It’s Not Me, It’s You

10 Nov Broken Heart

When I was 18 my dad took me to the bank to apply for my first credit card. Dad was a banker and, in fact, so was I (a drive-thru teller when I was 17). With dad co-signing, I was approved. The card was with Michigan National Bank, the company both dad and I worked for. Dad was very clear, this credit card was because I was driving a ’76 Impala into the heart of a not so great part of Detroit (yes, there are good parts) to attend Wayne State University each day. This card was for emergencies only. Credit was not something to be taken lightly.

Fast forward 26 years and Michigan National Bank no longer existed. Dad passed away nine years previously and my credit card was transferred a few times to various banks, the final one being Chase. I followed dad’s advice through the years and handled my credit responsibly. I saw the benefit of this in great rates for car loans and a mortgage loan.

Over the years, I tried to get dad taken off the card as, well, he was dead. I didn’t really see the need for him to be on there as, if the saying is true, ‘you can’t take it with you’ (and I don’t think heaven has a gift shop that you pass through at the end of your life like on The Pirates of the Caribbean ride). And my version of heaven has nothing in the realm of ‘buy now, pay later.’

Then the recession hit and my industry collapsed (read about all the fun in I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help). I was late on my mortgage. I was never late on a credit card (my friends know I hate tardiness in anyone). Yet, after 26 years of never being late, I received a letter from Chase saying they were ending our relationship. What? They’re breaking up with me?Broken HeartIt’s now three years later and I recently received a letter from my ex, Chase. It seems they want to get back together. So in response, here is my answer to that letter:

Dear Chase,

I received your letter asking me to get back together. I must admit that it came as quite a surprise. You see, while I was having many challenges at the time you ended our relationship, I didn’t think you were one of them. I didn’t know we were having trouble? I mean, I tried not to be needy. I thought we communicated well. You sent me letters telling me you respected our privacy. I read every word you wrote. We traded E-mails. I thought you loved me.

The funny thing is, you still loved my dad. He continued to receive credit card offers from other companies. As you were the only one he was still associated with, I assumed you referred these people to him. He was dead and he had better credit than me.

So now, three years after you broke up with me, you write me and want to get back together. Do you have any idea how much you hurt me? I mean, I expected that behavior from Bank of America, or even American Express. But from someone who I had my longest relationship with? And you don’t even mention our history. There’s no apology, no, “I hope you’re doing well.” Your letter sounds as if you don’t even remember me.

So Chase, after very little consideration, I am tearing up your letter (or maybe I’ll burn it) and forgetting you. I am happy without you. I’ve gotten over our break-up and have moved on. I can’t do this anymore. As Taylor Swift said, “We are never, ever, ever getting back together.” The love is gone.

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Random Acts of Kindness or Who Peed In Your Cocoa Puffs?

25 Sep

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In case you missed it, I was recently in the Philadelphia on business. In keeping with the spirit of The City of Brotherly Love, I decided to do a random act of kindness each day i wads there. Read part one at It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Friday – Day 4

Today was a challenge for my random act of kindness commitment. I believe it’s because I was so busy taking care of the people I was being paid to take care of that I kept overlooking other opportunities. I’m not happy about this but vow to do better in the future..

Luckily, one of the people I was being paid to take care of decided to do her own RAoK which I witnessed. You see, we took our group out for a fancy dinner. Despite having 8:30 reservations, the restaurant thought it just fine to seat our group at various tables as they became available, with the first seated at 9:00 and the last seated at 9:30. This was one of those ‘we’re really cool and you’re just lucky we let you in’ restaurants.

After most finished and began gathering outside, we were assisting them with working out plan for the rest of their night when Ashley, one of our guests ran back inside as she had forgotten the ‘Doggie Bag’ she had asked for her leftovers to be packed in (I’m sure this snobby restaurant loved this). When she exited with the bag, she walked over to the homeless man sitting at the corner and offered it to him, which he gratefully accepted. When she explained that it was filet mignon and lobster, his face lit up like a child trying his first taste of sugar. He thanked her over and over. She went back to him a few minutes later and gave him some money to buy a drink to wash it down with.

Myself and much of the group witnessed this RAoK and, it not only made the man’s day, it made our day. One RAoK can cheer many people.

Saturday – Day 5

I decide to concentrate on completing today’s random act of kindness early to be sure I actually get it done. I’m was a bit concerned that I might complete it and then have another opportunity present later. It turns out there’s no rule against doing more than one RAoK per day. With my mind at ease, I start looking for opportunities.

