Thursday, March 26, 2015

Story 75: The Ultimate Sacrifice

            “So, it’s that time of year again.”
            “Awards season?”
            “No, silly – Lent.”
            “Oh yeah.”
            “So I gave up something really big this year.  Really big.”
            “Oh yeah?”
            “Yeah – I’m pretty proud of myself about it.  Takes an enormous amount of willpower, let me tell you.”
            “What did you give up?”
            “Chocolate.  I know, shocking: me, who eats, drinks, sleeps, and breathes cocoa almost as if it were some kind of addiction, which it totally is not.  But I’m managing, even with the tremors from time to time.  It’s a big deal, you know; important, I’d like to think.  So, what did you give up?”
            “Nothing in particular, I just gave up some free time to go volunteer at the food pantry.”
            “Yeah, it’s not much, but they appreciate anything you can do.”
            “I see.”

            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            “So, I gave up eating or drinking anything with chocolate in it this year.  It’s been hard, but I think that the spiritual rewards are worth it, plus my sugar intake’s been reduced by 90%.  What did you give up this year?”
            “I gave up being so judgmental.  I finally realized that I was the one who deserved the censure I was constantly inflicting on everybody.  People like me a lot more now.”
            “My not-eating chocolate for seven weeks helps save the rainforest.”
            “Sure.  At least until you start eating it again.”

            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            “I gave up chocolate this year, and I’m a better person for it.”
            “That’s nice.”
            “I think I deserve some sort of acknowledgement for the sacrifice I’m making – chocolate is a part of my identity, and I feel incomplete without it.”
            “And yet you just said you’re a better person for it.  Maybe you should use your time of sacrifice to examine why you have this need and stop obsessing over it so much.”
            “Why would I want to do that?!”
            “Because you’re missing the whole point of giving up something for Lent: the sacrifice is supposed to help you focus on appreciating what you have, and on giving, and on loving, and etc.  It’s not for bragging rights.”
            “Oh.  I could have done all that and still eaten chocolate?”
            “Probably.  What you give up is basically arbitrary; what you give is what counts.”
            “Then I suffered for nothing!”
            “If you paid any attention to what this season is about, you would dial it down a notch.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Story 74: Kiddie Party

            “Are you certain you want to do the 1:00 party?  There’ll be 20 toddlers – and their adults.”
            “Sure, boss; I need a challenge away from the register!  It’ll be nice and orderly, don’t you sweat.”
            The store employee set up the tables, chairs, confetti, balloons, and supplies well in advance of the party attendees’ arrivals, which naturally were late and staggered.  The guest of honor arrived with his parents seven minutes after the top of the hour, delaying the start time because they had trouble finding a parking spot.
            “All right, let’s get this party started, `cause we’re already behind schedule!”  The employee tried to get things back on track.  “Here are some toys – go play!”
            There was unstructured play for 13 minutes in an attempt to right the itinerary – wanderers were herded back into the room and over to the general vicinity of their oblivious guardians.  The employee checked her watch, set in alignment with Greenwich Mean Time: it was time for Phase 2.
            “Listen up, everybody – craft!  Put the toys down and come to the tables!”
            “Can my daughter still play with – ”
            The craft was drawing self-portraits, all of which came out abysmally.  They would be the ones to suffer with the unsightly works hanging on their walls, the employee thought.
            “All right, craft time is over, go back and play!”
            “Can we have another piece of paper?  This one ripped.”
            “Craft time is over!  Time to play, play, play!”  What was with all the insubordination?  Did she have “PUSHOVER” stamped on her forehead?
            Play time lasted for the allotted 10 minutes – next up was pizza and soda.  “Time for your sugar, salt, and fat, children!”  Why weren’t they all sitting in their seats properly?  “Doesn’t anyone want a salad?”
            “Not at a birthday party.”
            Thanks, Mom.  Napkins and tomato sauce everywhere – do they make this mess at their own homes?  She thought maybe.
            “OK, let me take a picture of all of you!”  Only the Birthday Boy and three children came to the marker she had placed on the floor for this.  “Come on, this moment needs to be immortalized!  Why is no one following directions?!”
            “They’re still playing.”
            “But it’s picture time!”  Four subjects were better than none, so she took the photo with the glaring negative space drawing all the attention.  “Thank you – disperse until dessert.”   That would be in 10 minutes, during which time a few adults and children drifted off to different parts of the store: this could not be tolerated.
            The employee went on the overhead speaker: “Attention, party guests: if you do not return to the designated area in… 37 seconds, cake and cookies will be withheld from you, even if you are the guest of honor, good day to you!”
            The pitter-patter of sneakered feet raced over to the party room, and they all sat down at the tables.  Dessert was served in an orderly fashion and peace reigned for exactly one minute and 23 seconds.
            The manager stuck his head into the room: “Is everything all – ”
            “OK – don’t go on the overhead again.”
            “Yes, sir.”
            Dessert was ingested and smeared on faces, hands, clothing, and walls.  “Not the walls!  It’ll take me ages to clean them!  Never mind – children!  Get into a circle!”  Six of them got into a diagonal.  “I said ‘a circle’!  We’re going to play ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’!”  They moved to form a rhombus.  “Close enough!  Birthday Boy: go!”
            The Birthday Boy left the room because he had to go potty; Dad followed to assist if needed.
            “All right – someone else!”
            Three of the remaining children stood and each went “Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck…”
            “Forget it!  You ruined it!  Go back to the tables and think about what you did!”
            The manager poked his head in again.
            “What – ”
            “I will have order here!”
            The employee spent the rest of the party back at the cash register, ringing up customers in order to calm herself down.  The children were very confused, the adults were a bit miffed, and the Birthday Boy returned from his break looking for his presents.  Presents make everything all better.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Story 73: The Perfect Excuse

