Tuesday

Pungence

To myself,
As I sort through the writing pile of life’s offal,
[1] I’ve discovered a profound truth. From rotting peels, stinky leaves, and other reeking decay, aromatic flowers emerge.  This grants me a cautious new hope for my writing.

From our diapered beginning, to our composted endings, we beings on the earth must coexist with smells, many of them of the reeking variety. Bad scents warn me to change the diaper, excavate the teen cave, stir the combustible compost, or eat out tonight.

It’s rare that scents ever warn of anything that requires serious attention.[2] Most of the offenses are fleeting moments of foul air, akin to the threat by the husband to clean the garage and if I withstand a mite longer, the awful stench abates, the scourge subsides and life can be even more pleasant because of it.

My lifelong goal is to convince my children that many worthwhile things in this life have at one time or another reeked: Math, piano and grammar lessons, braces, baths, sports practices of each and every kind and car insurance.

I dart about sprinkling verbal potpourri on this offensive's and endeavoring to defuse the pungent preconceptions. Many of these stinkers will be truly beneficial—later. I like to think that I manage to minimize the initial stink and disguise these latebloomer’s nastiest stench.

Dear diary
Writing stinks. It’s so much harder than I ever envisioned. The husband wants to know, “Why then, do you do it? If it’s so bad and it’s so hard, and you are frustrated all the time. Why?” Pshaw, he will never understand. T.


I explain to the teen-age son that mowing the lawn and raking leaves are muscle builders ergo chick magnets and to the daughter, I suggest that braces are precursors to success, an appealing smile and a confident bite.[3] The youngest son believes that vaccinations are an appetizer of ice-cream and the husband is convinced that he is still married to an attractive twenty-something.

It’s been my experience that prolonged exposure to noxious smells cause our noses and our lives to adjust. While the offender may never become entirely innocuous, I seek to persuade the child that it’s worth sticking it out to reveal the hidden benefit—the veiled life lesson, or just to see if the disgusting odor lessens later on.

Reality Bite: Subtle manipulation is not always evil.

[1] Trust me it’s awful!

[2] Unless it’s the scent of gas – any variety – then exit the premise immediately!

[3] Quoting directly from the ortho literature—should you ever need to confidently bite anyone.

Monday

…foul or fair

To me,
But, when the scent is identified as intentionally foul, purposely pungent, then the debate is whether the odor should be ignored and allowed to leach away unaided or whether it will require considerable airing to excavate the stench. What say you? T.


I once entertained the idea that I didn’t know of anyone who was maliciously mean and that if I just jaunt through life, expecting the best of all the people that I meet, that people would rise to my own expectations and I’ll get along fine. I skipped through my days with this happy-go-lucky attitude and splat! It seems I was wrong.

The TV says there are people who are just plain mean and today’s television program offered recommendations to cope with those mean people, including the solution of poisoning a perpetually purloined sack lunch, so that the evil transgressor would get sick.

The attitude of the TV correspondent was that we must stand up to malevolence and let the mean person get their just desserts from your stolen dessert. And if, despite your best efforts, something intervenes (like state law or good sense) and your premeditated consequence does not take place, you will, at the very least, have preserved your own dignity and truth to self.

Mystified me,
Whatever happened to taking the moral high road, being civil and seeking resolution that might not maim or injure? Seems I’m the freak for even considering that. T.


I admit that in the past, cockeyed views have slanted my opinion, so to gain a more level outlook, I ran this problem by the neighborhood running group. I broach problems as they dash by and by the time they make it once round, these fleet thinkers usually have their opinion poned.[1] I caught up with them at the corner and they agreed that the idea of retribution was truly skewed, as I dropped dead--out of breath in my driveway.

In the weeks that followed, I was offered many firsthand and prescient[2] opportunities to reconsider and refine my slant on the original expect-the-best theory.[3]

Reality Bite: Beware the world and all its inhabitants!

[1] Expect it to be added to Webster’s any day now. It’s teen for owned.
[2]Freaky, physic or psychotic?
[3] Isn’t God’s method of teaching perfect?

Sunday

…spheres

To me,
When one’s sphere of influence is miniscule, one’s tendency is to maximize it. Watch out, T

Just for your information, it's a felony in many cities to park in the street in front of a residential mailbox. The mailman told me this as he rolled his eyes, shook his head and shuddered in disgust at my effrontery as he stepped around my minivan to open the mailbox and shove in a weeks worth of flyers de'jour.