I start working early and, at about 10:00am have a chance to take a break. I choose to walk around the streets of Philadelphia and enjoy some sunshine and people watching. As I stroll through the Arts District I seemed to forget that I’m no longer working for Disney and am not required to smile and greet each and every person. I begin to feel as if downtown Philly may have run out of coffee as most people respond to my friendly greeting by averting their eyes as if I’ve escaped from a zombie movie. I know this look as this is exactly how I am before I’ve had my morning cup of joy. Whether it’s a coffee shortage or people are scared of me I’m not sure, but I decid to tone down the cheer. That is, until I come upon a convenience store and the RAoK lightbulb lights up. I wander in and come upon a rack of Pepperidge Farm Cookies. Who doesn’t feel special when eating these fancy cookies that seem as if you should be eating them while drinking a cup of tea out of fine china with your pinky finger sticking up (I’m pretty sure Queen Elizabeth serves these)? As I have no tea, I decide to go for the least fancy of the Pepperidge Farm Cookies, the chocolate chip macadamia ones.

After my purchase I walk back down the street greeting people (apparently you can take the girl out of Disney but you can’t take Disney out of the girl) and offering cookies. The first man I come upon had a cup of coffee but appears to not have a home. I ask if he would like a cookie to go with his coffee and he smiles and gratefully says yes. I offer cookies to a couple of others who politely declined (apparently I’m not the only one who isn’t eating sugar these days). The man sitting on the steps of a church listening to music decides to partake as do some others I pass. Still, many politely decline.

Soon I come upon the man I will call Mr. Nasty. Mr. Nasty is standing on the corner waiting for the light to change. I approach him and tell him that today is my random act of kindness day and offer a delicious cookie. The man gives an abrupt, “No,” and then continues on to say, “furthermore, this is not an act of kindness and you need to do better!” I’m stunned. I stand there with my mouth open deciding what to respond. I can’t let him bring me down that easily. As I begin to cross the street in the other direction I respond, “Have a nice day!” As I continue walking away he proceeds to yell at me. I can’t even remember what he said as I’m so stunned and upset by this that his exact words don’t register. I admit to losing my good attitude and yelling back at him that, indeed, “There is evil in the world.” I find it slightly ironic that this was World Peace Day.

I continue on, attempting to give away more cookies. One or two more people accept while most politely decline. I return to the hotel and give the remainder of my cookies to my coworkers and my favorite front desk agent who are very appreciative.

While I understand that, despite my curly, red hair and honest face, some people might have concerns about accepting food from strangers, and I have no problem when they politely declined, I was truly was shocked by Mr. DI. Apparently you can only distribute cookies if you charge for them and wear a ridiculous green dress with a sash.

Sunday – Day 6

Today is my final day in The City of Brotherly Love. The beautiful Hotel Palomar, which has been my home away from home, is part of the Kimpton chain. As I joined their club (I feel like one of the cool kids in the cafeteria), they gave me a $10 credit to “invade the minibar.” Due to my never-ending work schedule I was rarely in my room and hadn’t taken advantage of my gift. This morning I sift through the options and find a bag of individually wrapped Snickers bars for the low, low price of $10. Score! I grab the bag and head down to work.

This being departure day for my group, I spend most of the morning in front of the hotel getting them in cars to take them to the airport or their homes. While standing at the entrance I decide to distribute my Snickers bars to the hard-working bellmen and doormen before going and offering the final pieces to the front desk crew.

This brings to an end my concentrated week of Random Acts of Kindness. I’ve learned a few things:

First, many people will not accept food from strangers, even if they’re the fancy kind presented to you by an honest-looking redhead. Still, there are polite ways of refusing.

Second, one flower (or some chocolate) can truly brighten someone’s day.

Third, this was more challenging than I anticipated. I truly thought that since I try to do random good deeds when the opportunity strikes, committing to doing them on a daily basis wouldn’t be a big deal. I was wrong. And while I may not do them daily, hopefully this has made me more aware of the opportunities to brighten someone’s day.

Lastly, people are sometimes hesitant to accept that a random act of kindness is just that. No catches, no strings, simply kindness. After talking to a couple of friends about Mr. Nasty, they told me their stories of other people they knew who had experienced similar challenges when just trying to do something nice. When this happens, I can understand why people choose not to be kind for fear that someone will think there is an ulterior motive and therefore, treat them poorly. Be kind anyway. That is their problem, not yours.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

23 Sep

Love Statue

This week I traveled to Philadelphia on business. My old business. After a call from an old client asking if I could help run the logistics of their incentive program, I decided to take them up on it. Is this the job I’m in search of because I’m passionate about it and feel that I’m truly making a contribution to the happiness of others? No. But, as I’m not doing much else, it would be irresponsible to not at least make some money when the opportunity arises. And besides, I’ll break my low-carb diet for a bite of a Philly Cheesesteak.

