Would you really pooh-pooh a few minutes of fun because it doesn’t last longer?
Which reminds me of a story.
Thirty years ago I was in a relationship with a nice, but melancholy, man. One day we kept his 10-year-old son out of school, and we all played hookey together. We went skiing. We had a fantastic time. The weather was perfect We all skiied till we were exhausted – which for me was about seventeen minutes – but father and son skiied on and on joyously for hours. On the drive home, the young boy unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned forward and put his head on my shoulder. I never felt closer to a kid. I was so happy. When we returned home, we had hot dogs and hot chocolate, and the kid went right to bed. As I was getting my things together to return to my own place, I turned to see that my boyfriend was in tears.
“What in the world is wrong?” I asked.
‘It really kills me,” he said, “that we can’t have fun like this every day.”
The fun made you miserable because it wasn’t eternal?
Anyway…. enough of sad, ridiculous immature men…
Let’s not devalue a few minutes of sheer happiness.
And I know just the place you can get it.
The Pet Supply Store
There’s probably one in your town. PetSmart, PetcCo…. you know – those collosal kibble castles.
Whether you have pets or not, you need to stop by on a busy Saturday.
At the pet supplies superstore, their motto is: “Well-behaved pets on leashes are always welcome.”
That’s such a trip.
First, you’ve got folks who have these sweet little dogs who are trying on sweaters. Dogs who all look like someone’s grandma. They really should be wearing pearls.
And then there’s the other group.
Pet parents who think maybe – just maybe – this time their dog will be well-behaved. The ultimate optimists. Whose dogs are peeing in the aisles and sniffing butts and dragging their owners down the hamster aisle.
I’m in the latter group.
I end up spending a lot of money there, because my Theo is a shoplifter. And once the chew toy is already in his mouth, it’s a little awkward to put it back all wet. And with a corner torn off.
If you are really lucky, they’ll be an obedience class going on. You will get to see a whole bunch of puppies with the attention span of the fleas their collars are supposed to repel. Puppies so wiggly they can’t possibly ‘Sit’. They excel at getting tangled in their leashes and at knocking each other over. They excel at adorable.
And then there’s cats. Occasionally you will see a cat on a leash, which is quite wonderfully weird. Mostly though, you will see the cats in the adoption center. The best moment is if you get to see one going home. Maybe with you.
The grooming salon is all windows so you can watch the dogs get their cute or unfortunate hairdos. Last week when I was walking by, there was a big tough guy watching the dogs grooming from outside on the sidewalk. He grinned when he noticed me, and said, “I can just watch these pups all day!” I agree. This is better than “Survivor.”
Spend a few minutes, too, with the fish, the iguanas, the hamsters and mice and gerbils, and the huge and tiny birds. If you take your well-behaved pet, though, you may want to wait for another time, as you really don’t want tragedy to ensue.
Years ago, a coworker told me that when she was broke she took her two-year-old to the pet store, and told her it was the zoo.
And you know what? Why not think of it as a little free zoo? Why not spend an hour being entertained by screeching parrots and dogs in tutus?
Every day does not have to be the perfect ski vacation. Sometimes an hour smiling at shy cats and berserck puppies is fine too.
PS – You can still buy the kindle edition of my novel JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED for just 99 cents until March 30. Here’s the link: JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED.
I overheard the most ordinary – yet extraordinary – conversation yesterday.
Two friends were catching up after our Yoga class. One had just returned from visiting her son and grandchildren.
“I see my grandchildren so much more than I ever thought I would,” the woman said. “It’s such an easy trip. Bradley [our Connecticut airport] is so fantastic.”
“I know!” said her friend. “Convenient parking, easy walks to the gates… we are so lucky!”
When was the last time you heard someone say something nice about AN AIRPORT????
But it’s true. We have a nice airport. And there are great airports all over the world. We can go anywhere. I did not travel the ocean in steerage to go to my business meeting in France.
I’m not saying we don’t have lots of problems with flying. But my God, we are flying.
And there are so many things that we complain about that are really such first-world problems.
And again, I’m not saying that first-world problems are never serious – holy crap, there are many things on this planet that are a mess, including this planet.
I’m just saying let’s focus please on the important concerns of our life and our world, and not bitch quite so much about the remarkable and wonderful things in our life.
Like cell phones.
- “My phone battery drains like a sink.”
- “I never have any bars.”
- “The memory sucks.”
- “This app takes forever to load.”
Well how about this:
- “I don’t have to look for a pay phone.”
- “I just showed my Mom new pictures of the grandkids.”
- “Honey, pick up bread on your way home.”
