Saturday, September 24, 2022

Road trips in my family's van: They were cramped, boring, and created some of my favorite memories


My mom brushing out my unruly hair.
Much of my childhood was spent in a van, especially the 1968 Chevy that my parents drove across California, Nevada and Arizona.

I remember feeling trapped and bored on those trips, spending countless hours just staring at the globe compass on the dashboard and willing its dial to stop wobbling. Because if the compass was still, that meant the van had stopped and I could finally go outside again.

But all that time we spent crammed together in that van also created some of my favorite memories with my family. Like when my sister and I put on shows for the other cars on the highway. 

That was cool. 

Since this was the 1970s and we didn't all carry interactive screens everywhere, my sister and I entertained ourselves by reading, drawing or playing with toys in the van. Until my father caught us and exclaimed, "Look out the window! Who knows if you'll ever be driving by here again." 

So I looked out at the landscape, but not for long. Soon I was watching the other cars, with all the other bored people inside, and decided to entertain us all.

Photo of me with Legos, taken by my cousin*
I went to the back windows and opened my case, and my sister joined me. First we showed them all our toys, including what we made with our Legos. Then if the car was still behind us and the people seemed to be enjoying our show, we wrote out greetings on pieces of paper. And if I was sure my mother wasn't watching, I'd put pairs of underwear on my head to make them laugh.

I love imagining what these people thought, watching these girls waving at them from the back windows of their van, especially the one with the panties on her wild blond hair.

But my absolute favorite memories of that van were the times I got to crawl on top of it, into the wooden box my father built on its roof for extra storage space.

The box ran the length of the van and was several inches in height, so it could easily fit our whole family, let alone kid me. I was constantly begging my mother to let me ride up top, but she always said it was too dangerous for me to be up there unless the van was parked. Except for one trip to Yosemite, when she finally relented and said when my father was driving slowly inside the park near a famous redwood grove, I could ride up top.

I still remember how it felt to be lying there, looking up at the sky full of redwood trees and thinking I had the coolest dad in the world, who was always building cool things and letting us do fun things in the van.

(Another cool memory: My father and I listened to "The Catch" together on the radio while in his van.)

Even when we weren't on road trips, he made the van our playground. He'd drive off with the sliding door open, forcing us to chase after it and jump in if we didn't want to be left behind. Once inside, he let us lie on our bellies above the holes in the floor so we could watch the road fly by underneath. Even though I saw mostly just a blur of asphalt, I found it fascinating, and never considered that I could easily lose an eye if a big enough rock came flying up to hit it.

Because I always felt safe in that van. Even when we were driving in the middle of the night and I woke up in my sleeping bag with no idea where we were. But I didn't need to know, because my parents did. So I would just watch the trees and telephone poles flying overhead until I fell asleep again, knowing that it didn't matter where we were going, just that we were together.

And to this day, nearly 50 years later, my favorite vacations are in cars, especially the long road trips my husband and I take with the dog. Just me and my family on the road, creating new favorite memories.

Another cool tidbit: I recently learned that my mother's love for camping and road trips was nurtured by her own childhood, as my grandmother took her on many such adventures, including one epic journey to three national parks for my grandmother's 40th birthday.

*A little more on the photos in this post: They were taken by my 11-year-old cousin Kirsten, who was visiting the United States from Denmark for the first time with our grandfather in 1975, whom we called fa-fa, which means "father's father." Their trip is what inspired my father to build the box on the van's roof, as he knew we would need more room for suitcases and such. I had never seen her pictures from that trip until she sent them to me this week, and I am so grateful that she took them, and saved them all these years. That was very cool!

Friday, September 2, 2022

My Grandmother’s Journals: September, 1997

Grandma traveling in 1972.
In tiny notebooks, my grandmother wrote each day when she woke, where she ate breakfast, any movie she went to see, any mail and calls she received, then what she read and watched on TV before bed, where she seemed to struggle to sleep most nights. 

In 1997, she turned 82 while living alone in a mobile home park in Santa Cruz, Calif., but I wouldn't describe her as lonely. She was an extremely independent and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet. (I wrote more about her life in an earlier post.) 
 