I’m here for six days and have decided that, in order to fill this need to make the world a better place, I will commit to performing one random act of kindness (RAoK) per day. After all, this is the ‘City of Brotherly Love.’

Tuesday – Day 1

I fly out today. I’m seated next to a man who doesn’t quite understand personal space. I have a rule – whoever is in the middle seat gets the armrest. The middle seat is such a terrible place to sit that I figure that person should at least have a place to put their arms. Still, do a person’s shoulders need to rest halfway into my seat so I’m forced to sit with my face plastered to the window like a bug smashed on a car windshield? I take pity on him and consider offering my seat to his wife who is stuck in the seat behind him as they couldn’t get two seats together. But two thoughts come to mind: 1) He or she may be quite happy with a little less togetherness and 2) That would put me in a middle seat. After considering this I feel certain I can find some other random act of kindness to do today.

I’m visiting my cousin for a day before moving over to my hotel to work. She has arranged for a car and driver to pick me up. Upon landing, I receive a voicemail from Phil, my driver, asking me to call when I have my luggage. I make my way down to baggage claim, grab my bag and give Phil a call. After a few minutes Phil and I make contact and we’re off. After what seems like hours (winding roads have me rolling down the window and trying to breathe like a dog on his first car-ride of the spring, so as not to lose the salad I had for breakfast – yeh, salad for breakfast, I know). When Phil announces that we’re ten minutes out, it’s time for my first act of kindness. On my way to baggage claim I stopped and bought a big, American sized bar of crappy American chocolate. I tell Phil about my ‘random acts of kindness’ mission this trip and hand him the candy bar. He seems truly touched.

*Note: When I call Phil later in the evening to arrange a ride for the next day, he informs me that his name is Steve, not Phil. Perhaps he would have been truly touched if I had gotten his name right.

Wednesday – Day 2

Today, while my cousin Adrienne was on a business call I went out for a run. I discovered that it’s important to know the address of the house you’re staying at as many houses look alike when you’re lost in your iPod. I’ve done this before in Barcelona. At least this time, I didn’t end up in the red light district. After lunch with Adrienne, Phil/Steve picks me up to take me to my hotel in the city. 911After checking in and making my way to my room, I decide it’s nap time. Apparently I’m mistaken. It’s evacuate the hotel time, as lights flash and a voice is blasted through my room telling me there is an emergency and I should not proceed to the nearest elevator but instead, hike down nine floors. Coincidentally I’m staying in room 911. I start wondering why nobody called me as that’s who you call in an emergency. After the ‘all clear’ I make my way back to my room realizing that I have not yet performed my random act of kindness yet. I find this disappointing as I thought this would just come naturally and I wouldn’t have to think about it.

I venture down to the hotel wine hour in the lobby as, well, free wine…must you ask? A little truffle popcorn to accompany it (yum) and I’m headed off to dinner. Still no RAoK.. Following dinner I take a walk through Rittenhouse Square where I come upon a bassist (the upright kind – always more impressive) and a trumpeter playing ‘Yesterday.’ I enjoy the music and drop some money in the bass case. Not very creative but appreciated I’m sure. I vow to do better tomorrow.

Thursday – Day 3

Today I arise not nearly refreshed after a long night of coughing (apologies to the person in the room next to me). I put on my happy face and head down to meet my client and co-workers for breakfast. Following that, we head up to a 45 minute meeting that lasts three hours. During small talk I mention my goal of doing one random act of kindness per day on this trip. There is silence. Everybody looks at me like I’ve just farted in the room. I had hoped to inspire them to perhaps join in but instead, they looked at me as if to say, “Uh, not sure about entrusting her assisting our very important clients.” I concentrate on not letting this ruin my morning or my resolve to brighten someone’s day.

Following our meeting we spend the remainder of the day visiting the venues to which we will take our various attendees. One place is Reading Terminal Market. After doing a quick walk-through of the place, we stop at an ice cream shop near the exit for what is supposedly the best ice cream in Philadelphia. Well, I should say that they stop as my co-worker and I don’t eat sugar. Directly across from the ice cream shop I notice a flower stand. I think I’ve just figured out today’s random act of kindness. I purchase a single pink daisy. My plan, to give it to someone who appears to be having a bad day.