- “I was about to buy this new toothpaste, but it says here that it makes your gums bleed.”
- “In one quarter of a mile, turn right.”
And television. “Oh there’s nothing but crap on TV.” Well, it’s true that most of your 200 channels aren’t exactly Hamlet, but what did you turn the TV on for anyway? Mostly for mindless entertainment, and a way to unwind – am I right? And you have 200 choices. Remember when we had 3 channels and the picture rolled and you needed tin foil on the rabbit ears? And we LOVED TV anyway. And be honest, we weren’t watching Hamlet back then either. Am I right, Gilligan?
And restaurants. “There’s nowhere good to eat out. Overpriced or junk food – that’s all you get.” Well, I know that some of you may live out where there are only soybean fields, but for most of us, we just need to Google ‘restaurants near me’ and pick something. I added ‘within 10 miles’ on my Google search, so I only got 101 choices. And you know what? – I don’t have to cook the food myself or do the dishes in any of those 101 places.
And supermarkets. While we are talking food, someone I know recently said, “The supermarket in my town is horrid.” That’s so strange. I walked into my supermarket yesterday which is in a much smaller town, and there were two aisles of apples – ordinary, organic, loose, bagged. And it isn’t even apple season. And oh my God, THE CHEESE!
And costs. Yes. Stuff is expensive. Yes, I remember when gas prices were 40 cents a gallon. But I also made $1.60 an hour.
And by the way, your pen is not shit, your clothes do not fall apart in the wash, your bank is online, the hospital will stitch up your kid’s knee, and your car has seatbelts.
You want to complain?
How about complaining that some people are hungry and some people do not have homes?
PS: If you’d like to read my novel, JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED – you can download the Kindle version from March 24 – 30 for just 99 Cents! That’s like 3/10ths of a cent per page. Or, since it took me three years to write the book, you are just paying me 33 cents a year! Well below minimum wage! Just click here: JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED
Yesterday, when I was driving home from the supermarket, ahead of me was one of those big, fancy pickup trucks. As the light turned red, I came up close on his tail, and I saw that he had a decal on the back window of his cab. This was no normal decal – no Praise The Lord or even a Castrol Motor Oil. Nope. For one thing the decal was HUMONGOUS – it took up the whole back window.
And its message?
Yes, that’s what it said:
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get that decal out of my mind. I kept wondering what it meant. I thought perhaps it was the name of a rock band. It seemed like it would be a good name for a heavy metal group, and since I am not very knowledgeable in the metal genre (meaning: I like James Taylor and I’m on Medicare), I figured that must be the answer. This trucker must be a big fan – or maybe the sound guy.
I finally googled it.
There is no band called Locally Hated.
But there are dozens of web sites where you can buy these decals, bumper stickers, and even clothing. It seems that Locally Hated is a popular slogan with certain people.
I visited half a dozen or so of those online Locally Hated shops. Not one of them gave me an explanation of that it meant. And I googled Locally Hated Meaning and Locally Hated Origin. Nothing.
So it must mean just what it says.
But if Locally Hated is a popular slogan with certain people, that leaves me with an even bigger question. Who ARE these certain people who want to advertise that they are Locally Hated?
For the life of me … (that’s one of my mother’s favorite expressions by the way)…For the life of me, I cannot understand WHY anyone would be proud that his neighbors can’t stand him. Happy that people you’ve lived next to, for years perhaps, are praying that you’ll move away?
They must be like the other people I cannot comprehend: like those who brag that they cheat on their taxes – or on their spouse – yet still condemn others’ beliefs and lifestyles. Proud of their tempers. Proud of their hate. Never forgive; Never forget. The person on Twitter who hoped I would die because I expressed a different political opinion.
And of course, now that I googled it and browsed those sites, I am now getting ads on Facebook offering me all kinds of Locally Hated merchandise.
But, please. No thank you.
Although some people boast about not caring what other people think, and I do agree that we shouldn’t be held hostage to other people’s opinions, I have no wish (not even way down my wishlist) to be locally hated.
My goal is to be a good person. My happiness may not be dependent on whether I am liked, but I do hope – as a good person – that I am not hated by my neighbors.
I think there may be a market for a nicer, kinder, decal.
I’d like mine to say:
Maybe I can even find the kind of vinyl decal that I can put on and peel off at will, so I can change my message as needed.
Here’s what I hope to represent to my neighbors:
Maybe I can start a little business. I can offer decals and bumper stickers that brag about how nice we all are.
I can do all these little sayings with lawn signs too. It could be very effective. Our neighbors would know as they walk or drive by that we are sweet and considerate.
