xmlns:og>='http://ogp.me/ns#'> Pedals & Pencils: March 2009

March 15, 2009

If The Trailer's A Rockin', Don't Go A Knockin'

I do not embarrass easily.  Spinach in my teeth doesn't phase me.  Tripping and falling in front of a large group of people?  That's just a regular Tuesday.  I am the girl who once accidentally called the HR director a nasty name before begging for a job.  I am the girl who walked around a cruise ship with a huge hole in the seat of my pants.  Not to mention The Garage Incident.  I find myself in embarrassing situations all the time and have thus built up a sort of superhuman tolerance to mortification.  Having said that, the situation I found myself in last Sunday embarrassed me to a such a degree that I hesitated writing about it because it still makes my face turn a sweaty crimson.

Last Sunday was Daylight Savings Time.  (Incidentally, did you know that even though Arizona does not recognize DST, the Navajo nation living in Arizona switch their clocks with the rest of us?  Odd and confusing.)  Anyway, on the morning of Spring Forward, I thought to myself What better way to celebrate an hour less of insomnia than heading out on The Rocket for a beautiful bike ride? Three of my friends met at my house and we set out.  What I mean by 'we set out' is the three of them were way faster than I was and I watched their backsides pedal away from me as I grew increasingly bitter.  I was especially irritated since one of them hasn't ridden his bike in months.  During the occasional seconds he was actually riding next to me, I told him I was going to push him over.  I think he thought I was kidding.  Or maybe he knew I was serious because he never came within arms length.

It really was a beautiful day.  Crisp, dry and not a hint of wind.  Just about as perfect as a day can get.  We rode out towards Shasta Dam and took the turn that makes the climb to the Dam harder, longer, and much more scenic.  Of course my three friends were much faster at climbing than I was.  I was slogging uphill at around five miles an hour.  I have ridden this hill several times this year.  I know this hill well.  Even when my heart threatens to pound straight out my throat and when my quads are on fire, I know I can beat it.  In fact, I've ridden this hill enough times to say that I actually like it.  I like the challenge.  I like pushing myself when my body wants to quit.  And I like how beautiful the views of Redding are from up there.

I had my lone earbud in and Bruce Springsteen's Secret Garden was the perfect soundtrack for the morning.  Go ahead and make fun, I love that song.  Aside from two cars that passed me on the beginning of the hill and a descending hiker, I had the whole climb to myself.  As I turned a corner, I looked down on Redding, still half asleep and hushed.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to enjoy nature at her fullest.  So, I abandoned Bruce for the sounds of nature around me.  Birds chattered somewhere in the bushes.  There wasn't even a whisper of wind.  It was serene.

As I continued around another corner I saw a truck with a camper in tow pulled over on the other side of the road.  From the camp chair outside the trailer it looked like they'd set up camp right there on the side of the road.  Who could blame them?  The view really is that pretty.  I pedaled closer.  Wait, is that trailer rocking?  No, it can't be.  There isn't even any wind.  Weird.  It must be on unstable ground or something. Oh, I am so naive.  I pedaled further up the hill and unfortunately closer to the trailer.  Oh, man it's definitely rocking.  Oh no, it's rocking harder. At this point I'd figured out what was most likely going on in the trailer, but I couldn't turn around and go back downhill because my three fast friends were waiting for me at the Dam.  Curses for being so slow.

I tucked my head down and tried to pedal faster, but I was already going as fast as I could.  It's a three mile hill for goodness sake.  I couldn't sprint up this thing.  With the trailer just ahead of me, I began to hear what was going on inside it.  This may come as a surprise, but camper walls aren't very thick.  I am so not into other people's intimate moments.  Movie sex scenes make me squeamish, no matter how "tasteful and artistic" they are.  I just don't want to see or hear that.

When Terry and I were newlyweds, we moved into an apartment across a courtyard from The Screamer.  She often combined alcohol and marital bliss.  The Screamer would scream so loudly that the entirety of the complex would come out in droves to yell back at her.  Some people would even bang on pots and pans to drown out her enthusiasm.  Terry and I would close the windows and tuck our heads under our pillows.  Needless to say, we didn't live there long.

