31 October 2009

Bus stop Conversation

Sitting at the bus stop, scarf around my face, not interested in talking to anyone, I just want to get home and eat dinner. Typical Thursday evening.

Unfortunately, I ask a simple question that, instead of allowing me to return to sitting in silence, starts a conversation.

(And now you will see why I'm not interested in talking to people at the bus stop. Inevitably I end up with the person who is taking the bus because they couldn't keep their driver's license as opposed to those of us taking the bus to be thrifty or environmentally friendly.)

This random guy turns to me and starts asking questions, but I can only make out what he's saying by reading his lips,"What bus are you waiting for? Didn't you used to ride the 811? 300 West in Lehi, right? Yeah...I thought I recognized you." Oh joy.
He sits down on a bench next to mine. I can no longer read his lips unless I turn 90 degrees to my left, and that causes a crick in my neck so I keep looking forward. Our benches are just far enough apart, and his voice is just soft enough, that all I really make out is:

"Frickin' mumble mumble frickin' mumble mumble mumble freakin', y'know?"

Then he laughs. Okay, so it was funny...? I guess so. I smile and halfheartedly nod. Apparently this motivates him to continue:

"Freakin' yeah mumble frickin' something else that's really long that I couldn't make out sprinkled with several "frickin's"...frickin', you'know?" Laughs again.

As the conversation painfully continues I realize that he's instigating the most absurd conversation I've ever been party to: mocking and laughing at people that he doesn't know, complaining about things that he doesn't understand, and trying to pull me in as his cohort.

I did not want to be part of the conversation anymore. I was bored and a little offended. I could have turned to him and confronted him. I could have actually said something, taking part in the conversation instead of passive shrugs and smiles. That certainly would have surprised both of us.
My question is, to you dear reader, what should I have done? What would you have done?

Well here's what I did: my bus came and I got on. I know. I disappoint myself, too.

As the bus pulled up he asked for my name. I told him (natural reaction but, again I ask, what would you have done?) then I looked him in the eye for a moment. I could see him hesitate; he wanted to tell me his name, but I hadn't asked for it. Should he just say it? Would that be appropriate? Maybe if he waits another second, I'll ask him. Maybe he'll just blurt it out-

Too late. I got on the bus without asking and without looking back.

Maybe I'm being harsh. Sure, he was boring, and utterly incapable of forming a sentence without starting it with "frickin'" or "freakin'" or some other variation (some people have the same problem with the word "uhm" or "like"...you know who I'm talking about), but the things I mentioned above: mocking people he didn't know and complaining about things he didn't understand...aren't we all guilty of that at one point or another?

Of course we make fun of, or gossip about, people we don't know. Because if we really knew them, the way their friends and family knew them, we would have no desire to laugh at them.
Of course we complain about things we don't understand because if we understood them, we'd just solve them. People with greater understanding than either of us are working, even as we speak, to find solutions. I guarantee it's over our heads.

I usually don't talk about things unless I know a lot about the subject and can hold my own in the conversation. I understand that most things are over my head. Even then, I sometimes get carried away with talking about what everyone else is talking about without bothering to do a fact check. Many times I've done this, much to my chagrin, with someone who is actually knowledgeable about the topic and they set me in my place (making me feel ignorant and useless in the process).

I've probably inadvertently offended or bored someone the same way this poor fellow did to me. I understand that. I shouldn't hold anything against this guy, regardless of what my first impressions are of him.

I still really hope I never run into him again.

23 October 2009

my cream of wheat gives me serious mental issues

So I was making hot cereal this morning, as I am wont to do, enriched farina to be exact (cream of wheat). I haven't made cream of wheat in a while because my husband has no taste for it, so I go long periods without that gentle red and white box even gracing my cupboard.

However, this is a special occasion. I was sick for two weeks (wretched wretched blegh blegh never-do-it-again) and the only thing that sounded like it would not make me puke or want to die was hot cereal. So he bought me a box.

I never look at the measurements, I just eyeball it, but I do like to read the directions occasionally, just to make sure I remember it right. Here they are:

1. Bring water and salt to a boil.

Awesome. I can SO do that. Check.

