Archive | February, 2012

Day late. Dollar short.

29 Feb

Hind-sight is 20/20. As are belated comebacks.

Everyone has that moment, well after the comic timing has run out, when they realize what they should’ve said or done in a situation. Right? I think entire episodes of Seinfeld were based on this.

I pride myself on being pretty good at being snappy in the moment – sometimes a bit too snappy, since I’ve been accused of being stuck in “perpetual smartass mode” by a few people. (You know who you are.)

And yet, my instincts failed me Sunday night when I saw the driver who hit me last year. I simply ducked my chin and kept walking, just trying to avoid a conversation since I knew how long-winded she could be. (I shuddered to think how she stayed at the hospital, telling me her life story while I waited for an MRI. Let’s just say, I could ghost write her memoirs without a follow-up interview.)

Anyway. Afterward, I chatted with Alan, telling him I’d seen her.

Alan: What did you do?
Me: What do you mean?
Alan: Did she recognize you?
Me: No! I kept my chin down and went by as fast as I could.
Alan: But she was in her car?
Me: Yep. The same car. 
<<PAUSE. Slow dawning of an epiphany.>>
Me: You know what I should’ve done?
Alan: Waved?
Me: No. Better.
Alan: What?
Me: I should’ve rolled across her hood.
Alan: Huh?
Me: Instead of walking in front of her car – I should’ve just rolled across her hood and kept walking.
Alan: Dude. She was so traumatized last year – that would’ve pushed her over the edge.
Me: Probably. She would either weep that she’d hit two pedestrians…
Alan: Or?
Me: Recognize me and think that I had actually flung myself into her windshield the first time on purpose.
Alan: Brilliant.

Fortunately, I know where she lives, so there’s always time for a do-over. I’ll let you know how it goes.

It would've looked kind of like this. Except I wasn't wearing a pervy trenchcoat.

The planets are in alignment. Literally.

28 Feb

I did not take this photo. Some awesome photographer from Reuters did. I'm borrowing it to illustrate my story. Is that technically copyright infringement? I sure hope not.

Leaving yoga last night, I happened to look up and see the moon. Well, the moon (a sliver) and two very bright stars underneath it. My memory jogged to a Facebook post I’d read the night before, in which a friend had urged everyone to head outside and check out Venus and Jupiter, just under the moon.

I looked around and realized that what I was seeing was MUCH brighter than anything else in the sky, and I knew I was looking at planets. With my naked eyes. I became inexplicably excited and couldn’t take my eyes off them, except when passing other pedestrians. And I realized: apparently I’m the only person who finds planets to be a kinda big deal, because everyone else was shuffling along, talking on cell phones, not looking up.

I wanted to stop strangers and say, “Look up! Check it out! Those are PLANETS.” And I considered doing it – I assessed every person I walked past, trying to find someone I could share this marvel with. But that’s when I figured something out: when you’re walking alone, after dark, and you approach strangers, they’re going to think you’re either a) A criminal, or B) Crazy.

I couldn’t decide if the yoga mat over my shoulder helped or hurt my cause. On one hand, it showed that I wasn’t homeless (unless it was actually a bed roll), but on the other, it could mean that I was some kind of crazy Earth Mother who liked stars AND astrology.

This mild self-awareness prompted me to exercise some restraint and NOT approach strangers. However, if they’d studied me closely, they would’ve seen my eyes dancing from their faces up to the moon and back, much like a dog trying to hint that he’s ready for you to fill up his bowl. No one looked up. Their loss.

Unable to contain my enthusiasm, I called Alan and my sister and encouraged them to head outside, and sent my friend Betsy a text. I needed to share this with someone. I mean, it’s not every day that the planets are aligned so you can see them on a casual walk.

You know what else doesn’t happen everyday? Spotting the person who hit you with her vehicle. That’s right.

Walking down T Street, I was just about to cross the opening to an alley, when a Prius turned to enter. I hesitated for a moment before crossing its path (it was a Prius after all – and the same color as the one that hit me, at that!) and in that moment, I looked up at the driver. It was Tina. The woman whose face I had seen vividly through that same windshield once before.

Not sure how I recognized it.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me to bump into her (no pun intended) since she lives two blocks from me. But I did just celebrate my one year crashiversary (Feb 13!)  by observing that I hadn’t seen her since that night in the ER. Guess I celebrated too soon.

Ironically, for the first time since I’d set eyes on the moon, with the one person who stood a chance of recognizing me, I didn’t feel compelled to stop her and ask her to look up. Instead I just tucked my chin down and hustled past, glad for the anonymity.

Nestled back in my home, I googled “Venus, Jupiter, Moon” to make sure that what I’d seen were actually planets. (Yep!) But then I found this article that informed me I’d missed the real bonanza last May, when Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Mars were visible to the naked eye, with Uranus and Neptune visible with binoculars.

