True stories with a twist!

MY SENIOR PROM

I didn’t have a boyfriend.

It was senior year. The senior prom was written in large capital red letters on our wall calendar in the kitchen.

What could I do? Stay home? Admit I had nobody to ask? Confess that no boy had asked me to go? Not a chance. No way would I admit that to anyone. The humiliation would be too great to bear! I’d have to think of something drastic.

Who could I invite? My mind turned over its Rolodex for names from every walk of my seventeen year old life. Distant cousins, brothers of friends, the delivery guy from the drug store. Nobody seemed right.

At the time my family belonged to a swim club, staffed mainly by a large group of college students. One particularly handsome lifeguard was Mike, a blonde, muscular He-Man type that every girl at the club had a crush on. Could I dare ask him?

“You have nothing to lose. All he could do is say No,” advised my mother.

If he refuses nobody has to know I ever invited him. So, I reasoned, I would not lose face or be mortified. But if he said “Yes,” I’d be the envy of every girl in the senior class. Imagine walking into the prom with Mike, the dreamboat lifeguard.

I gave myself a pep-talk, mustered up my courage and approached Mike one afternoon during his break. “Hi, Mike, I was wondering: would you like to come to my senior prom with me?”   Unknown-1

“Sure. That sounds like fun.” Did he actually agree to be my date for the senior prom? That was way too easy! I was incredulous and excited beyond belief; it took total control to keep from screeching and jumping up and down.

I primped, I fussed, I did everything I could do to look grown up and sophisticated. After all, my date was a college man, not some sniveling babyish high school kid.

With great expectations I opened the door the second the doorbell rang that night. But something had changed. Mike no longer had that wind-blown casual, sexy hair he did at the swim club. Someone had chopped his hair and it cut it way too short. He didn’t look cool any more. He didn’t look hip. He didn’t even look handsome. And worst of all he looked old. He must have been at least nineteen, and looked over twenty. Mike would be out of place at a high school dance; he’d never fit in. And I’d be the laughing stock of the class.

I never found out what my classmates said about Mike and nobody said anything about him to me. My memories about that night are vague and totally forgettable. But never again did I invite a date for the shallow reasons I invited Mike to the Senior Prom.

He never called me after the dance. I never saw him again.

UnknownIt was a special gift I’ve enjoyed from the moment I received it. A step counter. My father always said,

“Walking is the best exercise.”  Dad walked like a man with a purpose; a man who was going somewhere important. Perhaps that’s why I never understood people who meander or stroll, frequently stopping mid-step to make a point or to finish a sentence. Can’t they speak and move their feet at the same time?

 

Knowing how far you’ve walked is fun knowledge. It sets you up for a contest with yourself, like playing solitaire or golfing. Golfers tell me that golf is a game between you and your scores. Walkers can make a contest of walking longer  distances all the time. The goal is 10,000 steps day. Walking a few extra steps, like up a set of stairs instead of hopping on an elevator is like getting extra credit for a school assignment. It’s something not required, but you do it anyway to win some extra points.

 

The physical fitness craze has caught on and become quite popular. Everywhere I go I must be careful not to be bumped by bicycles, run down by runners or rammed by roller bladers. Will I soon be threatened by being pummeled by pogo sticks? The momentum to keep moving grows.

 

That’s why I am always so surprised , any time I drive into a big box store like Costco, to see cars waiting patiently near the entrance for someone to come out, drive their car away, and leave a spot free for them, close to the entrance of the store. They could park farther away and have the advantage of adding steps to their day, moving their bodies, exercising while they run their errands. A great two-for-one advantage.

 

imagesBut even in beautiful weather these couch potatoes on wheels prefer to sit and wait for a closer parking spot. If these anti-walkers owned step counters as I do, they would understand the advantage of gaining a few extra steps to the totals of the day’s completed steps. With a step counter clipped to waistbands every step walked is an opportunity to crank up the day’s step total. It becomes not a chore but a game in which anyone can win. So I wonder, as I watch this phenomenon,

 

1) Are those car-sitters people who exercise early in the morning and then consider any extra physical exertion a waste of time, or a redundant activity, like eating breakfast twice, reading the newspaper again or buying two identical raincoats?

2) Or do they take pride in achieving the honor of winning the closest parking spot to the store entrance? Has the place in the parking lot become a status issue, like being seated next to the guest of honor at a dinner party?

3) Do they have small children hidden in the back seat who run wild in parking lots?

Or are they just lazy and unwilling to exert any more time or energy than necessary to the dull task of grocery shopping? Is walking an insult to their dignity?

