Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Wonder to Behold

Many of my students giggle when I use the word 'television.' Some even look lost because they don't know I am referring to a TV, their lifeblood. I get a similar reaction when I say the word 'telephone.' Inevitably, a student will repeat the word with a snicker “telephone...” Yes,they love to point out how antiquated I am when I spew references to old trends they know nothing about, or use seemingly old fashioned words like 'folks' and 'hoity-toity.' I'm sure you can imagine my pupil's shock and awe the day I produced a gadget in my classroom that most of them had never seen before. ('Pupil' is yet another giggle inducer, in case you were wondering...).

No, the gadget I showed them was not a cotton gin...and no, it wasn't a Ouija board. It was an electric typewriter! There was a palpable energy in the room as I set the margins and scrolled a sheet of computer paper through its roller. By then the crazed crowd was chanting, “Plug-it-in. Plug-it-in.” Cheers erupted as the plug met the outlet and a beeping sound indicated that it had been turned on. I then proceeded to do my best Lucille Ball imitation of a secretary, typing away for about twenty seconds. The energy in the room reached an all-time high when I ripped the paper from the machine and held up a sheet full of gibberish that was then passed around the room so each student could ooh and ah over the relic they now held in their hands. Oh, the things that impress twelve and thirteen-year-olds. Then again, isn't anything that distracts the teacher and wastes a few minutes of class time usually considered a worthwhile wonder?

Lucille Ball (August 6, 1911– April 26, 1989) was an influential American comedian who starred in popular self-named sitcoms of the 1950s.

Ouija boards have been around since 1890, scaring the crap out of young girls attending slumber parties by spelling out messages from the devil himself.

Thirteen-year-olds are small humans whose brains have been pruned to the point where they (seemingly) no longer have one.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Determifaction n. The immeasurable sense of satisfaction a head-strong child feels upon proving a parent wrong.

Faulty Rims…Faulty Backboards…Faulty Logic?

Scents of sweet cotton candy and salty popcorn wafted through the thick summer air, mixing perfectly with the excitement that could be generated by one event, and one event only--our annual trip to Dairy Days at Lagoon. The only thing more palpable than the salt and saccharine-infested atmosphere, was my eager anticipation. Yes, for the first time my parents were allowing me and my younger brother, Todd, to tag along with our older siblings--without adult supervision. In our young minds, it was a rite of passage that meant we had officially arrived.

My sister Julie, five years my senior, was kind enough to share her food purchases with me and more than happy to instruct me on the finer points of scary rides and carnival games. I remember watching with admiration as she made a series of baskets at the Hoop Shoot, coming up just one shot short of a prize when her ball took a lazy stroll around the rim and lipped out into the dirty hands of an unsympathetic carnival worker. “Sorry, Ladies. Come again,” his gruff voice growled as we turned away.

“Do you think I could try?” I asked my sister, hope rising in my voice.

“Sure,” she said, “if you think you’re tall enough to shoot over the counter, and if you can talk Mom or Dad into giving you a couple of bucks.”

A wise mentor, Julie had brought up two valid obstacles that would have to be considered: my small stature and, even more challenging, our parents' tight wallets. Feeling optimistic, we set out on our monetary quest. It wasn’t too long before we spotted Mom and Dad sitting on a bench in the fairway, holding hands, contentedly observing the menagerie of blinking lights, pipe organ sounds, and the throngs of people passing by.

Acknowledging the hint my sister had given me just moments before, I headed straight to the parent who would most likely fork out the cash. "Dad, can I have two dollars?"

"What for?" he inquired suspiciously.

"I wanna win a teddy bear at the Hoop Shoot. It’s a basketball game and I think I can win. Please?"

He thought for a moment, giving me hope. "Look," he said. "There is something you need to understand about carnival games..." He then settled in to deliver what would become one of the most memorable 'Dad lectures' I have ever received.

