Thursday, February 10, 2011


Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I had great plans to keep my mind and thinking abilities with me to the grave, but after a few more experiences reminiscent of the shopping cart fiasco (see my Blog Post of 7-24-10 ), I am beginning to doubt just a bit if that will be possible.

Two Sundays ago when all the kids and grandkids came to dinner, I set everything out on the counter and made sure everyone had what they needed. Then I served up a plate for myself. Twice. I didn’t know it was twice, but when dinner was over and clean-up began, there was a plate sitting on the counter sporting a small serving of Chicken Tetrazzini and a helping of salad dressed with Ranch. No one claimed it and just to set the record straight, Alli quietly said, “Mom, that plate is yours. I saw you dish it up.” I had not an ounce of recollection that I had dished out a plate for myself before I dished out a plate for myself. The kids are already taking dibs on who won’t have to take care of me in my demented state.

Then last Thursday I painstakingly gathered and organized a lot of coupons to take to Fry’s Food and Drug. I don’t always use coupons, but once in a while it is nice to hear, “Well, Ma’am, you spent 61 dollars and saved 65.”

I spent lots of time in the store looking for the brands that coincided with the coupons but finally got up to the checkout counter manned (or is that “womaned”) by a very nice cashier. If I had been Brad, I would have paid attention to her name pinned to her chest and used it five or six times in friendly conversation. But even though I talked to her about how good it feels to save money with coupons, I didn’t notice her name so I’ll just call her Peggy. Peggy was great. She didn’t act perturbed that I had a stack of coupons for her to scan or that I insisted that she make sure that I had 10 participating products so I could get my $5.00 off.

I waited for her to tell me how much I had saved but since she didn’t ever say it, I figured I could look on the receipt when I got home. She did, however, hand me a rain check for Armour Meatballs which were on sale for $1.99 and for which I had a coupon, bringing the price down to $ .99. What a deal! No wonder they were out of them.

The bagger bagged my groceries and asked if I needed help out. I always say “no” to that question because, frankly, I hate to small talk and that is what you have to do if you’re walking side by side with a young man who is pushing your cart while you’re pointing out which car is yours.

So I thanked Peggy and rolled my cart out all by myself and even found my car without any problem, which is something to be grateful for.

I had just loaded the last 12pack of Dr. Pepper—which, honestly, I only use for medicinal purposes and to pacify Kyle—and I had searched for and found the Chocolate Turtle Chex Mix that I wanted to eat on the way home, when I heard it. It was a hostile yell thrown in my direction. Stunned, I turned with my hand still exerting the effort necessary to bring down the hatch back. And there was Peggy running toward me, yelling again. “You didn’t pay!” she accused. “You didn’t pay!”

“What?” I asked. “What are you talking about? I swiped my card. How could I not have paid?” Obviously I had paid if I had swiped my card and I definitely remembered doing that.

“It didn’t go through,” she said, just as flustered as I was feeling. I was ready to be home after spending an hour and a half with the coupons.

So back I went into the store looking and feeling like a very naughty child who had been caught stealing a Snickers Bar. Peggy found the mistake when the next woman in line—a young mother toting two children—said there must be some error when her bill came to $156.00. Peggy had added my $92 bill to hers! And that woman refused to pay it. Humph! Peggy had never completed my sale and that’s why I never got a receipt. The reason my Visa card didn’t go through is because she never hit the right buttons.

So, come to think of it, this was not my problem at all and I shouldn’t even be bringing it up in this mindless essay. Only, I should have realized that I had never signed anything and I had never received a receipt. Maybe the Rain Check had thrown us both off. Anyway, Peggy didn’t apologize so I felt like it was all my fault. And the whole incident made me feel a little old and again, a little mindless. Thank goodness they hadn’t sent a security guard out to haul me back into the store at gunpoint.