I was parked in front of a friend’s house, where we were next door, helping her neighbor who is dealing with cancer. We were struggling to chop a week's layer of ice off her front drive-way and I’m guessing the mail carrier thought it was my driveway and that I had watched and waited four days until I was certain he was going to drive by and then at zero hour, I slipped my van out of its warm secure haven, and parked it in front of the mailbox to block his access.

I quelled the urge to retort, "I wasn't expecting a mail truck, as I haven't seen my own mail for four days." After all, that would have been petty and scurrilous.

Dear me!
The remark could have followed the mean theme for the week, yet I chose to shock the children more by quelling my tongue, rather than exchanging in a wit of words with the mailman—as he would lose, and a tail-tucked postal carrier is not a pretty sight.
Hugs, T


Instead, I let it go and chose to muse and mutter and use the ice-chopping opportunity to imagine the mail carrier underneath that sheet of ice. Then I imagined me, the postal provocateur standing in line with rapists and murders, in front of the judge answering a felony count of parking in front of a mailbox.

Reality bite: Mean people bite.

Saturday

…vitriol

When left unchecked, my acerbic mind races unchecked and carries on the diatribe deep within. “Could that law be a little overkill?”

“Would the extra ten seconds and five feet of walking push that carrier irrevocably beyond his job description?”

“Walking should be part of said description, I should think ... along with sleet, hail, rain, and all else in the quote, chiseled on the mail carriers hall of fame building somewhere.”
“If you don't like walking, perhaps mail delivery should not be your career of choice?”

Perhaps it was not his career choice. It does pay well, and that fact in and of itself does tend to draw persons into jobs for which they are otherwise unsuited. And if one is particularly uncomfortable with that aspect of mail delivery—I am referring to walking—one would tend to wonder if one is worthy of the salary for such a highly skilled, though slightly mundane profession.

The musing becomes more spiteful as the ice remained unyielding. I wondered, “…who passes such an absurd law? It's right up there with the whale-hunting in Oklahoma. I can see how such indiscriminate placement of vehicles could be annoying, but everyone has annoyances. After all, it wasn't a lust for joy and happiness that put me outside chipping ice off someone else's drive.

It's work—a task that I have chosen.”

And then I summed it up self-righteously with “And it seems that postal workers are particularly disgruntled and vituperative, which just goes to reinforce the earlier ‘sphere of influence’ quote.”

To me,
My friend, who doesn't have to write things out to feel better commented, "That's the grumpy one, you should meet our other carrier. She's downright mean."

Reality Bite: Maybe it’s in the job description?

Friday

…pride goeth

To me,
My daughter’s friend, the debate fiend, coaches me in modifying this harangue and offers that generalizations never work. The remark that links all postal workers together in the mean category—as if the nature of the job makes meanness inherent—is against all the rules.
Gee whiz, T.


Then, wouldn’t you know, there would came a day—two days later—that I needed help from my mail carrier and when that day came, I could only hope that no one with a postal affiliation had forwarded my thoughts in the form of an internote to my postal worker, the identity of whom could have been discovered after a thirty-second address and zip code search.

That was the first thing the husband noted, “Are you not aware of the danger in castigating the service industry? You are asking for spit in your burger and to have your favorite skirt misplaced by the cleaners. “Have you lost your everluvin’ mind?”

For him that question was actually rhetorical, (which is also against all debate rules,) but he did raise a valid question. Should we grant a certain degree of civility to persons who share our planet purely due to the threat of retaliation?[1]

Anyway, back to the personal postal problem: That same week, the teenager daughter had been assisting the neighbor with collecting, sorting and forwarding their mail while they were on an extended vacation and during the ice storm, someone slid into their mailbox and shattered it.
One guess—Yup, it’s a federal offense to deliver mail to any address not expressly stated on the package or envelope without written notification or authorization by the addressee.

Delivery to the front door is verboten once the route has been designated a driving route and … you guessed it, that too is against policy.

I had nearly reached the end of my tether, having already overextended the tensile strength of every stretch of my imagination, when the postal worker released the final shot, “Besides that, I won’t do it because she’s mean.”

To me,
Turns out the neighbor shares my general opinion of the postal industry and has had the nerve to make her views known to the postal supervisor. Oops, T

Reality bite: …which affirms once and for all the length and breadth of the husband’s brilliance.