He went on for what seemed like an hour to my fifth grade brain. I'm sure I pretended to listen intently, nodding knowingly, as he blabbed on about how carnival games were a farce: the hoops were always smaller than the balls, the rims were bent to make success more difficult, faulty backboards made the ball's bounce unpredictable--then there were percentages and odds working against me! Finally, he paused and stared at me inquisitively, lips pursed, eyebrows raised as if to ask, You get it don't you? I'm sure he was waiting for a look of understanding to wash over me, but instead, my father got the response of a typical ten-year-old girl. “So...can I have the money...or not?”

With an exaggerated roll of his eyes, my father turned to my mother who was now stifling inexplicable laughter. He shot her a dramatic look as if to ask, Can you believe this girl? as he slowly reached into his wallet, handed over the two dollars, and jokingly asked me to return his change. I wholeheartedly agreed and took off on a full jubilant trot toward victory, leaving my mother giggling and my father shaking his head.

My excitement must have gotten the best of me because to date, I cannot recall if I used all of the money that my dad reluctantly gave me that day. I couldn't tell you if the balls I shot were the traditional bright orange or if they were Globe-Trotter red, white, and blue. I can’t even remember how many shots I made or how many I missed on that summer eve back in 1981. But, the one thing that will forever remain with me is the image of my parents erupting into a full-blown fit of hand-clapping, head-tossing, Bert-and-Ernie laughter when I rounded the corner just ten minutes later, carrying one of the world’s ugliest teddy bears tucked proudly beneath my arm. Never had my dad been so genuinely shocked. Never had he been so genuinely proud. Never had he been so genuinely wrong.

Friday, June 24, 2011

PRX: Valium

I don't travel well.

I am the woman who sits down on an airplane and immediately starts rummaging through the seat in front of her for the handy white disposal system, more commonly known as the barf bag. I've even been known to ask the people sitting across the aisle if I can take their bags...just in case. Needless to say, plane rides for me are usually filled with awkward silence. That is, until I start tossing my complimentary cookies and Coke.

Even when I drive, the traveling gods do not smile upon me. My brother, a friend, and I were stopped and interrogated for hours at, of all places, the Canadian border back in 1990. It must have been a slow night for border patrol because they even went so far as to search our car--a 1980 Pontiac Phoenix LJ, belonging to my mother--a highly suspicious car in its day... NOT! After an hour of detainment and separate interviews, it was finally insinuated that our story--which consisted of a weekend trip to Cardsten, Alberta for our brother's wedding celebration--"Didn't add up." Apparently, the thought of two siblings meeting their family for a reception taking place one week after the wedding reeked of suspicion. Our looks of dismay when we were told the border patrolman had "no reason" to believe us seemingly worked against us, and the fact that my younger brother (being the eighteen year-old smart ass he was) told the interrogating guard "We'll send you pictures" probably didn't help either. Luckily, we were eventually released and made it to the reception, both of us vowing to never grace Canada with our presence again.

Years later during our first (and what will more than likely be our last) cruise, I had Vertigo the entire week. Then again, maybe my nausea was due to the fact that while standing in line at Customs, we were informed that our stop in Cancun had been canceled due to hurricane damage. Or maybe it was caused by the news that our children's dog, Hondo, had been hit and killed by a car the night before we set sail... We were affectionately known as "the dead dog people" by our fellow "sailmates." It was a rough week.

Finally, upon arriving at the Atlanta airport, Christmas 2008, my family and I made our way to Concourse X-Y-triple Z, only to find that my bag was presumably missing. Presumably missing, you ask? Why yes, we eventually discovered that my bag was indeed on the luggage turnstile, and probably had been the entire time. It was just difficult to recognize because it had been shredded on the conveyor belt and then plastic wrapped into suitcase oblivion. This, only after the nice baggage claim clerks gathered what they could of my obliterated belongings and mushed them all together into one soupy vacation clothes-and-lotion surprise. True story.

I think it is safe to assume that whether by land, air, or by sea, if there are grouchy people to encounter or unfortunate mishaps to be had, I am sure to find them.

So, if you happen to see me anywhere in the world and I appear to be traveling, please say hello. Then, hurry and run the other way. It's okay, I'll understand.