Frivolity, Dec 29…It’s in there

Dinner with friends.  Time came to pay our separate dinner billings.  I easily retrieved a credit card from my wallet.  With exertion comparable to an Olympic weight lifter, Wendie hoisted her handbag from the bench seat.

Mitigating it’s cumbersome weight, she told of once having just the object in her handbag to relieve someone who had an unknown irritant lodged between the roof of their mouth and denture plate. Wendie testified in detail about the predicament itself.  However, as she rummaged through her handbag—presumably for either her purse which stored her credit cards or the object which was a godsend to her friends dilemma, such details evaded my attention.

The focus of my attention was blurred by the flurry of the tornado churning things out of her bag.  Soon after she extracted a checkbook, notepad, and calculator, she did manage to find a credit card and placed it with the bill the waiter had left.  However, she continued to sort through the three massive divisions of her handbag…though I now considered it to be categorically closer to an airliner carry-on  than a shoulder bag.

She next retrieved a nail file (which categorically disqualified this soft-sided luggage as a carry-on), three sets of keys, and a handbag hanger.  I quickly assessed said hanger as structurally deficient to maintain its rigidity under the stress of this particular satchel—logically the reason it was on the bench seat and not hanging from the table.

Among the myriad of items erupting from the bag to the table came the inevitable photo album and subsequent identifications.  The album as well as several loose pictures were discharged to the restaurant table which now resembled the MISC-table at our last rummage sale.

When I asked her what she was searching for, she said a pen.  I told her that she had nothing to sign.  The waiter had not yet returned for her credit card…which, by the way, was now covered by her eyeglass case.  I went on; “You won’t need your pen.  I’m sure he’ll bring a pen with the bill for you to sign.”

“I know, but I want to find mine.”

Out came dental floss, the sheath for the nail file—very decorative, but obviously not particularly functional given its separation from the file, then a two inch ring of plastic “mini-membership” cards.  There must have been 25 or 30 of them.  I noticed there were two “Loyalty Cards” from different car dealers.  I suspected her “Loyalty” had switched for some reason so I inquired; “Why two of these?”

“Oh, one is here in Michigan and one in Florida.”

As my mind tried to resolve whether loyalty still had boundaries at the Mason-Dixon Line, I noticed two cards from a single, major-chain, retail store.  I suspected that one was for blue coat shopping and one gray, so I didn’t bother to ask why two.  Next I noticed four, yes FOUR,  Hallmark™ cards.  Not paper greeting cards, but plastic identification of a Hallmark Club membership.

No, I did not ask for clarification of this apparent necessity, nor possible benefits of 4 memberships, as she was now announcing the rationale for having spare reading glasses.  These “spares” resided in a very tiny gold tube. “I keep these in my purse just in case I lose these”—indicating the ones currently aiding her sight.  Again, without thinking of the possible consequences, I inquired how she expected to find this tiny golden case in such a large satchel if she had lost the glasses on her nose that were failing in locating a special pen.

Before she could respond, her husband conspicuously waved a pen he had retrieved from her satchel.  “Not that one, Chuck!  I’ve got another one of those out already, but I’m looking for a special one.”

I cannot tell you all of the items that were now piled from her handbag onto the table, but  Ragu™ advertising comes to mind.  I can tell you that she reviewed a couple coupons and decided they had expired, yet returned them to a different section within her cavernous tote.

About this time, the waiter returned for the 3rd time to collect payment for the dinner.  Wendie easily found the dinner-tab and credit card in a small pile to her right.  The restaurant’s tab tray however was deep within a second pile to her left.  Though Wendie’s integrity is indisputable, I did have cause to wonder.  If the waiter had not looked at her questionably, would that partially hidden tray have been ceremoniously retrieved from her handbag the next time she was out with a different friend as she searched for her special pen.  The biggest reason for me to wonder?  When she showed us the “special pen” it was made from a table service knife handle, Chuck was covering all the knives on the table with napkins.

