Category Archives: Rants

This where I blow my cool.

A Goose Shits Every 17 Minutes and No Other Waterfowl Facts


A goose shits every 17 minutes, thus giving credence to the phrase, “like shit through a goose” when speaking of the speed of a process or reaction.

Monday I wrote this post about my walk with Murphy in the hood. It was a gorgeous morning, and then it rained for almost two straight days.

I took pictures of the baby geese, the parents of whom rightly gave my dog a total rash for his insolence in wanting to place them all in his mouth.

Here’s a picture:

really? say that on the grass, geese. i will chase you back into the water and laugh when you can't hiss back on me on this grass. here. THIS grass. Woof.

really? say that on the grass, geese. i will chase you back into the water and laugh when you can’t hiss back on me on this grass. here. THIS grass. Woof.

As you can likely predict: Murphy really could not be less impressed by the geese. He didn’t think they were cute; he likely didn’t even think they were assholes, like I did. He didn’t think. That’s the brilliance of this animal: it’s all instinct and he’s not one tiny bit interested in how I feel about the geese. He just wants to put them all in his mouth. And the baby geese? They will remember him and his teeth because the memory is now imprinted.

Murph doesn’t care that I don’t have a gun or that they didn’t fall out of the sky. Almost every day, we see the geese at the ponds, and I can’t tell if he loves seeing them and tugging at the leash and wanting to put them in his mouth, or if he hates it. But I can tell you this: after each time we see them and we walk away, he does this, “that was cool, can we do it again?” face and rubs his nose into my left thigh. He’s the best dog ever.

So yeah: I hate the Canada geese here. We used to have lots of ducks, but they ran away because the geese are like the mafia, the Gambinos of geese.

Here is my one request: Don’t Feed the Geese, wherever WHEREVER you are. Here’s why as I just posted on my Facebook page:

a quick comment (lecture) about the adorability of baby geese and our responsibility as members of this planet: DON’T FEED THE GEESE. here’s why: geese are dumb-ass stupid birds. they don’t know the difference between me and Ronald McDonald. 

so, when say, Ronald feeds them, they expect me to feed them, which of course i won’t because i can’t stand them. why can’t i stand them? because aside from being stupider than hell, they are also nasty and aggressive and dangerous and they shit everywhere. 

a few years ago, a toddler in this neighborhood was disfigured and maimed (lost part of his tiny finger) because his mother looked away to get more freakin’ bread crumbs out of her bag. the goose was all, “faster! faster small Ronald McDonald!” and the toddler was all, “what’s up goose? i will try to put my fingers in your eyes…” and the goose was all, “i don’t smell no bread coming from you small Ronald McDonald, is your finger bread or are you trying to put your finger in my eyes?” and so the kid was bitten and forever maimed. 

so while i was taking these pictures the other day, i saw a well-intentioned, not-dressed as Ronald McDonald woman feed the geese COOKIES. she has dark hair, i have dark hair. she had no dog, i had a large dog. did the geese notice the difference between us? no. and if i didn’t have my dog, they would have gone after me for more cookies because they’re freaking idiots. they actually were chasing me, honking, “what’s up cookie-looking person? why do you have that small lion with you? do you have more cookies? because this grass and these worms and bugs, they suck… i will talk louder for you, and flap my wings so you see me and know that i am very hungry and that your small lion does not scare me, until it turns back on me, then i am very afraid and i know that if i had to, i would abandon my babies to save my own ass if your small lion came after me.” (because it did, and NO i didn’t let Murphy loose.) 

then people like me try to walk around the geese and we get hissed at and flapped at and freakin’ chased because even when i’m NOT in my Ronald McDonald suit, they think i’ve got bread in my bag. which i don’t, because not only do i not feed the geese, but i don’t have a bag with me. 

so i told the woman: don’t feed the geese. please stop. 

“but they’re so little and they need food.” she said. 

