Forty-Seven Salads

Potlucks,  Family Reunions,   Backyard BBQs,  Covered-Dish Church Suppers,  whatever you call them, any large gathering of hungry people bearing donations of prepared food is going to be well attended.  There’s something about an array of covered dishes that’s just plain irresistible.  From the aromas to the anticipation when lids are lifted and foil is folded back,  we’re all eager for the feast to begin.

Sure, the hot food turns cold, the cold food gets warm and the sandwiches dry out.  The lemonade will be sticky and the coffee weak but we still flock to those groaning tables, elbowing neighbors and second cousins ruthlessly aside as we head for the platters of fried chicken.

Did Grandpa Ed make his  “Kitchen Sink Casserole”  again?  Does Auntie Sue finally break down and reveal the secret of her enchiladas?  How many of the pies will be homemade?  Will that woman you know from P.T.A. with the sour pickle pucker bring her usual can of slightly warmed green beans, presenting it as if she’d labored for hours?  It’s all part of the fun and furor of a potluck.

I’ve occasionally wondered what would happen if the luck ever ran out of a potluck and everyone brought the same thing.  What are the odds of that ever happening?  Think about it.   What would we do if we were faced with, say, forty-seven salads and one skimpy 8 inch square pan of brownies, no nuts, no icing? The only thing worse would be forty-seven green bean casseroles.

Imagine tables laden with dish after dish of lime-green Jello, plus half a dozen more of an undetermined red, all melting so fast the marshmallows kept popping up.  There might be nine or ten coleslaws, most of them still in their KFC containers, countless versions of three-bean and pea salad and a whole lot of cottage cheese.   There would probably be a few macaroni and potato salads, plus one bowl of pallid lettuce sprinkled with chunks of unripened tomatoes, drenched in ranch dressing.  No one would even want a whiff of the brownies after somebody’s freckle-faced six year old was spotted  licking the crumbs out of the pan.

What would happen?  How would it go?  I’m thinking this would be one of the shortest get-togethers ever.  No long winded war stories, no exchange of crochet patterns, no bragging about grades from parents of kids in the local schools.  There’d be an early exodus with everyone looking for the nearest fast-food joint on their route home.  We’d be running into one another as we dashed back to our cars, sheepishly clutching bags of bacon cheeseburgers.

I’m betting on sign-up sheets the next time around.


The Phone Call

“Hi Sis, it’s me!  Guess what!  You’ll never guess what I just heard!

“Well, remember that family when we were girls back home, they had all those red-headed daughters?   Forgot their names;  darn this memory.  They lived around the corner from that weird house that was painted such an icky green, the one with all the whiny kids?  I swear that awful green was enough to ruin everybody’s disposition, even the cat was mean.

“Anyway, back to the redheads, the oldest one, can’t think of her name but she was the oldest, or maybe second oldest, anyway she was the knock-kneed one; good softball player but she couldn’t run bases, every time she came around 1st her left knee caught on the right one and down she went. She never did make it to 2nd.

“Their dad was a farmer, no red hair there, he was as bald as a hard-boiled egg.  He had what they call a “straw-hat” tan, took his hat off and the top half of his head shone like the Capitol Dome.

“One of those girls had kinda pinkish hair, really flaky (her, not her hair),  anyway she dated that jerk guy whose aunt worked check-out at the MINI-MART. That woman never stopped talking on her cordless phone, first one we ever saw in town.  Customers could be lined up clear back to the Deli, she didn’t care.

“Summers got so hot back there people in line would open the freezer door just to cool off.  Somebody was always skidding on melted ice cream.  Mint Chocolate Chip, I think. That clerk knew we were all in a hurry to get home for the ‘I LOVE LUCY ‘  reruns but she wouldn’t leave that darned phone alone.

“One of their uncles married into that big family of screwballs who lived across the highway from the Drive-In Movie, well maybe kitty-corner; O.K.,  a mile or so down.  East?  West? how can I remember?

