When a full staff adds up to one

Someone called the other day and asked to speak to me. She was surprised when I said that it was me. Sounding disappointed, she said, “Oh, I thought you’d have staff.”

Hey, so did I.

I don’t have staff.

I almost had staff.

There was a time when high school and college kids, aspiring to be columnists or writers, or just get out of class, routinely asked if they could shadow me to learn what a columnist did all day.

My husband is still asking.

In any case, I explained that I worked from home and spent much of the day sitting in front of a computer trying not to fall asleep or fall off my chair.

If they claimed they couldn’t wait to see the heart-pounding excitement of a real-life columnist sitting in front of a computer screen, I usually said yes they could shadow for a few hours, but with the stipulation that they sign a waiver in the event they died of boredom.

A very polite young high school student once asked to shadow me for an entire morning. After a couple of hours, the poor kid was so dazed that I asked him go to the kitchen and make me a cup of tea to make sure he was still conscious.

He seemed to perk up. So then I asked if he’d like to go get the mail.

He bolted for the door.

He returned with the mail and I was just about to ask if he’d like to wash a columnist’s car when his mother arrived to pick him up.

What rotten timing.

Students don’t ask to shadow often anymore. These are hard times for columnists. Hard times nothing-being a columnist today is like having a deck chair on the Titanic and hearing a dull thud.

If I did have staff, I know I could keep them busy.

First, I’d have them bring coffee. Good coffee, not the cheap kind we make here at home, but coffee from some place where they write your name on the cup. That seems so upscale and professional. You don’t write your name on the cup when you work at home. You can, but there’s nobody who’d be impressed.

Then I’d send my staff out for a Fidget. I never needed one before, but your needs grow exponentially when you have staff. Make that two dozen Fidgets.

By then it would be time for my staff to go get lunch.

After lunch, I’d have my staff tackle my backlog of bookkeeping. I would love to be able to research wave vs quickbooks and choose one of those accounting softwares to do my books for me, but I can’t afford it. So I leave it to my staff. When they finished logging in income, expenses and figuring my estimated quarterly taxes, they’d understand why I was letting them go. Some businesses, especially startups, use outsourced companies similar to Early Growth Financial to do their bookkeeping.

Hardly anybody has staff anymore. Corporate execs, middle managers and business owners all used to have staff, but financial whizzes discovered tons of money could be saved by having people be their own staff or outsourcing work to other countries.

You can always tell those fortunate enough to still have staff. They’re the ones who like to say they’ll have their people call your people.

When my people call your people, it’s really me calling, but using a very deep voice.

Oh well.

Somedays I do wish I had staff. Like right now.

The laundry needs to be transferred.

It’s nonsense what makes sense anymore

A view of the human brain from the top shows that it looks similar to a whole walnut. Although larger. At least I hope mine is.

Some days I wonder if our brains aren’t turning into pretzels.

I answered two emails and three texts with nothing but emojis today and it dawned on me that we’ve just about come full circle.

Our ancestors used to paint pictures on cave walls to communicate, and here we are communicating with simple pictures once again. But instead of putting them on stone, we send them on mobile devices, some costing upwards of $700.

And we think we’re the smart ones.

I have an entire list of things that make no sense:

I have one pair of feet and more than 20 pairs of shoes, one pair of eyes and three pairs of glasses. Numerically, it appears I favor my feet by a wide margin, which is categorically untrue.

I will never unravel the mystery of why people pay big money for ragged jeans. Ragged clothes have long been a stigma of shame for the poor—now they’re a status symbol for celebrities.

Years ago, people died from malnutrition and starvation. That is still true in some parts of the world today, but here we are killing ourselves with food. We have a hard time finding the happy medium when it comes to eating. Nearly every women’s magazine features pictures of dessert recipes alongside advertisements for workout clothes.

Whenever someone puts a hot plate in front of me and cautions that it is hot, as though I am age 6, as soon as the server turns around, I touch it. There’s a 6-year-old trapped inside my aging body.