“no they’re not and that’s not food. it’s a cookie. before i start sounding all judgey and whatnot, would you feed a 2-week old infant that cookie? no, so don’t feed it to the geese for that reason alone. they’ve got all the grass and insects and their own defecation to eat all they want… and because you feed them, they think everyone has food and now they’re hassling me. a kid lost his finger because people think the geese don’t have enough to eat; they thought his finger was food because they’re stupider than a rock. they don’t need your cookies or bread. look at them: they’re the size of a smart car… they don’t need you to feed them.” 

so … please: DON’T FEED THE GEESE. they’re stupid and … well: wild animals. 

lecture done. 

>drops mic<

So… you wanna feed baby geese? Super. Guess what: they grow fast. In a week, they’ll be ugly as butt and then they’ll chase your ass all over the park flapping and honking,”Wait! Ronald! Don’t you have a cookie? Remember?! I’m that baby you fed a lasagna to last week… but I’m and growing and I’ll be as big as a calf in a month, but don’t you have a cookie, Ronald?”  and you’ll be HOSED because they will REMEMBER you and anyone who looks like you, aka all bipedal humans because of that imprinting. We basically train them to attack us. So do us all a favor: stop feeding the geese.

Thank you.

ps – maybe they’d shit less often if we didn’t feed them.

Go With Your Gut or What Happens When You Don’t


Go with your gut. Your first reaction. Your first instinct. Your first impression. Go with it with everything: a car, a ride with a friend, a woo-woo person you saw, a job interview, a job you want, a book you started, a song you heard, something you tasted, something someone said, a first date. Go with it. Don’t second-guess your reaction and for goodness’ sake, don’t make exceptions (this is really for me).

What does this mean? For starters: everyone’s gut reaction is their own. Yours doesn’t have to agree with mine, but if it does, then that’s more reason to heed. To me (probably because I haven’t learned enough yet), it doesn’t mean you must act on it; it just means you retain it, keep it in the hip pocket, or like a tip sheet for future use, for those moments when you will inevitably (due to human nature) go against it. 

We all do this — we all go against it. They wouldn’t be called “first impressions” if there were no second ones and third ones… Maya Angelou has a famous phrase, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Lots of people think this phrase can be meant as a warning system, and I’m sure that’s its main intention. 

On the opposite side of the same coin though, is that it’s also an “it’s OK” system too. If your first candid impression of someone is as lovely and tender and sweet, then go with that — even if they show you something different later — because you know it is there.  I wouldn’t be married to the man I am if I ignored his tenderness the first time I ever met him (that said, he has never shown me another side). So if your nice person is snarly, it’s probably because something’s wrong. Then, listen to your gut to help root out the problem. 

Going against the gut instinct is not a sin or a character flaw or a symptom of stupidity (even though it feels like it sometimes); it is that instead we rationalize, we go with our hearts or sense a familiarity / redolence from a previous and precious pattern that we used to know; we used to exist under. Sometimes these familiarities manifest themselves like a hangover. “Hair of the dog” might take away the symptoms but it sure doesn’t stop your drinking problem. 

Spock never had to really rationalize.

Going against our gut, and going for the familiar can create problems and waste so much time: I would have never dated as much as I had and I would have never learned the lessons I learned if I had always gone with my gut (I would have saved myself a lot of heartache and woe, but hey, I’m not Spock). This is part of life. We buy the wrong car; we talk to the crazed person we saw scream at traffic; we take the job and it doesn’t work out; we gloss over the tone when we heard someone say something … we overcompensate, we rationalize. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if life or people came with red flags?: 

This is so funny and true. 

Maybe they do. Maybe they do come with red flags and we just y’know, ignore them. But y’know, when you do go against your gut, you will learn through trial and error and trial and error and trial and error until you don’t anymore. You will experience so many “face palm” moments that you might create an impression in your forehead. 

That’s OK. Don’t judge yourself, but DO know that it won’t stop — these face palms, the “not again” moments until you stop. Until you see the light at the moment you’re really meant to. That when all the data is lined up, and you’ve learned all you need to know — about the book, or the song,  or the person you saw screaming at traffic or the job interview you had — that your Gut Instinct will be there, waiting and saying, “Welcome back, normal-thinking self, that person we spent so much time in therapy trying to find, we missed you.”  