I wonder if this country would change if we all advertised our kindness.
You! I mean You!
In my obsession with Kindness this year, I have written about the many kindnesses we should extend to others, and the many kindnesses that others extend to us.
But Kindness starts in the mirror.
Why do you have to be so hard on yourself? Can’t you see how wonderful you are? How much you deserve good things?
When I was a kid, I knew a marvelous, intelligent old woman, Rachel, who had been a widow for a long time. As I grew older, and had to spend more time by myself, I asked her the secret to living alone. She said, “I treat myself like company every day.”
Rachel prepared nice meals. Used the good china. Dressed up even when she didn’t leave the house.
She was kind. She was kind to everyone, and she was especially kind to herself.
So to be nicer to yourself, why not start with Rachel’s habits?
Make nice meals for yourself. Good food, not junk food. Even my mother, who is 93, will broil some salmon, with a side of nice broccoli. She can do that for herself, and you can too.
And use nice dishes. Have a glass of wine in a beautiful glass. I didn’t learn this only from Rachel. My husband believes in enjoying your good china and crystal. And our everyday stoneware is lovely – he found it as we strolled by a shop window, and fell in love. Even a man can enjoy a beautiful table. Enjoy it every day.
And no cheap coffee mugs either – although they certainly don’t have to be too pricey. I am myself a bit hard on cups. But I bought a reasonably priced pretty set of six recently – (to replace the previous broken and chipped cups). They are polka-dotted – each a different color, and I find myself finding pleasure in picking which cup I will use each morning. Blue? Yellow? – how nice to enjoy this little ritual.
Back to the subject of food. If you ARE going to indulge in something not quite so healthy – as you should once in a while – choose the really good stuff. My motto is: If I am going to eat empty calories, I am going to make them the absolute best empty calories in the world. No cheap chocolates for me. No bland cookies. No gritty ice cream. And I find that a small portion of something amazing is much more satisfying that a lot of something crappy.
But you should have an inexpensive indulgence too. An indulgence that is: Not Food. I think you are being kind to yourself if you can find an inexpensive pleasure or hobby to indulge in. I like makeup – I don’t need a new outfit when I want some retail therapy. A new lipstick will do. Maybe for you it’s music. Or a pedicure. Or going to the movies. Or maybe coloring books.
Speaking of coloring books. Be kind to youself by allowing yourself to like what you like. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – probably worth repeating a thousand times: Do not be ashamed of what you like. Criticizing your own taste is so unkind. Don’t hide what gives you pleasure. It’s not a guilty pleasure. It’s a pleasure. Period. So what if you like coloring books or word-search puzzles or kitten memes or “The Bachelor”? (Although you may want to re-think “The Bachelor.”)
Or even – and I realize I am contradicting myself here in both talking about food and talking about cheap food – sometimes low-brow food is exactly what you need. Take comfort when you need it from comfort food. There’s a special delight in tastes from your childhood. I still love peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and often took one to work even when I was a big-shot corporate vice president.
Here’s something that everyone can do to be kind to oneself. Be clean. No grungy clothes or grungy hair. That’s only permitted if you have the flu, and even then, you will feel a little better if you clean yourself up. Iron your clothes. I love to iron right before I wear something – it’s so fresh and neat and warm. And it smells good. And so should you. Whether if it’s just a nice lavender moisturizing lotion or a luxury perfume, take those few extra seconds to smell nice. It’s a bonus to anyone near you, but do it for you. I’m smelling myself right now, and I’m super nice-smelling and it cheers me right up.
If you need to get stinky, do it with pleasure. Find a sport you like. I like Yoga and Zumba. And I’ve just discovered “Pound” classes, and I am drumming my ass off (literally). But even more than strenuous exercise, by all means: Take A Walk. Walking is so lovely. It really clears your mind. I bring my phone along, for safety’s sake because I walk in the woods and because I see so many beautiful sights I want to save them in photos. But please, don’t check your mail or Facebook or Twitter. Don’t look at the internet. That is not being kind to yourself. Looking at trees is ever so much kinder.
And if you can, bring a dog on your walk. Dogs notice everything, and will help you notice too. The other day Theo found an antler that had been shed by a neighbor-deer. And he finds acorns and frogs – and sometimes carcasses of dead things, but we won’t talk about that. Dogs are so happy when they are out for a walk. They like it so much, you have to spell the word W-A-L-K, if you are not prepared to leave right that minute. Their joy will bring you joy too. But if you can’t find a dog, walk with a friend. Try to do it quietly. It’s so nice to just enjoy each other company (and each other’s smell) – you can leave the chatting for another time. And there’s always the possibility of a walk by yourself. Your own company is very peaceful and kind.
