Friday, April 09, 2010

Volunteer Driver

“Hi Meg, I'm Greg and I am your driver from Green Mountain Transit,” I said.

“Why didn't you call the night before,” retorted Meg.

“Sorry, I didn't know I was meant to. Could we just review where I am taking you today and what I have on the manifest from GMT?” I said.

“That Mary, she always screws things up. I'm tryin' to get her fired...,” shrieked Meg.

“Sorry to hear that,” I replied, ignoring the stream of vitriol coming out of my mobile phone as I reviewed the manifest. “So it says that you're going to Health Family Services in Peterborough, NH for an appointment at 11 am, correct?”

No reply.

“It also says that you have a scooter. I am planning to pick you up at 10, okay?”

“No, that f%&*ing Mary, hrrr. I told her. Nobody can carry that thing. It's 350 pounds, an electric scooter. I just take my walker. That kid needs to be fired. And I ain't gonna be ready at 10. I gotta take my f%&*ing shower,” came her retort.

“Ah, well I am sure that Mary and everyone up at GMT has their hands full, what with the holidays. How about I pick you up at 10:15,” I said. If this woman possessed a similarly unsavory health regime as her disposition, perhaps a shower would be beneficial. It was 30 mins to Peterborough.

“See you at 10:15,” I repeated as it was apparent that my question had not registered due to the uninterupted cursing concerning Mary and GMT. I held the phone an inch or two from my ear, took a breath, exhaled and waited. Finally, she paused and after five seconds of phone silence that felt painfully like an eternity, “yeah,” she said.

Meg is my third ride, and given her disposition, I thought it best to call Lynn, the ride coordinator at GMT, to ask her if this woman was safe to ride with.

“That's our Meg,” said Lynn rosily. “There she goes burning more bridges.”

Funny, I thought to myself, I had not really extended a “bridge” to Meg, not even so much as a draw bridge, and given this early interaction would have trepidation in extending anything with the exception of needle containing a strong sedative.

“Let me call her, and check things out. Then I'll call you back,” Lynn said with a sigh. She had been down this road before with Meg.

Five minutes later after Lynn had called me back to confirm where Lynn was going and presumably attempt to remind her that she needed to modify her behavior, I set out for Meg's house, preparing myself for what was sure to be a long ride to Peterborough with an ailing, irratible woman in need of a punching bag. I thought about Meg's predicament as I drove over to her house. She must have been abused, was probably on a lot of medication and in pain or discomfort. While these immediate thoughts caused me to feel sorry for her, my resolve to not become Meg's next victim dominated. Whatever, I met the otherside of that door, regardless of its predicament was not going to be tolerated, if it continued on the abusive track.

Hm, where was 59 Grimes Hill, I mused. Like so many Vermont homes, Meg's home lacked the normal numbering or obvious signage common in most of the western world. It's sort of a sport up here with road signs and house signs. Or maybe it's a way the locals differentiate themselves from us outsiders like me. “By Jeez, didn't ya see the sign, young fella?” How many times had I fell prey to that one. And there is nothing to say in response, apart from the obligatory “no, can't say I did.” It's just part of the cultural fabric up here, just as my people don't believe in waterproof footwear, aside from the grossly uncomfortable and impractical “wellies.” Yes, if you hear an English person remark at how damp it is, while they remove sodden walking shoes and wet socks, you do NOT meet it with a practical, “well you could wear a tote, boot or any manner of readily available modern waterproof footwear.”

If you did, you would be met with an astonished look, a look exclaiming “well, why would we do that? How dare you presume to provide a practical solution to a challenge that has been providing generations of my countrymen discomfort for centuries!” And so goes the same logic with Vermonters. You won't get them to change their signs, so take a page out of the anthropologist's book and suppress any urge to culturally intrude with outsider wisdom.

Okay, I will have to call. I swallowed the lump in my throat and punched in Meg's number. There was literally not even one ring. She was probably watching me out one of these windows as I drove up the road and turned back down the road again like some 8 year old cyclist.

“Hello Meg? It's Greg, I am just trying to find your...,” I began.

