Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A chirpy "Good morning!"

I awoke in an unusually good mood today. I'm really happy.

There's no particular reason for it and it's not that I ever wake up grumpy, because I don't. I just awoke super smiley today, that's all.

I went to the grocery store at about 9:30 a.m. In the parking lot I approached a woman leaving the store, pushing a basket and apparently in deep concentration. She seemed oblivious to my existence.

"Good morning!" I chirped. This is not like me. This is something new. I don't talk to strangers, especially strangers who seem to be busy, even if only in their private little worlds. Maybe especially then.

That's what it is, really. I'm not an unfriendly person. I just don't want to intrude on your privacy. But, for some reason and for the first time in my life that I can recall I smiled broadly at the concentrating stranger and chirped -- yes, I'll use that verb again because it's perfect -- I chirped "Good morning!"

The woman blinked and look momentarily confused and maybe just a tad defensive. Who are you? What do you want? (I'm sure those were her first thoughts.) Why are you bothering me?

But she forced herself to smile weakly and nod slightly. I think she also picked up her pace just a bit.

Inside the store I decided to experiment. I chirped "Good morning" to almost everybody just to see their reactions.

The people who work in the store responded in kind but they have to. It's their jobs, so they don't really count. But, I give them a lot of credit for taking pride in their small, personal part-ownership of Albertsons. How can you not love people who love their jobs?

A man slightly older than me, wearing shorts and a Mexican tourist fishing hat, smiled broadly and returned my greeting as I scooped up baby red potatoes. I think he and I could have sat down at Starbucks, had a cup of coffee and solved all the problems of the world together.

I guess it stands to reason that men about my age or slightly older would be the most likely to find genuine cheer in my greeting than younger men or women of any age.

In the cold and pain relief aisle I met a guy I would guess to be in his late 30s or early 40s. He smiled, nodded and said "Hi!" brightly but rather professionally. For a brief moment I felt like a prospective client but his smile whipped right past me to his watch. I'm sure he didn't mean to do that. This is the best place I've ever written for me to use the word, "perfunctory."

I encountered a young woman in the pasta sauce section. She had a small girl by the hand and a baby in the basket. (In a baby carrier in the shopping cart, I mean.) She looked pleasantly surprised by my greeting, returned my smile, gave me a little finger wave and cheerfully said, "Hello!" I think I amused her. It struck me that without noticing I have apparently slipped into the age where young women no longer think I'm trying to hit on them. They probably think I'm just a cute, harmless old man now.

Darn.

But, I continued.

A woman about my age glanced at my chirpy intrusion and said nothing. She quickly transformed her glance into one of those panning gazes beyond me as if to appear that was she was looking wistfully for her long-departed love to return from war. Or maybe she was looking for the saltine crackers aisle.

I was careful to not chirp "Good morning!" to any children. Especially not little girls. I didn't want anybody to become suspicious that I might be a dangerous, dirty old man. That's sad, isn't it? It is to me.

By the time I reached the checkstand I felt like Santa Claus.

I had smiled and chirped my way through a supermarket full of people who might mention to their spouses or best friends, in passing, about the weird, strangely happy guy they had met in Albertsons this morning. It might be a revelation to them. They, themselves, might become happier and more outgoing in public.

Or, not.

More likely none of them gave it a second thought once I was at a safe and non-communicative distance.

On the other hand, I learned something vitally important for myself:

Being happy makes me happy.

What you do with it is up to you.

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Liar at checkstand four!"


I went grocery shopping yesterday and saved $29.75.

I know I did because it says so right on the bottom of the receipt just above the place where the receipt urges me to take a customer survey online and become eligible to win $100.

When did grocery stores become so damned chummy? A little small talk with the checker is nice but I don't need to have an ongoing personal relationship with corporate Albertsons, Vons and Ralphs.

It really irks me to have to carry a special card identifying me as a Preferred Customer. In fact, I would be quite happy to be an Undesirable Customer and remain totally anonymous if I wouldn't get hosed at the checkstand for refusing to become a subject of their marketing database.

Once I went shopping at a foreign grocery store in a different city.

"Do you have our rewards card?" the checker asked sweetly.

"No. Just go ahead and give me the 'screw-you' price," I replied. I really did. I said it with a smile but I think it unnerved her a bit. Felt kinda bad about it. Kinda.

When I signed up for the coerced honor of being a Preferred Customer of our neighborhood Albertsons I lied.

That's what these annoying, albeit minor, intrusions do. They force us to lie. I didn't want the store to have my phone number so I made one up. It gave me a great feeling of smug satisfaction until the day I arrived at the checkstand without the card and was told, "That's okay. I'll look it up. What's your phone number?" I told her I didn't know it. Then, I broke down and admitted my rebellious perjury. I looked at my shoes as I did it. I half expected to hear an announcement a moment later on the p.a. system, "Manager to checkstand four...we have a liar at checkstand four!"

Not long after that I was back at the same store. When I told the checker (a different one, thank God,) I didn't have my card she asked for my phone number and for some reason I don't quite understand I told her my actual home phone number. I knew it wouldn't work in the system but I just felt ashamed and wanted to purge myself of my well-deserved reputation as a known charlatan in Albertsons. Guess what? It worked!

My actual phone number was accepted and I was back in the good graces of the Albertsons Corporation! I was, again, a Preferred Customer, praise the Lord!

A moment later I realized why my phone number worked. Somebody else had fabricated a phone number and it just happened to be mine!

Now the checkstand clerks have taken to thanking us by name as a result of their marketing scheme database and as I turned to leave the store that sunny afternoon, awash in the warm renewal of smug satisfaction for having beaten the system the nice lady at the checkstand said, "Thank you and have a nice day, Mr. Martinez!"

