The Winking Trap

I winked at someone last night. It was harmless. Nothing will come of it, except, you know, the obvious. The trap.

Going to Staples at 9:30pm on a Wednesday is hardly what I would call a good time, but there I was, selecting binders and 3-hole paper for a project that was just assigned to me – due the next morning after having had languished on my boss’ desk for weeks. I needed CDs, too. I hate shopping for any kind of technology, the choices are overwhelming, and my ignorance, mired in a lack of interest, leaves me wide-eyed and slack-jawed in the aisles.

He came to my assistance unbidden. When I feel like a moron I typically like to be left alone but there he was, a diminutive man asking me if I needed read/write or read only and then nodding professionally as he handed me a stack of CDs. My problem was solved, my angst alleviated, and then he was gone.

I paid for my supplies and walked out of the store, pausing when I got to the sidewalk. “I’ll send a letter to his manager,” I thought. “Service like that deserves to be acknowledged.” I turned and went back into the store. I took a cursory walk thru the aisles but my hero was nowhere to be found. I returned to the cashier. “There’s a man who helped me in the technology section,” I said. “Do you know his name?”

“Was he Hispanic?” she asked. The question gave me pause. Was that racist? Was the fact that she was black make it un-racist? Did my being Caucasian make me racist? I pulled myself together. “Yes, he was,” I said. “And very friendly.”

“That’s Rubin,” she said. “Wait, was he wearing a shirt like mine?” she tugged on the hem of her red shirt.

“Yes, he was,” I said. “He’s not a tall man… I’m going to send a note to the manager, to tell him how helpful Rubin was,” I said, as I grinned and winked.

That’s how it happened. That was the wink. And now I have to live with the consequences of that wink, the certainty that I’ve set into play a stream of winks that will plague me until it’s replaced by some other involuntary twitch – maybe the horrendous thumbs-up or the damning finger gun with the corner of the mouth ‘chitk-chitk’. The good habit of thanking people for commendable service has let loose the bad habit of asinine gestures and verbal emissions. It’s not fair that it took years to develop the good habit and mere moments to unleash the bad. Moreover, it’s not fair to the Rubins of the world. I simply can’t afford to be trapped like this. It’s just not worth it to be appreciative.

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A Frog to Remember

“Tell me you seriously don’t remember.”

Stacy is sitting in a lawn chair on the deck of her three-story townhouse, looking out at the colorful autumn leaves in the woods. Breaking her gaze is the banister of the railing, even more so, the two foot high resin frog sitting there.

“You are actually telling me that you don’t know where I got that thing,” Stacy says, jutting her chin toward the frog.

“Yes, I am. What’s the big deal?” Karen asks. She’s visiting from Fort Lauderdale, grateful for Stacy’s guest bedroom and the chance to sit outside in the cool air of Charlotte in October. “You going to tell me?”

Stacy raises an eyebrow and looks at Karen. “How long have you been divorced now?” she asks.

“Two and a half years,” Karen answers, involuntarily wrinkling her nose. “What does Thomas have to do with it? Wait, I know, Thomas looks like a frog.”

“Rude,” Stacy says. “No, I’m talking about how that frog got there.”

“Did he give it to you? Figures he’d give you something. He never gave me anything. Except now, now he gives me alimony, child support, and grief. Other than the grief I’d say I’m getting a better deal than you got with that damn frog,” Karen says.

“Bitter much?” asks Stacy. “No, your in-laws gave that frog to y’all. For a wedding present.”

“Really? I don’t remember that at all.”

“Yeah, you got married on a Saturday and you put that frog on your front stoop on Monday and you complained about it every day for six years. I’d always liked it, so when y’all were breaking up I asked if I could have it. But you said ‘no’; you made a big fuss about how it was the ‘last bastion’ of your marriage and how you couldn’t possibly part with it.”

Karen stands up and walks over to the frog. She reaches out and strokes its plastic head, running her hand over its smooth haunches and webbed toes.

“When I visited you a year ago I took it,” Stacy says. “It’s been sitting on my banister ever since. You’ve been here twice since then,” she sighs. “You never even noticed.”

“I never even noticed,” Karen repeats, looking out at the trees and wishing there was an autumn in Fort Lauderdale.

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Hair and Liberty

When I arrived to the office this morning, my hair took it upon itself to annoy me by hanging in my face.

In the absence of barrettes or bobby pins, I MacGyver’d restraining devices from paperclips.