“I told ya, it's the house right after Frost Street...f%$King idiot...,” came the on cue curt response. Upon the beginning of the "f&*k" word, I hit the little phone hang up receiver icon on my car wheel—so satisfying.

And there it was, right after Frost Street, though my rider had never said this. If she had, it had been lost in the stream of obscenities. She wasn't out front waiting, as most of my rides are. That would be too easy. No, I would have to brave going to the door. I got out and proceeded gingerly around the back of a jacked-up Dodge truck, then past the rusty rear of a Jeep Cherokee, up the steps to the dark, uninviting storm door.

A deep breath, and I opened the squeaky, rickety storm door. That's one thing about America that I can never understand. Why is a thing called, after all, a “storm door” the most rickety, flimsy piece of metal that a Chinese metal shop can put out? If it is supposed to provide protection to the occupants from an impending storm, it inspires little confidence in me. Plus have you ever encountered a storm door that opened and closed smoothly, that is without screeching or requiring violent jerks and much cursing?

Storm door open and resting uncomfortably against my back, I banged vigorously on the wooden front door. Without so much as sufficient time for the knock sound to find its way into the ear of the interior resident I heard what sounded like a stream of language that would make a drunk and defeated Red Sox fan sound aimiable. Thankfully the din of the passing traffic conveniently served to muffle much of the ensuing sounds. There was something about “time to take a f%$*ing shower,” and “why can't I find the friggin' door bell, motherf$%&er. I'll be another f%$8ing minute...f%$8, idiot, asshole, b#$%ard. Note, there is NO doorbell. I looked. Trust me, banging on that door was not my first choice.

I took a step back. Okay, so it was 10:30. Peterborough was 30 minutes, and riders like Meg were not exactly agile. I'll give it two more minutes. Then I am telling her that I am leaving. So I waited, another two minutes and, of course, no sign of Meg. She was probably inside enjoying some mid-morning entertainment watching a young man looking rather nervously perturbed and uncomfortable pretend to read email on his iPhone. I knocked again.

This time my hand upon being raised to come down on the door for the fourth knocked was interrupted with a violent opening of the door. A woman leaning against a walker with freshly died red hair stood glaring at me and started on her tirade. I am rather proud of myself for happened next. For rather than getting flustered and escalating the situation, I raised my right hand in a sort of traffic cop stop signal and said calmly and maintaining eye contact:

“Meg, you are being verbally abusive. If you want a ride to Peterborough, you will need to stop immediately or I will leave right now.”

I watched for any reaction, and surprisingly my words or demeanor, for I am not sure which worked, had the affect of stopping Meg dead in her tracks. Her mouth kept moving a little, but the volume lowered like a siren winding down. She hung her head and still leaning on the walker sighed.

“Is that clear?” I asked, again maintaining eye contact.

“Yes,” she said with a murmur. “I won't say another word all the way over.”

We had been into our ride two minutes, heading down I91, when the silence was broken. "My daughter had one of those," said Meg as she nodded in the direction of the speaking GPS in my car. "Had the damn thing ripped out. Never worked."

I raised my eyebrows, pushed my lips forward a little and nodded in acknowledgement--so much for not saying another word.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I don't know if it is turning 40 that does it, or just a stage I am going through, but recently no matter where I travel to, I have found a compulsive need to take pictures of old buildings. Nothing strange in that, you say. No, but I would like to know is it something that a lot of people find themselves doing, a sign of senility--no, wait that's when you just talk about the past the whole time, isn't it? Shite, I think I am starting to do that, too.

Anyway, what's the picture here? Well, that shot is one I took in Woodstock, VT recently. A old stone building, late 1700s or early 1800s. I shot it from a a bridge. I love this angle, since when you look down the side of building along a stream it has possibilities. That is, it cannot be contained, held to one point in time.

See there I go again. Anyway, does anyone else have this affliction?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Impatient, Heavy Breather
This is one of those displays of passive/aggressive behavior I dislike the most, and, admittedly, it proves very effective. So I was chatting with the presenter at a social networking seminar after the presentation. If a presentation has hit me in the right way, well, then it is only right to connect with the said presenter at the end, getting past the pleasantries to the meat. As I waited my turn for the myriad, middle-age social misfits to say their piece, usually somesycophantic reverie aimed at currying favor, I eagerly stepped up and jumped in with the presenter. Each of us measured the level of comfort before getting into deeper subject matter, but then in the corner of my eye there it was: the impatient, heavy breather.

