Sunday, March 7, 2021

Inga's Ten Steps To A Closer Relationship

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 8, 2021] ©2021

Anyone who has been reading my column for a while knows that I’m a sucker for those internet articles about how to make yourself look 20 pounds thinner (Photoshop?) or what your car says about you (cheap?)  Recently I reviewed an internet article entitled “14 mistakes that will kill your home’s value.” I concluded that we probably wouldn’t be able to give our house away (although quite a few of those mistakes came with the house).

A recent Valentine’s Day-inspired listicle offered “10 Steps to a closer, more loving relationship.”  I mean, who’s not going to read that?

Well, my husband for one.  Olof is disturbingly sane but there is not a sentimental bone in his body. As of January 20, 2021, we have known each other for 56 years, having met as 17-year-old high school exchange students headed to Brazil for the Southern Hemisphere school year.  After a 23-year hiatus during which we went to college, married other people, and he spent 10 years as an Air Force pilot, we reconnected again. 

So, here’s how those 10 steps to a closer, more loving relationship would work for us:

1. Hang some photos of the two of you together. Go to Michael’s for some cute new frames. Aside from the fact that our house is already filled with pathological numbers of photos, I honestly, I think I could replace every piece of furniture in the house all at once never mind stucco the exterior, and Olof would merely look around for the briefest moment with a look of puzzlement and query, “Is there something different here?”

2. Send him lexts (love texts) such as “I love that you get me peanut M&Ms when I have PMS.” This text would find my husband racing to the nearest toilet so fast I’d be afraid he’d break a hip. 

3. In terms of relationships, positivity means those little fun, romantic gestures.  For us, “little fun romantic gestures” means both of us getting our second doses of vaccine (not yet achieved, by the way) or finally getting grab bars installed in the bathrooms. 

4. Let your partner know the real you.  Hell no.  We’re strict advocates of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  In 2006 we were in a devastating auto accident, hit at 85 mph by a drunk driver. Even after I recovered, I found driving very difficult and began seeing a therapist.  It’s not that Olof is against psychotherapy per se; he’s just puzzled why anyone would do it.  In his personal view, if one has a problem, one mulls.  One ponders.  One might even create a flow chart.  No, one especially creates a flow chart.   One certainly doesn’t pay after-tax dollars to some charlatan with a pseudo-degree in what he refers to as the “squishy” sciences to engage in sharing of Too Much Information.

I didn’t mention my therapeutic activity to Olof although if he had asked, I certainly would have been happy to discuss it.  Which, of course, is exactly what he was trying to avoid. I know he wouldn’t have begrudged me any help that the quacks could inexplicably provide although I am sure that he thought if I would just get in the damn car and drive, we could cut the witch doctor out of the equation.

5. Make a relationship bucket list.  I think after 56 years, that bucket is pretty much at the bottom of the well. But Olof is still hopeful that he will be able to go back to the Oshkosh AirVenture Air Show which has been cancelled for two years due to the pandemic. I wouldn’t mind being back in Sweden.  (Sorry, kids!)

 6. Don’t try to change him. OK, I don’t really expect to change him.  But I will never give up trying.  This whole thing of me turning on lights and him turning them off two seconds later has got to stop.

7. Schedule a double date night.  Believe me, we are desperate to socialize with another couple.  It’s been a year since we’ve been able to have anyone inside for dinner.  We are really social people.  Gotta get those vaccines! 

8. Dress up in something special just for him. French maid costume? Does it come in XL? Actually. we both pretty much became bag people when we retired but during the pandemic have descended in a look best described as “homeless.”

9. Let him know you’re committed.  No problem there.  Given that we’ve both been divorced, we’ve agreed that if the relationship doesn’t work out, we’ll pace off in the street with 45s and see who’s still standing.

10. Have gratitude.  This one’s easy. From time to time I try to imagine what my existence would have been without Olof. On every level, the kids’ and my lives have been utterly, totally, vastly improved by Olof being part of them.  I don’t know what I did right to get Olof, but whatever it is, I’m sure going to try to keep doing it.