(By the way, lots of shelters would love you to volunteer to walk a lonely dog.)
Be kind to yourself in your environment too. It has always been my strong belief that a clean house is a gift you give yourself. You deserve to live in a neat, orderly fresh home. So just do it. Put on some music (I like cleaning house to Paul Simon’s Graceland) and vacuum and dust and clean the bathroom. Wipe the kitchen counters. Put away your laundry. You will feel calmer. And you will be healthier.
And to be extra, extra kind to yourself – once in a while (or all the time if you can), put a bouquet of fresh flowers on your table. Give yourself that beauty. You deserve it.
There’s an old joke: The definition of a split second is the interval between when the light turns green and when the guy behind you honks his horn.
We all know we’ve been there too….both as the honker and the honkee.
But I’d like to suggest – as part of my Year Of Kindness – that we give it a rest.
Let’s try to give everyone just a second or two more of our patience.
I’m not asking you to wait until you’ve missed the green light completely. Just give the poor schmuck a second.
And here are a few other moments of patience we should consider:
– When you ask your spouse to do something, and he says “Sure,” but remains on the couch. Give your loved one the benefit of the doubt. Maybe ten seconds’ worth. Or if you love the person, maybe even 20. He might get up and do as you asked, and you won’t have to yell obscenities at your alleged loved one.
– When the old person in the supermarket stops her cart in the middle of the aisle while she peruses the canned goods. Are you really in such a hurry that you have to move her cart aside while she picks up the green beans? Wait a second, please. If you move her cart, most likely she will apologize, when maybe it should have been you doing the apologizing.
– When you are out walking your dog, and he wants to go back to get another whiff of that tree. Go back and let him sniff. Sure he is supposed to be obedient. But you are walking the dog for his benefit; it should be fun for him too. Smelling pee is the dog equivalent of window shopping.
– When the sales clerks are talking to each other instead of waiting on you. Yes, that is rude as well as bad customer service. But I was recently waiting for the deli clerk to cut me some bologna, and she was chatting with her fellow bologna-cutting co-worker. It probably took her an extra twelve seconds to give me my cold cuts because she was chatting. But it occurred to me that I used to like to talk to my friends at work too. And I could spare the 12 seconds.
– When the guy ahead of you finishes pumping his gas, and then gets in his car, and you wait for what seems like a century for him to drive away so you can pull up. He’s putting his credit card away. You are not going to run out of gas while he buckles his seat belt. And on that subject, if you are ready to take out your paintball gun because you are waiting for my parking place, just remember that you are watching me pull out. I am not a good parker or un-parker, so I am being extra careful. I’m slow BECAUSE you are watching me.
– When your pre-schooler – or your oldest relative – is telling a story, and OMG, it is the most meandering route to the point ever. Please. You love this happy wanderer. Let him tell the story. Avoid suggesting he wrap it up. Try to limit the eye-rolls. (You can roll them if you are on the phone.)
– When your waiter disappears. Talk to your dinner companion. You can do it. Eating alone? Talk to the people near you. Don’t know what to say? I’ve started asking folks to name their favorite Beatles song. Interesting conversation guaranteed.
– When the sermon is long. Let your mind wander. The service will be over eventually.
– When the traffic is backed up. Let you mind wander. You’ll get there eventually.
– When you’ve already been in the waiting room for forty minutes, and you’re finally in the examining room and you’ve been shivering in your paper nightgown for another 15 minutes, and the doctor still hasn’t come in. Let your mind wander. Pretend that the guy in the next room has cancer and the doctor is holding his hand while he cries. There, now. Don’t you feel a lot better?
What I am saying is: Just Try. Just try to give people a few more seconds of your time.
I am not saying there is not a place for righteous indignation. For demanding change. For not tolerating things to remain as they are.
But that place is for when people – or their rights – are in jeopardy. Be impatient for justice.
Not when you wish little annoying stuff would move along more to your liking.
Let me put it this way:
Patience = Good: When your loved one, neighbor – or the poor schmuck behind
the counter- slightly inconviences you.
Patience = Bad: When people, nature – or the world – is suffering.
I can easily come up with dozens of little kindnesses that I’ve experienced lately. If I go back further, I can come up with hundreds. Maybe thousands in my whole lifetime, which is about 2/3 of a century now. I’m grateful for those kindnesses and also grateful that I remember them. I’d hate to let a kindness be forgotten.
But I am now thinking of kindnesses that I myself have offered, and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, I seem to have forgotten most of them.
