Posts from 2018-01
I considered it fairly good luck when I was third in line at Starbucks. I expected the orders to be Hemingway length paragraphs that included words in coffee language I didn’t understand. I called them high maintenance orders. What always amazed me was the baristas taking these orders. They would take that long list of demands, reduce them to a few initials that were written on the side of the cup with a sharpie, ask for a name, and draw a heart or smiley face. Then the cup would be passed down to a colleague to pour, mix, flavor, steam, foam, dollop, design, sprinkle, or blend to the customer’s specifications.
When it was my turn, I stepped confidently up to the counter. My capable Barista readied her sharpie in her right hand, her left hovered over the stacks of cups. “I would like a Vente...” She snatched the appropriate cup and moved her marker in place. “Decaf coffee.”
My barista froze, she wrote nothing on my cup. “What?”
She didn’t say it loudly, but the place went silent. Evidently, Baristas didn’t ask customers to repeat themselves very often. I felt a slow burn begin at my hairline and work its way down. I repeated my order, “I would like a cup of decaf.”
“I don’t think I can do that.” If there was anyone who wasn’t paying attention to this exchange before, they were now. She placed my cup and her marker on the counter deliberately and stepped to her colleague who was looking at me, mouth agape. They conferenced in low whispers. I really wished I could take back my order, but that wasn’t possible now. I had to see it through.
The barista returned. She smiled stiffly. She picked up my cup, wrote nothing on it, and handed it off to her partner. To me she said something about a seemingly complex process involving something called an Americano, but she thought they were going to be able to fill my order. “If it’s not to your satisfaction, I’ll make you an herb tea,” she said in a not-so-nice tone.
In You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks said a person’s complex coffee order was a way of “getting an absolute sense of self.” If that is true, then the barista becomes part therapist. I robbed my barista of that part of her job. Although I am a little proud that I stumped a barista, I also feel a little bad, so from now on, I’ll just make my decaf at home.
I admit there are times in my life when I’m not getting my way that I would really love to just shut down like a toddler in the midst of a tantrum. Luckily, or maybe not so luckily, that’s not reality for anyone except our government. And, by the way, I blame all of them, not just a person, not just a party. Reality for most, if not all, of us is that we must compromise, we must figure out a way to make things work. However, one cannot help but think what would happen if we could just shut it down. For example, I have something right now that I would love to just say, “Despite the negative effects, we can’t agree, so I’m shutting it down.”
I create a menu and grocery shop for two weeks at a time. This menu and my grocery shopping are often a source of disagreement in my family. First, there’s deciding what to put on the menu. It seems that everybody hates something and doesn’t want it on there. I hate to cook, so shutting this down seems like a pretty good idea. Sorry kids, no dinner, we are on shut down.
Then there’s the grocery list. If it’s not on my list, I don’t buy it. I cannot read minds, so if my kids decide they would really like some Goldfish to snack on, that should have been on the list. If those flavor blasted crackers are not on my list, then guess what? There’s no Goldfish in the pantry. This type of absence usually leads to loud whining about there being no food in our house. Let’s shut this down. There will be no grocery shopping until it works my way.
This sounds awesome for a bit. Then my rational, adult brain kicks in. I want my family to have dinner together every night. This is the one time I can count on to find out what’s going on in my teenagers’ lives. And I want my kids to eat healthy. Running to a fast food place for their meals and snacks is not good for them or the budget. So, damn’t, we have to talk about our issues. We will probably all have to compromise, and that will be hard. There may be yelling, probably even swearing, but we’ll get it done. And, bonus, my kids will have learned something about compromise.
Let’s face it, we’ve made it easy for our politicians to act like toddlers. We have a culture where there’s winners and losers. When that’s the culture, then guess what, there’s no meeting in the middle, there’s no give and take, there’s no compromise. We cease to be a Democracy. We become a Dictatorship because it’s winner takes all. So, to our government, would you just put on your big boy/girl pants and do something?
Of course I had seen the videos of kids drugged up after they’d gotten their wisdom teeth out, but I always thought that maybe there was a little bit of acting, or that kid was the exception not the rule. However, after witnessing my daughter Bailey’s procedure, and hearing about many of her friends’ experiences, I think that this not-so-great experience for our kids could be a highlight for us parents.