So, there I was chugging uphill.  No window to close.  No pillow to muffle out the sounds.  I shoved my single earbud back in, but even Christina Aguilera's pipes couldn't compete with the Rock of Love Trailer.  I pushed harder and The Rocket responded by increasing to a whopping 5.7 miles an hour.  I began to sing along with Christina.  The noises grew louder.  My stomach began to churn.  My already sweaty face filled with a deeper flush.  I sang louder, pedaled harder, and fought back the heat threatening to erupt from my stomach.

Just as I became parallel to the trailer, the occupants inside reached their crescendo.  I was way too close.  I needed a brain scrubber stat.  Think about puppies.  Think about your grocery list.  Think about your favorite movie.  Think about any movie.  Think of something.  Think of anything else other than the fact that you are trapped in someone else's private time.  Then it came to me.  The Forrest Gump prayer. Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away.  Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away. Over and over it was my mantra until I passed the trailer.  The noises ceased and I didn't look back.

Earlier in the morning I'd pondered What better way to celebrate an hour less of insomnia than heading out on The Rocket for a beautiful bike ride? Well, I guess I got my answer.

March 6, 2009

The Agony of Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is one of the most torturous things I can think of.  I am a college graduate and a teacher for goodness sake, and I can't seem to construct a grocery list that actually contains everything I need.  How is it that the milk in my fridge is always expired and yet I can't seem to remember to add it to the list?  Well, today I made the dreaded pilgrimage to the grocery store, and although I eat a banana every morning and my fruit bowl currently contains exactly zero bananas, I managed to look straight at the mound of bananas at the store and pass right by them.   I swear, my mind is a desert.

I can't stand being in the grocery store.  The florescent lights make my eyes itch.  The muzak oozing from some unseen speaker in the ceiling makes my ears want to curl up inside themselves.  And don't even get me started on the fact that some people think it's perfectly acceptable to grocery shop in pajamas.  It's not.  No, I don't care how cute your pajamas are.  The whole thing makes me want to grind my teeth and pray for Armageddon to come swiftly.

I recognize that this is an irrational response to an otherwise benign life task, so I've developed some coping strategies.  First of all, I take my phone and headphones so I can listen to soothing music.  It's hard to be angry listening to Jack Johnson.  In fact, I think it's impossible.

I'm a big believer in the idea that I reap what I sow, so I smile at everyone.  I smile at the children throwing tantrums in the aisle.  I smile because they are not mine.  I smile at elderly people checking fiber content while their cart blockades all other cart traffic.  I smile because someday I'll be that person searching for the cereal that delivers a colon punching twenty five grams of fiber per serving.  I smile at people catching up with long lost friends directly in front of the ice cream freezer.  I smile because there are a lot of people I'd like to bump into at the store.  Ok, not a lot.  Mostly I'd just like to bump into Taye Diggs.  That is one beeyootiful man.  I digress.

In addition to all the smiling and hunting for Taye Diggs around every corner, I share the gift of tall.  Being a six foot tall woman has it's disadvantages.  I can't ever find pants that are long enough and every dress is a cocktail dress.  However, in the grocery store I am queen.  I can reach the most tippy top boxes on the top shelf without even fully extending my arm.  This means women with the gift of short ask me to reach things on the top shelf.  I am happy to help, but somehow I think if I asked them to reach something for me on the bottom shelf, it wouldn't end well.

The last facet of my grocery store sainthood involves random lost children asking me to help them find their mommies.  About once a month, a little kid wanders over to me, eyes red from crying and asks me for help.  We look up and down a few aisles and I easily spot the frantic mother careening through the store looking for her lost little one.  I don't know how these kids know I'm a safe stranger, but I'm glad they do.  Maybe it's some internal awareness.  Or maybe they can hear Jack Johnson.

Well folks, finally all of my grocery store niceness paid off.  I went to the self check station.  Another coping strategy.  I'm really bad at making small talk with the checkers.  I get nervous and then say something that embarrasses one or both of us.  Plus I'm convinced that they're judging my based on the items in my cart.

Today I enjoyed the blip, blip, blip of scanning my items at the judgement free self check register and loaded my bags into my car.  When I grabbed my big green purse, I realized that I'd accidentally hidden an avocado behind it.  I didn't pay for the avocado.  After calling myself a dirty thief, I marched the avocado back to the check stand.  I explained that I'd accidentally taken it without paying for it.  The manager of the store simply said "Don't worry about it.  Have a nice day."  I thought to myself Look at that, a free avocado.  Maybe grocery shopping isn't so bad after all. Then I took my prize avocado and bolted out the door before the muzak could bleed into my brain.