Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What were the odds

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published August 21, 2014] © 2014 

I think we'd all agree that no one should have to worry about being run over by a motor vehicle in their own shower. I'm a world class worrier but until it almost happened, it never occurred to me to worry that a stolen car would crash through our front fence and stop inches from joining me in the master bath. This wasn't recent, fortunately, but it comprised one of the three times that a vehicle has taken out our front fence and come perilously close to ending up parked inside our home.

The fundamental problem, of course, is that our house is cursed. The postal service can't seem to find it even after 67 years. We had no garbage pickup for entire summer when the routes were changed and our quirky address dropped off the grid. When the streetlight next to our house burnt out, both SD G&E and the city claimed there was no streetlight there. In January of 1981, a trunk line sewer block re-routed the neighborhood's sewage through our house for two hours.

We are suspicious about why the previous owners sold. They knew something wasn't right about this place. Note to ask realtor friends: when we sell, is being cursed a required disclosable? Do we need to inform prospective buyers that anyone residing here should expect more excitement - and not of the positive kind - than they can stand?

The three crashes are frankly puzzling. When you think of all the hilly roads with hair pin turns in La Jolla, our street is not one of them. It's straight. There's only a slight incline. You can see for blocks ahead.

The first incident occurred when a 76-year-old lady in a '49 Dodge lost control of her car and mowed down 20 feet of our front fence missing our bedroom by mere feet. She explained that she was carrying a load of milk for the Senior Citizen's Club and claimed that the city stupidly made the sidewalk the same color as the road, so how were people supposed to tell which was which? Surveying the debris, she announced, "Thanks God nothing happened to the milk!" Thanks God, she had remembered to pay her State Farm premium.

A few years later, I was taking a shower after a swim when I heard a huge crash that sounded like it was mere feet away. That's because it was. I quickly looked out my bathroom window and found myself staring right into the faces of four equally startled Hispanic teenagers who had been driving way too fast in a stolen car and had lost control. One can only assume the driver still had a provisional license and had not completed the mandatory 60 hours of adult-supervised driving. I got the license number but despite the fact that the car was trailing a fence for 30 miles down I-5 to the border, which you might think would attract attention, they got away.

Despite some perilously close misses in between, we got some good use out of our re-re-built fence before the third incident. We'd been sound asleep when we heard it: a vehicle roaring out of control down the street in our direction, rap music blaring and tires squealing as it careened back and forth. Like several other neighbors, our master bedroom is on the street side, some 15 feet from the curb. I'm not trying to be unreasonable here, but I just don't want to wake up to see the underside of a car. Olof joins me in this sentiment.

Fortunately, the white minivan just missed both our bedroom and the cars but took out 40 feet of our front fence, barely avoiding the telephone pole that doesn't exist. We called 911 but San Diego's Finest said they only had two squad cars in our area that night, both occupied. But, I said, this driver is clearly impaired - and how hard is it to spot a white minivan dragging a fence? (My front fence has had more travel time than probably any fence in America.)

Sorry, they said. Call your insurance company. Bye! From the debris field left in our yard and in the street, it was clearly kids: the sunglasses, the rap CDs, the hats. Aggravated, I posted a sign on a fragment of the fence noting: "This fence demolition courtesy of a carload of drunk teenagers. Unfortunately, natural selection did not prevail."

So would it be too much to ask if people would cut it out already? Yes, little old ladies and felonious teens, we're talking to you. People have asked why we don't move. But you think, what are the odds a car is going to crash into our house a fourth time? Of course, we thought that after the first.

Meanwhile, Olof and I have both entertained a fairly delicious fantasy of installing steel posts outside our bedroom and along our fence. They would be inscribed, "Make our day." Curses work both ways.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Fate Worse Than Death

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published August 14, 2014] © 2014 

Somehow (an attack of divorce guilt, I think), I ended up being a Cub Scout den leader for my older son Rory’s den. It wasn’t all that easy to find activities that I could do as a single mom with sons. They’d be willing to go to the occasional movie with me, and I could be a manager of youth sports teams but even the latter didn’t give me much one-on-one time with the boys. They really weren’t interested in lunch and shopping. And that was probably a good thing.

But scouting worked well. They were stuck with me on a regular basis, not only at den meetings but to fulfill badge requirements. So there was a lot of potential quality time—potential being the operative word. I will say that first den was a tough crowd and a huge learning curve. Nine-year-old boys en masse are not known for their delicacy. Meetings were started with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Cub Scout Promise (“Do Your Best!”), and the admonition that anyone comparing anyone else’s face to other parts of his anatomy and/or an excremental function, got to sit out on the porch until his mother came.

One of my fears about being a scout leader was that I was no good at crafts or even rudimentary scouting skills. I never did learn knots, in spite of spending considerable time using the rabbit-goes-around-the-tree-and-through-the-hole method. (My rabbits always went around the wrong tree, got tangled up and hung themselves.)  But it was also more fun than I imagined too. I got to meet lots of other parents (some of them good friends to this day), took on my younger son Henry’s dens as well, and ultimately ended up running the whole program.

