Ponder this:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Why I don't put out birdfeeders, illustrated

You'll need to enlarge these to get it.

It would be a little unfair to the birds, wouldn't it?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unexpected guest at the orange buffet

Northern flickers like oranges too.
Who knew?

I loaded up the trees with orange halves yesterday morning and waited until oriole supper time, and nobody showed up. Fortunately, it appears that the buffet will not be going to waste. This flicker decided to taste, and then hunkered down and feasted for quite a few minutes. 
Must be a nice change from its usual fare of ants and beetles.
Dessert, maybe.

Editing to add: It isn't a flicker; it's a redbellied woodpecker. Not that I care. I'm just glad s/he's there.  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The road crews are out all over these days. God bless 'em. I'd hate to have any of their jobs, all day breathing the flying dust, with those big machines going PEEEP PEEEP PEEEP every time they move in reverse. While I was halted one morning, waiting for the flagman to wave our mile's worth of waiting cars onward through the one available lane, I was within ten feet of one of the scooping machines, as it broke and picked up what used to be the road.
Between my car and the scoop one of the men in his fluorescent green t-shirt bent down and tipped broken pieces of macadam over to where the scoop could pick it up. You never realize, until you're that close, how gigantic those toothy scoops are. It was two thirds the man's height. It gave me an atavistic fright, Primitive Woman way too close to hungry t-rex. 
After a few twenty-minute waits during recent commutes, I began using an alternate route to work: a little road that takes me through my village over the hill and down again into Small Pond. Along the way is the School Zone, where the yellow flashing lights admonish me to slow from 30mph to 20mph, the theory apparently being that if one's vehicle strikes a dawdling child at 20mph, the damage would be far less than if it were to meet with the child at 30mph. 
I have an idea! Teach the kids not to dawdle in the road. Howzzat?

So from there, I crawl along the village street, and turn off onto the side road that passes the library and the local plant nursery. Past those two is a bridge. 
A narrow bridge. Not one lane . . . about a lane and a half . . . and should I find myself on the bridge with an oncoming vehicle, I hold my breath and, knowing that one inadvertently steers toward the object of one's gaze, dare not even cast a glance in the direction of the other vehicle. The other driver and I each hug our sides of the bridge and we both make ourselves very small and pass within inches of each other and then I'm off up the hill. The whole hill road is winding and narrow, with short intervals between SQUIGGLY ROAD signs
It's a pretty road, your basic farm-track-with-pavement, and the travel time is no longer than my usual when I take the interstate between home and Small Pond. As the days of road destruction/construction go by, I believe many people are following my lead. There seem to be many more of us, daily, squiggling along the bends, floating down the dips, clambering up again. 

Thursday morning, just as I had almost reached the apex of the hill and was about to begin the long twisty descent, I rounded a curve and was surprised to find a white sheriff's car blocking the lane. The chubby gray-uniformed officer came around from in front of his vehicle and indicated that I should turn off onto yet another farm-track-with-pavement: a detour within my detour. I have seen the sign for the road onto which I turned, always from the other end. I had never before traveled on that road. You wanna talk twisty and bendy? Take that road! The roadside leaves nearly brushed the sides of my little car as I traveled, all the way wondering what mishap had caused me to be where I was. At last, the state route appeared and I turned onto it and happily accelerated. I was only two minutes late to work.
Later the police chief enlightened me as to what had happened: a tractor-trailer had tipped over and dumped its load all over the road. I could hardly believe that a tractor trailer would be able to travel that road, and apparently it wasn't. On my way home, I saw the ravaged and broken roadside trees and the absorbent material that gets thrown all over sites like that.
I guess it'll take a while for everybody to get used to slowing down enough to safely navigate our chosen alternate route. The time may come when I would choose to sit in traffic watching modern day dinosaurs than to have to travel over hill and dale in avoidance of accident scenes and tractor-trailers.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

And so, another weekend has passed...

"Mostly cloudy" was the forecast for today and into the foreseeable future. Not a single day without some chance of rain. "Mostly cloudy" leaves room for a little sunshine though, and the border of cloudy/sunny can be pretty striking. 
This was Friday evening as the dramatic storm clouds rolled through.

