I have come to grips with the fact that I may be an alien.
Let me explain.
It’s late January, and I’m driving in my car. All over the city there are former Christmas trees laying flat, stuck in snow on the curbs. Stray pieces of tinsel shine within their stiff and brown boughs. The trees appear to weep. I consider their meager “lives.”
At first they are grown and coddled. As they age, they are looked after with complete dedication. “What a beauty this one will be!” One foot, two feet, four feet, eight feet. Suddenly, the coddling stops and the nightmare begins. The big, noisy machine cuts them off at the knee. They are thrown in the back of a truck and practically smothered among their brethren. They feel the life draining from them. They are roped and set upon their cross.
People come by and jeer, “Too skinny!” or “Too many holes!” The trees are mocked openly: “Mom, look at this one--fat, then skinny, then fat again, ha, ha, ha!” Finally, they are selected like puppies in a pet shop window. Now, there’s respect. The trees are individuals again.
Warm pots of water rejuvenate them in warm quarters; they are adorned with lights, a shiny garland and ornaments. The compliments of their youth return. “What a lovely tree!” The days pass. The water dries up. The happy times give way to being completely ignored. “When are we going to get this dying, hideous thing out of here?” It is stripped, deloused, removed from its pedestal and thrown onto the front yard to wither. I pass another. It looks the same, but I think this one was shot in the back; so young--such a tragedy.
Combing Out The Details
I drive on.
I stop for lunch.
The menu offers many items, including “fresh” fruit. I ask if there is any “old” or “somewhat stale” fruit. The waiter refuses to smile, and says, “No.”
I blame his lack of humor on the inevitable bad mood he must be in due to his horrible “comb-over” hairdo. Can someone explain a comb-over to me? Instead of choosing to accept going bald, the person elects to prove to everyone that not only is he going bald, but he’s all twisted up about what to do about it. So, to prove he is not handling it well, he manipulates the remaining hair in a series of wrong-way sweeps that everyone can see. Now when he balances it in place, he sprays it to death so it looks like a helmet. Or perhaps another man has the distinction of dyeing his hair. If that’s the case, the helmet has purple spots where it would naturally be white. Men, please--give it up.
Try the “What would Jesus do?” thing here, OK? Would Jesus do a comb-over? No--not even a hairpiece. Enough said. Almost enough. Guys, if you do get a piece and start to gray, get a new piece with gray in it, OK? Or else keep the dye jobs up, but either way, make a choice. There’s nothing worse than a full, jet-black Frankie Avalon top with Frosty-the-Snowman gray all down the sides. Your hair looks like a Howard Johnson’s roof. Commit!
Choking Down Lunch
My lunch arrives.
“Fresh ground pepper?” my waiter asks. “No thanks,” I return, “I like the old, moldy stuff in the shaker.” He walks away smelling like Consair and VO5, and looking disgusted. Suddenly, he wraps his arm around his neck and is jerking violently. This self-imposed Heimlich looks scary, and I am now standing before him, acting out the international sign for choking, “Are--you--choking?”
He looks at me, puzzled, and replies, “I was just coughing.” I had forgotten that, in this decade, one doesn’t cover one’s mouth with a hand any more, but has to do this straight-jacket move and cough all over one’s arm. What was I thinking? Nice sweater.
I leave 20 percent of my bill as a tip (even though the helmet-headed service was awful), lest I fall victim to the angry glances of my waiter and his brethren. Now-a-days 20 percent is a minimum. Nice. Consider it a gift, helmet-head.
A man coming towards me is talking to himself--I think he’s nuts. I avoid his eyes like my mom told me to do when I spot someone like that. When he passes me, I realize he is talking into a hands-free phone because his ear is blinking a bright, cheery blue. I am half-right. I’m the one who is going nuts.
Then, a man gets out of his car, and when he is about 10 steps away, his car honks twice. He has locked it with a remote. I am such a country bumpkin that I raise my arm and wave, as if the honk was from Steve-the-Milkman or Ed-the-Garbage-Man, characters from my youth that were passing by and signaling hello. I quickly stuff my hand in my pocket. Nobody saw. Whew!
Several doors down, I walk into the drug store. A sign on the door reads “Open 24 hours a day, all year long.” I look at the double set of locks on the door and merely sigh. Is anybody else starting to feel my pain?
I press on, saying nothing.
I ask the pharmacist for something for a headache. She asks if I want “maximum strength.” I ponder this. Who with a headache would want “minimum strength”? I’m fairly sure the idea is to knock the headache out. This isn’t baseball. I don’t want to bunt. I’m swinging for the fence every time up, OK? Yeah, lady, maximum strength!
She tells me if I have any problems, I can look it up on the Web. “Okay,” I say. “Do you tweet?” she asks. “Not since I was 5,” I proudly respond. She gives me the same look the waiter did. “What are you, an alien?” I smile, “Not really sure.”
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org