But even though we’ve learned that last “not this time”-time, sometimes we repeat behaviors, actions, relationships again in different iterations. We Rationalize Again: one person’s drama is just slightly different until it really isn’t anymore and then, it’s your fault. You fell asleep at the wheel and the fork in the road takes you closer to hell or back to clarity and you’re about to crash. You need to wake up, rub your eyes, slap yourself in the face, turn up the music, open the window, ANYTHING!, course correct and Don’t Repeat. And it’s until those “don’t repeat” moments manifest that we will repeat. 

I experienced yet another rationalizing relationship. I went against my gut.  I saw all the flags. I saw all the body language, all the inconsistencies, heard all the weird stories both community-based and this-person-based. I ignored. I compartmentalized and rationalized myself into oblivion. I set boundaries I thought this person could respect. I was clear. But in the end, it went wrong. The boundaries were eventually a mockery because this person has no boundaries; everything is everyone else’s right? If it’s on the Internet then it’s all up for grabs, out in the open. The relationship was never sane because you can’t have a unsane myopic, self-absorbed person with a sane, open-minded and continually-seeking self-awareness person. The see-saw isn’t balanced and the see-saw always sways toward the unsane (I know it’s “insane”) person because that person is flailing its arms and throwing molotov cocktails and putting rocks in pockets and distracting and flagrantly violating recently agreed-upon boundaries, victimizing and overcompensating and needing and crying or not crying, and calling and drawing you away from what you know is Real. And this was an ADULT. Ohmygawsh, are you tired yet? (I know, most people would be like: “Dude. Seriously? You put up with that shit?”)

But it took me a third time (that IS the charm, they say) to finally see the light. And it was so bright and clear and clean; and the biggest irony of all?: 

This person was actually the beacon. The light of this person’s self-created convenient truth was so bright you could land planes by it. This person was all “check out how freakin’ nuts I can be and watch me warp truths and like, invoke other people and not own any of my responsibility in any of this because I’m like, all like going rogue and like WILD and FREE, baby and it feels  gooooood…” 

I have to be honest: I saw that light, but I wore the same dark shades I wear on the water when I row. I put on hats… the same racing hats I wear when I row that have a black liner under the bill to absorb the light and reflection off the water. I did all I could to look Joe Cool and totally together when my insides were screaming, “OMIGAWD! Leave! Get out of here! Do NOT do this AGAIN! Are you NUTS?! Boundaries Shmoundaries! There’s poop all over them! Again! Someone, call her husband!” I over-performed and did anything I could to keep everything stable and keep the light under cover because I knew that when I saw that light again, it meant I won the “schmuck” award.  My kids even said so. Ouch.  That bright, flickering light (no matter how creepy) showed me everything that was always there and so much more and this time: I was ready to see it. And that’s growth and that’s OK. Sometimes we have to take two steps forward and one step back a few times before we can ever go at our pace. But I should stop here ‘lest I risk narcissistic bathos. 

I’m not trying to sound glib or like Stuart Smalley (all self-help is OK until it enables the continued practice of errors that are so rooted in our subconscious that staying asleep to them is simply selfish: at one time or another people, we have to grow up, definitely including me); because positive self-affirmations can have real and lasting benefits when they are actually believed. Because if we believe, as Stuart says, that we are “good enough and of value and people like” us then we don’t act needy and do reckless things trying to curry favor with people who work reeeeally hard to keep their acts together.  Trying to be mellow and kind, and running damage control when the molotov cocktails are flying is hard. People start to look at you like you’ve gone bye-bye too. And that’s when ya gotta pull the chute cord. If you don’t Get It by yourself, you’ll Get It by peer pressure. 

So then the trick is after we finally Get It, to not beat ourselves up too much for not Getting It in the first place. It’s OK if you stumble and ignore your Gut.  There’s a phrase “against our better nature” that comes to mind. I personally dislike the use of “better” because it is judgmental; it implies that we should know “better.” Sometimes, as in matters of the heart, we simply Don’t Know Better. Until we do.

Just don’t beat yourself up while you’re learning — and more importantly: don’t let whatever you’re learning about beat you up either; don’t ignore the flags, apparently they are always waving.    

And then when we do figure it out… Hot diggity, Woo-hoo and Allelujia, it’s a good thing and Lesson is Learned. You have FINALLY Gone With Your Gut. Now it’s time to Repeat! The wisdom from the lesson … NOT the lesson. 

thank you. 