Monday, February 22, 2021

When You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 22, 2021] ©2021

There are times when you just have to lie. 

All right, I can hear my many lovely devout friends shaking their heads and saying, “No, it is never okay to lie.”   So let this be my mea culpa

I lied. But if I hadn’t lied, I’d probably still have a dead possum in my front yard.

The day started out innocently enough as I hustled the kids out the door to be dropped off at school on my way to work.  I was, at the time, a divorced working parent with two grade school kids.  Getting to my university clerical job was essential to our survival. 

My then-nine-year-old, Rory, was the first to see it:  the huge dead possum lying on its back, feet in the air, in our front yard. 

“Cool!” said Rory, racing over to have a closer look.  “Can I bring it to school for sharing?”

Seven-year-old Henry caught up. “Neat!  Let’s name him Bob.” 

“Do not touch that!” I yelled, in hot pursuit.  I swear this possum looked like it had been happily meandering across the yard then keeled over of a massive marsupial infarction.  Its big eyes were wide open. 

Like most kids of divorced working mothers, my kids were latch key kids after school. I can say this because the statute of limitations is past. It was usually only 15 minutes before I got there. Who can you get to watch your kids for 15 minutes? Neither the school nor my boss were willing to change their hours.

But a lot can happen in 15 minutes.  Especially when you have a child as diabolically creative as my older son Rory.  The Rory stories in our family are plentiful and usually just referred to in family shorthand: “the Jolly Jumper baby brother slingshot disaster,” “the spray painting Henry silver crisis,” “the Jack in the Box ketchup explosion,” “the dropping the big rock down the chimney onto the metal grate two feet from where Mom was reading prank”, “The Cleveland airport debacle” (hopefully the warrant has expired), “the Chinese restaurant fiasco,” “the 15-inch rubber penis in the guest bath during Mom’s dinner party event,” and yes, even “the Bomb Squad incident.” In Rory’s defense, the HazMat guys should have realized right away it wasn’t a real bomb before they cordoned off the area.

Best case, I could see Bob tucked into my bed wearing my nightgown. It was imperative that the possum not be still there when the kids returned.  Rory Home Alone With Dead Possum Named Bob?  There were no good possibilities there.

Turns out that it is not so easy to get rid of a dead possum.  It’s against the law to put it in your trash.  During my lunch hour, I called every agency I could think of who might come get it, even Project Wildlife.  They pointed out that they don’t deal with dead wildlife.  Only live wildlife. Hence their name.   I realized I should have told them it was still breathing. Already my mind was operating in perfidy mode.

But finally I connected with the Dead Animal Recovery Bureau.  And yes, there is one.  Absolutely, they said.  We’ll come and get it.  I was massively relieved.  I gave them my address and noted that the decedent was in my front yard.

There was silence.  “Sorry, m’am.  We don’t go on private property.  We only take animals off of public property.”  And before I could say anything further, he said, “No exceptions” and hung up.

This was a dilemma.  Kids are going to be home from school in three hours, with lead time on me. I told my boss I had a personal emergency and raced home.  Donning rubber gloves I went out to the front yard and surveyed the situation.  Between the yard and the street was a three foot high fence.  There was clearly only one alternative.

Who knew a dead possum could be so heavy?  But once I got a little momentum going (“and a one and a two…”) Bob was airborne. 

Back at work, I was on the phone to the Dead Animal Recovery Bureau reporting a dead possum in the street. I did my best to disguise my voice.

The guy on the phone was suspicious.  “Didn’t you just call?”

“Call?”  I said.

“Well,” he said, “someone just phoned a while ago and reported a dead possum in their yard at this address.”

“Wow, I sure hope it’s not an epidemic,” I replied.  “But this possum is definitely in the street.”  For effect I added, “You might want to report this outbreak to Vector Control.”

When I came home, the kids were distraught that the possum, for whom they had great plans, had disappeared. 

“What happened to Bob?” they asked.

“Some nice animal people came and took Bob away,” I said.  “I’m sorry.”

