Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Parking Plague: Road Rage's Lesser-Known Pal

While I'm not currently stricken with a wicked case of Road Rage, if Parking Plague is an affliction, I might be coming down with something. It's not quite confine-me-to-a-hospital-bed-before-I-drag-my-key-along-someone-else's-car ill. But if we google the symptoms, I'll bet they point to a vast configuration of vehicular-based psychoses.

Now I'm no mathematical genius, but I think you'll concur with the following ratios....or equations....or formulas....or whatever the heck Those Who Get Math would call this:

#Minutes Spent Parking  <  #Minutes Inside Establishment = Reasonable

#Minutes Spent Parking  >  #Minutes Inside Establishment = Total Insanity

Consider this typical scenario:
You just want to run into your local Starbucks to pick up a beverage-to-go. You need a good shot of caffeine in order to accomplish 51 other tasks during the whopping two-hour window all your kids are in school. You figure acquiring the coveted traveling cup of warmth will take 10 minutes tops.

Keep in mind the suburb where you live is big on charm, but very small on available parking spaces. Microscopically small. The chances of Lindsay Lohan leading a quiet, law-abiding life small.

After circling both the charming, Norman Rockwell-like block and the completely full, very unNorman Rockwell-like parking lot twice, you see someone, latte in hand, exiting the Starbucks.

You're nice enough to stop and gesture for him to cross in front of you. He nods and continues to his car nearby. You smile and pull up behind him with your handy-dandy blinker blinking....the universal signal for I Want Your Damn Parking Spot. 

Then you wait. He opens the driver's side door and ever so carefully sets his precious latte onto the console. Next he's leisurely taking off his jacket. He's strolling to his trunk at a snail's pace to carefully fold and place said jacket in it. Why? No one knows. We'll chalk it up to some kind of small town charm thing.

By this point, you're wishing for an Intensity Lever on your turn signal to make it blink faster, brighter and quite possibly emit a repetitive game show buzzer sound to encourage him to move it along.  

You wait some more. He looks at you again. Just to be clear......there is no chance he hasn't seen your vehicle with its blinker or isn't aware of your intentions.

Yet, he then proceeds to grab his latte, lock up his car and walk away carefree, passing the driver's side of your car without acknowledging your existence.

So positively charming.

And by charming, I mean RUDE.

(*Note to Jerk Who Did This to Me Monday: If someone has the blinker on and is obviously waiting for you to vacate your spot, it only requires a nanosecond for you to give some indication of your plans. Staying? Going? A head shake or wave is all it takes. Because if you've made eye contact with me twice AND I've been nice enough to stop to let you cross in front of me, some courtesy on your part is most definitely required.)

Understandably annoyed after dealing with this charming  spawn of evil  individual, you drive another lap around the parking lot and question whether any drink is worth this aggravation. But you've already wasted this much time, so you'd at least like to get something out of it....and preferably something hot comprised of steamed milk.

You see a spot up ahead...oops, handicapped, that's not going to work. You consider following the mom escorting toddlers and stroller to her car, but because you've actually BEEN that mom escorting toddlers and stroller, you know by the time she packs up all her offspring and belongings, another millennium may have passed.

Of course, you could've parked in Space #41 (your charming town numbers them for payment purposes) if it weren't for That Person. You know, the one who thinks the expensive car is so precious, it doesn't have to obey the painted line parameters. The one who thinks if no one is able to park in the spots next to it, all the better.

Yeah, That Person.

Finally, another spot opens up. By the time you circle around toward it, you can't pull in because two people are chatting by the opened car door. Again, you flip on the blinker to no avail. It appears these fine folks aren't aware they're standing in the only available space for miles and that someone may be waiting to, oh, I don't know, park a vehicle there? Since this is what we in America call a PARKING LOT, right?

After their extended goodbye session complete with air kisses and promises to do lunch, you finally park. And as luck would have it, pretty close to the Starbucks. Convenient, yes?

No....Because you're now required to walk clear across the lot to deposit money into the charming Pay Station. And there's a good chance if you don't have coins, the slot that accepts dollar bills will be broken (because when is it NOT broken?), and you'll be forced to traipse to yet another Pay Station.

It's certainly enough to make you want to skip paying, especially because you only plan to be in Starbucks for 10 minutes anyway.  But you know if you did skip, there would surely be a charming parking ticket on your windshield when you return.

Does anyone know when the charming Anger Management classes are offered?
I'm asking for a friend. 

Actual Time Spent Parking:  17 minutes
Real Feel:  35 minutes
Time Spent Purchasing Beverage:  8 minutes
# Police Cars Circling Lots Like Ticketing Vultures Hourly:  at least 2
# Tickets Given to That Person Parked Outside the Lines:  0

What frustrates you about parking? If enough of us claim illness, maybe they'll start researching a cure. Or at least get it listed on WebMD.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Seriously, Siri...Why Can't You Do This?

