Lather, rinse, repeat

There are a few things in my exciting daily life that, with repetition, have worn me down. I’ve gone from puzzlement to perplexity, to what is now full-on minor annoyance.

Let me explain.

Take shampooing hair. The labels ubiquitously contain directions which nobody needs; that is, “lather, rinse, repeat.” This is something, I feel confident in saying, that most people could manage without taking the time to read up on it first. (The “repeat,” of course, is a separate issue; many people maintain it’s there just to sell more shampoo.)

Similarly, I am confronted daily by two completely superfluous painted arrows, imparting glaringly unneeded directions, in the parking lot of my son’s school. The first arrow points the driver to drive along the brick circular road behind the building, where the driver is currently driving.

Go here. You’re already here? Good.

This arrow appears on a new driveway, installed just a couple years ago when the school was remodeled. There are so many cars in the pick-up and drop-off lane now that they needed more space to line up all the cars. So behind the school we go, and then back out to the front, pick up our kids, and leave.

(The traffic jam caused by two other schools directly next door and across the street is, again, a separate issue that makes me want to slap 1950s Lexington city land-use permit granters.)

The second painted arrow is halfway around the circular drive. It clearly encourages the driver to continue driving around the circle.

You know what? There’s nowhere else to drive. You either go around the circle or you take off cross-country through the park behind the school.

“Oh gosh! Where do I go? Do I continue turning the wheel left? Or do I go across the grass and drive straight into Southland Pool? Oh, help!!! What do I do?? Don’t panic, don’t panic. Breathe.”

(Sees arrow.)

“O thank heavens. There’s an arrow. I keep turning. WHEW.”

Said nobody ever.

So there’s that. Arrows painted on what otherwise would be an unmarred, attractive, unexpected little feature of elementary-school design: a brick paved driveway solely for the enjoyment of the parents taking their kids to school.

Situation #2: Communion Crowd Control

At a parish I used to belong to, the ushers were very hands-on. I don’t know about Protestant churches, but many Catholic churches have ushers, whose main duty is to use baskets on poles to whack people when it’s time for the offertory shake-down … no, that’s not true.

They slide the baskets down in front of people sitting in the pews for them to place their offering in. Or, they supervise baskets that are just passed from hand to hand. Either way, this is a job that, sort of, requires personnel.

What churches don’t need, in my opinion, is ushers who do communion line crowd-control.

Communion is pretty simple process. Get up, get in line, receive the Body of Christ. Kneel down, pray. The end.

But no. In some places, the ushers think standing up and getting in line is too complex a task for your average Cradle Catholic who’s been doing it since the age of 7. They stand guard at the front pew, blocking the exit like a border collie to keep eager-receivers from storming the altar like sheep on steroids.

Then, when THEY deem it the appropriate time, they take a step backward to permit everyone in that pew ONLY to get up and get in line. After these sheep exit the pew, another step backward, and Pew Two is good to go.

And so it goes through the whole church. Don’t anyone get too frisky, now, and muscle your way out early. There’s that usher, making sure you keep to the line.

And to ensure that everything goes smoothly, they’ve got walkie-talkies to relay information to one another about the more suspicious communicants.

Well, maybe not actual walkie-talkies. But they look capable of it.

Mercifully, my current parish has deemed us trustworthy enough to get up and go to communion our own, and as yet, there have been no incidents. I just hope the ushers don’t start feeling useless and implement draconian changes.

But if they do, we could start something a childhood friend once daydreamed about — an Usher Olympics where we’d clock them on how fast they can race though the pews with their offertory baskets.

I volunteer to paint the arrows in the aisles so that they know which way to go.

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Merton

Morgan Atkinson is a Kentucky documentarian who has produced several wonderful programs and books about Thomas Merton and the Abbey of Gethsemani.

Now he’s planning a new documentary, “The Many Lives and Last Days of Thomas Merton,” which focuses on 1968, the last year of the monk’s life and when he met with the Dalai Lama.

If you have an interest in this great spiritual thinker of our time, please consider contributing to Morgan’s Kickstarter campaign.

Atkinson

I’ve known Morgan for several years through my work. Some of his other works include a program on the lives of Anna and Harlan Hubbard, a unique Kentucky couple who lived as Thoreau did but did so in the 20th century — and for some 40 years.

Other recent works include “Uncommon Vision” the story of John Howard Griffin, author of the classic “Black Like Me.”  I wrote about Morgan for the magazine I edit.  From the story:

Early on, the idea of community drew Atkinson. His first documentary to air on KET, A Change in Order, depicted how the once-thriving Ursuline Sisters of Louisville adapted to a diminished and aging community. It was the first of several to focus on religious life.

An interest in the life of Merton, whose writings spoke to Atkinson as an individual searching for meaning in his own life, led him to visit Gethsemani and eventually to produce The Abbey of Gethsemani and Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton.

Read the whole story here. And please consider donating to his Kickstarter campaign to make this new documentary a reality.
Merton Center photo