About Last Night – Building a Relationship with Local Government


I am going to try to channel my father’s time-tested and proven ability to be efficient in writing this post. Usually I go on with descriptions because I love to describe. My dad, however, is a writer, with at least four decades under his belt of being paid to write. He’s got a solid following. He’s a known person within his circles. He’s interviewed and investigated sitting presidents, senators, congressmen, governors, mayors, union bosses, criminals, felons, sometimes convenience has combined a few of those into one person (we’re from NY). Me? I’m hoping to raise senators and not felons. Me? cue harp music:  Oh, I write without payment, except for the glowing satisfaction that I leave a legacy for my children and anyone who dares to continue reading my stuff ever. cut harp music.

Still here? Good. Grab a chair. I’m going to tell you about last night. Last night, I became an official televised activist for a cause to slow down drivers on behalf of our world’s greatest asset: Kids who still can’t tie their own shoes. Kids who need help opening their chocolate milk. Kids who show you the toothless gaps in their smiles. 


Thing 2 was home sick so I had to stay home and miss out on lunch with a friend. While I was home, I decided to prepare for this event. I toiled all day putting together a PowerPoint presentation as part our address to the forum. The presentation was cohesive, it flowed, it had pictures. It was brief. It ultimately didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because the conversation we ended up having with the forum in response to the first speaker, whose comments were so woo-woo out there abstract “how does one define ‘satisfaction’?” he asked, I dunno, by smoking a cigarette afterward? By holding up a “10” sign?, that we tried to refer to the presentation, but halfway through, we gave up and spoke off the cuff.  

We live in Fairfax County, Va. We pay a LOT of money to live here. We’re something like the 3rd most affluent county in the country. And that makes us probably third in the free world (notice that I excluded Dubai). 

I took this picture at 8:00pm, eventide. We didn’t leave until 12:02. 

My co-pro-anti-death-on-the-parkway activist neighbor and I drove together to the relatively new county government center to stake our claim on Rational Thinking. We pull up, park and walk in.  This place is lovely. (Although it’s much bigger than that picture.) Oodles of free parking, mahogany, marble, brushed steel, milano glass, leather comfy chairs for all the peeps behind the mahogany and marble, super-quiet vacuums for people listening to the peeps in the chairs, HD jumbotrons, HD cameras, cable access, etc. It looked like Mission Control.  

Our mission was to speak on behalf a task force we’re on to request that the county do something to slow down drivers who careen past our children’s barely visible, above-grade, underground 30-year-old school at waaaay over the posted speed. In a six-month period in 2010, the Five-0 wrote some of Fairfax’s coolest soccer moms 408 tickets for speeds averaging 57.8 mph on this road (that’s just below reckless driving) at all times of day and I’m certain, during the AM and PM traffic shifts at our school. So for me, this is very simple: slow down. That’s the bottom line.  My oldest who went to the “EduCave” as my brother calls it, is now in 8th grade, so I’ve been energized about this cause for nine years. So as parents of these students, the speed reduction is our claim on Rational Thinking. 

Believe it or not: there are people who oppose this “speed reduction” action. No one in the room last night opposed it; but the persons who were sent as minions of The Grand Opposer from FCPS were carefully thrown under the school bus because I bet even they couldn’t really believe some of the words that were flying out of their mouths. I’ve met The Grand Opposer; I’m no longer vexed by his antics because Rational Thinking will prevail. 

Background: This task force is a great group. It was created about 16 months ago. For seven straight months we met for for 90 minutes every three weeks in a tiny room next to one of the neighborhood pools where we enviously craned out the window to vicariously enjoy the pool goers’ mirth. While they were squirting and splashing we were talking about how to improve pedestrian and motorist safety around our school and greater neighborhood. After those initial months, we met monthly or so. 

