Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Terror at the Grocery Store

(post copyright 2016, Dawn Weber)

There I stood in front of the door, faced with one of the most important decisions of my life. I was dazed. I was confused.

I was downright scared.

It had all started innocently enough. I'd found a couple hours of unexpected free time, so I stopped to check out the fancy new grocery "marketplace" in town. I had heard the store contained a Starbuck's, a gourmet cheese counter, and -- joy of joys -- a wine bar. Since coffee, cheese and wine are my three main food groups, I was pretty stoked to see what else the place offered.

And it did not disappoint. My jaw dropped as I walked into a building big enough to require a dedicated zip code. At the front of the store, patients checked into a full-size health clinic, while in the cosmetics aisle, a makeup artist gave free makeovers. Add to that a clothing department, a shoe department, plus the aforementioned coffee, cheese and wine, and this place was a middle-aged woman's wildest dream.

But one thing the mega-mart didn't contain? Restrooms. At least, not in the traditional sense.

Now, as some of you who've been around here long enough may remember from years such as 2012, I am somewhat restroom-challenged, especially when it comes to stores. I've merrily and cluelessly walked into the men's room at Walmart not once but twice because every time management remodels the building, which is often, they flip-flop the restrooms, probably so they can stand in front of security cameras and laugh at dummies who don't pay attention. Such as me.

So I've become the type of person who takes extra care in considering my bathroom choices. And as I made my way to the wall marked "restrooms," well, that's when it happened.

I looked to my left.



I looked to my right.

There were two of them, one on each side, and no other options. No ladies' room, no men's room, no "Family" room. Just:


Now, it's not that I'd never encountered a unisex bathroom before. I've seen these single-pot affairs in tiny restaurants or the occasional gas station. However, in a retail store that size, one expects stalls. Lots and lots of stalls.

I turned my head side to side, from unisex bathroom to unisex bathroom.  Like I said, I'd used them before. But surely a business this big contained many commodes -- in the unisex bathroom, I guess? What the hell was I getting myself into? A one-stall wonder? Or a friendly gathering? I didn't know what to do. I pictured myself entering a room full of men at urinals and women on toilets, all pausing from their task to lift a hand and wave "Hello!" as I walked in, a la Norm from Cheers. We'd then proceed to have jolly unisex conversations as we did our business.

But there was no getting around it. I had to pee. Of course I did. As I've said before, I'm a 47-year-old woman who possesses a bladder that's been cheerily pummeled by two fetuses. If I'm awake I have to pee. If I'm breathing I have to pee. Indeed, the situation had reached the point of no return, and I was one sneeze away from disaster there in aisle A-11. I had no idea what I'd find on the other side of either door. Women? Men? Jimmy Hoffa? Well, I thought, this is just the world we live in now. I mean, Donald Trump has been elected president. Clearly, reality is broken.

So I pushed through the unisex bathroom door to find . . .

One toilet. One sink. One lock. It was, thank God, just a standard unisex restroom -- not the big potty party I'd envisioned.

I did my thing, washed up, and went back out to find a large crowd of women and men milling around and looking as worried and confused as I did minutes before. I was going to tell them all that they'd be OK, but then decided, nah. Why ruin the fun?

Though I enjoyed watching them meander about in bewilderment, I didn't stay long. To tell you the truth, after my own alarming adventure I just wanted to sit down -- somewhere other than a toilet.

Yep, I thought, No wonder this place has a bar.

As I walked away, I still couldn't fathom why a superstore large enough to produce its own clouds contained only two tiny restrooms. I had no beef at all with the "unisex" part -- I've never cared who uses what with what apparatus. But I will admit it perplexed me when there were no other facilities, at least in the front of the building. This  type of thing might  happen in California, mister. But here in Ohio, in a store that size, we require a little more guidance, as well as stalls.