[1] This is the enlightenment I gain when I spend my time magazine articles from “Applied Ethics,” reading fortuitously placed at my doctor’s office—just a guess that doctors don’t read the magazines from their own waiting rooms.

Thursday

…aromatic

Today on TV, the focus is again on mean people taking the form of rude sales clerks. It recommends a form of turning the other cheek—by walking away without purchasing anything.

Turns out sales clerks are sick of being unappreciated and tired of customers treating them like automatons and have started acting like machines and the customer is tired of not being granted due consideration and so in turn, treat sales clerks as if they are robots who should work faster and harder and more efficiently.

It’s another form of a never-ending pride cycle working around and around, overtime!

There was no mention on the program of humanizing these individuals, by making an effort on both sides to be less rushed, less curt and make more courteous contact.

Once again, T.V. over estimates the viewer’s mental capacity as they identify the problem, yet fail to offer me any solution.

To me:
In light of a weeks worth of disconnected input on the subject of mean, I’m rethinking my expectation theory that everyone comes up to my own expectations. Hmmm, T.

Wednesday

..nice v. mean

I imagine what might happen if I had #1 admitted my wrong to the postal worker,
#2 apologized,
#3 reaffirmed the problem from his perspective and promised never to do it again.

Would I have to slink away demoralized, or could I have emerged victorious?

I thought I would test my theory. I hate visiting the doctor as medical receptionists are idiots who require unnecessary redundant paperwork and then the scheduler is an idiot for whom I have to wait an additional thirty minutes, the nurse is an idiot who can’t understand simple English and doctors are medical automatons (idiots) who throw pills at problems.

However, I was willing to put nicety to the test and off I went to my diannual (once a decade) physical to put it to the test.

I had such a delightfully lengthy conversation with the scheduling receptionist that I was late for the doctor who was waiting for me in the room. The doctor was so amiable that she convinced me I really did need that eight-year over-due physical and I went right out to my new-found friend, the scheduling secretary and scheduled it!

Throughout the rest of the day, I ran a 3:1 ratio of nice to mean and was feeling heartened in spite of the dental receptionist who ignored me—a potential customer while I stood there in front of her at her desk and waited for her to acknowledge my presence, waiting and waiting twelve minutes and when she finally deigned to notice me, it was with disdain that I didn’t have ready answers to all the insurance questions that she asked and it was obvious that she didn’t feel it was her job to take the time to research this in between solitaire games. Whew!

But in retrospect, I should have admired her earrings and initiated conversation by asking how many games she’d won in the last half hour.

Conversely, a fast-food employee thanked me for coming and said that he “appreciated my business.”

A video rental clerk forgave my late return with a smile and a “that has happened to me and I work here,” response.

And three boy-scout volunteers strolled with me patiently through the convoluted paperwork procedures, again and again and again.

All of these experiences combine to make me revise my opinions of mean people and realize that there are a whole lot of put-upon people who are tired of it and my expectations may need to be placed even higher.

If I would only expect the best … of me, they would respond accordingly. Up until now, I have made no effort to see the situation from the other side’s perspective, I have merely redirected my anger into vindictive pride.

To me,
I have been writing with pride in my heart, and that doesn’t make for a healthy soul. I must write to gain resolution, not to increase my anger nor harbor bitterness. Tear it all up and start over, T


Reality Bite: Flashes of inspiration aren’t accidental, but God's carefully coordinated response to correspond with my current level of learning.

Tuesday

…altered

To me
I write essays as therapy and expect my hot air to fill the distasteful bubble and lift the offensive odor away and out of my thoughts.
When I use humor maliciously, ill-will lingers and I’ve succeeded in only deflating myself to the level of the offender. Pew, T


So, I’ve perfected the technique of making something noxious become palatable, and each time I’m successful, I take the opportunity to point out that in most cases, the only change that occurred was in my perspective and attitude.

To me,
Verbal potpourri works well on my faults. I sprinkle it atop all my quirks and inadequacies, and have convinced myself that I have discovered writing’s real purpose—to use humor and laugh at myself and minimize mean, angry, bitter and vindictive. Might be too late, T.

So after this lengthy exercise, I should be able to convince myself to slog through the waist-high muck and shovel the piles of sulfurous words aside.

And on a side note, I can stick with my goal and keep writing this book.

Reality Bite: The adventurer who braves the stench and plods through the repulsive pile just might find the pony.[1] .

[1] Is the metaphor too obscure?