Thursday, September 25, 2008

Okay, That's Not EXACTLY What I Meant...

There hasn't been a lot of productivity around my house for the past week or so. My daughter and I were both sick and then my illness morphed into some weird inner ear thing that has affected my balance to the point that I have to think about walking--and I can't even begin to think about driving. At the same time, I'm on a huge deadline at work, which caused me to decline the doctor's suggestion that she write me an excuse for the week and I not try to do too much until the medication started to take effect and I was able to...well...walk freely about.

So I've spent the past week on the couch with mounds of paper around me, and my daughter spent several days of that time on the loveseat with books and video games and markers and her iPod and such.

Today, she seemed much better, and I saw an opportunity to reclaim a scrap or two of floor space. "I'm not expecting you to jump up and start cleaning the house," I said, "but it would be nice if you could impose some order on all that stuff you have piling up around the couch."

I have GOT to learn that this child is nothing if she's not literal.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Apparently, I Owe AOL $20.11

I used AOL for many years, but nearly three years ago I realized that I wasn't using it much at all. I didn't use my AOL email anymore, and I certainly wasn't using AOL's browser or search. Eventually, my most frequent interaction with AOL was the monthly deduction from my checking account--which was always for the wrong amount.

In the early years, I'd had a feature that took messages when I was online, but I'd switched to DSL a couple of years earlier and never been able to get AOL to remove that feature from my billing. So when I moved and opened a new checking account, I simply didn't transfer my billing. I closed the checking account they'd been billing and figured that, while they might not be willing to close my account over the phone (anyone ever tried this?), they'd surely close it when they found out they had no one to bill.

They fooled me though. Not long afterward, I started hearing that AOL was now free. Months after I'd abandoned the account (and stopped paying for it), I logged in and, to my surprise, found my account still active.

That was about two and a half years ago. Every once in a while, for different reasons, I'll log in and find that my account is still active...and that a boatload of spam has accumulated in my absence. I always assumed that it was because AOL was now free, and the account would just sit there indefinitely--or that at some point I'd go too long between log-ins, and then it would disappear.

And then, this month, I got a bill. Apparently, I owe AOL $20.11. They really liked having me as a customer, and they hope that I'll clear up this past-due balance so they can reinstate my account.

And really, that would be quite a deal, if I wanted AOL...2.5 years for $20.11.

Except that I logged in a couple of weeks after I got the bill, and my account is alive and well...and filled with 770 pieces of junk mail.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

ROTFLMAO...Errr....Not Really

Is it just me? Whenever I see "rotfl" or "lmao" pop up in the middle of a serious discussion, intended to convey how stupid the opponent's point was, I have an almost visceral reaction. I immediately begin to view the author as either borderline retarded or afflicted with anti-social personality disorder, and lose all interest in anything he or she might have to say...ever again.

If you don't share my reaction, that probably sounds unduly harsh, but let's think about the context for a moment. A serious discussion is in progress, perhaps about the legalization of prostitution or Sarah Palin's qualifications for the Vice-Presidency. Both "sides" seem to have strongly held views and have thought the issue through. Then, one makes a point...and the other writes "lmao".

Um.

Yeah.

So there are two possibilities, right?

The first is that the person truly IS laughing, having lost all sight of the actual issue on the table because she saw an opportunity to mock someone and dropped the serious shit like a hot potato.

The other is that she's NOT laughing, but has voluntarily departed from intelligent debate because it's more important to her to try to make someone else feel stupid than it is to convey a valid point.

Neither of those things gives a writer a lot of credibility in my book. It's rather like a child yelling, "I know you are, but what am I?" at someone who has said, "Give that toy back to Kevin" or "It's time to do your homework": a spotlight on all that is weak, childish, defensive, and even incoherent about the speaker.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So, Tomorrow is September 11...

...and I forgot.

6 years, 364 days and 10 hours ago, I was sitting at my computer in a small town in Illinois, looking in disbelief at video of the smoldering first tower and not really yet entertaining the possibility that someone I knew had ceased to exist. She wasn't a close friend, just someone I knew from a common activity, part of a small group I exchanged emails with. The emails were usually light, sometimes snarky, almost always funny. The last email I'd received from her, though, had been different. Although young, she was a very accomplished professional woman. In that last email, just a day or two before, she'd mentioned that she was considering leaving her job to have a child.

So, on the morning of September 11, when I dashed off an email that said nothing more than, "Are you okay? Please respond so we know you're safe", I really hadn't absorbed the possibility that she might not be.

That seems insane in retrospect, given the images we were seeing, but it was somehow too much to take in. Too much to process on the scale that it was happening, and too much to narrow to a single flesh and blood woman halfway across the country from me.

Of course, as the hours and then days wore on, reality dawned...but it dawned slowly.

My daughter was five, and in afternoon kindergarten. What I remember most clearly from that day is her speaking into her yellow plastic toy phone, saying to some imaginary person on the other end, "I'm not sure if I'm going to school. There seem to be bombs everywhere." I turned off the television, but apparently it didn't help: what my daughter thinks she remembers from that day is me sitting on the bathroom floor crying. But that didn't happen that day. It happened two days later when the quick "are you okay?" email I'd dashed off bounced back with "permanant fatal errors". It's all blended in her mind, as one event, and perhaps it should be. It was a strange time when the normal parameters of life seemed not to apply.

But tonight was Parent Night at my daughter's school, and her Social Studies teacher mentioned that they'd be talking about 9/11 tomorrow, and my blood ran colder than it has on any of the years when I've been conscious of the date...because I forgot.

That's what we do, as humans. We move on. It's healthy, in a way, but in another way we lose something when we do. We've lost the spirit of togetherness, of being human together, of things like money and power and having the right job or the right car or whose kid made the cheerleading squad just NOT MEANING ANYTHING. Now, in the shadow of the upcoming Presidential election, we're as divided as we've ever been. The phrase "how is that my problem?" appears in a lot of discussions about economic crises and medical coverage and a hundred other issues that impact the day-to-day lives of people around us. We've forgotten.

And that is, perhaps, the biggest tragedy of 9/11. Because in the wake of disaster, it was very clear to all of us how it was our problem, how we were all in it together and every lost or injured or widowed or orphaned person was one of us. If we've lost that, we've let go of the one good, human thing that came out of that day and chosen to remain in the ruins.