Monday, July 27, 2009

The Human Detour

Have you ever noticed how you may be headed in one direction but something happens to push you in a different direction, one you never expected or anticipated? It happens to all of us, I would venture to say, some of us more than once. With my son, Christopher, I experience small detours every day. Life is often lived at 90-degree angles with Christopher, who will suddenly and abruptly change the direction of a conversation without warning.

Tonight, a few minutes before 9:00, I informed Christopher that he needed to get ready for bed. After a moment or two, he left, only to return five minutes or so later to inform me that he was going to brush his teeth. What he did during the five or so minutes he was gone, I'm not even sure he knows. I do know that if anyone ever figures out a way to save "rollover" minutes in life the way a certain cellular phone company does, Christopher will be set into the next life.

Christopher left again. To the untrained observer, it would appear he went to brush his teeth, just as he said. As his father, I knew better. Ten minutes passed. Teresa opened the bathroom door to discover him simply standing there. I sat down on our bedroom floor to play with our dog and settled in for the long haul.

Another five or ten minutes passed, during which time Christopher presumably did brush his teeth. He walked into our bedroom and announced to the world, "I found a penny on the bus," to which I replied, "Yes, but can you find your pajamas?" Because, at this point, Christopher, clean teeth and all, was still fully dressed.

Tonight, it took Christopher roughly 20 minutes to get ready for bed and another five to actually get settled into bed. Tonight, he showed unusual speed. The week prior, there was one night it took Christopher almost 90-minutes to finally pronounce himself ready for bed.

I joke that Christopher has two speeds: slow and stop. Because of that, Teresa and I both suspect that he will have trouble in this hurry up and wait, hustle and bustle world in which we live.

Seeing Christopher's inability to do anything quickly has been frustrating to me more times than I can count. Tonight, though, I hit upon a thought that may make dealing with and accepting Christopher's lack of alacrity about anything a bit easier to accept. When we retire, Teresa and I hope to buy a motorhome to live in a travel around the country, and we are sometimes convinced that Christopher will have to accompany us on the road.

In the world of the full-time RVer, a world we one day hope to enter, time is much more relative. There are no schedules unless you choose to have them. You don't need to be somewhere on a certain day, by a certain time unless you choose to. In a sense, time is more of a choice.

In that world, life is lived more slowly. People take time to notice and appreciate their surroundings. Although there are fewer younger people in that world, it is one tailor-made for Christopher, for whom time is often fluid, aside from deadlines and schedules imposed and enforced on him by others.

Amongst full-time RVers, Christopher may well thrive, and it may be me who frustrates him. I can't wait.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Power of Language - to Confuse

As an erstwhile English major and former writer for a television newscast, I suppose I have always been somewhat fascinated by the power of the English language to inform, to console, to lift up, and yes, to confuse.

Here is a case in point. Every day, on my way home from work, I drive past my son's junior high school. At the exit from the school grounds there is a sign that reads as follows: Golf and Metal Detectors Prohibited on School Grounds. Initially, I wondered about the ban on metal detectors, but then it hit me. Why would anyone need a detector to determine whether people were playing golf on school grounds? And what would such a detector look like?

Silly? Probably. But such nuances of the language cause problems for native and non-native speakers alike. Often, the meaning depends on how a person reads the message: pronunciation, intonation, etc. In my case, a sometimes bored mind starts to read unintended meanings into things.

Take for instance the road sign: Slow Children at Play. This mind wants to know where the fast children play. And where are the slow children? I never see them playing. They must be too slow for the human eye to notice.

Here in Idaho we also have signs such as Watch For Stock. Am I allowed to gather up any shares of IBM or Microsoft I spot along the roadway?

The first time I came upon a Game Crossing sign I looked for Yahtzee and Monopoly but did not see them. I also wondered if I would then see a Do Not Pass Go sign. I didn't.

On that same drive home every day, I pass two side streets that appear in many respects to be similar to one another. The main difference is that the first side street has a sign that reads No Outlet while the second street has a sign that reads Dead End.

What is the difference? Does one street have access to electricity while the other one doesn't? Does it mean that once you take one of these streets you can never make your way back out? Or does it simply mean that there is no cheap shopping to be had on the street labeled No Outlet? Sometimes, the power of the language is all in how you look at it and in how you say it. Sometimes, it helps to be a little bit out in left field.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Some Mental Decluttering

I don't really have anything specific on my mind, but it's been a while since my last post so I thought I ought to say something. So let me just unpack a few things rattling around my brain.

As I write this, it is closing in on 100-degrees here in Boise, and the neighbor and her daughter are sitting outside trying to hold a garage sale. They're sitting in the shade, but it has to be hot out there. What must make it worse is that I don't think a single person has stopped to look, let along buy anything.

That got me to thinking: what is it about us Americans and our need for stuff? Bigger stuff, better stuff, more expensive stuff, just more stuff. I've read that houses have gone from around 1100 or 1200 square feet in the 1950s to more than 2400 square feet a few years ago. I feel so below average in our 1,967 square feet. NOT! One day, we may even downsize into a 320 square foot motorhome, but we'll have to get rid of a lot more stuff first.

I recently found out I wasn't getting a promotion I didn't even know I was up for and didn't think I would want. I realized, though, that I was a little disappointed, even though the choice as made was to keep another, more experienced person with the company and not because of my qualifications or lack thereof.

Why is it that so many things that are good for you don't taste good while so many things that taste good are so bad for you? It just doesn't seem right. And will researchers ever make up their minds about coffee? First it's bad, then it's good, and now they say one cups of caffeinated coffee a day can help ward off dementia and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. With as much as I drink, I should be in good shape until I'm at least 125.

While I'm in this decluttering mood, I should toss out some of the less pleasant memories of my life that have basically kept me from really enjoying life for all these years. I tried for so long to understand some of them that I forgot to live and make new memories. The process of reversing that began seven months ago. I wish I'd been ready sooner.

Along the way, I've been thinking about the people who have come into and gone out of my life. I wonder where they are these days, how they are, what they're doing, even what they look like. To all of you, I'm glad I knew you, even if only for a short time. I wish I'd been a better friend. Perhaps one day I'll be lucky enough to have a second chance at it.