Close to her home was the famous surfing spot called Pleasure Point, and she loved walking on the cliffs above the ocean and watching the surfers. When she died at 97 in 2013, I took her ashes to those waves with a friend of hers and we each dropped some at the sand. A moment after I dropped mine, a surfer emerged from the water where I stood.
 
That was cool. 
 
 
In September of 1997, she quietly turned 82 while watching plenty of tennis, baseball and football. At the end of the month, she drove down to Southern California to attend a reunion of people raised at the orphanage she grew up in, a Masonic Home in Covina, Calif.
 
 
Monday, Sept. 1, 1997
Jerry Rice out for year.
Driver of car containing Diana drunk? He “security” man. Real driver sent ahead as decoy.
McDonald’s, got Chicken sandwich.
Wrote Mina.
Tired. Heat is fatiguing.
TV: News, Poirot.
 
Tuesday, Sept. 2, 1997
Up  every 2 hours: 2-4-6. Up 8.
Took anti-freeze to dump, plastic bottles to Greybears.
Tennis: Chang, five sets! Both exhausted.
To Kmart, ate lunch.
 
Wednesday, Sept. 3, 1997
Laundromat.
Breakfast McDonald’s, sausage biscuit.
Home, Ronn Owens.
Longs, BP & Xerox. Man hogging machine.
Home, garbage cans being delivered.
TV: Tennis, X-Files. 
 
Thursday, Sept. 4, 1997
Ronn’s last day in London.
Walked East Cliff.
Longs, got diuretics. 
Home, forgot paper.
Gottschalk’s, got binder.
To Albertsons, bananas on sale.
Worked on taxes.
 
Friday, Sept. 5, 1997
Called Mina. Talks better with inhaler.
Mother Teresa died. Heart.
TLC arrived. He sat with me to watch Venus Williams.
Called Mina again, she pleased about Venus also.
Rested a bit, watched Diana’s funeral til 5 a.m. (Taped six+ hours)
 
Saturday, Sept. 6, 1997
To Longs. Got melon at Albertsons.
Swept some under couch.
To bank for balance.
TV: Tennis, women’s doubles.
Mail: Letter from Prudy.
More cleaning.
Slept good, tired.
 
Sunday, Sept. 7, 1997
Up 8, ate here. 
Back to sweeping, cleaned pebbles up.
Football: 49ers v. Rams, 15-12, surprise.
Tennis: Hingis, of course. Venus choked.
To McDonald’s on Ocean, got chicken san.
To show, “Career Girl.”
 
Monday, Sept. 8, 1997
Ate, got paper.
To OSH: Got Liquid Gold, Black Flag, Rust-oleum and brush.
Worked 10:30 to 1 p.m. (2 1/2 hours).
Tired.
Cleaned fridge.
TV: Poirot repeat.
Fertilized lawn.

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 1997
Awake 6. Quiet?
Took it easy. Shower, hair.
Longs, BP. McDonald’s, got salad.
Wrote TLC.
Watered lawn.
Burgess Meredith died, 89.
 
Wednesday, Sept. 10, 1997
To McDonald’s in mall for coffee.
Looked around Gottschalk’s.
Kmart, got chicken sand.
Painted stove hood, walrus.
TV: Geraldo, Law & Order, Star Trek Voyager, TNG.
 
Thursday, Sept. 11, 1997
Awake 6, back to sleep til 9. Static on radio.
Checked hood of stove and walrus, some spots redone.
Started on rose bush.
Kmart, BP. “Doctor” there.
Scotts Valley, ate at Chinese place. “Joe” TLC came in.
To show, “Men in Black.” Me alone
Home, ate. Worked on transplant: Got big Easter/Xmas plant in Big Pot.
TV: X-Files. Read a bit.

Friday, Sept. 12, 1997 [Her 82nd birthday]
Worked on transplant to big pot, 9:30 to 11.
Fog in am, hot later.
Gottschalk’s, looked for brown to wear with brown. Nothing.
Kmart, found ecru. Ate lunch.
Home, neighbor helped with plant hole.
TV: X-Files, JAG!
Baseball: Giants won, Dodgers lost.
 
Saturday, Sept. 13, 1997
Read until 3:45 a.m. Slept until 9.
Longs, BP high. Got tuna.
To Burger King in mall. Mervyn’s, got denim.
To video store, got 3 videos: Bull Durham, Stargate, Crying Game.
Read papers, more work on yard.
Ran more of Diana’s funeral. 