I must admit, I have never been so entertained by the contents of a women’s handbag as I was tonight.  By the way, Wendie wanted me to be sure to mention that the kitchen sink was NOT present at dinner.

 P.S….I did not change the names as there are no innocent to protect.

? of the day:  Have you ever heard of caboodle associated with anything other than kit?

Friday Frivolity: Dec 22

‘Tis the season for celebrations.

‘Tis also the season for power failures.  DTE has been in my yard cutting back trees to hopefully reduce that occurrence.  Their presence reminded me of a previous failure which prompted this story from 2012….

I didn’t send out Frivolity last week because an electrical power line fell victim to a toppled tree.  It took DTE five days to restore our power.  We’re spoiled by, if not highly dependent upon, electric power.  A power failure now-days, is close to chaotic disorientation.  In some ways the same has been true throughout history.  It just took different forms over the years.

2500 years ago, a power failure would have been Goliath’s death at the hands of David.  The chaotic disorientation overwhelmed the Philistines.

250 years ago, losing power would have been the death of your mule.  Without this beast of burden, it could have been chaos down on the farm.

Even 25 years ago, a power outage had a different impact than today.  Twenty-five years ago I had a brand new generator which restored power to most of the house’s electrical items. Yeah, there was some difficulties wrestling that heavy monster out of the shed and stringing bulky, icy, not-so-flexible electric cable to the house, but it wasn’t chaos.

Last week when the power went out, chaotic disorientation struck our home.  I rolled — as in my replacement for that 1980s generator has wheels.  Also, it is nearly new.  I’d only used it once. It worked fine a year and a half ago.  This time the engine fired up with just two pulls…YEA!.

BOO!  Though running smoothly, it generated nothing except exhaust fumes… which coincidentally got me fumin’.     Unfortunately, the sparks that were flying off of me, were unusable as electric current.

So, I borrowed a small generator from good friends.  The operative word is small.  It only had sufficient power to keep the fridge and freezer as cold as my nose became from the blustery wind that took the culprit tree down.  With insufficient power to enable house lights, comes another bit of chaotic disorientation.  It’s a thoughtless habit to snap the switch when entering a room.  And with 3 way switches in many places in our home, it’s impossible to know whether up or down is on.

One last perplexing thing about power outages:  You cannot flush toilets.  Well, you can flush ‘em, but with no well pump running, there’s no fresh water to refill the toilet tank…nor the trap. The same pipe which enabled the waste to be evacuated, effectively becomes the vent pipe for the septic tank.  This is compounded by the lack of power to the bathroom exhaust vent fan.  Thus, no effective means to evacuate the aroma wafting up from the now open line to the septic tank.

We’ve become rather fond of the “plug in” dispensers of pleasant aromas.  No power, no aromatics.  Trust me, there isn’t an aerosol can that outlasts a 5-day power outage.  Thus, my instant command at the onset of a power outage:  Don’t flush!

[2017 note:  I now have a 5-gallon pail of water awaiting a necessary flush during a future power outage.  This bucket has at times been mistaken for a rodent swimming pool which requires periodic flushing.]

Friday Frivolity: Dec 15

Candles are on timers and in the windows.  Santa figures adorn most every horizontal surface throughout the house.  The tree is resplendent with bright LEDs illuminating nostalgic ornaments.  My Charlie Brown tree is resplendent also.  Okay, no lights and just one ornament but it is nostalgic nonetheless.

All of this is inside.  70+ degrees and no wind.  Outside it’s frigid.  Every year I mention that we should put the outside décor up in October…or at least pre-Nor’easter snowstorms.  Maybe even pre-Thanksgiving.  That being said, it’s a good thing effigy hangings are socially unacceptable or a facsimile of me, not an angel, would be hanging from our birch tree.

My suggestion of timing for outside decorations never happen.  It’s December and the outside garland is not hung yet.  This year many factors caused us to forego all outside decorating.  Yet such decorating is worth recalling a tale I wrote years ago.

