Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cardinal Sins

I was approached in the parking lot outside of my work this week by a short man wearing a faded baseball cap. His voice was effeminate and his shyness was nonexistent. I was leaving work for the day, and all I wanted to do was get in my car and drive home. I had a twenty five mile commute from South Sarasota to Northwest Bradenton to make, and this tiny roadblock was not welcomed.

He was standing over by the retention pond about 50 yards from me as I made a beeline for my car door. He saw me, and walked at an angle so he would meet me at my vehicular destination. I tried not to make eye contact with him, but he didn't seem to care. Once he was within lisping distance, he called out to me.

He said, “Hey, do you live around here?”

I replied, “No, I live down in Bradenton.”

“Don't you mean up in Bradenton?”, He said.

I hated him even more for correcting me. First, he was interrupting my getting home and out of my work clothes, and now he was telling me how to talk. He obviously needed some information from me, and this was his way of opening that dialogue. He was not winning any hearts or minds.

He continued, “Well, I rent a room in a house down the street, and I was hoping you knew of someone else that might be looking for a roommate or had a room for rent in their house. The people who live in the house with me have a lifestyle that I don't approve of.”

What I wanted to say was, “No, and I wouldn't recommend you to any of my friends or acquaintances anyway. I don't think they would want to share a home with someone who ends their sentences with a preposition.” I wanted to correct his misuse of language too, but I feared that would elongate our encounter, and only continue to keep me away from the tall glass of vodka and cranberry that my parched palate was requesting.

What I did say was, “No.”

I'm not sure if he sensed my increasing frustration with him, or if this actually happened, but what he said next abruptly ended our conversation.

He said, “Oh, I gotta go. A cardinal just flew into my car.”

Wait, what? I was happy that the distance between our beings was increasing, and that I was released from the prison that was our interaction. However, I was not sure what the hell just happened. I have ended most of my conversations with random strangers with a quick, “Goodbye”, “No thanks”, or “Sorry I don't have any spare change.” But never in my life had one ended with “A cardinal just flew into my car.”

The tiny stranger flew off toward his black Pontiac Solstice, and paid me no further attention. I didn't stick around to see how everything worked out. I just got into my bird-free automobile, and headed home.

During my thirty minute drive, I thought about that tiny man and his housing predicament. I wondered how he ended up renting a room with other strangers in a house where one's lifestyle is evident to the other. Most of the rented housing situations of which I am aware involved separate entryways with lockable doors and very little communal space. This fella was obviously in a different position.

I also wondered what kind of lifestyle his roommates had that offended him so badly that he would lurk by a retention pond waiting to ask random strangers if they knew of any rooms for rent? I know I shouldn't judge him based on his effeminate speech pattern, but I did. I generally associate that with gay men, so I can only assume that the lifestyle he spoke of was not the alternative type. It had to be something else.

Is it possible that this bird story was the first thing that came to his mind when he wanted to sever our conversation? Is it also possible that it was a Freudian situation, and his obsession with birds was what caused that to be his first choice of excusing himself? I can only assume that had to be the case.

This tiny lisping gentleman was obviously a down-on-his-luck and out of work bird watcher (or birder as they like to be called now). Hence his lurking by the pond. That area was well known by the people in my office for having a raft of ducks, a family of Sand Hill Cranes, and an occasional Spoonbill or two. He wasn't lurking, he was observing. How could I be so judgmental?

His love of birds was matched only by his hate for his roommates. They were most certainly a gaggle of duck detesting, lark loathing, heron hating, pelican punching, skimmer scorners. And this avian enthusiast wanted nothing to do with them! I now understand his need to find a new domicile to rest his hat-covered head. He could not stand to spend one more night fluffing his feather pillow and tucking himself into bed beneath his down comforter (which by the way would be way too hot to use in Florida).

I felt sorry for him, and I wished I knew of a place where he could stay. Somewhere far away from those awful people. I also knew that he would eventually find someone that will take him into their home, or rent a room to him over their garage. Someplace where he can nestle in, and hang his collection of watercolor paintings of water birds and other feathered subjects. I just hope that place is up there in Sarasota, and nowhere near me.

I've always wanted to end a story with a little "Free Bird."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Planned Parent...

I was invited to an event that was being labeled “Half Thanksgiving.” The real Thanksgiving was approximately six months away, so the moniker made sense. My friend Amber was the hostess of this get together, and I was one of about eight people she invited. I brought along my wife, because she too like to occasionally eat food around dinner time. We got in the car about fifteen minutes before the event was to begin, and made our way over to Amber's house.

We arrived and were greeted by the mixed scents of all that is delicious. My nostrils filled with hints of cinnamon, basil and onions. We made our way through the kitchen, and into the dining room. My eyes relayed signals to my brain of what was awaiting us, and my stomach growled in anticipation. Across the tablescape was a cornucopia of standard Thanksgiving fare. A mountain of mashed potatoes was flanked by a crisp-crusted dish of green bean casserole. A platter of sliced white and dark turkey meat was nestled in between sun-colored cheesy baked macaroni and haphazardly stacked cubes of browned stuffing. I was beginning to like this idea of Amber's recently created holiday called Half Thanksgiving.

We each made ourselves an overflowing plate of all the available vittles, and then found a place in the living room where we could shovel the food into our salivating mouths. There was plenty of conversation to be had, but most of it was commentary regarding what was on the television. At first we watched a pop culture/geek chic program, but it was over by the time we had finished our food. Very little commentary occurred due to the current practices of chewing and swallowing. The next program was “Cops” (an American classic). I'm not sure why nobody changed the channel or even just shut off the television completely. As it turned out, I'm glad they didn't.

Amber subscribed to a service called “Caller ID on TV” through her cable company. This feature allows you to see who is calling your house on your television instead of having to look at the phone itself. Generally, one would consider that to be a very convenient feature, and would think nothing of the possible setbacks. Amber would soon learn about one of them.

As we all sat in her living room, digesting our food and watching the television, the phone began to ring. After the first ring, a text box appeared in the top left corner of her 46 inch wide screen TV. In that box were the words “Planned Parent” and the phone number of the incoming call. Using the Pythagorean Theorem, I determined that if she had a 46” wide screen TV with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and 12.5% of the screen was taken up by this text box; then Amber was experiencing exactly 113 square inches of pure embarrassment.

Her immediate response was, “That call is not for me, I promise.”

That did not quell the snickers and comical jabs aimed in her direction. One person muttered, “Guess who's coming to dinner” and another person chimed in with, “Amber, is there something you need to tell us?”

Amber is a fair-skinned redhead, and the color of her cheeks was in a race with her auburn locks to see which could reach the higher level of red. Her cheeks ended up winning by a nose.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Aged to Imperfection

I have no idea what this is, or what it once was.  I do know that time and moisture has created visual art out of the written word.  I thought it was worth sharing nevertheless.