Shoe-fly

Unbelievable though it may seem — I, Ellen, am the owner of a pair of  ridiculous, platform sandals. They are red. They are, as I mentioned, ridiculous and I, of course, love them.

And I paid only one dollar.

Indeed, how it all went down was a little unbelievable and, of course, it happened at Shoe Carnival, home of the ridiculous when it comes purchasing shoes.

To quote someone I worked with long ago, if I only wore them to take out the trash, I’d be getting my money’s worth. But of course, I wouldn’t be doing that. I’ve got other shoes reserved for trash-taking duty.

So there I was at Shoe Carnival buying my son Tras some shoes, and to get to the children’s department, you have to pass Ladies Shoes. Well, to get anywhere you have to pass Ladies Shoes, seeing as it takes up fully the middle two-thirds of the store. On this particular day, there was a sale table and I won’t lie, I did stop to see if there was anything there I had to have.

Ta-da!I found these.

Just $10! Marked down from $39.99. Pretty sweet deal. And though I woudn’t be wearing them, as Audrey suggested, to convey rubbish to the curb, if I traipsed about in them two or three times in the coming summer it would totally be worth it. So I tried them on, posed a bit in the mirror —

And, pronouncing  them fabulous, tucked them under my arm and we continued our journey to Children’s.

But lo, what is that I hear, blistering my ears over the loudspeaker? It’s the Shoe Carnival Barker, announcing a that all pink-tag shoes, for the next 10 minutes would be marked HALF OFF. Just bring it to a carnie, and they’ll mark it down.

Back to the sale table I went, and my shoes were duly marked down to $5.

Can I get an AMEN?

We resumed our trek for Trassie’s shoes, selected them in short order, and were drifting cash-registerward when again, the loudspeaker doth proclaim —

“Contest! All women wearing sandals come forward!” So, since I was wearing sandals, come forward I did and took my place in a quickly forming line.

“We’re having a pedicure contest!” brayed the carnie – and immediately, two women bolted.

The rest of us laughed; I a bit more jovially than most because, owing to the fact that my sister Leah had recently gotten married, I sported only the second pedicure I’d ever had in my life.

I stood there glorying in my French-manicured toes, confident that I could be A CONTENDER.

So maybe you can guess the rest. One of the carnies looked over our tootsies  and narrowed the field down to another lady and me. Being (as I believe I have mentioned before) ridiculous, I did a little pirouette, and the other woman, whose toes were every bit as nice as mine, said, “Give it to her!” And so I won, and so I spun, and was handed a coupon for $4 off my purchase. My $5 purchase.

Loud and proud

This wasn’t the only time Shoe Carnival has made me dance for my coupon. Well, what I’ve done in the past is sing. Once it was “I’m a Little Teapot” which earned me a $5-off coupon. Another day, anyone who knew all the words to the theme song to Spongebob Squarepants was invited up to caterwaul for those assembled.

My children have gone from being oblivious to my antics, to being embarrassed by them, and now have muscled their way through the gag reflect and are merely tolerant when I sing or dance in public, which thankfully (even to me) I do only rarely.

Although it makes you kind of wonder, doesn’t it, what I could get away with if I went searching for my old tap shoes and really cut loose.

 

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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.

Living in a dream world

Due to a weird perfect storm consisting of a searing sinus headache, an affinity for horror stories and serial killers, and being asleep, I produced a doozy of a nightmare in the wee hours of this morning which has set me off on an embarrassing journey through my subconscious.

Dreams are, of course, the whole product of our imagination, and sometimes I like to think that they’re some sort of release valve which permit us to flush and /or deal with junk knocking around in our brains causing problems.

Other times I worry that despite my outward efforts at creativity, my mind is actually a dull place where packing suitcases, brushing my teeth and purchasing sturdy totes represents the pinnacle of all ambition.

Where are my dragons?

Of course, there are few things more boring than listening to someone else’s dreams, but hear me out. Dreams are like the Holodeck. You ought to be able to program a fantastic journey, gather your best best friends and loved ones and go live at the beach and telecommute to work — or perhaps become Targaryen and ascend to the status of Mother of Dragons.

Is this what I do? No. I watch Criminal Minds before going to bed and promptly get kidnapped by the world’s most defeatable serial killer. He wore a skirt, no doubt a Silence of the Lambs-influenced bit of detailing.

What happened was, I was held hostage in a hotel room, along with a little boy from Venezuela, from whom I learned to speak shockingly fluent Spanish. I remember saying “Caracas” quite a bit, no doubt related to of one of the questions on last night’s Jeopardy.

After a while, I  got hold of a cell phone and called for help from a small army of people I grew up with, who promptly arrived from the four corners of the country where they all now reside. I flung open the door and immediately jumped into the arms of the one most capable of serving as a landing pad, and exclaimed, “the calvary is here!”

Then I had to pack.

At some point I realized that I was in fact dreaming and my head was killing me. About this time my husband woke up, which awakened me, and I was mercifully delivered from packing up the entire contents of a hotel room, fixing my hair, and applying makeup. Bored, the calvary had left and I was forced to haul my large suitcase down the concrete stairwell all by myself.

From where I’m sitting, the day can only get better.

Where imagination goes to die

I consider myself an imaginative person; give me a situation and I guarantee you, I can make the most of it.