The task force was spurred on the heels of a piece of activism prepared from photos a friend shot in the fall of 2010, accompanied by music we didn’t create (lawyers tell me to say this). The pictures showed all sorts of pedestrian risks and driver disregard at the pick-up and dismissal times. The video, a letter, and copies of signed petitions were distributed amongst local and state-level legislators. Momentum continued. We didn’t really know where to start or whose door to knock on but we had to start somewhere. An online petition for the same cause had more than 200 signatures in the fall of 2010 (when I was PTA president at the school). This tidy package of activism was so compelling that people literally could not ignore it anymore.  

After that content went around, John Cook, our newly elected Board of Supervisors rep for our district, who also received the activism video package, held a community meeting about five months later because what this community endures on a daily basis is PLAIN WRONG. Cook has been on the job a short time, but he reminds me of one of those classic 1940s “this is your government” people in that he truly empowers the local citizenry to work together with appointed public service people to collaborate and create solutions. So far, it’s working on the road outside the school: we’ve got some improved signage, we’ve won a federal grant to expand a median strip to 8′ wide, they put in a sidewalk infront of the school and other things are on the docket. We all know we’re no where near finished. Regarding the school though, we could be once we get the signs we’re after.  

At this first long-ago meeting, we went round and round with the rhetoric ripe and juicy on both sides. At one point, a very dear friend of mine, a US Marine daughter, a USN wife, mother of 4, a totally efficient person with mad laser-like executive skills and an extremely fair head on her shoulders stood up during that meeting to say to Cook, “You agree with us? Then do something about it! Create a task force!” and so, here we are. This friend? She’s not on the task force. She’s no fool. But she’s busier than a bee and has been instrumental in so many other ways for this community that she’s allowed a pass on this one. Me? I’m in. I jumped on it and I’ve become That Person. I’m the bee that won’t stop buzzing. The bee that hummmmmmmms and hummmmmmms around you and your paper plate at the picnic and wants to land in your can of soda, Mr. The Grand Opposer and sting you into accepting Rational Thinking.    

The task force has about eight regular citizens and about eight civil servants, including police officers and The Grand Opposer. 

So much for the best of intentions in being efficient and brief. But it just occurred to me: my father has copy editors. 

I’ll cut closer to the chase. In the midst of these 16 months, we’ve had a changing of the guard at the school board which includes more tolerant, open-minded members, including members who actually have children enrolled in the school system (that’s always a plus for me). The task force also had a major victory: vehicle and pedestrian traffic conditions outside the school at the intersection of its entrance and that of the shopping center across the street warranted a four-way red-yellow-green stoplight! An actual stoplight! We couldn’t believe our luck and we thought: OK, well this is great. I was personally opposed to it, but it was a start or perhaps it would be the finish. 

We were told that Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) would convene with FCPS (uh-oh, yup) to determine next steps for installation and implementation (these lights costs about $350,000 each to install) and that we would hear results of yet another “feasibility study” by July. On September 14 we heard over e-mail: FCPS killed the stoplight. It was The Grand Opposer. The rationale: a new and improved kiss & ride design.

It’s at this point that I determine that The Grand Opposer is treating us (the task force and now the community) like how a “drive thru” treats Leo Getz because just when you think you’re done, or you have what you need, you realize later or when you get home (if you’re Leo) that things are not as you’d been led to believe:

Thanks to The Grand Opposer, I can think of another phrase than “kiss & ride” that I’d use to describe what happened behind the scenes. 

The new kiss & ride design is part of a $16.6 million renovation process that recently began at the school. The kiss & ride lane design is so ambitious and downright kamikaze-inspired, that most people can’t imagine it ever working or being safe. Because of this design, we found an opportunity to include the costs to install the reduced speed school zone signage as part of the renovation.

The first concept drawing for the new kiss & ride.

This is a more recent concept drawing for the kiss & ride.

Today, about 16 months later, we’re getting somewhere. Nothing has happened with the renovation yet. No ground has been broken. We’re still in the design and implementation stage. 

Two months ago, Cook held a required “County Land Use Meeting” to discuss the renovation with the community. This meeting was also an opportunity for us to make our request for the school zone reduced-speed light because at these County Land Use Meetings, no relevant proposal is absurd. The meeting was held and the request was taken into consideration and included in a staff report.  

