Friday, July 22, 2011

Don't mess with the GPS

I remember the first time I saw my sister's leather purse that she brought back from Spain. I instantly broke the 10th commandment, "Thou shalt not covet they neighbour's house, wife, manservant, his ox, his ass, or anything that is thy neighbour's." In my case, my neighbour was my sister and her manservant the purse.

So when this morning she was telling me a story about how over the weekend her family all took a bike ride to the beach and she threw the little purse into the bike basket, fully loaded with her iPhone, her daughter's Blackberry, a couple of credit cards, and $80 cash I knew there was going to be a horrific ending to the story, involving the little purse that I had so secretly wanted as my own. You are probably wondering why anyone would need to take all these essentials (credit cards and $80) to the beach, but hey, who knows what spectacular purchases might be available along the way.

She started telling me how when they arrived at the beach and parked their bikes, her daughter Emmy handed her the purse, which Pam absentmindedly sat on the bench next to her. As they enjoyed the sun, the water, the gorgeous Santa Barbara day, it was soon time to go home, leaving my little dream purse alone, on a bench, to fend for itself. Oh, all I could think was “I knew she should have given that purse to me!”

They got back to the house and Pam said to Emmy, “Where is my purse?” The natural progression of blame started in, "you did, I did, why did, how did, and on and on." Hopping into Emmy's Prius, back to the beach, praying and cursing all the way that the purse would be unharmed, waiting to be rescued by it's rightful owners. Upon arriving, they checked the bench, the area all around, no sign of the purse. There were a few people nearby, according to my sister, they were "scumbags" and I believe she also used the term "white trash." Two guys and a girl. Age, approximately late 20's early 30's. Pam approaches the "scumbags" and asks if they have seen the purse, or did they see anyone at the table, anyone? "No, sorry." They didn't see anyone or have any knowledge of the purses whereabouts. Now, let me back up a bit. Pam is married to a big, strong, though peaceful and kind looking man, and also has a big strapping hunk of a son who has the same kindly traits as his father, yet physically he can appear a bit menacing, you wouldn't want to mess with him. But did they accompany the women to the beach as part of the search and rescue team? No, they instead choose to stay home and make popcorn and watch some program on the large screen TV.

Frustrated, angry at herself, in a state of upset, she returned home purseless with her daughter who was in a panic because as most of you know, an entire life is contained on your iPhone, all of your contacts, important correspondence, paperwork, photos of the last spring break party you attended that should never be released to the public, unless a lucrative deal was to made with "Girls Gone Wild". A light bulb went off in Pam's head as she remembered that there is a GPS on her iPhone. All she had to do now was go home, get online, pull up her phones GPS. “Find Pam’s Phone” and voila, she would find it. She is brilliant I must say. A real Charlies Angel.

So as the "boys" are enjoying their popcorn Pam and Emmy are on the computer frantically tracking the phone. Just like a CSI episode, great minds at work. Up pops the screen with the location of Pam's iPhone. Right on the beach, right where they left it. Okay, boys, get in the car, you are coming with us. The four of them are off again to the beach. Luckily when they arrived the "scumbags" were still there and Pam, who is a petite thing, with an angelic face and kind demeanor, turns into her pit bull self (I have witnessed this transformation a few times and I must say, it is as impressive as Superman in the phone booth, I love it when she does this!) She goes up to the group and tells them that the GPS tracked her phone to their location. Meanwhile, my big strapping, sometimes scary looking nephew, casually pulls out his phone and dials her phone number, and lo and behold it starts ringing in the girl scumbag’s backpack. "That's my phone!” Pam cries out. Without hesitation, they return my beloved purse to my sister, and apparently they hadn't even looked inside yet, the cash, cards and both phones were still intact. I guess the purse alone was worth coveting. Yes, I can relate.

They turned and left without saying a word, you don't need to say much when David is standing next to you, and off they rode into the sunset. If I would have been with them, I know I would've ended the day on a more dramatic note. I would have at least spewed some choice words at them and then, like a Hollywood hero, kicked sand in their face, all the while knowing I was in the safety of my kick-ass sister and protection of my "don't mess with me" nephew.