Not long ago, I was at a birthday lunch at Sammy’s with three other women, all of whose sons were in my younger son’s Cub Scout den. I was recalling one of the meetings that took place at my house one September afternoon while we worked on our water safety badge in my pool. One of the tricks I taught the kids was a Navy survival technique that a military parent had taught in Rory’s den whereby if you needed to abandon a sinking ship and didn’t have a life preserver, you could take off your pants, knot the legs, and jump in holding the pants upside down over your head. The pants would fill with air as you jumped and voila, instant life preserver. I thought they would think this was incredibly cool.

They did not.

A hand went up immediately. What if there were girls on the boat?  I was initially touched by the concern for the welfare of persons who might be weaker, or perhaps wearing dresses and not pants. I quickly came up with an adaptation for skirts, concluding I was a total genius.

But I notice the kids are still not happy. After some additional queries, it was determined that the issue regarding the opposite sex, shared unanimously by all members of the den, was this:  they would see you in your underwear. Nope, no concern for the girls at all. After some additional discussion, it was decided that every man has to decide in his own heart whether he’d rather drown or have girls see him in his skivvie. It was clear from their faces which one these kids would choose. And I thought there were no fates worse than death.

Now, some 25 years later, all these guys are married, half have children, the rest likely will soon. Somewhere along the line they overcame the morbid fear of a girl seeing them in their underwear (or less). Nay, I think we can conclude that they have even embraced the idea.

All of us grandchildren-coveting moms agreed that this was good news.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

**Slather Me Up

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published August 7, 2014] © 2014 

Everybody has a fantasy about what they’d do if they won the lottery. I’ve always been clear about mine: hire a live-in masseuse. I’d get a minimum of two massages a day of about four hours each. In fact, some days I wouldn’t even get off the table, especially if I could figure out a way to simultaneously get a straw into a glass of chardonnay.

People have very mixed feelings about massage. Some are creeped out by being rubbed with scented oil by total strangers. This is clearly a birth defect and I feel totally sorry for them.

I have other friends who, like me, absolutely love massage. My preferred masseur, of course, is Olof who generously rubs my back if we’re watching TV together, racking up husband points like you wouldn’t believe. He insists he needs them in case of a sudden husband point conflagration which has occurred from time to time, especially when long-awaited plans were cancelled due to business travel. But he’s retired now so it shouldn’t be too hard to maintain a positive balance.

Not surprisingly, my favorite massagee is Olof. Not a fan of “stranger” massage, he is only too happy to have a can of whipped cream slathered over—er, too much information. Anyway, as a single working parent for twelve years, I was financially ineligible for massage unless someone gifted me one. So I’m trying to make up for lost time.

My only hesitation at all about massage is that I feel a little bad that the masseuse is getting stuck with my aged chubby body. Was I the fantasy she had when she went to massage school?  I think not.

Of course, we aged chubby people are often the folks with money for massages. Which  I’m sure doesn’t keep massage people from hoping for some firmer flesh to manipulate. Several years ago I went into a spa to get a massage gift certificate for my very athletic younger son. He’d been there before. That massage girl’s face lit up like a Christmas tree when I mentioned his name. I can assure you that nobody’s face lights up when they hear my name, except possibly to recall that I tip well. Considering my body, maybe it’s not well enough.

Sometimes it’s nice to do a massage just focusing on one area. I’ve never actually taken heroin (which probably won’t surprise anyone, especially with the easy availability of chardonnay) but I think head massage must be a similar high. Those endorphins just go crazy. I’d probably have my post-lottery live-in masseuse do at least one head and one foot massage a day too.

My extreme fondness for massage has made my husband wonder aloud if I were secretly adopted from a sensory-deprived Romanian orphanage. As a blue-eye blond in a family of brown-eyed brunettes, it seemed plausible. Nope, I'm just a massage junkie, plain and simple.

Not too long ago, I wandered into an Asian-run massage place whose brochure advertised their treatments as “better for your organ.” I couldn’t argue with such a charming endorsement and signed up for a reflexology foot massage. All our organs are alleged to have nerve endings in the foot so that pressing on certain areas can help diagnose problems elsewhere in the body. Of those 7000 nerve endings, 6,000 of mine seem to be perennially annoyed. The foot masseur pressed on one place that was excruciating painful. I flinched. “Hurt there, kidney no good,” he said. No good?  Maybe they were just having a bad day?  I mean, we’re talking kidneys here.

Noting a really sore spot during a foot massage at another place last year, I asked, “what organ is that?” The masseuse said “sinuses.” Geesh, that’s probably one of the three organs in my whole body that has consistently behaved!  So as a diagnostic tool, it may not work that well for me.  I’m thinking that in my case, maybe the pain in my feet might mean “need new shoes” or “lose weight, Lumpy!” Don’t really care. It just feels heavenly.

I guess if you’re going to have an addiction, massage isn’t the worse one you can have. But I really have to start buying lottery tickets.