Maybe it is a virtue to pay a kindness and let it go.
But what if it is because I have been stingy with my own kindnesses?
I really hope not. I know I pay a lot of compliments. And not just lip service – I try to recognize excellence – to notice and call it out.
I tell people when I like their shoes, or when they have a great idea, or when their kids are fun to be around. I tell loved ones I like how they smell when I hug them – because I do.
I try to be considerate. I hold the door for people. I let people cut in line at the checkout – or change lanes on the road. I pick up trash.
And when I observe someone being nice to other people, I tell them that they made my day better too. Yesterday I was in the drug store and an old lady (probably my age) was shopping with a teenager. And the kid said, “I’ll put it back. It’s too much money for eye shadow, Grandma.” The lady said, “I don’t think it’s expensive if you like it.”So I went up to them and said to the woman, “That’s a really nice thing to say.”
So I guess I do a little to contribute to the kindness in the world.
But I think I could do better.
I need to be a little bigger in my kindness.
I’m trying. I joined my community’s preservation and beautification organization – and I helped with their website, and I planted daffodils this fall, and sorted returnables for their recycling program. Not much really, but it’s a start.
I think maybe I am a little cautious because the biggest favor I ever did someone backfired. And I was hurt.
Years ago I had a very dear friend, who I will call Anna. We met at work, and after both of us moved on to other jobs, we stayed close. We went to the movies together, and out dancing, and shopping. We had dinner once a week. We used to call our dinners, “My Dinner With Andre” dinners, since we had long, crazy, wonderful conversations. Anna drove over to my place late one night when my boyfriend broke up with me so I would have someone to cry with. And I took her to the hospital when she needed outpatient surgery.
We had been friends for about ten years when Anna called me early one Saturday and asked me to meet her for breakfast. Over coffee she told me that she had gotten herself into serious financial difficulties, including pressure from the IRS. I loved this woman. So I bailed her out. I loaned her enough money to pay off her tax debt, her other past due bills, and the next month’s rent.
But then the worst thing happened. And it wasn’t that Anna didn’t pay me back. It was that she dropped out of my life. She made excuses why she couldn’t meet for dinner, or see a movie. After a while she didn’t even answer my phone calls.
I felt horrible. I thought at the time – and still do – that she couldn’t pay me back and that was embarrassing for her. And so she couldn’t face me.
I did finally hear from her years later. Out of the blue, she phoned me. Said she was sorry she had stayed away and wanted to see me. I met her at a diner for lunch. She was the same sweet woman I had cared so much about. She was also broke again and asked me for money. I gave her everything I had in my wallet and went home. I never saw her again.
It broke my heart.
I have been reflecting on this whole experience lately, as I have been thinking so much about Kindness and being a good human being.
But the moral of this story is not ‘Don’t lend money to a friend.’
For I would give Anna the money again.
The loss of money was not meaningful, and besides, I didn’t lose it. I used it to give respite – however short that respite may have been – to a friend when she needed it. It wasn’t the loss of money. It was the loss of friendship.
There are lots of good reasons why friendships end, but money should not be one of those reasons.
And I don’t blame Anna either. Whatever hardships – whatever demons – she was experiencing – who am I to judge?
My mistake – and it was MINE – was that I did not discuss the terms.
Not the terms of the loan.
The terms of our friendship.
The Terms of Endearment.
For here is what I should have said:
“Anna, this money is a gift to you because you are my friend and I want to help you. If someday you can return this gift to me, I would accept it with love. We will always be friends, regardless. I’ll call you and you’ll call me, and we will have breakfast and go to the movies and have great intriguing conversations. Our friendship is a gift. It is not on loan.”
Today’s hashtag game on Twitter is #ButSomeoneElseTookCredit. A hashtag game, for those of you who don’t know Twitter – (and you are very wise, by the way, it’s awful – it’s very mean … and very addicting) – is an informal contest where everyone tweets on the same subject and you try to be cleverer than all the other tweeters. Actually, all of Twitter is a contest where you try to be cleverer than everybody else. And if you can’t be clever, you can be terribly, horribly, threateningly mean, and Twitter just lets you. I suppose it’s therapeutic to vent in such an ugly way, but being on the receiving end has given me a few sleepless nights. I would like to see Twitter Version 2.0, where you try to be kinder and sweeter than the next guy.
Anyway, today’s hashtag “But Someone Else Took Credit” reminded me of a post I wrote more than five years ago.
Too many words for a tweet, but it’s worth re-visiting. (Worth it to me, that is… repurposing is a nice lazy way to write….)
