Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moving on to not understanding a different itinerary

First, a non-Mom event: on the metro, a young woman started a conversation with me, told me she liked my shoes... and later asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. She thought I was 22 like her. I didn't disabuse her of that idea (although I did say, in response to her question, that I didn't know). It was wonderful.

I got home from class, finished packing, called my parents (roughly five hours before my alarm goes off).

Mom: Will you have your cell phone?
A.: No.
Mom: You should unlock it.
A.: It's not about unlocking it- I'll be in the mountains.
Mom: What are the facilities like?
A.: Do we have to have this discussion now?
Mom: Yes, I need to know that you're prepared.
Dad: Where exactly are you going?
A.: I sent you my exact itinerary, with the names of the campsites where we'll be staying.
Mom: I didn't understand it.
A.: What about it didn't you understand?
Mom: I didn't understand the itinerary.
Dad: She's getting in on the 6th.
Mom: I know that! I don't understand the itinerary.
A.: What is not clear about the itinerary?
Mom: I don't know where any of those places are, I'll have to look them up on a map.
A.: Okay.
Mom: Goodnight.
A.: Goodnight.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gratuitous "why" is annoying enough when kids do it

I don't blame my mother for bad timing, although it's a force multiplier when what I do blame her for is already really annoying. I'd just gotten off the phone with Elisabeth, with whom I'm going to Canada, when mom called. I was just about to go pack some things of which she'd reminded me, while they were fresh in my mind. Again, though, the timing was just an aggravating factor.

Mom: Hi, how are you...
A.: I'm fine...
Mom: You won't believe what I've been doing, I've been looking for a press, I've been looking on e-bay and elsewhere, do you know anything about those?
A.: No...
Mom: To press wine, to separate the water...
A.: No... actually, I think I may have one of those. Someone gave me something called a Lapresse...
Mom: What is it like?
A.: I don't really know... I haven't used it so it's in the basement gathering dust. I probably won't be able to bring it this time around...
Mom: What can you do with it? Can you make juice?
A.: I don't know.
Mom: How much does it weigh?
A.: I don't know.
Mom: Can you estimate?
A.: No.
Mom: Just guess.
A.: I have no idea.
Mom: Why did someone give it to you?
A.: Because someone gave it to her and she didn't want it.
Mom: What's it called?
A.: Lepresse.
Mom: What?
A.: Lepresse. Le-Presse.
Mom: What-presse?
A.: Le-presse.
Mom: How do you spell it?
A.: L-e-p-r-e-s-s-e. Le-then "press" with an 'e' at the end, like in French.
Mom: Why is it in French?
Mom: Fine, bye.

[I go downstairs and look at it, call her back, describe it].
A.: I'll call again before I leave.
Mom: You're coming here first, then going to Calgary?
A.: [Breathing deeply] I am going to Calgary first, then going to Boston.
Mom: Okay, bye.
A.: Bye.


I asked a friend-- the one going to the same wedding and already transporting wedding stuff for me-- if he had room for the lepresse. He kindly agreed to take it.

I called my mother to let her know that, and if you think she said,

"Thank you for taking the time to go into your spider-infested basement and find it, and for asking your friend to carry it. I know you're busy preparing for your trip,"

you have the wrong mom blog.

Mom: Does it press?
Mom: Can you take a picture of it?
A.: I don't have time.
Mom: When you ask me for something...
A.: I don't ask you to drop everything and do anything.


I called her back to say I sent her a link to it on the internet.

Mom: Can you describe it?
A.: I just sent you a picture!
Mom: Oh. Well, if you're not using it, why not bring it here anyway?
A.: I'm not going to ask my friend to carry it if it's not what you need!
Mom: Okay. It looks like it's what I need.
A.: Okay, I'll ask him to bring it.
Mom: When is he coming?
A.: In two weeks, when I am.
Mom: Well by then I'll know.
A.: By then I won't be able to tell him to bring it or not.
Mom: I'll send you an e-mail.
A.: I'll be in the mountains, without internet access or cell phone signal.
Mom: In Calgary?
A.: Outside of Calgary.
Mom: Okay, well I'll send him an e-mail.
A.: Don't worry about it, if you think you'll need it I'll ask him to bring it, space permitting.
Mom: You're very impatient. You raise your voice often.
A.: Goodnight.
Mom: Goodnight.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What is going on here?

