange hankering for Greek food.”

Oops, there I go digressing again.  About camp.  Sometimes those memories make me laugh out loud or just give me a wonderful feeling and a lift to my step.  And it has been a gift to reconnect with old friends on Facebook about batik, peach pit rings, the Leoj, Plaque Night, etc.

Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other’s gold.  Ok, campers, repeat in rounds (with Lodges 1 and 2 starting, followed by Lodges 4 and 5) and Lodge 3 please add the harmony.

Better than gold.  Really.