It shifted back and forth, from side to side as if on a listing ship. As I continued it added intermittent sighs of impatience to the shifting. Clever! Naturally, this proved effective, and I locked eyes, or attempted to lock eyes. This proved difficult as it was apparently boss-eyed, and I could not decide in that critical moment which eye to lock on. Anyway, I motioned, "I see you have something to say, so I'll be off, and thank you." On this the shifter moved in, almost pounced with no words, no acknowledgement. Hey, I can understand the impatience. It is annoying, after all, when the guy in front is droning on and you are bursting to say your piece. That said, verbal cues are appreciated and customary, at least where I come from.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I'll Bag the Groceries, Dear...

Look, if your other 'alf is anything like mine, well she likes things done a certain way and grocery packing is no exception. Don't try to get it right my fellow men. And, oh do not fall for the set-up where she stands waiting for the total from the cashier while you stand there with nothing to do, nothing to do except make yourself useful, right? This is where you are falling into the trap. For now you start piling the groceries into the paper bag, and in no particular order, maybe weight is determining factor but that is about it. All the while you are looking around and admiring the scenery or possibly pondering whether the cashier at register two actually does have a ring on or whether the old lady to your right, who you see through your peripheral vision, will finally conquer that shake that is driving you nuts. "Hm, just imagine her working with crystal ware", you ponder.

Fortunately for me today I was at our Coop where there is always a Coop member bagging. So after positioning myself in the only space down by the bags, I waited and received my official release. God, I love those words, "would you like me to bag those for you?"

I am sure some of you out there, unlike the rest of us men, take great pride in bagging and wouldn't dream of letting someone else bag for you. God forbid. You, like my wife, understand that there is an order and place for each grocery item. And how could anybody other than you get it right? Even a tenured bagger at the Coop could not possibly remember the criteria.

The question remains that though you have avoided a duty sure to end in a domestic dispute, as in "who packed my celery like this next to the warm roast chicken?" Notice when she utters this the cadence in her voice. The notes rise at then end and you immediately feel the accusatory tone. Naturally, you usually witness this in the kitchen where there is just you and the dog. Usually it is right when you about to exit the kitchen, snack in hand and plonk yourself on the couch. So there is nobody else to fob it off on. You are trapped. She's got you. Only getting caught red handed at the wrong internet site could be worse, perhaps.

Well, I managed to avoid this by yielding to the bagger today. Though I was right proud of myself too, the problem is it never ends with the groceries, does it. Nope, you are a man, after all, attempting to cohabitate with a being who operates so counter intuitively to you that you have to resign yourself to this: you can dodge one domestic landmine but that is why they call it a mine field. Dodge one only to get blown to bits by another.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The name 's Bond...Well Casino Royale is certainly not cut from normal Bond mold. Yep, I decided to put the goats back in the pen for the day and instead cast my eyes on a good matinee. This one gets two thumbs up for a couple of reasons. Firstly since the producers finally realized that they had taken the suave, sophisticated and, let's face it, moribund Bond character as far down the road as Joe Public would let them and still pay to see it at the big screen. When they cast Craig they gave us a chap who the working man can relate too. They gave us a hero in the sense of a real hero: strong yet vulnerable and tortured by his past, and very alone in the world.

Even if you don't normally go to Bond films, but say you enjoyed what Christian Bale did for Batman, then you will not be disappointed with Craig. For to me, what is behind the secret agent, i.e., the history and psychological make-up is a lot more interesting than what he can do as a secret agent. Why does he do what does? Why can he read people so well? Why is his normally sharp judgement blunted by smart and beautiful woman? Why can he love that beautiful woman right after brutally dispatching with an advesary? In short, what makes the man? In a way it is what a lot of people find troubling about classic Greek heros. Agamenon is a hero at Troy, yet he sacrifices his daughter. Odysseus is a hero for saving his wife from the suitors but not without being a reckless and a butcher. Yes, the complex hero is back. Thank you Mr Craig.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Social Skeet Shooter II: Revenge of the Old Fogey

Ugh! So we are at dinner at a friend’s house. I knew before-hand that we would be introduced to an elderly couple who my friend assured me were a blast. That said, I did have my reservations when I quizzed my friend about the dinner guests and he indicated that they ran an antique shop and had some “great stories”, upper crust English, at least as far as his ear could ascertain, and were quite conservative.