Flower

I walk back across to the ice cream shop and, before my clients can ask what the hell I’m walking around with a flower for, I risk that, ‘you just farted look’ and explain. Not thirty seconds passes when one of my clients points to the lady behind the ice cream counter and says, “I think she’s having a bad day.” I eye her with a skeptical look as I’m not sure she understands that my goal is not to give it away quickly so I don’t have to lug it around with me, but to give it to someone who could just use a little pick-me-up. She tells me that she heard the lady telling her coworker something like, “Well, he’s going to have to call me and apologize ’cause I’m not calling him.” That gets me (ladies, haven’t we all been there?). I step up to the counter and get her attention. I hand her the flower telling her that I hope she has a nice day. She looks at me with surprise that looks nothing like the ‘you just farted look.’ She smiles and simply says, “No way!” My clients stand by, watching and smiling. As we walk down the street one client comments, “That was very spiritual of you.” I’m not sure this is the correct word to describe it, but I think it’s better than, “You just farted!”

Read part two at Random Acts of Kindness or Who Peed in Your Cocoa Puffs?

Sex and the Single Writer

16 Sep Writing-blogging-clipart

I know what you’re thinking. “Where has Carole gone? I’m going through a bit of snarky withdrawal.” I’m with you on that. Well, I’d love to say I was too busy traveling the world, doing crazy things and talking to strangers (never learned that lesson) to put my fingers on a keyboard. But that’s not the case. In reality, I’ve been lying low. Yes, there was a weekend trip to Las Vegas but, as we all know, what happens there stays there. I’m now preparing for a little business travel in my old line of work. Nowhere exotic (unless you consider Philadelphia and Chicago exotic), but it will keep me off the streets for now (at least in Arizona). And I’m sure I’ll find lots of amusing people and situations to share with you.

In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in why I write. It’s not something I do for fame – I’m not exactly a household name. . .yet. Fortune? Oh yes, rolling in the dough here. Writing this from my 21 room mansion with a bowling alley and airplane hangar (going airplane shopping as soon as I finish this). No, I write because I must. It’s like an unexplainable build-up that I must release. Yes, it sounds like an orgasm and well, perhaps it’s comparable.

First there’s the subject idea. When an idea hits it’s like seeing that guy across room. My heart flutters a bit and I lose track of my thoughts. Then there’s the research – traveling somewhere, talking to people or reading up on a subject. In comparison to sex, or the steps leading up to it, this would be the date. We meet for a drink and dinner to get to know each other. Sometimes, the research is already done, as reading something, having a chance encounter or traveling somewhere is what has inspired me. In the dating world, this would be considered slutty behavior and comparable to jumping in bed with someone.

Now that I’ve researched the subject, or spent a few weeks getting to know the guy, I am ready to do the dirty deed. It begins slowly – foreplay. I have notes, a few sentences or words that I know I want somewhere in the article. I start on an introductory paragraph – think of it as kissing. Before long, I am well involved in the words (ok, completely opposite of sex unless we’re tallkin’ dirty talk). Now I’m totally immersed in the writing and the ringing iPhone barely registers. Things become very organic and instinct takes over.

Finally, I come to the ending paragraph. But this is not the release. Not yet, anyway. I only read over what I have written after it is completed. You don’t stop in the middle of having sex to analyze whether it’s good or not. It’s only after, when the deed is done, that you lay there and take a deep breath and think, ‘that was amazing!’ This is the orgasm!

**Please note, sometimes I read through the article and think, ‘this is crap.’ This I do not publish. After all, bad sex is normally still pretty darn good whereas bad writing is just bad.

 

 

Going Back in Time

10 Aug

Last week I had another travel adventure. After traveling to 50 countries and 50 U.S. states, where’s a girl go to find some adventure? Singapore perhaps? Bora Bora? Oh so close but not quite. Last week’s travel was to the tourist mecca of Detroit, Michigan.

If you’re quite finished laughing I’ll explain. I grew up in Oak Park, Michigan and lived in the state until I was 24 years old when I walked into the bank I had worked at for seven years and declared, “I quit! I’m going to sail the Caribbean.” And I did. Exactly where is Oak Park you ask. Well, if you were from Michigan I would hold up my right hand and point to a spot somewhere in the pad on the bottom of my palm over towards my thumb (it’s a Michigander thing). As you may be from somewhere else, I’ll defer to the movie reference. You’ve probably heard of the Eminem movie, 8 Mile. Well, I grew up at 9 Mile (we’re very creative with our street names there).