There are some things that sound completely illogical, but in reality make perfect sense. I drive three miles to walk three miles on a trail. That makes no sense. But if you saw the beautiful trail, you’d understand.

Roaming through a brick and mortar bookstore the other day, I was astounded by the number of children’s picture books, authored and illustrated by adults, that go into great detail on the subject of toilet training. For thousands of years children were able to potty train without picture books, but now they need visual aids.

The husband takes the little shampoos and conditioners from hotels home with us, then I pack them when we go out of town again even though every hotel routinely stocks little shampoos and conditioners. (No, we don’t take toilet paper or bath towels.)

What makes me doubt our brains the most is how we are functioning as a nation. Many of us know exactly how many generations ago someone in our family came here from another country. In most cases they came eager to become Americans, to become part of a story larger than themselves. But now we are dividing and subdividing, splitting into factions, tribes and clans. There is precious little focus on the things that unite us, and constant harping on the things that divide us. We no longer agree to disagree; we now disagree and destroy.

Self-destruction makes no sense.

Butter be prepared for corn on the cob

There are two types of people in this country – those who eat corn on the cob with those little corn holders with metal prongs and those who don’t.

We are among the group without corn holders. Years ago we had some, but the prongs got bent, half of them went missing and the half that didn’t go missing wound up mangled in the garbage disposal.

The purpose of corn holders is to keep you from getting butter on your fingers. But isn’t that the point of eating corn? It’s not strictly about the corn; it’s about the butter. Lots and lots of melted butter, and salt and pepper and the wonderful combination thereof.

Let’s be honest—eating corn on the cob is one of the most unsightly spectacles that occurs at the family dinner table. (Not like that’s going to stop us.) Using corn holders isn’t going to somehow make eating corn on the cob an aesthetically pleasing experience.

Eating corn on the cob requires lunging, grappling and attacking with bared teeth. You bite down and the corn squirts. It may squirt into your eye, across the table, or across the table and into someone else’s eye.

Not even silver-plated corn holders could make eating corn on the cob a class act.

A friend who lived abroad once said that the French believe the only ones who should eat corn on the cobs are pigs. Leave it to the French to once again make us feel inferior regarding food.

Most of our grandkids are too young to have mastered the art of eating corn. They nibble—a nibble here, a nibble there. The end result is a half-eaten ear of corn that looks like a mass of divots on a golf course.

I tell them to eat across the cob, from left to right, the same way they read. I tell them that eating corn in a row will make them better and faster readers, one day give them better test scores and get them into the best colleges.

I also tell them not to worry about being untidy, that if you eat corn the right way, it’s bound to be a mess. If you eat corn on the cob the right way, you should have butter smeared on your chin. How’s a corn holder with two sharp prongs going to help that?

You might also have kernels stuck between your teeth. I suppose you could use a corn holder to pick them out, but let’s not give the French any more ammo.

If you’re one of those people self-conscious about eating corn on the cob, I give you permission to liberate yourself from the normal restraints of polite dining.

No need to thank me.

You’re thanking me anyway?

Aw, shucks.

Dashing through the season, but not laughing all the way

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but chances are you missed it.

Everybody says it was easy to miss because it was faster than usual, but nobody can prove a thing like that. It’s just talk.

That said, I do believe it was faster than the last one.

The thing about speed is, once you hit a certain momentum, there’s no slowing down.

So that’s it. Another one gone. Blink twice and it’s over.

This one was so short I think everybody will be talking about it years from now. You know, the sort of, “Where were you when you heard the news?”

I was at the mall. The husband had dropped me off and was waiting in the car while I ran in to make a return. I entered the double-wide sliding doors and saw the big red letters on a store window—END OF SUMMER SALE.

I thought it was a sick joke. But then there was another—END OF SUMMER CLEARANCE. It was a one-two punch. And then there was a third—END OF SUMMER / EVERYTHING 20% OFF.