“One of the guys delivered pizzas, he always smelled like oregano, never could get a date.  When an order came in he’d slap that lit-up  PIZZA  sign on top of his rusty old junker and take off like a deputy sheriff chasing a stray dog.

“Then there was that freckled girl about 12 or so?   Got braces on her teeth?  Couldn’t remember not to chew gum?  She spent a whole month picking JUICY-FRUIT out of her teeth.  She finally outgrew picking at her nose, then she started in with the braces.

“Another brother, or was it a cousin?  They looked so much alike you could hardly tell them apart,  one was tall and skinny, the other one short and fat, but I swear, the same face.  They were always in trouble.

“Remember when the short, fat one got caught at the DRIVE-IN sprinkling garlic powder on the popcorn in the concession stand?  Spoiled all the make-outs parked in the last row?  Everybody had to sit up and roll their windows down.  Some of them hadn’t watched a movie in weeks.

“Those two were friends with that goofy guy who slid an  ‘I LUV U’  Valentine candy on my desk in 8th grade English.  I backhanded that thing off on the floor so fast!  Was I ever glad I didn’t encourage him.   His wife and twin babies came to high school graduation!  Those babies didn’t look a bit like him, either.

“So anyway, as I was saying…

“They got engaged!  they actually got engaged!

“WHO?  What do you mean WHO got engaged?

“I just told you WHO!!

“You need to pay attention!  TURN   UP  YOUR  HEARING  AIDS!!!”

Lessons for Landlubbers

I have often wondered how a person could be drawn to the slowest form of recreational travel short of turtle back, namely sailing a small boat, then spend hours devising ways to make it go faster.  Such is the life of a sailboat owner wanting to race.

Sailboat racing is an oxymoron if ever there was one.  As the spouse of an avid sailor, I never really got into the racing thing, being content to drift along on a leisurely course now and then,  but panic-mode would set in quickly the minute the wind picked up or another sail drifted into sight, presenting a challenge to the captain of my fate.  However, I did learn enough about the basics of sailing to pass a few lessons on to other landlubbers.

Lesson #1  is quite simple:  Accept the fact that you’re either going to be bored to death or scared to death every minute you spend underway on board a small sailboat.  There is seldom any in-between .

Lesson #2.  “Boat Speak”. When you first set foot on a boat, any boat, you’ve entered a world where nothing is as it was.  From the crudest dugout to the sleekest cruise ship, they are all female.  Don’t ask why; despite much speculation, no one really knows.  Just remember “she” is always ”she” unless “she” is “her.”  Just accept it.  Also what you knew as a kitchen, a wall or floor, bathroom, food or drink, left or right can be forgotten.   “Boat Speak” refers to galleys, bulkheads and decks, heads, chow. port and starboard.  There will also be strange directions; abeam, abaft, amidships, Ahoy, Yo Ho Ho, on and on.

Getting down to the basic basics;  there’s a tall stick standing straight up in the middle of a sailboat.  It’s purpose is to hold up the big white flappy thing that makes the boat go.  The stick is the  MAST.  The flappy thing is the SAIL.  If you’re a really salty old sailor you’ll be referring to the mast as – guess what – the stick.  This is sort of reverse yachting snobbery, similar to drinking martinis out of your coffee cup.  Once again, don’t ask.

And then there’s the BOOM. Never forget the boom.  It’s the mean little sidewise stick that holds the bottom of the sail and swings about with such gusto every time the boat changes course.  The boom swipes right across the center of the boat (amidships)  at a low level with the briefest of warnings from the captain.  Anyone on board with the exception of the captain is at risk of catching the thing behind the ear, the back of the neck or any other exposed part of the anatomy.  Remaining alert is vital to survival.

You find yourself lurching to the opposite side of the boat, crouched as low as possible, stumbling over other feet, coils of rope, ice chests and any loose flotsam.  The threat of decapitation speeds this action up considerably.  Otherwise the meaning of the word  “boom”  will be brought cruelly home.

