Friday, May 29, 2009

Going to the Ool

Aaaaah summertime. The smell of something burning on the grill, the sounds of yellow-jackets and mosquitoes buzzing in my ears, and the spectacle of children splashing and playing in the pool. Yes, the pool. The place feared by mothers everywhere. Not because of safety issues, but because we may get our hair wet.

Whether it is a wading pool, a lap pool, or an Olympic size pool--there is one thing they all have in common . . . pee. Every pool is a giant urinal that does not flush. I recently read a news article on about peeing in the pool. Evidentially the CDC warns against using a pool as a toilet. (Really?) It goes on to say that drinking a little bit of tainted water is bad for you and can make you sick. (No joke?) It finishes with the following: Don’t pee in the pool. Ok, that is enough for me. I am going to try and stop immediately. Well, at least cut back.

Printing a journalistic story on the crisis of pee in American pools hardly seems newsworthy, but apparently it is a big problem. According to the article: 1 in 5 American adults admit to peeing in the pool, and I am guessing, that the other 4 are liars. Someone told me they have never peed in a pool, and it is not that I don’t believe them, but I am leery of “warm spots” in the aquatic environment. I don’t stand too close to anyone at the pool, no matter what they say. Even Michael Phelps, the 14-gold medal winner, admitted tinkling in the pool, and the swimming pool is basically his workplace. So if he is willing to do it, I don’t hold out hope for the rest of America.

I am a little perturbed by this news story though; I see it as an attack by the media to vilify the United States; just more propaganda to make us look bad to the rest of the world. I mean you hear all this press about how lazy Americans are, and stories that we are all obese, that we have short attention-spans and now, we are incontinent too. Wetting ourselves and swimming around in it; great, the U.N. will have a heyday with that one. Well, I for one am not going to believe everything I read, but just to be on the safe side, I will be showering after swimming from now on.

I used to work at a pool, so I appreciate the feeling of familiarity when I visit swimming facilities. And, believe it or not, there are some things about the pool that I do enjoy. For one, the smell of chlorine is actually soothing to me. I also love those cutesy signs that they put up at some swimming areas, the ones that say “Welcome to our ool, notice there is no ‘P’ in it.” They are charming and folksy, but have no truth in advertising. They really should say: “Welcome to our pool. Notice there is ‘P’ in it. I wouldn’t drink the water if I were you.”

Of course, I didn’t say I like everything about the swimming pool. Besides the urine-filled water, one of the things I dislike is the fact that you are seeing everyone disrobed. Going to the pool is like seeing everyone you know in their underwear. It is too much information paddling around in sun block. You cannot hide anything in a swimsuit; all of your limbs are out there for the world to see. It is like stripping down to your skivvies and asking the entire neighborhood to jump in and take a bath with you. I don’t like it one bit. And now we have to worry about who is going #1 in the water? I already look at people who swim with suspicion, and now I have to wonder what they are doing when they float on over to the deep end?

I have enough to worry about when I take a trip to the pool, like trying to look people in the eye. Hey it sounds easy, but you try and not to look alarmed when you see the human equivalent of Chewbacca coming at you in a pair of cut-off Levi’s while his tighty-whitey’s are playing peek-a-boo with his distended-belly. Keeping a straight face is tougher than it sounds. Now, I am no super-model myself, so I have a certain amount of sympathy for the attractively-challenged, but I have one word for that guy—“Manscaping.”

Yes, the pool is full of many pit-falls and potentially uncomfortable situations. I speak from experience, many tortuous years of having my children drag me to the aquatic center has resulted in a rather steep learning curve. So this summer, before you hit the swimcenter, feel free to use my tried and true beach bathing guidelines:

Self-tanner will not cover varicose veins.

It is not ok to hit other people’s children, no matter how many times they splash you in the face or shoot at you with a water weenie.

That little skirt on your swimsuit is not fooling anyone, not even you.

If you have to go down the water-slide make sure all ties and straps on your swimsuit are securely attached and latched. Seriously.

The snack shack does not sell Xanax or Gin; you have to bring your own.

The “cannon-ball” is not a dive.

And lastly: If you are going to pee, please don’t stand next to me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pet Cemetery

There is a frog that lives outside my house in the decorative bricks. It is ribbitting like there is no tomorrow. My husband says the frog is doing that because it is mating season. I think it is because the frog is trying to warn the others. If that amphibian has lived near our house for very long, he knows that there are almost a dozen animals buried in our yard, and I think he is trying to protect his friends. His croak is a warning, it means: Stay away, these people are killers! We really aren’t murderers, the pets we had just died, mostly of natural causes. I would call it the circle of life but it is more like the cul-de-sac of life, you can enter but just know ahead of time that it is a dead end.

