Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yes, Please AND Thank You...humor about the lost art of being polite

Yes, Please AND Thank You!

Thank You. Two simple, meaningful words delivered in a tonally correct way. Culturally, we know we’re appreciated if we’re provided with those tandem words of gratitude. It’s our “Atta boy!” for a job well done, or something along those lines.

When I was a kid my brother and I were rigorously schooled by our parents to say, “Please” AND “Thank You.” Foretelling his future success as a high-powered business owner, he was quick to adopt this phrase as the most efficient path to getting what he wanted, particularly on Halloween. In an admirable economy of effort he would verbally barf out, “Trick or Treat! Please and thank you!” as he simultaneously proffered his ghoulishly large bag, at the ready for the requisite candy deposit.

Five years his junior, I can still see in my 6-year-old mind’s eye my brother, an early pioneer in the adventures of time management, and me, his hero worshipping sidekick, flying through the neighborhood. We were each in our own makeshift cartoon costumes, pillowcases clutched in our hands, yodeling out, “Trick or Treat! Please and Thank You!” as we scooped massive quantities of enamel-decaying treats into our multi-use percale sacks.

These days I rather feel that the two seemingly common, very meaningful words, “Thank You,” have been dropped altogether. Perhaps they will be discovered some day by future races as a hieroglyph on a cliff, right next to, “Kilroy Was Here.”

I mourn the missing in action, “Thank you” most keenly when I’m out and about shopping for wares. Now, I wouldn’t say I shop a lot – oh, okay, really? Who am I kidding? It’s not as if my husband is going to read this column. Let’s be real. If there were the equivalent of frequent flyer miles for shopping I’d be wintering in Monaco every year and summering in Cannes. It’s because I’m a giver and I like to do my part by contributing to the Gross National Product.

I tra-la-la amongst the purveyors of purchase-worthy goods, flinging cash hither and thither, like some sort of middle-aged flower girl, lobbing coinage instead of petals. I often find myself in awkward situations, waiting for that non-gratuitous, “Thank You,” believing that it will happen, much as Charlie Brown always believes Lucy will hold that football and not pull it away at the last second.

CLERK: “So, here’s your rust-resistant phalanges extenuator,” she chirps, handing me the bag with the aforementioned nestled safely inside.

ME: “Oh, good, I can finally get a grip now that I’ve got these puppies,” I crack as I raise the bag, lest we forget what item we’re talking about.


CLERK: “Okay, so see you later,” she says as she restocks the bags, lest I not take the hint that we’re done here.

ME: Relentlessly determined to provide a fertile ground which will bear fruit in the form of my two-word reward; phalanges extenuator gripped firmly in my phalanges, I confirm. “Yes, so see you later.”


CLERK: “Yeah, so you’ve got your purchase,” she barks in a rapid-fire cadence.

ME: “I sure do,” I agree, matching her verbally agile delivery.


Clerk: “Well, then…” she trails off, genuinely baffled as to my continued presence. She turns away in the proven, “we’re through here” method of ending an interaction.

ME: “Exactly,” I mutter, exiting with my head down, foiled again and hoisted on my own petard. Once more, I’ve lost the battle in what is the retail equivalent of a staring contest.

To borrow from the poet, Alexander Pope, “hope springs eternal” and I believe that all of us, including Mr. Pope, Charlie Brown and me are looking for the same thing; a kind word, a welcoming gesture, an appreciative attitude. As long as there is a pen with which to write, a football at which to kick and a kind word from which to espouse, the quest will go forward.

Luckily I can do something about this trend, implementing my own, perhaps grant-meriting, “Please and Thank You” program right here and now.

THANK YOU for reading this column and PLEASE do read all of my future columns.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

RE: Humor Column...How I Spent My Summer Vacation...

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
[Please note this picture does not depict how my yard looks, nor how it will ever look. In fact, I don't think I can even look at this picture.]

Do you remember spending those first few days of the new school year, sweating in scratchy school clothes, utilizing a brand, spanking new Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, making an anxious effort at writing an essay to the tired prompt, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation?”
In celebration of the many happy hours we spent attempting to make three months of our lives seem much more interesting than the nine that preceded them, I’d like to offer up my rendition of the very same.

I began the summer’s festivities with a celebratory outdoor beautification project that was guaranteed to enhance our lives. The first order of business was buying a fine lawn fertilizing and seeding product. I wasn’t going to cut corners here, buying that tired, already sprouted lawn seed that I normally purchased at the discount store. Nope, this year I shopped at a nursery where I acquired the recognizably-logoed good stuff.

The first week of June found me positively humming with excitement as I poured beautiful blue granules of fertile hope over my sparse, though recently seeded, front lawn. Come to think of it those granules did look a lot like Clorox II bleach and my lawn now has more brown spots than an overripe banana. In fact, the only areas that DO look nice on my grassy knoll are the areas that did not receive my loving attention or, dare I say, the loving attention of the neighborhood dogs. Next stop: Flowers.

In the past, I’ve at least been marginally successful with posies because there are so many kinds from which to choose, requiring varying levels of care. If I just take a sec to peek ever so briefly at those picket-fence-shaped markers that come with the flowers I have a prayer of not killing them. Well, they’ll survive through the summer, at which time they generally commit hari-kari, anyway, due to lack of attention.

