Thursday, June 28, 2012

Twelve Inches

Some things aren't supposed to come out of our mouths. Sometimes we can't help it.

Anger is useful.  I was raised by people who blamed me if I got angry.  I was supposed to be a sweet little compliant girl.  Well, shit!  How did that work out? 

The other day, we stopped for lunch at the Subway on Redmond Way near Whole Foods.  The people working there were crabby.  They had no patience with children who didn't speak quickly enough. This one guy, the crabbiest one, was incredibly short.

What is it about short guys being angry?

So, this seriously short guy started bullying my boys, if you can call it that behind the row of condiments and sandwich fixings. 

"I'll have an Italian BMT," Nick said.

"What size?" Shorty said.  "What size?"

"Twelve inches," Nick said.  Shorty turned his back on him to take someone else's sandwich out of the toaster.

"What do you want?" Shorty said as he glared at Nick.  His message was that Nick was responsible for the long line and not the fact that it was noon and people were actually spending money at his store.

"I'll have an Italian BMT," Nick said.

"Bread?" Shorty shouted.

"Italian," Nick shouted.  He was getting the hang of this.  Shorty was not amused. 

"What size?" Shorty shouted, a little louder.  Nick patiently answered this guy's questions.  Then, this half-man glared at me.  I hopped to.  That's what I do to begin with.  When it came to the cheese, however, I started to get angry.  How is it that he expected me to pay extra for my cheese when he only put a teaspoon of shredded cheese on my salad?  If I had ordered a sandwich, I'd have been given more than twice as much.  I argued with Shorty. 

"Extra cheese," he shouted.

"No.  I want a normal amount of cheese. This is not a normal amount," I said, my voice rising so that the other customers could hear me.  That is sometimes a powerful tool. 

Once, I cried in the showroom of a car dealer when they scratched my brand new car before they even handed it over to me.  They'd also put an aftermarket tire carrier on it that I couldn't open by myself and they expected me to go home smiling.  Crying in the showroom is a very powerful tool.  They kept trying to push me into one of those negotiating rooms.  Finally, I spun around and yelled for them to stop touching me and fell into hysterical sobs.  Other customers were coming over to console me.  I was not manipulating them.  I really was upset.  I was just a little louder than usual.

I was not the youngest child in my family for nothing.  I knew how to get the sympathy votes from my parents and from other nice people on the showroom floor.  So these guys from the car dealer, they fixed everything.  They weren't happy about it, but they fixed everything. 

Shorty, on the other hand, was not as accommodating.  I should have walked out right then.  I hadn't paid for the food.  I owed them nothing, as far as I could see.  I really hate when I think of the perfect solution to the problem two days after the problem occurs. 

I did contact the company though.  I wrote that we usually love Subway.  We do.  We've been to Subway shops all across the country.  I can get my salad and the guys get sandwiches with real vegetables on them.  The food is usually fresh.  The people behind the counter are usually friendly.

Shorty was not that man.  He was one angry half-man.  I can imagine how it made him feel when my eleven-year-old boy, who was already quite a few inches taller than he was, actually looked him in the eye and said, "Twelve inches," with a straight face. 

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Truth

I should tell the truth, but I don't.  Did you know that?  The shitter is that life is much less interesting when people worry too much about the truth.  Let the story carry you away.  It's just a stupid story, man!  Grab a beer and sit down.  The soap opera has begun.

This is the longest day of the year, my Grannie's birthday. 

Grannie was born in 1917 to parents that were blind.  Grannie's aunt and uncle decided that two sighted children couldn't possibly live safely with blind parents and took them away and brought their blind sister with them.  Things like that happened back in the 1920s.  These days, there'd be a two year lawsuit during which the sisters would be separated and sent to foster homes until the verdict came in, so hold your indignation, taco.  The strange thing is that Grannie's aunt and uncle were brother and sister, living together with Grannie's mom.  Imagine that.  Maybe we don't want to imagine that. 

