On the Road

Commuting to and from work is fun.  Said no one, ever.  We share the road with many drivers, each one completely unique and apparently, as I have come to find out, following their own set of traffic laws.  As a frequent traveler on a major highway system in my state, I am amazed at how my mere presence on an entrance ramp has a magical effect on the flow of traffic.  A car that was previously more than half a mile away in the middle lane spots me and speeds up, moving over to the lane I need, and cuts me off…or worse, keeps time with me so that I can’t get over.  This dastardly deed is known as “Don’t Let Him Over” and the game begins as soon as a trailing car sees your turn signal, indicating politely that you’d like to be somewhere else, anywhere else, really, as long as it is away from the grandmother doing 25 mph in the fast lane.

There was obviously a law passed about this, requiring you to speed up no matter how far away the car wishing to slide over and merge actually is.  The memo never reached me, though, and I continue to think there are nice drivers left out there.  Somewhere. Obviously far, far away. It could be that my language in traffic is too brutal for the delicate souls driving around me, so they purposefully excluded me from the mass mailings.  Sadly, this only increases my tirades and antics; not knowing the rules of the game, I’m run up onto the shoulder of the entrance ramp.  My oversized sunglasses hide my identity, though, and in my car I’m free to call you whatever I want. Sort of like those extreme-right trolls on Facebook.

Karma is sweet though, when I am cut off by someone speeding towards the light, only to be caught next to me in its web of eternal redness…that just makes my day. Yes, I know, obviously I live a pathetic existence for this to humor me as much as it does, but I try to get amusement when and where I can.  These people will always find a reason to fiddle with their radio, adjust their visors, or do anything that allows them to not make eye contact with my triumphant face as we sit in what, for them, has become the world’s longest light.

My personal favorite are the ones sitting, waiting to make a turn into my lane, seeing my lone car coming with no one else behind me or around me, only to turn directly in front of me …sometimes waiting — no, usually waiting, until I’m right up on them to do so.  The unwritten law here is that they must go no faster than 20 mph when they accomplish their feat.

Motorcyclists have laws all of their own.  I do love being on the back of a motorcycle, though I have never learned to drive one myself.  There is definitely something exhilarating about the freedom of being precariously perched on a motorized bicycle without the added security of metal surrounding you.  Every wheeled mode of transportation is supposed to adhere to the written laws of the road, from horse and buggy to tractor trailers.  Except, evidently, motorcyclists (okay fine, most some not all).  I have heard the announcements and I’ve seen the multitude of signs posted about looking twice and sharing the road with motorcycles, and I am saddened by accidents that are usually pretty brutal when a motorcyclist is involved.  That said, motorcyclists need to remember that they are not superheroes, impervious to the laws of nature, God, and man.  I see them riding down the white lines of the road, hurtling through time and space at the speed of sound, barely missing the mirrors on the sides of the cars they squeeze between as they seek to show off avoid the traffic jam the rest of us are just so deliriously happy to be sitting in.  I am not sure it was ever made clear to them that white lines are not designated motorcycle paths.  All joking aside, despite the immediate frustration that arises when I see these insane antics, I can’t help but cringe thinking of what might await them…and those they’re cutting off, down the road, and I keep my fingers crossed they make it home in one piece.

I hate driving … it’s a necessary evil. If I ever when I win the mega-million jackpot, the first thing I will do is get a driver on retainer. I mean, honestly, I have enough to worry about every day without trying to understand the unwritten games and laws that apparently govern our roads.  Most days, I am damned lucky I found the keys to my car to begin with.

But, I Hope …

I saw this article today. It made me sad in so many ways … I could fill my blog for years discussing this topic. The writer, a special-ed teacher, explained, in no uncertain terms, that should there be a shooter at her school, she would not die for the children in her class as she did not want to die herself. She wants to go home to her own kids. She wants to be there for her family, her parents, her siblings. She wants to live. I mean, really, who doesn’t? She discussed at length how much she puts herself out for the kids in her care, how she worries over them, guides them, helps them … basically everything any good teacher does, that, to her, seems award worthy (okay, she didn’t say that, it was just my take on her tone).

