Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Spiderman

It is well-known to my family and friends my hatred of spiders. It all began inutero when a large, black spider with long front-legs, ran over the foot of my mother, then 9 ½ months pregnant with my twin brother and I. The scream she let out peeled paint, froze ice cubes and permeated the walls of her swollen womb and into the psyche Ever since then, all 8-legged creepers I encounter must be destroyed.

One of my prerequisites for a suitor/husband was in his successful ability to command bug defense. Fred seemed up to the task, but didn’t realize the scope of my phobia until one day, pre-engagement, when his parents visited my house. At Fred’s prodding, I pulled out my portfolio in the basement to show them some of my work, when I reached in and felt something soft. I opened the zipper wider and realized I’d touched a live, quarter-sized Wolf Spider.

“AHHHHHAHHHAHHAHHAHHAHAHHHAHA” I squirmed, hopped and ran straight up in the air. Blood curdled, rafters shuttered and my now father-in-law said, rattled,

“How do you put up with that?” to Fred, who was looking for a shoe to smash it with.

Fred killed that I married him.

Because Fred has to live with an arachnophobe, he has to do things a little carefully. Once, there was a spider on my shirt and as he and I were talking, I noticed he was making eye-contact with my shoulder.

“Now, don’t freak out,” he said, leaning forward.

Who doesn’t freak out when someone says, “Don’t freak out?”


That emergency was well handled. The latest one was not.

While driving in our car this past weekend, listening to my daughter Krista read out-loud facts from the “Guinness Book,” I saw, peripherally, Fred’s hand shudder, then flick-swipe something

What did you just do?”

“I felt a tickle,” Fred said.

“And you flicked it at ME?” I immediately and frantically started brushing my pants off, wrists waving in a frenzy.

“What was it? What WAS it?”

“A.... spi...der.” Fred squeaked out, teary, red-faced now, laughing.

Presently Krista screamed, “It’s on the steering wheel right above the cancel button!!”

Fred hit at it and it dropped to the floor.

“It’s dead now,” he offered.

“Bring me it's head.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Flight Attendant Instructions We WANT to hear

My recent series-of-unusual-actual events during a flight inspired the following concepts.

Aren’t we all sick of listening to flight attendants flatly demonstrating stuff we already know while on board a flight? Don’t we all get it by now? Aren’t there things you’d rather know about?

Scenario 1: You sit by a stranger and immediately open your reading material, using the polite, “Don’t talk to me, I’m busy” etiquette. The man next to you starts talking...non-stop. You fantasize, as he drones, about pretending you’re deaf, mute and/or blind. You wish you’d packed Limburger Cheese in your purse, to take out and gnaw on and use big “H” words like, “HOOOOOOOWW did you manage that?” or “HOOOOWWDY, pardner” in his direction. You turn your head towards him with a glazed, drooping eyelid, dopey-look, yet nothing deters the barrage of verbiage. You’re forced to listen and unwillingly communicate, when all you want to do is read...your....BOOK!

Flight Attendant Instructions to the rescue:

“Welcome aboard flight 1313. If there is a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the panel above you. Also, if you prefer to relax, uninterrupted and you’re seating with a “talker,” push the “Attendant” button and a piece of duct tape will drop from the panel above you. Attach it to the “talker’s” mouth (demonstrate).”

Scenario 2: You’re sitting a few rows from a mother with a squalling, wiggly baby. Minutes after take off, the noise pollution ceases, and air pollution commences. Nauseating smells from the now defecating infant rise above the seats and seep out the forced air spigots above you. You ‘will’ the mother to change the diaper, yet the nearest lavatory is near the front of the plane. You imagine the offending odor wafting through the keyhole of the cockpit, confusing and distracting the flight crew. They remove their hands from the controls, flailing their arms, screaming, “What’s that smell?” The nearest airport is wise to the alarm and creates an international distress call. The crisis that occurs due to the raw, awful nature of the “Pouch of Poo” is apocalyptic.

I have to give credit to Fred—this next one was his idea.

Flight Attendant Instructions to the rescue:

“The exit signs are clearly marked (point). There is an instruction sheet in the back of the seat in front of you, describing our aircraft. Also in the seat in front of you is a bag to put your smelly baby in. It has tight elastic that fits (demonstrates by stepping into a sample, pulling it up) under your child’s arm pits, allowing ample room for wiggling. This will enable full, unrestricted movement, while passengers nearby can admire your child, odorlessly.

Scenario 3: You’re still getting an earful from “talker,” and a noseful from baby-stinks-a-lot and the guy in front of you wants to recline. Your senses monopolized and your legs losing circulation, you look pleadingly at the flight attendant for assistance.

Flight Attendant Instructions to the rescue (again):

“Your seat can be used as a floatation device. It can also be used as a Megaphone. Reach underneath your seat (demonstrate) and into the mouthpiece scream, “Sit up, you thoughtless jerk, or I’ll use the baby bag and duct tape on you!”