The orioles are doing their best to eat me out of house and home. 

I put eight pounds of oranges out on the trees yesterday morning, keeping a second eight-pound bag in reserve. 
Husband observed, "I see you bought oriole food."
"You can have some too . . . if you want to eat bird food." 

On my last round about the yard tonight, I saw that the birds have worked their way almost down to the rinds. 
Husband is whittling away at the supply. 
Poor orioles. 
Imagine the poor wild birds having to go find their own food...

Olga says she's saving her old sheets to protect the garden. This afternoon I folded up a whole lot of old sheets that have found new lives as dropcloths in Husband's workshop. He was on his way to snooze for a bit, said, "If it starts to rain, tell me. I have to bring in the dropcloths that I put outside."
"What? You want me to wake you up if it starts raining?"
"Well, why don't I just go bring them in now? I know it's going to rain."
So I did (Good Wife!), and he was a happy man. 
The sun came out again and he never did fall asleep. But the dropcloths are picked up and folded tidily and stacked on top of a saw. 
I think it's a saw: there's a lot of stuff out there that looks to me like Industrial Age sculpture.

Sunday Stills: In the Sky

Silver lining

More Sunday Stills here: Sunday Stills

Nightmare: Fear of Failure

At 3:00am I woke up, breathing hard, heart pounding hard enough that I could hear it through my pillows, in full flight from a nightmare.

Jane had left me alone in the office with stern warnings to close out the month, and NOT to leave the office until everything was tallied.  I was trying to make sure receipts got written for every payment, and the correct copies made of everything. I kept getting interrupted with more payments coming in, and people wanting to chat about changing the insurance coverage on their businesses.

From the To Do pile I picked up a piece of mail from a woman named Rita, a complaint of sexual harassment.  Her complaint had been submitted on a piece of tissue-y yellow invoice paper with a letterhead logo, a caricature of herself that was all hair and lips and long long legs. If I could draw I would reproduce it for you here. It was in the style of Tim Sheaffer's sketches in Vanity Fair's The Coaster Correspondence, except it was a female and not Ed Coaster. She was suing Small Pond (or the insurance company that employed me . . . at this point in the nightmare a few of my jobs had become intertwined) for $100,000. She came in while I was tallying up the month's receipts, saw the photocopy of her complaint and, flash-eyed and pinch-lipped, asked what that picture was on her complaint, as if someone had ridiculed her by drawing on it. She was furious with a tight, stiff, full-of-threat heat that always scares me worse than somebody screaming in my face.
I said, "It's the picture YOU sent."

Then she was gone and I was no longer in the office, but outdoors and heading back to to finish the work. It was cold and dark and I was walking on ice, crossing a four-lane highway at a traffic light. The light changed and I was still trying to get across the first two lanes. I fell and crawled.  Every foot I gained was lost with the next movement.

Now I'm back at the door, fumbling with a keyring of a hundred keys. A well-dressed and sophisticated man and a woman come and stand behind me. They want to get into the building but have no key.
I don't know who they are and they hang over me impatiently while I try to find the right key.
I know that whatever I do will be wrong: if I let them in there will be trouble for me in the future; if I don't let them in, they will give me immediate trouble.

I'm back in the office, trying to keep track of the separate piles of things to do, and in comes Afternoon Boss Bill. He sees my shaking hands and tells me to calm down, it isn't worth getting so upset. I want to scream at him to get out and let me get done what I have to get done, but he's my only friend and he's trying to be a comfort, so I swallow that urge.

Then he was gone and I was almost finished. It would be allowed for me to leave neatly arranged piles of receipts and long strips of adding machine tape for Jane, and I was almost there. Then I realized that in my frenzy I had moved the furniture slightly and Jane wouldn't like that, would surely make a comment about how I must have been truly out of control and frantic to have left the office in such disarray. So I had to move all the furniture back and I couldn't get it all perfectly aligned.

It went on and on. ...and on...