Maybe some day a kind, generous person will present them with a step counter of their own so they can gain the satisfaction of knowing how far they’ve travelled on foot each day. It could be a real game changer, transforming a sedentary  soul into an energetic, healthy ambulatory human.

images-10“Why do I have to waste my time studying places I never heard of and will never hear about again? This whole project is a total waste of my time.”

These were the words of one of my high school classmates as our history class began a unit about East Asia. Far East: Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam.

Yes, those countries were remote and beyond the radar of our awarenesses at that time, the wonderfully innocent, relatively trouble-free 1950s.

Way too soon after my classmate’s objection to studying those countries everything changed. We were at war in Korea. Who ever heard of Korea before then? Whether they heard of it or not, every male above eighteen was called to serve in the military. There were no choices. In the days of the dreaded draft, very few young men escaped the call of the army.

Even Elvis Presley had to learn the names of those countries and where they were, as he signed into the army as Private Elvis Presley. We all knew the names of those countries by then. They were in every news headline.

By the time the Korean conflict erupted I had lost touch with many of my classmates. Including the boy in my history class. I sometimes think of those days and wonder what became of him. Was he one of those clueless young guys who suddenly discovered that his life was more closely connected to those countries than he ever could have imagined?  images-9

I don’t know whether he was against learning, against having to study subjects he deemed unnecessary, or whether he was a conscientious objector. I do know he lived at a time when individual opinions were not considered; no one was given the choice of whether to fight or not to fight. Soldiers were not given tests to determine their knowledge of far eastern countries.

What does this subject have to do with today’s situation? Teachers reading this post, may consider getting similar rebellious answers when studying the moon’s topography.

Just assure any questioning students that “You never know what facts of which places you might need to know in the future.”

HI, FRIENDS, THIS EMAIL ARRIVED THIS MORNING. Everything in quotation marks is part of the email.

 

“From: Eric Anderson <lordship-grey@hotmail.co.uk> Subject: Inquiry. Date: June 26, 2014 11:33:13 AM EDT Reply-To: <ausdda@gmail.com>

Good Morning I want to place an order in your store,I will like to know if you ship to Singapore. Do you have credit card facility?Get back to me with your website.I will await your prompt response.

Best Regards, Eric Anderson”

 

This message has SCAM written all over it.

1) I do not have a store.

2) Do I ship to Singapore? HUH?

3) Credit Card facility? Me? Whaaat?   Please be careful out there… Ronnie

images-4Isn’t Google the most incredible source of information the world ever could imagine? Nobody has to drag out the Encyclopedia Britannica to find elusive answers. Nobody has to travel to the library to spend a day at the research department. Nobody has to call a friend to ask.

I am filled with wonderment every time I ask Google a question and within seconds, receive the carefully researched, perfect answer. I am in awe of Google’s brilliance. He’s smarter than the winners of TV’s Jeopardy, can out-spell any top spelling bee champion and is even smarter than the GE Science prize winner and Pillsbury bake-off winner combined.

I depend on Mr. Google to help me clarify all sorts of facts, from the dollar amount of the national debt to a tricky word on a New York Times crossword puzzle. Dear Mr. Google always covers my back. What a capacity for knowledge; what a storage of facts his brain recalls.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I have developed a huge crush on Mr. Google. I dream of life with a being who is so smart, so intelligent, so well read. What would it be like to live with someone who knew all the answers to plumbing, electrical and construction problems? Can you imagine the ecstasy of living with a guy thoroughly enlightened with the Kama Sutra, who knows all of Anais Nin’s work, and even has a passing knowledge of Fifty Shades of Gray? All three editions?

But it’s too late now. If only I had met Mr. G years ago we could have had an exciting and harmonious life. I would be on cloud nine, and all the other happy cliches, having an ideal information source near me at all times. I would be happy to have him by my side, feeding me facts I need as I needed them. I would love that.

Or would I? What would it be like to live with someone who knows everything? Someone who could correct everything anyone said. Someone who could put you down for your ignorance of quantum physics. Nobody likes a wise guy. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Nobody is interested in an opinionated, self-impressed boor.

Would he ever respect my point of view? Would I ever have a chance to express one? Would I remember that I even have my own point of view? Mr. Smarty-Pants would become tiresome quickly. I would get irritated just hearing him expound on his boring old facts. Who really cares about the numbers of the National debt? Look it up in any financial paper, or ask a stock broker. Crossword puzzle answers? Getting the answers is cheating anyway and I shouldn’t be counting on him to get me through the puzzle. Well, maybe Saturday’s puzzle.