Lesson #3.  If you’re not dizzy enough from all the terminology, yes, sailboats do go left, right, sideways and backwards  (well, almost)  in order to go straight ahead.  This is called “tacking” and it does work.  It’s one reason regattas have been described by spectators as being as much fun as watching street lights change color.

Lesson #4.  Being a rather reluctant First Mate, there were only two jobs I was trusted with on board our small boat.  The first one, called “hiking the rail” in our particular Boat Speak involved sitting on the rim  of the high edge of the boat, leaning backwards as far as I dared, using a white-fingered clutch and all ten toes to hang on, the object being to balance the boat against the wind.

As you know, any breeze stronger than a zephyr causes a sailboat to lean.  The more it leans the faster it goes.  Simple, right?  In the middle of a race, or if the captain is a daredevil by nature  (not mentioning any names)  this can be a real adventure.

With every tack, the poor fool on the rail has to change sides at the right moment.  Scrambling across the cockpit, dodging items deliberately placed there to break toes, hopefully ducking beneath the boom as it swishes past at warp speed, all part of the excitement. This maneuver is repeated over and over, hiking to the opposite rail with each tack.  Thrilling or terrifying, you decide.  I have my opinion.

Lesson #5.  My other job involved even more split-second timing.  Once back at our local yacht club after a day on the bay, picking up the mooring was a real challenge.  Our club didn’t have slips, the boats were anchored out, each mooring marked with a float.  A small boat with no engine could only come in under sail. Some boats would have oars or a paddle for emergencies but trying to row a boat meant for sail is very difficult and we had our system worked out.

My job of standing at the bow, boat hook in hand, stabbing at that dratted mooring could hardly be called the end of a perfect day.  Woe betide us if I missed; coming back around was not fun.  Once the mooring was secured, the sail was dropped and we sounded the boat horn for a pick-up by the club launch, hoping to be heard over the ongoing revelry at the clubhouse.  By now we were longing for home, a light supper, hot showers and bed. Believe it or not,  sailing is hard work, definitely not as easy as it looks.

Lesson #6.   The captain, or master of any boat under way regardless of size, has absolute authority  on board.  His or her word is law and orders need to be obeyed.  Needless to say, spouses of these masters don’t always make good first mates.  If, for example, the captain happens to get caught in the shipping lane and  glances over his shoulder just in time to see the two story tall, rusty bow of a tramp freighter out of Monrovia, Liberia, bearing down,  when he bellows  “Ready About” (meaning change direction),  he needs a fast response.  He doesn’t want to hear  “Just wave them on around, Dear, they’ll move over.  After all, we have the right-of-way.”

He definitely doesn’t want to hear  “I broke another fingernail on your darned old boat.  You can just wait while I file it down.”  And he most definitely does not want to hear  “Stop yelling at me!  (sniff)  I told you if you ever yell at me again, I’ll never make another trip on this stinky old tub (sniff sniff). I wish I’d stayed home.  I could be at the mall.”

I suppose there are statistics somewhere showing the number of small boat captains who suffer massive coronaries while wrenching a tiller out of its fitting to be used as a weapon on hapless first mates.  And there may be statistics showing how many first mates mysteriously disappear overboard in open water on what could otherwise be called a perfect day for sailing.  Such things do happen.  In rare circumstances a captain has been known to disappear, too, if the first mate is unusually brawny and driven.

And, yes, it’s true, any boat, whether canoe, kayak or sailboat without auxiliary power does have  the right-of-way over any vessel moving under power.

However, claiming this right-of-way would be like standing in the middle of a train track, waving at the locomotive bearing down,  yelling  “I was here first!”

Not advisable.


I recently read another article on meditation and I do feel guilty about not meditating.  I hear about the benefits; I read about the many ways it has of helping our bodies, calming our nervous systems, relaxing our muscles, aiding us in handling stress and probably curing bunions and ingrown nails if we just give it a chance.

