Fly Away

We just returned from a week’s vacation in Utah, visiting a number of national and state parks, which was wonderful.  Getting to and from Utah, however, was not so wonderful. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t go that far. The planes were on time, and after discovering that United Airlines had cancelled the first leg of our trip without notifying us, we were able to re-book our flight with American Airlines. We even had snack service, such as it was—a paper bag with a bottle of water and two cookies for a four-and-a-half-hour flight—although it was difficult shoving the cookies under our masks, that were required throughout the flight. Not that anyone in authority enforced the proper use of masks, however, as I stared in utter disbelief at all the bare nostrils and lips sticking out above the masks.

I had to shake my head at the incongruity of the airlines attempts to keep people healthy. Masks were mandatory (which I am totally fine with), but as long as the mask hung somewhere in the vicinity of our faces, it apparently counted. We were told to socially distance as we lined up to board the plane, where, once aboard, we were crammed into seats within two inches of germ-infested strangers. No empty seats or rows to ensure our health safety. Not with the almighty dollar at stake. When we deplaned, we were told to stay seated rather than stand in the aisles, and deplane row by row—because, of course, it’s harder to catch Covid-19 seated two inches from a germ-infested stranger than it is to stand next to one in the aisle. I’m sure I endured my share of impatient glares as I refused to allow my family to be seated until I thoroughly wiped down each seat, seat belt, tray table, armrest, and window shade with a disinfecting wipe. The one thing I couldn’t wipe down was the germ-infested airline magazine, which, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, still resided in the seat pockets in front of us. I shrieked at my clueless husband and son for touching them.

airport security

But as strange as our lives have become in the past few months, the one strange thing that hasn’t changed since 911 is airport security.  Now I’m all for not allowing terrorists to carry weapons aboard airplanes, but I have never understood how a 3-ounce bottle of shampoo is safe, but a 4-ounce bottle is not. Security is a nightmare all by itself. Once passengers have deposited their carry-on luggage (after removing liquids less than 3 ounces), cell phones, lap tops, purses, wallets, keys, change, belt buckles, diaper bags, and unruly children  onto the scanning belt, and undressed to the point of indecent exposure, there are a few terrifying moments in which our stuff is on one side of security and we are on the other. And may I point out there is nobody standing guard over our stuff, leaving it wide open for anyone to come along and snatch it up while we are helplessly backed up behind the body scan. Plus it’s hard to chase down thieves when you are in your stocking feet and have no belt to hold your pants up.  My poor husband inadvertently mooned several people when he was forced to raise his hands in the body scan while his belt to hold his pants up sat in a tray on the other side of the security gate.

Finally, on the other side of the security gate, it becomes a challenge to ensure you have gathered up all the belongings you were forcibly separated from.  You have to redress yourself, repack your carry on bag, replace your laptop into its bag, make sure all the contents of your purse haven’t spilled out on its ride through the scanner, gather up your wallet, phone, keys, change, and unruly children, and attempt to do so while trying to get out of the way of everyone behind you.  Invariably, something is lost or forgotten in the manic scramble.

Nevertheless, we managed to make it through the aggravation of air travel and to and from our destinations. Just don’t get me started on the fun-filled adventures at the rental car terminal.

Not another airplane museum!

In a recent Pickles cartoon, the grandfather, Earl, was telling his grandson, “Carl Sandburg said, ‘Time is the coin of your life. It’s the only coin you have and only you can decide how to spend it. Be careful lest other people spend it for you.’ ” Just then, his wife, Opal wanders in and says, “Earl, I need you to go to fabric store with me,” to which Earl blurts out, “Help! I’m being robbed!”

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I’ve spent a lot of my life robbed of things I want to do because of things I have to do.  I’m not talking about working for a living, cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, and all the routines that are necessary to keep our lives running smoothly.  I’m talking about spending time with the relatives you don’t really like, going to showers, weddings and funerals because you feel a sense of obligation, and touring airplane museums for the hundredth time.

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Oops! Did I just say touring airplane museums? That must have slipped out by accident.  My husband, the pilot-turned-preacher,  might divorce me for my blasphemy. Our second date was to the Pensacola Naval Air Museum, after all, although truth be known, I was more interested in the pilot than the planes. But, honestly, once you’ve seen one airplane museum you’ve seen them all. (Did I just hear a collective gasp from airplane addicts everywhere?)

Yes, I’ll admit some of the planes are interesting, but after a while, how much enthusiasm can a person muster while standing on a hot tarmac with a blazing sun beating down mercilessly on a breezeless day in July viewing the seventy-fifth plane?  While my husband pontificates with rapture about the various unique and incredible features of each and every piece of aeronautical equipment, I see a big piece of steel with wings, a tail, and wheels. That’s about it.