About a week ago, the task force received the aforementioned staff report which details various concerns raised by residents at that land use meeting (and for a few weeks after during a comment period). These concerns are known as “conditions” and they must be discussed before the Fairfax County Planning Commission (PC) at a public hearing to authorize the work to begin. One of those conditions is “Condition 11” which speaks directly to our school zone reduced-speed light request.  

Fred Flintstone-feet your car to last night. We’re in the room at the big mahogany and marble building before the 14-member all-white mostly male PC on the public hearing for the school’s upcoming renovation. 

It turns out that “Condition 11” is so vague, so ambiguous that it’s basically untenable. I personally have decided that any proposal made by anyone I know that doesn’t make sense will be heretofore known as a “Condition 11.” 

Here’s an example: “Hey Mom, I was wondering if you could give me money so I can buy a laptop that I won’t give you access to so I can watch Harry Potter Puppet Pals videos on YouTube all the time and when you want to take it away or use it for something, I’ll run up to my room, slam my door, demand money and then give you a computer I made out of Legos.” That’s a Condition 11.   

Condition 11” was so What the What and “we are at war with Eurasia / we are no longer at war with Eurasia” that The Grand Opposer’s poor minion could not speak from his heart. Suddenly, he was like a woebegone Looney Toons character. You pick… I’m out of gas. If he were able to speak from his heart (because he has one), he woulda said this, “Your Excellencies, Fine People of The Mahogany Desk and Marble Fixtures, give these people what they deserve, what is right and what is Rational. Give them the reduced speed zone and flashing lights. Save me from being heckled and pelted as I leave This Place.” 

But that’s not what happened. Instead, he was trying to say the words The Grand Opposer taught him; but his Cyerano was nowhere to be found. The devil on his shoulder was asleep because it was five minutes to tomorrow (today) when we wrapped up. The minion could not get it together. His tie was a mess; his shirt was rumpled; his hair was frenzied; his verbal pace was inconsistent and his mannerisms were random and jagged. If there were an open bar in that auditorium, I’d swear he had hit it while no one was looking. He could not answer common sense inquiries and he could not articulately explain his motivations his opposition BECAUSE THEY WEREN’T HIS OPPOSITIONS. No one knows why The Grand Opposer opposes… 

We were all yawning and I think the chairman of the PC said, “Let’s get going on this, I want to go to bed.” So a great thing happened: our area representative from the planning commission said, “I propose a resolution to adjourn and resolve at the May 3 meeting…” HOORAY! 

But I feel confident we will win. The May 3 meeting is not public so we’re off the hook there. But we’re preparing documentation and doing what we can to rally the team and I know Just What to Say on my documents now. . . stay tuned. 

thank you.  

the cost of expectations


“Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.”

– Alice Walker

I have a modest proposal for all parents or parents of incoming babies: lovingly tell your child(ren) to have no expectations.

My therapist (yes, I went there already, perhaps a new record at just 21 words) once told me a phrase that was new to me back in 2005: “having expectations creates built-in resentments.”

Ooh, built-ins.

I’m not down on people or the world, but I have noticed lately that if I come to expect kindness, professionalism, decorum out of people in the manner with which I endeavor to conduct myself, I’m a dolt, a bozo and essentially screwed for the rest of the day emotionally because I stew in disbelief at the callousness of people.

This is sort of a rant.  Gentility is dead or at least on a DNR.

Case in point: just yesterday with global coffee powerhouse Starbucks. I bought the VIA “ready-brew” packs for a trip. When I opened the packages to prepare for the trip, four of the “sticks” as Starbucks calls them, were pilfered from the packaging.  I paid full price, $7 for two packages of 7 sticks and I got 3 in each package.  The packaging is clearly the problem. In Starbucks’s mission to impart a Green (right, whatever) sentiment, they use austere packaging: a cutesy clear spot of tape here, a special fold/cut to the paper there, soy-based ink on recyclable paper, job-enhancing sustainable agriculture and a perfect cup of joe.

I contacted their customer relations department via the web (the fact that I had to contact them via the web was annoying; no customer service phone number on any packaging) and detailed my situation.  I gently suggested they use a more resilient type of packing, like a cereal box, that clearly indicates tampering and even went so far as to suggest using maybe those paper “zipper” inspired types of packaging like on frozen fish sticks.  Beyond my frustration level, this was also a matter of food safety.