So here it is:
NOT QUITE INSTANT KARMA
When I was eleven, I stole an idea.
It was 1962, and I was hospitalized briefly for a minor problem. Not being really sick, I was very happy to be in the hospital, where I could get all kinds of attention and sympathy. I was enjoying myself tremendously.
The girl in the next bed had broken her leg. She was also not seriously ill, and like me, was having a very good time.
As we were competing for the nurses’ attention (which they smartly refused to give us), we started to compete in general. Who had better grades, prettier clothes, worse brothers and sisters.
Connie (not her fictitious name) told me that she was a wonderful writer.
“So am I,” I said immediately.
So she told me about a story she wrote for school, and for which she had received an “A+”. She wrote about keeping an elephant for a pet–how much it ate, and how much room it took in the house, and the effect on the neighbors.
I pronounced that story as very silly.
I was discharged the next day.
Back at school, however, when it was time to write our monthly composition, I wrote the same story. I had an elephant for a pet. I kept it on the porch, and walked it around the block, and shocked the neighbors.
You may think that, at eleven, I didn’t really understand that this was wrong. But I knew. I knew it was cheating to copy someone’s paper, and I knew it was cheating to copy someone’s idea. When the teacher was delighted with my story, I was ashamed.
Sometimes Karma is patient.
A few years later… (forty years to be exact):
It was 2002. I was still working in television at the time. I had a lot of good years at my job, but 2002 was not one of them. So I was job-hunting.
I had an interview at Court TV. You may be of the opinion that Court TV would not have been classy enough for the likes of me. But let me assure you that I can be as lowbrow as it takes. Television pays well, and some of the most lowbrow networks pay very well indeed. (Of course, Court TV has now become truTV, home of “World’s Dumbest”, so maybe now it might challenge my sense of sophistication slightly.)
Anyway, the executive who was interviewing me asked me about my creativity. They didn’t want a financial executive to be just a numbers person. They expected all of top management to contribute creative ideas. So he asked me if I had any.
And I did. I gave that guy two suggestions that I thought could be moneymakers for Court TV. One was, I thought, a great idea, and one was only passable. My lesser proposal was a show starring forensic scientist Henry Lee. Dr. Lee was the head of forensics for the State of Connecticut, where I live, and he had become quite a celebrity for his participation in the OJ Simpson trial, among others.
The rest of the interview was pleasant, but I didn’t get the job.
About eighteen months later, as I am channel surfing, I come upon Court TV and a show called “Trace Evidence: The Case Files of Dr. Henry Lee”.
Imagine my surprise. This show was the idea I offered to a Court TV executive in order to obtain a job that I didn’t get. The Idea got the job, I guess. I wondered if that executive got a nice bonus (that maybe should have gone to me).
But I didn’t sue. I didn’t even call the sneaky dude to protest or demand my cut. I knew it was my karma for stealing Connie’s idea forty years earlier.
And besides, the show was a flop. They made only seven episodes that I don’t even think registered a blip in the ratings. So maybe the sneaky dude got fired. I like to think so.
As for my other idea… I still think I have a winner there. And I’ve atoned for my childhood idea-theft. So this one is all mine.
So excuse me, Mark Burnett, but ‘Survivor’ is getting pretty old. So if you are out there trolling the blogs of middle-aged women: Call Me. We’ll do lunch.
Now that I am in a Kindness mania – and is there a better mania to be in? – I was reminded by a reader of the importance of being a good neighbor.
I don’t believe I have listed neighborly kindnesses, except in the sense that we are all neighbors.
But I should mention the kindness of neighbors in the strict definition of the word. The people who live nearby. Those who you know by name. Maybe your kids play together. Maybe you’ve shared the same street for years. Maybe there is an old person on your street who knew you when you were riding a tricycle.
Those people who may not be your closest friends – but they live the closest. And they are there for you.
The neighbor across the street from Mom is one. This is a case where the old lady is my mother, and she remembers the little boy on the tricycle. He has kids of his own now. He shovels her driveway now.
And there’s our neighbor who came up to our house a few months ago, because we were fifty miles away when our security alarm went off. He waited for the police and made sure everything was okay, and called us on the road to reassure us.
I also had a neighbor years ago who called to check on me one day, because she saw my car in the yard when I never, never, ever took a sick day. I had the flu, and it was kind of nice that someone noticed.
And there was the woman who opened her door to our little cat who was being chased by a very vicious dog. This same woman spent a hot summer afternoon pulling weeds in our garden, because hers was finished and she just felt like doing some more.
