Sunday, April 18, 2021

Fearing I've Become A Pandemic Pariah

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 19, 2021] ©2021

The pandemic has changed all of our lives since it took hold in earnest in March of 2020.

It hasn’t always brought out the best in us. Unable to socially distance myself from both my refrigerator and the bakery counter at Gelson’s, I, like many others, have put on the Covid 19.  Which now, alas, has become the Covid 22.

While it pales in comparison to the losses so many other people have experienced, I have truly, desperately, missed social contact.

Olof and I are both really social people.  It’s actually fairly amazing for him since he’s an engineer.  Not to promote stereotypes (OK, I’m doing exactly that), when Olof went to Cal Tech in the early 1970s, some incredible percentage of his then-classmates would now be diagnosed as having Asperger’s.  (The rest would be simply be considered socially maladroit.) 

But in the last year, Olof has somehow managed to channel his social needs into sour dough baking and writing code for esoteric engineering projects. Sometimes at the same time. (Those were some pretty weird English muffins.) 

Me, I’ve just been lonely. Miserably, horribly lonely.

I even mastered Zoom (well, how to click on a link if someone else set it up which even then stretched my abysmal techno skills) but it’s not the same.

On Thursdays, I planned my non-day around the pool guy’s visit.  Most weeks he was my only human contact. Fortunately, Scott is a really friendly, fun guy.  I was always secretly a little glad when it had been windy and there were lots of extra leaves in the pool for him to clean.

I’d probably have been harassing the lawn maintenance guy too but it’s too hard for him to hear me over the mower and the leaf blower. I think he is secretly glad for this.

Now, if I’m being perfectly honest, I think I probably always talked too much even before the pandemic.  But in recent months, I’ve been noticing that if I’m in my front yard doing gardening work or playing with the dog that neighbors out walking are crossing the street before they get to my house.  In this way, they can simply manage a cheery wave and keep going.

And no, I don’t think it’s a Covid issue.

I can’t avoid the fact that I’m being avoided. Friends and neighbors are living in fear of being entrapped in conversation from which they cannot escape.

I asked my close friend and neighbor Jill if I were imagining this.  Was my desperation for human contact doing the opposite – driving people away?  Was I just plain talking too much?  Have I always been talking too much?

“Well, yes,” said Jill, without hesitation. “But it’s part of your charm.” 

Part of my charm?  Please note there was no refuting or assuaging of my fears. This, however, is one of the reasons I love Jill; she’s always honest without ever being mean.  But sometimes I hear her closing her garage door very, very quietly so as not to attract my attention.

Ironically, I myself avoid compulsive talkers.  In my husband’s college roommate group, which still has a reunion almost every year, one of the wives, Lucy, literally never shuts up.  Most of these folks have known her since their college days and affectionately tolerate her.  Well, to a point. 

During one of the group’s reunions, we all met in Toronto and were taking a day trip to Niagara Falls.  I suddenly realized that the other women had all made a beeline for the other two cars, leaving me in a backseat with Lucy for the two-hour ride.  A half hour in, I was literally contemplating opening the car door and hurling myself out onto the highway at 70 mph.  I pretended to be asleep but she kept poking me on the shoulder.  When we stopped for lunch, she followed me to the restroom and talked to me through the stall.  She literally did not stop talking for a microsecond the entire day.  Fortunately, when we were on the boat tour, the roar of the falls drowned her out.  But I could still see her mouth moving.

Have I become Lucy?  Or has the pandemic simply Lucified a natural tendency to talk too much? I do think I, at least, let other people get a word in edgewise.  (I mean, I do, don’t I?  Must ask Jill.)

I’ve actually spent a great deal of time pondering this.  Partly, of course, because we have had absolutely no social life whatsoever in more than a year and I have plenty of time to do so.  But I really don’t want people to fantasize stepping into traffic just to get away from me.  Maybe I need to keep one of those one-minute timers in my pocket so that if a neighbor comes by, it will alert me to let them escape.

Or maybe just learn to shut up?