2. Gradually add enriched farina, stirring constantly with wire wisk until well blended.

Singin' a little song, stirrin' my hot cereal with a wisk (my European style wisk that I love so very very much) Yeah, this is how we do it (say it like you're really cool even though you're in a bathrobe in the kitchen looking at a pot of white and brown mush) Check.

3. Return to a boil -

Uh oh.

"Return"?? We're not supposed to be boiling right now? Scroll up and check steps 1 and 2, right now, check it. Did you see anything about bringing it down from a boil? If I wasn't supposed to be boiling, they really should have said something.
(They don't, by the way, say anything about bringing it down from a boil in step 2, in case you didn't check. I've checked like a paranoid OCD nut)

Oh wait, there's more to that last step, I cut you off too soon:

3. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to low; Wait, what!? Make up your mind, how hot do you want this stu- sorry, I cut you off again, here's the step in its entirety:

3. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered 2 1/2 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Cool slightly.

Is anyone else confused about this step? So I'm supposed to bring it up to a boil but as soon as it does, hurry and reduce it again to low? Really?? Does that even make sense? What if it's already boiling? Is my hot cereal doomed? And when, if at all, am I supposed to stop boiling the first time, anyway? This is ridiculous!!

You should see me, too, when I'm making this stuff. I keep changing the temperature from hot to low to hot to low to hot to medium...to hot to low...it's like a vaudevillian skit. The tongue-in-cheek kind of stuff that would make Charlie Chaplain proud.

The funny thing is, I've bought at least two different brands of this stuff and the directions are the same. You're telling me that no one in the Cream of Wheat industry has tried these directions? 'Cuz I guarantee that if they had tried it, they would have been confused by it.
Maybe no one up there knows how to make hot cereal. They just know that it can be done and it's something like this! (throw directions down in a pile and put them on the box in random order) There you go. Hot Cereal.

It still turned out alright, for the most part. (took longer than it should have...grumble grumble...) Except I feel like a crazy person every time I try to do what the box tells me. And yet I can't stop reading it... Well there you go, maybe I am a crazy person.

I also eat my cream of wheat with toast. "With toast" as in taking the piece of toast, buttered and delicious, in your right hand and putting a spoonful of hot cereal on the toast with your left hand, and then biting into it. Yes. Yummy. That's how my mom ate it (eats it) and that's how I ate it (eat it). Then it occurred to me about a year ago that that's a lot of carbs. It's all carbs, really. Creamed wheat on wheat...dang. Where's the protein in this breakfast? (it's not in the cream of wheat, I checked. 4 grams, that's not even, it's just, no, it doesn't count) Is this balanced? Is this good for me? Will a glass of milk balance this out, do you think, or should I make eggs?

And yet I persist in eating it with toast. And reading (and re-reading) the directions on the box even though I know they make no sense. I must be crazy for still loving this stuff as much as I do.

22 October 2009

My Rant on Camping - For Lovers of Civilization (and avid campers who care to try to convert me)

My husband loves camping. He's really into outdoor survival and Scouting and Backpacker Magazine and 72 Hour Kits and all that stuff.

I don't get it.

But I keep trying! Let the record show that I am trying. I agreed to go on the last family camping trip, to give it a chance, to figure out what I was missing, and generally have a good time. It was car camping, just a quick over-night deal, not (what my husband calls) "real camping." We went with his family (interesting that they're "his family" and not "my in-laws"...is this something that changes with time and increased familiarity? Or is it a deeper reflection of my own struggling inter-personal relationships revealing the darker side of my psyche? *shrug* Prolly the first one...) So we're in the mountains and it's cold, wet, and altogether rather dull. We played some card games (Rummy woot) while the men-folk made dinner in their manly dutch ovens roasting in their manly man-made fire. We ate some rubbery chicken and undercooked brownies, I took a quick visit to the smelly little-girl's outhouse, brushed my teeth without a sink (don't be fooled, not as easy as it sounds) and went to bed in a freezing and uncomfortable tent.

Are you still following me? Am I still the only one who doesn't see what was "fun" about this trip? Oh wait, there's more...

We left pretty early in the morning so I could make it to a Saturday class. I woke up stiff and cold and groggy. But I was still determined to give this camping thing a chance. I thought, 'It's just because I'm not used to it. Sleeping outdoors is probably very refreshing if you're accustomed to it - I'm sure everyone else slept great.'


Everyone complained of stiff joints or sore backs or having been "half-awake" the entire night. Except my father-in-law and my husband. Seven people present and only two actually slept. I took out my mental list of "Possible Reasons that People could Like Camping" and silently crossed off "Good solid sleep and waking up refreshed."

And while I had my list out, I decided to review some other items. "The beautiful scenery." Admittedly it was lovely out there...but honestly? You've never seen aspen and pine on the side of a mountain?? It's Utah!! Just look around you, man, they're everywhere!! Not that impressive. Cross that off the list.

Or how about this one: "The dutch-oven cooking." I tried not to laugh out loud as I crossed that one off.
Don't get me wrong, dutch oven cooking can be really tasty. But it's cooking by people who are deliberately limiting their resources and food options (what can we "pack-in and pack-out"?, what will cook quickly and properly in a giant cast iron bowl sitting in a giant fire?, what will not kill us if perchance something goes wrong in the giant cast iron bowl sitting in a giant fire?, etc.) Admittedly, cooking in a dutch oven is not as satisfying when done at home, but we eat better when food is cooked in an actual kitchen anyway.

Speaking of home: the food's better, we could have played cards on a table that wasn't wet, in a room that wasn't cold without wearing three layers of clothing to be comfortable, (in fact, we could have been in our comfy pajamas) and the men still could have cooked a manly meal on the manly grill outside (the manly outside). Why didn't we just stay home??

(I know you can't really sense it from where you're sitting in front of your computer screen, but that last question is charged with frustrated aggravation. You've got it, that's better.)

"...almost the entire drive of human history has been an attempt to get as far away from Nature as possible."
"Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Best quote in the whole book.

If you disagree with me, let me know this story from your point of view. I'll keep an open mind, I truly do want to understand this weird drive that forces you people into the outdoors with nothing but a tent and a backpack. After all, I'm married to one of you now.

If you agree with me, let me know; it's lonely being an anti-camper in a world of gung-ho hikers/backpackers/National Parks enthusiasts.

20 October 2009

NPR, Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, and Tolkien

Listening to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! on NPR's website. Apparently Kellogg's is going to start branding each individual corn flake with lasers. You know, so you can rest assured that you are eating only REAL Kellogg's flakes instead of those knock-off flakes that magically sneak into your Kellogg's Corn Flakes box.

It happens.

Who has that kind of money, time, and energy to brand every individual corn flake? And who in the corporate offices of Kellogg's is under the delusion that the general public cares where their individual flakes came from? I can't speak for everyone, but when I look at my breakfast bowl I do not consider each unique flake that took pains to be present and contribute to the whole, but rather judge the bowl of corn flakes as a whole entity, fully disregarding the origins of the flakes that make the conglomeration. And why should their origins matter to me when I know intimately the fate that they all equally share?

Did that paragraph even make sense? Should we go out and have a corn flakes party, since talking about them so much has made me crave a bowl, or should we all band together and boycott Kellogg's for their absurdity?

As for the Chicken Noodle soup mentioned in the title: I'm sick. NPR and Tolkien are keeping me company as I flush my system with steaming hot chicken broth and cheap (but tasty) noodles. As the chicken chunks only boast a .5% contribution to the soup, I feel no obligation to give it positive mention. However, it doesn't matter that I'm sick because I was sick all last week and I've missed too much class. It's unacceptable, and I must drag my sorry self out of my comfy robe and into the shower within the next half hour so that I may look somewhat decent in 3D Design today. And then I'll come home and get back into my comfy robe and you'd never guess that I had showered. Oh the vicious and unfulfilling cycles of life.

The purpose of this post? The moral? The meaning? *Ahem* Eating a whole can of Campbell's soup does not help nausea, being sick does not always guarantee a "Get out of Reality Free" card, and The Fellowship of the Ring is a great book - especially when you are ill.