I don’t want to bore you with all the sordid details, let’s just say we have more shoeboxes full of skeletons buried in the yard than any other family on our street. I think that our reputation has spread, because the last time we pet-sat for someone, they told us there would be an extra $50 in it if they came back and their pet was dead. Of course we turned them down, but 2 weeks later their beloved family pet died anyway. I guess just being in our home, seeing the carnage all around him, was enough for the animal to give up the ghost. Of course, we didn’t get the $50 because of a technicality, some mumbo-jumbo about the fact that it didn’t happen on our property.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like animals, I just don’t looooooove them. My kids love animals, in fact, the little one’s first word was “goggie” (read: doggie), and he said he is going to change his name to “Puppy Lover” when he turns 20. Why? Because he loves puppies. When I tell folks that I am not an animal lover it brings out a lot of hostility in them. They make all kinds of assumptions just from my one statement. They automatically think I am a cold, heartless person. They insinuate that I am going to canvas the neighborhood looking for dogs to roast over an open flame and serve alongside potato salad. I am not going to do that. Besides, I am sure they taste just like chicken anyway, so really, what is the point?

It does not make me a bad person just because I don’t want to dress up four-legged creatures in sweaters and hot-dog costumes and carry them around in a purse. It makes me a sane person. It does not make me a lunatic just because I don’t want to follow my dog around all day with a little blue bag to carry his business in. I like to see animals and play with them, cuddle them and watch them run on a wheel or swim in their tanks; I am just not obsessed with them. I enjoy the company of animals but we are not in a co-dependant relationship.

Besides, I think the pet craze has gotten out of hand. I hear of people on the news getting bigger and deadlier animals as pets. One story recently, was about a woman who kept a chimpanzee as a pet. Keeping a humongous ape, that weighs more than the average man, in your house and dressing it up in a diaper does not even sound like a good idea in theory, let alone in actuality. The animal eventually went nuts and viciously attacked the neighbor, totally unprovoked. Details did surface that the animal was on anti-depressants, which just goes to show that medication alone does not work; chimps need therapy in addition to a prescription.

Ok, so people are pushing the limits of the kinds of animals to keep, maybe they just don’t know the in’s and out’s of adopting a pet. So, here are my tips for shopping for a new family pet:

Any animal that outweighs you by 100 or more pounds should be automatically disqualified from being a pet.

Any animal that is a natural predator of homo-sapiens (yes, this means you) should not be a pet.

Any animal that is considered “a pest.” This means an animal in which an exterminator is called to people’s homes to eradicate, should not be living in yours.

Any animal that can survive, and thrive, in a public sewer system should not be kept as a pet.

Any animal that sprays toxic fumes/poisons that could potentially blind, paralyze, kill and/or maim you, should not be a pet.

Animals that eat their young, are potentially ok. Animals that eat your young, not ok.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “But my kids will want one of these animals. How do I dissuade them from selecting an animal that doesn’t fit into the ‘safe’ category?” Well, if this is the case, here is an example of how you handle that type of conversation:

“Mom, can I get a King Cobra?”
“Mom, can I get a scorpion?”
“Hey, Mom, how about a tiger?”
“But Mom, I really want a dingo.”
“Remember that little kid that used to run around here for a few years? He had blonde hair like yours and slept with your old teddy bear? You called him brother?”
“He was eaten by a dingo.”

Now, that you are getting the hang of it, go out and pick up a new pet. Maybe a free cat from a box in front of the grocery store, or a nice neutered dog from your local animal shelter. Oh, and one last tip, don’t get something exotic, like a one-of-a-kind hairless Burmese cat or a Brazilian scarlet macaw. In the event that something goes awry, you may need a pet look-alike to fill in. So you should pick an animal that is generic and easy to find replacements for. You know, like in case the new pet dies in an accident or because of a mysterious illness. Or, in case you ask us to pet-sit for you. I am just saying . . .

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bracing for Impact

One day, my husband said this to me: “Go ahead honey, why don’t you drive?”

I know, I couldn’t believe it either.

So I said, “Nah, it’s raining.”
“It is ok. You can drive slow. I’m in no hurry,” he said.
“Why not?”
“I don’t like to drive with you in the car.”
“You’re too distracting.”
“Because I am talking to you?”
“No, by gasping and shrieking every time I take a turn. Or the way you flinch and press both palms to the dash every time I pass someone.”
Then he said, “Oh, that. That is just me bracing for impact.”

So, he thinks I am a bad driver. It makes life easier if you just AWG. AWG is my new mantra, a little something I made up, it means: Admit the truth, Work within the parameters of your limitations, and Get on with life. That is why when my husband insults my driving, I don’t get indignant. What is the point? It is a true assessment of my abilities. When other folks hear this they say things like, “Oh, come on now. I am sure you aren’t that bad.” or “I am sure you are better than you think.” But I have never had any of them offer to ride with me.

I think my driving problems began in high school with the driver education program. You see, I didn’t go to one. My dad taught me how to drive. Then after half a year he took me to the county seat to take the actual driving test with the local sheriff. Looking back, the only reason that I can think of why my dad would agree to such insanity is that it never crossed his mind that I would pass the test. I mean, he drove with me for six months, he must have assumed that no competent licensing agency would allow me to pass. But he underestimated my sheer force of will and steely determination. Or, it may have been the crying. Yeah, now that I think about it, it was probably the crying.

When my father first agreed to teach me to drive I am guessing that he thought it would be easy. He was a tank commander in the army and I doubt that he felt out-gunned by a sixteen-year-old girl with poor fashion sense and an addiction to Aqua-Net hair spray. I am sure that he sized me up and thought, ‘piece of cake.’

Our first trip out together was going to be a nice little jaunt around the block. I started the car and drove around each turn, doing what I thought, was a reasonable 45 mph. He didn’t say a word for the 30 seconds it took us to come back to our starting spot in front of the house. When I slammed on the brakes, and his head lurched forward with whip-lash force, narrowly missing the windshield, I said, “How was that?” He looked at me with an expression I had never seen before, I could see much more of his actual eyeball than I had ever remembered seeing, and it was very white. Then, when his breathing returned to normal, he said, “Let’s try that again. Only slower this time. Much slower.”

Thus began our journey together. He tried to teach me to drive and I taught him what really causes grey hair. It was an experience. The clutch survived, which is amazing in it self, I stripped out a number of gears and I once ran the car so far out of gas that air got in the lines. So, when the woman at the DMV handed me my freshly minted driver’s license I was ecstatic. My dad, again, was speechless. I am not sure if it was pride or fear, but either way, he knew there was no turning back. For the ride home, he let me drive. There is nothing like the feel of the open road in an avocado green station wagon with your petrified parent clutching his chest in the seat next to you.

Ever the teacher, on the ride home, my dad decided to give me one last driving lesson. He wanted me to pass someone. I had not passed anyone in all of our training together. Not a little old lady on a Sunday drive, not a single-cylinder moped, not even a pedestrian. Now my dad wanted me to pass the longest greyhound bus in the world.

His mini lesson began with: “See that bus ahead of us is going 45 mph. The speed limit is 55. We are coming up to a good spot to pass. When you see the dotted line, look for oncoming traffic and if the lane is open, pass this bus.”
I said, “Dad, I can’t.”
“Pass the bus.”
“I can’t.”
Then more firmly, he said, “Pass the bus.”

I was scared out of my ponytail. After all of his lectures on not speeding I was determined not to speed as I followed his directive. So, I began slowly accelerating, 45 mph, then 46, 47. The minutes ticked by. I didn’t want to move too quickly, so as to avoid the whole ‘trip around the block’ incident.

“Pass or get back into your lane,” he said a little too forcefully.
“I am passing.”

I could see a car heading toward us in the distance. The speedometer was slowly climbing as we were almost neck and neck with the front of the bus.

“Pass or get back over!” He must have seen the on-coming car too.

I glanced at the gauges, we were almost up to 50 mph and it only took us 4 or 5 minutes tops.

“Pass or get over!” Now he was almost shrieking.
“I don’t want to break the law.”

The on-coming car was getting closer. I wasn’t sure how to proceed, but his instructions were getting shorter and louder.

“I can’t speed. You told me not to speed.”

So, to make him happy, I decided to pass. I didn’t know that you were supposed to get one car length in front of the other automobile before you pass them. (Was that even in the manual?!) So, I just nosed in, narrowly missing a head-on collision with the on-coming car and a ramming from a 10-ton commercial transportation vehicle.

Even though I was upbeat and positive about my triumph over passing the bus--my dad was not. “Can I do a victory lap around town when we get home?” I asked.
“No,” was all he said.

I am not blaming anyone for my bad driving, least of all myself. I mean, I am a victim of unfortunate circumstances. Sometimes the cosmos just conspires against me, I am blaming the devil.

So when you are on the highway with traffic backed up to the coast, and there is one lone car at the front of the pack going 45 mph in a 70 mph zone, maybe you will be more understanding when you zoom around them at the first opportunity. And please wave hello when you cruise on by me, but don’t honk, I tend to swerve when startled.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hairy Teeth

When I am sick my teeth feel hairy, like they have fur growing on them. The doctor told me it is from breathing through my mouth when my nose is stuffed up, but I am not convinced it isn’t one of the lesser known cold symptoms. You know, like headache, body aches . . . hairy teeth.

I mean, how much do we really know about the common cold anyway? We don’t even really know where it comes from or how to get rid of it. If I go to the doctor they usually won’t even give me medicine. And I will probably catch 6 more strains of bacteria sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for them to come in and tell me that all I need are fluids and plenty of rest. Now the flu is actually killing people and the folks in charge think it is being caused by pigs? Sounds fishy to me. I think hairy teeth is more believable.

When I get sick my whole family gangs up on me. It is their chance to live a life of freedom. The kids know that my guard is down, I have no resistance. When they want to wear long-underwear, cowboy boots, and a cape to school I just say, “Sure, wake me when the principal calls.” Chocolate cake for breakfast? Like I could stop them. Three hours of cartoons? I don’t even have the energy to find the remote to turn the TV off. The sound of antibacterial hand-sanitizer squirting, the overwhelming smell of mentholated rub, and the spectacle of kids painting the cat with nail-polish; yes, Mommy must be ill.

Even eating is no fun when I am sick. It is just a bunch of chewing (which usually hurts) and I have to make something for myself (which expends valuable energy) and I can’t taste anything (it could be play-dough for all I know), so what is the point? When I am sick we sometimes get takeout, because I am worried about spreading germs by handling food that my family will consume. So, when I am ill, we often pick-up drive thru or deli food to cut-down on contamination. And, since I am the one who is sick, naturally, I am the one they send to pick-up the food.

This last time I was fighting off a cold I had a stack of thank-you cards I needed to send out. I usually have the kids write their own message on thank-you cards; if they are younger I have them draw a picture, or dictate a message for me to write. So while I went to get more Kleenex I left my little one at the table to “write his card.” When I came back he had a napkin over the card and was gently scrubbing it. I thought he was trying to erase a mistake, but when I asked him what he was doing, he replied, “I’m wiping off my sneeze.” Please do not judge me too harshly when I say that I went ahead and mailed that card. That is right, mailed it with the flu-like equivalent of anthrax covering the entire note. You have been warned, if you get an envelope in the mail with my return address on it, spray it with Lysol and open at your own risk.

One thing I hate to do when I am sick is talk on the phone. I sound like Elmer Fudd on hallucinogens.

“Hi, uh, is Sonia there?”
“You sound awful. I just called to see how you are holding up.”
“Nod vew-wee wewl. I hab a stubbed nobe and I am vew-wee ti-wrd. I need to go wy down now.”

The person on the other end of the line is not sure if they just had a conversation with me or accidentally called the psych ward of the mental hospital.

Even trying to sound like a normal person is useless. I cannot think. My brain goes all fuzzy and putting together a coherent thought takes a monumental amount of brain power. It would be easier for the planets to align and for the government to pay off the national debt, than for me to do anything that requires thought when I have a cold. Once when I was sick I put the phone in the washing machine, and then it got sick too.

One of the worst parts of illness is when you don’t have anyone to take care of you. Husbands aren’t the most nurturing when it comes to caretaking. My husband was in a coffee shop recently when a young woman was blowing her nose and exclaimed, “EWWW!” Another woman asked her if she was ok. “Yeah, but when I blew my nose my eye squirted.” So my husband says, “Oh yeah? Let’s see.” That is not the response of a concerned person that is the response of a recruiter for the circus.

Along with the other symptoms that I have already mentioned, I become horribly disfigured, when I am under the weather. My skin becomes so pale it is almost see-thru, I get dark circles under my eyes, my nose is chapped, cold sores cover my lips, my eyes are bloodshot, and because I lay down so much, my hair looks like it lost a fight with a tornado. I scared off 4 girl-scouts and 2 Jehovah’s witnesses just by answering the front door.

Luckily, I am recovering from my most recent bout with the flu. My headache and sore throat are almost completely gone. I have no fever and the congestion is slowly clearing up. So, why am I not happy? My husband came to me this morning and said, “I don’t feel well. *sniffle* I think I have a tickle in my throat. *cough* I am going to go lie down.”

I guess I had better go check his teeth.