But here is my favorite Neighborly Kindness:
Several years ago, my husband had a job that required him to travel quite a bit. At least once a month, he’d be gone from Thursday through Sunday. He always worried about me … actually, let’s make that the present tense… He always worries about me, and so made sure the neighbors knew when he’d be gone, so that they could watch out for me when I was alone.
At the time we had an eccentric black cat by the name of Casper. Yeah, black. Yeah, Casper. Everyone always expected him to be white, considering his name. But it’s a long story. I’ve written about him once before (Stranger Than Fiction), and should probably do at least one more post to describe what it is like to live with a feline with OCD.
On one of my husband’s traveling days, I was home alone. Casper was outside and I had not been able to coax him in. He loved being outdoors in all weather, and this was a beautiful summer night, so he was prepared to sit in the yard until midnight.
I was watching television, and all of a sudden there were blood-curdling screeches out in the yard. I ran to the door and saw that Casper was having a huge fight with the neighbor’s cat Tigger.
There was no way I was getting in the middle of it, but I had to stop them. For one thing, Casper had gotten beat up before. He was a smallish cat, and brave but not strong. (I remember after one particular defeat, the vet said, “Well, he’s no coward; he’s all beat up on his face, but no injuries to his butt. He didn’t retreat.”) And Tigger was one mean S.O.B. As a matter of fact, I was terrified of Tigger myself.
On the kitchen table was a box full of paperback books that I had intended to donate to the library. So I grabbed the box and ran out to the porch, and started throwing the books at the fighting cats.
“STOP IT!” I screamed and threw a book.
“STOP!! STOP!!” I screamed and threw and threw and screamed.
And then up the driveway was the most crazy sight.
Having heard me scream, two of the neighbors were running up to the house with shovels raised. Short, old, overweight guys with shovels! Coming to save me!
It was exactly like that climactic scene in the movie “Witness” where all the Amish people come over the crest of the hill to save Harrison Ford.
Those two men were willing to fight for me, not even knowing what they may have to fight.
And I said, “It’s Over, Tigger!” – just like Harrison Ford.
And I never felt so safe.
I love those guys.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the kindness of strangers (Peripheral Love) – and how it makes our lives better. Some were large and significant acts of kindness and some were just small and random, but even those little gestures matter.
Once I started thinking about these little kindnesses, I remembered so many more, and witnessed more happening around me every day.
Kindness is bombarding me.
Sometimes Kindness is help when I need it. Sometimes it is generosity. Sometimes the kindness is just making me smile. How lovely it is that total strangers can still make us smile.
Here are a few more, both remembered and recent:
This summer while walking the dog, I came upon a trio of teenagers on skateboards. They got off their boards, and I sort of prepared myself to be harassed by these tough-looking boys. The biggest, scariest one (and teenagers can certainly be scary to older women) approached me and said, “Can we pet your dog?”
There is a woman in Yoga whose soul is so kind, she sometimes seems to have a halo that surrounds her. Actually, what she has is the most beautiful, thick, curly, gleaming auburn hair. She doesn’t tie it back during practice, but lets it make a wonderful curtain around her as she holds her graceful poses. And she sometimes brings her baby and I can hear him laugh and coo during sirvasana – which is the best Yoga sound in the world.
My friend’s husband: I know her well, but I hardly know him at all. But I know that sometimes he sends her flowers for no reason at all. So I love him for the best reason of all.
The chocolate maker at the nearby dairy farm knows her cows so well, she will tell you by the smell of milk who gave it, and when you buy a chocolate, she’ll say, “That’s from Queenie.” How sweet it is to feel that your candy is a gift from a big good-natured bovine.
Years ago, when I used to travel to New York frequently for business, I often had to take a big box of files and my laptop computer (which wasn’t small or light back in those days). I had one of the pull-carts to help me with my load. On the return trip, the train station in Fairfield has two flights of stairs to go over the tracks to get back to the parking lot. Once in a while, I struggled with my heavy and precariously balanced cart alone. But most of the time, a kind man – or woman – would pick up the bottom and we’d haul it up the stairs together. It was so easy – with help.
Going back even more years, I was taking the bus home from college one day, and I slept past my stop. I had to grab the next bus back the other way. But I was totally broke. I went up to a man who looked nice, and explained my dilemma, and he gave me two dollars. I have never had to panhandle since. But a few years later (still in college, since I went to school just about forever) a homeless man at a bus stop in Waterbury asked me for five dollars. I only had six dollars myself, but I gave him five anyway, because… Karma.
