Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cinderfella and the $400 day

A tear in his decadently priced shoe could make or break this day.

He was looking at a $214 fine. The hubby contested the officer’s moving violation citation, so off we went for his day in court. We drove two towns north to Manteca and parked near the squat beige Superior Court building 15 minutes early.
It felt like a homecoming. This had been my stomping grounds as a 20-something cub reporter 20-odd years ago. I covered cops and courts, schools and new business for the long-since-defunct twice-weekly paper. Many of the police officers had been my age, lean and cocky. They were used to seeing me pop up and nose around.
“What’s shaking?” someone would call in greeting.
“Everything!” I’d oblige, making like I had an earthquake under my feet. Don’t judge me. I was young and hungry for a scoop.
The uniformed figures today were strangers. A few were portly. They avoided eye contact and kept their expressions bland. Wouldn’t you, if you were about to testify against someone standing next to you?
“Are you nervous, Dear?” I asked the hubs.
“A little. I’m rehearsing what to say.” I’ve known my husband to get break after ridiculous break just because people like his face. Let this be one of those times, I prayed.
We filed through the metal detector. I was wearing no jewelry except a ring and had stashed my purse in the trunk of the car. The husband, like most men, fished out sundry keys and enough coins to stall the flow of human traffic. Several women were giving my brown sweater dress and pleated scarf the once-over. I realized I was a tad overdressed in a sea of jeans.
“Thrift store,” I wanted to reassure them. Except for the polka-dot peep-toed flats—and underwear. I’m not on trial here, I reminded myself. But we did stick out a little.
Maybe that actually worked for us, because one of the guards kept sizing us up. Then he checked our paperwork and redirected us to the courtroom in the portable building next door, where we hurried with just five minutes before show time. Did I imagine it, or were the defendants here less hoodlum-looking?
 Note to the hubs: Always ask the wife to double-check your paperwork. Note to self: Listen to your gut when it signals that you’re in fashion misalignment with your surroundings.
The metal detector routine again. Plink, plink, plink went the coins into the little basket.
“Take a seat on the left side,” the guard told us. The hubs got busy putting his belt back on as I chose a seat. The right side of the room held only uniformed officers.
“Why are we crowding over here? Let’s sit over there,” the hubs nodded toward the right side. He does that a lot, tunes out and misses vital information.
“We’re on the wrong side of the law right now, Dear. Sit ye down.”
And that’s when I noticed the small tear in his shoes, near his big toe. The $200 shoes I had encouraged him to bite the bullet and buy because he’d been stoically putting up with foot pain for probably a year. These were supposed to make up for his high arches. The hit to the wallet that this day could bring could easily top $400!
Just then roll call began. Defendant and accusing officer were accounted for in pairs. “Here.” “Here.” Everyone’s accusers were present. Now hubby’s name. “Here.” Followed only by silence, sweet silence.  I suppressed a smile.
Called before the judge, the hubby stood like a jilted groom.
“The officer must not think your case was worth pursuing or he’d be here this morning,” the judge said. “In light of that, case dismissed.” He added something akin to “Go and sin no more,” but I was too busy jumping up and down on the inside to remember what he actually said.
“I’ll mind my ps and qs, your Honor,” the hubs promised.
I clenched one fist, bowed my head and whispered, “Yesss.”
The lady seated next to me leaned over and said, “Have a nice day.” And smiled.
We were out of there just 10 minutes after coming in. $200 saved, $200 to go. Next stop, the shoe store. I waited in the car. He had this down, he didn’t need my support. In fact, the rare times I needed to return a purchase, he did it for me.
White man with distinguished graying hair walks into a store, everybody calls him “Sir” and hops to it. No questions asked. Asian me walked around, and I’ve been asked by a little old lady store employee, “Are you worried you’ll set off the theft detectors?” I am not making this up. It happened at the Gottschalks in Modesto, CA. When they went bankrupt years ago I didn’t feel sorry for any of them. Now we were in the very parking lot where Gottschalks used to be. Just so you know, I’m not bitter, just given to random reminiscing.
Five minutes later my white man got back in the car, beaming. We sat admiring his brand new shoes.
“She said these were more expensive, but they wouldn’t charge me the difference.”
It was a good day to be him.
P.S. The promised post on the grandfellas and my gaffe will go up as soon as I've edited the video.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Andy Warhol had good advice. Take his, not mine.
The tall, athletic figure glowed in neon orange, his face, hair, and fingernails obscured by stretchy fabric. The walking Cheez Curl wore khaki shorts and a T-shirt over his orange second skin. He moved about the bookstore in no great hurry to get anywhere.

My husband approached the figure with an idea. It seemed a most reasonable request, if you knew him.