However, when it comes down to it – when called upon to protect her charges, she would be hiding in the supply closet (her class’ go-to place in an active shooter event). Oh, not to keep the children who were lucky enough to make it in there with her safe, but to keep herself safe. She ended the article with a curt “I won’t save your child.” I have no doubt whatsoever that she means it.

I’m not a teacher. I don’t have to participate in active shooter drills or instruct a room full of kids on what to do in a life-threatening emergency. Ex-husbands and creepers aside, I’ve never experienced anything more threatening than a crowd-filled fight and being trapped in the perimeter … squashed in like cattle – no guns involved.

But.

I hope … I would sincerely hope … that if I were thrown into a sadly-not-so-unthinkable scenario, that I would do what I could to protect the children around me. Yes, I want to come home to my kids and my family … hell, I just want to come home to my dog. I have people who love me and count on me and I think, need me. Not counting those in my familial circle who would like to see me stick around, in a purely selfish sense, I do not want to die.

But.

I hope my ever-present compassion would come to the fore. I can’t imagine being in a situation where children are at risk of dying and not helping in any way that I could. I’m only human. Maybe if the time came, I would choke. I don’t know. I’ve never been called upon to do anything at all of greatness.

But.

I hope I could make a difference in this world. In my heart of hearts, I have faith that I would rise to the occasion and save a child whose life hasn’t even yet begun, whether they are mine or not, whether I know them or not.

Personally, the idea of slamming a door shut in the face of a child to save myself, not to mention a child that I see every freakin’ day … a child that I taught to read, a child whose shoes I tied, a child whose future I helped mold, is abhorrent to me. Oh, I can’t say as I completely blame this teacher for her way of thinking (I mean, I do, but still …). After all, she is living with the very real prospect of death every day, given our current climate of school shootings. So, it’s easy for me to say what I would and wouldn’t do as I go back and forth to my relatively safe job.

But.

I hope I would do the right thing. My intentions are there. Of course, we all know what road the best of intentions pave. It’s easy to say that I would jump out in front of a bus – or a bullet – to save anyone, let alone a child. However, when it came right down to it … would I make that leap? It goes without saying that if it were MY kids, that leap of faith would be as natural as breathing.

But.

I hope that when faced with an impossible decision in a horrific situation where kids were in danger, that I would make my own children proud … that I could face my death – or life – with the knowledge that I not just aspired to greatness, but truly achieved some small semblance of it through the life of a child.

I just know that when push came to shove, if I were the one coming out the other side … at the cost of a young life I, myself, could have saved and deliberately chose not to … well, I’m not sure there would ever be light or joy in my own life again. It’s certainly not a life I would want to live.

I Have a Great Attention…Look, a Puppy!

Facebook, in its ever evolving need to placate everyone, has implemented a service to help busy Facebook users better manage their time.  You may have noticed that under each article or video, Facebook has added a handy dandy estimate of how much time it will take their oh-so-busy users to read an article.

I won’t even touch on the fact that many Facebook users don’t (or can’t) read an informative article to begin with.

I will even ignore the fact that I can read a 300-word piece in well under 5 minutes, Mr.  Mark Zuckerberg.

Let’s cut right to the chase, shall we?  If you are on Facebook for the twentieth fiftieth gazillionth time today, explain to me exactly what tight, rigorous schedule you are on that prevents you from choosing to read a five-minute article?

“Wow, teens exploring a wooded area next to the local mall downtown discovered a live wooly mammoth family today in New Hampshire! Oh wait, it’s a 5-minute read!? Who the hell has time for that??”  *Keeps scrolling* … “Coke adds the name Adonis to its line of labeled bottles and cans … 2-minute read. All right! Now, that’s the kind of timeframe I can get behind! Let me at this one!”

If it takes you more than five minutes to read the article, can you sue for lost time and damages?  Does that five-minute read include pictures and captions?  Really, Facebook, I have so many questions!

I suppose you could time your Farmville crops to article lengths and give yourself something to do while the crops ripen.  “This one will take exactly one corn harvest.”    “Oh, man, I’ll never get to harvest those yams in time if I read this one, forget it.  Who cares about the newly discovered pyramid on Mars, anyway?  Those crops are waiting!”