Lots and lots of stalls.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Potty-Mouth's Ode to Summer


(post copyright 2016, Dawn Weber)

Hey Summer, why are you leaving?
Summer, please. I beg you. Don't go,
And leave me with old man Winter,
That guy, I tell ya, he blows.

He tries very hard to kill me,
He's a nasty old fart, there's no doubt,
With a heart just as hard as an iceberg,
A soul that's as cold as a trout.

He spits freezing rain at my eyeballs,
He coats the roadways with black ice,
My fingers turn into claws from,
Gripping the wheel like a vise.

His skies are as gray as old ashes,
His trees look dead, leaves are gone,
With views like this out the window,
Really, I think, why go on?

Yet again I must pack up my flip-flops,
Again I will pack up my smile,
I'll put them both inside boxes,
Forget they exist for a while.

Eating becomes a religion,
Our Crock Pots bubble like vats,
Cream cheese turns into a food group,
No wonder we all get so fat.

I hope the shorts inside my closet,
Will fit my big butt in May,
After six months of snacking,
And laying around every day.

What else can you do in the winter?
Except for eat, sleep and sob,
I might as well go into work,
I can be miserable at my job.

But Summer, you are a beauty,
You're steamy, hot, sexy and fun,
You make us want to strip naked,
And burn ourselves brown in the sun.

I'm sorry I cursed you in August,
When the temp was a hundred and four,
See, my ass was stuck to the car seat,
And my arm had been seared to the door.

Still, that's no reason to leave me,
With nothing but wind, ice and snow,
My nostrils froze shut from December till May,
Summer, please. I beg you. Don't go!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Oldsters Avoiding Coasters




(post copyright 2016, Dawn Weber)

The husband and I recently took our children on a trip to an amusement park, or as I like to call it, World's Best Place to Die a Violent Death.

The kids were really stoked to go. I too was excited at the prospect of blowing the better part of our savings account to stand and sweat profusely with hundreds of alarming-looking people in two-hour lines. For 40 second rides.

What fun!

I sound a little bitter, don't I? I'm not sure what happened to me. When I was young, my stomach used to leap at the thought of roller coasters. The very sight of them meant joy! Laughter! Adventure!

My stomach still leaps at the sight of coasters. But these days it's from fear! Nausea! Possible bloodshed!

I guess that's because back in the day, I, like most kids, thought I was invincible. I had no fear of death. Didn't even think about it.

Not so now. As an adult, I devote great swaths of time to thinking about death, worrying about death, and avoiding things that can cause death, such as 67-mph, 170-foot roller coasters.

Nonetheless, my husband and I recently found ourselves staring down exactly that, a giant steel contraption designed to nearly kill us. It was one of the park's newest rides, and our children, the Princess and the Hobo, had rushed to join the throngs already waiting with instructions to text  when they'd finished. I felt a little worried about the kids riding all the insane-looking attractions, but there was no changing their minds. They'd been talking about this trip for the last year. Or two.

The husband turned to me. "What do you want to go on first?"

"How about that one?" I said, indicating a fast-moving circular ride.

He shook his head. "It spins. You know I can't spin -- it makes me throw up. What about this?" he said, pointing.

My eyes followed his finger up, up, way the hell up, to a vertical attraction with a top so high in the sky I couldn't see it.

"No way am I riding something that's covered by clouds," I told him. "What about the Ferris wheel? It's tall, but I can see the top."

He shrugged, said, "OK," and we, the oldsters, joined our fellow oldsters already in line. 

Considering the fact that I've ridden Ferris wheels since approximately age four, it seemed like a safe bet to me.

But alas, no.

The view from the ground had tricked me. Once on the ride, I realized this was one deceiving-looking, pulse-racing, heart-stoppingly tall Ferris wheel. At the top, it stopped and swayed in the wind for what seemed like forever as I looked out across Lake Erie, located Canada, and mightily regretted leaving my anxiety meds in the car.

After 18 light-headed and tragically prescription-free minutes, we'd survived our spin on the oldster wheel and found ourselves back on terra firma. The kids met us at the bottom on the way to another coaster from a list they'd made and told us we were free to go on another ride.

