Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This Is What I Learned

I am a slow learner. Always have been. People have to show me things five times and I still don't get it until I've done it myself--wrong--again and again. And then I get it. Then I really, really get it.

Tonight I made a frozen yogurt run while David gave Jarrah a bath. We love frozen yogurt. David likes the fruity flavors and I like the coffee flavors. Apparently everyone else likes frozen yogurt, too, because there was a line out the door. Ironically, the place itself was smoldering hot. We all waited and wiped a sheen of sweat from our respective brows. There were only two girls working, and I could see they were "in the weeds," as they apparently say in waiter-speak, and ramped up with adrenalin to get through the line as fast as possible. (Note: I have never been a waiter, so I apologize if I'm misusing the lingo. And may I add I have the utmost respect for waiters.) One of them announced, "I'll go get some more lids," and I was transported back to when I was 16 and worked in a donut shop on Balboa Island. It was a summer resort kind of place, and in the evenings we sold frozen bananas and ice cream bars rolled in candy coating to the warm-weather revelers. Often, we, too, got a line down the block (we served at a little window) and I remember the feeling, which I stangely recall as very meditative. In meditation, one is asked to focus on being in the moment, and when you are trying to dip, roll and wrap hundreds of frozen bananas and dispense correct change for them in as little time as possible, the whole enterprise has a way of narrowing your focus to a place that's almost relaxing.

As I watched this gal announce she was going to get lids, I remembered the times I would say "I'll go get more butter brickle" and sashay towards the back room, even though the line snaked past where I could see its end. No one could argue in those moments that this decision was shirking; we needed more butter brickle topping, the tub was low, and it was our best seller. But when I got to the back, I could never resist a stolen moment in the walk-in freezer, just to breathe deeply and watch the cloud of frost as I exhaled. For a few seconds, I savored the almost deafening silence compared to the front of the shop. And then I was off, refreshed and ready to leap back into the fray.

When I got to the front of the yogurt line, I tried to be clear and concise with my order so as not to waste her time. I remembered that much. But some of that goofy summer nostalgia overcame me at the cash register and I made a casual comment about the crowd. "This is the first time I've seen the end of the line since 7:00," she told me, laughing. "Well, it's hot," I said, and she said, "Yeah, everybody wants yogurt when it's hot." Lulled into an unearned sense of intimacy from this exchange, I blurted, "I used to work in an ice cream place when I was your age, so I remember what it's like."

She rolled her eyes. Readers, she rolled her eyes! Instantly, I was so embarrassed that I actually burst out laughing at the absurdity of trying to bond with her in precisely the same way that used to annoy me back in the day! Are we all doomed to repeat the past? I heard myself say, "Bye!" and she turned her back as I added, "Thank you!" She was finished with me and my old fogey tales from the porch rocker over a tumbler of iced tea. I felt like such an ass I smiled all the way to the car.

I am a slow learner. Back in Massachusetts, I had MCI phone service for a year and finally cancelled it because it took so much of my time. I told someone this about a year--a year!--after I cancelled it. They were puzzled. "What took so much of your time?" "Well, I had to dial those stupid 14 numbers every time I used the phone!" Pause. "You don't have to dial those numbers from your own phone; you know that, right?" No, apparently I didn't know that. And that's why I had to have it cancelled...after dialing 21 numbers every single time I made a local call for a good portion of my '20s.

Recently, we had a playdate at the home of my friend Karol, and Jarrah took a lavish piss all over her nice, clean living room floor. Jarrah was wearing a swim diaper at the time, and what I learned is that those things are not designed to keep in liquid. In fact, they do the opposite: they keep OUT liquid, so babies do not blow up like puffer fish when they swim in a diaper. Swim diapers are designed for one purpose and one purpose alone, and I'll let you figure that out (unless you also cancelled your MCI service for nuisance reasons, in which case e-mail me privately and I'll explain.) But was this a valuable lesson for me? Apparently not, because it was not the first time. Jarrah had already peed like a racehorse and turned my parents' dining room into a lake, and my mother made me take the high chair outside and hose it down. At the time, I thought: "Huh! Right through the diaper?" But did I go on to apply this information? Apparently not.

Speaking of pee, here's my favorite lesson of all time so far. A few months ago (a few months ago, Readers! Do you know how old I am?) I discovered that you can extract a toilet seat cover from the dispenser in a public restroom, shake it over the seat, sit down, and pee in sanitary comfort. Right now you are thinking "Yes? And you expected it to play the Macarena?" But, you see, I've spent my life believing it was necessary to shake out the seat cover, punch a hole in the middle, hurl it over the seat as if tossing a round of pizza dough, and then whisk yourself over it before the torn cover slips into the water. Which it always did. And each time, I thought, what is the point of these idiot things? They're great in theory, but they don't work. What a difference a tiny detail like not punching out the center makes! Now when I use one, I think, "Freakin' genius!" It's a beautiful thing, really, how education can change our lives.

But I won't go telling anybody about it. Nope, I'll be quiet and let those young folk figure this valuable stuff out for themselves.


Karol said...

Sam! I always punch a hole in the middle of the seat cover!!! Doesn't the pee puddle if you don't?:) Am I an idiot? (You don't have to answer that.)

Anonymous said...

Sammy! What a wealth of entries the last few days! Thanks for sharing all your stories, and your "life lessons" -- you've opened my eyes to how those stupid toilet covers are supposed to work, since I, like you, was always punching holes in them and then watching them helplessly as they drifted down into the toilet. I can't wait to get back to the states and try out the "Golditier" method! :) xxx lix

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is what I just learned.
Thanks! Gail

Alleen said...

Oh boy.. I too punch the hole out. Wow. I guess we're all slow learners,huh??

Marlene said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marlene said...

You are SO hilarious, Sam. Thanks for all the healing laughter.

cheryl rourke said...

Hi Sam and David

We had an enjoyable lunch here today with Joan and John. I saw many wonderful photos of your glorious baby girl.

We talked about this informative and amusing blog, of course, and I am now motivated to tell you of my own slow learner story. Joan informs me I can double click on the photos here to see them larger! A new world has emerged for me!