I'm going to take a big chance here and go ahead and assume you might possibly have heard a teeny, ever-so-tiny bit of hype about the release of iPhone 5 last week. Maybe.

And okay, it does have a bigger screen and suped-up iOS, blah, blah, blah... But the fact that zillions flock to purchase this thing sight unseen still baffles me, especially because I one of those people considering it. But that's not the point.

The point is, I'm a bit disappointed in the capabilities of the new iPhone I don't own. In my non-techie opinion, the newest version of its Siri technology hasn't made any great leaps or bounds toward my ultimate goal:  getting out of dealing with stuff I don't want to deal with and finally scoring some free time for myself.

It's not like I was hoping for an iPhone that could earn a living, cook dinner or wash, fold and put laundry away. I totally understand physical tasks are a bit too much to ask of a 4.5 inch touchscreen device (fingers crossed though...maybe in iOS 7).

Yes, Siri can look up a phone number for pizza or remind me to pay bills. But how about automatically paying various bills whenever they're due and intuitively knowing how much I want to pay per month, per company, so I don't have to be  responsible  involved at all? As a matter of fact, how about paying them from Apple's deep pockets? That only seems fair after the $$$$ I've invested in their products over the past decade.

But more than that, I wish Siri could be programmed to answer the infinite number of questions I'm asked daily. Instead of just reporting who, what, where or when........Siri needs to channel some Why-fi abstract reasoning capabilities. Think about how handy it would be for parents assaulted with the typical, tiresome barrage from the younger kids:

Why does he get two cookies when I only got one?
Why are we having stupid vegetables for dinner AGAIN?
Why can't I stay up as late as my friend?
Why don't you like what I drew on the new couch?

When the kids demand explanations (and really, when aren't they demanding them?), why can't Siri be the one to provide answers? And it should work for all types of teen sass, too:

Why do I have to go to this dumb school/sports/family thing?
Why do I have to do my homework?
Why can't I have a normal family?
Why do you insist on trying to control my life?

And then there should be a choice of modes for Siri to use in reply:

In Patient Mode, Siri could provide sincere, thoroughly researched answers. But after seven incessant requests, Siri automatically switches into Because-I-Said-So Mode. And then five consecutive requests after that, she's in Go-to-Your-Room-and-Don't-Come-Out-Until-You-Can-Show-Your-Mother-Some-Respect Mode.

Meanwhile, you relax on the couch and savor the beverage of your choice. 

But my proposed new Siri wouldn't just be for parents. Anyone could take advantage of her Excuse Mode, where Siri implements her patented Sorri technology. Late again? Let Siri handle the why with a polite apology and unique, believable excuses.

She could also provide excuses why the house isn't as clean as it should be or why it took you so long to complete a simple task (leaving out the part about the rerun of Friends you got sucked into, of course). Siri could also conjure up 250,000 reasons you could use to decline when  pressured  asked to take on one more thing.

My new Siri would come in handy when shopping.  Just place her behind you in the dressing room, and she'll determine why those particular jeans make your rear look fat when you ask her. It's the weird cut of the pants, right, Siri? Not my daily consumption of chocolate...

For bloggers, she should be able to tell you why your stats suddenly went up or down or why you seem to get new followers on Twitter faster than on Facebook. Most importantly, why someone's blog that, in your opinion, is poorly written, has 157,000 more followers than any of your favorite blogs, not to mention your own.

I'd also like Siri to explain answers to the really important things I've wondered aloud for years:

Why does my hair look almost decent one day, but then absolutely horrific the next when I use the same exact products?

Why when you switch to a new line at the store does the old line suddenly pick up speed?

Why do I get every single red traffic light when I'm in a rush, and all green lights when I wish I could stop to quickly take care of something?

Which brings us to my proposed WTF Mode. At any given point you can complain to Siri and ask, WTF? She will then file a complaint to the Fates controlling the universe on your behalf. Tap again, and she'll additionally boost your confidence and praise how truly amazing you are as needed. Hmmm, it might also be useful if Siri could lie on command.

I hope you're listening, Apple, because I know you can do better than the iPhone 5.
Get on this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Autumn & the Wrongful Imprisonment of Feet

Here in the Northeast, the temperature recently dropped from the 90's to about 70 with a cool breeze. So of course, people have immediately switched from shorts to jeans and layered up with sweaters faster than you can say 'Autumnal Equinox.' Conversely, when it's early spring and the temperature barely flirts with 70, they race to strip off their jeans and put on their shorts and camisoles. Just to be clear, we're talking about the Same. Exact. Temperature.