As I have very little family left in the area, I don’t often get back. Last week I headed to Detroit for my high school class reunion. Yup, 10 years (ok 30 years, but I graduated as a fetus). Please note that I will henceforth be referring to this event as my 10 year reunion. You can choose to believe what you like.

Class of 83

The weekend included many events beginning with a tour of my high school. Yup, all those years I avoided going to summer school and here I was, on a Friday morning in the middle of summer, sitting in the high school cafeteria. Suddenly I felt like Molly Ringwald in the Breakfast Club. After coffee and bagels we were greeted by Mr. Washington, the current principal. While he was telling us about the current structure of the school district and the accomplishments of Oak Park High School I had a moment of panic. I whispered to my former classmate sitting next to me, “Oh my God, we’re older than the principal!” A few minutes later Mr. Washington put me at ease by mentioning that he was a graduate of a neighboring high school two years prior to us. There is a God!

After a very surreal two-hour tour during which we saw some of our old classrooms, the science lab, the planetarium, the football field, the band and choir rooms and, my favorite part, the auditorium and the little theatre. I spent much time in these as I was a theatre geek (my claim to fame was performing in repertory theatre when I was 17 as Peppermint Patty in the musical Snoopy). We ended up at the swimming pool (indoor, it’s Michigan for goodness sake). As Mr. Venetelli, our high school Spanish teacher had joined us, he also gave up some secrets. So, the teachers used to going swimming during lunch. What? Our teachers were, well, real people? This of course led to the question of which teachers were sleeping with which other teachers. With a couple of exceptions, Mr. Venetelli gave up very little information (either that or our teachers were a bit boring).

From there it was lunch at the Coney Island. If you’re from Michigan, you will understand this. If not, that is a reason to head to the Motor City for a visit. Our high school hangout was Davison Coney Island. A mere half-mile from the high school it was where we would go to lunch. The experience on this day was a bit different. In high school, a not-so-pleasant lady would come around to each table with a cigar box and students were required to pay before receiving any food or drinks. While it seemed rude at the time, looking back as an adult it made a lot of sense (although she could have been more pleasant, but I’m sure she was over us). If I had never before felt like an adult, this would finally be the day I did. After we ate, our checks were laid on our tables with a smile. It was like a Bar Mitzvah. No cigar box! Today, you are a man (uh well, you get it).

The next night was the big event. Yes, the official 10 year reunion evening. As I was staying at the hotel where the event was taking place, I had a little pre-prom party in my hotel. And, as some of my classmates cleverly left their spouses at home, this gave all of us the opportunity to not walk in alone. It also gave us the opportunity to enjoy some liquid courage before heading down.

One of the first people I ran into was my middle school music teacher. Coincidentally, her brother was my very first boyfriend. His name was Robert Green. I was a cute but awkward 13 year-old (at least I felt awkward) and he was a chubby 13 year-old boy with braces. The perfect match. He was not a good kisser (we were 13. Who was?) He bought me an engraved heart stickpin for my birthday. I was not even remotely in love with him, just with the idea of having a boyfriend (try not to judge, I was 13). Anyway, his sister was sure to inform me that he is recently divorced and showed me a photo of him with his 15 year-old son. Surreal. Next I run into Jeff, the jock. I tell him it’s good to see him and he immediately asks, “Where do I know you from?” Uh, I don’t know, high school perhaps???

Reunion night

The next day was a picnic in the Oak Park Park. This is the place we all grew up in. Whether it was pushing our dog down the slide, sledding at the Oak Park hill, playing on the train (the funnest train that never moved), playing softball in little league or hanging out while skipping school. It was a weekend filled with great memories and OMG moments.

After spending time with old friends the following are the random thoughts which crossed my mind or conversations I had during the weekend: Do you stay in an unhappy marriage? Hell, do you even get married? What about kids? Crap, I forgot to have kids. Wow, I’m glad I didn’t have kids. Do I want to be in this relationship and have someone needy now that my kids are grown? Do I need to be needed? Being single, if I die, how long until someone finds my body? How strange is it to talk with kindergarten friends about buying new appliances? And to drink wine with them instead of milk from the milk machine? Instead of white or chocolate the question becomes white or red? Pop? It’s a Midwest thing (I am now a soda person, although I drink neither).