Now, what happens if I choose to invest my time in, say, a five-minute article and it only takes me three minutes to read?  I have two extra unplanned minutes in my day.  I could:

  • Post a vague, slightly disturbing update in the hopes it will gain attention from my friends.
  • Read someone’s political beliefs and become angry … not by the post, but by all the comments under it (although I may not have time to post a reply to any of the more egregious statements).
  • Share eight lost dog posts or three Minions memes.
  • Place four posts that I will never look at again in my “saved” folder.
  • Like three posts by accident when swiping up. These will include a friend’s dad’s funeral, someone who broke both legs falling down a flight of steps, and someone’s cat being run over by a bus.
  • Type out a well thought out rebuttal to someone’s post, then spend the next two and a half minutes trying to figure out how to delete it while frantically realizing that I am now over my allotted time limit.
  • Accidentally click on an ad for hemorrhoid cream and watch my page fill with ads for hemorrhoid creams.
  • Try to understand why a video about cake icing has been “covered because it may contain gore.” Uncover it.  Watch in amazement as someone falls into a vat of frosting and is iced.
  • Wish happy birthday to three “friends” I have never met in my life.
  • Search for a two-minute article. Find it, then realize it has taken me two minutes to find so I don’t actually have time to read it.

Years from now we’ll be telling our grandchildren, “In my day, we had phones that plugged into the wall, TV sets without remotes, and we never knew how long it would take to read an article on Facebook!”

So, my followers and friends…what will YOU do with all of your extra time?

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

Psychologists tell us that we have three identities: Who we think we are, who we really are, and who we are as other people see us. Sometimes we like the three “Whos,” and sometimes we don’t.  Trying to get to the bottom of these differences in personae has made psychiatrists rich for years. Having three distinct personal realities becomes even more complicated when we realize that everyone else is in the same boat. There’s a big difference between knowing about a person and really knowing that person. Our friends, partners, lovers, colleagues, and families may know that we love clog dancing, breakfast scrapple, the subtle comedy stylings of Andrew Dice Clay, and mud wrestling, but they only know these things because of who we are when we are with them. When you are by yourself, you may be an entirely different person.

Subconsciously, we all turn into someone else to adapt to the needs and demands of others in all of our associations.  In the case of a toxic relationship this becomes even more apparent as we do anything it takes to save the relationship or, in some extreme cases, survive.  We lose all three of our identities; we lose ourselves completely because, simply put, it is easier to be someone else.  When you finally leave the relationship, you can begin to regain your identity, your purpose, and your sense of self.  The partner in this toxic relationship will no longer recognize you, associating the person you became to exist peacefully with him or her as the person you really are, if that makes sense.  Basically, he or she never knew the real you. Oh, they probably did at first, at the beginning of the relationship … before you were forced to morph into an overly accommodating persona simply to retain your sanity. Affronted at your newfound “change” once you’re on your own, this person will in turn pass a false perception of you on to others, making it seem as if who you really are NOW is the fake face while who you WERE in the relationship is the truth.

This can be hurtful – or at the least, annoying – to the one who is now accused of being fake when he or she is simply returning to a sense of normalcy. Normalcy being the key word. The vengeful ex will ridicule your attempts to improve yourself as putting on some sort of show, never realizing that you gave up all of the hobbies and activities that you enjoyed pre-relationship simply to appease him or her.  The only reality about you that they know is the one they have built up in their heads; they don’t know the real you … the happy you.  They see you living your life and tell people, “That’s not at all like her.  Who is she trying to fool?”

With possibly some exceptions, the results of this aggravating situation carry over into any friends that you met while in the toxic relationship.  They have only met the personality that you had morphed into to keep the relationship steady and peaceful.  In turn, you begin to have a bit of shame and self-recrimination as you recall all of the things you did to keep up the false façade.  “What the hell was I thinking?  I hate watching Monday Night Football while doing Jagermeister shots!”  Well, the football part, anyway.