So future criminals, you might want to be aware that these "fancy" phones have a GPS. And actually from past experience, even if the phone doesn't, law enforcement does. They can track your phone to any location via satellite. You might want to think twice about taking what is not yours. And you surely don't want to mess with my sister's iPhone - unless you want to mess with her entire family, the eSopranos of Santa Barbara.

iPhone - $400, day at the beach - $100, watching Pam & David kick ass, priceless.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Online and off limits

Moms with their Blackberries, Dad's with their Droids, children entertaining themselves with a Starbucks Frappuccino or a McDonald's Happy meal.  You see it everywhere and yet yesterday I saw it more than I wanted to, another one of those "signs" of mine, and obviously a sign of the times.  This sign had to do with being present, paying attention.

We were down on Hawthorne Street in Portland, doing a bit of thrift store shopping when we ended the day at the corner Starbucks.  After getting our drinks we decided to take a table and actually enjoy our drinks on site instead of racing off to the car with them.  Next to our table was a Dad and his, I'm guessing here, four year old daughter.  Adorable daughter at that.  They apparently had ridden their bikes as she was still wearing her pink flowered helmet.  Dad was eating a piece of banana bread, drinking his coffee, and either checking his email, Facebook account, Craigslist, porn sites, or who knows what. All I do know, for a fact, is that we sat next to them for at least a solid 15 minutes and he did not speak one word or even look up at his little girl, not even a glance. I looked at her, plenty.  I really couldn't keep my eyes off of either of them as I kept waiting to see some sort of interaction between the two.  She looked around, looked at me, and when our eyes would meet I would give her a little smile but she would quickly look away.  Maybe that was from the old "strangers" message we send to our children at a very young age.  Whatever.  I just know that I was disturbed by this now prevalent trend, this new attachment, the addiction du jour, of being in a constant state of connection, but not with the people around us, but cyberspace to be more exact.  In all fairness, I am sure they interacted, talked, hugged, laughed, etc. plenty on their bike ride over and the morning spent together, but as I watched them my heart seemed to ache a bit for this little girl, whose eyes darted back and forth, her "a bit too big" helmet slipping from side to side, looking uncomfortable and I wished Dad could have at least removed it for her while she was inside enjoying her adult snack.

Later in the day we had to run to the mall, against my better judgment but I needed to pick up some Evian water at Nordstroms.  We were all hungry by this time and decided to visit the dreaded food court.  As we all went our merry way to scout out the many offerings we then returned to a table where next to us sat a Mom and her young son.  She had her cellphone pressed up to her ear, talking on her phone while the small boy entertained himself by putting his head between the railings they were sitting next to, staring at people, fidgeting around with his food, fidgeting around with his body. They even got up and changed tables, mom never missing a beat on her phone conversation, and what a conversation it must have been, because again, she was on the phone the entire time we were eating and never once said a single word to her son.  Not even when his head seemed stuck between the protective guard rail.

You might be thinking that I spend way too much time judging, staring, and otherwise involving myself in the business of others.  You might be right.  I know my daughter Olivia thought I was obsessing a bit. I just couldn't help but think how lonely a feeling it must be to lose a parent to a video game, a cell phone, the Internet, TV soap operas, or the numerous other mind numbing distractions out there.  I remember being young and at times our Mom telling us to "find something to do" or "go outside and play", but it wasn't so she could spend time playing Farmville on Facebook or talking for endless hours on the phone to friends.  It was usually because she was busy doing something for us, whether it was cooking our next meal, putting the groceries away, changing our sheets, you get the idea.  I just remember that when we were in her presence, she was present. And I'm not against parents having their own time, I just don't think there "own" time should be spent while in the company of others.  There really is enough time to take care of all the trivial things but the time we have to interact with our children, to engage in a conversation no matter how simple it may be, is time both precious and fleeting.  There will always be a new Farmville to play.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Red, white and summer blues

Call me unpatriotic, anti-social, bored with the whole "pollute up the air" fireworks, but Independence Day has never been anywhere near the top of my list of favorite holidays.  Maybe because it falls in summer. I don't eat hot dogs, not too fond of jello salad, can't stand the noise from the neighborhood street firecrackers and the late night pan banging and bottle rockets that interrupt my already restless sleep.