Sunday, Sept. 14, 1997
Walked cliff. Extraordinarily lovely day.
Home, watched “I Married a Witch,” Veronica Lake.
Football: 49ers v. Saints. 33-7.
To OSH, got flowers. Planted pansies.
Talked to Mary. 
Ran “Stargate.”

Monday, Sept. 15, 1997
Planted patients. 
To Longs, BP. Got beige watch, TV Guide, canned fruit.
Walked cliff, 45 minutes. 
Vitamin Center, got tea + ginko.
Football: Phila vs. Dallas. Phila ahead, blew it.
 
Tuesday, Sept. 16, 1997
Kmart, BP, ate chicken sandwich.
Home, ran tape of Ally MacBeal, sitcom, lawyers.
Dodgers vs. St. Louis. Eckersly on in 9th, but Dodgers got runs off him he out.
Dodger Radinsky, rock band.
TV: Frasier, X-Files. Washed clothes.
 
Wednesday, Sept. 17, 1997
Walked cliff. 
Longs, BP.
Vacuumed, bedroom walls good, other rooms casual.
Started “The Crying Game.”
TV: Geraldo, more “debris” in Paris tunnel, Fiat taillight broken.
TV: Star Trek TNG.
No sleep until 2 a.m.!
 
Friday, Sept. 19, 1997
Watered east side.
Larry searching his garbage.
Thirft shop, bought purse $.69.
To Goodwill, bought blouse, $1.95.
Hot.
Wrote Mina & Prudy, took to post office.
Watered west lawn.
Ellie may have bed delivered. Medicare pays rent. 

Saturday, Sept. 20, 1997
Breakfast Kmart, got pillowcase, two shoe racks.
Very warm.
Home, wrote checks, read papers.
Baseball: Giants lost to Padres, Dodgers lost to Rockies.
Packaged 16 days of vitamins.
Couldn't sleep.
 
Sunday, Sept. 21, 1997
Tea 8:30. Up 9.
Called Pearl.
Walked on cliff.
Foned Mina.
Tennis: Sampras, Chang won.
Mina called back, I called her. Talked 1/2 hour. 
Tea. Slept good.

Monday, Sept. 22, 1997
Lunch at Jacks. Turkey burger.
To show, “L.A. Confidential.” Cops beat people. Much killing. 2 1/2 hours.
Got card for seamstress from Ample Annie.
TV: Part of new show “Brooklyn South.” Obnoxious woman named “Yvonne.”
Had sleep tea, no work. No sleep til almost 4 a.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 23, 1997
Walked on cliff.
Longs, BP, TV Guide, gum.
Trader Joe’s, got cereal, aloe, gingko, salad.
To be hot today!
To Kmart, ate pecan pie and ice cream!
Took melatonin, slept good.
 
Wednesday, Sept. 24, 1997
Awake 7:15. Tea, cereal.
Longs, BP.
Wherehouse, no “Candle.” To Blockbuster, got two cassettes.
Home, cleaned car, some packing.
Called Justine. Machine clicked off.
Spoke to Larry.
Called Justine again, she answered.
Baseball: Giants won today, Dodgers lost.
No sleep. Radio, Art Bell re: black hole.
 
Thursday, Sept. 25, 1997
Up 8:30. Longs, BP paper.
To Santa Maria Motel 6. Rest area 1:30 to 2.
Swam in pool 1 hour. Met two men from WWII.
Were in Phillipines. One graduated college in 1931, high school 1933.
Ate sandwich, went to Betteravia. [Betteravia is the road in Santa Maria on which my mother was killed in a car crash.]
To Seal Beach, inundated. Coastal waves high.

Friday, Sept. 26, 1997
Good sleep, awake 6.
Checked oil, water, left 10:30.
Got gasoline, probably 40 miles to galloon.
Rest area Gaviota 15 mins, Santa Claus 1/2 hour, than all on I-5 to Fullerton.

Saturday, Sept. 27, 1997
Hot. Up 8, to Balboa.
Walked on pier, sat with Pearl. John Mark there, Dorothy Short, D. Poole.
To Fullerton 5 p.m.
Watched Bull Durham, read a bit.
Baseball: Giants won division.