You can imagine my excitement.

"Great," I said. "What now?"

We looked to the left -- spinning rides. We looked to the right -- sky-high rides. We looked straight ahead:  Model T cars creeping along a winding path at a cool 5 mph. Oldster central.

Bingo.

"Want to ride the Model Ts?" he asked.

"I guess," I said, "but I get to drive,"

We ambled over and stood in another long line with dozens more alarming-looking people. It was worth it though, because once in the car, we had a thrilling trip full of many exciting moments, such as driving past fake rocks, and going under a fake bridge.

We climbed out of our fake car, and I realized that this adventure-filled, action-packed morning  had made me hungry. And thirsty.

I turned to the husband. "Where's the old-timey saloon? I mean, it's noon. Almost. Sort of."

Stumbling around in a geezerly fashion, we finally located that staple of every amusement park, that beloved mecca for parents -- the old-West saloon. Texting ensued, and the kids joined us for lunch.

"You guys having fun?" I asked, sipping my ten-dollar, 8-ounce cup of beer.

They nodded. "Only four more roller coasters," said the Princess, "and we'll get to every one on our list!"

I groaned inwardly because, well, math. Four more coasters = four more hours. It could also equal four more beers, but I didn't feel like taking out a second mortgage on the house.

The kids wolfed down burgers as the husband and I consumed our overpriced crappy nachos and Bud Lights.

"See you guys later," said the Hobo. "We'll text when we're done."

"Sounds good," I replied, mentally adding Great spending time with ya!, even though I knew spending time with them at amusement parks = getting dragged onto roller coasters. 

Now, I could tell you that the husband and I then had some kind of inspirational epiphany wherein we decided to run after the kids in a mad-cap, Brady Bunch fashion and go on every death-defying ride with them. I could tell you that, but it would be a lie.

Epiphanies: you've come to the wrong blog.

The truth of the matter is we, the senior citizens, finished lunch, then trundled around the park avoiding coasters, eating overpriced food, and getting into whatever geezer-based activities we could find. Eventually -- and somewhat blessedly -- a major thunderstorm hit, at which time we re-grouped as a family and rushed to the car. At the same time as about 8,000 other people.

I admit it: I was glad to leave. What can I say? As a child, there was no place I'd rather go than an amusement park.

Now, I'd rather go anyplace other than an amusement park.

But you raise your kids, and you do these things.You go to places like amusement parks because you love them and it's a way to spend time together as a family. They grow so fast and you blink and before you know it, they're teenagers who really don't want to be around you anymore. 

So you come up with ways to force them to be around you.

As we sat in traffic, I looked out at the coasters lining the stormy skyline. Part of me felt guilty that we didn't ride all those crazy things with the kids. But hey -- we are not the Brady Bunch. We're the Webers. He vomits and I hyperventilate and that is who we are.

We showed up anyway.

And that's pretty much the definition of family, isn't it? Doing things half of you don't want to do.

Just to make the other half happy.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ma'am This

(post copyright 2016, Dawn Weber)

So there I was, just trying to buy some overpriced chicken fingers, when it happened: the horrible. The terrible. The unthinkable.

"Will that be all today, sir?"

Sir?

Sir?!

SIR??!!!

I peeked down into my shirt. You know, just to be sure.

"Nope," I said, "not a sir."

The cashier's face had already turned bright red. "I am so sorry."

He was a new employee, judging by his shaky hands and the scowling manager behind him. Still inwardly stung, I waved off apologies  because, hey -- I know how it is. I've worn the greasy shoes of fast food myself.

"No problem," I said. "Not a big deal."

Relief washed over his face. "We'll have that up for you in a minute. Can I have your name, please?"

I turned to the drink machine. "Just call me 'Sir.'"

While waiting for my meal, I thought about the whole exchange. I'd been called many things in my day: jerk, idiot and most recently, asshole, thanks to a stranger on vacation.

