Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh, say can you see? Well, not too well

Published Sept. 24, 2007

I've become my sixth-grade teacher.
You know the one - the woman who clickedy-clacks over to you in her high-heel pumps and peers at you over the top of her rhinestone encrusted bifocals.
The bifocals that she is constantly searching for because she takes them off and puts them down and then can't remember where.
Yep, that's me.
Yesterday, I got to my desk, sat down and reached into my purse for my reading glasses, one of about two dozen pairs I own, most of which I bought at Marc's for 88 cents.
I couldn't feel them in the bottom of my purse, so I flipped the purse onto its side and rooted around a little more. Phone. Wallet. Sunglasses - but no reading glasses.
Then I did what any desperate woman does. I actually picked up my purse and looked into it. I stirred around all the stuff in there a couple times. No glasses.
I cannot read a thing without those glasses. It was the darnedest thing. One day I could read the paper, the next day I couldn't. My close vision went - overnight.
"It happens to everyone," my eye doctor told me, "when they get older."
Small comfort - on both counts.
Then I remembered that I had stowed a pair in my desk drawer for just such an occasion. I opened all the drawers. You see, I only used the front three inches of each drawer. I guess it makes things easier to find that way. The back 90 percent has been untouched, I figure, since at least 2002, the date of the unopened desk calendar I spotted back there.
Anyway, no glasses. I was getting a little panicked.
I went out to my car where I have a couple of purse "annexes," those canvas totes they give away at places such as newspaper conferences - and Costco. My annexes hold things that won't fit in a purse - like magazines and hair gel - and hopefully a spare pair of reading glasses.
Ah-ha. Yes! I found a pair in the first canvas-tote-annex I looked in.
See? And my husband can't figure out why a woman needs so many purses. This is why.
Speaking of my husband, the above scenario would never happen to him and not only because he doesn't carry purses. He has one (O-N-E) pair of reading glasses that he got from the eye doctor at slightly more than 88 cents.
And he can never find those glasses.
Making the matter even worse is the fact that his near-vision is almost non-existent without magnification. I can't read the newspaper but he can't find the newspaper without his glasses.
His glasses, when he can find them, sit at about a 20-degree angle across his face.
"You ought to get those glasses fixed," I tell him.
"What's wrong with these glasses?" he asks, looking at me over the crooked frames hanging on the bridge of his nose.
And then he adds, "I know. I have to call the eye doctor. I can't see a thing anymore."
And that's the conversation we have had - almost word for word - every week for as long as I can remember.
Because, you see, we have turned into those people, those poor aging souls who can't read a thing without glasses that they can never find.
One day, our younger son, who is in college, said, "I feel like I'm in a Seinfeld episode when I'm around you guys.
"It's not what you do that is so funny, it's the fact that you think it's perfectly normal."
Well, it is perfectly normal.
Isn't it?