But, as usual, I am harassed by friends, or perhaps I should use a less harsh word, let's try nudged, by my best friend Virginia in particular, to engage in the festivities, oh it will be so fun!  She promises Sangria, her killer potato salad (which it was) sun, pool and laughs (which were many).

Sangria, anyone?
Last year I decided to attend her 4th of July BBQ, she lives in Roseville, and from Napa it takes me about an hour and 40 minutes to get to her house.  After the long day's festivities I decided to drive home and was stuck in traffic that made my one way drive home an obnoxious 4 hours long.  Imperfect ending to a perfect day. I swore I would never get anywhere near I-80 again on a holiday, or I might even go so far as to avoid I-80 for the entire summer. It would just depend how well my memory would serve me.


So this year, same invite to spend the 4th with Virginia.  I decided to spend the night this time, enjoy a leisurely morning with coffee together on the patio and that way insuring an easy ride home.  Yes, I'll show them.  While all of you folks are back working on Tuesday, me and my smug self will be zooming along in the fast lane, making record time, thrilled at my good fortune of having the luxury to come and go as I please.  My mistake, apparently everyone else had the same bad taste in their mouth from their previous holiday road trips and decided they too, could take an extra day off work and beat the rest of the crowds at their own game.

I'm not sure the reason, but Cal Trans always seems to schedule major road construction during the summer (which I've never understood, since we have extremely mild winters here and the work could be done anytime during the year) but they seem to be particularly fond of holiday weekends.  Really hot ones.  Where the sun beats in your car window and even with the A/C blasting a chilly 59 degrees, you could still get 3rd degree burns on one side of your face, your one arm, throw in a thigh.  Maybe they resent having to work during the heat of summer  - you know, misery loves company.  If I'm going down I'm gonna take you with me attitude.

So, it's bad enough that there is traffic, construction, and temperatures hovering around the 100 degree mark.  But the drivers, OMG, the drivers! I realize that I do obsess about this subject matter from time to time, but I can't help but be amazed that a driver's license is so easy to get.  For one thing, I would think if the general public has grasped the concept of "tall, grande and venti" that by now they should understand, "slow lane, fast lane, and the harmless middle of the road lane."  But apparently not.  There is nothing worse (I know that isn't a true statement, of course there are worse things, but the statement is for effect) than being trapped behind someone driving much too slow in the fast lane, you can't get around them, because car #2 in the lane next to you is mindlessly keeping pace with you.  There is no way out, you are stuck driving behind "I obey all speed limits" and wedged next to the car in the middle lane who could care less about your dilemma.  Frustrating to say the least. 

I have mentioned before that I am a Fire Monkey in Chinese Astrology and one of the first mentions of the monkey personality is that they have "superiority complexes" - I don't really see it as a complex, it just is what it is.  I know how to drive.  I pay attention, not just to the road in front of me, but the drivers behind me, on the side of me, I check my rear view mirror frequently, check to see who is merging on the freeway and make room if need be.  I guess though, that my expectations of others are too high - I expect them to drive like I do.  Sometimes I can get a little high strung in the car - which can be intensified if say, someone like "Nine Inch Nails" comes on the radio - and I need to remind myself, "find better station" and "breathe, just breathe".

But on a positive note, and I am working this to find one, as I was crawling along, barely moving, a good sized dragonfly was flying along side my car, at eye level and just stayed with me for maybe 5 minutes.  Here on this late hot morning, on a polluted freeway, this little creature stayed with me, kept me distracted and it made me recall a time when it seemed dragonflies were all around me, I would see them in the yard, on a book jacket, on a piece of artwork, and I looked up their meaning.  The dragonfly is symbolic of renewal, positive force and the power of life in general. Dragonflies can also be a symbol of the sense of self that comes with maturity. As a creature of the wind, the dragonfly frequently represents change and maybe most importantly, as a dragonfly lives a short life, it knows it must live its life to the fullest with the short time it has.

Alright little happy dragonfly, I will try and heed your message.  Which I am taking as "quit complaining, grow up a bit, and enjoy your life, even if stuck in traffic."  I guess if you look around a bit, side to side, instead of always straight ahead, lose the tunnel vision, there are many good things worth seeing, even on the congested freeway of life.