I earnestly began my task, paying attention to tags telling me to plant in “partial sun or impartial shade,” to make sure and “water on the Tuesday following the first spring equinox.” I respected boundary issues, spacing the flowers evenly in order that they be afforded an opportunity to reach their maximum growth potential.

As it turns out my petunias, impatiens, marigolds and plumerias were breathtaking. And apparently the deer agreed because they had breakfast, lunch, dinner and multiple snacks in amongst this colorful array, after which they slaked their thirst in my cute little stone birdbath with a good-for-nothing cement squirrel sitting right there.

In fact, one day when I caught a member of the Cervidae family drinking thirstily from the birdbath, I’m not sure who was more frightened, me or Mrs. Deer who, I kid you not, was so startled by the sight of me that she began coughing, forgetting entirely to finish off the last few impatiens that were located underneath the Benedict squirrel’s hardened little nose. So, flowers may be considered successful in a limited run sort of way.

It wasn’t long after this that my husband whisked me away for a family-bonding vacation at the beach where we spent many happy hours watching our children texting, getting sunburned and asking when we were going to return home because they missed their friends.
However, the time away had given me time to think, so I was returning with a new plan of action. I decided I would move on to the interior of the house, feeling that those eggshell-white interior walls were begging for attention.

During our holiday, in an emotionally weak, semi-conscious, relaxed state of being my husband had offered to paint the entry way any color I wanted. I like the sun and I find it invigorating, so how about something in a golden hue? Unfortunately, the wonderful marigold color we had envisioned turned out a shade somewhere between mustard yellow and poo-poo Poupon brown.

You know you’re in trouble when you keep saying to each other, “This isn’t so bad. I think we can get used to this,” as you skulk away quickly with a Shar Pei-wrinkled brow and deflated demeanor.

Speaking of dogs, she used to flop in the entryway spending many happy hours snoring and blowing like a contented porpoise, but she’s even taken to resting her furry head elsewhere. It’s a rather disheartening color the tint that is wanna-be-sunshine, though it certainly possesses possibilities as a conversation piece when folks enter the home.
“Oh! You chose this color? Voluntarily? Without the presence of a commission-only paint salesperson brandishing a fully-loaded firearm?”

You know how you drive by those houses with ghastly Easter egg-colored exteriors and you wonder what they were thinking? I’ll tell you what they were thinking. “Wouldn’t it be stunning if the lawn matched the house?” It always looks better in the can.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Re: Humor Column About Facebook...Tag! You're It!

September 5, 2010

Tag! You’re It!
So, I’ve stepped in it again and this time what I mean by “it” is the ubiquitous package we call technology. Namely, the “technology” of which I speak – and I have spoken on this topic once before – is Facebook.

I possess just enough knowledge to be dangerous about a variety of things, social networking being one of these. While I’m not particularly knowledgeable about Facebook, generally, I am even less knowledgeable, specifically, about the related etiquette. Evidently.

Having said that, Facebook does make some things easier; like uploading photographs. You can upload pictures and tag them over to your friends in less time than it takes to mop the kitchen floor. While I do understand the concept that is the photographic equivalent of yelling, “You’re It!” when tagging pictures of people who are IN the images, I figured why couldn’t you expand upon that feature and transfer snapshots to interested third parties? (Don’t get ahead of me now.)

For instance, if I took a particularly stunning picture of a gal pal of mine, why wouldn’t her significant other not enjoy seeing that picture, let alone own this treasure by virtue of his Facebook account? Well, let me tell you why.

I’m sitting at my computer one morning, creating a new album and tagging away, as I slurp down my French blend cup of joe. Suddenly, my daughter materializes in my office demanding, “Did you post a picture of me on Facebook?” to which I replied, “I just did it. How in the world did you know?” as I simultaneously notice she has her cell phone in her hand.

(As an aside, another thing I learned is that you can set-up your Facebook account, so that when anyone does tag you, you will receive an immediate cell phone notification. That is some handy information to have.)

I did not sense danger and, in fact, proudly proclaimed my actions by burbling, “I did! I took these great pictures of your dad and I thought you’d get a kick out of them.” Her horrified look told the story, but it’s really only the beginning of the story because what I had entitled the album was, “Photos of My Hot Male Model.”

My daughter ran to her computer, in full damage control mode, as I struggled to keep the bile from rising as a result of what I now realized may not have been one of my swiftest moves. My offspring’s rhetorical scream of, “How could you do this to me?!” showed me the folly of my ways.

There, in glaring font, illustrated with posed pictures of her father, but appearing on her home page – and later the public newsfeed – was the album entitled, “Photos of My Hot Male Model.” Oh, no! Even I got the awkward factor on that one.

In case you don’t know this, when someone has tagged you in this way, there’s not much you can really do about it because goodness knows we tried. It’s worse than a typo in some obscure Internet posting that keeps popping up like an embarrassingly persistent former boyfriend. She posted a note of clarification on her wall, along with a public comment to me saying, “Really Mom?!” and I shamefacedly posted back that I would put myself in a corner.

The lesson on tagging someone who isn’t in the picture also applies to pointing and staring. Don’t do it, not only because it’s impolite, but these types of pursuits tend to invite the kind of attention you just can’t Face(book).