Alas, cool weather is indeed imminent, and with it comes the worst inevitable consequence:

Goodbye, sandals. Hello, closed shoes.

"Noooooooooooooo!" your trapped toes cry the first time you squeeze them into a ballet flat.

"I thought we agreed: Flip-flops forever!" your betrayed bunions bemoan.

"Is prison really our only option?" your horrified heels howl.

"Enough with the excessive alliteration already!" your former high school English teacher pleads (because you fear somehow, somewhere, she's still judging).

You try on shoes from your closet and realize most are a) borderline worn out; b) in passable shape but no longer really in style; or c) more painful than you remember. So you hobble off to the department store in search of stylish, yet comfortable footwear...the one combination that forever eludes designers.

When you arrive, you must first fend off the multitude of commission-hungry salespeople. You're also greeted by row after row of winter boots, which would be great...if it were actually below 70 outside.

Become distracted by the killer high heel displays. Picture yourself in a pair. You're young, you're carefree, you're wearing a fabulous cocktail dress. Catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. You're older, you're tired, you'd never be able to pull it off.  Or walk. Or maintain any sort of balance even when standing still.

Tell yet another overeager store employee you're just looking. Dismiss shoe after shoe as too trendy, too impractical, too expensive.

Become convinced this store carries nothing for you..........until you see them in the corner of your eye. The color! The supple leather! The timeless details with a modern twist! They're exactly what you've been dreaming of this whole first eight seconds of New Shoe Season. And oh my gosh, you even have a coupon that makes them affordable! Oh please, let them be available in your size...

Wild-eyed, search for a salesperson to check the stock. Suddenly, there's no one to be found. There are shoebox-shaped tumbleweeds rolling across the entire department.

When you finally secure some assistance, you can't believe they actually have the shoe in your size and a half-size above! Wonder what good deed you must have done to deserve this rare bounty. Surely one of the two pairs will have to fit.

Your slip your feet into them with trepidation. Please, please work. Please don't rub my bunions. Please don't crowd my toes. Sitting down, it's so far, so good.

But then you stand up. And you attempt walking.

Okay, you admit, they are a tiny bit snug. Your toes are waving protest signs. They're dialing Bono and requesting U2 headline a charity concert on their behalf.

Try on the larger size. They're way too loose.

Oh, but you LOVE these shoes. You were just meant to wear them! Maybe you can slip a heel pad into the larger pair. Nope, forget it. Your foot is flying out the back with every step.

Well, maybe the smaller ones will stretch. Leather stretches, right?  You'll just stuff them with rolled socks until they stretch out, that's all. Yes, you'll take them!

On your way to the register you pass that scary display that always freaks you out: The Comfort Zone. The one that screams "I'm a Senior Citizen, and I've Given Up on Style." The shoes you've always sworn you'd never, ever wear, even if and when you turn 90. The shoes that were surely only constructed for nurses on their feet all day. Or nuns.

Little charts show how the shoes are engineered to relieve pressure points, how they support what needs to be supported and massage the rest. With alarm, you notice the slightly misshapen feet in the drawings are a bit similar to your own.

But no, the boxy shapes are just too wide and clunky, and they have those awful "sensible" soles. They're out of the question.


Although that one pair on the left looks kinda cute in maybe a casual, bohemian kind of way. Plus, there are no stodgy laces or anything like that. You depress the insole with your finger. It's engulfed in about 5 inches of cushioning.

Your tired arches beckon, Just try them on, you know, for curiosity's sake. No one says you have to buy them...

Evil, evil (and quite possibly, fallen) arches.

When the salesperson brings them out, you clutch the box of your slightly snug dream shoes to your heart. Don't worry, you're still coming home with me.

The minute you sink into the comfortable shoes, you swear you have a footgasm. They are heaven. They are walking in heaven's clouds while being supported by billowy soft angel wings. Your knees grow weak from intoxication. Those angels must take really good care of their nuns because damn, these are the most comfortable shoes ever.

But no, you are NOT buying these. You love the other ones. You promised yourself the other ones.  You are too young for these!

Wrestle with the guilt of splurging for both pairs. Maybe you could just wear the comfortable ones around the house or to drop the kids off at school. And think of how much more productive you'd be if your feet weren't always bothering you. You'd vacuum more, you swear.

Hmm, but how will you justify the expense to your husband, who has been known to use words like "excessive" when describing the other 452 pairs you already own? Toy with simply hiding them in the closet as he pays little attention to your daily appearance and would probably never be the wiser. Well, until the astronomical bill came. But damn it, you rarely treat yourself. And you have a coupon!

You don't realize these two brands of shoes are listed as exclusions on the back of the coupon until after you've already swiped your credit card.