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Just Rolling In It

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 12, 2021] ©2021

I’ve written before about some of the curious behaviors of dogs, but ours has taken up an unwelcome new one: rolling in her own poop.

She has always loved to roll in the grass. We have a huge fenced yard and the odds that she would manage to roll in poop seems statistically unlikely, especially as my husband takes her for a long walk in the morning.

No, we feel it is deliberate.  We figure she did it once, accidentally, decided it felt really good (we’re not sure why) and now seems to seek poop-rolling opportunities.

It’s bad enough when this fluffy white dog seems to have suddenly turned herself two-tone.  But how did she get it in her ears?

And does she then have to run inside and roll around on our bed? The light beige leather sofas in the living room? The white guest room duvet?

As you might guess, a dog covered in poop is a DefCon One Emergency.  It doesn’t matter what else you might be doing.   It has to stop instantly while one of us grabs her up and quarantines her in a sink before she can inflict any more mayhem in our house. 

Invariably, it happens within 48 hours of an expensive grooming.  In fact, she’ll still have the little red bows in her head.

Inquiring minds want to know:  Is she trying to get rid of the foo-foo-y products in the groomer’s shampoo?  Get back to a more natural dog smell?  Get in touch with her more primal canine origins?  Actually, this last could be likely.

I queried my very dog-knowledgeable neighbor across the street to see if she had any theories about this behavior. Jill replied: “Go for it, Lily!!!  That's my girl!!!!  Celebrate your inner wolf!!!!!  Ahh-whooooooooo.”

Thanks, Jill.

A pressing question is why is Lily suddenly doing it now???  She’s 11.  She’s a rescue whom we’ve had for four years so we don’t know her early history. We think this bichon-poodle mix might have been a breeder since she hadn’t been spayed. She was turned into the pound by her previous owner and the first thing we noticed was that she had no idea what dog toys were.  How to play fetch. How to play tug.  In fact, how to play anything.

We’d throw a small ball for her and she’d merely look at us like, “Am I supposed to be doing something with that?  If so, I’m not interested.” 

Finally, I found her some small round rubber squeaky balls that did pique her interest but not as toys.  She would gather them up protectively in a group close to her chest, her paws around them, and lick them affectionately as if they were her pups. 

From time-to-time visitors to the house, not realizing that these squeaky balls were offspring and not play things, would pick one up and throw it for her.  Lily would be enraged, chasing after it but immediately returning it to the rest of her litter and glowering at the guest.

“You just threw her child,” we’d explain to them.  “She’s very sensitive about it.”  They were always hugely apologetic.

So maybe she’s just catching up to behaviors that other dogs got to experience at much earlier ages.

In other ways, she demonstrates perfectly normal quirky dog behaviors. She follows us to the bathroom, preferring to come in and supervise, but if locked out, content to hang right outside the door ready to trip us the second we emerge.  We’ve had to warn guests to be sure the close the bathroom door tightly or she will barge in ready to provide moral support in whatever function they might be executing.

And of course, like all Southern California dogs, she does not like getting her feet wet.  In fact, she is absolutely offended by wet grass or pavement. If it is so much as sprinkling, she will walk out to the end of the front porch, sniff the air, and go back inside with a “Sorry, don’t need to go that badly” look.

But back to the poop issue. In a yard as big as ours, she truly has to seek out a patch of poop to roll in. I decided to research this on  

Among the evolutionary theories is that since many species of wild dogs were scavengers, they'd be drawn to smells such as rotting carcasses (which would smell not unlike feces.)  

Alternatively, they might be trying to mark their territory.  Although frankly, there's not much competition for territory in our yard.  It's all hers.  

And last: apparently, sometimes dogs just get bored.  Yup, don't we all. Especially in a pandemic. I guess after a year of no doggie playdates, who wouldn't be tempted to roll in their own poop? I confess the idea has occurred to me too. Maybe once she can start going to dog-friendly restaurants again now that we're back in the orange tier, this behavior will stop.  