Finally, what did I learn from my 10 year reunion? Life is hard. I’m not complaining. And I’m not saying that my life has been any tougher than anyone else’s. Everybody has tough times. Some more than others. When you look at it, I won the birth lottery. From where I was born, to my parents, to my childhood friends. Lucky. Oh, and if you have the chance to go to your 10 year reunion (or perhaps, 30 year)? Go. Facebook is not the same.

If Disney Characters Worked at the DMV

21 Jun

I recently received a letter from my friendly Department of Motor Vehicles.

“We’re contacting you in regards to your driver’s license which expires in the year 2030. In Arizona we issue 30 year licenses because our state government is a little crazy (Gov. Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for example). Still, we understand that you’ve had a stressful few years and perhaps you look a little different from when you first moved to this beautiful state. Therefore, we kindly request that you present yourself, along with your check for $12, to your local DMV to obtain a new photo.”

Are you kidding me? Don’t they realize that I look exactly the same as I did back in 2000 (perhaps even a little better)? So, in order to continue to drive legally, I reported to the DMV.

You know it’s a bad sign when you pull into the parking lot of the DMV and there’s not a parking space to be found. After circling multiple times, I finally grabbed an open space and, with a growing sense of dread, headed into the unremarkable, brick building.

As I entered I heard numbers being called.

“B129. E011, G726”

It felt like I was in a giant BINGO game. I headed over to the picture taking area, where I was promptly told I had to go back to the long line near the entrance in order to receive my ‘paperwork.’ What ‘paperwork?’ I have the letter that says what I need.

“F541, G727, C232”

Understanding that, just like the security line at the airport, this is one of those times that you simply say, “Yes Ma’am,” I headed over to the dreaded line. This line had about thirty people standing in it, all looking stone-faced as if they just stepped out of the latest zombie movie. I stood there and waited. . . and waited.

“E012, D592”

Finally, I reached the front of the line where I was handed a form to complete and a number. I was told to wait for my number to be called and then I could go get my picture taken. As I sat down I asked others how long they had been waiting. With a smirk they replied, “Over an hour.” Oh joy!

I completed my form and waited. I sat there thinking about the Skype chat I just had with a former Disney co-worker prior to my trip to the DMV. Perhaps it was that conversation, or the incessant number calling, or the odorous gentleman sitting next to me (Dude, I’ll hold your spot. Go home and take a shower!) but I somehow found myself escaping into a daydream. And as the numbers grew more and more faint. . .

“B130, C233, F092”

I daydreamed that Disney Characters had taken over the DMV.

DMV for PowerPoint

As I drive my beautiful car ‘Lightening McQueen’ into the parking lot of the building marked, ‘Motor Vehicle Department – The Happiest Place on Earth,’ I see various people dressed in turquoise pointing me (using two fingers, of course) through the parking lot. I am directed to an empty space about a mile from the building’s entrance where I park and am immediately collected by a long tram. I sit and am told to keep my hands inside and remember where I parked (uh, isn’t that why I have that emergency alarm on my key FOB? So I don’t have to remember). I am instructed to wait for the vehicle to come to a complete stop before exiting and to enjoy my day at the DMV.

“Wait, my day?” I ask the driver. “But I only need a photo.”

“Aahhh yes. You should plan on spending the day as we want you to get your money’s worth.”

I walk through the entrance to the tune of “Be Our Guest” and, in an attempt not to wait in the ridiculously long line at the front, I find a window with nobody waiting. I approach the employee, who seems to have the power to read minds as he corrects me to tell me he is a Cast Member (perhaps he’s a Genie). I ask if I can get a Fast-Pass to go directly to the photo line.

His response, “That is one wish I cannot grant.”

I do the walk of shame over to the never-ending main information line and wait. . . and wait (some things never changes). When I finally reach the front there is a boy working the desk. Well, I think he’s a boy. He looks young but a little wooden. I tell him I just need a new photo for my license. He hand me a form to complete and a number. As he tells me the wait shouldn’t be very long I swear I see his nose grow longer.

I sit down and complete my form. Once I’m finished, I take the opportunity to people watch. I see a man step up to a window where the beautiful, yet over-dressed, blonde behind the desk immediately slams down her closed sign exclaiming, “It’s 12 o’clock! I must go!” And mumbles something about a pumpkin and mice.

Clock strikes 12

There is a really short Grumpy guy working the next window. And next to him is a really beautiful lady that says she’s much too sleepy to work and needs to go take a long nap. At the end of the counter is a tall guy with a Goofy grin on his face.

