Monday, February 27, 2006

Hang up and drive!

Okay. It's inevitable that I write about people who drive and talk on their cell phones at the same time. Well, really, I'm writing about people who do anything with their cell phones in their hands--shop, walk, read. Am I the only person who thinks this is wrong? Am I the only person in the world who thinks phone calls should be kept private?

I'm working at the cash register in the bookstore. A customer comes up to the counter to check out and his/her cell phone goes off. With caller id and call back features standard on every phone these days, I think the call can wait--unless the person taking the call is waiting on a kidney or heart transplant, how important can such a call be? I'm trying to transact business here. It's just rude to expect a teller, cashier or customer service person to stand around and wait while you talk about your gynecological exam really loudly.

I have no mercy on these people. I go through my standard script, interrupting the conversation as often as I can. If the mood strikes me, I won't say anything to the customer at all. I just let the person intuit the total and proffer the credit card/cash/check at his/her leisure. I'm in no hurry.

Or I'm in my office at the college, just working away. Other professors are teaching in classrooms around me and, inevitably, someone comes walking down the hall, talking at the top of his/her voice. The conversation usually goes like this: "What are you doing?/No./I haven't heard anything./Do you know what she said to me?/She said..." Sounds really important, doesn't it? Who the hell cares what she said to you? You probably deserved it. Take it outside, now!

Ninety-nine percent of the conversations I can't help but hear seem stupid, not life-threatening or urgent or necessary. Are we so afraid of being alone with our thoughts that we need to be connected all the time? I just don't get it. I like quiet; I like silence. I want time to think without having someone babbling in my ear.

I have a cell phone only because my parents MADE me get one. My mother's afraid that, if I end up in a ditch, the police will need my GPS to find me (not likely!). But mom complains because I never answer it. I just don't turn it on unless I don't have access to long distance to call my kids, sisters, or brothers. But, when I use my cell phone, I'm usually in my office or in my PARKED car; I don't walk or drive while talking and I hate using it in public.

I drive 45 miles one-way to work every day and 45 miles back home when I'm through for the day. Inevitably, I can tell when the person driving in front of me on the highway is talking on a cell phone. The car speeds up and slows down, alternately and constantly, and the brake lights come on every few seconds. These drivers seldom use the cruise control. Sometimes, the driver is going way too fast--I've had talkers pass me going 80 or 90 miles an hour and they seldom have enough control over their vehicles. The guys talking behind me usually ride my bumper. One thing I know for sure is they seldom pay attention to their driving; they're too busy talking.

I want to get bumper stickers for my car: "Hang up and drive!" I think I'll tape them to all of the windows of my car, set the cruise control to 55, and see how many people take my advice.

I don't want to hear other peoples' conversations, phone or otherwise. Too much loose talk flies around us all the time; people just talk and talk and talk and say nothing. Why add more hot air to my breathing space? Stick to the moment--focus on the business at hand and return the call in the privacy of your own parked car!

At least we can choose to read (or not read) blogs!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Welcome to my reality!

Living in a small town, I've come to appreciate stillness and silence. I seldom receive phone calls or visitors, and I prefer my life that way. I spend hours every day, both at the college and the bookstore (when I work there!), dealing with people, with issues, with whatever; when I get home, I want a cocoon of quiet around me. I don't want to talk, except to my cats.

This is perhaps why I can't tolerate "reality" shows. Nothing on these shows is "real." It's all manufactured--how many of us are stranded on an island full of headhunters, having to scrounge for our daily bread and fight the other "strandees" for "immunity"? What's real about that? As for "The Great Race," for many of us, the "race" begins the moment the alarm clock scares us out of bed in the morning. We race to work, to lunch, to the drycleaners, the grocery, then race to get home to watch a "reality" show. Hey--I have enough trouble dealing with MY reality; I don't have time for someone else's.

I've thought about having someone follow me around with a video camera to capture the nuances and vagaries of my own day. How truly boring would that be? "And here's Ms. Smith chastising a student for not turning in an assignment." Or, "Here's Kathleen trying to decide which brand of toilet paper she should buy." Who wants to see that?

Well, that's how I feel about any of those shows on television that brand themselves as "reality." Hey, come live in my world for a while--worry about paying the bills and high gas prices and weather reports. Worry about free-ranging dogs chasing down your cats and mauling them. Worry about your parents' health and what's going to happen the day YOU fall down and break your leg when no one is around to help you.

Reality, I suppose is what you make it while you're just living your life; or, maybe, for many people, reality is what happens when you're watching "reality" on television. However it comes about, I'd still rather have my life than the million dollars I'd get for eating shark guts and taking out the competition by whatever dirty means necessary.

So, welcome to my world. It's boring, but it's at least "real"!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Dog's Life

Don't get me wrong. Even though I am a cat person, I have nothing against dogs. Dogs are sweet (mostly), funny (when they aren't chewing up your $100 shoes), and lovable (if they are raised to be lovable). But, with my schedule and my definite independent spirit, cats just suit me better.

I don't need a fence to have cats; they ignore fences, true, but, if a cat is neutered, it usually won't stray far from its home. I can leave my cats for a week with ample food and water and clean litter boxes, knowing that they will not chew up the furniture or shred the feather pillows on my bed. Dogs, on the other hand, are high maintenance. A dog left alone for long periods of time will splinter the furniture and rip the wallpaper off the wall from boredom. Dogs need stimulation; cats just "vant to be alone." And, when they don't, they'll let you know.

The small town where I live does not have a leash law; dogs roam at will. Most of the dogs around here are big, usually hunting dogs, and they will chase anything that moves, from squirrels to skunks to...cats. About two Saturdays ago, three large dogs caught one of my cats on my front lawn; I thought they had mauled poor Boudreaux to death. He's fine now, but is not keen on venturing out the front door anymore, which makes me happy, but frustrates him. He has always been something of a bully, and it's just sad to see his lack of confidence (not to mention I have heart palpitations when any of my cats go out these days; I won't let them go out after dark anymore).

Dogs need to be kept home--at their homes. I don't want them in my yard bothering my cats or me. People who own dogs should keep them in fenced yards, inside, or on a chain. They should neuter their dogs if the dogs are not part of a controlled breeding program. Because my cats are neutered, they seldom leave my yard; they might go next door--the neighbor who owns the house next door loves cats; he has 5 acres and doesn't mind the cats hanging around because they kill mice and rats. My cats don't go in the road and they don't go across the ditch. I wish the dogs around here would learn from that. Better yet, I wish our town would institute a leash law and hire a dog catcher; maybe if we had a branch of the ASPCA, we could find owners who would keep them at home where they belong.