Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Errands, Details, Frustrations, Perils

Life in this new century for many Americans is richer, longer, more comfortable, and healthier than anyone could imagine growing up. I read tonight that we are living over seven years longer than in 1967. Average income for women is over twice as high than in 1967. (And men are averaging over $5,000 more income.) The statistic for people 25 and older with a high school diploma has risen from 51.l5% in 1967 to 85.1%.

Going back further than 1967, people my age reminincee of their childhoods without indoor plumbing, one car per family, one phone per family, clothes made from hand-me-downs if they were fortunate enough to have a gifted seamtress for a mother. I remember the size of closets in those days. They did not have to be large. I had two new dresses each fall for school, and I think a third school dress in the closet was probably one from the year before or perhaps that a cousin may have given me. (Some of my favorite clothes were from a cousin I admired. One Sunday outfit was a wine velvet jumper with a pink satin blouse. Those luxurious fabrics still bring a smile to my face when I remember them. Ahhhh.) And, of course, there were jackets, coats, and play clothes. Play clothes were simply dresses too shabby or short for school.

I was expected to take off my school dress when I came in from school and put on play clothes for outside play. I would wear that same school dress the next day. On the third day, I would wear the second dress for two days. I am not sure when we Americans began thinking a child needed a completely new outfit every day.

Unfortunately, some mothers tell about their children using several sets of clothes in one day. My opinion on that is that those mothers need to get a life doing something more important than running a washing machine. However, how they spend their time and laundry soap is their business. Nevertheless, our standards of cleanliness are far higher than those 40 years ago, and sometimes that is a good thing.

I have said all that to say this: despite all the advances and improvements in our American life, there are still plenty of frustrations to test and strengthen our character. (Remember how we were taught that hardships builds character?)

Can you imagine our parents tolerating the constant lost phone calls as our cell phones move in and out of workable areas? How would they have handled the confusion that results when you think someone is talking to you and you turn to see yet another mall walker talking loudly and obliviously on a cell phone interrupting your quiet reverie and thought patterns?

I am on a rant because today was a typical errand day. Taking the knob (one of two) off my kitchen stove to try and replace them, I found out I have to have the model number and the store will have to order the part. Wouldn't it have been nice if the manufacturer had standard knobs for all their stoves and the store kept them on hand?

The little gadget to recharge a phone in the car had gone bad, so I next took it to replace it. At the mall where the phone walkers were--they were legion--I found out the store it originally came from was no longer at the mall. It had moved. No way was I going to walk into the new Wal-Mart to get one because I'd have to park so far away and I had no time to walk that far. I had to get onto the next errand.

I had to sign papers and take my driver's license by the bank because a bank changing its name (one of my pet peeves) had caused a delay in having the papers ready when we stopped the day before. The personnel thought I needed to bring in my social security card, and we'd spent over an hour the night before finding it, but that was not necessary after all.

I had looked unsuccessfully, but when our electricity went out in our neighborhood unexpectedly, it was still lost. Gerald entertained himself by looking through all the stuff he had rearranged from a former safety deposit box and he found not one but three social security cards of mine there. He did this with a flashlight before we finally gave up and went to bed. Fortunately the moon gave us considerable light, and sometime during the night, the electricity and heat came back on and we were able to discard the extra blanket needed earlier.

Gettng back to my errand day--after going by our daughter's, I hurried on to take advantage of the senior discount at Krogers on first Wednesdays. Everyone who has shopped on that day knows what that is like. Bumping into one another. Visiting with old friends. (I mean that two ways.) Walking from one end of the store to the other trying to find stuff and finally giving up in frustration because it is not where you thought it would be. I spent way too much time there and still came away without the powdered sugar, self-rising flour, and laundry detergent I meant to buy. Oh yeah, after I had picked up my prescription for rapid heart beat, I spent the first part of time in the store looking for bottles of flax seed supplements I've always bought there for my daughter because my sister read where the supplements help MS. But no where were they to be found, and the flax bread I like and always pick up an extra loaf for my daughter was all gone.

At the check-out counter, I was delighted when the young clerk told me I would get an even extra percentage off. I could not believe I'd get another discount in addition to my senior discount but she assured me I would. Unfortunately, when she efficiently checked to make sure I got that senior discount, evidently somehow my new credit card did not show I was a senior. I could simply take my receipt over to customer service, she explained. I am already late, I explained. So I still have that errand to do, and I need to find out how to make the new card reflect that I am a senior. But then I also have to go back to town get the recharging gadget also.

Wanna know why I needed new stove knobs? On the afternoon before Thanksgiving, I efficiently decided to saute my onions and celery. I would have them in the fridge all ready to put in the dressing the next day. I needed to get the dressing on early because the big pan I make needs a couple of hours to bake. (I haven't stuffed a turkey since my early marriage days before the food experts start cautioning of the dangers in that.)

Putting the butter in the large skillet to melt, I decided to put on the tablecloth in the dining room. But it was wrinkled, so I rushed to the drier in the garage and threw in the cloth and a cup of water knowing it would be wrinkle free soon.

At that point, I saw the garden tomatoes I'd wrapped to save for Thanksgiving and realized while I had on my work clothes, I should unwrap some throwing away any rotten ones. That way on the holiday I could hand a nice clean bowl of them for someone to slice. (Granddaughter Leslie got that job the next day.)

Proudly taking in my bowl of tomatoes, which have been better flavored than the ones during the dry spell last summer, I saw the butter now in the form of flames shooting up to the mircrowave above the kitchen range. I must have laid down the tomatoes, but I do not remember that. I turned off the burner, covered the skillet with the large glass top hoping it would not explode, and it did not.

Because I had had to start that day early and spend that morning at the hospital taking an echocardiogram and stress test, both of which I passed, I was extremely organized for the next day's dinner. I had expected a fairly restful afternoon and evening. I had not expected to spend an hour or more cleaning up the black smoke and mess I made. I worked hard and fast getting the smoke out of the kitchen and the black soot removed. My hope was to serve Gerald his supper without his noticing my little absent-minded mistake.

Why? Well, I truly did not want to ruin his holiday knowing I had made another job for him to do. He has been busy correcting problems from a lightning surge last summer, redoing his office, getting photographs made for Christmas, and other projects. He does not need another job. (I haven't done anything but play telephone tag yet with the bi-county health person I hope to check out the microwave door as I am afraid to use it until I know it is not going to give out dangerous emissions.) If we have to replace it, of course, Gerald will be involved. I won't have a clue. (I am not sure if this is learned helplessness or true ineptitude, but I am not very good at a great many things.)

I really did not want to tell him about this fire just before we were all set to have a lovely family holiday and make him fret like I was doing. Of course, the main reason may have been that when I have scorched pans two or three times recently because I was distracted and wasn't paying attention to my cooking, his calm, kind, and exact words were, "Sue, you are going to burn the house down if you are not more careful." My pride kept me from wanting to reward him so quickly for his ability to prophesy.

Believe it or not, he did not notice when he came up for the bite of supper I'd prepared for us. (And he is the observant one in the family. But he just doesn't pay much attention to stoves, and somehow he did not see the blackened underside of the microwave. I think he has just gotten use to the smell of smoke when I cook.)

When it was time to reheat stuff for our gang for supper on Thanksgiving night, suddenly I had no microwave in the kitchen to do it in, and my dirty little secret became public knowledge. Ah well. I have always hoped my lack of housekeeping skills made other women feel better about themselves. Maybe my absent mindedness will make some of you reading my blog know you aren't as distractible as some people!

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