Monday, June 27, 2005

Doin' Time Under the Lifeguard Stand

My son loves to swim. At three years old, he is comfortable with going under water and has very little fears of the pool.

Last week, I was off on Friday and decided that our morning adventure would be going to the pool. Anyone with kids knows that some outing in the morning is crucial to a kid’s routine. Corey is no exception. As a day-care kid, he’s used to being able to run around somewhere by 10 am. Who was I to break that routine, so he and I packed up our boats and all toys that squirt, and headed to the pool.

Our pool is connected to an apartment complex which offers both positives and negatives. The membership duplicates the diversity we see in our neighborhood, however parking sucks because we must walk a block since we are required to park on the streets.

Corey & I arrived to find we were the first swimmers of the morning. The sign-in table was at the door and there were towels on it, so I assumed the guard was tending to some business. We walked in and headed to the baby pool. Corey took all of three seconds before jumping in to pummel the defenseless boats with squirting seals and lobsters. The motor craft had no choice but to succumb to the energies of a giant armed with spewing circus animals.

As we played in the pool, countless people strolled pass. The rental office manager walked prospective tenants through the complex; maintenance folks handled their routine assignments and the landscapers promptly came in and tended to the leaves and plants. The weird thing was that after 30 minutes, the lifeguard still hadn’t returned.

After an hour, the fleet of boats had sunk & risen multiple times. Fearing the limited capacity of a swim-diaper, I decided it was time for the little prune boy to head home. As we began toweling off, a young female lifeguard walked through the gate. Eventually she came over to us.

“Why are you here?” she asked.
“Ummm. We’re swimming.”
“But the pool’s not open.” the guard said.

I apologized saying the gate had been open and it looked as though the guard had just stepped away.

Not letting the issue die, she says, “This water is unsafe. It hasn’t been cleaned.”
“Since yesterday? Or like February?” I inquired.

As I began the slow process of getting Corey ready to go back home, she stood over me with her hands on her hips, grunted loudly and then proceeded back to the guard shack to… well do whatever guards do.

Five minutes later, I’m dragging two towels, a bag full of toys and one tired little boy towards the exit. Bisty, (that’s not her real name but it sounds like a bitchy girl’s name), comes up again and lays into me about being at the pool without a guard.

Angrily, she says, “You shouldn’t have been in the water.”
“I appreciate the warning about the pool not be cleaned, but he’s three and plays in toilets so it’s not like this was the dirtiest water he’s ever been in,” I added.

Bitsy crossed her arms in disgust.
“I can’t believe you’d go swimming without a guard,” she says.
“I’d hardly call the reenactment of Pearl Harbor in a baby pool, swimming! We played boats, not practiced scuba.” I replied.

(I have a tendency to become snitty when provoked. I realize that shocks no one. )

“Yes, but it’s dangerous to be here without supervision.”
My patience snapped. “Listen Missy. (Missy! Do you love that term?) First, don’t talk to me like I’m 13. I was in college before you could pee on a toilet. (My comebacks are too parental, I know.) My supervision of him was fine. The real concern is that your silly gate was open and any little kid could have come in and drown.”

(I hate using the word “silly”. “Fucking” would have been better, but we’re in the mimic stage now and I’m forced to use words that completely undermine my forcefulness.)

“Well, we keep the gate open so that the landscapers can get in and out to work on the plants,” Bitsy said.

“WHAT! Are you kidding me? That’s your pathetic explanation for violating the cardinal rule of pool maintenance.” (I secretly hope there is book with this rule, but I don’t pause for fear she’ll see through me on this one.) “That would be like me leaving my BBQ going all day while I’m at work and then yelling at you about potentially getting a splinter in my deck.”

the guard said.

My best analogies are wasted on ignorant people.

I grabbed the boats, the kid and the towels and fumed all the way to the car. “What a bitch!” I whispered to myself.

“a bitch,” my echo replied. I looked down a little wet boy who was now very pleased he’d discovered another new word.

I said.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Take Me Out

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with my good friend, Amy. Although many of you know her as the I-love-red-hair-John-Stevens-from-American-Idol, she really is a great person. I mean, everyone has their shameful skeletons.

Amy and her husband, Pete joined us for the Nationals game at RFK stadium. It was truly a perfect night to be watching baseball; the rain held off the day, the air was a perfect 67 degrees and the people in front of us didn’t show so we could stretch our feet out into their seats.

Let me just say that if I were lucky enough to be David Sedaris, Amy would be my sister…Amy. (Ironic how life just works that way.) Amy is my verbal sparring partner; my equal in rapid chatter; the Crouching Tiger to my Hidden Dragon. You’ve heard of speed-dating? She’s my match in speed chatting.

