Archive for the ‘rants’ Category


I Am An Optimist, But I Am Not A Fool: Lies I’m Not Buying

July 11, 2010

For Saturday, July 10, 2010

I don’t mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy. • Samuel Butler, Note-Books, 1912

One size does not fit all. I usually only think about this when I’m in a store looking at a childsize piece of so-labeled ladywear hanging on the rack in the women’s department, but this morning I found a shiny gold tag proclaiming this oft-repeated untruth in the motel parking lot. Someone anonymous once said that if you want to ruin the truth, you should stretch it. This is also true of those o-s-f-a duds.

“Fits most” is another variation of the promise. Not quite as bad, but still disheartening when your arm won’t fit into the leg of the pants so tagged. I’m an average size person. I am not tiny, but I am not huge, and I am often not “most.” This is disheartening, but less so than not being “all.” These little lies remind me of the bigger ones I’m being sold.

Adolph Hitler said, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” I’m being sold lies about war, about human relations, about education, about just about everything that matters to me, and the ongoing challenge of my life is to recognize the lies and live in the truth that I must discover for myself, trying on ideas to see if they fit and discovering that truth is no more than one-size-fits-all than a pair of black spandex leggings.

What lies have you been told?

It takes two to lie. One to lie and one to listen. • Homer Simpson, ” The Simpsons


Please Don’t Hate Me When I Confess That I Hate A Parade. Honestly, I Am A Nice, Kind, And Easily Amused Person, But While I Can Understand Marching Charm As An Intellectual Construct, I Do Not Revel In It.

June 4, 2010

Last time I went to a parade, the most exciting thing I saw was the horse pooping right in front of me. • Pauline Wayne

July Fourth is fast approaching and I’ll be figuring out how to politely decline those considerate invitations from friends who are willing to stake out a place for me along some parade route or another so that I can arrive and sit in the sun for hours awaiting something I don’t care if I see.

There. I’ve said it. I don’t care if I see a parade. I don’t care if it’s Mickey and Minnie dancing their way down Main Street at Disneyland or the Anytown Garden Club marching proudly with their carefully-arranged displays of homegrown roses on Main Street, U.S.A, I don’t love it. (Okay, okay. I do make an exception for small children riding tricycles they’ve decorated themselves with crepe paper and balloons. Even I—an official parade pooh-pooher—think they’re cute and amusing, although I probably won’t walk downtown to see them.)

Parades involve far too much time spent waiting in the sun for the anticlimax of questionably significant displays. For every stunning and talented or clever and quirky marching band I’ve seen, I’ve seen at least a hundred slow-moving cars filled with local politicians and beauty queens. I’m sure they’re loving those moments of glory, but I usually don’t know who these luminaries are and even when I do, I don’t care, no matter how beautifully they wave at me.

It could be that my antipathy stems from this: There are people who are the equivalent of lizards basking in the sun. Give them a hot rock to lie on and they’re content to be pancakes on life’s griddle. They like sitting in the sun waiting and they don’t much care what for. Not me. Roll the rock over and there I’ll be, scurrying away from the brightness. I haven’t basked since I was young and stupid and longing for tanned loveliness.

As you might imagine, I was drawn to a headline in the Portland [Oregon] Tribune for Thursday, May 27 (the year was obscured by the head of a dragon float extending into the banner). Let’s assume it’s 2010. Here’s what it said: “How to get your child on a float in the ROSE PARADE (and why maybe it’s not such a good idea).” I read on (pages A1-A2) because I especially wanted to know about the not-such-a-good part.

Turns out that children don’t make good float riders, tending to get bored and tired and in need of facilities. One parade float-filler who uses actors notes that actors “never complain and don’t have to go potty,” also noting that in other parades like New Orleans, “they have bathrooms on board the floats because the riders drink so much they can’t go a whole parade without a bathroom.”

Delightful to think of what’s happening beneath those festive flowers as that parade passes by. Also delightful to sit or stand waiting for hours for drunken revelers to toss shiny tackiness your way. Fortunately, I won’t have to do any of this because I hate a parade!

What would your parade celebrate? Who would be in it? What kinds of floats and/or marchers would you have to entertain the crowds?

I was once a horse’s heiney in a parade. This is not an experience I’d recommend to anyone. Walking bent over holding on to someone else’s butt for several miles in July heat while dressed in fake fur is a torture guaranteed to make the most hardened criminal confess to just about anything. • Story told by a person I sat next to at a parade in the latter part of the twentieth century (gosh, doesn’t that sound portentous somehow—much better than twelve years ago)


The Traveling Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Pantus Unfortunatus And Other Advice From The Road

June 3, 2010

For Wednesday, June 2, 2010, written after changing trains in Chicago

When traveling, consider modesty and comfort. Style is secondary, although I always try. • Advice from a friend who travels around the world with a small carry-on while looking quite spiffy

Sadly, there are people who need to take my friend’s advice. I know because I’ve seen them sleeping with their backcrack shining into the aisle and their sleepytime nipslips greeting the passing throng on the way to the dining car. Lowcut pants and deep cleavage are not advisable when you’re traveling coach unless you’ve brought a big blanket and can be assured that it will remain atop you. This might be an untapped market for the Snuggie®.

