Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tricks are for Kids

I'm going to go out on a limb here, since I'm not a mom, and say this: Kids can be assholes. I think many of my friends with children would agree with this statement in general, and some of the best parents will even apply it to their own offspring.

But I'm thinking of a specific case that happened a couple weeks ago. I showed up at my local grocery store, ready to restock my oft-bare kitchen cupboards. As I wheeled my cart through the produce section, I noticed a woman and her daughter, maybe four or five years old, strolling ahead of me.

Let me be clear on this. At no point did I antagonize this kid. I didn't make eye contact or wave at her or smile or mouth a greeting of any kind. I certainly didn't make a face.

However, for some reason, this kid decided to act super scared of me. I say "act," because when her mother wasn't looking, she was fine. But as soon as her mother turned in her direction, this girl looked in my direction and cowered behind the cart.

You know how you cross paths with the same people over and over again when you're shopping? Unfortunately, that was the case here.

It was quite the performance, so I don't blame the mother for starting to cast wary, confused, and/or pissed off glances at me. I didn't know what to do. Protesting might make me look even guiltier, as would suddenly veering off into a different aisle.

And what reason would she have to doubt her daughter? I'm a potentially harmful stranger who might be doing all manner of things behind her back, and such an angel would never lie. Except that kids do lie. All the time. Because they're assholes.

So there I was. A creepy, childless woman trailing well behind a mischievous little thespian. She might have been having a blast, but she was making me look like a real weirdo. I desperately wanted to draw my index finger slowly across my neck while giving that kid crazy eyes the next time she shot a trembling lip at me.

But I didn't. Because I left my apartment to get food, not arrested.

These are the kinds of moral victories you sometimes have to sacrifice when you're dealing with assholes of any age.  You win this time, little girl. This time.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Attack of the Killer Vac

The woman who lives next door to me likes to keep a clean apartment. A very clean apartment. I know this because she vacuums every day for at least an hour, usually between 11:00 and noon. This seems just a bit excessive, even though she does have a potentially messy little tornado of a two-year-old (and possibly some OCD?) But it never really bothered me  . . . until she got a different vacuum cleaner.

This new machine does not emit a low, white-noise-like drone. It sounds, for lack of a better comparison, like a swarm of very angry bees. And it's SO LOUD. You can hear it throughout the entire building, including from the parking lot. It's the kind of high-pitched, whiny tone that worms its way so deeply into your brain that you can't remember a time when you weren't hearing it.

I should probably mention that I'm not good with repetitive noises. There would be no surer way to drive me insane than making a recurring annoying sound, especially one that I couldn't identify. There you go, future torturers. I handed you that one on a silver platter.

For example, not long ago I was enjoying a lovely afternoon when an animal (I'm assuming a bird) started screeching outside. It was piercing and unrelenting, and paced at regular intervals.

SCREEEECH!  Roughly a minute would pass.  SCREEEECH!  Another minute.  SCREEEECH! This went on for hours.  Hours.

It got to the point where I considered going out to track it down. But what would I do if I found it? If it was injured, I couldn't nurse it back to health. Alternatively, I couldn't bring myself to put a hand over its beak and choke it out while whispering, "Shhhhhh . . .  shhhhh!"

I decided that soft-hearted people with no restorative skills should probably let nature take its course, and I resigned myself to hoping that something would just eat it. Or have sex with it. Maybe it was calling for a mate. In any case, I could offer no relief.

Eventually, the screeching stopped, as the vacuuming does -- as most noises do. Except my other neighbor's overly abundant cacophony of wind chimes. [shakes fist] Wind chimes!!! Soothing in a mild breeze, absolutely maddening in a winter storm. They should be sold with a warning label: May cause pleasant drowsiness or fits of rage, depending on weather. I like the sound of that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Oh, Snapshot!

So apparently it's senior picture time. On every recent visit to the riverfront on a semi-clear day, I've been surrounded by youngsters in their hippest threads looking for the perfect light.

I don't blame them. It's a beautiful location and an even more beautiful season to capture what will likely be the best their thighs will ever look. 

The equally young, hip, freelance photographers trailing behind them are a far cry from the stuffy, traditional studio I visited back in the day for my pics. I brought with me three outfits and an extra pair of glasses, minus the lenses, so I wouldn't have to dip my head forward. That flash glare was a real problem. Every previous school picture made me look like I either had a severe neck injury or was silently plotting someone's death.  

The only drawback of this empty frame workaround was that I'm pretty much helpless without my prescription. So the photo shoot went like this:

Photographer: "Ok, now stand next to the window."
Me: (squinting) "There's a window?"

It turned out fine, my somewhat bewildered poses on cheesy sets. There was a window.  There was also a ladder and a chair where I sat with my guitar. That last one cements my nerdiness, but honestly (and inexplicably) was the most popular selection among my classmates.

I know my parents were happy with them, unlike the mom I observed from a riverside park bench a couple weeks ago. To get that special angle, she goaded her daughter into wedging herself in the crook of a rather tall tree. The girl awkwardly got a leg up but couldn't quite make it the rest of the way. As she begged for help getting down, her mother apologized ... to the photographer. 

"I'm really sorry about this. She can't do it. If it was my other daughter, it would be no problem."

EXCUSE me, madam. She just gamely attempted to climb a tree for you without complaint. Do not publicly shame her for not having the agility of a spider monkey, while implying that you love her sister more. 

These are things I should say out loud sometimes. Picture that. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bros Before "Boo!"s

Sometimes I think I'm at a distinct disadvantage because I didn't grow up with a brother.

If you haven't noticed, dudes really like to mess with people. And I find that I'm ill-equipped to deal with their teasing and hijinks, simply because I haven't had a chance to develop a thick skin against these good-natured deceptions.  

Case in point:  Recently I returned home with a friend after lunch and a movie.  My apartment door is set to lock automatically behind me, which is awesome when rushing to the bus in the morning but more troublesome if I dare to step outside without keys.  (Once I literally whirled around and karate-kicked the door open at the last minute while signing a pizza delivery receipt, but that's another story).

On this particular day, I discovered that the deadbolt-only mechanism had somehow been disengaged, and my apartment had been easily accessible the whole time I'd been gone.  I remarked worriedly on this subject and stayed behind to fiddle with the lock while my friend stepped inside ahead of me.  It was at this point that he decided to say loudly, "Oh! . . . Hello."    As if he'd encountered someone lurking in my apartment.

Just to reiterate, he thought it would be hilarious to pretend to greet the person who'd broken into my home while I was out.  Me.  The woman who lives alone and frequently checks all her closets before bedtime because, hey, I don't have the only key out there.  Me.  Who accidentally locks herself out on her balcony because a security bar will prevent pervy Spider-Men from scaling the wall to the second floor.  Me.  Who automatically jumps to the worst-case scenario every time.

If your stomach has never plummeted directly into your feet, I can't quite describe the sensation. But after hearing those words, for a split second everything stopped.  I was already in fight or flight mode, and he was smirking at me from the living room.  When I finally breathed, words came with the exhale: "I'm going to kill you."

Of course he laughed, and I laughed (eventually).  I'd made the same threat only a few months before, after we'd seen a horror movie. I'd confessed that the scariest part was when something mysterious had yanked on a girl's leg in the dark.  As a preemptive measure, I quickly followed this admission with, "If you sneak into my bedroom tonight and pull on my leg, I will kill you."

There was a long silence while he considered feigning innocence. He then shouted, disappointedly, "But that's what brothers DO!"

Yes, I am learning this, sir.  I am learning.