Sunday, Sept. 28, 1997
Breakfast at Pollys. Listed thrift shops.
Left for Covina noon, arrived about 12:30. Very hot.
Signed in, talked to Pearl, Orin. Dorothy lives in Ojai. May visit?
Back  3 p.m., almost had accident: Van tried to pull into stop-go traffic, I hit brakes and skidded, near accident.
To Mina’s 4:45, talked, ate avocado, carrots.
TV: 60 Minutes, Siskel & Ebert.
Crossword puzzle,  read.

Monday,  Sept. 29, 1997
Up 8, talked. 
To McDonald’s, got coffee, decaf. $.57
To Goodwill, thrift stores. Got blouse.
Back to Mina’s, talked, Another hot dog.
Football: 49ers beat Panthers.
Watched Diana's funeral, science program.

Tuesday, Sept. 30, 1997
Tea, cereal, left 9:45. Mina not well.
Stopped 11:30 at McDonald’s 
Rest 2 p.m. in Buellton. Got Sobe drink.
Satna Cruz 6:45, nine hours. 
410 miles today, trip 980 miles.
 

How a chance encounter at the dog park led to a 10-year love affair — for my dog!

Sweet and happy Simon on a walk.
I had no intention of going into the dog park the day we met Simon. Still a brand-new dog owner who was nervous about everything, I was especially afraid of letting my completely untrained, 60-pound tornado off her leash anywhere in public, even inside a securely fenced area.

But as I tried to walk past the park, a sweet-looking dog ran up to the fence. Though he was very interested in meeting my dog, and she was just as interested in meeting him, I tried to remain outside. I told his owner all my fears, but she just smiled them off, assuring me everything would be fine — and something about Noreen convinced me to take Ripley inside to play with Simon.

That was not only cool, but one of the coolest things ever. Because we all fell in love that day: The dogs with each other, the humans with watching them play.

Immediately, Simon and Ripley began wrestling and chasing each other like they were already the best of friends. And they stayed the best of friends for the next 10 years.

The day Simon and Ripley met.
They bonded so well because they were both about a year old, and both herding dog mixes: Ripley a blend of German and McNab Shepherds, and Simon a cattle dog mixed with lab. 

Herding dogs can play fast and rough, often intimidating other dogs who don’t like to be chased, corralled or even nipped, but Simon and Ripley got along so well that his owner Noreen and I began meeting regularly at the dog park so they could play. 

Soon the dogs invented their own game we called The Ball Game. Simon would lie down with a tennis ball in his mouth, then Ripley would lie down next to him and try to pull the ball out. Simon would growl playfully, his stumpy tail wagging, as the dogs pulled on the ball, their heads bobbing back and forth. As the game progressed, Simon would lie on his back to give Ripley better access to the ball, while still keeping it firmly in his mouth.

When Noreen and I learned we lived only two blocks from each other, we started hosting play dates in our back yards, where the dogs were free to run, wrestle and play the Ball Game without interruption from other dogs. Sometimes Ripley would get the ball out, but most of the time the dogs were happy just to lie there together, “making out,” for as long as us humans wanted to watch.

Over the next ten years, Noreen and I walked our dogs together many times a week, so Simon and Ripley enjoyed hundreds of evening strolls together. We also traded pet-sitting duties, with her making many a road trip possible for my husband and me because of her volunteering to check on our cats. And those are just some of the countless good things created by that first play session in November of 2012.

Sad-but-happy update: I’m sad to report that Noreen died in early 2022 of cancer, but I am also happy to report that her daughter quickly found Simon another home. One of her friends in Oregon has a small child, and wanted to adopt an older dog like Simon who was calm and already trained.

I miss both Noreen and Simon, and am very sad that Ripley and Simon don’t get to see each other anymore. But I am so grateful for all the time we got to spend together, and cannot thank Noreen enough for convincing me to go into the dog park that first day. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

My Gratitude Journal: “I'm grateful for my cat, green olives, baking soda, photographs”

More entries from the Gratitude Journal I started keeping after my college graduation:

January 24, 2997

I forgot yesterday, and even though I just cried my eyes out and soaked my pillow, here it is:

