If you lie

or err

and lie louder

to hide the last one

those lies will hang

heavy

in bags

around your neck

and ankles

as you back down the cliff

 no hands

blindfolded

no net

and we’ll watch

and wait

for your fall.

.,.,.,..,,,….,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,,.,.,.,..,.,.,.,..,,.,.,.

But like trust

a rope

can catch you

and help you

before it snaps.

Though frayed and weak

it can be mended

with truth

admission

apology.

The repair threads

for the rope

say

I’m sorry

I was wrong

I’ll be more careful

It won’t happen again

I promise

My word is good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And we’ll try

to believe you

because

humans

need

and want

to trust

so we can sleep

and hope

and laugh again.

So we can

breathe

and rest

and live

again.

Apologize.

Think before you speak.

Ask for and follow advice.

Consider others before yourself.

Do your job.


Inspired by a poem by my teenage daughter called “Trust is a Rope” ~2000

And then came smartphones

and we all got dumber.

When your great-grandmother was young, the telephone was invented. There were switchboards and operators, and when the phone rang, it was always answered, even though they never knew who it would be. That was part of the thrill.

When your grandmother was a young mom, all of her friends had a telephone in their kitchens. The telephone was screwed high on the wall so the kids couldn’t get to it, and had a long cord. Grandma (called Mommy back then) would chat away the morning, drinking coffee, maybe smoking a cigarette, with the kids playing at her feet while she washed the dishes. She loved this connection to her friends, mother, sisters and other housewives, and she knew all of their phone numbers by heart.

When your mother was young she might have had a princess phone in her bedroom, and maybe even a second line that only rang in her room. But more likely the phone in her room was connected to the one in the kitchen, so when she was talking to her boyfriend, she’d have to scream at her little brother when he picked up the kitchen phone to listen in.

By the time you came along, some people had car phones. Julia Roberts carried a cellular phone as big as a brick in movies. And when your older cousin learned to drive, your aunt bought a cell phone for her to carry, just for emergencies, so she could call her mom (who sat by the house phone waiting) when she arrived safe.

Recently, it seems every adult in the world got a cell phone. Some carry them in their pocket; most require one hand to hold it wherever they go. Most started texting within the last decade. The phones got smaller and smarter, and we learned to play games on them, and check our email, and avoid answering when it rings because we always know who is calling.

You do not remember the world without today’s phones, and likely can’t imagine a flip-phone, or figure out how to dial an old rotary phone. You used to dig your mom’s phone out of her purse and looked cute swiping the pictures, accidentally calling your grandmother, and once you called Jamaica. You had your own phone when you were eight because you begged, and did the thing all kids do: convinced your parents you were the only third-grader without one. They love you, and wanted you to be quiet so they could bend their neck to their own phones, so they got you one. You became peaceful and enjoyable in the car. You no longer poked your little sister and made her cry. You no longer spoke to your family.

Now you are in college. You walk across the gorgeous campus and don’t see it because you are looking down. You don’t make eye contact or acknowledge others. You are safe in your bubble. You never feel like you are alone because you can always take out your phone and look busy and important. You pick it up and check messages, tweets, instagram, facebook, snapchat, and even email a thousand times a day. You reach for it as soon as you wake up. You even keep it on your lap in class.

It’s ok. You’re an adult and you get to  decide how to use your time. But what will you tell your parents when your grades aren’t great? You’ll say you always go to class, but can you say you listen in class? Can you promise them their hard-earned tuition money, that they scraped together for fifteen years instead of buying shoes or taking a vacation, is appreciated so much that you leave your phone on silent, zipped up in your bag, for every second of lecture? Can you promise your grandfather who gave you the “family scholarship” and his old car, and pays your car insurance, that you are not wasting his generosity?

They used to say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Today young people squander their entire lives, neck bent, fingers tap-tap-tapping away on an electronic gadget provided by a generous adult who loves them.

 

still a penny a pound

Three boxes of tissues for my sore, sick nose rode the conveyor belt. Gross nasal spray and a lone potato followed.

I waited.

The nice cashier announced the total of my purchases and I sighed and said, very sweetly, “It didn’t ring up the potato right.” I shuffled in my purse while she investigated.

“What’s wrong?” she asked while she bagged the soon-to-be-my-stuff.

“Your potatoes are still on super sale. That potato should NOT be 69 cents.”

Still, she was stumped so I helped some more: “The sale says they’re a penny a pound. It’s great. I’m coming back after work with a dime to get ten pounds.”

She looked at me like I was batty. I had no defense, so I smiled at her. “Hold on,” she said, and picked up her microphone. “I need a price check on seven.”

A couple started unloading their groceries on the conveyor. I felt a little sorry for them. This might take a while.

In a short-sleeve collar shirt that used to be white, and choked by a brown tie, the bespectacled manager approached with authority. JoAnne gave him room to check things out. He looked down at me and asked, “What’s the problem?” That’s when I remembered I could clear things up with a picture so I whipped out my phone.

“Look. The potatoes are point nine eight cents a pound.” He looked at the picture I’d taken last week and back at the toilet paperlike receipt waiting to be ripped across steel zigzagged teeth.

“It’s right,” he assured me. “98 cents a pound.”

“No, look. It says point nine eight.”

“Right,” he nodded helpfully, “that’s ninety-eight cents.”

“Nooooo. It would be 98 cents if it said ‘point nine eight dollars,’ but it says ‘point nine eight cents.’ See?”