Still, through the twenty-nine years we’ve been together, I think I’ve been a pretty good sport about trucking around with him to every airplane museum in every city we’ve ever visited.  Is there no city in this entire country without an airplane museum?  I even still pretend to listen as he waxes theatric on all the same airplanes I’m sure I’ve seen elsewhere, while my eyes glaze over and my mind wanders to my happy place.  As if I would remember anything he tries so hard to educate me about with his passionate enthusiasm. I’m sure it’s a man thing, but I just don’t get warm fuzzies over big hunks of metal, unless it’s a Delta airplane flying me to somewhere I want to go.  Even then, it’s more of a heartburn type feeling rather than a warm fuzzy.

I have probably spent enough hours in airplane museums to snag a job as a docent. But then I would have to be there every day!  While this sounds like my husband’s dream job, I shall just nicely say it would not be my cup of tea. And in all the years we’ve been together, I have never ever forced him to go to a dog show. Yes, I will concede he has humored me with outings to zoos and aquariums, but those are fun for the entire family.  Everyone  can identify with living things, which are much more fascinating than inanimate aircraft.

Still, it’s the price I pay for having married a pilot, and I accept that, just I accept the family visits and weddings I don’t want to attend. But at my age, I only have so much time left. I think I’ve earned my pass on having to waste the precious few hours I have on doing things I don’t want to do. And substituting car museums for airplane museums is not an option.

 

 

 

Who was that masked man anyway?

Who was that masked man anyway?  This saying has taken on a whole new meaning since the days of the Lone Ranger.  Now we can add “or woman” to the question.  Since many of us have resorted to wearing masks in public, it is sometimes difficult to recognize people.

Lone Ranger

 

Why did the Lone Ranger wear a mask in the first place?  He wore it to hide his identity. The story goes that the Lone Ranger at one time was part of the Texas Rangers and was the only survivor in a group of Rangers who were killed in an ambush.  For some reason—I’m not really sure why since I never watched the show—he was still forced to conceal his identity as he fought for law and order in the old west.  Maybe the bad guys were still out to get him.  As if they couldn’t readily identify him with the rest of his face exposed.

I mean, seriously, if I could see that much of people’s faces today, I would have no problem in telling who they were.  But with this Covid-19 forcing us to cover the lower half of our facial features, I sometimes struggle.  There are other disadvantages, as well, such as not being able to tell if people are smiling or snarling at me.  On the other hand, they can’t tell the same thing about me and I can even stick my tongue out at them without them being aware.  Not that I would ever do that. But as long as I’m careful about not letting my facial expressions reach my eyes, I can act out a lot of emotions behind that mask that I couldn’t do without it.  But with my mask in place, I can’t receive a thoroughly satisfying face-washing from a happy canine patient; nor can I remove the cap from a needle with my teeth, which is a bad habit I should have broken a long time ago, but haven’t.

But while I’m on the subject of wearing masks for public safety, let me just say I don’t understand the mentality of people who wear their masks below their noses.  If I can see your nostrils, the mask isn’t serving its intended purpose.  Or the people who wear their masks pulled down around their chins.  What it is there for, anyway? So they can yank it up if someone calls them out on it?  And I really don’t get the point of wearing a mask if the wearer pulls it down to talk to me.  Let me assure you, lips move perfectly well beneath a mask and I can hear through the barrier, though lip reading is a bit challenging.

There are people who say they can’t breathe in a mask.  Maybe that’s because they’re too full of hot air. Surgical personnel have been wearing masks since the 19th century and I’ve never heard of doctors or nurses keeling over in the surgery room due to lack of oxygen or a build-up of carbon dioxide from wearing facial masks.  After all, we want our operating room team to have well oxygenated brains. They can even talk with their masks on. At least they do on TV. On medical shows, most of the social networking takes place in the operating room, which makes me somewhat leery of having surgery where the doctors and nurses are more focused on their personal lives than my operation.  But that’s fodder for a different blog.

So for now, if I don’t recognize you in public, please don’t be offended. Chances are, with my terrible memory, I wouldn’t recognize you without the mask, either, but at least this way I can pretend it’s the mask rather than my faulty memory.  And please, for everybody’s sake, cover those nostrils!  Believe me, we’ll all breathe easier.

 

Rejection

A recent “Peanuts” comic strip shows Snoopy standing beside his mail box reading a letter that says: Dear Contributor, We are returning your stupid story. You are a terrible writer. Why do you bother us? We wouldn’t buy one of your stories if you paid us. Leave us alone. Drop dead. Get lost. Snoopy’s thought bubble says, “Probably a form rejection slip.”

Snoopy

Some days I feel like Snoopy, except I receive form rejection emails. They are usually a tiny bit gentler, such as “Thank you for your interest in our publishing company. However, your submission does not meet our needs at this present time. We wish you success in finding the best place for your submission.” What is implied, but not overtly stated is, “Such as the trashcan.”

