True stories with a twist!

JURY DUTY

It’s a privilege not all countries offer their citizens. In our great fortune, our country  does offer this privilege.

So why, when someone gets notice of jury duty the first thing they want to do is “get out of it?” People try obtaining Doctors’ notes with excuses such as, “She cannot serve on jury duty because the hangnail on her left thumb is under strict observation for signs of infection.” These jury duty escapees attempt being excused because they are desperately needed somewhere else.

Anything in their lives is more important than serving on a jury.

“Too busy.” “Conflict.” “ Not now; I have a headache,” oops, that last excuse is for getting out of something else.     

Once I was called for Jury Duty and, having never encountered the experience before, went to serve on my assigned day and time. I would be a good citizen and fulfill my proper citizenly responsibility. And I would surely learn valuable life lessons to boot!

All prospective jurors were seated in black metal folding chairs in a large empty auditorium, waiting to be told what to do and where to go. In front of the room were three fully armed police officers, pacing up and down the aisles. That gave a rather less than welcoming feeling to a room of well-intentioned citizens there to support our free society. At 9 o’clock A.M. sharp, a spokesperson addressed us.

‘You are required to stay seated until you’re called. If your name is called please rise and follow me. Otherwise, stay seated where you are now. There will be an hour break for lunch at noon, and you will return here until dismissal time, 4 o’clock.” This message was delivered in blunt and unnecessarily cold tones. I felt more like a prisoner of the state than a law abiding citizen willingly and freely serving my civic duty.

My name had not been called yet, so I settled back and looked around to discover that I was among interesting but odd company. The man to my right kept gnawing at his left index finger. I wished I had a cuticle clipper and an emory board to offer him so he would stop that annoying crime against the defenseless cuticle. I shifted my gaze to the woman on my left. she had a motion thing going on with her leg. She sat with the right leg crossed over the left and relentlessly elevated that right leg up and then dropped it down;  down; up and down and up. A choreographic symphony was going on in my very row. And it was making me dizzy. No matter how hard I tried I could not make the swinging leg stay still. And I couldn’t ignore it; I tried to avert my eyes, but it swung endlessly. The person in front of me was busy texting. She must have had a clever co-texter, because she kept bursting out in a high pitched cackle, indicating her amusement with her electronic pen-pal. Someone directly behind me was heartily chewing gum and snapping it in my ear. After a while I was dizzy from the swinging leg, deaf from the snapping gum and repulsed by the finger-munching molester. And that action was just from my co-jury pool of people. The presiding officers were intimidating, scary and nightmarish.

After all those hours my name was never called.  I was forced to sit in that one place all day. When it was finally dismissal time, I left gratefully, hoping that I would never again be called to serve on jury duty; civic duty be damned.

D is for Disney

Disney: a name that lights up the eyes of youngsters and lightens the wallets of adults.

We’ll make childhood fantasies come true and take the family on a Disney cruise.

Violet, 3, asks, “Can I bring “Piggy?”

Big brother, Sebastian, 5, asks, “Will pirates come on our ship?”

Xander, bigger brother, 7, wonders, ”Can we eat hot dogs every day?”

Matthew, eleven, asks, “do they have an ice hockey rink?”.

Younger brother, David, 9, says, “Can I eat all the free ice cream cones I want?“

Twin sister, Julia, asks, “Will I meet Cinderella?”

As we board the ship, we notice a few adults, and children, children, children every where. Surely there have never, in the history of the world, been so many children together in one place. They’re jumping, running and screaming. The adults look befuddled, confused and uncertain.

A honey toned voice coos us inside. As we walk from one area to another, a staff member offers each of us a pop-up, pre-moistened, antibiotic infused towel. We are now fit for Disney: cleansed, sanitized, deloused.

“Hi!” a cheery voice says to our group, “So happy to meet you. I’m Mary Lou. Let me show you to your rooms. What adorable children,” she says, with a smile the size of a crescent moon.

“Here is your room, sweetie,” she gushes to the youngest family members. “Isn’t is perfect? Mommy and Daddy will be right next door.”

To the next oldest children she ecstatically announces, “Your room has three beds and a bathroom all to yourselves. Your parents will be right through this door.”

Finally, she croons to us as she leads us to our quarters next to the others, “You can have privacy but still be near those darling children.”

She sounds as if she is announcing our winning the lottery. I never saw such ecstasy in the plebeian act of showing guests to their rooms. Her satisfaction is practically orgasmic.

We unpack and report to the dining room for lunch. “Welcome, welcome. We are so happy to see you,” another happy staffer gushes as if we were old roommates.