I try it every so often.  I find a comfortable position, close my eyes and ears to all distractions and relax.  I think of nothing, or as little of nothing as is possible.  I think of myself thinking of nothing.  I think maybe I should chant something.  Isn’t  “OMMM”  the suggested mantra?  Should I be contemplating my navel?

I think so hard about not thinking that I can’t stop thinking.  “OMMM”  I intone over and over.  “OMMM”  becomes  “UMMM”.  “UMMM”  becomes  “YUMMM”  as I try to drive stray thoughts out of my mind.  “YUMMM”  becomes  “YUMM-YUMM”  which reminds me that it’s almost lunch time – which reminds me I must make out a grocery list – which reminds me of  a couple of other errands I need to do, such as checking out the new bakery that’s being advertised…..and that does it; my eyes fly open  and my stomach growls.  I can think only of rows of mouth-watering pastries.  I can almost smell freshly baked bread.

I give myself a shake and a stern lecture.  Why do my thoughts, which I’m trying so hard to control, always turn to food  when I try to meditate?  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  I seem to be obsessed with food; let my mind drift just a little and I see visions of muffins and rolls, hot and buttery.

Here I am trying to concentrate on creating a more healthy lifestyle and those sneaky thoughts come crowding in.  And I don’t think of good nutritious food either.  It’s never fresh asparagus or crisp apples, roast chicken or split-pea soup.  It’s always  chocolate and whipped cream, caramel toffee and pralines.

I blame our modern culture for this. Our food has been evolving into richer and richer forms as availability, advertising and competition all do their thing.

We used to think of oatmeal as an excellent breakfast cereal.  A steaming bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit or plump raisins and cold milk, what a great way to start a day.  Now our cereal is so sugared up and gimmicky  it’s like eating a bowlful of crumbled cookies.

And cookies are now like candy, filled with chips, chunks and nuts, colored frostings and  exotic flavorings.  Candy has become insanely rich, with candies decorated by other candies.  Muffins have evolved into huge cupcakes with maybe a token sprinkle of a few raw oats so they look nutritious.  Cakes groan under inch thick layers of gummy goop.

There is actually a popular coffee shop in town that makes a milkshake out of  a slice of cream pie tossed in with the ice cream.  Talk about overkill!

Where will it all end?  Will our pancreases and gall bladders tolerate this abuse?  Are we all doomed to be sugared right into our graves?

This gives me a whole new subject to meditate on.  However, it is so distracting I can’t concentrate.  I find myself dreaming of something… anything disgustingly rich, topped by mounds of whipped cream – the real stuff – no chemical fluff allowed.  At the very least I need a handful of Dove chocolates.

So much for improving my health through meditation.  It defeats its own purpose  and I’m left with my cravings.  I guess I’ll have another piece of  “MILKY WAY”  cake.  Yes, it’s made with those candy bars.

You Got to Move It – Move It

If Mother Nature wanted me to have toned abs, pecs, lats and glutes at my age, she should have planned better.  I have all the requisite lumps and bumps in all the right places, in fact, somewhat of a surplus, but somehow I don’t think they’re what she had in mind.  Mother Nature likes firm and solid,  I have soft and squishy.

If I could disregard the arthritis, vertigo and popping knees long enough to do a few reps of something now and then, maybe I’d feel less guilty;  but any day that combines an aching joint with a trip on a treadmill is not going to be a good day.  As I said, poor planning.  There has to be an answer.

We older people are lectured endlessly on the benefits of exercise and we take the warnings seriously.  We’re aware of our responsibility to ourselves and most of us give it our best shot.  But something is missing.

If it were possible to do a workout from the comfort of a lounge chair on my patio, I’d have it handled.  I could work it into a routine, call my program  “Aging In Place”  and market it to my peers.  I’m thinking it would be a huge success.  I can’t be the only person on the planet this lax about getting back in shape.

Let’s see now, how would it work?  I visualize myself stretched out and relaxed in the lounge chair.  It’s a beautiful, sunny day and my patio is the perfect place for a workout.  I’m so stoked, as the kids would say.  Or do they still say that?  I don’t know, I can’t keep up with today’s slang.  Anyway, I’m so excited I actually get into the chair to give my idea a test run.