I arrived after them and found Amy sitting alone in our seats. Pete & Larry had gone off to be the proverbial hunters of ballpark cuisine leaving her to be the gatherer of seats 404-407. Poor Amy had been feeling bad that day and worked from home. Not a fan of potential vomit, I sat down with a seat between us to for Pete to buffer out germs. After all, isn’t that a spouse's duty?

Pete returned with a platter of chicken tenders and fries for himself. The smell of grease and fried foods often cures an ailment and Amy pulled spousal privilege. Fries disappeared at an alarming rate in between Amy’s explanation that if she were to throw up, she’d throw up happier having eating chicken tenders. How I love this woman!

Throughout the first inning, Amy & I chatted over Pete until he finally moved over. I was feeling safe from being barfed on so I welcomed the decrease in distance between us. Amy & I hadn’t seen each other in months so the nine innings were a good beginning to catch up.

There is a validation when out with other couples that proves your own companion isn’t the only crazy one out there. About mid-way though the third inning, some play happened that drove the crowd to their feet. Amy & I were discussing the paint choices for her guest room when the crowd broke into applause. Pete looks over and annunciates what happened to Amy as if she were Marlee Matlin in “Children of a Lesser God at a Major League Game.” I could only smile.

Amy & I announced that we were going to pay closer attention to the game. She said, “I should be able to discuss something that happened, don’t you think?” I nodded in agreement saying, “Absolutely. So what are you serving for your dinner party on Sunday?”

Inning number six was when we discovered a runner on base wearing a windbreaker. I asked loudly how he earned it. “Did he do something good? Like they give out green jackets in golf, right?” Neither Larry nor Pete felt obligated to answer me. In the seventh inning, Amy asked when they would bring in a relief pitcher. “10 minutes ago,” they both said without even looking over.

Nine innings came and went. Again, neither of them acknowledged us when Amy asked when “the closer” would come in. I just pointed out it was nice that the team felt a need for someone to bring closure to a major sporting event.

All in all, both sets of the couples felt a great satisfaction from the game. After all, this is the national pastime. For some, it was chance to sit back with a beer and watch the Nationals and …well, another team that wears grey outfits. For others, it was the opportunity to discuss the advantages & disadvantages of hardwoods versus ceramic tile in the new foyer.

I sense that we’ll be having many future outings together.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Finding Georgia

As most people know, I sell things on eBay. I sold most of our CD’s when the MP3 became the standard. Our VHS tapes went after we got our DVD player. Plus the numerous things I can’t mention or Larry will actually know they are gone.

I now mostly sell our used magazines. Seriously; people buy these! Primarily I sell my Entertainment Weekly and Advocate magazines, but I’ve sold some home magazines as well. I can’t justify the reason someone buys them. I just know they sell. I once got $10.75 for a Lord of the Rings Entertainment Weekly even though it had an address label on the front. My best was $27.75 for a House Beautiful. That paid the subscription cost for the next two years.

Last week, I sold our old queen-size bed skirt, two magazines and Corey’s old bibs. The payment system is always pretty easy through PayPal, however I loath the packaging and shipping part of the transactions. Luckily, I use the abundance of boxes my company tosses so I never run out of packaging materials.

But, the main burden of this sales adventure always happens at the post office. Since I’ve moved to Tyson’s Corner, the new post office is right down the street. This isn’t one of those fancy new ones; it’s antiquated, undersized, and painstaking. Let’s just say that say that Fisher Price has a better post office than Gallows Road.

Going in off-hours didn’t seem to matter last week as there were already seven people in line ahead of me. One of the stations wasn't functioning so there was only one employee assisting customers.

Let me interject that most postal customers are pretty stupid by nature. They act as though this were the first time they’d ever heard of the postal system. “You mean you can track the package? For how long?” My guess is they are just on break from the Arlington Animal Shelter.

Not one person in line needed stamps; everyone had an issue or a problem. This couple already at the counter had three large, but feebly wrapped packages. There seemed to be some confusion as to where the packages were being delivered.

Woman (in broken English): I need these to go to Georgia.
Post Office: There are too many lines in this address to go to Georgia.
Woman: No, Georgia Country.
Post Office: Is that a county in Georgia?
Woman: No, Georgia Country.
(As if repeating the exact phrase would clarify the previous misunderstanding.)

Innocent Bystander: She means the country Georgia.
(Long Pause)
Post Office: There’s a country named Georgia?

(I make a mental note to write my eBay folks apologizing for the likely delay in receiving their purchases.)

Post Office: Where?
Innocent but-now-stupidly-involved Bystander: It’s in the former Soviet Union.
Post Office: Why didn’t she just say the Soviet Union?
Bystander: Because it was dissolved almost 20 years ago.

I’m realizing a post officer needs to know as much about geography as pet shelter Tom needed to know about birds.

I’m proposing an addendum to the Postal Creed:
“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night shall stay these carriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds... But freaking ask them to update their records on the fall of communism, and that will take an act of God.”