It’s a Loo* Thing

*British slang for bathroom (at least it was in the 80s).

I have an odd hobby. Well, truth be told I have several, but I’m only willing to expose them one at a time. In today’s episode, I offer my interest in comparing restaurant bathrooms in Boston. A number of years ago, my friend Lora and I were going out frequently, and we found ourselves being able to remember the bathrooms from the previous night out to compare and contrast. Some bathrooms try really hard to be high-class with that little antique wooden stand holding real flowers clearly flown in from wherever shi-shi flowers are flown in from out of season. And big, thick paper hand towels that actually dry your hands and not leave them half wet as you head out the door, having to choose between flapping them like a dork or patting/wiping them discretely on your outfit and risk hand prints. Oh, and the fixtures that take you a minute to figure out how to work them because they look more like an art exhibit at the ICA or from page 57 of the Italian fine fixtures catalog, Bene Infissi. And it’s not just high-end places that have fancy bathrooms, let me tell you. Sometimes it’s decent enough, yet average restaurants that have these bathrooms. As if they are reaching for the water closet stars.

Mostly though, the average independent casual restaurant has the utilitarian bathroom: white sink, wall dispenser of brown towels, and 50% of the time, a bottle of hand soap from CVS. Alternately there is the ear-splitting hand drier that self-importantly claims to have saved a 1,000 trees and untold numbers of forests. Perhaps, but what about my hearing loss from the high-pitched screaming of the driers in very small space? At least the newer fast flow ones actually do dry your hands. The slower driers do the exact same job as the cheap brown paper towels.

Of course, then there are the dive bars and their matching bathrooms — cramped little affairs that have names, advice, insults, and phone numbers carved into the walls, aging them to the point of putting the pyramids to shame. They also have questionable cleanliness that actually encourages you to get more drunk, so you don’t really notice of the state of the bathroom.

I was in one of my favorite watering holes recently, an Irish bar, and noticed something different: the bathroom doors were standing ajar, with the open door pointing away from the stall at a 45 degree angle. I wrestled with it for several seconds, but it wouldn’t open any wider. I tried another door. Same deal. I finally moved to a door that was flush, and realized the doors push in.

So, if you’re a woman with a bathroom hobby, that begs the question: What the heck happens in a Irish bar filled with millennials who work in the financial skyscraper next door that creates bent doors? Is there some sort of trivia night or karaoke dark underbelly that leads to bathroom rumbles? Or was it some kind of X-File, and next time I’m there, I’ll find Scully and Mulder examining the hinges and having an argument about supernatural forces vs. vexed trivia night women?

See, bathrooms are fascinating.

Anyway, I went with friends recently to see Motown the Musical at the Boston Opera House. It deserves and will get its own blog, and I’ll write about that soon. I encourage you to see it if you can. It’s been going on for a while, and is only playing in London right now. So seriously, you’d better get a move on about that.

At intermission we headed for the bathroom. At the time my bathroom curiosity radar was off because during a show or event, a woman needs to focus. There could be 3 bathrooms or 30, but either way, you have to be at the front or you find yourself at the end of a long-ass line and miss the start of the second act. I was just hoping for more than 3 bathrooms, and when I got inside I saw about 14. Excellent. Suddenly, from above me, I heard numbers being called out. “Number 14 is open. Number 8 is open. Number 3 is open. Number 11 is open.”

Now I’m confused — women are entering and exiting the stalls at a rapid pace, and while the activity seems to be connected to the numbers being called out, I cannot figure out where the sound is coming from. First, I thought it was an automated thing, like announcing the floors on elevators, but the voice coming from on high had too many human inflections. Then I thought someone was looking in at us via a camera and that was just too creepy. The calling continued: “Number 4 is open. Number 7. Number 10 is open.” Amid the confusion of the doors opening and closing, suddenly it was my turn. I refocused on getting in an out in time for the second act. I was still puzzling over the thing on my way back to my seat, when my friend Lora caught up to me.

“So, what did you think about bathroom bingo?”

I burst out laughing, “Yes! That’s exactly what it was! Where was that voice coming from?”

“Didn’t you see the woman standing against the wall at the very back of the bathroom? She had a microphone.”

Clearly, I did not.

So, now, apparently, jobs at the theater include ushers, ticket and merchandise cashiers, and … bathroom bingo callers.