Summer was over. It was June 27th.

You know what June 27th, is right?  It’s one day shy of being a week after the first day of summer. It’s the sixth-to-the-next-longest day of the year—but summer was over.

When I got back in the car, I told the husband summer was over.

“What?” he said.

“Turn down the air conditioner so you can hear me. Summer is over.”

“Might as well be,” he said with a sigh of despondency. He’d be OK with summer being over since his ball team is doing rotten this year. Again.

I don’t know how summer can be over. I’ve only had one cherry tomato off the vine. Cucumbers aren’t ready to pick and I haven’t seen a single roadside stand selling field-fresh sweet corn.

The basil is going strong, phlox are blooming and the hillsides are bursting with black-eyed Susans.

The thermometer says 90. Mosquito season is just getting into full swing. We’ve been eating watermelon nearly every day of the week. Sometimes for breakfast.

My biggest clothing decision each day is whether to go with the khaki capris or the white capris. My shoe choice is between flip flops and sandals.

There are a half dozen Popsicle sticks on the back patio and two unopened boxes in the freezer.

They can say summer is over, but I’m not going along peacefully on this one. They can have my sunscreen when they can pry it from my cold, frozen hands, which won’t be until late December, also known as winter.

Then again, maybe summer is over. The husband was channel surfing and said, “Look at this on the Hallmark Channel—Christmas movies all week long.”

Time flies when you’re having fun.





Vacation turns up the heat and knocks ‘em out of their seats

On our last extended family vacation, we decided to drop the better portion of our retirement savings on tickets to one of those venues where you sit around the edge of an arena and watch live family entertainment while eating a four-course meal with your hands.

Our middle name is classy.

Before the show, we were herded into a lobby where there was live music and, in case we thought we didn’t pay enough for the tickets to the show, we could drop a few more bills on pricey soft drinks that came in plastic boots. The idea of drinking out of footwear was not all that novel to our group, as several of the younger children had been gumming their shoes on the 8-hour car ride down.

Once we took our seats around the arena, a very friendly wait staff appeared and started delivering food faster than a Vegas blackjack dealer deals cards.

There was soup, biscuits the size of Frisbees, a full rotisserie chicken for each of us, hot buttered corn, buttered potatoes—food was flying. And napkins. Lots of napkins because, like I said, you eat with your hands.

The preschool kids, who for years have been instructed not to eat with their hands, were hesitant to dive in. They thought it was set up. I kept saying, “No, no, it’s OK. Just tear off that chicken leg and eat it. Look at your daddy eat with his hands. Look at your mommy eating with her hands.
“I know your hands are greasy, but don’t wipe them on my — ”

Too late.

People were wiping hands on napkins, sleeves, pant legs and licking butter off their fingers, but nobody was complaining because you don’t complain when you pay big bucks to do without silverware.

If it’s true that “everything is betta with butta” we were having the time of our lives.

And then they introduced the fire. A huge flame soared from the floor of the middle of the arena. Some of the little ones jumped and a couple of them screamed. I jumped and screamed. You could feel the heat from the flame and I wasn’t sure but what both of my eyebrows had been singed.

When the trick riders came out on horseback and began jumping through rings of fire, a couple of the kids went over the edge.

“Where’d your youngest go?” I asked my daughter.

“Under the table,” she said.

I looked under the table and sure enough, she was hanging onto her momma’s legs for dear life, sobbing her eyes out.

Next thing I knew another kid jumped on my lap and was shaking like a leaf. She tried to bury her head against mine but her cheek kept sliding off my cheek because we both had butter on our faces.

The little one under the table didn’t come out until the show was nearly over and the last horse had left the arena. But the next day, as we hiked trails and enjoyed the mountain views, they jabbered about the trick riders, the disappearing cowgirls and the beautiful ladies that floated down from the ceiling in big beautiful gowns.

That’s how it often is with a vacation—you don’t realize how good it was until after it’s over.