About fifteen minutes after the conversation described in the previous entry, my mother called me back.

Mom: I wanted to tell you that I love you. They say that one needs to say that often. I mean, I want you to know that even though we disagree about things, I love you.
A.: I love you, too.

True, we disagree about things, but we didn't actually disagree about things in the earlier conversation. I mean, my parents thought I was unprepared to accept the truth in a life lesson, whereas in reality I was protesting the packaging of a life lesson in a cheesy e-mail, and by proxy, the volume of cheesy e-mails that come my way, as well as my mother's lack of response to my request to decrease that volume.

Apparently what we disagree about is what we were disagreeing about.

We said goodnight again. Then she called again ten minutes later to ask whether she could toss an old pair of sneakers she thought was mine. [Not that it matters, but I said I didn't think they were mine but if she wanted to make sure could she wait until I arrived in Boston. On the 6th. She said she could.]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Life Lessons from the Internet

I called to check up on my mom. She's feeling better.

A.: How are you feeling?
Mom: Oh I'm fine now. The only thing I need now is for you to write a letter to Verizon for me... you're getting in the 3rd and leaving the 6th?
Mom: Right, you said that, not sure why I got the 3rd and the 6th into my head. [Proceeds to discuss her phone drama for a considerable amount of time]. So, what's new with you?
A.: Nothing, really.
Mom: [Discusses weather]. What's new with you? What new wonders have come up?
A.: None... just sitting on the porch, here with the wonder that is my cat.
Mom: Er... the way you say that is kind of strange... it's just... it's just that...
A.: What?
Mom: You know what they say... never mind, I don't want to say it.
A.: Say it.
Mom: No, there's nothing to say.

I have a strong feeling that the 'what they say' has to do with single women and cats. Now, my mom is not the first person to bring this up, but I think it's particularly intriguing on her part, because my whole family loves cats, has always had cats. Our cat, that died three years ago this month, was very dear to us all, and my mother says she still thinks about her every day. Yet, all of the sudden, I get a cat, and it's 'oh, single woman with cat.'

I have a friend (at least one) who will not get a cat, even though she loves them, because she doesn't want to be 'single woman with cat.'

I've had a friend suggest that it's wonderful that I have a cat, because now I have companionship. I hate to disappoint her, but a furball that keeps you around because you feed her is not my idea of companionship.

You do know that plenty of non-single people have cats?

In any case, not having a cat because you don't want to feed into a stereotype, is letting a stereotype direct the way you live your life. I'm okay with being a 'single woman with cat.'

More on singleton rights here (courtesy of Jay).

Now back to the conversation with my parents.