We are seated and Violet spills her glass of milk. Before anyone can react a cheerful staffer swoops upon us with, “Oh, honey, don’t worry. It’s alright; we’ll clean this up and get you another glass of milk.” And the new offering appears before a tear can even think of emerging.

“I don’t like this menu,” complains David, our terribly sophisticated, opinionated nine year old gourmet. At home he’d be told: That’s what’s for lunch. Eat it or wait for dinner.” But not on a Disney trip.

“That’s OK.” says our waiter. “Come with me and I’ll show you the whole kitchen. The cook will make you anything you like.”

Is this place for real? Who could live up to this kind of attitude or attention at home? 

At the pool comes a confrontation. Xander has a special fondness for his shark patterned bathing suit and wants to wear it everywhere, poolside or not. “Xander, put on something reasonable,” his parents demand. Suddenly a dulcet voice from nowhere croons, “That’s a great and very scary bathing suit. Let’s put this jacket on top, so the shark doesn’t get cold.” Score another point for Disney.

“Come on, buddies, let’s all go and watch the parade”  suggests a Pied Piper wannabe suddenly appearing before us. The children jump up and follow, sublimely anticipating the appearance of their favorite cartoon heroes.

“Where’s Cinderella?” asks Julia. “Come here and you can shake hands with her,” warmly offers yet another Disney disciple. Julia is overcome with excitement.

“Where are the pirates?” Sebastian challenges. “Oh” says a staffer who must be an agent for the Pirates’ Union, “that’s a special surprise. Shhhh; don’t tell anyone,” he says, as he takes hold of Sebastan’s hand. In the next instant we are under attack from a pirate ship. Sebastian shrieks with delight and fear, as the patch eyed pirate approaches. “Take this,” says the staffer, and hands him a toy sword.

But his little sister, Violet, is unhappy. She announces her distress with ear splitting screams. “I don’t want to take a nap.”

How do children keep from rupturing their own eardrums with their loud screaming? Mine are just about gone!

But sugar coated Disney gal approaches with a Disney promise.

”Children who take naps right now will dream of Mickey Mouse. Of course you want to see him, don’t you?” And just like that, Violet approaches nap time with a smile of anticipation.

These Disney folks are all so happy, cheerful and sweet that it just isn’t normal. It isn’t real. In fact it is becoming quite irritating. I don’t believe this over-happy, overly sweet world they’re perpetuating.

Oh, how I long for just a smidgeon of sarcasm. A smattering of selfishness, A degree of dissatisfaction. I can’t take much more of all this sweetness and endless understanding.

How I long for one honest grumbling, grouchy, irascible someone just like the dear folks at home! When that happens I will finally be able to put my feet up on a soft, cushy ottoman and let out a big sigh of relief.

PET PEEVE

I close the clasp on the pin that would convert an ordinary sweater IMG_1971.jpeginto an interesting one.

Now I am ready to go to my book club meeting to discuss the classic, “The Good Earth” by Pearl Buck, which our book club chose to discuss at this month’s meeting. Although most of us read the book years ago, we decided to compare our school-aged impressions with our adult ones.

I find the the book to be beautifully written, telling a compelling story, and populated with interesting characters with questionable motivations. I am looking forward to the discussion.

We arrive at our hostess’ house at 2P.M. and greet each other before today’s hostess, our moderator, begins the discussion. Once it begins there will be no small talk: nothing but book talk. But first, before the meeting there is nothing but small talk.

“Hi, Bethany; where in Cape Cod did you stay?”

“Steph, how’s the new grand baby?”

“Nora,what’s going on with your kitchen renovations?”

Then Sandy says to me, “What a pretty pin. Is it new?”

 

Unknowingly her question, ”Is it new,” touched a hot button.

Why do people ask if something is new as an addendum to a 

compliment? Is it better if it’s new? Does it matter when I bought it? 

Would they like me to verify the purchase date by seeing a copy of 

the sales slip?

Why can’t a compliment stand alone?

If I am introduced to my son’s girlfriend, would I say, “She seems very nice; is she new?”

Or a friend’s hair color. “It’s very becoming; is it new?”

Does anyone ask a middle aged man if “she is new?” when he’s introducing his trophy wife?

So why do they ponder my pin?

I guess I just don’t understand human inquisitiveness. It seems to be a standard question that people ask when admiring something.

When we moved into our new house recently a stream of friends came over to see it. A particularly close friend noticed the new table in our dining room. 

What do suppose she asked?

She said to me, “That’s a beautiful table. Is it old?”

RUSSIAN CHILD

BYE BYE, GOODBYE,” my grandson said to me as I was leaving his house. That simple farewell ignited wonderfully fond memories.