Say you’re fated to hours driving down a featureless Interstate. How do you escape crushing boredom? Keep on the lookout for owls and crumbling remains of farmhouses or abandoned tuberculosis asylums. Zombified in the dentist’s waiting room? Just sit and imagine the lives of mystery and intrigue of your fellow patients.

There are, however, a few places where scope for imagination is virtually nil. Imagination deserts, if you will — places and situations where no matter how hard you put your little creative brain to the task, there is Absolutely No Stimulation Possible.

The creative juices dry completely up, and one is rendered hopelessly bereft of any entertaining anything to pass the excruciating minutes until the sunshine and stimulation come out from behind the clouds and illuminate the mindscape once more.

Exhibit 1 — The Hardware Store (Alternate title: The Bolt of Death)

I am blessed with a handy husband. He can build things, he can improve things, and he can fix things. What kinds of things? All kinds. Many, many things are fixed, constructed, destructed and otherwise assembled and disassembled in my home.

All these projects require numerous, I mean NUMEROUS, small and precisely calibrated pieces and parts to complete. And many trips to Lowe’s or Home Depot. Sometimes I go along. What does that lead to? Imagination death.

There is nothing to live for in the bolt aisle. Nothing. In vain, I cast my eyes about for some object with a connection to the real world. Something that I can work with. Some recognizable feature of the human landscape that I can relate to. There is nothing.

Instead I behold a sea of small pieces of metal in boxes with incomprehensible numbers affixed. I feel entire body systems shutting down from the lack of input. Hungrily, I look toward the bathroom fixtures, yearning for a healthier landscape where I can dream about brushing my teeth and drawing a luxurious bath in my opulent spa tub.

Exhibit 2 — The word problem to nowhere

This is an idea that I have decried for years: the senseless cruelty and unbelievably death-inducing misdirection of the mathematics word problem.

A train leaves the station at 3:15. Immediately you have my interest. Who is on it? Where is it going? Are we talking present-day Amtrak here, or is this something juicier, like a day trip to London from Downton Abbey for a quickie gynecological exam? And if not, are there suitcases involved?

Now I’m thinking about steamer trunks versus regular suitcases, and why has train travel all but disappeared, except I think California is supposed to be investigating light rail, and even pouring some money into it, but I don’t follow California politics much and … Oh. Wait. What’s this? A MATH PROBLEM?

Mother of God, what a crushing disappointment. Here I am, all interested in this little world that’s been created at the end of the chapter and I’m supposed to come up with an equation to find out when trains are going to get there based on all sorts of ridiculous variables?

Wait. There’s more:

Ella swims four times a week at her club’s pool. She swims the same number of laps on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and 15 laps on Saturday. She swims a total of 51 laps each week. How many laps does she swim on Monday?

Ella. What a pretty name — why, it’s almost Ellen when you think about it. I like to swim but laps are a total drag, what with the flip turns, hello? Water in my nose! And what about when you start panting and get out of breath — in the water, no less. That’s a health hazard, not exercise.

It gets worse:

Laura is making a patio in her backyard using paving stones. She buys 44 paving stones and a flower pot worth $7 for a total of $73. How much did each paving stone cost?

Well, what color are they? Do they match the trim on her house? What kind of landscaping are we talking about here — just flowers, or are we planning an arbor of some kind? And ONE flower pot? Come on, Laura! There’s no way you’re going to have your plantings done before the first of May at this rate. And we haven’t even begun to talk about furniture.

Speaking of home improvement:

Tom, Dick, and Harry arrive early one morning at the job site and get ready to paint a huge, old, Victorian mansion. Tom, working by himself, could paint the whole house in 14 days. It would take Dick 10 days to do the job by himself. And Harry could do the job in 8 days. How long does it take for the three men to do the job working together?

This is just cruel. Huge old Victorian mansion? How huge? When was it constructed? That matters, you know, whether we’re talking about the early Victorian or late Victorian period. Do you know how much paint you’d have to buy to coat one of these suckers? A ton, that’s how much, and it costs literally thousands of dollars — and then you have to paint them again in just a couple years! Which leads to abominations like people putting aluminum siding on 100-year-old houses. SIDING.

Finally, we have this depressing piece of news:

Sarah and John leave Perryville traveling in opposite directions on a straight road. Sarah drives 12 miles per hour faster than John. After 2 hours, they are 176 miles apart. Find Sarah and John’s speeds.

There are no straight roads around Perryville. You are deep in the Boyle County countryside around Perryville, which is the site of the largest battle of the Civil War fought in the Commonwealth. It happened, as Dave Barry likes to say, on the same day all historical events occur, October 8. Listen, Sarah, why are you driving so damn fast — and what are you doing going in the opposite direction as John? Are you all going to the Battlefield or not? Don’t you care about history? John, you’re missing out on an opportunity here.

Thankfully, trips to Lowe’s are rare, dear though they be to my better half, and mercifully, I have very little call to solve mathematics word problems — though that may be changing soon. I’ve got a son soon passing from second grade to third and as he journeys on through the academic ladder, Some day he’ll probably put down roots squarely in the land of calculus or some other incomprehensible country.

Thank God I’ve got a blog is all I’ve got to say, where I can think about train trips and Victorian mansions that are populated by people, not distressing demands for mathematical computations.

And there are no trips to Perryville to plan.