Well, at least the first part of that line was true.



Monday, February 15, 2021

The Vaccine Rollover

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 15, 2021] ©2021

I was going to write about the vaccine rollout last week but my first draft was 25,000 words and they only allow me 800.  But maybe that says it all right there.

As of this writing (February 10), things are starting to look up.  But what a mess the first month has been, especially considering that that the hugely-flawed appointment system was debugged on a bunch of often-techno-challenged senior citizens. When the advice is “ask your kids to help you,” a whole lot of computer science grads should have their diplomas revoked. 

The irony is that while Olof and I belong to, and are eligible to get vaccine from, two major health care networks, neither of them has been able to offer us a vaccine appointment. I was finally able to get my first dose of vaccine from a heath network that has never heard of me.  There is something wrong with this picture.

One of the networks we’re eligible through is using a Fall-of-Saigon approach to appointments.  As they note, they have “over 150,000” members in the 65-75 age group.  So in an Illusion-of-Appointments approach, they sent an email to all of us on January 23 jubilantly announcing that they had acquired 975 doses.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Suffice to say, the system crashed in 70 seconds. 

Three days later, we got an announcement of additional 2,960 doses, then on February 1, 2,000 more. Finally realizing the hostility toward– and futility of  - their system, they now only indicate a non-specified number of additional doses have arrived on a first-come first-served basis.

Our other health network (we’re seriously decrepit so we get health care from two networks) is by invitation only.  This frankly makes a lot more sense than the Illusion-of-Appointments approach from the one above.  The only problem is: we haven’t been invited.  Higher risk patients in our age group are getting priority, which we absolutely agree with. 

I will have to say in defense of our primary health network that they have improved their vaccine scheduling site.  Initially, you would have to scroll through and click on endless pages of “I understands” to even get to the scheduling page where they fooled you into thinking you could actually select a site (or sites) and even a day and time for your first dose.  Frankly, we weren’t all that keen on going all the way to Vista (one of the options).

But every option I picked would come back as saying no appointments available at my preferred location and time.

Finally, I got wise and clicked “anywhere west of the Mississippi (including Vista) during my natural life expectancy” and got back “No available appointments.”  Anytime.  Anywhere.

Now, at least, the site leads with “No available appointments” the second you go log on which saves a lot of time, even if it dashes hope.

Even if you should be so lucky as to get an appointment, no matter how fast you try to get a second one for your spouse, there has been, at least up to this writing, virtually no possibility you are going to get appointments at the same place back-to-back.  So a couple can often expect to make FOUR TRIPS to get your two doses each. 

As far as the Supercenter vaccine sites go, people are uniformly praiseworthy of how efficient it all is once you breach the PetCo gates.  But getting the appointment (which are fortunately now opening up more) and actually navigating the often-massive traffic jam on downtown city streets is another story.  More and more friends have told us that they have simply parked their cars as close as they can get and gone to PetCo’s walk-up station.

The site which opened up to help resolve the appointments problem didn’t work the first day. The 211 phone site for the computer-challenged reportedly (from friends who have tried it) can require hours on hold, until you finally give up and hang up. And ask your kids to help you.

I was also terrified that before we were ever able to get appointments through our two health care providers that they would open it up to the next group – people younger, more computer savvy, with faster fingers.  Patience, as I initially hoped, was not going to be on our side.

Upon hearing that denizens of California’s penal system might be getting priority, we started to think we were going to have to get more creative if we wanted vaccine. Maybe knock over a liquor store? Embezzle from the grandkid’s soccer team? Desperate times, desperate measures.

Fortunately, I was ultimately able to get two appointments at a smaller venue although not on the same day.  Alas, as I was literally getting my shot, Olof got a call that his appointment for the following morning was cancelled.  They were out of vaccine.

And that, of course, is the fundamental problem.  Not enough vaccine.

I checked our main health care provider this morning but still no appointments there.  But then, like a deus ex machina, Olof was suddenly “invited” by the other one to get the vaccine. He’s going this afternoon.