It was back in the 70’s, when Russia first allowed their citizens to emigrate to the west and to  freedom. I was offered a job teaching English to a small group of newly arrived Russians to our community.

Although my training was in speech pathology and not in ESL (English as a Second Language), helping people learn to speak our language was not a far stretch, and I accepted the challenge.

I didn’t know any Russian, but was able to speak and to teach English with the help of pictures and using simple sentences. 

The determination of those wonderful people to learn our language and become part of the community was heartening, and their progress went along admirably.

I took them shopping to familiarize them with our stores. They told me afterward that they were terribly uncomfortable with all the selections on display. If someone wanted a pair of curtains for example, they were overwhelmed with dozens of colors, patterns and sizes available in our stores. “In Russia,” they said, “There might have been one or two to choose from. Nobody had ever imagined there were so many kinds of curtains in the whole world. How can anybody ever make a decision?”

One couple had a four year old daughter, Svetlana; an adorable child with long dark hair and a charming demeanor. They brought her to all the classes. She spoke snippets of English, including greetings like “Hello” and “Thank You.” But with a twist of her own style. images-3.jpeg

Each time she prepared to leave the classroom she cheerfully said me, 

“Bye-Bye, Goodbye“.

I was so charmed by her that I started saying “Bye Bye, Goodbye” to my own family members at the end of our get-togethers.

Svetlana’s mother, Julia, also adopted an endearing way of expressing her opinion of living in the United States. She often said, 

“Very do I love this country!”

How could anyone tell a person that her sentence structure was incorrect? That her adverb was in the wrong place? Her sentiment was so sweet: so genuine. I loved the sincerity it expressed. Julia spoke from the heart, whether or not her sentence structure was correct.

And so I say to you: 

Very did I love those people, and very do I hope their adjustment to America was successful.   images-6.jpegimages-6.jpeg

THE CONCERT

They always do it; they do it every time. And I always fall for it.

Advertisements for the concert said, “Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.” I love that piece of music,  and so quickly bought two tickets, and anxiously awaited the date of the performance. 

I remember the first time I heard that concerto. I was a teen-ager, watching the Johnny Carson show on television with my parents. A pianist, not a violinist, was a guest on the show, and played that beautiful piece of music. I was mesmerized! It was one of the most beautiful themes I had ever heard. I hummed it for days afterward.

Dah DAH duh Da DAH duh, Duh DAH-Duh-DAH-Duh DAH. Can you hear it?

Then came the day that I heard the piece actually played on its rightful musical instrument, The Violin. 

The Violin Concerto by Mendelssohn has been a favorite since that moment. So when I heard that the theater in my own town, The Mayo Center for the Arts, was going to perform it I immediately bought tickets. We waited and waited for the night of the performance, and then waited some more. 

Finally, as is usually the case, the date arrived. My husband and I excitedly arrived at the theater door, tickets in hand, excitement and anticipation spilling over.

The musicians trickled out onto the stage and took their seats on stage, accompanied by their instruments. Then came one of my favorite sounds: the tuning of instruments. Each musician plays his instrument to the same note as the others, creating a wonderful blend of tuneless sounds. They then exercise fingers while awaiting the arrival of the First Violinist and finally, The Conductor. 

The conductor was a charming gentleman from Russia. He began the program by addressing the audience and warning them that the first piece they had chosen to play might be difficult to understand. “If you are the kind of person who tries to understand music,” his advice was, “Don’t! Because if you do, you’ll be wrong anyway!”

If I thought the Mendelssohn piece was about to be performed I was wrong. As wrong as those in the audience trying to interpret the conductor’s message and understand the selection we were about to hear. 

First we sat through strange, indecipherable sounds which were quite grim. The introductory remarks were: “This piece takes place on an island off the coast of Finland. Many years ago an insane asylum existed on that spot, which was later turned into a hospital for terminally ill patients.”

What an uplifting scene he created! He warned, “if you would like to visit the island and enjoy some sunshine, plan your trip for the two days a year that the island actually has some sun!” Naturally, after the conductor’s charming introduction, we knew we would not be treated to a cheerful, happy and uplifting piece of music.

The lights dim. The audience quiets. The inevitable warning to shut electronic devices and unwrap noisy cellophane wrappers is delivered. The concert is beginning and we think we are ready for the performance. Then the auditory assault begins.

The music is insane! Cymbals crash, drums roll, horns screech. Is there a theme to this music? It sounds like an atonal, dyspeptic conglomerate of noise. What happened to the beautiful violin concerto we paid to hear?