But could I have envisioned the evening that lay in wait for me and my family? Well, we are all headed there one day but let this encounter be a lesson to any of us pondering what we may become just before we “go gently into that good night”. What my friend had left out…well, where to start? That these two crustaceans represented just about every social ill imaginable, that they put on airs, putdown anything anyone else had to say, coughed incessantly, possessed an omniscient obsession, that they couldn’t stop in their reveries of yesteryear was well, skeet shooter overload for me. So that night biting my tongue, I traded my normal stock 12 bore for the big boys’ toys: the social skeet shooter’s Uzi.

The male fogey introduced himself and after sending off his first volley, consisting of “where are you from”? This was delivered in the tone of a fellow anglophile who was concerned that if my familial stock and background were superior to his, I might pee on his tea party. I took the bait, and explained I grew up in Chelmsford and gave his ear a lick of my vanilla—somewhere—in—Essex—dialect. At which he breathed out while declaring that he and his wife, who smiled wanly from beneath her best attempt at a Henley Regatta Hat, had just come from our neck of the woods where they had observed a rowing contest. Click, click.

My eyes narrowing, I readied my weapon for the predictable onslaught. And I was not disappointed. What followed included the old boy’s comparison of the southern VT rowing crew with those back home (in the UK). Naturally the VT crew were okay but not up to English muster. Then we got onto memories of Norfolk and Norwich. I attempted to add some seasoning to his tale while sprinkling a few interjections, like “oh we used to go on holiday in Norfolk…up in Cromer and Beccles”. This served as sufficient bait that I was listening intently while mentally I blew the dust off of the first 45. Hmm, what should I label this one? But I did not have to wait long to answer that. For somehow we managed to veer off course from rowing and end up at a Norwich City football game where wouldn’t you know it, the football club had mixed up their tickets and sold their VIP Box seats. Fancy that, tut, tut, the blighters, can you believe it? His wife chimed in adding that they were given two tickets at some lesser seats for that game and two more in their Box seats for a subsequent game. Her eyes fluttering and wan smile conveyed that they had put the world on notice that anyone who underestimated the social station of these old fogies did so at their peril. First disc to be labeled “Putting Norwich Football Club on Notice”.

Out of respect for the social venue, my wife and I tried to interject some color, other observations and tales of our own but the male fogey would have none of it. Next it was “Out of Africa”, and tales of giraffes, lions and antelope drinking together from the water trough outside his house. “The wonder of it”, the fogey opined, “hunter and hunted lapping at the trough where normally one would be pursuing the other as prey”. His eyes lifted upwards and his head moved affectedly left to right while his voice lifted into a dramatic crescendo. What a master, I noted. The “Out of Africa” 45 had definitely spent some time in the mixing room. Did the fogies rehearse together before attending such gatherings, fine tuning their tales and performances for maximum affect? I did not bother to interrupt with my mother’s accounts of her life in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe. It would have been futile anyway. Though as he droned on about the hunter and hunted, I did wonder to myself how only the social conventions of a dinner party prevent its guests from verbally assailing each other. And I readied my weapon du jour, listened for the cue that “Out of Africa” was airborne, squinted my mind’s eye, salivated a little and then squeezed my trigger for the most delicious shattering of social skeet I have banqueted on to date.

“How is your spaghetti bolognaise?” I motioned to the male fogey…”Very good”, came the clipped response while he took a breath between reveries. Mine is particularly delicious, I gleefully thought to myself.