Personally, I’m thinking this whole vaccine program has more rolled over than rolled out. But better days appear to be ahead.


Monday, February 8, 2021

"Get It Done" actually got it done

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 8, 2021] ©2021

It is not often that I write an ode to the City of San Diego Maintenance Services.  In fact, this will be the first.  I’ve waited four decades for this moment.

I don’t know who is running the show down there anymore, but the City’s on-line Get It Done app actually, amazingly, seems to get things done. 

When the program first launched in May of 2016, I rolled my eyes, thinking this one more Illusion of Help that the city has been notorious for.

Frankly, I had plenty of reasons to be dubious. For example, some years ago there was a tree on city property that was pushing up the sidewalk alongside my house creating a seriously dangerous situation.  I filed a report with the city’s then-fix-it site. 

Seven and a half years later, a city crew came out. And instead fixed a much lesser sidewalk problem in front of my next-door neighbor’s. 

Historically, there were so many complaints about the city’s appalling inability to fix anything that for a time, the San Diego Union-Tribune set up a hotline where you could post city-related problems that you were unable to get fixed and they would go to bat for you.  But then, for reasons I never determined, the reporter championing this cause disappeared. Moved with no forwarding address? Driven to insanity at the futility of it all?  We’ll never know.

Over the years, I amassed the best collection of San Diego City phone numbers in the entire county. These were numbers that people actually answered as opposed to the ones that were listed in the County phone book or in the newspaper for such services but which rang in perpetuity and never picked up.  In fact, I fantasied that those city numbers actually forwarded to a deserted bunker in Montana.

You knew you had a good number when someone answered with “HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER?” But getting those numbers required considerable guile and cunning, never mind pathological persistence. I possessed all three.

Fast forward to December, 2020.  Right outside our front gate is the access to the water meter for our home. In the 47 years, I have owned this home, I have become adept at removing its cement cover to assess water leaks. Given that our home was built by the lowest bidder after the War, we’ve had plenty of experience with bad pipes.

It’s easy to do. Make sure no water is running in the house (that you know of). Remove meter cover. Avoid black widow spiders who live down there. Take reading. Come back in 15 minutes. If the meter has moved at all, you’ve got a water leak. Tear out hair trying to find it. 

The cement lid over our water meter is probably the original one from 1947. Since it is right in front of our gate and fence, you can’t avoid walking on it. I couldn’t help but notice during the fall that the cement was rapidly crumbling around the edges. It was ominously wobbling when you stepped on it too. Sooner or later, but probably sooner, it would completely give way and someone (us?) would break an ankle, especially in the dark.

On December 27 – a Sunday night over the Christmas holiday weekend, I went on the Get It Done app and posted two photos of the problem and our hopes that the situation could achieve some priority.  By “some priority,” I was hoping for 2022.

So imagine my incredible surprise when I went to put the trash out at 7 p.m. – that would be a mere three hours later – and almost fell over a cone covered by a saw horse over the meter cover.  I couldn’t tell whether I almost fell over because I didn’t expect to see it there or because I was so astonished at the rapid service.  Sunday night on Christmas weekend!

But then, I remembered the seven years it took for the city to fix the sidewalk tree root issue. It was great news that the imminent danger was no longer, but how long would we be stepping into the street to go around it just to access our driveway and trash cans? 

So imagine my astonishment to come home from a black-market hair appointment a mere three days later to find the cone and sawhorse gone, and a brand-new cement water meter cover in its place. 

OK, it wasn’t as though they had to do any cement work or anything.  But still, someone actually showed up and fixed it.

In spite of this recent event, it doesn’t make up for all the appallingly bad service the City of San Diego has provided over the past four decades.  But I am completely and totally dazzled.  With whoever designed this Get It Done app which humans actually look at and act on,

Now if only we could put them in charge of the vaccine rollout. 

                                This meter cover was a broken ankle waiting to happen.
                                                And it was right outside our front gate. 

            Against all odds, the City came out and put barriers over it the same day!