Monday, September 17, 2007

She left her map in San Francisco

Published Sept. 15, 2007

My husband had the steering wheel.
I had the map.
And off we went to see the sights of San Francisco.
It wasn't five minutes later that I was wishing I had the steering wheel instead of the map.
Who does have more power in the rental car? The spouse who is driving or the spouse who is directing?
There was so much to sightsee. We wanted to drive through the Presidio and go shopping in Haight-Ashbury and Chinatown. We wanted to drive down the World's Crookedest Street and ride the cable car. We wanted to see the view of the city from Coit Tower. And we wanted to eat dinner on Fisherman's Wharf.
To get all that done, we had to have a plan (devised, of course, by the person with the map), and we had to stick to it (turn where the person with the map says to turn).
That should mean the map-holder has the power, right?
You would think.
We had no sooner entered the grounds of the Presidio - a former Army post that is now part of the Golden Gate National Park and is known for its spectacular views - when we came to a fork in the road.
"Go right," I said to my husband as I manically waved a rolled up map in that direction.
He made a left.
"We were supposed to go right!"
"You didn't tell me soon enough!"
"But that way is the Scenic Route," I said, collapsing back in my seat and pouting as any diligent navigator would.
He just kept driving probably to make me mad but maybe because we were on a very narrow and winding road in a forest of very tall cypress trees.
I went back to studying my map to try to figure out how get us out of this jam - and back on the Scenic Route, so designated by the signs that were posted along the way. It turned out that we were going counterclockwise instead of clockwise on the road that ran along the perimeter of the park. I guess that was OK but it was probably more scenic if you drove the right direction.
We parked the car - a Mustang convertible - and got out to see the view of the Golden Gate Bridge (which is actually red, by the way) and all our navigational woes were forgotten. It was so beautiful.
We actually got around pretty well when we were on city streets. We found Chinatown and the cable car without any problem. It was the parks - greenery and trees - that got us all bollixed up.
We wound up in Golden Gate Park - San Francisco's version of Central Park - as we tried to get to Haight-Ashbury, that famous intersection associated with beat poets and hippies.
I hadn't studied the map for this park the way I had studied the one for the Presidio. We were lost. As I looked at the map, my husband looked for a way out. He saw it - a glimmer of city streets beyond the green - at the exact moment I figured out where we were in the park.
He pulled into the turning lane just as I said, "Go straight."
"I can't go straight. I'm in the turning lane."
"Just go straight," I said as we rounded the corner. I was sitting on my hands to keep from grabbing the steering wheel out of his.
And then I had an epiphany.
We aren't really "map people." We rarely have a plan. We live life by the seat of our pants, so why should we change now just because we are lost in a strange city?
A sense of calm washed over me, and I folded up the map and stuck it into my purse.
I wasn't really lost anyway. I knew exactly where I was.
Sitting next to the guy with the steering wheel I promised to love in sickness and in health - and, so it would follow, in bumper-to-bumper traffic in San Francisco.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The only black suits I know are clubs and spades

Published Sept. 3, 2007

My husband was going shopping for a new suit.
"I'll come with you," I said.
The plan was to leave for the mall at 6 p.m. so, in keeping with that schedule, we backed out of the driveway a couple minutes before 7.
By the time we got there, we only had about an hour and a half until the stores closed.
Can a tailor-made man with an off-the-rack pocketbook find a suit in that little time?
I didn't think so.
We got to the store and my husband started walking down one of the rows as I stood there trying to get my bearings in a sea of jackets and pants in varying shades of black.
"What are you looking for?" I asked my husband, the man who has been pawing through the likes of Esquire and GQ for so many years that I was sure he saw the differences in these suits that all looked exactly the same to me.
"I want a plain black suit," he said.
And with that began my lesson in the nuances of "plain black suit."
There are two-button and three-button jackets with narrow or wide lapels. There are one or two or no back vents. There are different weight materials and types of lining.
I was still being schooled in jackets when the salesman came over and offered to help.
He asked my husband his size, walked to an end area in the suit sea and pulled out about six of them.
I hadn't had enough lessons to see the difference in these half-dozen suits. I wondered which was the least expensive.
My husband eliminated a couple of them, and the suit salesman carried the others over to an open spot in the sea of suits where there was a full-length mirror.
The salesman pulled jacket after jacket off their hangers and helped my husband into them.
He looked anywhere from dashing to very dashing in all of them.
And then finally, the slightest mention of a price.
"Here, try this one on," the salesman said to my husband. "I think it's as nice as that other one, and it's a couple hundred dollars cheaper."
OK, well, now at least I knew the dollar ballpark - hundreds.
But neither of them flinched at the salesman's words, so I didn't either. I did, however, stand up straighter and try to smooth out my shirt in an attempt to look like a woman who didn't flinch at the words "a couple hundred dollars cheaper."
He finally picked out a suit. He looked marvelous in it. If he had a clue how much it cost, he didn't let on and, by this point, asking him "How much?" would have been gauche no matter how softly I whispered it.
Besides, how much more do you have to know when the difference in prices is measured in hundreds?
The next day, my husband related part of the conversation he had with the suit salesman as he got the hem of his pants pinned up.
"As soon as you asked for a two-button suit," the salesman had told him, "I knew you were a Democrat.
"And then I saw your wife," he went on, "and I knew she was a Democrat."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked my husband.
"I don't know," he said.
"Well, what kind of suit did he have on?" I asked my husband.
"A three-button one."
Hmm. It's true; you do learn something new every day.
It's just that some days, you have absolutely no idea what you just learned.