Upon waking I immediately remembered Rita, a woman with whom I worked when I was twenty-five. I remember her laughing at something I wore. Every time I passed her desk, she would put her face in her hands and laugh helplessly. Thirty-five years later I'm still having nightmares about her.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Y'can't make this stuff up, Part deux

It's been a while since I recorded some of the "Y'can't make this stuff up" moments at the office. Every workplace has them, but work with The Public provides limitless story sources. When I was waiting tables I thought I would never be able to top some of the workday moments. 
What ever could make a better story than the woman who sat in a booth, ordered, ate, and once full, fat, and happy, couldn't slide out again? The manager had to find a wrench and unbolt the table base from the floor to give her more wiggle room
...or my poor customers who came in with two young sons, one of whom was sleeping and woke suddenly, suffering from a violent stomach upset. That one really doesn't bear repeating. A bland Waitress Face and a quick grab-and-scoop of all four corners of the tablecloth into a bundle full of dishes, silverware, food . . . and all . . . that I carried off into the waitstation saved us all further embarrassment.

The mass of humanity contains endless subsets: people who eat in restaurants; people who have their hair styled (I always thought that being a hairdresser would be far worse than waiting tables because if there's one thing people are more sensitive about than their food, it's their appearance); people who drive; people who ride mass transportation, and so on.  When you are a civil servant, you get 'em all. All of them. The good, the bad, the ugly. The cheerful, the ne-er-be-happy, the chatty, the silent. The clean and the dirty, the ill and the hardy.

Poopy Pants Man
The word circulated through the office that a man had arrived at 9:00am, three hours early for his court appearance. He was sitting on an upholstered chair in the otherwise unoccupied courtroom. The court clerk recognized him: he had been in her courtroom two days before, and had left traces of . . . scat . . . on the chairseat. That chair had been removed and cleaned and was drying elsewhere in the building. And now Poopy Pants Man was in there on another chair. 
One of Small Pond's Finest was called in to suggest, gently, that he wait in the lobby on the wooden bench. Poor soul. Who would choose to leave fecal stains on furniture? No one. But there's only so much in Small Pond's budget for cleaning supplies and replacement chairs. Wooden benches clean much more easily than upholstery.

Lady in the stairwell
I walked from my Afternoon Job desk to go upstairs to the photocopier. As I reached for the stair door handle, Phyllis came from the other side, wide-eyed and white-faced. She said, "You don't want to go up these stairs."
"I don't?"
"No. You don't."
"Why don't I want to?"
"You just don't."
"Okay." I turned and headed for the elevator.
At the second floor I exited the elevator to see a gray-haired lady leaving the bathroom, breathlessly twittering to her waiting middle-aged daughter. They went off down the hall, I made my photocopies, and scurried in to Phyllis.
"What was that all about?"

The lady, it seems, had had a not-uncommon Older Lady Accident as she walked through the lobby. As Phyllis was descending the stairs she had passed the woman in mid-clothing-change on the landing. 

Car burglar
Afternoon Boss and I were leaving work on court day. Court day delivers a whole new cast of characters, about whom Phyllis says, "If they could read and follow directions, they wouldn't be going to court." Bill and I lingered, chatting, just outside the building's doors. A young woman drove in and parked, took some books from her car and walked up the hill toward the back entrance to the court. Watching her trudge up the steep hill, I said, "She must be a frequent flyer: she knows the way to the back door."
When she settled at the picnic table under the tree, Bill observed, "She must just be waiting for somebody."
A young man burst through the door behind us and headed for  the parking lot, frenetically swinging from car to car. We paid not much attention to him, knowing how Court People often act differently from Non-Court People. A sudden yell from the woman at the picnic table: "Hey! What're you doing to my car!" 
The young man wheeled away from her vehicle, windmilling his arms. "Sorry! Sorry! I was just looking for my wallet. I thought it was my mom's car. I'm really sorry. I'm just really nervous right now. Sorry!" He moved off, veering loopily among the other vehicles.
Next day we got, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. The kid had gone to court to keep a miscreant friend company. While the friend waited for his case to come before the judge, the kid left to kill some time in the parking lot. That's when Bill and I, and the picnic table woman, saw him. Court finished and the judge went home. At 8:30 the police called the judge back to the office to arraign the young man on the charges that apply for stealing a purse from a car. The picnic table woman signed a witness statement about her observations.