            I had reached the point where I had had it with everything: my job was abysmal; I kept having to go to events I hated; and conversation in general drained my soul out through my ears.  The time had come to create the perfect excuse to get out of everything.  So I invented a baby.
            Faking a pregnancy is easy when you’re single (at least in this modern world) – I would never have gotten away with it if I was living with the imaginary father (I’m just not that devious).  It was a nice attention-booster at work and a great way to get out of doing pretty much anything: the bigger my fake stomach grew, the more I could just put my feet up and nap.  I even got to go home a lot of times with intense back pain, which wasn’t entirely a lie (fake stomachs have real weight, my friends).  Morning sickness let me come in late a lot, too, and Braxton Hicks nicely took care of the rest of the day quite often (got out of some literally painful meetings with that one – false labor’s a life-saver, let me tell you).  The girls were sweet and tried to throw me a baby shower, but I headed them off at the pass on that one by saying “Please don't fuss” and having them just write me one big check (what am I going to do with a crib and sundry baby paraphernalia?).  I did the same with my family, only some of my first-degree relatives insisted on giving me strollers – whatever floats their boat.
            When the “baby” arrived after 9 ½ months of stretching out the term (I refused to take maternity leave before delivery because I’m that much of a trooper), I dropped off the radar for a while to “nest” in Paris, insisting upon on my privacy while simultaneously hinting that the “child’s” “father” quite possibly was some world leader who needed to buy my silence to avoid disastrous scandal.  Labor lasted for five weeks as I toured Western Europe (definitely do not go there in August, nothing’s open).
            I finally returned home and was ready to re-introduce myself to society as a new mother whose baby no one ever saw.  I found an old baby picture of me that I used the wonders of modern technology to make it appear as if it had just been taken the other day.  Ate up many an hour in the office showing that off.
            Social gatherings became a bit of an issue: everyone kept wanting to see their new cousin/niece/granddaughter, so much so I had to inflict an impossible amount of colds upon the poor thing to explain her continual absence.  Thankfully, after a seemly amount of time I could invent a babysitter.  The whole enterprise finally paid off at those interminable gatherings where people just don’t. Stop. Talking.  One simple sentence would save me: “Gotta go – the baby.”  It wasn’t even a proper sentence, but it worked every time.
            “The baby” – what a wonderful phrase.  “I’d love to go to the wake, but, you know, the baby.”  “Can’t stay overtime anymore, boss – the baby.”  “Cousin’s in the hospital again?  Of course I’d visit, if it weren’t for THE BABY.”  “Dance recital?  Yeah, the baby.”  I can milk this for years.
            Don’t know what I’ll do when she’s a teenager, though.  Maybe I’ll decide to have another one by then.