THEY CALL IT “HOLIDAY SPIRIT” BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU WANT TO DRINK

Due to medication and someone having the terrible judgment (sorry, Mom, but it’s true sometimes), I was left to my own devices in the mall. As the story goes, Mom met me at Northpark Center to generously purchase my early Christmas present, birthday present and perhaps Easter gift, all in one.

Once she departed, I drifted over to Brookstone where I bought a FABULOUS new cover and keyboard to go with my FABULOUS new ipad. So far so good except the part that I left out about how my iPhone charger “socket?” is corroded, which is highly unusual and caused my numero uno IT contact at work – to whom I immediately sent an email from the store – to respond to my email with probing technical questions like,

-Are you using some “odd ball” charger?
-Are you working on the beach at the ocean?
-Have you tried not breathing on it?

He has promised to help me Monday if I bring him a flaxen haired fair maiden and two pigs. Not necessarily in that order.

ANYWAY, off I go with my new stuff… oh, I forgot to say I moved the car because this mall is BIG and I HATE malls, so I moved my car closer to where the Brookstone was so I would have to deal with less people NOT GETTING OUT OF MY WAY. (Can you even imagine how stressed I am when not on 10 mg of Valium?)

I do the deal at Brookstone and stroll (or power walk with elbows jutting out to take up as much space as possible so I don’t get knocked over by people) to the nearest exit (right by Macy’s) and drive happily away. Until I am 5 minutes from home in my medicated stupor and realize I did NOT go into Macy’s (the other reason for going to the mall) and pick up my new black riding boots and scrumptious patten leather pumps. You see, I had purchased them days ago but had to wait to pick them up until after the 28th to save 25% – and so they “THE MAN, i.e. Donald Trump” could lure me back into the shoe department.

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Instead, I had to return to the mall on Saturday. Saturday. In December. A MALL. I searched – and I am not joking – 40 minutes for a parking space which I found far, far away from my destination and put on my game face. You’ll have to take my word for it. Game face is SUPER SERIOUS and has been known to make people clasp their small children a little closer.

Guess what happens at Northpark Center in December? Holiday Events. LOTS of them.

EVERYWHERE.

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I passed Santa’s Toy Shoppe Puppet Theatre, Gingertown Dallas, and the Holiday Performance Area. Not sure what was happening there, but it involved a choir, then I saw them shove a bunch of semi-nude dancers on stage. The only explanation I can come up with for the costumes was that the next group – possibly the Cirque Dreams Holidaze – had absconded with every sequin in the tri-state area.

I made my way back out of Macy’s and crossed the mass of humanity watching the latest festive performance. Then and there, a Christmas miracle happened.

I was speeding unencumbered toward the exit, when from behind me in the performance area, I heard the strains of… Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries – and I smiled in victory.

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SIRI-OUSLY

I am having a love / hate relationship with Siri (the IPhone 4S built-in personal assistant), who genuinely TRIES to help me, but we seem to be having communication problems. Like I need someone else in my life with whom I can’t seem to make myself understood.

Siri  delighted me with her attempts, at first. I made a calendar entry for an upcoming wedding, although I couldn’t figure out how to title the entry, so at this point I just have a full day booked and in a few weeks will have no idea why the 16th of June is marked, “Note.”

I was feeling a little snoozy later on and asked her to tell me a story – and she became delightfully coy.

When I began defining my relationships for her, she just started ticking me off. I was able to convince her that Robert was my husband, so I could say something like, “Text my husband…” Then, I tried to tell her who my mother was, and she showed her true colors. “Annette is my mother,” I calmly explained. Siri repeated the relationship perfectly, but then went on to show the entry in my contact category as “Annette: Manager.” 

Humph. I tried again.  “Annette is my MOTHER.” Siri repeated the identification, but then showed me her note. “Annette: Assistant.”

While Manager and Assistant are perhaps accurate descriptions of roles my mother (or any mother for that matter) takes on, I didn’t appreciate the sarcasm. I decided to discontinue my little organizational spree, afraid of what title she might assign my friends or family. What if I designated a relationship and the little witch assigned the title, “Arch Enemy?”

Determined to sort out the misunderstanding, I pressed the button to call Siri again and informed her that “Annette is NOT my Manager.” She had the nerve to tell me she cannot delete relationships for me.

“Well, then, don’t mislabel them,” I snapped. At my phone. 

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” Siri responded demurely.

So then I felt guilty and gave up creating relationships. (Wow, that sentence is so Freudian, I’m not even going to correct it.) 

Siri was able to tell me how many calories dinner was last night, but shied away from telling me where I could hide a dead body. (I was feeling inquisitive.) She DID graciously show me several businesses in my area that have the word “Hide” in them. Asking where to “dump” a dead body resulted in no nearby dumps.

Oh, well. At least I know if I am ever in need of such a location, (which I have no immediate plans to require), I am on my own. Or maybe my Manager/Assistant will help me out. After all, what are mother’s for?

Moving on to cheerier topics with Siri I asked, “Who will win the Super Bowl?” Instead of showing me betting odds or predictions, she asked if I wanted her to Google, “Who will win the suit?”

“What suit?” I asked, perplexed.

“I don’t know what you mean by “What seat?” the minx responded.

“Are you kidding me?”