Warm-ups first:  I wriggle each toe once, working from left to right,  left foot, then right foot.  AAAH, that went so well I do another rep, then a third and a fourth.  No need to over exert the first time, four are enough.

I follow these up with my fingers, giving each a good, firm wriggle, left to right, of course, left hand, then right hand.  Nothing too strenuous , four reps here too.  Easy Peasey!

Trying not to get carried away, I wriggle and rotate in turn my wrists, my elbows, shoulders and neck.  OOH  the neck, that’s a good one!  I skip both my waist and my hips, realizing I’d have to get up out of the chair for those and not wanting to break my rhythm.  I finish up with the knees, the ankles and back to the toes.

And now for the cool down, a very important part of any exercise routine.  For this I repeat every step of the warm-ups twice, finishing up with a good stretch.  I feel absolutely wonderful!  No aches, no pains,  I can already tell I’m more toned.

Why have I been so resistant to exercising?  It’s such an exhilarating thing.  I’d get up and fix a tall, icy drink if I weren’t so relaxed.  I’m really on to something here.  I can see my Demo Tape in my mind’s eye,  “Aging In Place”  with a fab picture of me on the cover (they can do a little Photo-Shopping there).  It’ll be a Megahit!  I can’t wait to get to work on it right away, but first I do need a quick forty winks.  I mustn’t overdo on the first day.

I feel so good!   Mother Nature would be proud of me.

Those Lowdown Printer Blues

THOSE  LOW  DOWN  PRINTER  BLUES      (first stanza)

I want to own a printer,  my very own printer to use with my Samsung Chromebook.  I’m trying to order one.  Simple, right?  Well, it should be but unfortunately things aren’t going well.  In fact the entire procedure is driving me mad.

My problem is frustration, pure and simple.  Mix that with an equal amount of annoyance, a big portion of impatience and a dash of Irish temper and you have a mind brought to a complete standstill.

My synapses won’t synchronize,  I’m not capable of thinking beyond the moment.  In a word, I don’t handle frustration well at all.

What has brought on this catastrophic condition?  Actually, now that I’m beginning to get a grip, not that much really.  In fact, as I begin to calm down I feel embarrassed.  Still frustrated, but come on now, let’s not get so carried away.

To be fair, I did start this myself – three long weeks ago.  Now that I’m caught up in the Wide World’s Web, I’m not coping.

First of all a selection had to be made.  My tablet, actually a small PC, isn’t compatible with everything so my daughters searched online for me and a match was made.  No, it wasn’t a dating site, thank you.

My first call was to BEST BUY, not the local BEST BUY I plan to visit, that would be too easy.  They’re very difficult to reach by phone.  I listen to a DISTANT VOICE  telling me there is no printer that will do what I want.  Unconvinced and undaunted, favorite son and I appear in person at the local BEST BUY, Chromebook in hand,  looking for the proverbial 16 year old who knows everything.

Instead we deal with a frustrated adult who is trying to serve  three customers at once.   He finally informs us between other customers that what I want doesn’t exist. Honestly, these emotional people, totally unsuited to meeting the public. Just because I happen to ask the same question twice, or was it three times?  Anyway, sir, a little self-control here please.

Never one to give up, I go home and call Samsung’s 800 number.  Their DISTANT VOICE tells me “Yes,”  what I want does exist and she gives me facts and numbers.  She also says something about a cloud.  I don’t pay too much attention, figuring she is referring to my state of mind, which is really none of her business.

I report back to my offspring, one of whom tracks down just what I want on Amazon.  It’s even on sale, a mere $69.98; and Oh by the way, there’s a shipping and handling fee of only $18.78.

The order is placed and my toy  will be delivered in 5 days.  I wait patiently, 5 days, 6 days, 7 days, ENOUGH!  I track my order online (I can do a few things myself).  It was delivered by FEDEX exactly as promised – to an address I haven’t lived at for nearly 2 years!  My precious box has been sitting in the office at that address all these days.

