Wednesday, June 29, 2011

*Time To Have More Time

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published June 30, 2011] © 2011

I’ve spent considerable time over the years pondering the mysteries of the universe, but the one I truly can’t solve is why it takes four La Jolla women eighty emails to find a mutually-agreed upon date for lunch. 

Of course, that also applies to movie groups, book clubs, bridge dates, and pretty much any activity where more than three women are attempting to congregate.

I know there are digital applications where everyone can post her available dates.  But it doesn’t matter.  By the time everyone does, someone is already not available.   How is it that we can be this busy?

A friend belongs to a theoretically-weekly bridge foursome that only ends up meeting about ten times a year.  Hoping to improve that, they enacted policy about requiring a replacement to be provided should one not be able to attend.  That lasted until four subs showed up to play.

Now, I’ve never belonged to either a bridge club (can’t count cards to save my life) or a book club, but I have belonged to a number of movie groups.  One that I belonged to had eight members.  Deciding on a movie was complicated enough, so to keep the logistics down, we decided we would always meet on the second Thursday of the month.  We saw lots of movies over time but the one date on which we never saw one was the second Thursday of the month.  Because as soon as the long-suffering movie group organizer sent out a query as to what we wanted to see, someone invariably responded that she wouldn’t be available on that night but would be available on these nights.  And then we were off and running.  Eighty emails to find a new date would have been optimistic.

The organizer of that group, who valiantly hung in there for years and for whom I have nothing but admiration, is now rumored to be in a home for the organizationally frustrated, sipping umbrella drinks on a bucolic lawn and being tended by white-coated professionals.  

Because even when we finally agreed upon a new date (which curiously always seemed to be a Monday even though we’d all decided earlier that we shouldn’t meet on Mondays since it was a bad day for everyone), we had to pick a movie.  (A corollary of the Eighty Emails To Find a Date Rule seems to be Forty Emails to Agree on Anything Else.)  Now, these were women who liked movies (and hence why they joined such a group) and some of them belonged to film societies as well.  So we couldn’t see any of the film society picks, or anything that was being reserved to see with a husband, or even that anyone had already seen with someone else.  One of our members would only see “important” movies, defined as being well reviewed by the New York Times film critic and thus having socially-redeeming value.  I myself am a “fluffy” movie person (think Herbie: Fully Loaded) but movie groups are not generally fluffy movie crowds. In fact, we did not see movies; we saw “films”.   The end result was that our selections were often three-hour black and white graphically-violent war dramas in Hungarian with subtitles  depicting (way too successfully, in my view) the misery of the human condition.  But no one had already seen it.  (I think that statement may apply globally.)  I spent many of these with my jacket over my head.   However, I totally adored the other women in the group and we always had dinner afterwards, often with enough wine to blot out memories of the movie which usually caused me screaming nightmares for weeks. 

I would also mention that the person who threw out the first volley about changing the date usually cancelled at the last minute.  And don’t even ask how many emails it was to decide where to go to dinner.

But getting back to my topic (and somewhere back there, I think I had one):  what is it that we’re all doing that scheduling anything is so impossible?  For most of my friends, our car pool days are over, but we seem to have filled that time with endless other activities.  I have to say that one of my favorite excuses for being unavailable came a few months ago from a long-time extremely dear friend who had volunteered to make the communion wafers for church, a full day affair.  (Well, at least that way you know they didn’t from China.)  Even her son said, “So Mom, is out of the question?”  That one gets a pass for pure originality.

But otherwise, I’m kind of hoping that the pendulum can swing the other way on this frantic over-scheduling of our lives.  Because this eighty emails thing?   We have better things to do with our time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Taking the Igloos for a Spin