Actual Time Spent Obsessing Over New Shoes:  1 hr., 20 mins.
Real Feel:  15 minutes
How Often You'll Wear the Beloved New Ballerinas:  2.5 times as whenever you attempt it, one of your toes dies a little inside.
How Often You Wear the Comfortable Shoes:  Well, not like every single day or anything.

How about you? Have you ever traded a bit of style for comfort? Will your feet miss flip-flop weather as much as my feet will?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brown-Bagging It with The Breakfast Club

Allow me to share my most recent epiphany. Remember that opening scene in "The Breakfast Club" where the parents drive up to drop their kids off for Saturday detention?  It's obvious that Brian Johnson's mom was quite angry with her straight A student and all-around nice geek of a son when she hissed:

"Is this the first time or the last time we do this?"
"Now get in there and use the time to your advantage."
"Mom, we're not supposed to study. We just have to sit there and do nothing."
"Well mister, you figure out a way to study!"

When I was a teen, I thought her seething over the Don't Bring a Flare Gun to School disciplinary action was a little harsh. After all, this was clearly Brian's first offense, and the kid was borderline suicidal. But now that I'm a mom, it finally dawned on me why she was really so enraged:

His Saturday detention meant one more day SHE HAD TO PACK HIS DAMN LUNCH.

One more day where she had to cut the stupid crusts off his PB & J sandwich before wrapping it in plastic. One more day where she had to prepare and heat the soup to fill his stupid Thermos. The Thermos she had to wash Every. Single. Night. Including the time she accidentally let it sit unopened over the weekend and nearly retched from the stench.

And maybe this particular week, she'd been out late on Friday night (most likely at a school-related function, because let's face it, moms don't typically have much of a rockin' night life...especially nerdy moms, not that I would know this firsthand or anything).

Maybe she'd even had a glass or three of wine that night. But instead of being able to climb into bed when she got home, she had to suffer that pit of dread in her stomach: "Brian has to be at freakin' detention for eight hours tomorrow....He needs to bring lunch." An expletive or two was probably also uttered.

And then she was faced with a Sophie's Choice-like decision: drag her exhausted self back down to the kitchen at midnight to prepare it, or wake up at 5 am to pack it before she chauffeured him to his 7:00 AM stint with fellow juvenile delinquents.

No wonder she was ticked.

As if it weren't enough she had just dealt with packing multiple lunches all week. You can tell in the movie's opening scene that Brian's little sister is probably a real pain-in-the-hindquarters and most likely a fussy eater (and what was with the red-striped headband on her forehead.....was 80's style really that bad?).

Each day, I'm sure poor Mrs. Johnson couldn't just take out the PB & J and set up a little sandwich-making assembly line either. Because at least one kid probably flat out refused to eat peanut butter. Or ate peanut butter at home, but didn't want to bring it to school because then she'd have to sit at a different table than her peanut-allergy friend.

No, Mrs. Johnson probably had to prepare different lunches for each kid. She had to remember who doesn't eat fruit and who hates raw vegetables. Who will take cold pizza vs. who refuses any and all leftovers. And most importantly, who positively can't handle receiving the heel of the bread loaf.

Then there was the cutting off the crusts. The wrapping the sandwiches individually or putting small items like grapes into baggies or mini-containers. The striving to be sure it was, as Judd Nelson's derelict character put it with a sneer, "a very nutritious lunch" where "all the food groups are represented."

Mrs. Johnson had to wipe her daughter's lunchbox clean daily while whipping out a new brown paper bag for her son, who probably refused to carry anything reusable because it would mean an extra trip back to his locker to store it after eating. Then she had to discreetly label his name so it didn't look like Mommy wrote it.

To have all this infringe on her weekend time, her measly two days off from this daily drudge of a chore, was the ultimate injustice.

Especially when you don't even know for sure if your child is eating half of what you prepared. Just look at how Ally Sheedy's basket case of a character opened her sandwich and immediately flung her olive loaf onto the statue.

No, Mrs. Johnson, you weren't too hard on Brian that Saturday. As a matter of fact, maybe Mr. Vernon should've made the kids' punishment essay topic be about showing appreciation for how much work goes into preparing their damn lunches.

Too bad they'd only see it as they want to see the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. Cue "Don't You Forget About Me."

Actual Time Spent Preparing School Lunches Daily: 25 minutes
Real Feel:  2 hours
# of Lunches I've Packed Since Eldest Started School:  2,880
Isn't That a Grossly-Exaggerated Estimate?  Unfortunately, no. I multiplied 180 days of school by the # of years each kid attended full days thus far.

How about you? Do you loathe packing lunches? Is "The Breakfast Club" one of your all-time favorite classic teen movies? It's demented and sad, but social...

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