You would think that being with your family would be a release from the expectations of having to morph into someone else, but that’s not true, either, is it?  Although your family thinks they know you better than anyone else, they also have a biased perception, for better or worse.  Think of how often you have to bite your tongue and alter your behavior and views to keep peace during holiday dinners and family get-togethers.

The 21st century has added yet another dynamic in the search for true identities:  Social Media.  If you think you can be yourself online, think again.  How many times have you stopped yourself from posting a status because you are afraid of people’s perception of you changing?  The only opinion your cyber friends can make about you is based on your words as they appear on Facebook or messages through email or text.  Even posting videos, FaceTiming or Skype will not allow you to present the real you; would you appear in a video wearing your favorite flannel pajamas, hair uncombed, or for women, with no make-up on? This gets even more complicated with the advent of online dating.  You are both on your best behavior and acting or reacting in a way you think the other person would appreciate.  For women, especially single moms, you feel as if you are interviewing for the coveted position of “Girlfriend” in a large company.  The other person has created an image of you based not just on the information you present to them, but also their imagination and desires.  No matter how honest or upfront you try to be, eventually some aspect of your personality emerges that doesn’t fit in with the “you” they have imagined.  They feel hurt and betrayed, and rather than accept you at face value, they allow the relationship to end and continue forward in search of the next candidate.  While this happens to women all the time, I’m sure men can relate as well.

I know this has been a long and rambling post, and I hope that I’ve made a little bit of sense. There’s one truth to all of this and that is this: There is only one person qualified to say they know who you really are, and that is YOU. Don’t let someone else make judgments and certainly don’t critique yourself based on someone else’s opinion of you … because they don’t know the whole story of you.  Half the time, if I ask myself who I really am, I have no clue how to answer.  But that’s my right, and no one else’s.

Abandonment Issues

Okay, I know I’ve been quiet the past few days – the only excuse I have is, it’s been a bit chaotic on my side of the world. As excuses go, that one’s not too shabby. But have no fear, you’ll soon be regaled with the craziness that is my life. Lucky you! In the meantime, I thought I would leave you with a rant. I haven’t ranted in a while, so face it, we’re due.

I have to say that every now and then, something comes along that makes me wonder if humans are truly the most evolved species, as experts claim.    Take this incident, for example … dogs abandoned on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, by their despicable owner.

This hurts my heart on so many levels.  Those dogs are terrified, and looking to their owner for direction.  You can see the confusion in their eyes when she leaves them.  How heartless do you have to be to take an innocent animal who depends on you and dump them on the side of the road?

The look on the woman’s face speaks volumes about her personally.  She doesn’t have an ounce of regret in her expression.  The only thing she regrets, I’m sure, is being caught by the Good Samaritan.

Was it a boyfriend, making her choose between the dogs and himself?  Sorry, sir, you would lose that gamble every time if it was me. Maybe she just got tired of caring for them or couldn’t afford to feed them any longer.  Was she too proud to take them to the shelter?  How did she think leaving them on the side of the road was any better?

I find it interesting that she took one of the dogs to the local shelter after she had dumped them.  I’d like to think she had a twinge of conscience, a moment of humanity, or a sense of guilt and went back to find them.

More likely, though, she probably was afraid that she would be caught and punished for her thoughtless, selfish behavior if she didn’t turn herself in voluntarily.  I am not sure anything close to a soul exists in someone who would do this. Quite frankly, I also blame the driver … not as much as the owner, mind, but still. How could they witness what was happening and say nothing, do nothing?

If it sounds like I’m being harsh, well, yeah, I am.

I can’t imagine living in a world where people leave babies in dumpsters, kill each other because one driver cut off another on the freeway, and abandon animals.  This is not the world I want to wake up to.  Every morning I turn on the news, open social media, or listen to a morning show on the radio hoping that the day before would be free of atrocity and heartbreak.

And every morning, I am thoroughly disappointed.

I find comfort in the fact that two out of four of these dogs have already found forever homes, and I know the other two will as well.  But I wonder if they ever miss the woman who abandoned them.  I wonder if they watch for her out of the window, tails wagging, hoping to see her car pull up in the driveway of the place they now consider home. Or maybe they realize all too well they’re better off now, without her.