Mom: Did you read what I'd sent you?
A.: I'm not sure-- what did you send me?
Mom: You don't read what I send you?
A.: I read some of it.
Mom: You should read all of it.
A.: I don't have time to read all of it. [And I've asked you not to SEND so much of it. And until you respect that, I'll arbitrarily pick and choose what to read.]
Mom: Did you read that one about Warren Buffet?
A.: Yeah, that was short, I read it.
Mom: And?
A.: And?
Mom: What did you learn?
A.: ??
Mom: That's the way one should live!
A.: What?
Mom: One should live like that!
A.: What, in Omaha?
Mom: One should live simply.
A.: Okay.
Mom: Follow the path your life lays out for you. Don't listen to other people.
[What matters here is what I'm not saying].
A.: I don't seek life lessons from cheesy forwards about Warren Buffet.
Dad: I think you have to come to this on your own.
Mom: No, you have to understand it now. They key is, live your life, don't get into a constant spin. [There's an untranslatable Russian word she's using, which I'll convey as 'spin' with a connotation of ADD].
Dad: Yeah, I think you can't force that attitude, I think you have to see it for yourself.
Mom: But look at me: I've been spinning my whole life and now I don't know how to stop.
Dad: He started investing when he was 14, or even earlier!
Mom: Who cares? That's not the point!
Dad: That is the point, in the sense that he did what he loved...
Dad: Well, he figured it out early and followed his heart...
A.: Is it really necessary to raise your voice over this? If that's the point for dad, it's a valid point.
Mom: It's not valid for this conversation. The point is, stop "spinning."
Dad: Stop listening to other people, live the way you want to live.
A.: I don't want to live in Omaha.
Mom: Live simply. Slow down. Listen to what your life is telling you.
A. Okay.
Mom: Goodnight.
A.: Goodnight.
Mom: We disagree, so we have nothing more to say to one another. Goodnight.

I'm not really sure what we've disagreed about. I mean, I didn't start defending ADD.

Dad: Goodnight.
A. Goodnight.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I have to get up in six hours; what better time to ask me about the meaning of life?

I should be asleep right now. I don't blame my parents, I guess... it's my neurosis that possesses me to blog.

I wake up at 5am most weekdays, and try to go to bed early most weeknights. My parents KNOW that. Nonetheless, they often call me after 10pm and leave a message requesting a response preferably that night. Because calling before 10pm wouldn't work as well for some reason. My dad did this about a month ago-- asked for my passport number (for a family trip next year) and preferred a response that night but would magnanimously accept a response the following day.

Anyway, I got out of class at 9:50pm to no phone message from my parents, and lost signal at the metro station at about 10pm. Got signal again at about 10:30pm, with a message from my parents (asking, with urgency, to which humanitarian organization they should donate, and no the fact that they value my opinion or at least want me to think that they do, is not lost on me).

I called when I got off the metro, discussed donations with my mom; she insisted on "escorting" me on the phone until I reached home, and at that point my dad picked up. We were all saying our 'goodnight's and I told mom to get some sleep, because she said she wasn't feeling well. After she'd already hung up, dad repeated mom's symptoms to me. And I do care, but I'd already heard them from the source, and I was definitely ready to go to bed. It's been a really long day. So then, at 10:50pm, my dad gets inspired to ask me whether I've seen some old movie, and tells me what actor is in it, tells me it's a must see, and is about to go on about it for much longer,
when I say, "you know what, I'm not going to remember any of this right now, could we talk about it later?" Which, with a few more hints, worked, but it was just baffling: why did my dad think I'd want to get into an involved discussion over an old movie at 10:50pm on a weeknight??

On that note, goodnight.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A tent, a few hikes, an itinerary, Canada

Mom: You're coming on the third and leaving on the fifth?
A.: I'm coming on the sixth and leaving on the ninth.
Mom: Really?
A.: Yeah... I get in at...
Mom: You don't have to tell me, I have the itinerary you sent.
Mom: Can we go over your books when you're here, maybe give some away?
A.: We've already been over my books, you already gave away the ones I was willing to part with and then some.
Mom: Oh, I have a vacuum cleaner for you, it's rechargeable.
A.: Thank you. I may not be able to take it back with me, as I'll have the tent and other gear.
Mom: What tent?
A.: The tent I'm taking to Canada.
Mom: You're going to Canada?
A.: We've been over this [and it's on my itinerary].
Mom: I mean, you're going to Canada after you come here?
A.: No, I'm going to Boston after I go to Canada.
Mom: And you're taking a tent?
A.: Yeah.
Mom: You're going to camp?
A.: Yes.
Mom: In Canada?
A.: Yes.
Mom: And hike?
A.: Yes.
Mom: You're going to camp, and then from there, hike?
A.: Yes.
Mom: By yourself?
A.: With a friend.
Mom: Oh, okay. It's hard to keep track when you call so infrequently. We don't talk often, so I don't know what's going on.
A.: I told you I was going to Canada [and sent you the itinerary].
Mom: Still, it's easier to remember when we talk all the time.
A.: You can also call me whenever you want.
Mom: Well, I haven't had much to report, not much has happened around here.
A.: I don't have much to report, either.
Mom: Okay, well, we'll both make a point to call more often.
A.: Sounds good.

