The Persistent Perversity of the Inanimate Object

I have no idea who coined that phrase but as far as I’m concerned they had the right idea.  I never met a piece of furniture that really liked me.

I can approach a chair, any chair; maybe it’s been sitting in the exact same spot for the past ten years. As soon as I eye it, whether to sit down, walk past or just give it a light dusting, that perverse object will mysteriously find a way to move a few inches to the left or right, or a few inches behind its usual spot, deviously setting a trap for me.

If I want to walk by, a chair leg juts out and I trip.  If I plan to sit down, a cushion shifts and PLOP, I’m on the floor. If I approach it with furniture polish and a dust cloth, these being intended for its own benefit, does it appreciate my effort?  No, it refuses to shine.

Tables, sofas, beds, dressers; all mean and spiteful. No one else has these problems.  I shouldn’t take them personally except that I’ve come to realize they are personal.  It really is all about me, one giant conspiracy.

Appliances get even crankier.  I’ve had enough shocks from my small appliances to clean out Death Row at San Quentin if they still used the electric chair.  Refrigerators grab my fingers and fling ice cubes at me, and I once caught my hair in a microwave.  I just managed to save it before it frizzed off.  Talk about a permanent wave!  My washer dances a jig across my fallen arches every time it goes into the SPIN cycle.

As for my car, that ungrateful old relic has a dozen tricks to spite me.  Its favorite is refusing to start as I grind away on the starter, inevitably flooding it. All old cars do this, but about the time I give up and open the door to investigate, the engine will catch with a big jerk, bent on throwing me out.  Or, to give it the benefit of the doubt, maybe I’m the big jerk and the engine is just doing what engines do.  I don’t know.

I would seriously consider walking everywhere except that there’s always that broken sidewalk or loose brick waiting.  I have scars on my knees going back to the First Grade. My various scars are like road maps to a life of mishaps.   Besides, the WALK/DON’T WALK signs deliberately leave me out in no-man’s-land at a 4 lane cross street with no island, just because I was trying to beat the traffic.  Now tell me that’s not deliberate.

A simple act of lifting the lid on the bin where I return my library books maimed me for life.  It grabbed my left thumb and changed the print forever.  Since then I return the books to the desk inside.  Thankfully, I’ve only tripped over the threshold once as it cunningly lay in wait.  Crawling around on your hands and knees picking up library books in front of 17 pre-schoolers who are there for Story Hour is embarrassing, especially as they thought I was acting  out a scene for them, probably Jack and Jill without the pail of water.

Tools and utensils are the absolute worst. I have a history with every single one I own.  You’ve heard of hammer-toe?  How about hammered fingers, ten of them?  I no longer try to hang pictures.  If I can’t glue them to the wall without their sliding down, they will just sit on the floor, lean back and glare at me reproachfully.

We won’t even get into electronics.  Let’s just say I wasn’t cut out to cope with this electronic age.  O M G,  L O L.  If robots ever learn to program themselves, I’ll be in really, really deep trouble.

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The Wedding Suit… (from my memoirs)

A lovely young woman and a handsome young man gather family and friends for their  happy announcement,  The wedding date has been set!  Hugs, kisses, handshakes and a few tears fly around as champagne is poured and everyone rejoices.  Joy reigns!

Later, as the excitement dies down, the mother of the Bride-to-Be and the mother of the Groom-to-Be ( that would be me) share a significant glance.  We nod knowingly and are instantly transported into full pre-wedding mode.

The ceremony is to be small and intimate;  still, plans have to be made, details must be worked out and LISTS, lots of LISTS need to be written.

Of course, the mother of the bride has the longest lists and by far the most details, but I, as mother of the groom, am certain of one thing.  Every detail on our side of the aisle is going to be PERFECT.   I envision myself looking serene and yes –  motherly,  not matronly, but motherly.  Perhaps something in a misty mauve…

With these happy thoughts in mind that evening, I go in search of the Father-of-the-Groom-to-Be,  hereafter to be referred to as the  FOTGTB,  eager to discuss the coming event.  I find him lolling back in his LAZ-Y-BOY, a bag of buttery popcorn in one hand, a greasy channel zapper in the other.   I fix an eye on him and announce,  “You will need a new suit.”

The  FOTGTB  sits bolt upright  (not an easy thing to do in a recliner),  brushes the salt off his chin and manages a weak smile, but he says nothing. Now, this should have been a red alert. The  FOTGTB  always has something to say about everything, but I’m far too excited to notice.

Time passes and I spend happy days with my lists and my details, never forgetting to check out the menswear  stores for the new suit.  I find several that would do quite nicely.

