If a Tree Falls in the Forest

As I sit contemplating taking a pre-25th college reunion shower in an attempt to make my hair look more like, well, hair, I am drawn back to my long dormant blog. There is a parallel here that begs to be drawn.

I have been absent from my blog, unconsciously acknowledging, as I’m sure you likely have, that my life really doesn’t warrant an official public record updated on an annoyingly regular basis. That’s what Facebook and Peanut, my feline captive audience, are for. I now face the question of whether to attend a reunion with four people I love (one of whom I live with now, three of whom I lived with in college) and a few hundred people I never personally knew and probably wouldn’t recognize 25 years later even if I once took a godforsaken economics seminar with them.

I was not one of the popular types, or even vaguely noticeable in any way. Based on my predetermined and self-enforced anonymity, I will be forced to introduce myself, only when spoken to because I am completely and utterly inept at making pleasant chit-chat with strangers. Then I’ll smile (kind of) and involuntarily proceed to vomit the details of my life without the benefit of editorial manicuring (which is why I generally choose to write instead of actually speak out loud) that will cause each bystander’s eyes to glaze over as their gaze drifts longingly to the tray of room temperature mozzarella sticks on the buffet next to the nametag table of absent graduates who knew better.

So, if I, like the proverbial tree in the forest, just stop talking to the uninterested universe altogether, will anyone even notice? Well, my husband and kids will notice it’s gotten a lot quieter, for sure. And the cat will have a lot more time on his hands. But, other than that exclusive group, probably not.

Regardless, here I go to make the grown-up effort to get out there in the world and back into the campus center that set me loose a quarter century ago. To connect with the universe and represent myself in the space-time continuum, or whatever Doc Brown called it when he explained it to Marty McFly. Or, I’ll just forget the age-induced, insecure, self-indulgent existential crisis, let my hair curl, and enjoy the open bar for a few hours ensconced in the protection of my familiar posse. Mozzarella sticks for everyone!

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Riddle Me This #7 and #8, But Really, Who’s Counting?

Where the heck have you been? Seriously, I’ve been looking for you. Busy summer, what can I say, but let’s get back in the saddle, shall we?

So, my fan (that would be singular, yes) approached me at school pickup yesterday and inquired about future posts. I suppose we could just cut to the chase and be pen pals since it’s likely just the two of us, but, just in case, I’ll throw this out there into the universe.

Riddle me this #7: If your child has grown enormously in every way since last year in an eerie Andre the Giant kind of way, yet is still insistently able to squish her monster feet into last year’s shoes, do you:

a. Let her do it. Kid’s shoes are expensive.

b. Let her do it. Serves her right for being stubborn.

c. Don’t let her do it. Foot binding is an orthopedically frowned-upon practice and might result in an unscheduled visit from child protective services.

d. Send your sister to the shoe store with her to secure an appropriate pair of school shoes, taking yourself out of the formula entirely.

And while I have your attention, please weigh in on #8.

If your cat has been sneezing and coughing and lunging around the house trying to hack out an elusive, imaginary bronchial hairball for the two weeks since you boarded him (at the vet!) (and he came home sick!) (ironic, no?) do you bring him back to the vet and pay $64 to have him looked at because you made the appointment already, even though his symptoms are already improving??

Don’t bother. I already know the answer.

Yes. He’s fine.

Riddle Me This #6

What do you do when your sweet-faced six year old baby girl extends her chubby little finger and accurately reads aloud (and by that I just mean loud) the popular expletive carved into the seat back in front of her chair in the crowded, silent auditorium at the fourth grade orchestra concert?

Do you:

A. Slap your hand over her mouth and give her the cut it out now, I mean it look.

B. Tell her she’s such a great reader! This is the ironic downside to reading everything from gum wrappers to board books to the Wall Street Journal to her since birth. Okay, I never really read the Wall Street Journal to her, but her father probably has.

C. Glare at the family at the other end of your row with chagrin and pretend she belongs to them. But, too bad, they are already glaring at you in a pre-emptive strike, pretending their farting kid belongs to you.

D. Explain that it’s a swear word and tell her to stop because it’s never okay to say that (or at least wait until your parents and most of the neighborhood are out of earshot), and offer to give her a mani-pedi at home tomorrow to get her off the subject speedy quick.

Which one do you think ole Rack of Ribs chose? Be kind.

The Traffic Circle

If you are not from New England, please let me be the one to educate you about the anachronistic and utterly tragic concept of the traffic circle. If you are from New England, screw you because you probably already cut me off in a traffic circle at one point or another.

The traffic circle might have been a reasonably intuitive undertaking 200 years ago when most people in my neighborhood were driving palominos instead of minivans. The traffic circle is clearly the result of poor urban planning, where a bunch of roads came together in a surprisingly unorganized fashion and there was apparently no better solution than to create a massive dead end in the shape of a circle and let travelers figure out the details for themselves. It’s like a handy little Darwinian experiment. If only the founding fathers had invented the urban traffic grid instead of the Bill of Rights, we might not even be having this conversation.

A traffic circle is a racetrack-like section of road, which abruptly appears for no apparent reason but to merge several haphazardly arranged avenues together like spokes on the Wheel of Terror at the traveling carnival. Once you enter the circle, the object of the game is to escape unscathed. It is also convenient if you are able to exit heading in the right direction.  Entering and exiting the circle is like playing chicken at the Indy 500.

As far as I can tell, traffic circles exist for only two reasons. One, so the Geico Gecko has a target demographic to which he can market his wares, and two, so carpooling parents can teach their children useful swear words in an immediate and meaningful context.