Mostly, though, I wonder if the woman who dumped them like so much garbage at a dead-end, on a cloudy, grey day feels regret, and I wonder if she ever replays the moment when she closed the car door and saw them looking at her in fear, confusion, and expectation before she left them.

I hope she does, and I hope it haunts her dreams.

Because it sure as hell haunts mine.

Grammar Police:  Heroes or Villains?

They are all over the social media sites.  They are hated and feared, but we all have to giggle at them.  Maybe you know one.  Maybe you are one.

The Grammar Police.

This is a very unique group of people who can take anyone’s heartfelt sentiment and reduce it to rubble with their inability to resist correcting misspellings and grammar.

Here’s an example of how the Grammar Police can ruin nearly anything they read:

Poster: I am thrilled to announce the birth of my sweet baby boy, Paul.  After years of trying and much heartbreak, we have a little miracle of our own.  I finally feel at peace with the tragedy that has struck so often in the past when I look at his perfect little face.  We weren’t sure he would make it through the delivery, and it was touch and go for me for a while, too.  An emergency C-Section saved both of our lives, but the surgeon accidentally dropped his watch into the incision and had to go back in to get it. The hospital lost electricity and the surgery was done without anesthesia by candlelight. We are so pleased that Paul is not only cute, but healthy, to.

Grammar Police: *too

Poster:  Really?  Your heartless.

Grammar Police: *you’re

I am anti-Grammar Police, personally.  The poster has clearly gotten their point across and has anxiously hit the “post” button, awaiting the outpouring of support or debate the update will bring.  Instead, an entire segment of the social media population fixates on one thing: the unfortunate use of “there” instead of “their.”  Or “to” instead of “too.”

I admit, any error in grammar or spelling jumps out of the impassioned sentences and slaps my brain like the thought of Elmer Fudd in the shower; impossible to ignore no matter how hard I try.  I am stronger than my urges, however, and will overlook the errors in the spirit of solidarity with the poster.  Inside, however, I am correcting with the best of them … I just choose to keep this obnoxious behavior to myself instead of posting it out there in public for all to see.

What I can’t ignore are people who abbreviate words in their postings for no reason whatsoever.  I’m sure you’ve seen these, too:

Poster:  U no I like u, rite?  Wut u doin’ l8ter?

Me:  What the hell are you saying? I know you’re trying to communicate … but come on! Work with me here!

I wonder what these people do with all the extra time they have saved by not typing out complete words.  My eyes wander across these posts, filling in the blanks, but the time they saved posting is time I waste translating.  I could have used those precious seconds to do so much with my day.

I think my favorite are the pseudo-intellectuals who attempt to drop big words into their posts, and use them incorrectly or spell them horribly.

Poster:  I just finished a grate autobiography today.  I understand Lincoln’s Emaciation Declaration much more, now.  People are so dumb; everyone should edukate themselves like I do.

Grammar Police:  Where do I start …

My own personal fear is auto-correct when I use voice-activated typing or texting.  If I don’t proofread my post before sending, I end up with something that reads:

Me: I read the cantaloupe yesterday.  I don’t knife why pickles hate digging that; I looped it.

Grammar Police:  I think I just had a stroke.

Grammar Police are either the unsung heroes of the internet, correcting their little world one word at a time, or they are the villains, wrecking dreams and sentiment with just a few keystrokes.  There is no in between; Grammar Police are all or nothing when it comes to their obsession.

If you are a member of the Grammar Police Force, knock it off.  We ALL see the errors, but we just don’t care; we read through the mistakes to the underlying message.  If you have been a victim of an overzealous Grammar Cop, keep on posting and know you are not alone.

As for the visual of Elmer Fudd in the shower?  You’re welcome.

The Classic Battle

One day early last week, on Facebook, I posted a picture of a male actor – you would know him, he was amazing in that thing about the thing (won an Oscar!), with an even more amazing body – posed provocatively, wearing only a micro-Speedo.   I was very pleased at the way the picture focused on his … um, attributes. When I posted the picture, I was hoping to get a bunch of likes and exploit the man, you know, as you do.