Starbucks replied within 24 hours, which was great, but the response was woefully inadequate given its impressive financials and global branding imprint.  I could envision the employee sipping from his? (the name was Jasyn, so …?) fair-trade Balinese coffee mug made by indigent children to pay for the goat they were going to share in their village and typing on his ergonomically exquisite keyboard made of recycled aluminum while sitting in his bamboo office chair wearing hemp clothing and listening to Sufjan Stevens (whom I happen to like very much) as he typed his expression of gratitude for detailing my experiences and sharing my frustration and letting me know he was going to pass on my comments to the marketing team.  But I feel confident saying Jasyn wasn’t sitting in a bamboo chair and sipping from a fair-trade mug.  He was likely an overworked denizen of an overcrowded, poorly lit, poorly circulated, cubical farm in India.  He was however, probably listening to Sufjan Stevens or Julian Casablancas because, hey it is Starbucks.

Starbucks made no offer to reimburse my expenses (I wasn’t looking for a handout, just hopefully expectant for a compensation coupon for my trouble) but Jasyn didn’t care.  I figure Starbucks figures they got me by the short hairs because I’m a coffee addict (not) and can’t go a day without their elixir keeping me alive.  Well I’m not and once I finish the two other 7-stick packages I have of their VIA, I’m not buying any more.  In 2 weeks, I am DONE with VIA.  And they can suck it, to quote my friend affectionately known as “C3.”

I’ll go through all my beans they roasted that I have in my house and then I’ll switch to Maxwell House or some other openly dishonest pre-fair-trade, pre-Seattle / consciousness conglomerate like Procter & Gamble who knows how to treat its customers:

Almost 14 years ago, when Thing 1 was very wee (about six months) and I was a new mother, we were out running errands.  He had a diaper on for a longer-than expected (see, there’s that word again) time.  When we returned from our jaunt and I prepared him for a nap, his diaper was massive.  I opened it to change him and I discovered a clear, gel-like substance all over his little pelvic area.  I thought his kidneys had exploded all over himself and that he was in dire need of dialysis.  I thought his pee had crystallized and he was on death’s door with his bright eyes, funny toothless grin, chubby cheeks, dimples, pre-nap chortles and sticky hands grabbing at my necklace that dangled about his face.

Quickly I called my mom who had no clue because when we were children she had a diaper service so, she couldn’t help, but she did add to my level of panic and primal fear, “Oh, Gad, Mally. It saounds ahwfal.  I think yooo shud caal the haspital.” (She was a Buffalo, NY, resident until her 48th year, so I have to do that Great Lakes accent for you.)

I didn’t know if we were at that critical “caal the haspital” stage yet so I called the 800 number on the box of Pampers.  Within two rings a very mellow woman (I could tell by the sound of her voice) named Maureen answered the phone and asked me what I was calling about.

With no shortage of pithy anxiety I told her that my son had a clear, springy, crazy goo all over himself and that I didn’t know what was happening.  He seemed fine, he seemed alert, he seemed like himself (YES HE DII-ID, HE MOST CERTAINWY DII-IID, SWEETUMMMS…) but what the heck?

Maureen calmly cleared her throat and said everything was fine.  She asked me if I was a new mom, (D’Oh!) and assured me that everything was just fine, hon.  She didn’t make me fear she was pantomiming “GOT A LIVE ONE!” waving the LUNATIC! flag from her cubicle to her co-workers.  She didn’t make me defensive for wanting to ask for help or feel angry for voicing a concern.  She told me the crazy goo was some form or absorbent property that enables the diaper to take on bodily fluid.  She explained that the release (explosion was more like it) of the material indicated that it had reached its maximum capacity.  So in my best anxiety-induced Star Trek’s “Scotty” impression, I suggested to her that  the diapurr had geeven ahll it cooold, cap’n. shey coooldn’t geeeve nue morrrre and she laughed.