My youngest daughter, Brooke, volunteered to get up early during her Christmas break because she thought we may need someone to capture it on video. We did. As we left the house, I gave Bailey the little pills the dentist gave us to relax her before surgery. By the time we arrived at the office, Bailey was like a sloppy drunk. Her speech slurred and she was obsessed about her phone that had been purposely left at home. We kept telling her it was in her pocket. When she couldn’t find it in that pocket, we would tell her it was in another one. This game lasted until Brad helped her stumble into the waiting room and fall into one of their big, poofy chairs.
In between dozing, Bailey would wax poetic about the beauty of seeing two of everything. This also lead to her exclaiming that Brooke and I should start a band. Our inability to sing aside, I asked, “What kind of music would we sing?”
“Country, err something deep and mellow.”
We laughed because this family hates country music, not to mention we lack singing ability. Brooke zoomed her camera in on Bailey to catch the serious look on her face and asked, “What would the name of our band be?”
Bailey waved her hand as if to say that was the easiest question of all. “Brooke and Jen, and Jen and Brooke.”
“Yeah, because there’s so many of you.” Then Bailey fell asleep until the hygienist came to get her.
When it was over, they rolled Bailey to our car in a wheelchair. Brad was in the process of getting her settled in the backseat when she asked for her phone. I asked what she was going to do with that. “I have to keep my streaks,” Bailey slurred around the bloody gauze that was hanging halfway out her mouth.
“Oh, honey,” I said, “You don’t want anyone to see you right now.”
“Yes, I do. I look awesome.” A bloody piece of gauze and some red drool spilled from her mouth. Brad shoved the gauze back in and we started home.
Brad played ‘your phone is in your pocket’ game again with Bailey, and worked at keeping her nasty gauze in her mouth, Brooke filmed, and I drove. This lasted for a few minutes, but then Bailey noticed a ball of yarn in the back seat. It was actually for a Christmas Eve scavenger hunt, but for Bailey, it meant that we got a cat. She wasn’t happy about our new cat.
“Do we have a cat? Why would you get a cat? I don’t want a cat, I hate cats! Why didn’t you get a puppy? I want a puppy. I love puppies. Puppies are so cute. Why did you get a cat? Cat’s are stupid. I can’t believe we have a cat.” Tears joined the red drool cascading down her face.
Nobody corrected Bailey’s assumption because it was video gold. Brad said as he shoved her gauze back in her mouth and wiped her face with a Kleenex, “I’m sure you’ll grow to love the cat.”
“Nnnooo, I won’t! I don’t want a cat. They don’t love you, they just use you. Dogs love you. I just love dogs. That’s all. Nothing else.” Bailey sighed. “Where’s my phone?”
Bailey remained fixated on her phone until we finally get her into bed and asleep. She would later thank us, after seeing the posts from her friends who had their wisdom teeth out, for not giving it her. Unfortunately, the videos were lost forever when Brooke got her new phone, which is why I had to write it down.
For us, 2017 wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some bad years so I’ll take the meh year any day, but at the same time, I’m hoping for greatness for my family in 2018. Another great year at Micron for Brad, a stellar job opportunity for Jordan, an amazing volleyball season for Bailey, and a dream role in a play for Brooke. For me, 2018 is the year that my memoir, A Backpack, a Eurorail Pass and Some Serious Baggage, gets published. No more excuses, no more fears, just jump in and do it.
For those of you who don’t know about this writing project that has taken me the better part of twenty years to complete, here’s a description and a link to a preview.
Jen thinks of traveling Europe with Jeanne and Bert as an escape from her conservative Mormon upbringing and the pressures of conforming to a religion she does not believe in. But she discovers freedom means more than being worldly, having a guilt-free good time, and finding the perfect pint of ale. For Jen, real freedom can be trusting her friends with a secret that kept her captive for ten years.
Click to preview: http://jenniewithers.com/images/pdf/A-Backpack.pdf
Here’s to a great 2018!