And a mere four days later, a brand new water meter cover!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Art of Speaking Badly

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 25, 2021] ©2021

It’s time for another episode of Auntie Inga’s Geriatric Curmudgeon Hour, Language Edition. So much to complain about, so little time.

Our first topic is the frightening disappearance of the letter “t” in spoken English. You hear it – or should I say, don’t hear it? – everywhere these days, including and especially from announcers in the “Alana” airport in Georgia.  A physician in a TV ad insists it’s “imporan” to continue with regular screenings. Newscasters lament that it is unknown when “elemenary” schools will re-open.  During the election, we heard about “independen voers.” 

I’m officially launching a grassroots campaign to “Save the T!”  Yes, it was included in the “alphabeh” for a reason! 

You should definitely be worried about the contagion of language aberrations. They can spread even faster than Covid, as has been evidenced by “vocal fry,” a low gravelly vibration also known as the Verbal Tic of Death.  Kim Kardashian (and sibs) have popularized this plague which makes your speech sound like you ran your vocal chords over a food grater. Alas, it has been widely copied by young persons who don’t seem to realize they are limiting their career choices to the fast food industry.

Phrases suddenly seem to appear from nowhere and become part of …everywhere.  For example, children are no longer referred to as “kids” but as “kiddos.”  “Prices” are now “price points.”  Loving or hating someone has been expanded to “loving on” [someone] or “hating on” [someone.]  Sorry, sweetie, he just hates you, pure and simple.

But I’m encouraged that some of the past few years’ most overused phrases seem to be waning, like “wheelhouse,” “big girl panties,” “hot mess,” “I’m all about,” and my least favorite, “pop.” 

When I heard someone say that a particular color of eye shadow made her eyes pop or a certain piece of furniture made the room pop, it made ME pop, but not the same way. Apparently, there was nothing that could not pop.  But things do seem to be popping less.  And I thank you.

Language, as we know, is constantly evolving. The use of “good” and “well” are perfect examples as in the preponderance of the phrase “You did good” which should be “You did well.”  My high school English teacher would be rising out of her grave at an adjective being used as an adverb but my kids’ teachers all said it routinely. One of my sons sent me an article recently saying “you did good” is in such common usage that it can now be considered “correct.” The attached note read: “Mom: sorry this had to happen in your life time.”

Ditto “fewer” (not as many) vs. “less” (not as much). If you can actually count it (think cookies), it’s fewer.  If you can’t count it (like milk), it’s less. At the grocery store, it’s all I can do not to whip out my felt tip marker and stealthily change the sign to “10 items or fewer.”  #grammarterrorist

And about those adjectives…and adverbs and nouns and verbs.  While parts of speech were fundamental to elementary school curricula in my youth, I find that the eyes of people under 50 tend to glaze over at the mere mention of them. Maybe it doesn’t even matter anymore. 

But sometimes it does.  A while back, I wrote a line in my column about how my first mother-in-law always referred to me in the third person and without conjunctions as in: “Ask the shiksa she wants dessert.”  The proofreader added the word “if” – a conjunction – changing the sentence to “Ask the shiksa if she wants dessert” and making the line non-sensical. I queried the change (this stuff makes me absolutely nuts) only to learn that he had no idea what a conjunction was. (They connect sentences). Just not taught anymore, I guess.

Meanwhile, my husband Olof has his own language challenges.  As a former Air Force pilot, he used the NATO alphabet system – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, etc. – and employs it to this day when needing to spell out things like email addresses to someone on the phone. 

Not long ago, however, I overheard him try this with a young customer service agent who was completely confused by it.  “Huh?” she said, “Charlie? I thought your name was Olof? Who’s this Sierra? What do you mean, ‘Tango’? Can we go back to English?”

I was nearly falling out of my chair laughing.  There was a pause, and Olof began again. “C as in cat, S as in Sam, T as in Tom.” 

When he hung up, he commented tersely, “I think I’ve outlived my time.”

OK, so the NATO alphabet and parts of speech may have gone to the big recycle bin in the sky along with the bible of my college career, Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.” 

But please, can we bring back “t” before it’s too late?  It’s just really imporan. Especially in Alana.



Monday, January 18, 2021

Covid vaccine: An investment in normal life

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 18, 2021] ©2021

One of my goals for 2021 is to not repeat history.

In 1955, my siblings and I contracted polio four months after Jonas Salk’s triumphant April 12 announcement of a vaccine to prevent it.

In that era, polio, a warm weather virus particularly targeting children, was the second greatest fear in America after nuclear war.

In those hot humid August days in 1955, I remember being as sick as I’ve ever been.  Fortunately, neither I nor my siblings were paralyzed but polio has had life-long impacts on my health.  Probably we kids recovered better than our poor terrified parents. The little boy in the bed next to my sister’s ended up in an iron lung. (Google this.)

The simple fact was – and is – that it really takes a while for an entire country to be vaccinated. Never mind, in Covid’s case, twice.

Believe me, there weren’t many anti-vaxxers in the early 1950’s. In fact, I wish I could load up every one of the current ones and take them on time travel back to the polio wards of that era.

Like most kids of my generation, you were destined to get the un-vaccinatable childhood diseases like mumps, chickenpox, measles, and Rubella (also called German Measles.)  There was plenty of misery in all of them and they were not without permanent effects – deafness from mumps, for example.  Our next-door neighbor contracted rubella while pregnant and gave birth to a severely disabled child.

The vaccination eligibility categories seem to be shifting pretty much daily but my husband and I both plan to get the vaccine when available to us. I do confess that we, like a lot of people, have some concerns about such a large population getting a vaccine that hasn’t been tested by time. But we consider it an investment in resuming normal life.

Personally, I think that people in the 20-40 age group, especially those with kids, ought to get the vaccine before us oldies who are living at home and don’t have a serious underlying condition.  (In my view, being over 70 is by definition an underlying condition.)  Getting kids back in school and the economy back on track would be really high on our priority list.

One can definitely find vaccine horror stories – or at least cautionary tales – if one looks.  The infamous 1955 Cutter Incident with the polio vaccine, for example (thousands of children received defective vaccine containing live polio virus).   The folks who got Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome from the 1976 swine flu vaccine.  The good news from both is the learning curve on vaccines – and oversight in manufacturing – have improved exponentially.

I signed up for the Covid contact tracing app on my phone which is utterly amazing.  The amazing part I’m referring to is that I was actually able to do it.  It first required upgrading to the next operating system on my phone which I am normally morally opposed to.  These upgrades in my experience are scientifically designed to make everything that worked before never work again.

Frankly, the odds of this app ever pinging and alerting me that I have been exposed to Covid-19 are astoundingly small.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, the only person I am ever within six feet of for more than 15 minutes is Olof.  In fact, my exposure to such groupings is so rare that I’d be able to identify who exposed me long before the app did.  But I still consider it a useful data point.

Olof, however, is horrified that I have done this.  He maintains that if that app were on his phone, the phone would never leave the house again.  But keep in mind that Olof disables GPS tracking on his phone settings until the microsecond before he is calling an Uber then re-disables it again as soon as he gets home. 

Frankly, doing that is pretty low on my techno-disabled brain’s list of things to master. Besides, I’m fairly clear that “they” know where I am and what I’m doing pretty much all the time anyway.  This is proven by my searching for even a nano-second for something on the internet and then being bombarded for ads for it for weeks after. I confess that I sometimes like to toy with the algorithm by searching really weird kinky stuff. My phone also knows the precise time and location of every photo I’ve ever taken.  Now that ought to scare the sh-t out of you.

When the polio vaccination program finally got to my little town, the team showed up to schools, lined the kids up assembly-line style in the cafeteria, and inoculated us. No one was turning it down.

Unlike the polio vaccine which gave you permanent immunity, it’s hard to know how long the effects of the Covid vaccine will last. Will we need it yearly like regular flu? That’s one part of the experiment that is going to become evident pretty fast.