No wonder the organizers of the evening’s program put that piece on the program first. A captive audience such as the one there that night might be the only audience willing to sit through such a headache-inducing, noisy, unpleasant sound fest.

The moral of the story must be that a little suffering is necessary before receiving the rewards of hearing what you paid to hear. Is that a philosophy of life or the reality of marketing? Is it a way to present unpopular music to unsuspicious music lovers?

As the beautiful strains of music of the Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto filled the theater, I took a deep breath of pleasure. Then I thought, “ This is so beautiful: exactly what I was looking forward to hearing. 

But still, I thought that there was an enforceable law against false advertising. 

Dead. It was dead and could not be revived. So there I was, alone in the middle of Franklin Street, stuck and not knowing what do. My cell phone didn’t work either. I felt totally helpless, unable to contact anyone about my dire, disastrous dilemma. 

That’s when a police car pulled up beside me. Flashes of headlines declaring police brutality flashed before my eyes, along with kindergarten teachings, “Policemen are our friends!” Which of those opposing truths were true?

Oh, where is my common sense when I need it? Where are the years of learning and wisdom I’ve collected through trying times? Where’s my mommy?

images-8.jpeg“Are you alright?’’ He asked. 

“I’m all right,” I answered, “but my car isn’t. I can’t make it move.”

The heroic policeman, traveling all by himself without a backup, bravely opened his car door and approached my car. I may have been slightly fearful, after reading news headlines lately, but imagine how scared he might have been: What if I were hiding a dangerous firearm behind the dashboard and drawn it before he had a chance to protect himself from my murderous inclinations? Heaven forbid,I might have gunned him down before he was able to reach for his gun. 

How could he have known what dangers he might have faced when he confidently walked toward my stranded car? I might have just robbed a bank and been desperate to escape before being caught. Or maybe I was hiding a body in the trunk of the car. Maybe there were fabulous stolen diamonds under the floor-mat: you never could tell.

Despite my over- active imagination, the policeman kindly , considerately  and single handedly pushed my ailing car toward the curb. There at the curb I was out of danger of being run down by an oncoming garbage truck making its rounds, or a bright red car- racer being wildly and uncontrollably driven by a drug-induced person intoxicated with his mistaken sense of road-ownership.

The kind policeman offered to call my husband with his own cell phone, since mine was inoperable. A road repair was arranged. The policeman left me to attend a policeman-type meeting, the battery was recharged, and everyone lived happily. ever after.images-7.jpeg

Moving about without restrictions or burnt out car batteries is a thing of beauty and something to be aware of and appreciated. Policemen are our friends!

What would it feel like to be under house arrest? To be sentenced to remain confined within your house indefinitely? It has been done before, both in reality and in fiction. A recent true life example is the leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, images-2

and the fictional hero of the  best selling novel by Amor Towles, A Man in Moscow, Alexander Illyich Rostov.

Being confined to home means to never to have the privilege of dashing out for a quart of milk, a loaf of bread, a gallon of Rocky Fudge ice cream. You’d never have the opportunity to see a neighbor at the produce department, learn about sales prices for the week, or have the pleasure of pushing around a rickety old cart with squeaky wheels turned in opposite directions. 

If you are not free to go to the grocery store, who is supposed to do the shopping? Does the confinement mean that someone else will do all the shopping and the meal preparation? images-5And will they clean up too? And take out the garbage?

Think of all you could accomplish without distractions of any kind: you could pay all your bills in time, address birthday cards to rarely seen nieces and nephews, order unusual items from bizarre catalogues. Buy stuff, look at it, try it on and send it back. Or you could become a record-breaking best selling author, granting interviews from the privacy of your enforced ecosystem. 

You’d have time to try all those recipes you’ve been cutting out of newspapers and magazines all these years. You might even write your own cook book, “Rescued Recipes from A Defunct Life.”

You’d have the time to read as many of those newspapers and magazines as you wished, although being so well informed wouldn’t do you too much good if you were forced to stay home, never having the chance to demonstrate your range of knowledge. There’d be nobody with whom you could debate the important issues of the day.images-4

Does being under house arrest mean you can’t have visitors? Not even a sparring partner to argue points about the information you’ve gathered from all your reading? What about telephones and computers: would you be allowed to use them, or is all communication with outside world out of limits to you? Can you open your door and get a breath of fresh air, shoo the troublesome chipmunks eating your garden, or wave to a neighbor?

Who pays the bills? And where does the money come from? Surely not from the secret slush fund you’ve been hiding. Hopefully nobody has found out about that!

As I ponder this question and all the other question it arouses I must conclude that  until my questions are answered I strongly state that I refuse to be under house arrest. Have their people meet with my people and work it all out.

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