 

Sometimes a Paddy Wagon Is Not an Instrument of Evil

I was recently walking in my neighborhood and spotted a Police paddy wagon up ahead. Given that I’m a liberal snowflake in these times infected by the Cheeto flea, I immediately went into, “Oh my god, I may need to bear witness to a racist arrest or profiling incident.” My heart beat quickened, and I slowed down a bit to gather the few wits I have. I was ready to use my perimenopausal White woman privilege for good. Trust me, you do not want to mess with that shit. I see the wagon parked in front of the bicycle store. The Black cop went into the shop, while the White cop walked to the back of the wagon, opened the doors, and then waited. Veeery suspicious. Maybe keeping his hands clean?

Who are they shaking down? What sort of crime could be happening in a bike shop? Not many, so I’m even more suspicious that it’s one of those stories I keep reading where Black people are just doing normal things, like being in a bike shop, and paranoid White people call the police on them. Of course, you’d send in the Black cop to navigate the situation.

I come up on the store front, and the door is open. I peer in. Who is it? What’s happening? Breathe, stay calm, be a reliable witness to whatever happens. Which turns out to be…

Two cops picking up their bikes. At a bike shop. OK, perimenopause, stand down. This is what normal looks like, and I will remember.

Phone Envy

Phone envy? Not. All I got for you this week is a photo I took a few weeks ago on the train. I guess I’ve accepted that most people are buried in their phones on the train. Except for me, of course. I’m a superior being who looks around or reconstructs the night before in my head, or exploring the notion of a power nap. If I am looking at my phone, it’s to read some very important book or article. It’s rarely, if ever, to read cheesy summer romances. It’s all on the up and up, I swear.

Anywho, as I was looking around in my superior way, I saw this guy.

No, it’s not the manspreading — it was later at  night on the train, so knock yourself out, I say. No, it’s the two phones. He has two phones. What the hell? Then I spent the rest of the trip watching him closely. Was he listening to music on one? Texting with the other? He seemed to be making use of both of them, alternating touching each screen and more frequently than changing a song, unless he was only listening to 5 seconds of each one, which, hey maybe he was. If you need two phones, that’s probably one reason why.

I was flabbergasted. I was gobsmacked. Flummoxed. Thunderstruck. So much so, I was able to use all my favorite words.

Seriously, what the ever living you-know-what??

So, I’m mystified to this day. I was worried it was a trend, but so far he’s the only one I have seen doing double duty. Now when I look around, I’m just grateful people are buried in one phone. And for that intellectually stimulating article on my phone.

Cartoon credit: Raymond’s Brain

Gratitude II

So a little more than a year ago, I wrote a blog post about gratitude to help me counteract all the Cheeto flea nonsense. After a couple of serious blog posts, I’m feeling the need again — we’re still in this mess, perhaps deeper in. So this time I want to declare gratitude for my siblings. It started with a tossed off invitation (when was the last time you were able to get any 5 people together spontaneously?). Then with a bit of luck, flexibility, coordination, and good humor, my 2 sibs, 1 sib-in-law, and I were able to drive up to Maine, stay at an adorable set of cottages on the Maine coast, and meet our brother to hang out and take a tour of his work of art and labor of love, the renovation of a beautiful old house. I won’t say how long the artist has been at it, but This Old House ain’t got nothin’ on him.

As you may recall, this is the brother who is also known as Sir Mark Beocat, the legend of feral cat spaying. You can read his amazing 3-part epic tale here. My sister Julie had an award made to commemorate the cat adventures, and we presented it to him at the end of our tour. Oscars eat your heart out.

We often comment on how different we all are. 4 states, country, city, suburban, and 4 lifestyles. But we generally like each other’s company, at least for several days at a time, can make each other laugh, shake our booty to the songs from the 70s and 80s, and we try hard to not get up into each other’s grill. I’m thankful for that.

It also turns out that we are really good at managing caring for our parents, with a shout out to sister Sharon and her hubby for doing a lot of the heavy lifting, to Julie as a close second, to Mark who fixes anything that needs fixing. I’m the back up, as I am managing the kid.

It’s in our family culture to be overly polite and accommodating, and then have maybe a side of dishing. But here’s the cool thing that happened on the way to middle age. We’ve all become a little more real to each other. Saying more what we really want and need, rather than just going along when it might have been better if we didn’t. And we work hard to hear each other and not judge.

That’s wicked cool. So thanks guys. Let’s keep laughing, grooving, and talking.

As a random aside, we went to the Black and Tan, an Irish Pub in Augusta, which has an extraordinary list of beers — yours truly sampled Hidden Cove Booty. How could I not? I have it on good authority from the men folk, that the photo below, also a form of gratitude,  was in the men’s room to help out those who may have had too much beer. As our brother-in-law said, it’s proof that you don’t buy beer, you only rent it. Cheers!

blackandtan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the his

Don’t Fall Asleep in the Snowdrift

This is a really bad time to be a person who tries to find humor in everyday life and write about it. It’s also a bad time to be a person of color, an immigrant, a woman, or  basically anyone who is not in agreement with the Cheeto flea and his minions. Or maybe he is their minion. It’s hard to tell — this shit gets confusing.