Our furniture sure hopes so. 

Yup, did it the day after she went to the groomers.


Monday, April 5, 2021

A Cure For Local Parking Problems

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 5, 2021] ©2021

There have long been allegations that there are plenty of parking structure and off-street spaces in downtown La Jolla if the local denizens weren’t too cheap to pay for them.  Well, OK, we are too cheap to pay for them, but that’s the least of it. 

If the pandemic has shown us nothing else, it’s that expecting the senectitude set to navigate baffling vaccine appointment sites and to have to access menus from Rorschach ink blots taped to restaurant tables is, for many of us, a non-starter. Ditto parking into parking garages and street parking lots that require downloading an app.

Subterranean parking structures are dark, sky-challenged, and creepy, and the stalls are really tight, even for persons such as me who own a compact car. The only spots will be at the very bottom.  Level P4 will be reminiscent of descending into the Fourth Circle of Hell, an image eerily reinforced by the fact that was one is indeed circling ever downward.

They are populated with large pillars, strategically designed to be backed into. Black SUVS will be parked on either side of you in spaces marked “small cars.”  There is rarely (never?) angled parking. The dim light doesn’t help us oldies, whose depth perception isn’t what it used to be, to try to inch out of a space keeping track of both sides of the car AND that pillar behind you.  My last foray into a parking structure ended with my bumper having an encounter of the paint-removing kind. 

Another major problem with parking structures is that they involve machines. If you have trouble operating your cell phone, ticket machines are likely going to present a problem for you, and not just because even to get into the lot, you have to get out of your car to get the ticket which was maliciously placed 1.5 inches from your farthest reach. (Do arms get shorter with age?)

But the really scary part is that on your way out, after you have finally located your car and fought your way back to Planet Earth from the bowels of P4, you have to deal with that machine again. It wants money. And unlike the old days, there is no human in a booth to take it from you and wish you a nice day. There is always one techno-disabled idiot who cannot figure out how to use the machine and holds up the whole line.  I know this for a fact because I am that idiot. I hate lip-reading people disparaging my mother in my rearview mirror.  It makes me sad.

I make every effort to shop locally as I truly want La Jolla’s long-time emporia to stay in business.  And just to be clear, I don’t expect to park out front.  I’m willing to walk five blocks. The exercise is good for me.  But if my parking place involves technology in any form, I’m not parking there. I’m ordering it from Amazon.

But alas, even the street-level paid lots are fraught with obstacles toward the techno-impaired.  It’s one thing to have to shoe-horn money into a teeny slot that corresponds with your stall number.  But those have mostly disappeared and been replaced with requirements that one text a number or download an app.  Seriously?  You lost me at “app”.  And probably at “text” too.  And now some of the lots confront you with those same nasty ink blot things that afflict restaurant tables. (My husband says they are called “3-D bar codes.”)

The clincher is that after you do all that texting and apping, they’re charging a flat fee of $10!  Hey, I just wanted to pick up some drain cleaner at Meanley’s!

All those intimidating paid lots just take so much time! And stress! And make you feel stupid! And require your bumper to be repainted!  So if you could park in a nice free angled street spot in visible daylight instead somewhere approaching Middle Earth, which would you pick? 

 I’m going to make a suggestion that I haven’t thus far seen, and I’m hoping the good folks on the La Jolla Traffic Board will consider it. It won’t make us oldies park in subterranean parking garages, but we might be persuaded to park in those icky app lots if we could just buy a yearly parking pass, sort of like a handicapped placard, that allowed us to park in any street-level lot. I could pop into that $10 fixed-rate lot across from Meanley’s, grab my drain cleaner, and be gone five minutes later. 

To qualify for this pass, you’d have to be 65 or older, and have a signed affidavit from your kids that you are certifiably, untrainably techno-challenged despite heroic efforts on their parts over the last decade to put you on the road to modern living. 

I’d buy one in a heartbeat.  So long as I could write a check to pay for it. 

                                        I wouldn't have a clue how to park in this lot