The happening that made me feel the most mindless happened last Friday night. We had most of the kids over for a movie night so their parents could go out without them. All eight were mostly great. The only fussy one was Dax who is usually so congenial. I thought I would be able to rock him to sleep but he wouldn’t drink his bottle. He was getting quite upset before his parents got back. And when they did and heard my report, they discovered that I had failed to remove the hidden cap on his bottle. So Dax wasn’t getting any milk and that’s why he was having a hard time and giving me a hard time, too. I knew about the cap. I had taken it off many bottles before, but on Friday my mind let that small detail slip. I could have traumatized the kid for life, bringing on waves of anxiety and unfulfilled expectations.

These are just a few incidences that have added to my fear of mindlessness. In conclusion, I am prompted to write the following, which you may sing if you like:

Oh give me a Home where the old people roam
While the kids and the grandkids all pray
That I will pass on before my money’s all gone
And there I’ll bask in dementia all day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Just Say "No"

I know that lying is really wrong and it can get you into a lot of trouble; but there is one lie that I have said a few times because to not say it brings on worse dilemmas. I only say it with one word and only in front of libraries. It might sound bizarre, but that one little “white” lie keeps me from arguments or feelings of stupidity and I think makes it worth whatever punishment I will receive in the hereafter.

Here, I’ll talk you through it since I am approaching the library and once again there is a person sitting out by a little table and under an umbrella soliciting signatures for I don’t know what. I know what she’s going to ask me, though, even before she opens her official mouth. And I have my answer ready.

“Are you a registered voter in Arizona?” she asks as I know she will. It is a simple question that requires a very simple answer. The problem will come when I answer truthfully with a “yes”, because then she’ll ask me to sign something that I don’t want to sign. “Would you sign this petition for candidate A?” she’ll ask. And I’ll answer, “No, I’d rather not.” Then she’ll say, “You don’t have to vote for this candidate. Your signature will just help him get on the ballot.” Then I’ll have to say, “Well, I need to talk to my husband because he’d rather not have my name associated with certain candidates.” Then she just has to ask, “You mean you can’t think for yourself?” And then I have to glare at the solicitor and slink into the library fuming a bit until I pick up my “On Hold” books and come back out, hoping she won’t accost me again.

Once in front of the Mesa Library on Dobson, I was asked by a young man, who seemed a little “high”, if I was a registered voter. When I answered in the affirmative, he asked me to sign a petition legalizing marijuana. “Absolutely not!” I answered and almost stamped my foot, which I am really pretty good at. He jeered and made me feel like I had to defend my position with a few personal experiences, which I did. They didn’t faze him, however, and I was left with a feeling of irritation. I had my own druggie to deal with at home and didn’t need to be confronted by another one. I hate to argue and I am lousy at it even when I feel strongly about something.

Perhaps the solicitor today will ask me to sign a petition to protect the spotted owl or to remove a public official or to save the water tower on Broadway. Then I will have to say that I really don’t know how I feel about that particular concern and I’d rather not sign anything until I am better informed. Then she’ll try to inform me and I really don’t have the time or the inclination for a lecture on whatever it is she needs my signature for.

I’ll go home and ask my husband, Brad, his views on the subject and I’ll probably agree with whatever he says. He’s the one who spends time studying the issues and determining which side to be on. I pay the bills and he tells me how to vote. We have job-sharing at our house.

I already know—so you don’t have to tell me—that I am not a very good citizen since I don’t study the issues myself and develop a few opinions of my own. I know, I know. My Mom used to urge me to at least read the editorial page of the newspaper so I could find out what other people think about what’s going on in the world. But I already have so many interests, so many, many things I want to do. Studying current events just never makes it to the top of my to-do list. And Brad keeps me informed on what matters.

So to the solicitor’s question, “Are you a registered voter?”, although I am so grateful to be an American and a registered voter at that, I wish I could answer in fluent Swedish, “I am sorry but I am from Sweden”, which wouldn’t be a lie at all if you go back far enough.

But until I am able to do that flawlessly, I will give my pat answer: “No.”

And now I can proceed into the library, smiling and unencumbered—albeit a little guilty.