Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting the Best of Bad Luck

Way back when, when I was a kid, I remember watching Hee-Haw with the Good King Dad. (Obviously this was before DHS, because cornball, redneck humor is surely child abuse). There was one recurring sketch that featured someone singing "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

Well, I was trying to explain to someone the other day how that could probably be my theme song. I know of no silver lining too shiny to dispel a dark cloud. But I've come to accept and, to some degree, expect that thunderhead. Instead of moping (too much) about the hole in my umbrella, I just look for the humor in the tarnished silver lining.

They didn't get it.

You see, in the cosmic storms of fortune and fate, I'm a lightening rod for bad luck, catastrophe, inconvenience and misfortune. It's no one's fault -- just the opposite. People try to do nice things for me, but once I get involved it turns out all higgledy-piggledy. And when I try to do nice things for me, it's "Whoa Nelly! Bar the door!" Which brings me to what I thought was a funny story.

About a year ago I had to go in for a follow-up mammogram because of a shadow on the initial x-ray. Given my family history, I wasn't too surprised. In fact, I had an eerie feeling when I left the imagining center that first time.

Happily, the second x-ray was clear. (Yay me!) I decided to treat myself to a little caffeinated goody to celebrate. I was in downtown Iowa City anyway, and I needed to go to the library, so I figured I'd visit one of the hundreds of coffee shops on the ped mall.

The shine of my silver lining must have been absolutely blinding, because I found an on-street parking spot only half a block from the library. I fed the parking meter, slipping but not falling on the icy curb. Did I mention it was February and colder than a witches' mammogram?

After a quick (but careful) sprint to the library I decided it would be best to limit my outdoor exposure, so I popped in to the adjacent coffee shop. My silver lining was frosted but still shining, and Lady Luck favored me with a comfy chair near the window, toasty warm from the sunlight.

I enjoyed -- nay, savored -- my latte and sinfully delicious blueberry muffin, while losing myself in the trials and tribulations of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood of "Sense and Sensibility." At length, my cup was empty, the crumbs cleared, and the Dashwoods had reached the end of a chapter.

I headed back to the car, filled with bonhomie. My tummy was full, caffeine level high and the girls had received a clean bill of health. All was right with the world.

I also had a parking ticket.

Take that, you silver lining!

Most expensive coffee I've ever had. And worth every penny.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Look Ma Bell! No Hands!

I have got to get me one of them hands-free, cell phone headset thingies.

Not because I need to be available by cell phone at all times. Duh. Why do you think the ringer is usually off? OK, it's because I forget to turn it back on, but that's not the point.

Not because I need an outward symbol of how important I am. I think the tiara pretty much says it all.

No, I need a headset to disguise my crazy ramblings and outbursts. Oh sure, talk to yourself a little and people thing you're eccentric. Talk to yourself a lot and they lock you up. Give random strangers constructive criticism and they take offense!

But! Talk into a headset and no one bats an eye!

This morning I saw a woman carrying on a conversation all by herself outside the ice cream parlor -- which is closed for the season by the way -- in beautiful downtown West Branch. We assume that she was talking to someone on her headset, but how do we really know that? Sure, she had her Franklin Day Planner in one hand, and she was dressed in comfortable yet professional-looking business casual style. But how do we know her cell phone was even on?

This hands-free headset fetish has its place, but leave them in the car, people. I don't give a crap if they're hard to connect and disconnect and it's easier to just leave them on when you go in the store. And don't give me that "Oh, I forgot it was there" crap. Hellooo, it's a growth sticking out of your ear. You know it's there.

Yes, you do look like a crazy person talking to yourself in line at the grocery store. It is almost, but not quite as annoying as the people who talk on the phone in public restrooms. Do me a favor people, don't answer or -- God forbid -- place a call while in a stall. It will save me from repeatedly flushing in an attempt to annoy you and drive home a point to whoever is on the other end of the line.

Don't even get me started on how much I don't want to hear your conversation.

