O, the Cussedness of Winter

AS MENTIONED IN a recent post and in the eulogy my sister and I wrote, our mom put remarkable effort into hating everything about winter. Rosemary hated the cold and the dark. She hated snow and ice. She hated how the threat of bad weather might impact her ability to travel somewhere, so much so that she would start fretting a week in advance. If you said to her, “Yuck, it’s raining,” she would reply, with raised eyebrow, Yes, but you don’t have to shovel it.

Had Mom been engaged in leisure pursuits in Ft. Myers this week (where it is currently 65 degrees and cloudy, which means she’d have been padding around the condo in wool socks and a velour track suit), she would surely have been watching our weather and sending us emails and texts, calling us to ask if we were keeping warm, and did we plan on making soup or roasting a chicken.

Some years back, Mom had a new-agey past-life regression done, and while I don’t remember much about it, I do recall her saying something about how she had supposedly, in a previous life, been a young woman, trying to find her way through the dark woods. She said she had been cold to the bone, and was wearing a hooded cape. Or something like that. One wonders if the brain creates such constructs to help us process our intense emotions, but the possibility that she came by her hatred naturally seemed to satisfy her.

She offset this hatred somewhat with her love of the written word. She was a precise grammarian and a talented writer, and appreciated a clever turn of phrase. She was particularly proud of this poem, which she wrote and had copyrighted in 2009. It seems appropriate to share it here, given the Polar Vortex and subfreezing temperatures we’re having this week.

O, the Cussedness of Winter

Slipp’ry roads and frigid breezes,
heavy clothes and frequent sneezes,
cloudy days and longer nights
make me curse the frost that bites.

Three long months of winter’s blast
seem like six before they’re past.
Winter isn’t of my choosing
so I’ll have to turn to boozing

just to get me through the season
that deprives me of all reason
while I wait, with hope eternal,
for the equinox that’s vernal.

© 2009 Rosemary Beaver Fried

Those last two lines are just golden, aren’t they?? If you love it as much as I do, may I direct you to my sister’s Cafe Press shop, where you can have this gem printed on your choice of apparel, drinkware, a tote bag, and more. Makes a great gift for all those winter-hating people in your life.

This one, I took through the back window of our house after a heavy, wet snow.




Speaking the language

I ALMOST NEVER go to Starbucks. Most times when I do, it’s because someone gave me a gift card. I'll happily spend someone else's $5 on a super-caffeinated beverage; I can’t in good conscience do it with my own heard-earned cash.

Despite my infrequent visits, I usually order the same thing, in the same way. This morning, gift card in hand, three extra minutes to spare, I decided to not walk by Starbucks today. I went in. And this is what happened.

ME: I’d like a triple grande vanilla latte, sugar-free, fat-free.

BARISTA: So, you want a triple grande SKINNY vanilla latte?

ME: Yeah, if that’s what you call it.

BARISTA: If you say “skinny,” they know you want it sugar-free, fat free.

ME: Do I have to say “skinny?”

BARISTA: Well, they’ll know you want it with the skim milk and the sugar-free syrup if you do.

ME: Okay, then, I want one of those. What you said.

BARISTA: [yells to other barista] I need a triple grande SKINNY vanilla latte please! [To me] Would you like anything to eat with that this morning?

ME: No… tryin’ to, you know, keep it SKINNY.

BARISTA: They make me ask.

ME: I ate breakfast at home.

Beware, ye who do not speak the language! For the barista might just correct your choice of words, and then you might go from feeling a teensy bit smug for having remembered to call it a “triple grande” instead of asking for a grande with an extra shot, to feeling like an idiot who doesn’t order her drink like how all the cool kids do it.

This reminds me of the time in 1993 when I ordered a Diet Coke from a street vendor in Paris. Eager to use my French, I said, “Un Coke Diete, s’il vous plait,” to which the vendor replied, “EIGHTY FRANCS.” She knew I didn’t speak the language, even though I tried.

But, meh, who cares. It’s only Starbucks. I think it’s more important to order your cocktail correctly at a bar. Grey Goose martini, extra dry, up, with olives. Por favor.

Is this the party to whom I’m speaking?

LAST WEEK, BOSSY WROTE A CHEEKY POST entitled, Things Our Ancestors Never Said. You know – text me, friend me, leave room for a retweet – all the technology-influenced lingo that laces our modern lexicon.

It doesn't take much to make me wax nostalgic, and Bossy's post did just that. Raise your hand if you remember the Good Old Days, when "text" was only a noun and "dial" meant to actually DIAL instead of punching in a series of numbers and telephones really did "ring" and "chatting" was something that required actual verbal interaction, sometimes tethered to one of these:


And that makes me think of something else that our ancestors never said:

"Can I call you back? I'm in the checkout line, I'm just about to pay…"

Am I right? Because Grandma would not have been able to take her telephone with her when she left home and went to the market, seeing as how it was attached to the wall in her home. And even if she had been able to do that, she certainly would not have been so rude as to TALK ON IT during the ENTIRETY OF THE CHECKOUT TRANSACTION, completely failing to acknowledge the human who was ringing her purchases and placing them into white plastic bags so that she could easily carry them out to her Crossover SUV.

While it's true that Grandma never would have said "let me call you back while I check out", it's also true that two customers ahead of me in the Target checkout line last week ALSO failed to briefly interrupt their conversations while they were checking out. There they were, trying to prop their cell phones on their shoulders while swiping their cards and signing the little electronic screen. And I was thinking to myself, wow, these yoga pants-clad ladies must be diplomats or surgeons or something Very Important, but all I overheard were snippets of "oh, she is such a drama queen" and "I know, he was all… and I was all… and can you freakin' believe that??"

And this got me thinking: While it is a breach of common-sense manners to talk on your cell phone during an entire check-out transaction, of course there is the rare instance when the conversation just can't wait. There are people in the word who are That Important, whose work is That Essential – and then there are the rest of us, who, from time to time, to have to respond to personal emergencies.

Take me, for example! Only six weeks ago, I myself was having a pretty urgent cell phone conversation in a grocery store in northeast PA, and while I wasn't yet in the checkout line, I was standing in Aisle 17, and anyone walking by me overheard this: "…so the fire is how close?… is there any fence left at all?…. wow, thank you, I'm glad to hear you were able to save my house… the keys are on the shelf above the stove, yes, please DO move my in-laws' car out of the carport!…" At which point, I walked away from my full cart and right out the door so we could drive back home and deal with this Very Bad News.

I polled my Facebook friends, asking what, upon overhearing one side of the conversation, would appear to be so pressing that you'd be inclined to forgive this violation of the social code. Some highlights:

  • Holy crap, the test was positive??
  • Do you know how to make a tourniquet?
  • I'll be there in ten minutes with a blanket and a shovel…
  • It'll be OK – just cover it up till I get home.
  • Listen, I've already told Barack and Hilary that…
  • Don't try to put the fire out yourself!
  • OK, first, make sure the autopilot is disengaged, then…
  • Wait, how close is the funnel cloud?
  • STEP BACK from the ledge- you have much to live for!

Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments…

So yes, I am well aware, there are times when the conversation just can't wait.  To the grocery store employee who had to replace my cart full of items on the shelf, I apologize. It really was an emergency! But we should all be mindful of what can wait, and what can't. And "She is SUCH a drama queen" can probably wait.