Regardless, this time around, I just want to get the vaccine before the disease gets me.



Monday, January 11, 2021

Hankering To Stop Hunkering

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 11, 2021] ©2021

Sometimes I think I’ve fallen into the twilight zone when I realize I live in a state where it’s legal to get an abortion, but not a haircut. 

And speaking of hair, I also can’t help but notice that many public figures seem to have managed to avail themselves of professional grooming services despite hair-related emporia being firmly, non-negotiably closed.  You can’t convince me that our governor’s wife is cutting his perfectly-coifed head.  If the rest of us have to look like muppets, why not him?

Even my husband is starting to look like a 1960’s throw-back of himself.  Actually, he never had long hair then because he was doing ROTC in preparation for becoming an Air Force pilot.  But now I know he would have looked had he sported the grungy look of the era.  The grandkids have offered to braid it for him.

I think we are all hoping for a much (much much) better 2021.  I am being careful not to say it couldn't be worse than 2020.  I have made such rash statements before over the years only to have the fates delight in proving me wrong.

In a world of masks, I have begun recognizing people by their dogs.  It’s especially difficult if they’re wearing sunglasses (the people, not the dogs).  Or don’t have a dog.

If someone wants to come up with an app that would be really useful, it is voice recognition software that would alert you who just accosted you in Baked Goods.  Like a little message that pops up on your phone screen whispering, “That’s your former neighbor Lucy with the hideous lawn flamingos.”

Now my only recourse is to try to fake my way through trying to get enough clues so I know who I’m talking to. 

For some reason, I seem to be easier to recognize. Maybe it’s because I have descended into wearing the same outfit all the time:  black slacks, white top.

I’ve also put on the Covid 19 (pounds).  I’ve just had a really hard time socially distancing myself from my refrigerator this year.  So if you see a person of porcine proportions looking like a server at a lesser trattoria, that’s me. 

It’s interesting how certain things about the pandemic can really start annoying you to the breaking point.  I am finding the word “hunker” on that list.  At this point, I just want to pull out my 9 mm Glock (if I had one) and blast anyone who uses the word “hunker.”  How do I hate that word?  Let me count the ways.

It reminds me of the 1976 movie Network. I like to imagine everyone hanging out their windows yelling, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to hunker anymore!”

I was thinking that there should be a version of hunker that implies anger about it, just like “hangry” (bad-temper as a result of hunger) for “hungry.”  Except there’s already a “hanker” (as in a strong desire to do something.)  So maybe the best I’m going to do is to hanker not to hunker.

I think the other issue that continues to weigh ever more heavily on all of us is tolerance (or lack thereof) for how others are adhering to Covid regulations.  It goes without saying that people who sterilize their canned goods are paranoid numnuts and the ones who ignore mask wearing and who freely party are appallingly irresponsible and deserve to get Covid and die, preferably before infecting their elderly relatives. 

We are each in our own little bubble of what the right level of caution should be. 

Everyone else, by definition, is an idiot.

Some months ago, I wrote a column about the difficulties of assessing other people’s Covid comfort levels, including a little quiz to help determine this. 

One of my quiz options read: “You have appointed yourself Chief of Covid Police, posting regular rants on your neighborhood Next Door about perceived non-compliance.” These posts have frankly gotten out of hand.

Just as Twitter posts those yellow caveats on disputable messages, I wish Next Door would do the same, like “! This is a forum for lost pets and crime reports! Shut the eff up!”

If you factor in everyone’s current passionately-held political opinions along with their very specific Covid constraints, it is truly a wonder anyone is speaking to anyone else.  (Are they?) In fact, I am going to add “electoral vote” to “hunker” as yet one more phrase that could truly push me over the edge. 

But in my more sanguine moments, I have faith. Those phrases will gradually recede from our consciousness. The evening news will not lead with Covid deaths. I will not turn it off after three minutes. Kids will go back to school.  Hair salons will re-open.

Meanwhile, please get a dog so I can recognize you. 

Could my hair qualify as a mask?