Life is good.

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

Thursday, June 17, 2010

RV lifestyles of the rich and fru-fru


Have you ever walked through one of those million dollar motorhomes?

I dig the on-board washer and dryer. The spectacular sound system and the 52-inch HDTV screen that magically slides up out of the furniture are very cool. For the life of me I can't understand why you would want marble counter tops and gold and crystal chandeliers on a mirrored ceiling in a recreational vehicle but that's just a matter of personal taste. To each his own.

They're impressive as heck but what I really don't get is where you find the nerve to drive a million dollar RV on public highways. The fear of having a wreck would make me apoplectic. Bugs smashing themselves into the afterlife on my million dollar windshield would drive me out of my mind. The very idea of attaching a million dollar water and sewage system to public faucets and crapper dump lines would make me a snob on the order of Thurston B. Howell III.

Do these things have bidets? I'm just curious.

I do understand that if you can afford one of these rolling mansions you're not likely to be terribly concerned about the cost of maintenance and insurance. I get that.

But, where do you go in a million dollar motorhome? Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park RV Camp? A KOA littered with kids? A patch of desert in Quartzsite?

Don't you feel just a little ostentatious parking next to a pop-up tent trailer containing a giggling, family of five, ignorantly joyous within their RV peasantry?

A couple of years ago Carolann and I took our brand-new $100,000 motorhome to a swanky RV resort in Vegas, one of those places where you can buy your own lot for a mere quarter-to-a-half-million dollars and dress it up with fancy landscaping and magnificent outdoor patio bars and barbecue islands.

(This picture, taken at the Vegas resort, is not a public group area. It is a single privately owned RV pad. Every feature, including walls and all hardscape are custom-built at the owner's expense. Click on it for a closer view. Click the BACK arrow to return here.)

We were just renting a space for an extravagant weekend celebrating our 20th anniversary. Next to the other motorhomes in that place we felt like the Beverly Hillbillies in our spanking new Sea Breeze.

(Important! If you ever find yourself making a reservation at such a place don't tell them you want "full hookups". They will laugh themselves sick. Instead, ask if the price they quoted includes the butler. Now you've got them on defense.)

I accidentally spent one night at an "eco adventure resort" along the California coast that even I, a native Californian, found hard to believe.

It had a lodge, cabins, RV hookups and tent spaces. It had a spa, complete with hot-tub and massage facilities. Each tent space featured a large wooden deck on which to pitch your tent so it wouldn't have to actually come into contact with dirt. I'm not kidding.

Oh, and no dogs allowed. In a campground!

This place had daily yoga classes. The cutely, quaintly named "General Store" sold breakfast croissants freshly baked on the premises and brewed-while-you-wait, five-dollar Starbucks lattes; it offered fresh fruit, wine and cheese with an assortment of fancy crackers, and the "bar and grille" (the "e" gives a grill respectability, I guess) offered catering services.

Catering.

In a campground.

You know what it didn't have? Recreational vehicles. Not one until I fell from the sky like a bad penny, alone in my truck camper with my scruffy beard, wearing a sweat-stained cowboy hat and tie-dyed t-shirt.

I looked like a homeless man with gas money.

So, where are these million dollar motorhomes in the real world? Outside of Vegas resorts and RV shows, where are they? Seriously.

I really don't like to sound like a poor snob. As I explained in an earlier post I graduated from dirt camping to motorhome semi-luxury.

But, sheesh!

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

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PS. Last week I asked for pictures of your hometown tourist attractions. I received a few but would like more for the Readers' Scrapbook I plan to add to this blog. If you don't have pictures of local tourist attractions, please take some. Otherwise, just send me your favorite family photos of your adventures out Thataway! You retain all rights and I won't divulge any personal information. I swear.

Send them to:
dave.thatawayroad@gmail.com

Thursday, June 3, 2010

To kill a mockingbird

3:12. Must sleep. Can't.

Must.

It's hot. Throw off the bedspread. Can't feel the fan.

Such a pretty sound. But it's so loud.

How can it go on like that all night? And so loud? Most birds don't make any noise at night. None. Sun goes down, they shut up. This one's different.

Don't think about it. Don't think about anything. Think about something else.

I forgot to clean the porch, the front door. And the light globe, too. And the pine cones in the basket. Need to hose them off. Need to get the truck into the shop. Hope it's not expensive. Can't afford it. Don't think about money problems in bed, don't ever do that. Think of something else. Anything.

Damn, that bird is loud!

"Dammit!"

"I know, Honey. Try to go to sleep."

That was lame. Try to go to sleep?

3:14. Relax. Let your mind relax. Stop looking at the clock. Don't think at all. Wait for the weird thoughts, the weird semi-dreams that morph into REM sleep. Don't clench. Relax.

I wonder how many different types of birds that one is mocking? How many different songs is it singing? Fascinating, actually. But so loud! Louder than the party and the fight on the street the other night when we called the cops. The bird is actually louder than a bunch of fighting drunks!

Still, it's such a pretty sound.

Wish I could call the cops on the bird. Wish I had a pellet gun. No, I don't. Of course I don't. Wouldn't shoot it. Couldn't find it anyway. It's in a tree outside, hidden by moonshadows. It's everywhere. Sounds like it's right here in the bedroom. It's out there.

3:46. What? Must have dozed off. But I don't remember, so it doesn't count. The bird is still singing. Carolann is thrashing and moaning.

It's cold. The fan is cold. Pull up the bedspread.

Relax.

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved
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