The current crisis of the immigrant children warehoused like, well, let’s just say it — the prelude to Jews and gays and other non-Aryan people sent to the Nazi death camps, is wrong on every single level. It scares the hell out of me. It exhausts me with pain and anguish. I can’t imagine what these families are being put through. And it also pisses me the hell off.

Hey, Cheeto asshole, you know what you get when you treat children like worthless animals? The ones who survive learn to hate, and they find acceptance in groups like ISIS and other religious extremists. And then they find ways to hurt the people and the country who made them. This is so basic, I get paralyzed thinking how Cheeto and the minions cannot know this. And by the way the Bible is not a tool for making policy, but if you want to quote shit, how about this? “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.” And the kids will come back and give you back 10-fold what you gave them.

I want to go numb. This new, next level of WTF-ness  is so relentless, and seems to be getting worse.

So, I have very little humor for you, but rather, I hope I can give you inspiration. I receive email once a week about practical things to do, put together by Jen Hofmann called Americans of Conscience Checklist. You can sign up for it here. 

In this week’s email she talks about being overwhelmed by this whole putting kids in cells thing, and included an inspiring article about why we can’t go numb now. The writer Dahlia Lithwick writes, “And this is the scene in the movie where even though you want to fall asleep in the snowdrift, you need to get up and walk around. … Because “going numb” is the gateway drug to acceptance.”

So hang in there. The article also calls for us to “Choose for yourself. Sure, tune out that which makes you feel hopeless. But hold onto what motivates you to act. Find all the humans you can find who agree with you and make calls and register voters.”

I’m focusing on social justice. I’m trying to do it in with honey, rather than vinegar. But maybe at this point, all that really matters is that you do something.

Photo credit: Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Association.

 

 

Who Are We Not Seeing?

I spent the weekend celebrating Gay Pride with my friends. The parade gets longer every year, seemingly with more corporate sponsors, which is both a blessing and a curse. Great to have more support, as long as those companies truly work toward equity and not just give lip service about all kinds of diversity just to gain a target market. During the Obama years, the Pride discussions among my friends centered around what the parade had evolved into. Originally started as an angry protest in response to the police raid in 1969 of a gay club called the Stonewall Inn in New York City, the parade had over the years become a fun, social event. Or just like many other parades. Well, at least here in gay Massachusetts. As rights and acceptance were gained, the gay identity also became mainstream, and there was also a loss — less pushing the boundaries, protesting, challenging the status quo. I haven’t seen a really good group of outrageous drag queens at the parade in years.

Cheeto flea changed all that, or perhaps merely gave voice to the fear that was bubbling just under the surface around gays and “other.” For better or worse, showing up to the Gay Pride parade feels essential again. It’s important to continue to be seen and heard.

Indeed, we seem to be spending much more time these days talking and yelling at each other, and not listening very much. I do it too. Because we all seem to have our panties in a twist about something, maybe listening is too high a bar start with — to just shut our pie holes for a few minutes and listen. It’s biological after all, once our panties are twisted, the heart rate increases and the amygdala gets activated, the part of the brain responsible for the instinctive “fight or flight” response, which pretty much reduces us to our caveman/woman state. Lash out first, and ask questions never. Plus, many of us have stopped actually listening to the people we love and like, so what chance does a stranger with an opposite opinion have?

So maybe we should start with something simpler, such as looking. No, strike that. I mean start with seeing. We look at things all day, but do we really see them? Or see them for what they truly are? When a dog crosses your path, do you see that actual dog, or are you seeing the one that nipped you when you were 5 playing on the neighbor’s swing set? Because of a recent pigeon experience, when I see a pigeon, I’m not seeing the one in front of me, I’m seeing that damn one that hit me in the face, and I want to stomp on the one in front of me.

And I think we have all felt invisible to others at some point, but let’s put that in the parking lot, or as we call it round these pahts, the pahking lawt. We do this in some meetings I go to when you’re trying to figure out how to solve one problem and related problems pop up. However, if you try to deal the new problems, you’ll never solve the first one. Let’s jump off one bridge at a time, shall we?