["Let Inga Tell You",La Jolla Light, published June 16, 2011] © 2011

Now that all the local high schools have graduated, I can safely tell the saga of a friend’s teenage daughter who has a serious future in spin.  In fact, if I were a political organization, I’d be signing her up now.
I happened to be visiting her mother when the daughter arrived home in a panic at five o’clock after a sports practice to announce that a project she thought was due in “a few months” was in fact due the next day.  The assignment was to make either a diorama or a flat board depiction of “my ideal life”.  But Daughter also had a “super important” history test the next day. Please, Mom, she says, can you help me?  Both parties were clear what “help” meant. 
Let me interject here that there is not a mom in America who has not been put in this position in some form or another, even if it’s the 10 p.m. announcement that three dozen cookies are required for the school bake sale the next day.  Fortunately, my friend was a pro at school projects, to the envy (and abject jealousy) of all her friends, including me.  The Plaster of Paris topography map of central Asia was to scale, the science fair board sparkled in glitter paper wonder, the Christmas diorama sported a battery-operated fireplace and a yuletide sound track, and the oral report on Colonial America was delivered via two hand-made museum-quality puppets of George and Martha Washington.  Fortuitously, she had a virtual warehouse of her kids’ former projects carefully stored in the garage. A local gallery should do a retrospective.
Surveying the arsenal of possibilities, she asked her daughter a question that in my mind should be immortalized:   “So, do you care what your ideal life looks like?”  And Daughter says “nope”.  Mom pulls out a board that one of her sons did in the second grade, exact topic no longer obvious.  But it had a bunch of Styrofoam igloos glued to a board with a lot of white snow around them.  Hard to imagine that a La Jolla born-and-bred child’s ideal life would include living in an igloo and eating whale blubber with no Burger Lounge in sight.  Daughter has to admit that the accompanying paragraph – yes! they did actually have to create prose! - was going to be a tough sell.  So she suggested that Mom could maybe scrape off the snow in one corner and add some sand for a beach.  She ponders this a bit more and adds brightly, “I could say that I like contrasts!  My ideal life is about contrasts!”  As I said, the young lady definitely has a future in politics.
While Daughter went upstairs to wax poetic about contrasts, Mom dutifully set about making little palm trees out of pipe cleaners and green construction paper to stick into the sand to make it look appropriately beachy.  Et voilĂ !  Or not.
Just in time, Mom notices that in large block letters on the bottom of the board is the name of her older son and the notation “Grade 2”.  Mom set a land speed record to get a can of black spray paint at Meanley’s in the ten minutes before they closed.   One could always have made the argument that one was re-using just the wooden board from a long ago project but I like to think that any teacher worth her salt would have been a tad suspicious about the remarkable coincidence of the “second grade” ID on the bottom in combination with the igloos.  At least I hope she would.  But then, this is a teacher who assigned dioramas as a term project for a high school Advanced English class. 
Ironically, the project they ended up doing would have made an excellent assignment:  Take a previous project and give it an entirely different conclusion.  Anymore, we live in a world of spin.  Never too early to develop the skill. 
By the way:  grade on this project?  B+.  One of the highest grades in the class.  The teacher also gave her an excellent recommendation for college.  Where, I’m hoping, the diorama and flat board projects are in the daughter’s academic past.  But if not, have I got a garage for her.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Date From Hell

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published June 2, 2011] © 2011 (Note:  The Light version removed references to the guy being a lawyer.)

I was interested to read in a recent Union-Tribune article about a web site where people can vent about disastrous dates.  Where were these people twenty-eight years ago when I needed them?

 I was engaged to my first husband at nineteen and totally clueless about dating when I was divorced at thirty-five.  But I can say with some certainty that I learned more from my first date as a newly single woman than I did from the next thirty:

  A woman lawyer friend invites me to a cocktail party at her downtown law firm. Well, midway through, a good-looking attorney (Mistake 1), who in retrospect was already a bit sloshed (Mistake 2) invites me to go to a “fundraiser” with him after the party.  This sounds innocent enough (Mistake 3) and I accept (Mistakes 4-7).
  So off we go in his car (Mistake 8) and I wonder when we get there why there are three police cars out in front of this house.  When we go in (Mistake 9), I discover that this is a fundraiser for an organization that was trying to legalize marijuana.  My date was a criminal lawyer (which actually may describe him more than the type of law he practiced) and kept disappearing into a bedroom with some other people, from which he would emerge incredibly bright-eyed and cheery.  I also couldn’t help but notice that he consumed incredible quantities of alcohol –some fifteen drinks.  Several times I suggested that I was ready to go home but he said he wasn’t ready yet and I didn’t want to be rude.  (I have long since concluded that if we treated our spouses even a quarter as nicely as the jerks we subsequently date, divorce would be virtually unheard of in America.)  It never occurred to me to just call a cab and leave (Inexplicably Idiotic Mistake 10). 
At 2 a.m., I finally insisted that we leave. In my opinion, he’s far too drunk to drive so I insist on driving his incredibly expensive sports car even though I was never too good on stick shifts. He’s so out of it he lets me. Fortunately, there’s not a lot of traffic at 2 a.m. and I finally maneuver this vehicle into my driveway.  I invite him in for coffee (Mega-mistake 11) since he’s in no shape to drive while I ponder what to do with him. 
While I’m making coffee, I glance into the living room and there he is, snorting what I am sure must be cocaine off my coffee table – right next to The Runaway Bunny!  I tell him I am calling a cab and he is to vacate himself from my home immediately.  I suddenly realize that he is going to have no idea where he left his car, so I thoughtfully put a note in his shirt pocket saying “You left your car at…”  (Mistake 13; I should have had it towed to Tijuana.)  On his way out the door, he stops by my refrigerator and grabs an open bottle of wine which he drinks on the curb in front of my house until the cab comes.
He doesn’t come to pick up his car for three days.  When he does, I am polite (Mistake 14) and say, “I see you’ve recovered.”  He looks at me blankly and says, “Who are you?”