1.  I’m grateful S didn’t yell at me, not really.
 
2. I’m grateful N and her boyfriend didn’t come back.
 
3. I’m grateful it’s artichoke season, and I got some damn good ones.
 
4. I’m grateful that I have the house to myself, so I can sob as loudly as I want.
 
5. Again, I’m grateful for music, for a good song and dancing can usually make me forget about anything.
 
6. I’m grateful that I don’t have to work with him anymore, because I just can’t help myself.
 
February 18, 1997

1. I’m grateful for books like “The Bean Trees” that I can escape into time and again.
 
2. I’m grateful for all the Texas sheet cake that Karen’s mom sends her home with.
 
3. I’m grateful that I had the balls to call Vallejo.
 
4. I’m grateful that J convinced me to call.
 
5. I’m grateful that I actually have a place like M & M’s to go to, even if it is reluctantly.
 
6. I’m grateful for purple, flowery skirts and that I have nice legs. Thanks, mom.
 
February 23, 1997

1. Once again, I’m grateful for music, and songs like “Crash” by The Dave Matthews Band, that can articulate and begin feelings inexpressible.
 
2. I’m grateful I still live near the ocean so I can watch the waves and be calmed, cleaned.
 
3. I’m grateful for my cat, someone warm to love and cuddle up with every night.
 
4. I’m grateful for green olives, so good and salty and spicy.
 
5. I’m grateful for baking soda, it’s cheap and good for so many things, like easing heartburn from drinking spicy Bloody Mary mix late at night.
 
6. I’m grateful for pictures. What would our world be without them? What is our world like because of them? What if we couldn’t look at the faces of loved ones gone again?
Would we forget our lives? How would we show each other our past? That’s who they’re for — to communicate to others who weren’t there. It is an invaluable form of communication, showing images that would otherwise only exist in the minds of those who saw it, and how do you impart that information?
 
Some of my favorite photographs were taken by my friend Nathan, who discovered his love of traveling and taking pictures after meeting his father and taking road trips together

Monday, August 1, 2022

My Grandmother's Journals: August, 1997

My grandmother in Toledo, Spain, 1968.
My grandmother kept track of her days in tiny notebooks, writing down when she woke up, what she ate, what movies she went to see and what she watched on TV, which was a lot of news, sports and Star Trek.
 
In August of 1997 at 81, she was exchanging letters and phone calls weekly with Mina, a woman she met while both were being raised in a Masonic home in Covina, Calif., while still battling ants in her kitchen and fretting about having to take a test to renew her driver's license. 
 
Unfortunately, she was also still avoiding the donut shop where she had befriended the owners and most of the other regulars. More on that in the July entries.

Friday, Aug. 1, 1997
Walked on West Cliff.
To Longs for BP, paper.
McDonald's, got coffee & muffin (mall).
To Credit Union, put $5,000 in CD for 3 years, 6.5%
Forgot rent. She leaves at 3 p.m.
TV: Star Trek, TNG.

Saturday, Aug. 2, 1997
Up 7:30, tea.
Called Mina, talked 1 hour. She stopped taking blood thinner.
Wrote more of letter, sent article on HMO.
To Longs, BP, paper.
To library, got video: “When the Cat’s Away.” Some fun, but main girl dumb.
Home, lawn. Read papers.

Sunday, Aug. 3, 1997
Tennis.
Put up new shades on two windows. First goofed, second no problem.
TV: Dodgers vs. Cubs, some 60 Minutes, X-Files, La Femme Nikita.
 
Monday, Aug. 4, 1997
Call at 3:33 a.m. Did not answer.
Not best sleep. Sun bright.
Cleaned kitchen sinks with Pine-Sol, hope keeps ants away.
Longs, paper & BP.
Safeway, corn, zucchini, forgot deodorant spray.
Put up two more shades , then vacuumed some walls and floor. Moved bookcase in bedroom, swapped TV and shoes.
TV: News, Poirot, Miss Marple, Suddenly Susan, Cybill, TNG.
Full day.

Tuesday, Aug. 5, 1997
Up 8. Tea.
Some cobweb cleaning. Watered lawn.
Shower, hair.
To Longs 11:45, Vibol in parking lot. Said hello.
Got Osteo check at Longs, 30% down on bone mass.
Ran Morse tape, Law & Order new to me.
 