I grab my old-fashioned clamshell cell phone and call the daughter who fortunately lives only 40 miles away from that office. She makes a quick run, spots my order sitting just outside the closed office  (this is on a busy week-day) and leaves a note with phone numbers, all info, etc.  No response.

The next day another trip finds the office still closed, my order still sitting there, ready to be picked up.  She decides to kidnap the box, leaving full details to whomever, explaining everything,  and hand carries the package to the FEDEX office to be returned to Amazon

.Amazon graciously sends me the info that my refund will be credited to my account immediately, and Oh by the way, there will be an additional charge of $15.78 for return and handling.

I won’t even mention the accompanying order for the U.S.B. cable I need to hook up what is by now my non-existent printer.  My synapses would snap totally out of sync.

I don’t quite understand Amazon’s cloud, Google’s cloud or Samsung’s cloud but I visualize a wispy, amorphous brain up there close to Heaven, gigantic in size, holding all the Secrets Of The Universe; and I wonder which tiny fissure was guarding my no-longer relevant address all this time, just waiting to drive me mad.

I feel a lot better now that I’ve gotten all this frustration out of my system and down on paper.  There’s only one small problem,  I  still don’t have a printer.

THOSE  LOW  DOWN  PRINTER  BLUES       (second stanza)

Two weeks later I have one, a printer all my own!  There  it sits on its shelf, looking important and ready to do its thing.  And here I sit, more than ready to let it.  Favorite son found it for me and I’m primed to print.

This is not the original one I had ordered from Amazon.  This is supposedly better, easier to use and, oh yes, cheaper.  $59.98 with no shipping.

It’s an Epson, compatible with all tablets, PCs and computers, and proud of being cloud-ready.  By now I’ve learned something about clouds in reference to storage, and my Samsung Chromebook is cloud-ready!

A large step-by-step instruction sheet comes out of the box like a Cracker Jack prize.  I unfold it confidently.   I can do this!  Step 1 – easy.  Step 2 – no problem!  Steps 3 and 4 – piece of cake!  Step 5 – Wait, what’s this?  It doesn’t make any sense.  I re-read it carefully; I still don’t get it.

I study the Epson Quick Guide. No help there.  I get out all the information that came with the Chromebook, pore over that. No joy there either. I consult various family members and get a few ideas, none of which seem to work.

I want to call both Samsung’s and Epson’s help lines but I have no idea what to ask. I don’t know what I don’t know.  So now what?

Daughter #2 makes a quick trip down to put Mom out of her misery.   Numerous  consultations by text and phone with techy daughter #1 have no results.  It seems the instructions are written for either Windows or Macs.  The Chromebook uses neither.  Nothing works.  Several of my questions are answered, some of the problems solved, but my shiny new printer still won’t  print.

I call the ever helpful office ladies who staff the desk at my residence.  One of the perks of living in a retirement community is the support they give us. They realize they’re not familiar with what I want to do and suggest I call Peter, the pleasant, knowledgeable man who works on the office electronics. He sees this as a challenge and comes by the next day.  30 minutes and a small fee later we have printing!  Eureka!!  He found a minor glitch in the IP number and that does it.  How simple!

I find something worth printing, attach the printer cable to the Chromebook  and laboriously type in my material.  (Every other girl in my high school class took typing.)   An hour or so later I punch the correct buttons, lean back and wait for printed pages to roll out.  Lights flash, noises are heard, pages appear, none with print.

I repeat all the proper procedures as I understand them.  Still no results.  Third time is a charm, or so they say.  Not true – they lie.  I find myself punching more buttons.  Before I can stop I’ve fallen into a frenzy of button punching.

Every arrow or light that shows gets punched.  Still nothing.

By now I’m unable to stop myself. One of these blankety-blank buttons has to work. The printer sits there stubbornly refusing to co-operate.  After one last round of button punching and name calling on my part it suddenly shuts down totally, staring at me implacably as I fume.

