Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If You Can't Count on This...

Some things you just believe in. Experience teaches you that you can count on them. The sun rising in the east, setting in the west. The neighbor’s dog barking you awake at 6:30 every morning. The Cubs blowing any National League Central Division lead they may hold. Google Maps getting you where you want to go.

Today, that last maxim of the 21st century fell.

Three friends (C, K, and D) and I planned an outing to a quilt exhibit in a museum in a nearby town. We had been to this town before, but not to this particular museum, so yesterday, in an attempt to be efficient, trustworthy, loyal, brave and display all other valued personal characteristics, I thought I’d go online, get the museum’s exact address and print the driving directions for our sojourn.

We met up at C’s house and got started on our way. The first half of the trip was a no-brainer. We knew we were going to head north on I-Whatever, then take the Whatchamacallit Exit leading us to the bridge to the destination town. K was driving, and I rode shotgun, Google Maps directions in my hot little hands.

Just as we approached the end of the bridge, D said, “Turn right as you come off the bridge.” Ruh-roh… I said, “Um, the directions say to turn left.” But one of our friends who was actually exhibiting a quilt in this show had told D to go right. This left K in a quandary, not knowing what to do. At this point, D waffled a little, and said maybe our friend got it wrong, and as a group we just wanted to punt.

[I might gently point out that said friend and D were once in a car heading from St. Louis to Paducah, Kentucky, when they realized they were lost. They managed to ask someone for help, and were told that they were in Indiana. Ever since, they have borne the rallying cry: They’ve moved Paducah to Indiana!”]

Our intrepid driver went right, but in very short order, we all kind of jointly decided that we ought to hang a u-ie and follow the Google Maps directions. Mm-hmm.

On we went, 6.2 miles till you take a right here, then 2.9 miles and take a left there, 3.4 miles to the Homer Simpson Parkway, then left at the barn from another planet. We did just as the instructions said, and the mileage and the roads were all just as they said. We joked that this was going to end us up right where we made that original u-turn. Ah, if only…

The only problem was, and I do hate to nit-pick, that there was never a museum to be had at the end of the route.

We thought we were being taken to the middle of nowhere, but it turned out to be about 6.1 miles past the middle of nowhere. Cornfields to the left of us, cornfields to the right of us (all whacked down to their stumpy stalks, of course).

When the last road was reached, and the green pushpin on the map indicated that we had reached our destination, we were sitting at the end of a road that was tough to even turn-around on. There was a mailbox right out of the Bates Motel with the numbers 8175 on it. The address of the museum was supposed to be 2751. The street name was not even vaguely similar to the street the museum was on.

K bravely got the car turned around, and we began to retrace our route. “I know,” I said, “I’ll call the Center of the Universe (CoTU) and he can look up the correct address online. I must have made some crazy mistake when I plugged this in to Google Maps.”

I made the call, and CoTU gamely tried to come to our rescue. He got the same address I had. He gave me the museum’s phone number, and I figured we’d call them for directions. The only problem with that idea was that I had very little ability to tell them where we’d be starting from. That’s when we decided to turn to K’s GPS system. She pulled up “Local Attractions” from the menu, plugged in the museum name, and a holier-than-thou voice with superior bone structure and a hundred-dollar haircut began issuing orders. “Proceed to the next street and turn right. (You idiot, you.)”

We were at the museum in twenty minutes. The woman at the front desk said we were the third or fourth person who described the same crazy experience trying to find the museum.

The original right turn was correct.

The quilter and D were right.

Google Maps and I were wrong.

We loved the quilt show, and most important, we were right on time for our lunch reservation at a lovely local tea room. We laughed about the odyssey over our salads, and D generously said, “At least we saw a lot of things we’d never seen before!” I said, “Yeah, that’s what Dante said in the third circle of hell, but I don’t think that made it a good thing.”

Moral of the story? If you want to play it safe, stay home, make yourself a quilt, and have lunch at your kitchen table. On the other hand, if you want to have an adventure with some great friends, print out a map, get in the car, and hit the road. Just make sure you have a GPS, a charged-up cell phone, and a driver with a sense of humor.

Here I am with D and K; C graciously took the photo! We're standing in front of the wonderful quilts on display.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tip For the Day

Right, I’ve never pretended to be Heloise with helpful hints for the housewife, nor Fly Lady who counsels her faithful internet readers to clean the kitchen sink each morning to set us off on the right foot. But here’s what I’ve learned:

I can save myself a peck of aggravation if I wash out my sink cloth in hot water as soon as I set foot in the kitchen.

Why? Because before I know it, I will reach for it to wipe up spilled coffee grounds, oatmeal dust (you know what I mean—admit it), or a drip of Coffee-Mate from that dadburned ‘new-and-improved’ bottle design. And unless I follow my own advice, that cloth will be dry as a board from having hung on the faucet overnight, and I will have to stop and rinse it out first. This annoys me, so I have been trying to learn the habit of wetting it and wringing it out as soon as I get started on breakfast, lunch or dinner prep. It’s actually making my life a little less frustrating. Every little bit helps.

Now. What I can’t learn. (I know, we don’t have space enough for all that here in this little old blog, but we can skim a tiny part of the surface.)