All of them are supervised by a scowling lady walking behind them and looking over their shoulders. When she starts screaming at one cast member who must have a skin condition as he has spots all over him, he seems frightened and apologetically responds, “I’m sorry Miss DeVille.”

 DMV Ticket Finally, I hear, “A044.”

Cartoonish birds and butterflies start to circle me and I hear the song, ‘Whistle a Happy Tune’ as I skip up to the photo window (yes skip, I’m beginning to enjoy my fantasy). I’m greeted by, what seems to be another boy, this time wearing a funny green hat. His name-badge says Peter. He seems to have a tiny ball of light moving around him that he talks to. Perhaps he’s schizophrenic. He asks what he can help with and I tell him I need a new driver’s license photo as, apparently, the DMV thinks I might look a little older than I did in the previous one.

He leans in a gives me his wise advice, “Never grow-up!” Peter Pan

“I’m doing my best!” I explain.

He instructs me to stand in front of the green screen while he takes my picture. I imagine all kinds of background inserted on the green screen in my photo. He then tells me to think of a happy thought, smile and snaps the photo. Finally I’m told to go to “the second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.”

“What? I’ll be here all night ‘til tomorrow morning?”

“Just take a seat,” he says.

I sit. Eventually, I hear, “A044.”

When I step up to the window I encounter a beautiful red-head who is wearing a dress that is much too tight. She hands me my new driver’s license while asking if I need anything else. When I mention that the service here is pretty bad, she tells me that it’s not so, it’s just drawn that way. Uh, ok.

At long last, new driver’s license in hand, I head to the door while whistling a happy tune. As I leave there’s a giant mouse standing there waving and shouting, “See ya real soon!” Uh, I really hope not.

Mickey Mouse

“A044. Last call for A044.”

I’m shaken out of my daydream, so I stand up and yell, “BINGO!”

I look around at everyone staring at me, put my head down, get my picture taken and take a seat to wait some more.

Perhaps if Disney owned the DMV it would be a bit more fun. But then again, a driver’s license would cost more than a car.

Overcoming My Fear of Flying

12 Jun

I have a fear of flying.

“What?” you say. “Aren’t you the one who travels the world finding adventures? Surely you cannot be afraid of flying!”

With that you would be right, and wrong. I have no issues with airplanes unless I’m assigned a middle seat as I am deathly afraid of that. The fear of flying I’m speaking of is the Flying Trapeze. So, in honor of my birthday (Monday, and yes, I’m still waiting for your present) I took a trapeze lesson.

First, let me explain why birthday adventures are so important to me. I love birthdays. It’s the one holiday that’s all my own. I don’t have to share it with anybody (it must be lousy to be a twin but I guess you’ve learned to share in the womb)! And while I may not be able to remember what I did last Thursday, I remember where I was and what I did on most of my birthdays. I spent two birthdays in Alaska with the sun setting at about 2:30am and rising at about 4:00am. I spent one in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was working but ducked into a pub for a little birthday drink. One was celebrated on a Tall Ship from the 1930’s in the middle of the Caribbean while looking at the wash of the Milky Way Galaxy and wishing on five shooting stars. I rode a bike around Berlin (with clients) on a birthday a few years ago. And last year I did my birthday trip to England (read On A Wing and a Prayer) and then flew to New York to celebrate the day with my oldest friend.

After much consideration (okay, after a fleeting thought) I had a brilliant idea. Trapeze! I did a Google search and, lo and behold, while I was out of town these last two years, Trapeze U opened up in four miles from my house. My only concern was an issue with my back as of late. Oh, and the fear. Yes, there was that. I waited until the day of my birthday (again, June 10, still waiting for your presents) to see how my back would feel that day.

I woke up with my usual run to the medicine cabinet and picked up an ice pack from the freezer. After a while, my back was feeling better and I decided to commit. I pulled up the website and booked my ticket for a “Monday Night Special.” Yikes!

I spent the day getting free food (love the local restaurants that understand the importance of your own personal holiday) and running errands. I went to the gym as I though it important to be warmed up, stretched out and as light as possible.

The lesson was scheduled for 7:30pm as, at 113 degrees, the temperature is too hot to touch your steering wheel let alone swing on a trapeze. I arrived at about 7:00pm and sat in my car staring at the empty swing while trying to imagine myself up there. It didn’t look very high. ‘Yeh, I can do this,’ I convinced myself. I entered the office and was greeted with a friendly, “Hello.” I energetically responded and made some amusing quip (it’s important that these people like you as they’re responsible for whether you live or die). They handed me an info. sheet and release to sign. All was fine until I got to the line about “Your Emergency Contact.” Crap. I wrote down my sister’s name and immediately texted her to stand by her phone “just in case.”

