Monday, January 30, 2017

So What's The Worst That Could Happen?

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 1, 2017] ©2017
Every family needs a family worrier - a person who worries about everything from world peace to whether we’re out of lunch meat.  Someone, after all, has to worry about whether the house will get robbed, sea level is rising, or one of you will get sick the day before you leave on vacation. I have always been the worrier in my family.
Being a family worrier is an extremely demanding job. Not only do you have to worry about the likely things that can go wrong, but the unlikely things as well.  Of course, in my view, there is no “unlikely.”
To be a successful family worrier, one must subscribe to two fundamental principles.  The first and most crucial is that no matter what anybody else tells you, nature abhors a confident person. The second: Let one disastrous possibility go unworried about and you can just about guarantee it will happen. 
For example, I never worried that the failure of the city to maintain sewer lines after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1976 would result five years later, on January 7, 1981, in a trunk line sewer block in front of our house that routed the entire neighborhoods sewage through our home for almost two hours. Or that the day before Thanksgiving in 2015, hours before the family was descending on us for the holiday meal, a possum would die under my kitchen creating an odor not unlike a barrel of rotting barracuda. Now, of course, both of those are on my regular worry list.
Anxiety disorders run in my family. That’s why I was interested in an article in the San Diego U-T a few weeks back entitled “Mulling the worst: One therapist’s anxiety fix.” Her solution for combating anxiety is to imagine the worst that could happen and then, she’s decided in her inexplicably delusional way, you will realize that even the worst isn’t that bad.
I’m sure this therapist is a very nice lady but I can only assume she’s been out of graduate school for a matter of days. We worriers are world-class catastrophic thinkers. In all modesty, it’s where we excel.
For example, she says, if your kid is anxious about missing the soccer ball during a game, you should sit down with him and ask, would that so terrible?
Hell yes! The other kids on the team will probably never let him forget it, teasing him about it in perpetuity.  If they lose the game, it will be his fault. His teammates will nickname him Klutzoid, a moniker that will stick with him until his octogenarian years.  The coach will stop playing him, and any hope he will ever have at playing up to the next level is permanently shot. Someone will post it on Facebook where it will be immortalized forever and played at his wedding. So, “not so bad”? Hah! I don’t think so!
Another recent article about anxiety in the U-T recommends “motivational self-talk” like “I can do it!”, or “I’ll be fine!” to give yourself the whole ridiculous illusion that we actually have some control in unexpectedly anxiety-provoking situations. I don’t think this therapist travels on airplanes where they make it abundantly clear you have the power of a gnat.
So herein lies the problem.  There’s just too much to worry about these days, and we’re not even counting the new administration.
From time to time Olof has tried to convince me that the worrying itself was not the reason an event went well but my thorough (some have unkindly called it massively obsessive) planning. But then, what does he know?
May I add that being the family worrier is a thankless job.  There you are worrying your little heart out for people, and are they the least bit grateful?
 “Olof,” I said, “I’d like for you to start doing some of the worrying for a change.”
“But I’m not worried,” insisted Olof. Olof says he doesn’t have to worry about anything, not that he’s inclined to anyway. He knows I’ve got everything more than covered.
“That’s exactly my point.  Of course, I’ll still take charge of the global worrying  and the prevention of major disasters.”  I wasn’t sure I’d trust Olof to worry enough to keep the post-earthquake tsunami from dragging our house out to sea anyway.  “But I do think you could take over some of the routine worries, like whether the airport will be fogged in, the stove will crump in the middle of cooking Christmas dinner, or another possum will die in the crawl space under the kitchen the day before everyone is coming for Thanksgiving.
“Really,” he insisted, “what are the odds the possum thing would ever happen a second time?”
And that, of course, is exactly the kind of thinking that guarantees deceased marsupials under your house.