Do I hear banjo music?

It sucks that Grannie's mother died when she was eleven.  Grannie, a font of stories, never said how she died.  Grannie could never face conflict.  She really couldn't.  Can you imagine your insecurity when, at the age of three, you are whisked away from your father and brought to live with your aunt, uncle, and mom, your mom no longer being allowed to make the major decisions for your life?  Grannie talked once of hiding under the ironing board when her uncle was mad.  Gees, pick a better spot to hide, kiddo.  There's nothing protecting you under an ironing board and if you jiggle it by accident, a hot and heavy iron could fall on your head.

Grannie never saw her father again, though the man visited her older sister years later.  How awful was that?  There is so much of this story that hasn't seen the light of day.  Grannie could barely talk about her father, she was so mad.  Kept it all in.  All those stories she used to tell and the big one, she kept quiet. 

There's a saying that the truth always comes out, but it isn't true.  Some truths die with the three year old who was separated from her parents and had to hide under the ironing board.  Grannie lived to be 93 years old, but never really told the truth.

Here's a good question:  does the truth really set you free?  Does my boy really need to hear all the awful truth of his mother's and father's lives, of Grannie's life?  What good will it do?  I want to tell him.  I think that it'll help him know just how good and how bad people can be.  I'm not sure that my husband agrees.  He's a lot more like Grannie that way, who told the sweet stories and hiding the bad ones.  Still, there are some stories that just made the pieces of the puzzle of four generations fit into place.  I'll tell you that story some day. 

In the meantime, I try to picture the three-year-old girl, the one who's face looks like a china doll, straight black hair highlighting her dark serious eyes, hiding in plain sight under the ironing board because her uncle was angry.  I try to imagine the young woman, dressed up and waiting at home when she knew her father was less than a mile away in her sister's house, just waiting and wondering if he would show up at her door, and finding that he wouldn't. 

Thank you for listening, jules


I should be asleep. I'm not.

There are a whole world of 'shoulds' out there.  Here are some of mine:

I should have kept my mouth shut, but I didn't.  That's why I'm here and not where I used to be.  Oh honey, I'll explain it later, but right now it's a secret.  Don't you just love secrets?  Well, the worst part about them is when you aren't in on it yet.  Don't worry, you will be.  You will be offered many, perhaps too many, secrets.  I won't tell you that my mother abused me, though, if that's what you're here to find out.  I'm much too mundane for that. 

I should have cleaned my house, but I didn't. Somehow whenever I try to clean something, twelve other things end up dirty in the process, like when I tried to give my dog a bath and he ended up shaking off five or six gallons of medicated dog water all over me, all over Jack, my son, and all over my house. 

I should be publishing something wonderful, but I'm not.  I write whatever I feel like writing.  Sometimes it surprises me. When I make those lists of stuff I should write, I end up avoiding them as if they are housework.

I should be a perfect little beanie of a smartie-pants, but I'm not.  I was pretty close when I was a kid, but that's gone.  Pregnancy does that.  Menopause does that.


Oh my God, a kid said that in my car the other day.  I nearly pulled to the side of the road, slowed down, and threw him out with the hand that wasn't driving.  What the heck is with kids these days?  This particular kid is not my favorite if I have to be honest.  My boy, Jack, is almost twelve and has been picking his own friends for a while now.  This kid barely hovers over juvenile delinquent in my book, but I'm not going to tell Jack he can't be friends with him.  I'll just keep the offers to drive to a minimum.  Really, this boy tore a door to a toilet stall off its hinges already.  He ditched Jack at a water park.  He has not made himself any parental allies in this family. 

I'm almost out of here for now.  I'll keep thinking about things that 'should' be.  That's an awful long and futile list, but it's one that's worth considering.  I wonder if whole areas of psychology couldn't be developed over that list of 'shoulds.'  Oh right, they have been.  They're called commercials.

Thank you for listening, jules