But since you brought up the subject, no! I don't want to hear your conversation. In fact, I don't want to hear your conversation so much that I usually just tune out anyone around me who is talking. Someday I'm going to be run down by a truck because I ignored the people shouting "LOOK OUT! THERE'S A TRUCK ABOUT TO RUN YOU DOWN!" because I thought they were talking to someone else on their cell phones.

On the other hand (and I would have both available!), I could use this to my advantage. I already feel perfectly free to offer much needed advice on driving (and, occasionally, fashion) from the enclosed and nearly soundproof comfort of my car. They can't hear me, but on some level -- whether it is psychic or body language -- I think I get my message across.

The headset would give me a similar sense of freedom to offer advice while outside my car. The random pedestrian would never be quite sure if I was talking to them or not, but subconsciously they would absorb my advice and use it to better their lives.

The moron blocking traffic in the cereal aisle would hear "Aisle hog on lane 3." He would look around, sheepishly, then decide to stand behind his cart instead of next to it, allowing other shoppers to pass.

The lady with the screaming kid at the mall would hear "future juvenile delinquent" and would probably assume I was talking about someone else. However, one day in the future while she's talking to Junior via a whole different type of "cell" phone and remarking on how that orange jumpsuit really brings out the blue in his eyes, she'll have a flashback and think "I really should have tried a more proactive approach to discipline when you were younger."

Viola! Another problem solved, another life improved.

All thanks to hands free technology. And me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Teaching 'Snot for Me

Recently I took the "What is Your Ideal Job" quiz on Facebook. I expected the answer would somehow reflect my regal status -- something like "Queen of the Universe," "Royal Bon Bon Inspector," or the straightforward "Boss of Everything and Everyone."

But oh no. The answer was "Teacher."

These are the same insightful people who brought me such meaningful (and accurate) time wasting quizzes as: "Which Peanuts Character are You?" (Snoopy, of course), "Discover Your Birth Number" (2, a natural born diplomat. Well, duh), and "Which TV Mom Are You?" (Peg Bundy. Girl's got style). How could they let me down with "Teacher"?

Sorry. Been there, done that, warped a few teenage psyches along the way.

I can turn the most mundane occurrence into a "sign" of something, so I knew that getting "Teacher" as my quiz result was a sign. A bad sign. An omen of end of the world proportions. It was just a matter of time.

Today my time ran out. My second day of substitute teaching during the 2009-10 school year. The day that I learned without a doubt, that "Teacher" is not my ideal job.

If I wasn't feeling so melodramatic, I would amend that to "'Kindergarten Teacher' is not my ideal job." But after the day I had today, I deserve to be melodramatic. And technically I should amend that to "After the two and a half hours I had today, I deserve to be melodramatic." It was the longest two and a half hours of my life.

In my defense, kindergartners this early in the school year (12 days in) are basically tall preschoolers. And the preschool teacher has at least one aide. I would have settled for a roll of duct tape. With that I could have not only taped their mouths shut (Please be quiet, pleasebequiet, bequietbequietbequiet!), but also taped their little hands to their sides (No touching, notouchingnotouchingnotouching!)

The phrase "herding cats" kept running through my mind, but only as an example of a much easier job.

It's not a matter of adapting instructional techniques from high school to small fry. It's the whole caretaker thing. Here's an example:

As I was herding -- I mean escorting -- little "Regan" (name has been changed to protect the guilty and to insert a sly reference to Linda Blair's character in "The Exorcist") back to his seat, he sneezed a mighty sneeze. Being a thoughtful and polite child, he covered his mouth and nose with his hands the way you do when you sneeze.

At this point, everything went into slow motion.

Little Regan lowered his hands slightly, took a look at them, then turned to look at me, eyes wide in amazement. A snot/spit mix puddled in his hands and ran down one arm to his elbow. Another drippy strand connected the puddle to twin rivulets coating his nose, lips and chin. I quickly handed him a couple of tissues, turned him toward the sink and told him to wash up.

Then I wiped down the faucet, the soap dispenser and the paper towel holder. And washed my hands. Several times.

I seriously need to re-evaluate my career choice.

Is anyone hiring cat wranglers?