The Mean Man from MacMillan Road
Early every quarter a man comes to pay his water bill. His small rumply body slouches through the door, his face completely without expression. 
"Good morning! How are you?"
His pouchy dull eyes stare into mine. His jowly jaw moves not at all. He makes no response. He slides the bill and cash across the counter. Change is made and returned to him. His eyes follow the transaction.
"There y'go. Have a good day."
Silent, he pockets the receipt and change, turns and leaves.

The Shot Heard 'Round the Building
Last week the HVAC maintenance man visited for his semi-annual tune-up of the system. It was afternoon and I was at my desk, the office door open to the lobby, which is floored in marble and walled in cement-over-metal. The room echoes like the biggest shower stall in the world. The man was working on the lobby's heating/air-conditioning unit, fifty feet from my chair. I could hear every turn (wrank! wrank!) of his screwdriver as he removed the unit's metal cover. I could hear the magnified sound of each screw (Tink! Tink! Tink!) as he dropped them on the floor. 
And then he dropped something heavy, made of metal.
I screamed.
The police chief was through the PD door in a flash, eyes alert, head swiveling.
Phyllis was down the stairs and through the stair door ten seconds later.
I sat at my desk, my hand on my chest, gasping.
"Sorry," the repairman said. "I dropped something."

The Wedding Day
One day a small, fit, happy gentleman came to the office and asked, in accented English, for a marriage license. He was tidily dressed and groomed: comb trails ran along the sides of his gray/blond head. Two days later he made an appointment for the mayor to perform a marriage ceremony. 
Ten minutes before 11:00am on The Day, the groom arrived. A shyly smiling lady followed him through the door. The delicate blonde bride wore Kelly green with white cotton lace at the V-neck of her suit jacket. The couple sat and spoke soft Hungarian to each other while they waited.
The smiling mayor arrived and introduced himself. He shook hands with the bridegroom.
"Here's my pretty lady! See my pretty lady!" 
The mayor smiled and nodded at the bride. He completed the preliminary paperwork and led the way to the courtroom. He stood in front of the judge's bench, behind the rail, and pronounced the words that made them man and wife. At the end, the mayor forgot the final instruction.
"Are you going to say it?" the groom asked. "Are you going to say it? Because I'm going to do it anyway." And he kissed his bride.
They are both seventy-somethinghad each immigrated from Hungary years ago. They met ten years ago, in this country, far from their birthplace. And now they're married.
They left to go tell their friends, and then to lunch.
"They won't believe it!" the beaming new husband told us.
They left behind a bunch of teary-eyed sighing females, all saying to each other, "They're so sweet..."
"Aren't they just . . . sweet?"

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers' Day!

This photo is courtesy of my friend Tracy, who met the little one on Easter Sunday, fifteen minutes after his birth. 
In this picture s/he is a great big one-week-old. 
Tracy doesn't know yet if the baby's name is Jesus (Spanish pronunciation) or Lily.
No matter what his/her name is, it is clear s/he is Mama's Baby.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chopper returns to the egg from whence he came

I mentioned before that Chopper thinks he is smaller than he is. 
In fact, he can make himself very small, folding himself up 
like a dog version of a collapsible metal-and-canvas camp chair.

1. Chopper, full-size, snugged up beside Husband on a Saturday morning:

2. The miniaturization process begins with relaxing the entire length of his spine, 
making sure his puppybutt is snugged back into the corner 
of the space which he occupies.

3. Assemble all four paws so that all toes fit into 
one 5" x 5" square space.

4. Fold head over paws and relax all muscles and joints.
Think "small."

5. It is now possible to apply a clean dogshell.

 6. Seal edges and store dog.

When it's time to play, reverse the process and he is, 
once again, a full-size dog 
with gangly legs and riding-crop tail.