The rules of the circle are simple and finite:

  • Vehicles already traveling in the circle have the right of way.
  • This explains why cars entering from the fringes of the circle generally never even hesitate for a moment before accelerating and practicing their “I can’t see you. Don’t even bother to honk your horn because I can’t hear you either. And, nope, I couldn’t even make out the blur of that finger you just raised in my direction because I just achieved Mach 3.” look. Whoosh-pop!

  • Vehicles should always enter the circle by turning right and then continue in a counter-clockwise direction. Ummm. Yes. I have seen cars enter the traffic circle by making a left turn and then, not realizing their error despite compelling and immediate evidence, continue to drive clockwise, upstream while all other vehicles frantically veer out of their path to save themselves.
  •  A traffic circle is a circle. This simple fact escapes most motorists, who generally will resort to any variety of desperate measures to leave the circle when they realize they are about to miss their planned exit. Generally drivers slam on the brakes, literally posing a life and death scenario to the drivers at cruising speed behind them. Another apparent option, which I witnessed in disbelief for the first time this week, is to courteously let drivers pass you until they are out of harms way, and then throw it into reverse and GO BACKWARDS to regain access to the exit you just passed. What these drivers do not realize, however, is that they are IN A CIRCLE. By definition, if they continue to GO FORWARD, they will shortly arrive again at the precise location they presently occupy. So everyone was absent on the day they taught circles in third grade. I consider it my duty as a good neighbor to roll down my window and scream, “It’s a circle, moron!” every time someone hits the brakes in the circle I pass through for my morning commute.
  •  To exit the circle, carefully approach the right lane, ignoring the countless drivers carelessly flinging their vehicles into your path while simultaneously talking on their cell phones without the aid of hands-free devices.

If  you have, against all odds, safely achieved entry into the circle, you generally have one of three unappealing options that may or may not include the benefit of survival:

  1. Stay in the circle until you approach the exit for your destination and then hope to be flung out by centrifugal force.
  2. Stay in the circle until you muster the nerve to cut someone off, and exit at any point, regardless of whether or not it points toward your destination.
  3. Stay in the circle for the rest of your life effectively cutting off all ties with anyone you ever knew who is not presently in the car with you.

There are five traffic circles within two miles of my house. They are an unfortunate trial I must endure every day. I was once the victim of a sideswipe while I was SITTING STILL at the entry point of a nearby circle. The other driver became so flustered, she threw it into reverse and sideswiped me again, going backwards, in case I missed it the first time. All while I was sitting perfectly still. Which seemed like the safest option at the time. But maybe next time I should just plunge  blindly into the vortex with the rest of them. Or just invest in a palomino.

Riddle Me This #5

Was everybody absent the day they taught contractions in second grade? Please explain to me the universal mayhem and panic that ensues when a typical adult is forced to choose between using their, there, or they’re in a written message. You might be able to explain away your confusion when choosing between there and their. Though if you’ve read Green Eggs and Ham, you’ve got no excuse as Dr. Seuss has provided you with the world’s best and most memorable primer for how and when to use there under a variety of unlikely, yet sweetly weird, circumstances.

But here’s what I really don’t get. What is the ambivalence about when they’re comes into play? They’re = they are. That’s it. It’s two words shortened into one. With an apostrophe. Whose sole purpose is to remind you that you are about to write two words abbreviated into one. It’s a gimme. Use it when you mean to say they are. As in they’re about to choose the wrong version of there. Or they’re about to prove why adult Americans are generally perceived to be kind of ignorant and limited in our written and expressive language. I just made that up. But it’s probably true.

Same thing for your and you’re. As in get your contractions right people! Or you’re going to be embarrassed by your inability to successfully pass your efforts at forging your child’s college application essays off as something your child wrote. Because he knows the difference between your and you’re.  Because he went to second grade.

Now, as I am clearly the undisputed Queen of the run-on sentence and overuse-of-commas-and-hyphens-for-comic-conversational-effect, please forgive me the occasional grammatical improvisation for creative purposes. And I generally don’t know what I’m talking about, so there’s that. I really have no idea how and when to use lie or lay. So the lines are open and I’m taking calls on how to choose between those two without admitting you’re (your?) an idiot. And if you’ve ever mixed up we’ve and weave, I can’t even talk to you about that.

They’re*, I said it. Now your* ready to write with confidence. I think I’ll go lay* down.

*Wrong, wrong and wrong. I think.

I Appreciate Your Disinterest in My Life’s Work

I just read a hilarious post entitled Teacher Depreciation Day by peachyteachy at

http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/teacher-depreciation-day/

and I was reminded that today was Teacher Appreciation Day. I don’t think anyone in my school knew that except maybe for the first year teachers. I only knew because I got a lot of emails this week from Lakeshore Learning offering me free shipping on any and all overpriced Groundhog Day curriculum packs, talking globes (bilingual ones) and dice with roman numerals on them. Free shipping, huh? Nice.

I was not feeling sorry for myself, but was ever so  slightly disgusted at the extra effort kids put into making my day extra unspecial today.

Today one of our students unabashedly drew directly onto a table, not accidentally, but in a concentrated effort to produce a complete representational picture, mind you. When I stopped her and asked her why she was drawing on the table she answered, in a typical non sequitur, “It’s pretty.” And then started in to finish her work until I removed her pencil from her feisty little grip. Later, the same student, instead of rolling her dice and collecting colored chips in the “roll for 15” game, put down her pencil (finally) and placed the counting chips on her eyes, twice entering a state of near hysterics, before the threat of a conversation with the principal elicited an insincere apology. And another grab at that forbidden pencil.

The many misdemeanors and transgressions enacted in our classroom today are too complicated and unsavory to list in their entirety. Suffice it to say, I am a woman of great patience and fortitude and might consider a career move to the DMV where they really know how to have a good time at the expense of others.

I’m not saying the day was a total loss. When I went to wipe down the tables at the end of the day, I found this:

Now that’s raw talent.