I got the idea that my mom was trying. She wasn't inserting snide comments, she wasn't being particularly accusatory.

This past week, I took an excellent course on Conflict Resolution Skills. One of the instructors said that the skills are not applicable under at least two circumstances, for her three: a) when someone has a gun to your head, and other emergencies; b) when the person or people you're dealing with has/have a diagnosed mental illness; and her third case, c) her mother. I'm on the fence as to whether my mother is a third category. I'll try out my new skills, probably drive her nuts. In any case, I'm looking at the three or so days with my family as an opportunity, rather than dreading the lectures about coffee, sunblock, my career, nutrition, etc. I've actually begun to imagine some of the conversations, practice them in my head. Here's how one might go:

Mom: Why don't you drink coffee.
A.: I don't like coffee.
Mom: You're so politically correct.
A.: The way you say that, it sounds like you think I'm not drinking coffee for political reasons. What gives you that idea?
Mom: [Has to think about it for long enough that we can change the subject.]

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Collected Thoughts

Hello again, I know it's been a while. I haven't had a lot of free time, but some did open up when the bike ride I planned on this morning was snagged by my tearing the air stem out of the tube when I pumped my tires this morning, so here I am.

First some mom notes:

-Mom still resents Gracie, partly because she's so attached to our cat that died three years ago that she sees it as a betrayal, but largely because Gracie's adoption was a decision undertaken without consulting her. Almost every time Gracie comes up (my dad will ask about her), my mom will insert a thinly veiled indication of disapproval. For example,

Dad: How's Gracie?
A.: Good, she's sitting on my lap.
Mom: Oh, that must make the intolerable heat even worse.

-Mom continues to not appreciate how busy I am. I would be exaggerating if I followed the previous sentence with, 'based on the way she expects me to deliver stuff to her friends in the D.C. area;' in fact, that's the kind of thing she would say. But she does underestimate the time it would take for me to get to the homes of family friends in the area, especially considering D.C. traffic. Let me back up-- she made Mirella a beautiful amber necklace, and asked me to give it to her. Mirella is my friend as much as my parents' (I know her through a friend of theirs, but she and I are very close), so it is not as if I don't want to see her, but she lives forty minutes' drive in good traffic, and D.C. traffic is rarely good. Occasionally, I have meetings for work that are up by Mirella's house, and the last time this happened, as I left the meeting, it occurred to me to call her and see if I could stop by. Of course, I hadn't brought the necklace. I did tell my parents over the phone that Mirella said 'hi.' This time, I thought to arrange our getting together ahead of time, so I did bring the necklace. She called my mother to thank her. My mother (according to Mirella), uttered something about hadn't we seen each other before this moment and since I had the necklace in my possession. I envisioned a repeat of the boots scenario but realized that since I wasn't in the same car, if mom gave me crap, I could just hang up.


Now for some non-Mom related blogging about customer service.

-Ah, Verizon, such the leach. Only a monopoly can be brazen enough to charge people for services they don't want. I mean, it's bad enough that I would have to pay to not be listed in the yellow pages, but it gets worse.

I noticed a few extra dollars on our phone bill, with 'long distance' in the description. Note that our phone is not connected; we have phone service solely to enable our DSL. We never wanted long distance, never asked for it, so I called to complain. That charge was removed from our bill.

The next month, there was a $6 charge, with 'long distance' in the description. I called again.