I glare at it and it smirks back.  I frantically re-read everything I can find, working up to a total breakdown, whether it or me.

Ten long minutes later it comes back to life, having proven just who is in charge.  I cautiously resume my button punching, trying to make sense out of its flashing instructions as I bring them up.  The phrase “It’s all Greek to me” pops into my mind as I gape at the unfamiliar words, except that they aren’t Greek, they’re Portuguese!

Somehow, somewhere I’ve punched into LANGUAGE and I can’t get back.  I give up in defeat.  The printer wins round one as it sneers at me in Portuguese.

THOSE  LOW  DOWN  PRINTER  BLUES                (third stanza)

By now 3 weeks have become 5.  Not willing to give up yet, I spend the next few days pouting, re-testing the printer, calling it names and pestering my family.  The mention of the word “Portuguese” sends everyone into fits of laughter.

I consult with our office ladies again but they’re not sure they can do much more, especially when I mention  “Portuguese.”  They suggest  another call to Peter for help.

I fuss and fume some more and finally decide to tackle it myself, step by step, making phone calls to the various help lines as I progress (assuming I do progress).  My first call is to Comcast who had recently installed a modem for me.  My first question, “Why does the 4th  blue light from the top constantly flicker?”  DISTANT VOICE #1 runs tests, assures me all is well on their end.  Her polite manner cracks a bit and her voice sounds slightly strained as our discussion continues.  She turns me over to

DISTANT VOICE #2 who explains patiently several times that the light flickers to prove it’s working properly – Well, Duh!  (I think I’ve already mentioned that I don’t know what I don’t know.)

I decide I can only embarrass myself so much and I tackle Epson Help Line next.  This DISTANT VOICE is a very polite, well trained young man with an interesting accent who begins to talk me through a procedure by describing icons such as a wrench and a screwdriver.  These I get.  We come to a series of unintelligible instructions, Portuguese, of course, when suddenly the word LANGUAGE leaps out at me.  I punch a button.

English words flash on, not fully understandable but at least readable.

Meanwhile DISTANT VOICE #2 is sounding a little stressed so I thank him profusely, hang up and return to punching buttons. Well, that was too easy.  Naturally the printer still won’t print, but at least it won’t print in English, as opposed to not printing in Portuguese

This time I call Samsung Support Line, which by the way is not toll-free.  They know when they’ve gotcha.  Their first pleasant young man, well trained and with a heavy accent, tries patiently to listen to my babbling and manages to establish the fact that my password hasn’t been registered in the cloud.  There’s that cloud again, making my life ever more complicated.  I begin the tedious job of registering in the cloud,  find his presence in my ear is making me more jittery than ever, he is decidedly too tense, so I tell him I’ll call back when I’m done. He gives me an 11 digit referral code. thanks me, (HE thanks ME) and we hang up.

But wait, there’s more.  Still no results.  Back to Samsung Support Line, third pleasant young man, slight accent, voice gets a little strained from time to time as we wrestle the situation step by step.  Suddenly he informs me that his supervisor will be happy to assist me.  He politely thanks me and signs off.  (I think I hear a sigh of relief.)  The supervisor is very pleasant and very polite although I soon pick up on a note of strain as she walks me through the procedure.  (Why do they hire all these nervous people to deal with the public anyway?)

Nervous or not, she is able to advise me to the point where that blankety-blank machine actually prints out what I had typed in Lo, those many days ago!  I may have cried, I’m not sure, but I do remember pledging her my undying love and gratitude as SHE thanks Me and politely hangs up.  I have a suspicion my phone calls have all been taped and are being used to train an endless stream of polite young men and women with accents on how handle difficult customers.  If only they could control their nerves.  We customers try.