8:33 rolled around, dinner formally adjourned and by this time my Uzi’s ammo had been spent, shells and shards of social skeet lay around me with titles such as, “Why We Despise the French”, “The Germans are Fine, Really”—now that we have discovered your wife is German—“What is it with all these People who Carry Bottled Water…Do you Carry Water?”, “Homosexuals and PC People Have Taken Over England”, “Don’t Let Your Daughter Act As it is Full of Deranged Druggies”. Phew! This last one is worthy of note for a few reasons. Firstly since we had explained to the Fogies, that is, while they were coming up for some air, that our daughter was really excited with acting and was part of the New England Youth Theatre. Ah but their daughter and son had been on stage, had been in numerous BBC features, you know—yawn, and Kerbang—but the theatre is full of some terrible people. Why their daughter had shown up for a role, albeit a sassy role, in plain dress and the director had insinuated that she wasn’t tarted up enough. Er, hate to break it to you, dear, but if your daughter is applying for a role of a tart, well…

Naturally, their accomplished children were now recovering drug addicts and all because of the theatre, you know. At this my oozy didn’t stop, like a fanatical fundamentalist, there I was surrounded by the fogey’s social skeet desperately trying in vain to rid my mind of the verbal barrage. Send for back-up, I cried to myself, all the while wishing I could clone myself like agent Smith to provide a chance of keeping up with my foe. Fortunately, my salvo was answered by one of our hosts who reminded the fogies about the rain outside. Fogies hate driving in heavy rain and at night. Yes, they should be pushing on. Standing, weary from a night of social skeet battle, I managed to throw out a hand for the ceremonial good bye. Mr. Fogey took it forcefully and as if quite unaware of my war-torn state, invited me to one his Friday nights at the tavern where I could meet some of his wonderful friends. Was I game?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

'80s One Hit Wonders

Okay, Information Society has to be one of my favs. “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)”, still appears to get me dancing after all these years and again takes on additional level of irony which could not have been foreseen by its writers, not that I should give them too much credit for being social commentators. Nonetheless, think about it, surveillance everywhere we go, interrogations; hm, reality imitating art anyone? And can’t forget the lovely little sample of Mr. Spock: pure energy, perfect. Even the name appears more applicable today than in 1989. Now, as for the video, well I for one would have advised against the peddle pushers and the collage of boldly coloured instruments. Hey why don’t you just announce that none of you play any instruments, eh? All that said, I can think of worse videos from the ‘80s. Yep, these guys tapped into something and the song still works today.

Okay, the Buggles and Video Killed the Radio the Star?

Oh, right, everyone refers to that one as it was the first video on MTV. My only recollection of this as a wee lad was marching over to the neighbor’s house who had what at the time could be considered cool: a voice recorder for a door bell. Since it had that tiny, cheap speaker sound to it, my mates and I used to enjoy running up, pressing the button and then with our noses held we would chant “I heard you on my wireless back in ’53…” We usually didn’t get to the next part but we usually achieved our aim of annoying the neighbors. Anyway that is all I have to say on this one. As for the glasses, silver suits and Spartan background in the video, you decide. Again, they had a point didn’t they, video may have indeed killed the radio star; yet when I tune into some of the stations around States I realize this may not have been such a bad thing. I just wish it could have been a little more thorough in its annihilation.

Animotion and Obsession well what a lovely little song to come of age with. Have to admit that the big blond hair do and turquoise number may not be what look for today but at the time it was hot. As for the song, well not really too much to say about this one other than it was a hot little dance number. Other than that this one does not do much more for me.

Men Without Hats and “Safety Dance”.

Sure you have to throw out “Pop Goes the World”. What a strange little band they were, eh. And what is with the dwarf? Now thinking back to this one, I can remember going on a school trip to a place called “Wicken House” which my mates and I would sing to the part “We can dance, we can dance.” This was immensely popular in the UK. I think everyone liked the novelty and appreciated the sort of medieval quality to both the keyboard music which pervades the song and the video mirroring the medieval theme. Little did I know that when I would eventually settle in a small pseudo-hippie town in southern VT that many of the characters in the song would be its inhabitants. Okay, so we can dance but what else can we do…dwarf toss, bear bait, badger bait, _____bait.

That’s certainly all folks yet I would love some feedback and perhaps your own selections.