I’m not stupid. I can read between the lines. (I can even write between the lines.) What these publishers really mean is, “Your submission does not and will never at any time meet our needs, so there is no point in continuing to query us. Good luck with finding another sucker to publish your work. It’s highly unlikely you will, but we don’t want to completely burst your naïve author wannabe bubble, so we will let you falsely believe there really is a shred of hope that someone else may be interested.” I also know that when I become a best-selling author, these same publishers will flock to me like flies to a garbage dump. (Perhaps that was not the best metaphor, comparing my writing to a garbage dump. Or was that a metaphor?)

I have been to writing conferences, taken courses in how to do all the right things to get my writing accepted by agents and editors, meticulously and painstakingly done everything I was told to do in terms of preparing proposals and endorsements, spent big bucks on professional editing, and jumped through bizarre submission hoops (one agent actually required the writer to sit through an hour of his videos, in which he touted how wonderful he and his agency were, so you would receive a secret code sometime during the presentation—so pay careful attention–to put in the subject line of your submission. If that secret code was not included, your submission was automatically tossed!) only to be turned down. Regardless of how gently these publishers, editors, and agents let me down, I still feel like I have received a rejection letter like Snoopy’s.

But at least I know they looked at my submission long enough to hit the pre-programmed reject button. The ones that are the most frustrating are the ones who never respond in the first place when I send them a submission. Most of the time I don’t even receive a rejection. I receive nothing. Wouldn’t you think in this digital age, an automatic form letter could be generated saying, “We received your submission, don’t want it, and don’t bother us again?” Instead, I am left hanging as to whether or not my submission even made it to their inbox. Should I resubmit? If I keep filling up their inbox, will they finally acknowledge me?

My mother taught me to always respond when someone contacted me, whether I wanted to or not. When I become famous, I’m going to remember that advice and not ignore the little people. Or perhaps I’ll just have my agent respond with a form letter.

Tear Here

As I was making dinner the other night, I discovered I had used up the open package of shredded cheese and was going to be forced to open a new one. This might not sound like such an anxiety-producing predicament, but believe me, it is.  You see, the packages come with a little indentation and instructions to tear here. I don’t know about you, but I can count the number of times a package actually tore cleanly along the designated tear here on one hand.  But that doesn’t discourage me, as I am a naïve and trusting soul.  I just know that this time the package will actually tear along the designated line as promised. So, with wishful and positive thinking, I grasp the top and attempt to tear the package as directed. And, as usual, nothing happens.  I try again.  Nope.  I try from the other side.  Nada.  Or, even worse, it tears partway, but not along the line where the package can be opened.

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Is this a conspiracy, similar to the one I suffer with electronics, in which perforated packages are also on the list of things which are out to get me?  Just what I need.  Yet something else guaranteed to make me feel inept and helpless. It’s not as if I don’t have a big enough inferiority complex as it is. I have an expensive hobby as a writer. I have been repeatedly rejected by agents, editors, magazines, devotional guides, other writers, and people walking by my table at book fairs. Do inanimate objects have to get in on the act?

Now I take for granted that I won’t be able to open the chip bags or the cereal packages by simply pulling the sides in opposite directions.  If they open at all, they will split right down the middle, spewing contents everywhere.  I’m okay with that.  They are not perforated, after all, so I don’t expect anything different.  Yes, I know there are people out there with the ability to flawlessly open chip and cereal bags without making a mess. I just don’t happen to have that talent. That’s fine. I have other talents, like perfect pitch, which only 1-5/10,000 people have.  So there. If you ever need to know what key a tune is in, I’m your person.

Paper towels are another source of aggravation. Am I the only one who cannot tear off a simple square of paper towel?  This is not exactly rocket science, but my paper towels either tear down the middle, leaving me with a partial piece of towel in my hand and the other partial piece still on the roll, or I yank off three towels when I only needed one.  Don’t even get me started on the little seals on bottles and jars. I can’t ever peel those off.  You would think the companies which produce these products would leave a handy little strip that could be grasped, but even the few that come with a tab on the top are impossible for me to open.  I still try, mind you, until I give up in frustration and stab the bejeebers out of the exasperating little seals with whatever sharp implement I can lay my hands on.  This generally works well in accomplishing two things—the bottle/jar is now open, as I can peel back the mutilated pieces of the seal, and my frustration has been taken out on an inanimate object, which means I don’t have to take it out on something living, such as a teenager who richly deserves it.

I honestly don’t believe I’m that incompetent.  It must be a genetic flaw passed down from one or both of my parents who never had to deal with these newfangled easy-open products.  But gee whiz, you would think I could open a simple package of shredded cheese in which the manufacturer has gone to all the trouble to make it easy-open for the consumer.

You may ask why I put myself through this stress every time I’m faced with a package that says tear here and don’t just cut it open.  The answer is obvious.  I can’t find the scissors.  I won’t go into the irritation of resealing the resealable package.