Monday, January 16, 2017

An Explosive Tale

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 18, 2017] ©2017
All right, our home can now officially be certified as weird. 
I’ve written about this phenomenon before: the phantom street light in front of our house that both SD G&E and the city claim does not exist. (You can only imagine what it takes to take a burnt-out non-existent street light fixed.) Our quirky address has, over the years, rendered it unfindable by the La Jolla Postal Service, city trash collectors, delivery vehicles, the police, and even our own friends. The only service that routinely found us was Fed Ex.
But now even Fed Ex seems to have gone off into the Twilight Zone. 
One afternoon the week after Thanksgiving, Olof went out for his customary walk while I went to do errands.  When I came home, there was a box that bore teeth marks from what appeared to be a very perturbed Rottweiler sitting in the middle of our front yard.
But hey, it was the holiday season, a lot of seasonal drivers. But still, what a sloppy delivery job! 
I picked up the box and lugged it up to the front door, shifting it to one side so I could get my keys in the lock.  That’s when I notice the words “explosive” and “ordnance” on the label.  I’m thinking, whoa, those Trump folks have no sense of humor! But wait! I haven’t even written that column yet!
The delivery address was 92155 – Coronado.  There was nothing with our name or address even remotely associated with this box.  But I decided that in the meantime, it was going right back outside to the place I found it.
When I came in, I saw that Olof was on the phone.  He cupped his hand over the receiver and yelled , “Don’t touch that box outside!”  Oops, too late! He was alerting Fed Ex Ground to the package.  They didn’t seem overly concerned.  I guess if it’s been on their truck all the way across the country, it can’t be too dangerous. 
We briefly pondered calling the police about it. But that might create more excitement than we wanted. When our older son, Rory, was 12, he made a pretend bomb for two young camo-wearing neighbor kids who liked playing GI Joe. Seriously, he slapped this thing together in about five minutes, wrapping two round blocks from our block set in aluminum foil, adding a couple of green glow sticks, and the face of my swim watch that had a broken band but still ticked, and wrapping the whole thing with masking tape. In Rory’s defense, those guys in the Hazmat suits should have determined it wasn’t a real bomb before they cordoned off the whole area.
So we decided against calling the police. TWO visits from the bomb squad and you’ve got a reputation.
Olof said he’d found the box on the sidewalk in front of our house and had the initial same feeling I did: sloppy delivery drivers. A few days before Thanksgiving, we were delivered someone’s very bulky countertop convention oven. At least there, the first three letters of our name and the recipients were the same even if the address was totally different. Deciding that these ovens were probably not happening on EBay, we restored it to its rightful owner.
But this new box was such a mystery: how had it ended up in front of our house? If it had fallen off a Fed Ex Ground truck, was it even possible that the same truck was delivering in both La Jolla and Coronado?  Even after we concluded that this box was not likely to explode in our faces, we were just as happy to have it stay outside. 
But no, this story was going to read like a bad sitcom. The next morning, our lovely lawn maintenance guy showed up unaccustomedly early and graciously delivered the box back to our front door. Olof wrapped it in a plastic garbage bag and deposited it on a far corner of the lawn and indicated to the totally mystified non-English-speaking lawn guy that he should not go near it. I’m guessing our lawn guy came home that night and regaled his family with yet another story of the strange habits of his La Jolla customers. Why put a box where someone could steal it, he would wonder aloud, shaking his head?
When Fed Ex still hadn’t shown up that afternoon, Olof placed another call to them. He was sure that the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group on Coronado must be wondering where their package was.  So shortly thereafter, a Fed Ex guy showed up and with no explanation whatsoever (probably because he simply didn’t have one), collected this box.
And the story will be added to the on-going lore of this strange house. We’re really pretty sure it’s going to have to be a disclosable when we sell it.
But about those teeth marks…
So how did this box end up at OUR house?
Our bomb-sniffing dog, Lily

Those are DEFINITELY not Lily’s teeth marks. (She only has 6 teeth.)
Box hangs out in the middle of our front yard awaiting eviction
(somebody steal it please!)