Here's a fun fact: In some states, pedestrians do not have the right of way, even at marked pedestrian crosswalks. Remember this the next time you're in Hilton Head.

The more you know.



But even though I've been called those awful things and more, I've never, ever -- not once in my whole life -- been called sir.

Ma'am, now, that's another story. Much to my great dismay, I've been in solid ma'am territory for a couple of decades, at least if you believe a particular security guard I see several times a day.

"Morning, ma'am!"

"Afternoon, ma'am!"

"Have a great night, ma'am!"

Ma'am this, pal. You're on thin ice.

With every ma'am he lobs my way, I grow older, I grow angrier. First ma'am of the day? My blood pressure rises and my right eye begins to twitch. Next ma'am -- wrinkles spread, collagen breaks down. Lunchtime ma'am? Osteoporosis. After that, the effects are cumulative, spiraling out of control.

By 5 p.m., I'm a goner.

Because to me, the word "ma'am" is a derogatory gender-based term meaning "Haggard old woman who owns too many cats."  That's why I never call a female ma'am, even when I see one who has clearly gone over Ma'am Mountain. She can be a wrinkled, stooped, gray-haired granny struggling with an extra large bag of Meow Mix in the pet food aisle, and I will not call her ma'am. I will instead ask, "Can I help you with that, miss?" 

You know, after hoisting my own Meow Mix into the cart.

"Sir? Sir?" the cashier called me, grinning sheepishly and interrupting my cat food reverie.

I walked to the counter as he pushed the tray forward. "Sorry about that again," he said. "Thanks for being a good sport."

I nodded and smiled and turned away. Hey. He was giving me food -- he could call me anything he wants.

And sir beats the hell out of ma'am.

Friday, August 26, 2016

OK - You Can Go Back to School Now!


(post copyright 2016, Dawn Weber)

OK you can go back to school now!
Oh crap - did I say that out loud?
For months, I've had no alone time,
One is company, but three's a crowd.

You guys ate your weight in Doritos,
And I tried hard to stock up on Lay's,
Plus those gross Little Debbie snack cakes,
I buy in bulk - and they're gone the next day.

There are zero cups in the cupboard,
They're spread through the rooms far and wide,
You fill them up with blue Gatorade,
Take one sip and then set them aside.

The house is a total disaster,
It looks like a big bomb went off,
But not your average explosion,
Rather, one made of shirts and flip-flops.

The PlayStation's nearly on fire,
You're on it from morning till night,
And though it's the middle of summer,
Your skin tone is Wonder-Bread White.

"There's nothing to do! I'm so bored!"
I hear it again and again,
That's funny - I see a lot that needs done,
Perhaps you need a suggestion.

I'd like to be able to relax,
Maybe sip coffee solo till nine,
And later on, if the day goes right,
I could open a nice box of wine.

Oh yes - couches, coffee and wine,
Those are three of my favorite things,
But thanks to your constant presence,
I haven't indulged since late spring.

I love you both - you're adorable,
I live my whole life for you,
It's just that you're always around here,
I'm not even alone when I poo.

So yeah. You can go back to school now,
You're cute, but you're making me crazy,
There on the couch with your phones in your hands,
Finding new ways to be lazy.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Don't Make Me Come Back From Vacation


(post copyright  2016, Dawn Weber)

Don't make me come back from vacation,
I don't want to! No, you can't force me,
To go back to life as I knew it,
All that stress, and pesky reality.

What's this thing you call an 'alarm clock?'
You have set it for 6 a.m.
It's clear that you have forgotten,
I prefer not to rise until ten.

You say I must go back to work now,
That I have to "bring home the big money,"
You're trying to make me start laughing,
But your joke isn't really that funny.

You tell me I'll need to wear pants,
Which are tight and scratchy and awful,
Who needs that kind of restriction?
Swimsuits are so much more comfortable.