Other inadvisable attire includes visible thong underwear and pants so sheer you might as well not be wearing them. Ditto anything so tight that all the behindness those behind you don’t want to imagine is brought to life by the living color of your pantus unfortunatus.

I saw such pants in Chicago on a person who should have known better. Her or his traveling companions, and there were several of them, could have mirrored the rearview. I don’t know why they didn’t. The pants were shorts. Short shorts. The pants were yellow. Bright yellow. Really bright yellow. Really bright and really tight and really short yellow. Transparent skin on a banana. Enough said. I chose to turn my head away from the sight and now I turn my mind to other things. Like other advice.

When dining on the train in the earshot of other people who are hoping to enjoy their meal, do not discuss medical procedures in colorful detail. Lemon sorbet and the three feet removed from your colon are not complementary, nor is it advisable to share the unfortunate state your brother-in-law found himself in following an unexpected encounter with a chain saw. We’re all glad he made it, but we don’t want to picture the gore you describe as we eat our medium rare steaks. Yum.

This advice applies any time you are eating in public. My husband and I have had to get up and move many times when the restaurant conversation of people seated near us has turned to various procedures and operations, lovingly described in a one-upping competition of disgusting awfulness. And mamas? Birth is not pretty. Save this talk for the baby shower, before the honoree arrives.

Just about everything else I could say has already been said by those much more clever than I: don’t sing along with your small pocket audio device, curb your children’s enthusiasm, talk to your mother on your cell phone in soft and soothing tones, and don’t take up more than your share of the seatspace. And one final piece of advice: all those cords attached to your electronics? Don’t let them lurk in the aisles waiting to trip and trap other travelers. This is not amusing.

What’s your advice for travelers? OR What’s the worst case of pantus unfortunatus you’ve ever seen? (No names, please; protect the if-not-innocent—at least those who’ve already been embarrassed enough.)

I dress to amuse. I think of myself as a traveling clown, just hoping to bring a smile to someone’s face. • Overheard in Los Angeles’s Union Station, 2009, from a man dressed in bright orange trousers, red converse with purple socks showing between the high-tops and the jauntily-rolled up trou, a bad plaid seventies jacket with exceedingly generous lapels and those waist high vents that create a such a charming backflap, a flowered tie, and a multi-colored striped shirt. His floppy straw hat had a red, white, and blue striped band. Many buttons were pinned to those wide lapels, but I had to get in line for a seat and didn’t get a chance to sidle closer and read them.


Clean Up Your Own Damn Mess! And Clean Up Someone Else’s Too When You See It.

May 23, 2010

Imagine how much cleaner the world would be if everyone who left their house every day picked up at least one piece of litter and threw it away in a trashcan. We could clean up the world in a hurry. • Dr. Pauline Wayne

I mentioned my public messiness rant recently, but it really deserves more attention than just a couple of sentences. Admittedly, I do not shop at high end boutiques where ever-vigilant salespeople keep the floors clean, but I’ve been shopping today and I was reminded of my pet peeve because in every store I entered there were clothes on the floor and people were walking on them.


If you were at home and something fell on the floor, would you walk on it? Probably not. If you did, you’d also know that if whatever it was on the floor got ruined, you’d have to buy a new one and that could get expensive fast. You’d pick it up or even if you didn’t, you’d probably take a detour around it. If you had a shopping cart at home, you probably wouldn’t drive it right across that sequined tank top nor would you try to push it over a denim pencil skirt or a pair of tie-dyed pajamas.

I pick things up when I see them on the floor. This has led to my being mistaken for a salesperson at multiple venues from Goodwill to Target to Piggly Wiggly. Who would be replacing goods on shelves and rehanging clothing unless she was getting paid for it? But we all have to pay for careless shopping behavior. If you wouldn’t consider shoplifting, why take away a merchant’s profits by destroying their goods?

In the classroom, this care•less irresponsibility translates into leaving your leavings for someone else to clean up. You’re the folks who leave bottles and cans and sunflower seed husks and candy wrappers and plenty of other detritus behind as you exit the classroom. I know you’re probably indulging in the same kind of behavior in coffeeshops and fast food eateries. I hope you’ll stop it.

I feel better now.

Do you clean up your own messes?

Mom’s (yours, mine, and nature’s) rule: I don’t care who made the mess. I asked you to clean it up, so get busy.


Poets Have Been Mysteriously Silent On The Subject Of Cheese.* Ditto Zamboni Machines.

May 21, 2010

A challenge was given. A gauntlet flung. I’ve been charged with writing a poem about the Zamboni machine. I am not a dare-ing woman, but I made the mistake of saying that poetry could be written about just about anything and thus, this.