And somewhere deep inside he remembered his deathly fear of decimals and succumbed to my will (I mean, my logic). He tap tap tapped on the keys. The 69 cents came off my tab.

He tap tap tapped some more. He shook his head and clasped his molars together in concentration. Finally he turned to JoAnne and said, “There. All fixed.” And he turned on his heel and walked away.

JoAnne took a peek before she said, “I don’t know what you two just did.”

I smiled at her. “That’s ok. He fixed it.” And I walked out with a free potato, because he couldn’t figure out how to charge me a fraction of a penny.

potato-part-2

I just boiled my free potato and ate her all buttered and salted. Delicious.

100 pounds of potatoes, please

My husband has tsked and shaken his head while averting his eyes from me enough times that I sometimes step back and reconsider appropriateness of my actions, sometimes even BEFORE I act. On occasion, like yesterday in the stupidmarket, I have even managed self-control all by myself.

However, yesterday it was very hard not to do this:

Imagine little me, tired from a long Monday workday, pushing my cart through the produce department, hungry. I snort, take out my dumbphone, and take a picture, presumably of the hexagonal close packing of the apples. Next, you see me loading the cart with the equivalent of about twenty-five bags of potatoes, but I do so one potato at a time because, well, that seems to be the “deal.”

With the cart loaded down with one hundred pounds of potatoes, I forgo the rest of my shopping list, dig behind the ripped seam in the bottom of my purse for loose change, align my body parallel to the floor to push the cart, and head to the cashier. One by one, I load my one hundred pounds of potatoes on the conveyor. They roll around and try to get away, but I corral them in like a juggling sheepdog.

The cashier and bagger are intrigued but too polite to ask. So I keep my face neutral, too. Until it happens.

“That’ll be 98 dollars. Cash or credit?” cashier asks.

I smile and say, “Cash. I only have four quarters, and you can toss my two pennies of change in your jar.” I hold out the quarters and say, ” There’s something wrong with your scale. It’s about 97 dollars over.”

The bagger has, by now, caught all of the potatoes and bagged them up in dozens of plastic bags.

The cashier says, “No, ma’am, it says 98 dollars.”

“Check it for me. How much did you charge me for the potatoes per pound?”

She looks under her glasses at the stub of the printed receipt, breathes through her nose, and finally reports, “98 cents.”

So I go for it. “The sign in produce over the potatoes says they’re a penny a pound.”

“No, ma’am, you must’ve read it wrong. It’s 98 cents a pound.”

“Nope. They’re on some kind of super sale. Look. I took a picture.” And I show her this.

potatoes-for-cheap

Like I said, I pictured doing all of this. And then I visualized Mike shaking his head, blowing his breath out his nose, and saying, “Laur” in his two-syllable way, and it shook me back to reality. It’s a sad reality. But I acknowledge quite an assorted list of things I cannot change (my brother’s mind, dog walkers who refuse to pick up poop, drivers who hang in the left lane) so I threw up my hands and bought coffee instead.

But, people, please. Be careful with decimals. They matter. Misplaced, they are as bad as fake news, alternative facts, false advertising, and not laughing at Melissa McCarthy.

 

How serious must we be?

How serious must we be?

In a dire situation, on a sad day, in a long line, in a boring meeting where the guy beside you is napping and another is playing on his phone, during a stressful final exam–in any situation where it seems everyone else is serious, where it would be politically incorrect to chuckle, guffaw, or even crack a grin…did you ever?

My mind is playful. She thinks of funny connections between ideas. She is immensely entertaining to carry around atop my shoulders. She often tries to send these tidbits to my mouth, and sometimes they escape.

Such events may offend others, and for that I apologize. Perhaps a year ago, some of these random thoughts would’ve been called politically incorrect, but we all know the idea of political correctness has been slain. For an empathetic human, the escape of the funnies may cause embarrassment, regret, or maybe a twinge of guilt.

But later, after careful reflection, just remember that life is a quest for peace. For contentment. We yearn for and despair without the good feelings. And when we are submerged in all-encompassing anger and despair, and when hope seems lost, a subtle reminder to our hearts and minds of goodness, a taste of the sweet, is like a fresh breeze. It brings relief.

So when I obsess on Twitter, and follow a thread to the place where someone I’ve never met simply throws up their hands and spouts humor, I find hope for our species.

Our self-awareness and consciousness gives us a closed loop of think, rethink, look, listen, collect information, hold it up to our opinions, reshape and reanalyze our ideas, and continually mold ourselves. Social media lets us display our self-critique in public, if we are so brave, and our tiny tweets touch others, who react, respond, and send the wave of ideas out in more ripples. (The mathematical web is beautiful.) And then, unexpectedly, in the middle of a battle of good vs bad vs evil vs a blur of human emotion and gut responses, someone is funny. And when that happens, I laugh, and silently thank those brave funny people with a little heart, a click on the favorite, a pat on the back, and encouragement to share.

I periodically check up on (stalk?) a funny woman on Twitter who shares my birthday. She used to be hilarious. Now she is so sad and angry, I worry for her health. I hope she finds a way to laugh until tears wash away her sadness.

A friend told me he saw a play last week that made him laugh for hours. The entire audience roared with glee. Once you laugh, you want more, so the comedy is like a catalytic quip that cracks your stern shell and spills out the need for more and more addictive good feelings. (You are thinking of SNL right now, right?)

This week, try to find some funny. Don’t feel guilty for laughing. You could even BE the funny one.

And to all of my students studying for their exams and frantically trying to meet the homework deadline, have a good weekend.