Finally, one evening I corner the  FOTGTB  again and say,  “I’ve found several suits that would do quite nicely for the wedding.  We can go shopping tomorrow, you can try them on and make a decision.”  The  FOTGTB  manages another weak smile, but once again says  nothing.  Well, this should have been a double red alert but I’m still wrapped up in my lists and don’t pay attention.

The next morning the  FOTGTB  gets up bright and early, hops on his bicycle and pedals off down the street.  This is not unusual, he does this most mornings, but this time he’s gone quite awhile and I get a little anxious.  I’m eager to set out on our shopping trip.  Finally, the  FOTGTB  comes pedaling back up the street, a large plastic bag laid carefully across the handlebars of his bike.

I have an OH – OH moment.  I spot the bright red logo  “SALVATION  ARMY  THRIFT  SHOP”  just as a man’s suit is pulled out of the bag. My  OH-OH moment has become an OH-NOOOOO moment.

Well, I sputter and stutter and squawk and stammer, but to no avail.  And, actually the suit isn’t toooo bad, and the fit isn’t toooo bad and sometimes you just have to know when you’ve been had.

The wedding day dawns bright and beautiful.  The bride and groom have eyes only for one another.  They could care less what the  FOTGTB  is wearing.  The wedding guests have eyes only for the bride and groom.  They could care less what the  FOTGTB  is wearing.

And there he is, The  FOTGTB,  beaming proudly, every curly hair plastered down, tie neatly tied, resplendent in his new suit!

A few days later out comes the big plastic bag with the bright red logo, in goes the suit, the bag is placed carefully back across the bike handlebars, and the  FOTG  pedals happily off to donate his wedding suit back to the  SALVATION  ARMY  THRIFT  SHOP.

The  FOTG  is so pleased with his ingenious solution to what he feared would have been an expensive disaster, he tells everybody.

However, he’s a little disappointed in the reactions and later confides,  “When I tell people about my new suit they laugh hysterically.  What’s so funny?  I don’t get it!”

And he never did.

The Legend of Licentia and Lucifer

Ladylike little Licentia loved her live-in lothario, lean, lanky Lucifer. Licentia and Lucifer were likely looking lovers, lacking only a legally licit license to live as one in lewd, licentious  Laramie,  Louisiana.

Loyal Licentia longed for legality, but languid Lucifer lacked any leaning toward licensing.  Life lingered on,  lovely little  Licentia lamenting, and lackadaisical  Lucifer leering lasciviously as he lucked out.

At long last, a lowlife  (but likeable)  lawyer named  Lloyd lounged into lewd, licentious  Laramie,  Louisiana.  Lloyd was legally licensed to link up longtime lovers, and  Licentia latched onto him like a flash of lightning.  Lamentably, limber  Lucifer lit out on the lam, larruping over the landscape like a leapin’ lizard.

Lewd, licentious  Laramie,  Louisiana liked this not,  and licensed lowlife  (but likeable)  lawyer  Lloyd to lasso Lucifer, and to legalize  Licentia’s lonely longings.

Loosely lassoed Lucifer looked longingly back on his lost life, lucky Licentia looked lovingly up at Lucifer and they were soon legally linked.

At last Lucifer saw the light and they lived long, legal lives, loving the little ones who  littered their living space.

They were forever loyal to lewd, licentious  Laramie,  Louisiana for letting lowlife  (but likeable)  lawyer  Lloyd lean back and live on his lawyerly laurels.

Subbing for the Servers

One of the neatest things about living in my retirement complex is the large, open dining room where cheerful, well trained young servers wait on us.  Unfortunately, the place was in an uproar the other night; more than half of the servers were no-shows for various reasons and our chef was going slightly nuts trying to cope.

On some crazy, spur-of-the-moment whim, call it an urge to get goofy, I managed to convince him that I had waited on tables back in the Dark Ages and, like riding a bike, it was a skill never forgotten.  I knew I was fibbing and I suspect he knew I was fibbing.  I knew he knew, and he knew I knew he knew, the way he kept eyeing me dubiously.  But desperate situations call for desperate measures.  By now hungry residents were pouring in, so he finally gave me the O.K. to pitch in and help.

I grabbed the nearest unused orange shirt, starched and spiffy, rolled up the sleeves several times, got a quick rundown on procedure and my table assignment, and I was good to go.  No worries, my fellow residents all being good friends, kind and gracious, how hard could it be?

Salads were a breeze, everyone headed for the salad bar and served themselves.  O.K., first step – water, then soup.  I tucked my cane under my arm (hey, we’re all old here), grabbed a tray of sparkling cold water full of ice cubes, and made the rounds.