Remembering Christmas Past:  I bundled up and headed outside to lay extension cords, position spotlights and plug in various lighted decorations.  Then I retrieved the sled from the garage and opened the storage box of the winter clothed manikin children.

As I unpacked these items, I recalled the first year we put the sledding scene in place.  Fifteen years ago that sled languished in the garage rafters.  It was relegated to oblivion by favoritism to the more popular …and much faster, plastic saucers.  Here’s the tale I wrote in 2002 about creating this winter display the first time.  I’ll add a few updates to the original text.

The sled is one of those old rusty-steel runner, wooden slat sleds, with a kiddie chair bolted at the rear.  Well, we decided to make a Christmas yard ornament out of it.  Last summer, at a rummage sale, we found a child’s snowsuit.  Just perfect for stuffing—zippered, with feet, mittens, all one piece.  All that was necessary was to insert bubble wrap and dowel spine to keep it seated upright and we had a pretty cute sledder.

I even got some number 10 coated wire inserted into the sleeve to get the kid’s hand to wave.  Looked great to me.  Sue thought it needed a face.

“Who’s gonna see the face?   It’s 10 yards from the driveway.”  I protested, while stuffin’ the kid in his seat.  “Besides if you arrange the bubble wrap just right it kinda resembles big eyes and a nose.”

“Yeah, and pimples” Sue replied sarcastically.

“Okay, so I’ll pop the ones we don’t need.”

“Just go get a Styrofoam ball, Ed.”

When I tried to just stuff the ball inside the hood, Sue remarked that I needed to paint a face on it.  Now, I’m closer to Picasso than Michelangelo in painting faces, but I did my best impressionism of a Precious Moments Cherub.  I proudly inserted the smiling, blue-eyed masterpiece into the hood.

While I was painting the face, Sue had wrapped a large box with a plastic holiday tablecloth and big red bow to place in front of the kid.  We stepped back to admire our handiwork.

“You know what this kid needs now?” Sue asked.

“I suppose you want hair.”

“No….but you can’t send a kid into the cold without a scarf. “  And off she went to find one.  When she finished bundling the neck-less child up you couldn’t even see the kid’s eyebrows.

“Wait…Stop…Hold on there.  I just spent an hour of creativity and now you’re covering it up.”  I objected.

“You wouldn’t want his little nose to get cold would you?” she whimpered.

“His nose…cold…it’s a dummy for crying out loud.”

“But we want him to look realistic!”

“Why’d you have me paint a face if you were just going to cover it up?

“There…, how’s that,” she offered as she pushed the scarf down a bit.  “Now you can see half of his eyes.  They’re plenty big enough for that.”

Plenty big…oh, that hurt.  People pay big money for figurines with oversized eyes and I get mine half hidden.  But, I knew it was fruitless to pursue the issue any further.  Her insistence of the cover-up scarf made her assessment of my face painting skills painfully evident.

Fast forward to this year, 2013.  There are now 3 kids.  The original’s face doesn’t even have eye shadows yet no suggestion from Sue that I improve that.  The newer additions to the frolicking children never had make up.  But then, they just might be boys, so I’m really not insulted to have that detail ignored.

Of course there’s not enough room on the sled for 3 kids and the package so one’s gotta pull the sled.  With a Styrofoam brain, he’s not capable of balance.  You’ve heard of frost layer haven’t you?  Well, after sub-freezing temperatures the past couple weeks, small stakes just will not penetrate frozen turf easily nor deep enough for the dummy to keep his balance.

After a half hour of frustration and trudging in and out of the garage, shed and basement I had a bowed TV antenna arm (yes, I salvaged my antenna 15 years ago), two snapped dowels (yes, each larger than the previous attempt), and a 10 pound mall bruise on my knuckle (yes, I missed the 1 inch square stake.  My teary eyes had distorted my depth perception, and I’m not talking about the depth into the ground).   However, I eventually succeeded in giving the kid a backbone.

Next year, for sure, I’m at least sinking the brace in October.