“I kid you not.” (Snap-ish.)

So I have no idea who is going to win the Super Bowl, the suit, or the seat. But I think I know who my arch enemy is.

Yes, Siri. Be my guest.

I DON’T WANT TO KNOW

There was a comedian the other night on TV whose name I can’t recall, but whose topic intrigued me. He was commenting on how our lives have lost a little something now that we have access to the internet in the palms of our hands. He said we don’t get to feel that longing for information anymore that went unsatisfied for days or even months before the iphone. (And Google, for that matter.)

In my case, pre-iphone and Google, I had Sandy. Sandy was a co-worker, friend and one time roommate. She was also the greatest resource when you needed to know the name of the dog in “Bringing Up Baby” (George) or when to send Patrick Stewart a birthday card. (July 13.) But, Sandy wasn’t always around when I needed answers. Sometimes I had to wait until I ran across someone who could supply the missing piece to the puzzle. That, or open an encyclopedia.

What did we do before technology? Imagine you’re in a coffee shop one day and hear someone mention Elon University. You think, “Where is Elon University, anyway?” You ask around. No one knows. Your friends don’t know. They may hazard a guess, but overall, you just don’t have a satisfying answer. Days go by. Weeks. UNRESOLVED. Then, one day, you are flipping through TV channels and see a report on Elon. You wait until the announcer says, “North Carolina” and instantly feel that surge of relief. How GREAT does that feel? You don’t get that same level of relief when you Google something that stumped you for maybe 15 seconds.

We don’t enjoy that sense of NOT knowing anymore. The possibility that we might NEVER know the answer. To piece together mental evidence until we figure something out, or come across someone else who has a piece of knowledge we lack. That’s how we made friends. That was a conversation. Now, we sit in rooms and make fleeting eye contact with each other between furtive glances at our phones, our fingers itching to brush across that screen.

I’m guilty. Recent earth shattering questions of mine resolved electronically include:

What is it called when someone lacks a sense of smell? (Anosmia. Not “snarfled” as Max insists.)

Who starred in the movie Gods and Monsters? Ian McKellan. (Not Ben Kingsley, as I insisted.)

What foods could cause a person to break out in hives? (Don’t ask.)

Was it Helen Hayes or Lillian Gish in The Unforgiven? (Gish.)

Does a duck’s quack echo? (No. Maybe it was a frog?)

Could I have lived without all that information? Yes.

I promise to make an effort to NOT resolve all my questions with a quick Google search. I promise to WONDER about things and discuss them, rather than immediately cleaning the conversation slate. I promise to better satisfy my intellectual curiosity by feeding it quality over quantity.

I promise all those things – just as soon as I locate the comedian’s name who started this whole thought process. THAT is driving me INSANE.

WHAT’S THAT RINGING SOUND?

I was smiling blankly at my mother-in-law the other evening as she was complaining about how difficult it is to get either of her grandsons (my stepson, Austin) on the phone. Once I got past the question of why anyone would want to speak to a mostly snarky teenage boy, I had to sympathize.

In desperation, my mother-in-law purchased an iphone so she could text. Now, the boy’s grandmother has to broach the subject of speaking to him via text, then follow up with a phone call, which he still sometimes doesn’t answer. When asked why the scheduling, the 17-year old informed us that calling someone out of the blue is rude. “When you call someone you have no idea what they’re doing. They could be busy.” My knee jerk reaction was, “Buddy, you better make time to talk to me if I call your butt. I’m paying for your phone in the first place, you inconsiderate lout…”

The conversation stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about phone calls and if Austin was right. Could it be possible? Is phone calling rude? Let’s see, what’s my reaction when my phone rings at work? I glance at the caller ID and either grab for the phone or stealthily sneak the volume on the ringer down so no one can tell I’m letting it roll over to voice mail. At home, it’s similar. Unless I recognize the phone number as one of the few people who still use my land line, typically immediate family, I roll my eyes and walk away from the incessantly jangling device.

I’m becoming what my friends became after they got Iphones or blackberries. Anti-auditory communicators. Text me, email me. Status update me, DM tweet me. ANYTHING but call me.

Yesterday I saw this article in the NY Times. It talks about the trend in communication away from actual conversation. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/fashion/20Cultural.html?_r=1&src=tptw 

It appears that even Miss Manners always thought the phone was a rude interruption to one’s day. I never realized it was insane to stop what I was doing and speak to someone just because they called me. Imagine if I could have all that time back I spent listening to my mother on the phone, or my friends, or that cousin who turned up out of nowhere and just wanted to “catch up.”

Maybe I’m out of it. I’m definitely getting older. But somehow, I really don’t want to give up the phone completely. Sometimes I like to hear someone speak, even though it’s disembodied. A witty or clever status update doesn’t let you hear the tone of voice, or tell you if your friend sounds tired, or sad, or giddy.

My father passed away last year, but I still find myself reaching for the phone to share a story I think he’d enjoy. Then I recall, and have to content myself with the memory of his laughter from a previous conversation. That phone time, though sometimes lengthy, often frustrating or disruptive, is a lot sweeter to me now than a hastily written LOL would have been.

So, hold the line, folks. I may text you, I may email you, but one thing’s for sure –

If I call you, I must REALLY like you.