Turns out, that initial charge was for not using our long distance. Yes, Verizon is charging for not using their long distance service. The second charge? For removing long distance service from our package. Yes, we had to pay to remove a service that we never requested in the first place, so that we would not get charged for not using it.

Up next, Banfield Animal Hospital at PetSmart. Gracie had fleas, so by extension, I had fleas. It was BAD. I was losing the little sleep I had time to get, because I was getting bitten in the middle of the night. I needed both medication for my cat, and spray for the furniture, curtains, etc.

Incidentally, on my way from work the day I planned on getting this stuff, it was pouring down rain. I actually lost control of my car and hydroplaned, just on the highway, but thankfully managed to regain control and keep going. However, I opted to take a busier route that was less likely to be flooded than the rural roads I normally take (yes, I work in the boonies). I knew there was a PetSmart in one of the strip malls along that busier route, pathetically because it was right next to a Babies-R-Us and I've gotten so many baby gifts this year, the year of the babies, that I had no trouble finding the PetSmart. I asked the woman at the Banfield counter for both flea medication and furniture spray. She must have heard me because she gave me directions for using the spray on my furniture. Nonetheless, when I got home, ready to exterminate the blood-sucking little bastards that were making my cat's and my life difficult, I discovered that the spray she'd sold me was also for the cat. I was LIVID. Furthermore, the receipt said they didn't take returns on prescription items, so if I wanted to try to get my $55 back, I'd have to once again return to the same out-of-the-way store to argue my case, my case being that they sold me a product I did not ask for, so they better damn well take it back. More importantly, I had to contend with another night of being flea bait.

The next day, I returned and made my case to a different veterinary nurse behind the counter. As she went back to ask her manager, I heard,

"Excuse me, ma'am... you're standing in dog pee."

Indeed I was. I stepped aside.

The nurse returned and said she could only give me store credit. I said like hell she could (only more politely) and asked her firmly to refund the amount to my credit card. She did. I also told her about the dog pee. She pointed me to the furniture spray, which was in the main part of the store.

-Alexandria Ambulance Service, which was so wonderful when I needed them, is not as great in administrative areas as it is in its first response (better than the other way around, I suppose). My insurance covered a little over half of my ambulance bill, so I received a bill for the rest from the ambulance service. On the stub there was a place for one's credit card number, i.e. sixteen boxes in which you write the digits of your credit card number. So I did, and sent it in, so imagine my surprise when I got another bill last week. I called to determine what the problem was, and was directed to call the same number with 888 rather than 800, as the number had been misprinted on their letterhead. I called, and was told that the problem was that they didn't take credit cards. Apparently, they'd switched companies and the new system was not yet up and running. But instead of actually indicating this on the second bill, they left me to guess. Had this not been the ambulance, I would have been willing to play this by just sending my credit card number every time. As it were, I went home and sent a check. Two days later, I received the same bill, this time, with the phone number printed correctly. But the credit card option was still there.

-Thrift store, at which I bought a skirt and a few books, including a very large hardcover cookbook. The volunteer put my stuff into a paper bag with no handles. I said, "Could I trouble you for a bag with handles?" Although I said it with no trace of sarcasm, etc., she got defensive and said, "we have no bags with handles; if we did, I would have given you one." Luckily, one of the regular salespeople rolled her eyes and said, "give her a bag with handles," and took a plastic bag (that the first woman probably didn't give me because it was too flimsy, not out of spite) and placed the paper bag inside of it.


My rules for moviegoers:

-If you are too dumb to independently follow the plot of a movie, wait until it comes out on DVD. DO NOT go to see it in the theatre if you need to constantly (or ever, really) ask your companion what is happening. Even my mother, who likes (but probably does not need) clarification about what's happening in a movie, has the decency to wait until said movie has ended.

-If you are so codependent that you cannot wait until the movie ends to discuss it, wait until it comes out on DVD so that you can discuss it in the privacy of your own home.

-Do not stretch your arms over your head or for any reason create an opaque layer over your head. There are people sitting behind you.