I think the result makes a statement about liberation from the constructs of traditional beauty, while providing commentary about the shackles of a 9-to-5, hose-and-heels workplace.

Moreover, I hope my hair doesn’t rust.

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In the Pits of Pain

Ladies:
Do you ever wake up on a Sunday and decide that you’re not going to take a shower but the prickles in your armpits are uncomfortable so you scrape them with a dry, twin-blade, Venus knock-off and all seems fine until about 15 minutes later when your pits burn with the intensity of a white-hot sun?  And then later in the day you decide to go ahead and take a shower and while doing so absent-mindedly drag that same razor across your pits again and scream with the sensation of having smeared wasabi on an open wound?

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Her Stinking Promise

I had smelled my way through every airplane-bottle-sized vial of scented oil in the St. Louis Galleria’s Bare Escentuals store. My head pounded from the onslaught of floral, dusty, musty and rainwater-fresh fragrances. And still, nothing.

The strategy of the store was to lure you in with the essence of redolent oils and then for a perky sales clerk to sell you a scent blended into every kind of body wash, shampoo, conditioner and hand soap she had stocked on the shelves.

They all stunk to me.  And there was only one left to smell.

It was called simply, “JM.” Those are my initials. “This could be perfume kismet,” I thought as I closed my eyes and lifted the bottle to my nose. It smelled soapy and clean. It smelled like fresh starts and new beginnings. It smelled the way I wanted to smell, the kind of smell that I thought, if it were exuding from my pores, would make me hopeful and happy. I wanted to smear it all over my body, and Ingrid, eager for her commission, was more than willing to work her alchemic magic to ensure that I had enough product to drench myself in morning, noon and night.

“And,” Ingrid said, “the owner’s daughter’s initials are ‘JM’, so you can be sure it’ll never be discontinued.”

“Thank God,” I said. “I haven’t been able to count on anything lately.”

Ingrid had promised.

She lied.

 

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Scouting for the Danger of Trees

My neighbor Frank was well on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, pending his Woodcutting badge. He believed the badge would be easy to earn, since earning badges had always come easily to him and he lived in a neighborhood full of trees. Alas, the “Ecology” badge on his sash prohibited him from chopping down live trees, so he was faced with the task of finding a woodpile. Since he lived in Charleston, South Carolina, with its year-round heat and humidity, this was challenging. Ours was the only house in a four block radius that had a fireplace and ergo a woodstack. So Frank, with his hatchet in hand and dressed in full Boy Scout regalia, rang our doorbell and asked my Mother if he could have a go of it in our side yard. She said ‘yes’, of course, how could anyone deny a young man in the pursuit of his dream?

He consulted his Boy Scout Handbook and educated himself on form, leverage, and torque. Feeling satisfied that he was ready to begin, Frank anchored his left ankle parallel to his body on a low tree stump, raised his hatchet to precisely the height of his shoulder and swung the hatchet downward at 40 degree angle with a quick, even, determined stoke, promptly shearing off his left foot.

Adhering to the tenant of Boy Scout stoicism, Frank did not scream. It was the suspicious lack of chopping noise that drew my Mother outside, where she saw Frank rocking from side to side and clutching his leg in one hand while he held his orphaned foot in the other. Even with no experience in handling severed limbs, my Mother intuitively knew she had to act quickly. Rather than going back into the house to search for bandages, she raced to Frank’s side and whipped his yellow and blue kerchief from his neck. Tearing the fabric into strips and wrapping them around Frank’s lower leg she created a tourniquet, pulling it taught and staunching the blood long enough to drive Frank to the hospital.

Later that month, at a ceremony attended by all his den-mates, his Den Master and the Director of the Regional Council Forty-Seven, Frank was not graced with a Woodcutting badge.  Instead, my Mother was received an honorary First Aid badge, which made all in attendance very proud.

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to my office-mate: A Warning

Dear Colleague,

As you know, we’ve recently had to consolidate our office space. Please know that I am thrilled to have you as an office-mate. I think you will find the room pleasant – it is close enough to the coffee that some of our co-workers stop in to say hello, but not so close that all of them do. I think the windows, with their view of the courtyard, sell themselves.

Full disclosure, as I do believe honesty is the best policy in every relationship, last evening I enjoyed a dinner of macaroni and cheese (gluten, dairy) with steamed broccoli (cruciferous). To that end, today might be a bit uncomfortable – I believe it will prove to be a crying shame that the aforementioned windows don’t open.

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