My friends would think he was a creep and a nerd with a giant ego. People would avoid us; nobody wants to be second guessed, put down and contradicted at every turn. I’m lucky to have my imperfect, faultlessly human and challenging life. Perfection is overrated. I’ll take “human flaws” any time.

Anyway he probably slurps his soup, bites his nails and perpetually scowls!

 

“I’m prettier than you are,” roared the mountains to the low lying seashore. “     images-2

”Only a fool would attempt to compete with MY beauty,” answered the haughty, self-impressed seashore.”

“You’re just flat and boring,” responded the mountains.”

“You’re jealous of my long, sunny beaches.”images-3

“Are you kidding? My majestic winding trails are fascinating.”

“But you are dangerous to visit. You provide room and board for bears and snakes.”

“And your stinging sea nettles and jellyfish make one step in the water a painfully threatening gamble.”

“Aw, shoot,” spat out the seashore. “Visiting you means subjecting yourself to horrible poisonous plants that make you itch until the skin tears and blood gushes.”

“Look who’s talking. It’s impossible not to walk on your beaches without stepping on sharp pebbles until your feet bleed and get infected.”

“Oh, but just picture a wonderful clambake on the beach at night with a roaring bonfire and everyone singing old songs.”

“That can’t compare with the campfires in the woods with char-cooked hamburgers and hot dogs.”

“Now see here, you two: I am equally proud of all my children, and I am sick of all this bickering. Keep that up and I’ll send you up to the moon so you can see my real masterpiece.”

“Yes, Mother Nature,” they meekly replied as one. “We’ll behave. We won’t fight any more…

But those moonscapes couldn’t possibly be as beautiful as we are.”

images“You’re a writer? What do you write?”

The conversation starts the same way every time I meet a new person who asks what I do.

But today I can say, as an answer to “What do you do?” that I am a world problem-solver. I meet people from one continent on earth and connect them to people on other continents. I have made warm friendships with many of them. More importantly, they have helped each other. As of today I can add the following story with both my sincerity and the wonder of 21st century communication.

The story starts years ago, when three of my stories were published in the Metropolitan Diary column of The New York Times. It was so effortless that I thought submitting articles and having them approved for publication was a snap! I write it, they read it, they publish it, and my resume keeps growing. But those three stories of mine that the Times published were an example of Beginners’ Luck. Since that time I have sent many amazingly brilliant works to various magazines and newspapers. The editors should have jumped to attention, ordered the news room to “Stop the Presses!” and rushed my masterpiece into the next edition.

After a while of going through this frustrating exercise and receiving rejection letters my son suggested, “Why don’t you start a blog? Everything you write will be published, no editors will demand rewrites, and you won’t need an agent.” So I did. It was a great idea, it is great fun, and I have made many wonderful on-line friends whose work I look forward to reading every week.

Today I was responsible for a connection that will hopefully change the direction of someone’s life, and it’s all because of telling two people from other parts of the world that they should contact each other. And here’s why:

A blogger I discovered early in my days of blogging , and whose whose work I very much enjoy is Cecelia, who writes a blog called thekitchensgarden.wordpress.com. Celi was a drama teacher in New Zealand and now lives on a seven acre farm in Illinois. She raises pigs, chickens, cows and bees, and grows all the family’s food.

The second blogger in this story is Uzo, a chemist and story writer from Nigeria who writes a blog called 85degrees.wordpress.com. His stories are exciting thrillers based on tribal laws of his characters. Uzo devoted his recent blog to my book, En Garde, My Battle With Breast Cancer. In that article, after mentioning my book, he says that he is trying to make soap to sell in the markets. Since Nigeria has limited opportunities for employment, and limited manufacturing, an idea that can propel a person to self-employment is advantageous to everybody, including the government.

But the soap making process created a problem that Uzo expressed. I knew from reading Celi’s blog that she makes her own soap and has connections with experienced soap-makers. So I wrote a post to Uzo telling him about Celi and a post to Celi telling her about Uzo. They immediately connected through wordpress and are working on finding a solution to the soap-making process.

That is amazing to me: “Nigeria contacting Illinois!” We keep hearing that “The world is so small.” If more of us could introduce people who could share knowledge and help each other develop skills, it would be a richer place. It is truly uplifting to see how quickly most people respond to the call for help of another human being, and how eagerly they share their expertise with others.

I wish good luck to everyone working hard to come up with that one winning idea, and a real life fairy godmother to come to their aid!

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