OK, consider these two examples of not being seen:

  1. I work with a doctor who is also a senior leader of our organization, and he was on vacation at a ski resort this winter. He told a story of how he was standing outside of the resort, just getting some fresh air, and not 1, but 5 men in a row tried to hand him their keys, mistaking him for a valet. Never mind that valets tend to have jackets clearly marked with the word “valet” or the name and logo of the resort. These drivers were looking, but not really seeing. Well, what they were seeing was a Black man standing in front of a ski resort. I know, I know. Let’s just put racism in the pahking lawt for now. If 1 guy does it, you can call him out. We like that kind of example, because then we can point to that 1 person, call him or her a bad apple, and declare it isn’t me or the people I know. But 5 White guys in a row? That’s what you call “systemic.” As in, it ain’t just a few bad apples, honey. A good first step would be for them to take 5-10 seconds to collect enough information to not make a jerk out of themselves. We can assume they know how valet works because they freely handed the keys to their expensive cars to an utter stranger. So, c’mon people, go beyond your assumptions and really see the person in front of you. Notice that person has no traditional markings of a valet because he’s wearing a plain ski jacket. Then look around to find the actual valet. See? That took 5 seconds. Easy peasey.
  2. The second story was in the Boston Globe. It’s about how many business people who retired on the Cape have taken jobs parking cars at the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for something to do. “Beyond paying them minimum wage or just slightly above to stand out in the heat and the rain, the job offers these retirees new insights into how differently low-wage service workers are treated.” These retirees are pleasant and chatty and believe in good customer service, but most people barely acknowledged them. Most of these men are white, so we’ve removed the racism card. What remains is not seeing the person providing a service. Sure, the article says most people trying to catch the ferry are stressed. But what if they took 5-10 seconds to get out of their head and acknowledge the person parking their car? They might have a pleasant exchange (the workers are pretty happy — they are retired and doing this for fun!) that would send them off on their vacation on a happier note. At least some of the business people have had some insight, and we hope are getting better at really seeing the valet and others now.

OK, I can feel myself protesting that I rarely do that, and I’m starting to sputter about all the times I’m not seen, yadda, yadda, yadda. OK, I’m putting myself in the pahking lawt, and asking myself straight up:

Who don’t I see?

The person cleaning the hotel rooms, building cleaners in general? The store clerk? The older person struggling to get up a steep step because I’m in a hurry and helping would take time?

For today, or for this week, as you move through the world, spend 5-10 seconds to consider: who aren’t you seeing?

 

This and That

Hello my dear friends. I had a busy weekend, which means today you get a “Sandy’s random pictures” blog. Lucky you.

Last week I was walking along the Charles River and came upon this:

The first thing that popped into my head was this:

OK, so it’s not an exact match, but the general idea is very much the same: let’s cut off all the extra bits! I had a warm fuzzy feeling, because that particular scene always fascinated me as a kid. Who knows why — kids are weird.

But then my adult brain kicked it. What the hell is this trim job all about anyway? Clearly this tree was touched by people. It is now spring and there are no sprouts to be seen anywhere on this Max Tree. With apologies to Monty Python, I believe we can safely say Max Tree is no more. It’s expired and ceased to be. It’s a stiff and off the twig. This is an ex-tree.

So why did the humans not just cut Max all the way down? Who knows. Maybe they were fascinated by that Grinch scene too.

Looking out from my deck last week, I got to see this:

Squirrel chillin’ on top of a telephone pole. You may recall earlier this spring, I posted a photo of a squirrel napping. It was on a branch right above this pole.

Pole-top squirrel stayed there for several minutes, which is like a week in frantic squirrel time. Seriously, these are some of the laziest squirrels I’ve ever seen. Or maybe they have achieved work life balance. That may be it, because pole-top squirrel then stayed in this position for another few minutes, which I think is the yoga position, Down Squirrel.

That’s good form in my book.

Now for you Lord of the Rings nerds, which I am one, I have a special treat for you. At work my computer has a little light on it. When the computer is working properly the little light blinks rapidly with happiness.

This does not happen often.

Instead it does what I first started to call the “Dead Eye,” as in “The Dead Eye is staring at me again.” The unblinking light staring me down as my computer grinds to a halt. Email freezes, Word documents laugh while I type away and nothing appears, and the PDF never opens.

The Dead Eye made me think of Sauron. I too felt the dread that Frodo felt on his difficult journey whenever the Dead Eye appeared. It was pretty frustrating until I just gave in, taped a picture over the light, and accepted it was Sauron. Maybe Mini Sauron:

And for our final entry in the Sandy’s random pictures blog, I apologize in advance, and leave you with this little gem #thatisnotadress or #youforgotyourpants

Have a great week!