After various others filed in and completed their paperwork, we headed outside. They hooked us all up in safety harnesses. These were tightened so that my waist was about the size of my thigh, although with my larger thighs, this is not saying much (thanks mom!). All I can think is, “Does this safety harness make my butt look big?”). They then separated us into two groups – first timers and previous flyers. There were 6 of us first timers and 5 experienced. Of the first timers, I was the oldest. The others were teenagers. Fabulous! The experienced ones consisted of teenagers, an eight year old (Azalea, known as Z), Z’s mother, Seven (yes, that’s her name) and a 51-year-old (Linda).

They asked us first timers to line up while they instructed us on positions and listening. We then practiced how to grasp the trapeze, jump and let go of the support pole (very important it’s done in this order). The instructor told us that immediately after we started our swing they would tell us to kick up and hook our knees around the bar and let go. Uh, what? Don’t I first get a chance to just swing? You want me to immediately go upside down? You’ve got to be kidding.

The experienced people went first followed by the first timers. I’m third in line. While Katie, the 13 year-old in front of me swung, I was called to climb the ladder. It’s a very narrow, metal ladder wrapped in rope. I began climbing on the outside and when I reach the first rung painted red (where the net was at, I was told to step on the inside and climb the rest of the way. This was one of the toughest parts as the ladder not only hurts your hands and feet, but we seem to have a battle over which one of us was shaking more. The

Trapeze Ladder Climb

The Dreaded Ladder

higher I climbed, the more terrified I became. ’Why can’t I be a normal person who celebrates their birthday with cake and perhaps a cocktail?’ I thought. Finally I heard a voice behind me saying, “Two more steps.” I got to the second red ladder rung and was told to hold on with both hands and step back onto the platform. This part was less scary than I thought it would be, but that’s most likely because I just wanted to get off the ladder. I stepped onto the platform and grabbed the cable thinking good thoughts and doing some yoga breathing. I asked the guy his name and immediately forgot it (really, my mind was elsewhere). I listened closer than I have ever listened in my life. Oh, and I DID NOT LOOK DOWN!

The man whose name I cannot remember (let’s call him Voldemort) hooked my safety

Ladder to Platform

Get me off this ladder!

harness to cables and told me to spread my legs (uh, I’ll just leave this one alone) and hold onto the cable with my left hand. He held onto my safety harness while using a pole to bring the trapeze bar closer to us (breathe). He then told me to grab the bar with my right hand and push my hips forward. Done. When he said, “Hep” (circus term for go) I let go with my left hand and go. This was completely wrong order and I also didn’t jump as was supposed to. Basically, I just held on and fell. Immediately I heard, “Kick your legs up.” I kicked, but my legs didn’t quite make it under the bar to hook onto it. My hands hurt. I heard the guy on the ground tell me to kick my legs forward like I’m sitting and let go. As always, I’m good at falling. I landed in the net grateful that it didn’t hurt my back. I stood up and did the crazy chicken net walk over to the edge, grabbed onto the marked spots, laid down and flipped off the net. I stood there and yelling, “I flew!” Perhaps I didn’t accomplish the whole upside down thing, but I got off that platform without delay and I swung.

We got a couple of more turns in our rotation during which I still could not quite get my legs up there. “Damn, you’re strong girl,” was the comment from Voldemort. Apparently that was my problem. I kept bending my arms and basically doing pull-ups. Ha! I can’t do one in the gym but I did about 40 on this night.

They then lined us up again to instruct us on how to hang upside down and pass to a catcher. Yes, let go of the trapeze with our legs and be held by a guy on another trapeze. There’s just one problem here – I still hadn’t hung upside down (okay, there’s probably more than one problem but that’s the first one).

I climbed up and told Voldemort that I would not be doing the catch. He seemed disappointed. Sorry, not happening. I gave the upside down thing one more try. They showed me a different way and I gave it my best shot. The only thing I accomplished was hooking my leg around my safety harness and screaming. Aah, comedy relief. Through a variety of twisting moves I unhooked my leg and hung by my hands anxiously waiting to be told to let go. Again, I’ve got the falling thing down.

One great part of the experience was bonding with the others in my group. We traded E-mails to send photos. I headed home for a dip in the pool and in the scotch.  I have not been able to raise my arms above my head for two days now. A birthday to remember.

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