Right about now, there are two groups of readers.  Half of you wonder where the picture is, and the other half said, “Well, now, that just isn’t right.”  Okay, so there is also a third group, comprised of members of both groups, who are trying to bleach the picture of the Speedo out of their brains.

Of course I didn’t really post any picture like that.  But I have to wonder; were you more outraged over the idea that I would exploit someone for “likes,” or was that outrage brought about because it was a man?  Men don’t commonly get exploited and paraded around for their bodies instead their talent; that is a privilege usually saved for women.  In fact, it’s expected.

I belong to a Facebook group that focuses on films from the “Golden Age of movies.”  The ground rules are simple: be respectful, no politics, no religion, and discuss classic era movies.  Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

In any group, there is bound to be the one who pushes the rules to the limits.  In this group, one guy not only pushes the limits but crosses them over and over, to the giggling joy of his caveman supporters.  He continues to  post pics of actresses in their most sultry persona and one, he even cropped to be sure her breasts were on clear display…in fact, it was just her breasts, so if he hadn’t mentioned who the actress was, there’s no way you would know. Unless you’re a breast aficionado.

Not all of the actresses he ummm … discusses … are from the classic era either. A cropped, very risqué photo of Catherine Zeta Jones, who is truly a lovely woman (inside and out from what I understand), was duly submitted for inspection and I don’t think she was even born in the classic movie era, let alone acted in any movies from that time-period.  His pics, as no doubt intended, elicit the usual responses from other men, suggesting graphically what they would like to do to the women, among other lewd comments.  The moderator keeps deleting the posts, but somehow the guy is allowed to remain.

Finally, a female member took a stand against this sorry excuse for classic movie discussion.  She made a post about how she’s tired of seeing it, that it’s disrespectful, goes against the rules of the group, and stop being assholes basically – though she was very nice and polite about it … more so than I would’ve been.  Predictably, her post was met by a bunch of men jumping on her saying,  “Just block the guy, choose your battles, it’s not important, get over it, scroll past it, let it go, grow up, stop being a snowflake,” and  complaining that she was “on her soap box,” and that it wasn’t a real problem so why complain, etc.  One guy, who I guess was trying to “help,” said “Agree with the concern, and more, but believe part of the solution is to stay calm and positive. Just breathe.”

As is the norm, although the post she made was calm, cool, and anything but hysterical, she was, quite literally, accused of being hysterical and over-reacting.  The reactions came, of course, from men who have never had to battle these types of attitudes and comments personally; in fact, these same guys are the very culprits who keep feeding the caveman’s posts in the first place.

I am sure there are lots of good guys in my group, too, just like in real life.  Most likely, they stayed quiet throughout all of this to simply keep clear of the scuffle – just like in real life.  The women, as could be predicted, came out in full force to support the female member’s post, rallying around her in true “girl power” form.

The problem is, this idiot guy and his rude followers probably genuinely don’t even perceive a problem.  But come on! Why on earth should a woman have to block someone, scroll past lewd pictures, or just suffer sexism silently? I mean, this question is relevant every day of our lives, but especially in a freakin’ group meant for classic film discussion of all places!  Then, God forbid, a woman has the spiritual fortitude to confront the men and call them out on their overt sexism … well, then she’s down-played, ignored, ridiculed, and gaslighted.

Sexism is real, and it plays out nearly every single freakin’ day in women’s lives. Women are taught to ignore it, deal with it, cope with it, and never act on it or they’ll be perceived as “over-reacting” or being “hysterical;” it is, after all, just boys being boys.  When can women unite and finally say, “Enough is enough?” If not now, when!? Sexism is so pervasive that it shows up everywhere and anywhere, even in an innocent group on Facebook that was formed to discuss classic movies.

Granted, this is a small group on Facebook.  Alarmingly, though, Facebook tends to be an interesting and realistic mash-up of the real world. Meaning, the people who are your Facebook friends or fellow group members are representative of a small microcosm of who you would find on the street every day.

Frankly, I think I need some new friends.