About six years ago my lovely friend R. and I went to the dentist together. This may sound a little peculiar, but R. is 98 years old, and does not drive. We go to the same dentist, so we make our appointments together, and I get to spend the day with a delightful and caring friend. After we get our respective check-ups, we go to lunch, and sometimes do a little shopping before we go home. But I digress…

So R. and I were washing our hands in the restroom after our lunch date, and it was winter. As I reached up to take some paper towels from the dispenser, I complained to her, “Why do they always seem to put the paper towels up so high that the water runs from your wet hands up your sleeves? It’s just maddening, especially in the winter! Now the cuffs of my sweater will be wet and cold for an hour!”

R. was sympathetic, and agreed completely with me, that this was a vast conspiracy to aggravate the general public. That’s what friends are for, right?

But then I noticed that she had tucked some of those same paper towels under her arm. She didn’t have to reach up to the dispenser and get her sleeves wet. She gently mentioned that she had started doing this ‘recently’ to avoid this exact problem.


I need to do that, too. That’s a habit I should really adopt. So I have tried. When I walk into a public restroom, I tell myself to grab the paper towels before I wash my hands.

Has it worked? Not yet. The 98-year old can remember to do it EVERY TIME, and I don’t think I’ve done it more than three times in the six years I’ve been thinking about it. Of course, I’m not in a public restroom every day…

But what does this tell me? If I put this into a context that includes my sink cloth hint, perhaps I just subconsciously value wet over dry… Is there hope for me? I really wonder… But I’m hoping that one of these days I’ll stop asking myself why, if R. can do this consistently, why oh why can’t I?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When Bad Movies Happen to Good People

Ah, the beloved internet! An opportunity to speak one’s mind, blow one’s horn, or tell one’s story. Or in this case, to rat oneself out as a lowbrow counter-intellectual.

Confession: I have just wasted 101 minutes of my life on the worst movie ever made. What’s worse, I sensed this from the previews, but watched it anyway. My excuse? –my husband, the Center of the Universe (CoTU) wanted to see it. He twisted my arm (figuratively, of course), but that’s really no excuse for having given more than an hour and a half of what precious life is left to me on this planet to such a horrendous film. In fact, it’s so bad, it gives bad movies a bad name.

I can’t yet bring myself to tell you the title, but I’ll try to work up to it.

This whole nightmarish episode started innocently enough when we were watching a completely respectable, yet mediocre movie called “Date Night”. Right—if you’ve seen it you know it’s not great, but not embarrassingly bad either. And if you like Tina Fey and Steve Carell, you’re willing to put up with a crazy and predictable storyline. I had rented the DVD just for something to make us laugh, after a tough week with two funerals and nine inches of snowfall.

The situation germinated during the previews on the rented DVD. A buddy movie, four guys (three middle-aged and one Gen-Xer, cavorting in a ski lodge, in and out of a hot tub, and clearly caught in a time warp that has taken them back to 1985. Now if you recognize the set-up, you’re as big a lowlife as I am. Could you possibly ever admit that you’ve sat down and watched “Hot Tub Time Machine”? And for those of you who think I am making this up, let me just say, if only it were so…

Now in my defense, the movie starred John Cusack who I grew quite fond of after Hi Fidelity, About a Boy and Must Love Dogs. Okay, I should have stopped after Hi Fidelity and About a Boy, but at least I’m keeping mum about America’s Sweethearts, which must at least rank in the top five worst movies I’ve ever seen… So CoTU is cracking up over the previews for this so-called movie, and I’m shaking my head as if I’m being force-fed The Three Stooges. Which, in essence I was, except that it was The Four Stooges.

“We’ve gotta rent this!” he gushed, laughing at the lunacy of this quartet. “Over my dead body,” I reasoned. “Come on,” he urged. “You love John Cusack! –and there’s that guy from The Office!” (Did I mention that Craig Robinson who plays Darryl Philbin on The Office was in this abomination? He is. And in case you’re wondering, he’s not Michelle Obama’s brother—that’s a different Craig Robinson.)

I groaned, grunted, moaned, and accidentally let out a single guffaw at a bit of humor that was sneaked into the previews, so I was pretty much cooked. CoTU asked me to look for it the next time I wanted to rent a comedy.

Sadly, as it turns out, I was in the library the next day to pick up a book being held for me. I could say it was “War and Peace” or “The Sun Also Rises”, but 1) I don’t lie, and 2) you wouldn’t believe me anyway. After I grabbed my book from the “Hold” shelf, I took a quick look on the DVD display. They had (believe it or not) not one, but two copies of “Hot Tub Time Machine”. I picked one up, and dutifully checked it out. (In retrospect, I can’t believe that your tax dollars and mine bought these movies for the library!)

Two minutes into the movie I tried to walk out. Said I was heading upstairs to sort my socks or alphabetize the medicine chest. CoTU implored me to stay, “This is funny stuff!” he insisted. “Puh-lease, honey, this is pathetic and gross," I countered. But he used his most persuasive voice and facial expressions, and I relented. (I should have at least used this to leverage some off-setting possibility, you know—a bargaining chip for watching one of the ‘slice of life’ movies CoTU so opposes, but I wasn’t thinking.)

So I saw the whole awful mess of a movie, and I mean to say Mess with a capital M. I’m not proud of it, except perhaps as a testament to my endurance. When it was over, CoTU had to admit that it was a terrible movie, though it provided him with a lot of laughs.

“You know what the good news is about this movie?” he asked?

“That it’s over?” I suggested.

“Nope. That it’s on your library card. Not mine!”

“Yeah, but the library’s not allowed to make that information public, and you’re the one who rented “Year One”—at Redbox.”

Who’s got the last laugh now?