And I'll have to get into a car,
Then drive for an hour in traffic,
For the past week it's only been bicycles,
Or walks on the beach in my bare feet.

At the office there'll be tasks to finish,
Things the boss-man will tell me to do,
But I much prefer doing quite nothing,
I bet that you feel that way, too.

Still, you're saying we can't drink at noon,
And we can't have a Mai Tai for lunch,
A beer even though it's a Tuesday,
Or a nice Bloody Mary for brunch.

At home we cannot buy fresh shrimp,
Or pick oranges right from the tree,
A world without citrus and shellfish?
That ain't no kind of life for me.

And there won't be any more napping
A time set aside just to snore,
But how can one get through the day,
Without sleeping from 2 until 4?

Now I realize I have a mortgage,
And bills which I really should pay,
But couldn't I live in a camper,
At that RV park right on the bay?

Please don't make me come back from vacation,
I promise you things will be just great,
If you go on ahead home without me,
I'll see you up there in a month or eight.

Friday, July 22, 2016

I'm Packing and It's Not What You Think

(post copyright 2016, Dawn Weber)

There are certain words you don't expect to hear together.

“Mm . . . nothing like a good McDonald’s picante sauce packet!”

Those are nine of them.

They came from the cubicle next door. Thinking I'd heard things, I peeked around the wall and saw that my co-worker, Tim, was indeed sucking on a picante sauce packet left over from his breakfast burrito.

You may remember Tim from years such as 2014: my worried-yet-affable, possible zombie co-worker who regularly shouts things like “My skin’s melting off!” and “I think my brain stem just snapped!” After that, nothing he says could really alarm me.

And considering we were at work, sauce packet snacks aren't exactly surprising. The office is a veritable wasteland of sad, rejected food, a place where leftovers go to die a moldy, forgotten death in the communal fridge.

Hey. I do it, too -- I admit it. I eat a lot of questionable things in the office, and no, sadly, that isn't a euphemism for anything. The list of foods -- if you can call them foods -- I’ve consumed in my soul-killing cubicle ranks as nothing short of pathetic. Soggy salad, last week’s donuts, Halloween candy from the Bush administration -- for shit’s sake, I've eaten fruit at work. Now that’s rock bottom.

It's all because I’m a packer.

Yes, as it was in elementary school, so it is now: there are two types of people in this world -- buyers and packers. Buyers tend to have money, while packers generally don't, and I'm a packer from way back-er.

My husband, on the other hand, under the impression that we are the Rockefellers, dines out every day. He is a buyer, and for this, I give him endless grief.

“Well, well, well,” I say, perusing the day’s receipts. “I see you ate lunch out again today.”

He glares at me over his glasses. “I did. What about it?”

“Still. Wendy’s again -- and you bought a large pop,” I say. “What are we, the Kardashians?”

He rolls his eyes. “I had a burger and small fries. That’s not exactly fancy.”

I beg to differ, dear. I beg to differ.

And with the $8.99 he spends at restaurants several days a week, I could purchase any number of depressing food items. Crackers, cans of soup, clumps of grass -- you name it.

Sometimes I wish I could bring myself to buy my meals each day. But it’s been 40 years, and I am too far gone. Inside, I’m still a poor kid from greater Youngstown, and the proverbial steel mill could close at any time as I sit with my soggy peanut butter sandwich in last year’s Scooby Doo lunch box, while the rich kids stroll by with trays full of hot pizza and those amazing chocolate peanut butter bars.

Bastard buyers.

I guess I just can't see spending a mortgage payment on lunch each month when there’s perfectly good leftover green Jello in the fridge from my colonoscopy three weeks ago. I mean, yum.

Once a poor packer kid, always a poor packer kid.

Still, I think fondly of the husband’s delicious Wendy’s burger and fries now as I dine on said Jello, yogurt, and an apple, all of which taste like poverty. Misery. 

Disappointment.

In fact, pass that packet, Tim.

I am starving.