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 1997
Up 8:30. Radio static. To Myra’s, tried radio.
Some housework.
To Longs, got cans of Mandarin oranges.
To Wherehouse, got two videos.
To library, read on Osteo.
To “English Patient” again.
To market, got a few nectarines and peaches.
Ran “Lost Boys.” Loud. 
Bed, no sleep til 2 a.m.

Saturday, Aug. 9, 1997
Tea, cereal here.
Walked on East Cliff, some high waves.
Longs, BP, etc.
To Gembrokers, appraisal. Nice man.
Got fish and chips!!
TV: 49ers over Seahawks.
French, news, Faulty Towers.
 
Sunday, Aug. 10, 1997
Up 8:30. No electric blanket. Radio static. 
Walked, many in surf, parking lot full.
Tennis: Sampras, Seles won.
Some golf, wrote letters.
TV: News, Siskel & Ebert, Silk Stalkings.
 
Monday, Aug. 11, 1997
Wrote checks for girls.
Longs, BP. Bank, post office.
Planted Lobellia and Forget-me-nots.
Talked to Margaret.
Warm. Larry cut Myra’s grass. Cutters came same day, swept.
TV: News, Poirot, Marple, Cybill, TNG.
Sleep 11:30-1:45-3:30-7:30
 
Tuesday, Aug. 12, 1997
Watered lawn with fertilizer.
Ronn in LA, good talk.
Shower, hair.
Longs, BP.
To show, “George of the Jungle.” Some fun.
Home, washed white curtains.
Mary to Marie Callender’s. Soup, pie.
Home, ironed curtains.
TV: Morse, Law & Order. Fraiser, TNG. Only watched 1/2 hour, tired.
 
Wednesday, Aug. 13, 1997
Slept 10:30-1:30-3:30-6:30.
Radio, tea, cereal. Ronn controversial.
Washed middle room windows, put up curtains. 
Kmart, checked BP, got chicken sandwich. Gave boy seven cents.
Got ankle hose, TV Guide.
Mail: Letter from Mina.
TV: News, Dodgers lost, Giants lost.
Star Trek Voyager, TNG.
 
Thursday, Aug. 14, 1997
Slept good.
Washed car & hosed west side of mobile home.
Longs, BP, then Albertsons and Trader Joe’s, got ginko for Mina.
Home, golf. To bank to deposit Mina’s check, $14.81.
DMV, made appt for license. 
TV: News, some Benny Goodman program.

Friday, Aug. 15, 1997
Next door yelling at 7 a.m.
Up 9:05, tea.
Golf, Tiger to start at 10.
To Longs, BP, got Kleenex and muffins.
Mall, looked for “Polish cloth.” Got scarf, black hat, purse.
Paper, crossword.
News at 11, UPS scandal.
 
Saturday, Aug. 16, 1997
Not good sleep.
Longs, BP + paper.
Home, message from Carol. Sentinel has article on Vibol.
Golf: Tiger not putting good, anxious.
Kmart, got wipes and dish soap.
To show, “Shall we Dance?”
Sears, got coin purse. Almost got purse.
Library, got 3 videos. 

Sunday, Aug. 17, 1997
Up 8, golf.
To Albertsons, got lettuce, peaches.
Called Carol to thank her for calling yesterday. She getting ready for art showing.
TV: “Great Moments of Opera,” checked 60 Minutes. 
To Trader Joe’s, more fish.
Not good sleep, Larry up calling, "Kitty."
 
Monday, Aug. 18, 1997
Awake 7, up 9. Ronn had psychic.
Longs, BP, Valerian, cayenne/garlic.
Wrote Mimi, Mina.
Football: 49ers lost to Jacksonville.
Saw MIR pass over 9:29 p.m., moon bright.
 
Tuesday, Aug. 19, 1997
Up 9, ate here. 
Some chores, watered lawns.
Shower, hair.
To show, “Conspiracy Theory.” Good, Mel Gibson gives good performance. Patrick Stewart is “bad” man. Show long.
TV: Taped Mad About You, Frasier. Watched X-Files rerun.
Bed, news, Letterman.

Wednesday, Aug. 20, 1997
Awake 7, up 9:40. Slept again.
Tea, walked. Felt dull.
To Longs, BP out of order.
To DMV. Passed written, but eye test difficult.
To Kmart, ice cream.