WHAT?! I missed the chance to see SIX planets at once with nothing more than opera glasses? Where was I when this happened, and why didn’t anyone drag me outside? Also? Maybe this explains why no one mirrored my amazement last night. They probably all had seen six planets last year and would’ve been like, “Yawn. Big deal…” if I’d stopped to point out Venus and Jupiter.

It would’ve been kind of like that time in France when a couple stopped me and asked for directions and – because I couldn’t actually understand their question, I thought they were gesturing at a building that had caught fire the week before, so I’d excitedly responded to their simple inquiry with: “See that? It burn! It BURN! Burn big! Go bye!” Their eyes had grown large and they started backing away from me as if I were about to light them on fire.

So anyway. I guess there are three morals to this story: First, trying to engage strangers on the street is a recipe for looking crazy. Second, when the planets are in alignment, expect the unexpected. Third, if ever you don’t understand what someone has asked you, err on the side of giving them directions to a supermarket. At least you will have communicated something non-threatening and potentially helpful.

The good news? The planets will be visible for a few more weeks, so you haven’t missed your chance to see them. I just ask that if you DO see them and want to share the joy with a stranger, you point to the moon and tell someone how to get to FoodLion.

Squeaking in my Oscar picks – just under the wire.

26 Feb

It’s showtime, so I thought I should go on record with my Oscar picks.

First, I suppose I should confess: I’ve seen fewer than half of the movies nominated for Best Picture. And of those, only one (Hugo!) in the theatre. The other three (Midnight in Paris, The Help, and Moneyball) have all come to me courtesy of RedBox in the last two weeks.

So let me start by telling you why I haven’t seen the others, aside from the fact that RedBox didn’t have them on offer…

The Tree of Life? Hadn’t heard of it until I checked the Oscar page two weeks ago. Brad Pitt stars in it, so I assume it made a big splash when it came out, but since I don’t have a television, I don’t see trailers, so I’m a bit clueless. I did youtube the trailer for it today, and based on those two minutes, I gathered that it’s about Brad Pitt being a father and raising a kid that turns out to be Sean Penn. Meh.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close? I read this book and loved it, so I have no interest in seeing the movie. There’s a reason everyone always says the book was better. (Fight Club is the only movie I can think of that runs contrary to this rule. Any others?)

The Artist? Apparently the whole movie is silent? It’s probably great and artistically sound, but I’m guessing all of 100 Americans actually watched it. It seems like the kind of thing that people claim they enjoyed when they want to sound sophisticated, but that – in reality – they abandoned after twenty minutes to sneak into Sherlock Holmes.

War Horse? I know, this one is supposed to be great and – since it has Spielberg’s backing – it’s probably the front-runner for the Oscar. (See what I did there? Used a horse analogy to tee up a horse movie!) Call me un-American, but I don’t like horse movies. I didn’t like Black Beauty or Black Stallion as a kid, and I can’t see myself falling for War Horse. Especially because I also hate war movies. So the idea of watching two hours of horse + war = torture.

The Descendants? No clue what this movie is about, other than George Clooney. And while I love me some Clooney, I find it hard to imagine Dr. Ross on the stage when the Best Picture is awarded.

So of the movies I did see… none struck me as particularly Oscar-worthy, though I enjoyed them all. My favorite – from a sheer entertainment standpoint – was Midnight in Paris, even though it crapped the bed with a less-than-satisfying ending. I suppose if I had to award the Oscar, I’d give the nod to Hugo. It was the right blend of artsy and clever and beautiful and poignant that the Academy often rewards.

The only performance I’m really pulling for tonight is Christopher Plummer in “Beginners.” While the movie was touching, I’ll be honest: I’m voting for him based on his role as Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Georg was one suave hottie who could work a whistle. That deserves some applause, even if it is 35 years after the fact.

All right. Time for the red carpet.

How I took my mind off dying…

22 Feb

If you read my most recent post, you know that I feel I tempted fate on my last flight. Not only did I pass up a lucky penny from the bathroom floor, but I also heard the pilot wreak sweet havoc on the airplane’s bathroom before departing. Those two factors had me doubly convinced I would meet a fiery death somewhere between Boston and DC.

So what did I do? Did I start singing hymns and ask for an “amen?” No.

I consulted the emergency card in the seatback pocket in front of me. And no, not to familiarize myself with the evacuation procedures of that particular aircraft. What do you think I am? Optimistic?

No. I’m Sarcastic. So I looked at it for the humor.

And here’s what took my mind off dying…

OK. So first… Sorry, but if we’re crashing, who is going to have this much time to fasten a life vest on their child. This looks more complicated than making an origami swan with tinfoil and step-by-step directions.

Also? Completely unrealistic illustration. That baby would not be sitting still. Should’ve added some motion lines around the legs and arms, because I’m pretty sure: babies in crash mode are throwing a tantrum. And to that point – its face should be red.

Meanwhile, my friend Dorkahontus has a great observation: “The baby in panel three is about to host a dance party… Can anyone say, ‘Raise the roof?'”

Finally? In panel 6, that lightbulb makes it look like the baby is having an idea. Bet I know what it is: “Mom! WTF! I can’t believe you put me on that deathtrap.” Or maybe it’s, “Ah. When I pee in this diaper the water is warm for a minute.”

So a few thoughts on this one. First – You had me at “Do not use.” The additional, “No Use” seems unnecessarily insulting. If you’re going to write it twice, why not add, “Stupid!” at the end of it? Second, while I’m glad people can’t use lighters and female transformers are forbidden, I am a bit bummed. Why can’t I use my remote control dune buggy? When I packed, that was my plan for in-flight entertainment. Assholes.

Dear Illustrator: I hope you didn’t model this one on your own child. If so? I think you might want to have him tested for some odd aging disease because he simply looks like a little adult. And oddly flat. Perhaps you used Flat Stanley as a model? Or maybe the airline wanted you to show that oxygen masks are available to inflate passengers? I bet that’s it! Sorry to insult you.

What a relief! This plane used its landing gear in an emergency. And there are no signs of burning rubble in the wake of its crash landing. Even the woman disembarking looks very calm and put together – coiffed in a way that does Mad Men proud. In fact, the only sign that anything is amiss is the fact that there’s a frat boy sprinting away from the plane.

Which, now that I think of it, is probably about how it would all play out.

Superstitions + Social Media = Pilots As Magic 8-Balls

19 Feb

Friday I flew back to DC from Boston. When I booked my flight, I somehow overlooked that it was a commuter plane. As someone who hates flying on a good day, the news that I’m about to fly on a plane with fewer than 100 passengers is not exactly comforting. (In case my logic is thwarting you: it seems like most crashes are smaller planes.)

It only seemed *this* small.

So I didn’t have a great feeling when – as I boarded – the gate agent was checking all rollerboard bags. “Full flight?” I asked.

She shook her head. “No, the overhead’s just not large enough.” Gah.

At that moment, I thought back to the quick pit stop I’d just made in the Ladies’ Room in the airport. As I dried my hands, I looked down and saw a penny – face-up – on the floor of the bathroom. I’d laughed and passed it up, thinking the universe had just unwittingly forced me to define the precise limit of my superstition.

But stepping on the small plane, I kicked myself for not claiming the penny. As I suspected, it was a fairly small plane: there were two seats to the left of the aisle, one to the right, and no first class section. And my seat was all the way in the back, butting up to the bathroom.

As if I weren’t already feeling like the omens were pointing to “do not fly” –  just before we pushed back from the gate, the pilot came walking back and ducked into the bathroom. I’m assuming he had a bad meal or was battling some kind of bug, because the noises on the other side of that folding door were monstrous.

I decided to crowd-source a bit of reassurance, so I quickly posted the following status to Facebook: Pilot just took a pre-departure dump. I know because I’m seated right next to the bathroom. Not sure if this inspires confidence or not. Discuss?

And discuss, they did. These responses are why Facebook (and my friends) are awesome:

“Vote of no confidence because it shows he did not plan ahead and likes to do things at the last minute.”

“Better now than 10,000 feet in the air.”

“I  disagree. This is clearly a man who handles problems head-on, and is not afraid to make the tough decisions. I respect his moxie.”

“How do you know it was a dump? You didn’t go in with him and I’m assuming he didn’t announce it on his exit from the bathroom. Let’s discuss your rush to judge people instead of this man’s bowel habits.”

“I’m in favor of anything that makes the plane lighter. Safety first.”

“To that point… perhaps they needed to re-distribute the weight on the plane, like with the luggage.”

“Maybe he ate the fish? You better get someone to land that plane.”

At home that night, Alan and I were discussing my friends’ differing opinions. “You know,” I told him, “I should have just realized it was his fight or flight mechanism kicking in.”

Alan gave me a blank look. “How do you figure?”

“Well,” I explained, “You know how birds poop before they fly to make themselves lighter?”

“Wait,” Alan interrupted me. “That’s not what fight-or-flight is all about. Fight-or-flight means you crap your pants from fear. Not to make yourself lighter.”

I shook my head. “No – that’s the point. You’re scared so your body is trying void everything so you’ll be lighter when you run away.”

Alan smacked his forehead. “I cannot believe you are sitting here trying to convince me that’s what fight-or-flight means.”

“Look, I don’t make the rules,” I told him. “But I do know that my pilot successfully flew a little plane after hitting the toilet. And he did not get in a fight. That’s exactly what it means.”

Alan just stared at me, speechless. Which is how I know I was right.