Utterly relieved and grateful for her calm and her stories about her first crack at motherhood, “Oh hon, that was yeeeears ago. My kids are alllll grown up now…” I released a lot of fear and sorta whimpered on the phone, breathing deeply and slowly.  She asked me if I was ok and I said that I was but that I was terrified earlier.  She got real quiet on her end and it was like I could feel her reaching out to tightly grasp my hand, a hand hug.  After a few moments, she said, “Hon, can I get your name and address?  I want to do something for you.”

I gathered my composure and finished up Thing 1’s new, clean diaper, smooched his forehead and put him into bed and closed the door.

I gave her my information.  She listened to me carefully put my infant son in his crib with love.  She sighed and told me the worst of that moment was over.  She told me my son was fine and suggested that I might want to take a nap and relax while he did, that the laundry will always be there, that it could wait.

One day later via FedEx a coupon for a free case of diapers arrived with some coupons for laundry detergent and other affiliated products and a hand-written note from Maureen thanking me for trusting her and wishing me and my family health and peace.  I don’t care that this massive company wasn’t especially earth-friendly, Maureen was Molly-friendly.

These are expectations that I didn’t have: that Maureen would be so loving, so human; that an employee of a huge, HUGE multinational conglomerate would be so kind.  Maureen set the bar that day and yesterday Jasyn ran into it, “clotheslined” it.

So this is what we get when we have expectations.  Expectations that people will hold the door for us, help us out of a car, help us with our groceries.  Expectations that check-out clerks will say “hello” (fellow human being trying to make your way) and “thank you” (for keeping me employed). And to Alice Walker’s point above, if we have no expectations, we get to live frugally on surprise, because we’ll starve if we think the nice random moments from random other people are coming to feed our souls and help us remember what coexistence means.

Am I in the wrong here? Am I so self-absorbed that expecting someone to treat me with courtesy or kindness or manners or decency is asking too much?  Has FaceBook and YouTube and Twitter and camera-phones and text-messaging and instant gratification and webcams and reality-TV made people SO self-absorbed that they actually believe they will be “discovered” or instantly famous?  Is Justin Bieber our benchmark for talent and fame?   That kid’s a train wreck.  Is “American Idol” an example of what the world really needs? Is anyone entitled to being rude and unkind and all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips –eqsue?  In one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen — “Mommie Dearest” about Joan Crawford and her adopted daughter Christina, I was amazed to see that Joan hand-wrote a personal reply to every fan she ever had.  She might’ve been insane, but she was polite insane.

What happened to not shouting in a restaurant?  Or turning down your cell phone ringer?  What happened to formality?  What happened to hand-written notes?  Is real reality so boring that we have to escape to one-dimensional virtual reality?

Uh oh, I can tell I’m getting tangential. Stay on track, Mol.

So, in my sage 44 years, I have come to understand that we could all do ourselves and our incoming human beings (aka babies) a favor by simply telling them this: “Have no expectations.  Don’t expect things out of life.  You are not entitled to anything.  Work hard, do your best and be good to society because it is right to do.  But, have no expectations.  Don’t expect kindness, don’t expect eye contact (certainly not in a full-grown adult or teenager) or full sentences or for someone to possibly relate to you on any level because they’re too busy thinking about themselves, what’s happening on FaceBook, if he’s lost at Words with Friends or how to be rich, famous or the next big thing.”

Repeat “have no expectations” throughout their lives reinforced with the beauty of occasional bouts of spontaneous kindness and the fact that being nice just feels right.  The point is not to beat the sweet innocent into submission, but rather to forge and hone a smart person, a self-assured person and someone who doesn’t make insanely poor choices or use poor judgment. As we mature, I would hope it would inspire equanimity and a quiet repose with the phrase of the century, “It is what it is” bolstered with the karma-hopeful reasoning that it’s simply right to be a nice person.  Have you ever heard, “Steve’s such a weirdo … he’s so NICE to people…” (sullen teenagers don’t count)?  I haven’t.  But I do have excellent radar for saccharine kindness. That’s just as bad as rudeness because it implies you’re stupid or gullible too.

I suppose I sound like Andy Rooney or my great aunt Alshee when I talk like this, but I think they had the Right Idea.  But in my house: Kindness begets kindness and rudeness gets the hairy eyeball.  So if you catch my Things being rude, let me know.  I’ll put them in contact with Jasyn.

Thank you.