Monday, May 11, 2009

Only the Awful Photographers Need Apply

One of my birthday gifts this year was a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get my new driver's license. Despite it being a “people watcher’s” paradise, full of citizens large and small, Spanish, deaf or Amish (who have to register their buggies), I dread it. I know I’m in for one of those awful, fun-house, nose-growing, eyebrow-uniting wretched pictures...again. I am not vain, but if I’m going to show a picture of myself, even to strangers, I’d rather it be flattering.

I have a long history of awful license pictures, beginning with my first sweaty picture at age 16. I was so self-conscious about it that, months later, I cut it in half and paid for a replacement. Another Heidi ‘gem’ was when I was photographed saying the “W” in the word “Wait!” But my personal favorite--the one where I looked like a female impersonator, I managed to keep for what seemed like decades, thanks to years of mail-in-renewal ‘privilege’.

Generations of bad driver’s license photos exist in my family and friend's wallets too. There was:

ET- the Extraterrestrial - made famous by my mother who tried to cover up her double chin with a turtleneck sweater all the way up to her ears.

Prison Inmate Shot - that was Dad, back when they made you take your glasses off for the picture. Just when he was trying to focus...*click*.

White Wolf - Grandma’s turn. Then I her 70s, somehow her tightly perm-ed white-blond hair was flat in the middle and pointy on both sides. Those DMV clowns even managed to make her nose looked dark.

“You look like ‘sheeet’. You no show nobody” – A line actually said to a friend of mine when he showed his license to a late-night, Pakistani liquor store clerk.

The employees at the DMV don’t even TRY to make the pictures nice. They don’t say “Cheese” before “huh?” *click*. How about letting us bring in our own photos--or at least photograph us from above with a fan blowing our hair? I don’t think they want us to look good. I think when the doors are locked, after hours, they gather all the photographs for the day, print them, yearbook style, and call it “The DMV Comic Book.”

And they sit and they laugh.

To make the DMV experience here in Wisconsin ‘root-canal’ fun, they require height and weight information on the front of your license. There is no WAY I am ever putting down my real weight. Either I’m going to increase my height to 7’6, or ‘fudge” a couple dozen pounds less then I truly am. I filled in my dream weight and went up to the counter, guiltily looking for a scale they would most certainly use to double-check my accuracy. But instead, I blurted out:

“I just ate a big breakfast and I’m retaining water.”

As it turns out, he never questioned me. Apparently, the ‘weight guessing’ pros are all employed at carnivals.

Thank God

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Amish, Skunks or Statue Models...take your pick

Fred got laid-off yesterday. After the initial jab, jab, stomach punch of being “let go”, “separated” or “eliminated” (whatever the verbiage), the right-hook, undercut is going home with a car full of plants and boxes and telling your wife and family.

Fred had reason to be anxious on that long drive home--I am not known for my rational, non-reactions. Instead of panicking or cracking not-very-helpful jokes, I was eerily stable. Maybe I was, for a moment, a computer hard-drive that froze and needed rebooting—immobility of mind and mouth born of shock. Maybe I knew we were not alone, as I hear every day of thousands of others who have lost their jobs too. Whatever the reason, for once, I was exactly the kind of wife Fred needed me to be: calm, supportive and not at all feisty. I’m sure Fred was wondering, “Who are you?”

But today I want to actively help. My inner-survivor has already tossed about in bed, dark-circled my under-eyes and come up with some solutions to our pending financial crisis:

1. Buy and ride a horse

Other than the expense of the animal, food, quarters and necessity for a REALLY good sports-bra, this could be beneficial in many ways. No emissions issues, no dependence on foreign oil, biodegradable waste products which might be valuable to local farmers (idea of selling POO tabled for another blog).

2. Then there's always....Scientific Experimentation

College towns are full of research companies and biology departments anxious to inject or mess with 'live' human bodies. My son David recently attempted to earn a fast $1,000 in this manner. He told me, and I said, “Are you CRAZY?” But after some consideration, the virtues of helping mankind might override the short tail or horns I might grow taking some approved-for-mouse-use product or drug. Fred might object to something that would deepen my voice or sprout hair on my chest but aside from that--I’m in.

3. Consider Amish Conversion

Amish are native to parts of Wisconsin. Some of what I know about them comes from movies like Witness and Weird Al’s parody Amish Paradise. They also make a heckuva sour-dough cinnamon bread. The idea of self-sufficient community isn’t all that repulsive. You don’t have to worry about picking out an outfit or hair-dye. You know where your kids are and where your meat comes from. Although a probable feminist’s hell, and possible deal-breakers including shunning, no electricity and quilting parties, Fred might find the requirement of female obedience refreshing. “Who art THO?” Fred might think, stroking a yet-to-be-grown beard.

4. Dinner at Heidi’s: It’s Road-kill Surprise

It’s also not a bad way to drop some weight and get back in shape either. Who would ask for seconds of “Possum Stir-fry” or “Skunk Tacos”? Highways would be cleaner and gathering dinner with our Pacifica/“Animal Hearse” would be a novel family activity:

“There! I see one. Fred, I’ll fight off the crows while you get the casserole dish! Krista, honk once if you see a DNR vehicle.”

If all else fails I could look for a....

5. Rubenesque ‘Lawn Statue’ Modeling Job