Friday, April 30, 2010

Rise Up, "What-iffers"! The World Needs You

(I'm allowed one semi-serious piece once in a while, aren't I?)

An executive at BP oil, when addressing the recent Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and its resulting oil leak said they would "...take help from anyone" with regard to stopping the spill and containing the now migrating slick.

Rise up, “What-iffers!”  Your time is now! 

For years, we “What-iffers” have been stifled, called “Worry Warts” or “Helicopter Moms,”-- negatives names in order to suppress our catastrophic-izing habits.  But NO MORE! 
Cast aside your anti-depressants; embrace the full power of your “Expect the Worst" worry neuroses!
Our world needs us.

“As an engineer, it bothers me that they didn’t think of the possibility of something like this happening,” my husband, Fred, said the other night about the disaster off the Louisiana coastline. 

I’m not an engineer, but if I REALLY think about what it is they’re DOING out there in the deep, with a mile-long proboscis sucking up oil like a mosquito, it’s not hard to imagine 100 hair-brained, out-of-the-box “What- ifs” that could possibly go wrong.  We have ALL experienced leaky plumbing and pipes that break—imagine the logistics of a pipe 5000 feet long?  If only they'd solicited "What-iffers" to ask the following questions, for example, they might have been more prepared:

Can’t Salt-Water break things down?
Did they ever consider hump-backed whales might pole dance on it?
What if there's an unexplained explosion and the pipeline bends, fooling the fail-safe into thinking it's still supposed to pump?

BP wants our help, so a think-tank of “What-iffer Worriers” could suggest things to assist them like:
1.  Throw something that oil would COAT, but wouldn’t sink, into the slick.  Sponge?  Millions of Paper-towels?
2.  Drop something REALLY heavy down to the ocean floor to stop the leak, like a barge or a giant steel deck.
3.  Sink a gigantic hair-color cap down and pull a draw-string to cover the leak and suppress the oil.
4.  Put a floating "Weber" grill type cap over a controlled burn to filter and clean the toxic smoke before it joins the sky.

Far-fetched?  Yes. Plausible?  Maybe.  To submit your ideas go to: BP Transocean Drilling Incident.

We gifted worriers with wild imaginations can stop calming ourselves with “Oh, they must know what they’re doing,” self-talk when it comes to other modern engineering feats too, and help our world. 

Consider nuclear power plants.  We all know it’s about smashing atoms and lowering the resulting heat with water.  We don’t have to understand the technicalities to think up what might go wrong.  We owe it to our fellow man, our intelligence, our very nature, to speak out and have our crazy ideas be considered.    

They are expanding a bridge near where I live, and my daughter, Krista and I remarked together about why they were using wood to build up the sides and on the foundation.

“Doesn’t wood rot?” my young, “What-iffer-in-Training” asked me.
“Why, YES it DOES!” 

Have they thought of that?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hug a Garbage Collector Today

When my husband Fred married me, he agreed to “Love, kill all bugs that scare me and take out the trash once a week.”  Our village-issued giant dumpster makes life simpler, yet one fated Thursday, Fred left early, and, against his sacred vows, didn’t put out the garbage.

“That’s o.k.,” I said, “It’s still really cold outside.”  This statement backs up my basic philosophy that winter serves only ONE good make sure my garbage stays frozen.

Sometime during the following “Second Week of Rot,” raccoons, opossum, and rats lined up outside my house, on their hind legs with little knives and forks in their “rodenty” paws, begging for access to the fermenting chicken carcass and fridge-rejected vegetables stored in “Dumpster from Hell,” I dreamt. 

“YIKES!!”  I awoke the next garbage morning to the sound of the sanitation truck pulling away, while my dumpster stood rumbling with noxious gases still in my garage.  I raced down the street in my pajamas, pulling the 90-gallon beast like a mad ox towing an 800 lb. plow, calling “Come Back, PLEEASE!”  Fred (this time blameless) was out of town.

On the third week, things got even worse.  The recent warm temperatures coaxed “All Things Wicked and Rotten” to spawn inside my trash container.  Fly larvae spontaneously multiplied, came to life and buzzed menacing.  There were nightmare noises coming from INSIDE the bin and around my house there was a green glow like a 1980s CRT screen.

“I missed our trash pick-up, is there anything I can do?”  I asked our public works clerk.
“Yes.  Wait until next Thursday.” 
But it smells!!”  I cried.

I did find a few options:

Plan A.:  With the power lines marked by power, water and gas personnel, and toxic waste suits donned, we would have to dig in secret, by night, like a grave-yard worker...or a suited-up ground hog, and bury it.

Plan B.: Take it to another area of the village that has a Tuesday pick up, find a friendly person who wouldn’t mind having “Putrid” at the end of their driveway for the day, and then retrieve it later, hopefully “Maggot-free”. 

This morning, seagulls swooped above me as I pushed the dumpster, now swirling with flies like a cyclone, to the road wearing gloves and a scarf over my mouth.  The sight of the garbage truck driving towards me made me fall to my knees and weep.  As its gigantic arm poised to accept my offering, I blew the driver kisses.

I bet he gets that a lot. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mo Rocca, Shame and Airline Bathrooms...Oh MY!

Returning from the Erma Bombeck Humor Writer’s Workshop in Dayton, Ohio, I was assigned my very first front row plane seat. Like a kid who just got a triple-scoop ice cream cone and the means with which to eat it dribble-free, I beamed. Good fortune was sure to follow me today.

My luck-cup bubbled and spilled over when comedian Mo Rocca of CBS Sunday Morning sat next to me. "Play it COOL, Heidi," I coached myself. I nonchalantly opened a book I purchased at the workshop. He would recognize it, realize we’d both been at the Erma festivities, and ask my opinion. I would then say something SO HILARIOUS, so hilarious, that he would beg me for my blog address.

“Someone in the first two rows is going to have to move to the BACK of the plane--we’re “Nose” heavy,” the flight attendant announced.

No one moved.

I feel it necessary to point out at this point that although I am a plus-sized woman, I am not “Jabba the Hut,” or "circus tent attraction" big. But, as the unanswered request loomed, of the 8 of us in the first two rows, I was the girl “Most Likely to Weigh down the Nose of a Plane.”

“OH, I’ll do it!” I blurted when I couldn’t stand the pressure one...more...second. “It was just a fluke that I was sitting here anyway!” I began awkwardly gathering my stuff. No “Mo Encounter of the Close Kind” for me, I thought.

Then I couldn't get my seat belt unbuckled. Seriously. I became quietly frantic.

“Mommy, the Airplane Nose Weigher-Downer is thrashing in her seat!” I heard children announce with glee, as if they’d just seen “Bongo the Gorilla” peel a banana with his toes. They gawked at me and clutched at their parents, mouths open in amazement. I felt up the arm rest for the eject button or maybe a trap door... to escape through... and die, when finally, I sprang free.

I took the “Walk of Shame” down the narrow aisle to the back of the plane, wincing, imaging what the fellow passengers were thinking:

“Did she try to sneak into First Class?”
“Is the plane going to “pop a wheelie” now that she’s in the BACK of the plane?”
“Please don’t sit here.”

Creating a spectacle and redistributing the weight of the airplane weren’t my only jobs on this flight. I was kept very busy in my new seat, next to the lavatory, answering questions from passengers who couldn’t get the bathroom door to open, or who wanted to know where their used paper products should go. I, of course, didn’t dare use the bathroom. I might have caused the plane to a roll.