Just today, my husband and I were out to lunch at a restaurant we had never been to before. The online reviews said the place was ‘warm & friendly.’ As we were waiting for our food, a very old man came in and sat at a booth across from us. The waitress went over. She sat down across from him and said, “I hear you’ve been sick, Walter. Tell me all about it.” He briefly explained his illness, and the waitress said, “That’s horrible, Walter, I’m feeling for you.” And only then did she take his order.
Then there’s my mother’s hairdresser. This woman never met my mother before she started working at the salon near my mom’s home. But if my mother calls for an appointment, this kind woman will get in her car and pick my mother up and bring her the two blocks to the salon. After, she’ll take my mother home. And she’ll say to Mom, “Don’t you bother your daughters. They’re so busy. Just call me anytime.”
And my favorite smile – probably of all time. When I was in my early twenties (and going to college of course), I worked summers and holidays at the phone company. One gorgeous summer day, I went for a walk down Main Street on my lunch hour. As I waited to cross the street, a woman came up to me. She said, “I just have to tell you … as soon as I saw you… Thirty years ago I went to high school with a boy who looked exactly like you. Exactly.” Then she told me his name. My father.
As I said, Kindness is bombarding me.
A few days ago I treated myself to lunch. Nothing fancy, I had a nice tuna sandwich and a cup of coffee at Panera’s.
Years ago, I hated having lunch alone. I was more apt to take the sandwich back to my car than to sit alone in a restaurant. Even when I was a quasi-hot-shot executive, when I traveled alone on business, I would either order room service or go get Chinese take-out and bring it back to my hotel room. Basically, I didn’t know what to do with myself if I had to eat alone in public. I could take a book, and occasionally I would do that. But how uncomfortable and self-conscious (and friendless) I felt.
But all that changed. Cell Phones! Everyone sits in restaurants focused on their cell phones. I can do that too! I don’t have to look friendless. I can stare at my phone.
So I got my tuna sandwich and my coffee and found a table right next to the gas fireplace. I took out my phone like everyone around me. My phone immediately figured out where I was. The omniscient little spy said, “You are at Panera. Would you like to tell your friends?”
And since my phone is the boss of me, I said, “Sure, phone!” And so it did.
The following morning, when I checked my phone, the little bugger was still obsessing about Panera. It said, “You were at Panera yesterday. Would you like to leave a review?”
I love reviews. I love to read them and write them. But I had written a whole blog about tunafish sandwiches just a few weeks ago. And as much as I love tunafish sandwiches, they are pretty much all the same.
Which finally (aren’t we all relieved?) brings me to my point.
I love excellence. I appreciate great design, quality materials, refined execution.Who doesn’t?
And I believe we should all expect excellence, and we should discriminate between quality and mediocrity.
But I also think that we all complain way too much.
I am a bit weary of hearing and reading that nothing is as good as it used to be.
I think there is a super-abundance of wonderful stuff today. Stuff that is better than I had as a kid, much better than what my parents had, amazingly better than what my grandparents had, and probably a gazillion times better than what my great-grandparents had.
Remember what your parents had? How about the refrigerator they had when you were a kid? How about the television? The lawn mower?
And, Oh-My-God, the phone! We have information and photography and directions and games and our friends and music right at our fingertips. If I hear one more person bitch about their shitty phone, I think I will hand him one of these:
And clothes. Holy cow – there are great, fun, stylish clothes in all price ranges. You might buy a tee at Nordstrom’s for $79 and it’s terrific. But if you are on a limited budget you can also get one at Costco for $7.99 and guess what? You can still wear it to the beach. It’s still a tee shirt.
And there is so much of it. Go to the supermarket and stroll down the detergent aisle. You can choose from forty different products. And they all clean your clothes just fine. The last time I replaced my bathroom scale, the store had TWO aisles of bathroom scales. I do believe any one of them would have weighed me just fine.
And FOOD! Restaurants! It may be just a faulty childhood memory, but I think in 1957, when I was six, the only restaurant in the whole state was Howard Johnson’s.
Which brings me back around to restaurant reviews.
I know there are plenty of mediocre restaurants out there. But all in all,
FOOD is GOOD.
Appreciate it. Don’t worry about it.
And to help you enjoy it, I have enlisted the most appreciative eater in the world.
My dog Theo.
Theo has made a scientific in-depth study of restaurant offerings. By always ordering the same thing, he is able to provide a rich comparison that will enable you to savor the bounty we are blessed with today.
In particular – Cheeseburgers.
Here are Theo’s unbiased, thoughtful, and well-reasoned cheeseburger reviews. Thanks to his careful analysis, you should be able to enjoy your cheeseburger as much as he does.