Thursday, Aug. 21, 1997
Worked in yard. Put plastic green between Larry and me.
Longs, BP still out of order.
To Beacon to put air in tires.
To Kmart, ate lunch, got “Gum-out.”
Two hours to write letter to Prudy, big, sent Justine's card.

Sunday, Aug. 24, 1997
Up 8:30. Breakfast McDonald’s!
BP at Longs.
Walked on East Cliff. 
Hot today. Beautiful day!
TV: 60 Minutes, part of “Man Without a Face.”
Bed late!
 
Monday, Aug. 25, 1997
Up 7:30, watered lawn. Some chores.
To Longs, BP low. Got TV Guide, fruit.
To McDonald's, had decaf and muffin.
To Kmart, got gas and BP.
Looked for cardboard box, changed car box -- oil, etc. -- into new box.
Cleaned shelves a bit, took to dump.
Bed 10:30, tired.

Tuesday, Aug. 26, 1997
Awake 5, back to sleep. Up 9.
Tea, cereal, walked.
Wrote girls re no deposit 9/1.
To post office, got stamps.
To Trader Joe's, got sorbet.
TV: Tennis, NOVA, Frasier, TNG.
Read paper.

Wednesday, Aug. 27, 1997
Good sleep.
Up 7:15, awake 6.
Checked oil, talked to Eloise.
Breakfast Kmart.
Justine called, changed number.
Changed pots and plants around.
Larry home, talked a bit.
TV: More tennis, TNG.

Thursday, Aug. 28, 1997
Watered back, weeded.
Tennis rain delay.
Longs BP out of order again!
To mall, Lily there. Eye trouble, growth on nose. Will not have it removed.
Gottschalk’s, sale on: Got denims, matching top.
To library, returned videos.
To show, “Mrs. Brown.” Good, need to know history!
TV: Tennis, Diagnosis Murder, TNG. 
11 news: Dog who sniffs termites!
 
Friday, Aug. 29, 1997
Rent Monday!
Up 8:30, ate here, low-fat muffin.
Longs BP OK.
Home 2 p.m. News, typed report of arthritis.
TV: Tennis, Dodgers vs A’s. Dodgers won in 10th inning. 5-4.
 
Saturday, Aug. 30, 1997
Breakfast Egg McMuffin.
Walked East Cliff 9 - 9:15.
Checked Thrifty for purses, none.
Longs, BP out of order.
To Kmart for eggs, ham, muffin.
News: Princess Diana killed in car accident in Paris, in Tunnel Pont de Alma. Chauffeur also killed. Watched TV til 1 a.m. Radio also.

Sunday, Aug. 31, 1997
Rent tomorrow.
Awake 7 a.m., up 8:30.
Radio a bit. 
Tennis: Seles won, Venus Williams won, Agassi won.
Changed coolant, watered lawn. Talked to Eloise next-door.
TV: 60 Minutes devoted to Diana, car traveling in excess of 100 mph.
 
More on my grandmother: In 1997, she was living alone in a mobile home park in Santa Cruz, Calif., but I wouldn't describe her as lonely. She was an extremely independent and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet. (I wrote more about her life in an earlier post.)  


Sunday, July 17, 2022

Trying the first Macintosh computer? Ecstasy. Getting a new iPhone? Agony

Something amazing happened when I went to get a new phone last year: I didn’t buy one, because instead of pressuring me to spend a bunch of money, the salesperson helped me keep my old phone running a bit longer.

That was cool. 

Because I didn’t want a new phone. I still loved my old one, an iPhone 5 that works just fine, thank you very much. Fine, that is, until the “Home” key gave out, making the phone so frustrating to use that even I had to admit it was time to replace it.

Why so reluctant? Because I am no longer that girl who fell in love with the first Macintosh computer my father brought home in the 1980s. Back then I was a teenager, so I hopped on the newfangled Mouse like it was a magic carpet.

But four decades later, learning new technology no longer feels like soaring to new heights — it’s more like making a wrong turn out of your quiet neighborhood and onto a busy freeway, suddenly becoming a panicked tourist, lost and in the way.

Like in Chicago when I tried to buy a train pass at the station near my hotel. After many agonizing minutes of hogging a ticket machine to no avail, an employee finally appeared to explain I couldn’t buy what I needed there and pointed me to a drugstore across the huge, busy intersection.