"Would you sit next to my wife?" he asked.

Oblivious, I perched on the bench by the periodicals, picturing one of my upcycled frocks featured in Belle Armoire magazine. A blur of blinding orange walked by and pretzeled into sitting position a foot away. I sucked in my stomach and de-slouched out of habit. We sat in silence, my brain now only half-engaged in positive visualizing, the other half calculating the chances of my husband re-emerging to relieve me of my dilemma. He's so much better at making small talk.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. I'm all for flying your freak flag high, but it was starting to feel creepazoidal.I could've asked the anthropomorphic Mac & Cheese why he was dressed like that, I suppose. Except I didn't care to know. It seemed like a moronic question. Nobody's ever obligated to explain personal fashion choices to me.

The silence was awkward, like when you see your friend's odd haircut and don't right away say anything. But you can tell she's waiting. C'mon, let's hear it, she dares silently. The longer you stall, the more torturous the waiting becomes. There isn't any right moment.

"Pssst!" someone hissed. I'd know that pssst anywhere. In that instant I knew I was being pranked. I let out my breath slowly. I turned and glanced over the Human Traffic Cone's shoulder to see the hubs grinning like a chimp. Mr. Orange Soda looked up from his pretend-reading.

"Well, hello!" I said perkily. The hubs cracked up. The Costumed One got up, his performance completed. I felt the ice break between us.

"Can you breathe?" I asked him.
"Breathing's not a problem," he insisted, lips moving deftly under fabric. His enunciation was flawless. I couldn't tell what his facial expression was, and for the first time I empathized with people afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome.
"Can you see?" I pressed. Yes, he assured me, just barely not tripping over the bench as he began to walk away.

"You were supposed to be spooked," the husband chastised. Me? Meh.

I once scolded a burglar I caught in our garage. Our youngest daughter, four at the time, walked in on my tirade.

"Mom, why are you being so rude to that man?"

I dispatched her to her room without an explanation to resume my barrage. I made him put back the old VCR he'd been carrying to his pick-up. As he drove away, I called in his license plate to the sheriff's department. Part of me wondered if I should've just let him take it. Old technology in a dusty garage can be so depressing.

Anyhoo, as you can tell by now, it takes a lot to discombobulate me. It's much easier to rattle the hubs. The other night he came in while I was dressing to teach a dance class. I had on a clingy black strapless thingy that made him whistle. Then he caught himself.

"You're dressing provocatively. I'm starting to worry."
"Dear," I said, "It's called underwear. You wear something on top of this. It holds me in."
"Oh. Oops."

Though sometimes my game’s totally off. The other day we had the two grandfellas over for a visit minus the parental units. The last time we'd had this privilege there was only one of them, and I was so proud of how well we’d managed with him that I blogged about it here. He was our grandparenting guinea pig.

Since then, the hubs had been talking up the potential adventure of taking the wee ones duck-feeding. We finally got the chance when they were dropped off to spend the morning with us while our daughters helped move some furniture. Before our nature walk was over one of the grandfellas would become one with the ducks…

Next post: When Oma’s judgment is off, the grandfella eats it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When your boss is a cat

My boss is a cat. No two ways about that.

 His rotund profile is the first thing I see when I open my eyes each morning.

"Get to work. We haven't got all day."

Sometimes I get mixed messages from the boss.
"Am I keeping you from working? Oh, is this your desk?"

At break time I try to get some air.
I hang out with the rank and file
to get away from his micromanaging.

But it's impossible to shake him. He's always somewhere watching.

He watches the clock. He gives you a look.

The look that says, "If you're one minute late, I'll dock you."

I really think he's not too happy with himself. He had dreams, you know,
but they were clouds in his coffee. Clouds in his coffee.

When he was an outdoor cat he wanted to come indoors.
Now that he's indoors, he longs for the outdoor days.
The conflicting desires make him unpredictable. Just like people.

He spends long hours chasing his dreams.
It's hard to get a signature from him at times like these.
Calls are unreturned. Clients are kept waiting.

Just when you feel empowered by 
making an executive decision,
he lets you know who's the boss.

The one good thing about having a cat as your boss is
getting instant, honest feedback. A purr is never withheld.
Loving licks are sheer heaven.
A swipe with the claws not quite retracted is
the universal gesture meaning "No!"
And just think: It's perfectly acceptable
to sleep with the boss.

P.S. If you have neither a boss nor a cat, take this as an allegory. Maybe your boss is the little voice inside your head who cracks the whip. And because the boss does send mixed messages sometimes, there's that other little voice that whispers,
"Just take five minutes to check Facebook." And then five hours go by.