Tuesday, February 21, 2012

*Contending With The Cookie Monster

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published Feb. 23, 2012]  © 2012

The new year has always been a struggle, grappling with all the avoirdupois I packed on during the holidays.  But now, in a cruel twist of fate, Girl Scout cookies are showing up in January. 


It used to be that hordes of badgey-vested cuties would come around in January and take orders for cookies to be delivered in March. You didn’t mind ordering a box from each of them because the Girl Scouts are a good cause, and besides, you were sure you would have lost all that holiday heft by then and a box of Girl Scout cookies would be a nice reward. Just one. The rest, you promised yourself, you’d send to the kids.  Not, of course, that you ever did.

When the first Girl Scout showed up at my house on January 24, I started to give her my usual order – a box of Thin Mints (like there are actually any other kind) - when I noticed the red wagon behind her loaded with cookies.  At first I thought these were just the samples.  But no, the child’s mother explained, now you get to take possession on the spot.

I don’t think the Girl Scouts have thought this through.  Yeah, I know you can opt to send the cookies to our service personnel abroad so it’s not as though you’re required to oink out on them yourself.   But it has just thrown off my whole system:   Order now, repent later.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that I have not always suffered from embonpoint.  (The French have so many great words for fat.)  Prior to my divorce, I was always a size four, which in today’s deflationary weight currency is a size two or even a zero.  (Frankly, I think size zero should be what you are after you’ve been dead a while.)   Unfortunately, I put on forty pounds eating the Post-Divorce Depression Diet (sample dinner: three Mrs. Fields cookies, half bottle Chablis).  I still think of myself as temporarily overweight, that this extra adipose is a mere blimp, er, blip in an otherwise svelte life.  So you can imagine how shocked I was recently to realize that the divorce was twenty-nine years ago. 

If I were to be completely honest, I would have to admit that in my case, chocolate has been a serious life-long addiction.  I have no doubt that at my funeral, the many massively unflattering chocolate-related stories about me will be recounted by my husband and children.  I keep meaning to write up my own versions and attach them to my will so that people will understand that there were extenuating circumstances.  That leaping upon my startled ten-year-old and shoving my fist half way down his esophagus to retrieve my Mrs. Field’s cookie was a reasonable act.

You just don’t take someone else’s cookie.  Especially after you have already had your own designated cookie and the other party, an overstressed single mother, has been saving hers all evening on a little plate to have as a reward after all her chores are done.  And how the other party was finally ready to enjoy her cookie only to discover an empty plate and the last vestiges of  her well-deserved treat (and marginal sanity) disappearing into the mouth of someone sitting on the sofa watching TV. But I’m sure my son will never mention all that.  He will just tell how, as my fist was entering his intestinal tract, I was screaming “GIVE ME THE &*%$## COOKIE!!!!!!”  I really must get my own versions out there while there’s still time, although frankly, I’m not sure even I can save that story.

Sadly, Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies have a similar effect on me as Mrs. Field’s.  I open a sleeve and it disappears into thin (mint) air right before my eyes.   Last year during Girl Scout cookie season, I awoke one morning to find a note on the counter from Olof:  “Inga – Rats have gotten into the Girl Scout cookies again.  Better call Pest Control or there aren’t going to be any left for you!” 

Well, probably the only saving grace about Girl Scout cookies coming out in January is that I can now have the illusion that I will lose all the holiday heaviness AND my cookie chunk√© before Easter when all those wonderful Cadbury eggs and chocolate bunnies fairly shout out my name.  I just wish they would lower the decibels.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Not In My Front Yard

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published Feb. 9, 2012]   © 2012

Over the years, my neighborhood has waged a personal war against RVs.  Boats, trailers, and campers tend to not be our favorite vehicles either. 

I don’t think there is a person on my block, including me, who isn’t totally in favor of recreational vehicle ownership.  We truly want you to have fun.  But we also truly want you to store this vehicle somewhere other than in front of our homes. 

This sounds very elitist, I know.  In fact, my older son Rory, a clinical social worker who heads up a VA program for homeless vets, thinks we all lack sufficient compassion for the poor.

“Rory,” I said, “If you can buy one of these pricey vehicles, you do not qualify as poor.” I pointed out to him that no one has ever abandoned their brand new shiny RV in front of my house for months at a time.  That’s because people with nice RVs pay for someplace to store it.  But people with decrepit RVs seem to be attracted like magnets to our block.

 The problem is, RVs beget RVs.  (And campers and trailers.)  As soon as one shows up, word seems to spread telepathically to other RV owners who conclude, “Oh, this must be a friendly place to park RVs!”  Pretty soon, our street looks like Camp Land West. 

 At various times, the neighborhood population has doubled with camper shell residents, whom, I had to agree with Rory, might well be homeless.   One time a woman came to door asking if Tony might have told us where he was going.

 “Tony?” we said.

 “He was living in the green camper across the street from your house for the last few months and suddenly he’s gone.  He’s my boyfriend but I think he may have gone to Vegas with another woman.  I just wondered if he said anything to you before he left.”

 “Houston,” said Olof to me at the time, “we have a problem.” 

 But most of the time, the issue is not people living in vehicles but long-term storage.   Technically, this problem should have been resolved with the advent of San Diego Municipal Code §86.09.06:  Vehicles cannot be parked or stored on a public street in excess of seventy-two hours without being moved at least one-tenth of a mile. What they should have added was:  “…and may not return to that spot for five years.” 

 Even after parking enforcement finally gets out there to chalk-mark the vehicle’s place on the street, some RV owners will drive it around the block (a tenth of a mile) and park it eight feet from its original location. 

 We in the neighborhood refer to this San Diego Municipal Code §86.09.07: the Neener Clause. 

 Now, I’ve always preferred cordial human contact in conflict resolution wherever possible.  In the many conversations I’ve had over the years with RV, boat, and trailer owners, the two reasons they all cite as to why they are parking at my house are these:

 (1) They don’t want to use up their own home or business parking.

(2) Their neighbors have complained that the vehicle is an eyesore.

 Amazingly, they cite these reasons totally straight-faced.  I usually just stand there for a minute  hoping against hope for the “Aha!” moment.  “Oh, I get it!  You don’t want my eyesore vehicle taking up your parking either!” In my fantasy, he jumps in his RV and drives off with a jaunty wave and a “I’ve seen the light!  It’ll never happen again!” 

 But that’s not how it goes.  After a period of silence, I am forced to point out as graciously as I can that a thirty-foot long RV parked in front of my house makes backing out of my driveway an absolute hazard, that we can’t park in front of own house while it’s there, and that we are hoping for a change of scenery from our living room window from this behemoth of a vehicle. 

 Sometimes this works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  One decrepit RV owner persisted in hanging around for a year, citing inalienable rights.  Determined to thwart the system, he moved his RV precisely every seventy-one hours and fifty-eight minutes in a one hundred yard circuit.  Some months later, Ugly RV’s Clueless Owner approached me and said, “Would you believe, people are vandalizing my RV! You’re the only nice person on this block!” 

 Since I’d long since asked him nicely to move this vehicle back to his nearby business, it was all I could do not to say “Actually, I’m just curbing my overwhelming urge to put plastique in your tailpipe.  I’ve just been hoping that if I take the high road, you will too.  And by high road, I mean that you will take this vehicle on a road, any road, that is not in our neighborhood.”

 Hope, for some inexplicable reason, springs eternal. 

RV owner stores his vehicle in front of our house hoping we won’t notice.