Doing well, doing well, doing…OOPS, my cane was sliding.  I tried to hitch it up higher under my arm but the tray slipped and the glasses slid.  Before I knew it ice water was running off the tray and down the backs of several necks.  I got some sharp remarks and a few nasty looks as I grabbed napkins and started mopping necks, reminding them that it had been an extremely hot day and they should appreciate the extra effort toward cooling them off.  This did not go over well.  So be it.

Next step, hot soup, very hot soup.  This time my cane caught on the back of someone’s chair, twanging around and giving the person sitting there a good jab in the ribs.  The darned thing had a life of its own.  The soup cups slid and more than a few dropped into laps.  By now the diners were on their feet, swabbing away at their dripping, freezing necks and their dripping hot laps.

One old crab, you’d know who if I were mentioning names, which I’m not because I have to live here; anyway, he complains about everything and he was getting very vindictive so I made sure he was on the receiving end of both ice water and hot soup.  It was all I could to keep from taking my cane to him.  Vindictive is as vindictive does.

I finally beat a retreat, letting things simmer down a bit before I entered with the entrees.  The glares and rude remarks were downright personal by now and I was getting a little steamed myself.  What had happened to kind and gracious?  After all, it’s not like I was getting paid, I was doing a favor, for Pete’s Sake.  Let’s show a little understanding.

O.K., so here I came with the entrees, my grand entrance.  I’d calmed down and like a true professional, was in complete control with 4 loaded plates down each arm.  Too late, I realized that a strategic error had been made.  I had some help lining up the plates to bring them out, now how did I unload and set them down?  And I still had the darned cane under my arm.

While I stood there trying to figure out what to do, a late-comer walked in behind me, bumped against the cane and the plates started a long slow descent down both my arms onto the center of the table.  One by one they piled up, food everywhere.  Even the weakest hearing aid in the room picked up on that racket.

Well, when in doubt, do something.  I spied a pork chop poking out of the mess, thought to myself,  “Aha! ‘blue shirt’ ordered pork chops,” so I picked it up and handed it to him. It felt a little too well-cooked but that was his problem.  “’Green shirt’ ordered meatloaf,” I recalled, and spotted it under some broccoli.  I passed it to him on the palm of my hand, several chunks at a time.

“Plaid blouse with striped pants” wanted mashed potatoes so I picked up a glob of those, gravy running down my fingers, and reminded her if she’d ordered baked there wouldn’t be such a mess.  I plopped them in front of her. What looked like a full order of peas had rolled onto the floor but I retrieved them rather neatly, using the handle of my cane to gather them in.

I doled out the food as quickly as I could and finally was left with what looked like a triple order of Oregon Bean Medley on the last whole plate.  It must belong to “Ms. prissy polka-dot.”  You all know her, white hair, wears glasses, lives near one of the elevators on either the 2nd or 3d floor.  She shrieked, “I didn’t order that, I hate beans.”  I could only reply firmly, “This is what’s left so it has to be yours.  You ordered it, you eat it.”  I had to threaten her with my cane to shut her up.  Such ingratitude.

I had to lick the gravy and grease off my fingers before I could pick up the slick salad plates and soup cups and begin clearing up.  We didn’t need any more carnage.  Between “prissy polka-dot’s” tantrum and the complaints coming in about shards of china in the food, I had just about HAD it!  As to the shards of china, I could only say, “Either chew harder or spit them out, and be thankful it’s not ground glass.”  (Thinking to myself, if only it were.)

Finally it was time for dessert.  Our pastry chef had outdone herself,  Chocolate Eclairs a la Mode!!  Everyone clamored for a double order.  It was obvious to me that they all had high cholesterol, not to mention being too fat anyway, so I canceled the  Chocolate Eclairs a la Mode in their best interests, and served squares of plain Jello.

I withstood the barrage of complaints about the dessert, but when they began demanding coffee, decaf, no decaf, cream, no cream, 2, 3 or 4 teaspoons of sugar, no sugar, Splenda, Nutrasweet, I couldn’t take it any longer.  I ripped off the no longer spiffy orange shirt, yelled “don’t call me at 2 o’clock in the morning when you can’t sleep,” grabbed my cane and sneaked off to the pantry to eat my Chocolate Éclair a la Mode in peace and quiet, vowing no more volunteer subbing ever again.

As things turned out, that won’t happen.  I’ve been banned from the dining room indefinitely, and now dine regularly at McDonald’s, hoping to make some kind and gracious new friends.