The person who issued the challenge said that some words are just inherently funny and that Zamboni is one of them. I agree, although Zamboni isn’t in my top ten. George Carlin once said that kumquats, garbanzos, succotash, and guacamole were foods that, because of their names, were too funny to eat. Garbanzo is on my short list, although I prefer it paired with its natural mate: beans. Garbanzo beans. Go ahead, try it. It’s fun to say. Admit it.

Lumbago (lower back pain) is on my list. My grandma suffered from lumbago and complained about it regularly. It sounds like fun or like a small Eastern European country, but it isn’t either. I like slivovitz and Congoleum® and plethora. Plump is another favorite. It sounds like what it describes. But enough. You can come up with your own faves and I have another point to make.

I’m wandering a bit from the notion of a poem about Zamboni machines, but that’s going to take more thought. Ham boney, macaroni, cologne-y, rigatoni, baloney, groany and moany. Too many possibilities. There is a further point to be made, though, and it’s about conversation.

I’m teaching a course for future high school and middle school teachers called language and literacy and I’ve been doing some eavesdropping on conversations. I hesitate to call it eavesdropping since it’s just listening to what people are saying loudly to one another as though they are performing a play to which the rest of us are a captive audience. If you would like your conversations to be private, lowering your voice is a possible way to accomplish this.

Teaching students how to discuss issues and converse with one another is part of developing their language skills, and since I’ve noticed that conversations can quickly devolve into gossip fests, it’s useful to provide a topic. I don’t think that teachers will be able to completely do away with gossip, but I do think that they can point out that there are other ways to talk with your friends.

Many of the braindances I devise target helping students develop discussion skills without talking trash about someone or something, although I am not opposed to the occasional gripefest since I do love ranting myself. However, complaining about the anonymous people who toss unwanted clothing on the floor at Ross and TJ Maxx is healthy and harmless. Ditto highway litterers. I’ve yet to hear a rational explanation for tossing your Wendy’s or Arby’s or Taco Bell trash by the wayside. Please stay home if you’re too lazy to walk your trash to a receptacle. There you can wallow in mountains of it for all I care.

A simple question like “What words are inherently funny?” can get people talking and also disagreeing amiably. It can also teach them a new word, inherently, or “existing as an essential element of something.” I asked some friends this question last night and they replied with smidgeon, hyperbole, spigot, Fresca, ennui, and moist (a word described not as funny but as one that makes you uncomfortable for some reason).

What’s on your list of funniest words? And, if you dare, write your own poem about a Zamboni.

There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire, and a Zamboni clearing the ice. • Charlie Brown (Charles Schultz)

* Thanks to Gilbert Keith Chesterton for the cheesy quotation.


CarNO Pants. Yes, You Read This Correctly. CarNO

May 13, 2010

Sometimes my feelings are so hot that I have to take the pen and put them out on paper to keep them from setting me afire inside; then all that ink and labor are wasted because I can’t print the result.
• Mark Twain

I promised myself I would not rant again for at least two weeks. June 1 was my target date. I’d planned to be patient with life and let its petty irritations and irksome moments roll right on by, leaving me relaxed and calm in their wake. There’s so much I need to get done that I don’t want to get swept away by annoyance.

But I can only take so much.

Robert Service, a poet whose work includes “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” wrote, “Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” I appreciate his wisdom, but I’m incapable of following it. Sometimes the rant must be released.

I’ll soon be taking a train trip from Portland, Oregon, to Washington, D.C., and back. It’s a long trip and I don’t want to be saddled (literally) with a purse. I want cargo pants with pockets large enough to hold my wallet and my phone. And they must be pants, not shorts, not those almost long pants that women’s stores are full of. I’m short and their abbreviated length never looks deliberate. I’m just high-watering it. The search for suitable leg-covering is futile. I have even been to the mall, the final destination of a desperate woman.

I get my clothes mostly at thrift stores. If I go looking for new clothes, everything looks alike and nothing looks like anything I would actually want to wear. This time every pair of women’s cargo pants I see has pockets too small to even hold an iPhone. These are not cargo pants. Cargo pants should hold cargo. Otherwise they’re just pants, even if they do have extra so-called pockets.

A pocket that is three inches by three inches or one that has a large decorative button in the center of it buttoning it closed so that there’s room for little more than a pencil on either side (just in case someone wants to risk lead poisoning by sticking pencils in pockets on their legs) or another that is a little square that does not have a flap or a zipper or a snap or Velcro® so that anything that might be put into it is in danger of falling out, all these are the kinds of pockets I saw this evening. (Note to the curious–how can I be writing about evening of today when it hasn’t happened? Easy. It’s the middle of the night and is now today, but since I’m still operating on the day I’ve yet to end, I was shopping this evening and not yesterday.) What I did not see was a pocket in which I could store cargo. These were carNO pants.

A saleswoman commiserates. She wants pockets too. I’m going shopping in the men’s section. I can pack my lunch in their pockets.

How about you? What’s griping you?

I have some road rage inside of me. Traffic, especially in L.A., is a pet peeve of mine.
• Katie Holmes