Oh yes, one thing I learned through experimenting on my own; when the machine did try to print through all its traumas it would groan and moan like an elephant giving birth – took almost that long to produce a page, too, whether printed or blank. I had placed it on a shelf next to my toaster oven for convenience  (I live in a small apartment, very small), so I moved it to an open area and the pages churned out in no time

This latest round of nerve-wracking activity took almost a week, and probably years off my life expectancy, what with me thinking up feasible moves and trying them out, multiple phone calls, and countless times on hold.   Six weeks after my decision to buy a printer, I have one, it prints and I’m happy.

Spring Backward – Fall Forward: or, Understanding The D.U.H. Syndrome

I wish I could remember the sequence of events that got me in so much trouble one recent Spring evening as I busied myself changing clocks for the Daylight Savings Time switch.  I clearly recall repeating over and over to myself   “Spring Forward, Fall Back,”  even as I carefully turned every set of hands or electronic numerals back one hour on every clock I own.  We all know how many timepieces that can be in this electronic age.  Little green faces blink and wink at us in every room.  As I dutifully turned every one of those clocks from 9:00 p.m. back to 8:00 p.m.,  I smugly recited my mantra;  “Spring Forward…..”

It was Sunday morning before I realized how badly I’d goofed, and I can only say it was fortunate that I didn’t have a job to get to, or a plane to catch.

There’s a name for people like me who think one thing and do another.  We’re afflicted with   DETAILS-UN-HINGED  Syndrome,  better known by its acronym  D.U.H.  We’re also prone to saying one thing and doing the opposite.  We turn left when everyone else turns right, and we always, always forget names.  We may have an I.Q. to rival Marilyn vos Savant and the know-how to translate the Abyssinian  alphabet into High German, but when it gets down to nitty-gritty time we’re all candidates for D.U.H.   There seems to be no cure, we’re doomed to spend our lives apologizing and explaining.

Now don’t try to deny it, those of you who are even now putting your car keys in the refrigerator.  You know who you are, we’re all in this together.  D.U.H. can strike anyone at any time, although advancing age seems to make it worse.  Male or female, country of origin, urban or rural background, income level, there’s almost no hope.

I seem to be especially bad with timepieces.  I spent weeks this winter staring at my new Timex, wishing the date would change at midnight instead of noon.  I even read the directions as a last resort.  I hardly knew whether it was yesterday or tomorrow until some kindly soul suggested I advance the dial 12 hours.  Now why hadn’t I thought of that?  D.U.H., of course.

I’m especially vulnerable when it comes to elevator buttons and seat belt locks,  A ride on an elevator with me, especially anywhere above Floor 2, is a real adventure as I push buttons with the abandon of a 3 year old.  I’m particularly adept at pushing OPEN for CLOSE, or vice versa.  Symbols only make it worse.  D.U.H. again.

I’ve always maintained that inanimate objects of all sorts are out to get me, seat belt locks being especially mean and nasty.  In the event of a real need I already know I’ll be a goner.  Why couldn’t all seat belt locks have a universal fastener in case we’re in a taxi or some other vehicle we’re not used to?  I refuse to bear all the responsibility for this by myself.

Ever stand in front of a rack of grocery items at the supermarket, reading all the info on a certain package, only to reach up and select the package right next to it, the one which contains a totally different product?  Yep, me too.  One of the most infuriating examples of the Details-Un-Hinged Syndrome.

And it’s not just me, I remember a time when everyone except the hostess laughed uproariously when a fellow D.U.H. sufferer showed up two hours early for our usual Bloody Mary get-together prior to a Sunday brunch.

I know a bright young female engineer who sat in a heavily mirrored restaurant one evening, wondering seriously why all the EXIT signs read backwards as if in code,  TIX3. And even my salty old sea-dog sailor of a husband actually confused port and starboard in his later years.

I tell you, no one is exempt.  If your life has been blighted by the D.U.H. Syndrome, stories about you are already making the rounds.  Details-Un-Hinged  welcomes  you to our group.  While we have no advice for you or your condition, we do offer our heart-felt sympathy as we busily stir cat food into the tuna casserole for tonight’s dinner.  (That’s OUR dinner, not the cat’s.)