Frantically memorizing all the street signs and praying I could get back to the train station once I got my ticket, I stepped off the curb. And when I bought the pass, found the station again and boarded the right train, I swelled with the pride of accomplishment as I looked out the window at the tall buildings of Chicago’s famous Loop, finally seeing in person what I had admired in movies and on television.

Moments like those are why we travel: We dive into the agony of the unknown because we know the ecstasy of resurfacing, now stronger and smarter than we were before.

But I’ve reached an age where I’m starting to fear I may never be any stronger or smarter than I am right now. And instead of swelling with pride when I regain control, I’m usually sweating from the knowledge that I barely escaped with most of my dignity intact, and that next time I will have even less to spare.

Like the morning in Montana I had a meltdown just trying to get breakfast. Hungry and frazzled, I spilled some of the greens I was collecting at a grocery store hot food bar and became so overwhelmed by the annoyed regulars surrounding me that I began to cry. Picking up as much of my mess as I could, I escaped to the yogurt aisle and pretended to study the labels for several minutes until I was ready to try again.

I finally did gather my food, but back in the car I was humiliated instead of happy, feeling weaker instead of stronger. This is learning new technology now: The agony of travel you didn’t choose, with no ecstasy reward afterward.

Because instead of teenage me riding the Macintosh magic carpet, I am now my mother, stuck in traffic and needing her teenager’s help at every turn. And even worse? I am that middle-aged woman without even an impatient daughter to help her navigate. 

That’s why it was so cool when I first tried to get a new phone, I was helped by a young woman who was far more patient than my mother’s daughter ever was. 

“Most people choose that plan,” she said, steering me away from the most expensive plan I was pointing at. Once the paperwork was done, she brought out my new phone and picked up my old phone to complete the transfer.

“Yeah, that doesn’t work anymore,” I said when she tried the Home key. “That’s why I’m here.”

But she had a magic wand. With a few swipes she put a “virtual home key” on the screen and quickly accessed anything she wanted. I was astounded. Is that really all I needed? 

She handed me her tablet with my new contract, but I couldn’t sign. I just kept staring at my old phone, which now really did work just fine. 

I took a deep breath. “Is it too late to back out? I... I didn’t want to give up my old phone.”

“Of course not,” she said, barely hesitating before accepting my wishes and deleting my contract.

“How much longer do you think this phone will last?” I said. 

“Probably a long time,” she said. “It’s the Home key that usually gives out on those.”

“I guess a just needed a young person in my life,” I said, my cheeks flushed from both embarrassment and relief as I left without a new phone I didn’t want to buy, and without being chained to a three-year contract I didn’t want to sign.

Soon I learned just how kind that young lady was when I finally did get a new phone a few months later. To avoid signing a service contract, I did not return to the store where she worked and instead went to a large retailer I trusted where I could buy my phone outright.

Everything about the second salesperson there was the opposite of the first: She had pointed me to a cheaper plan, he pushed me again and again to the most expensive one. And whenever I asked questions, he bristled before giving me incomplete or false information.

When I asked if the phone would connect with my old laptop, he said it would, but it didn’t. He told me I needed to buy another power brick because the new phone didn’t come with one and I couldn’t charge it with my old cords. Not true: After buying a new power brick, I found that all my old cords worked just fine on my new phone.

Perhaps the worst lie he told was that he had spelled my name correctly. Knowing that so many people struggle to spell my Danish surname, I insisted he make sure he got it right on my email before my contract was completed. He reluctantly checked, then assured me he spelled it correctly.

But before even leaving the store, I got an alert on my new phone telling me that the email on my account had been changed. Thinking my account had already been hacked, I called customer service as soon as I got home and sat on hold for 30 minutes only to learn that the change was because the salesman had indeed spelled my name incorrectly. And instead of admitting it, he lied and changed it, prompting my frantic call to customer service.

Correction: I didn’t need just any young person in my life, I needed a kind young person in my life!

Happy update: Now that I’ve regained most of my dignity, I am pleased to report that this old gal can still learn new tricks: Like how when taking a photo, if you keep your finger on the screen it will begin taking video automatically. 

This feature is great if you’re taking a photo of a bird which suddenly starts flying, but I especially love it because I not only discovered it myself, but was able to teach it to a younger friend, a professional photographer who is usually showing me how to use my phone.

And he captured my proud moment on video: