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Tag Archives: midlife

Absence Makes the Heart Go Wander

I feel so bad that I haven’t been posting here on my blog lately. I’d been doing so well with my strict schedule of a new post every three to four days.  I miss everyone here as well, so I thought I’d drop you a post to let you know I’m still alive.

I’ve been so busy with life, work, kids, two blogs, the election, wondering about life and death, doubting that it is possible to ever find true love, rediscovering old friendships, feeling pains of doubt, paranoia, insecurity, fear, seeking solace in going shopping, seeking solace in going to the eye doctor, blah, blah, blah. As you can see, I’ve been busy. With life. I know that none of this is relevant to any of you, but the more excuses I list the better I feel about not having written an official post here in such a long time.

Today I finally got tough with me, and told myself that I have to write something here tonight! It has been a week since my last post, and as with many things in life….you can become out of habit with things. Even things you love. Life is work, and so is this blog. But nothing in life comes easy, I guess.

Now I’m sure I sound like I’ve been dipping into the chardonnay….but I assure you I haven’t. I’m just in the midst of my usual midlife crisis-mode. With a touch of sadness. And a whisper of exhaustion…actually a great big loud yell of exhaustion.

In summary, it’s been a long day, and this post is making even me depressed! I’ll have a better post soon, if I can fit it in after the eye doctors and before I take my mom out on errands. But whenever it happens, it will DEFINITELY be before the chardonnay. Or not.

Music Television Saved My Life!

It was when I was in seventh grade that I first heard about a miraculous invention called “cable television.” In those early days everyone just watched television for free. We caught it right out of the air with an antenna that was attached to our television. It was like a magic that I didn’t understand, but accepted as part of normal, everyday life. The television we had in my house was tiny by today’s standards. Smaller, even, than my current computer monitor. We had a 13-inch black and white television that you actually had to put your hands on to change the channel or volume. Oh, it’s true! You had to stand on your feet and walk over to it. But this was not likely to happen, however. Since there were only a few TV channels in existence, you pretty much knew you weren’t missing anything on the other four stations. Evening television viewing consisted of watching channel seven for an hour and a half and then going to bed.

Now, back to seventh grade. I just started junior high school and was feeling all mixed up about my emotions. Wearing an alligator sweater and Jordache jeans with a Lady Diana haircut and a hair comb in my back pocket put a lot of stress on my psyche. It was not normal or natural for me to do any of these things. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be, so I just did what the other kids in my home room were doing. It wasn’t in any way enjoyable for me to comb my hair and feather it every five minutes, but I did what I had to do to get by. Thankfully, I never went so far as to use a curling iron and hair spray on my hair to maintain its feathered and curled look. That was for the seriously troubled youth:

One day, my best friend told me about something called “cable television.” I thought it must be something from Europe, because it sounded as foreign to me as the metric system. She went on to talk about a show called “Fraggle Rock.” I was immediately incensed, because this was obviously a knock off of my  beloved “The Muppet Show.” I would not tolerate cheap imitations, and remained unconvinced that cable television was in any way going to change my life. However, one day I went over to her house and her television was on. Like a drug dealer trying to hook me on crack, she immediately put a channel on called MTV* (*Music Television, as it was known at the time), so I could get a feeling for this “cable television” that she constantly raved about.  There before me, I saw a band called “The Police” singing a song called “Roxanne.” I stood there mesmerized and wondered what else was out there in the world that I didn’t know anything about.

After seeing that one video, my whole perspective about my place in the world changed. I realized people in other countries were singing songs in musical styles that I knew nothing about. I started focusing more  of my attention on listening to music than I did on fashion, or what the other kids in my home room were doing, wearing or combing. In a way, cable television did change my world. I started identifying more with the culture of music than the dull regular people I knew in my everyday life. I sought out others who were also “into” the music scene and my fashion followed suit. No more Jordache jeans, alligator sweaters, Lady Diana hairstyles or hair combing for me forever. Well, I do still try to at least comb my hair as needed on a fairly regular schedule.

From that point on I became interested in bands such as Blondie, Madness and the B52’s. I became sort of crazed to see these bands singing their songs in videos. I craved that feeling of visual  music. And seeing the musicians in action. They looked a lot cooler and more interesting than the kids in my home room, that’s for sure. I started spending more and more time at my friend’s television. I was hooked. When I couldn’t be there, at her MTV, I was at the record store in the poster section. Or flipping through racks of record albums. Realizing each band had videos was almost too exciting to think about.

In all this new music video frenzy, we still didn’t have cable television at my house. I accepted it as part of life. On a good night, if the wind was right, and there was enough foil on the antenna, and it was after 11 p.m., and it was a Friday, I could pull in a station that broadcasted a show called “Friday Night Videos.” That was seriously like a drug to me. Especially when they had good bands on. But at the time I wasn’t picky. Any music video would do.

Sadly, the MTV of today is completely unrecognizable. No more is it a gateway to the music of the world. Shows like “120 Minutes,” hosted by Matt Pinfield, which introduced me to some phenomenal bands, are a thing of the past. I guess advancing your world-view and with art and intelligence is something from another era. Now on MTV you’ll see “Jersey Shore” marathons, and teenagers becoming celebrities for having babies at sixteen. Ever since the first “The Real World” in the early nineties MTV has gone from cultural icon to an absolute sell-out to commercialism. The “M” in today’s MTV can only stand for “mind numbing.” They play anything but music. I think for a while there they even had an MTV 2, which is where you could find music videos if that was your thing. I don’t even know if that is still in existence anymore. Maybe they’ve moved the videos off to an MTV 3 by now.

In closing to my tirade, here is one of the great videos of the early era of Music Television. It is by a band called M singing the classic tune “Pop Muzik.”  The lyrics make no sense, but the originality and excitement is invigorating in this day of dull, talentless, copycat music stars:

Is it Too Late or is it Right on Time?

Too late. It’s too late, actually. That’s  how I feel more and more every day. Too late for what? Too late for chasing dreams? Too late for taking chances? I don’t know, maybe too late for everything.

But that kind of thinking has been with me my whole life. It must have started when I was due to be born in October, then showed up late in early November. The die had been cast. Even when I was a kid I remember thinking I was too old to start ice skating lessons in fourth grade, because all the kids in the Olympics started when they were two. I remember at nineteen years of age talking myself out of modeling school because all the decent models had been in the field since they were fourteen. I finished my first college degree late, at the age of twenty-three, because of being sidetracked by irresponsibility. I got married late at the age of thirty. Then I returned to school for my next degree even later, at the age of thirty-one and considered myself the old lady of the nursing school class. Even though I wasn’t. I just felt that way.

The song “Undun” by the Guess Who was ahead of its time. Actually it was right on time for me, as it was from the year of my birth….1969. Because it is “my song” as I’ll call it, I cling to each lyric as if it speaks to me personally. A prophecy. Is it too late for me? Will this endless lateness eventually make me “come undun?” Even though this spelling for the word “undone” is incorrect, I’ll forgive them because she must also have been too late to worry about grammar. Plus, I’m sure they were hippies.

If you live your whole life feeling like you’ve already missed the boat, what’s the point in ever hoping to get anywhere? That is the million dollar question I’ve asked myself more and more often lately. Especially when it is coming up time for my next birthday. I wonder, what have I done this past year? What did I end up missing out on because I was too late? What can I do this year while I still have time to do it?

This year I’m going to start seeing the glass as half full. Instead of thinking about all the things I’m too late for, I’m going to make myself focus on what I’m RIGHT ON TIME for. So, at my tender age of fortyteen…what am I right on time for? I’m right on time for a slower metabolism, I’m right on time for a midlife crisis, I’m right on time to worry about my retirement, I’m right on time to be the mother of pre-teen boys (and the whole can of worms that comes  along with that), I’m right on time to be part of the sandwich generation and by then I’ll be right on time for another midlife crisis (why stop at one? I’m not a quitter).

So, I can see there is so much left in life that I am at the perfect age to enjoy. I’ll never miss out again on the surprises of life, thinking every opportunity is in my past. “I’m right on time” is what I’ll say as a I pay each bill, as I plan for my future, as I face another car repair or broken furnace. I’m right on time for the minute I’m in. Best of all, I think I’m right on time for a nap.

A Museing

I’ve recently been sidetracked by many things going on in my life. Actually, maybe my life went exactly where it was supposed to but I wasn’t expecting it? Regardless, the purpose of my blog has sort of blurred from a cry for help to suburbia, to a cry for help in suburbia. Lately I’ve wondered I can get things together again to keep this blog where it needs to be? Where is my muse?  I realized today all I needed to do was look out my front window.

I was sitting on my couch this morning, tackling my mountain of bills, when I heard the most horrible rumbling outside my front window. I looked outside to see what in God’s green earth was going on at an hour where the sun was barely awake yet. There was my neighbor, doing something that has been quietly irking me for the past few months.

On our street, like most places where people throw out garbage, every house has one huge garbage can called a “tote.”  These cans are so big you could easily squash down six big bags of garbage and have plenty of room for a crate of rotten onions and two bike tires (Note: we also recycle here). Each house puts their can out in front of their house early in the morning on garbage day, or late the night before, along with items for recycling, and anything else they want to get rid of labeled with a “free” sign. This is a good way to find ugly sofa art, racks  that are missing crucial bolts and odd toilet parts.

Anyway, my next door neighbors are new to the area – here less than a year. I like to think of them as the “newlyweds” in the grizzled marriage of suburban life. Perhaps they aren’t used to the idea of following societal norms, but for some reason they don’t put their extra-large tote in front of their house. Instead they park it at the end of the strip of property on my side of his driveway. Seems petty, sure. But it is very irritating. This is a problem because our front yard is so tiny that whenever you look out in a front facing window on garbage day all you can see is his extra-large green tote in front of our house. Perhaps I’ve gotten a little territorial, but what the heck? Maybe we should move our can down to the last square inch of our yard next to that strip? It just seems awkward and out-of-place. I feel crowded and suffocated by the mysterious rubbish within. Is it too hideous for him to have in front of his house? Is he embarrassed that he’s overfilled his can….again? Maybe I need to send him a note to address the issue. Or take it up with the Homeowners Association. It’s the little things like that make the subdivision walls close in even more.

There! I did it. And, I’m feeling better. Complaining like this about my street somehow seems to put a smile back on my heart! Wait….I feel more complaints surfacing. The flood gates are opening. But, they’ll have to wait for next time. For now I have to keep a watchful eye on any infringing totes from cul-de-sac greenhorns. Fortunately this is easily done at any time….either by daylight sun, or night time glow from the Walmart parking lot behind our house.

Killed by the Sandwich

I’m among a generation of other people caught up in the middle of caring for children and parents simultaneously. This generation has become known as “The Sandwich Generation.” Much like those pieces of turkey and cheese, I am being squashed by those two pieces of bread.

It seems like things were easier long ago, when families lived closer to each other in the same towns. Back in the day you would have the support of cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, which greatly helped relieve the stresses of people who were taking care of multiple loved ones. Long ago it seemed like neighbors cared more for each other, and communities and families supported each other and were willing to pitch in when times were rough.

My elderly mother’s recent stroke really highlighted the fact that I am all alone in her care. My siblings live in other cities and states. A phone call once a week from them to me or my mother doesn’t do much in the way of relieving the stresses my mother and I both encounter while trying to make sure she is safe, happy and living her golden years in the most fulfilling way possible. Living with the stress and fear that her health and well-being is all on my shoulders alone makes me terrified.

Finding the services and support to care for our elderly in a way that they can stay independent in their homes is an area that is severely lacking in our society. I recently learned that assisted living facilities begin at $2,500 a month. And they don’t take insurance, so this is needed in cash. Some places make you prove your finances ahead of time to show you can pay for two years worth of this cost before they will even consider admitting the elderly person. Medicare facilities, which would pay that cost for the elderly person, are few and far between. And I’m sure the waiting list is incredibly long.

It makes me outraged that the fate of every person will end this way….you work until you retire – if you can afford to do so. Then, you use up the rest of your money living as modestly as you can, and when there is nothing left then you go on Medicare – and hope you can get into a facility that is a decent enough place to live out the rest of your years. It is a sad state of affairs that our golden years ahead may not be so golden after all.

In addition to caring for my mom, I am also raising young kids. They are still at the age where they need me to be there for them for just about everything. And of course I give 150% of myself to them, because I love them and because I am their mother. They do not know how thinly stretched I am also trying to also take care of their grandmother, as well. My elderly mother knows I am her only family member in the area, and she knows I would do as much as I can for her also. But these two forces are pulling in opposite directions making me feel stretched to my limits in the middle.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle of trying to do it all for every family member.  It seems like there are a million silent Generation X’er’s in this same situation. So, where can the Sandwich Generation go for support? We are all quietly struggling to hold our families as close as possible for as long as possible. Considering how many of us there are out here, I’m really surprised this hasn’t received more coverage in the media.

It must be the nurse in me, but I really think there needs to be a way to unite the Sandwich Generation. If our communities and families can’t give us the support we need, perhaps we can give this support to each other. It is amazing how wonderful it can feel just knowing that someone else is out there to listen, support or offer advice or wisdom to you from their own experiences.

Previous Post

I had to take down my previous post for privacy reasons. After being contacted by a few concerned friends, I knew this was not the right time for this post. Thank you all for your thoughts, comments, wishes, support and so on.  And if you don’t know what I’m talking about…good.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the WordPress community offers support unlike any that I ever knew could exist in an online environment where most people are anonymous. You are all amazingly wonderful and encouraging.

Thank you.

Charlie Brown Therapy

What is it about Charlie Brown that is so therapeutic? The same episodes have been playing on TV since before I was even born, yet whenever one of the Peanuts TV shows starts playing  my heart skips a beat. Somehow I shrink back down to an eight year old and my mind empties of all my adult-world stress. Magically, I’m teleported back into my childhood where everything is pure, innocent and safe.

Watching the Peanuts TV specials as an adult, I’m immediately taken by the fact that a whole world could exist of children only. In the Peanuts cartoons, adults are reduced to invisible, unintelligible background noise. Perhaps it was because I grew up watching the Peanuts cartoons, but even to this day I still see most adults in this way – joyless robots who try to enforce their authority with sporadic droning and irritating whining.

Charlie, Lucy, Sally, Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang have managed to develop their own sophisticated world of social rules and etiquette. Somehow this society of children exists successfully enough to teach us all the errors and ethical issues of our own cruel social behavior. With tact and subtlety, heavy philosophical issues such as religion and social acceptance are brought to light with fun and innocence. We see that these issues are not only found in the adult world – they can weigh just as heavily on the young. We can find our way through them with conscientiousness and honesty.

Everything about the Peanuts kids world is amazing. Beyond their sense of right and wrong, they are always open to learning from each other. They eventually see the error in their ways and make changes for the better.Even though Charlie Brown will always be a Charlie Brown, he is an old soul.  He will always be the heart of the Peanuts gang.

The Peanuts kids have also incorporated the feelings and actions of animals into their own little world. As with any well-loved pet, a dog personified becomes a playmate with adventures all his own. We even able to see things from the point of view of animals – that within our society there are other smaller societies complete with their own social roles, etiquette and sense of right, wrong and fantasy.

The music of The Peanuts cartoons is something I’ve always found just as magical as the stories themselves. The great pianist Vince Guaraldi has created a soundtrack that is uniquely 1960’s – uniting children’s stories with the easygoing coolness of West Coast Jazz. I am such a fan of Vince Guaraldi that I used to play his CD’s for my children when they were babies to help get them to sleep at night. I still listen to his music independently of the shows and have actually gone on to research more about  the West Coast Jazz movement of the time.

Now in my adulthood, it is comforting to know I can always recharge my ethical batteries by watching the same shows that taught me these lessons in my childhood. All too often, these lessons I so easily accepted in my younger years tend to be forgotten in my adult years of sporadic droning and irritating whining. Even listening to the music of Vince Guaraldi is enough to put me in a more peaceful mindset, leaving my brain open to wonder and magic and idealism.

I’ve been watching The Peanuts with my kids today. I’m happy to say that my family enjoys these timeless stories over and over again as much as I do. Even on DVD, year after year, we still hang on to the edge of our seats to see what will happen when Linus runs for election as class president. And we always believe that somewhere out there The Great Pumpkin does exist – and hope that someday Linus will finally get the proof he needs to show The Great Pumpkin to the world.

Thank you for this treasure you left to the world,  Charles M. Schulz.

Mom Update!

Good news! As of today, my mom has regained most of her speech and is, for the most part, back to her feisty self again. Well, she’s about 85% back to where she was. She is being discharged from the hospital tomorrow and will continue her speech, occupational and physical therapy in a long-term rehabilitation facility. It is incredible the high and lows you can find in a single week. You never know ahead of time what roller coaster life has hidden for you within a random minute on an average day.

Finally, I am overwhelmed by all the support, positive thoughts, prayers and encouragement I’ve received from the WordPress community. I can’t even begin to express how much all of your interest in the health and well-being of my mother has meant to me. Usually I like to stew alone in my thoughts, but here I am free to type away without a sentence end in sight. This experience has been very cathartic for me and I really feel like I’m not so alone in all my inner turmoil and stress anymore.

Again, thank you all so much. You are amazing souls!

Life, Lessons, Changes and Renewal

I’ve been meaning to put up a new post here for the past few days. I worked a lot as a Registered Nurse at the hospital, though, and was so tired I kept putting it off for “another time.” Yesterday I got out of work early in the morning after a completely exhausting and bizarre night shift and I had a good idea of a post I’d like to write. I sat down at the computer and was so tired I couldn’t even log into my WordPress account. I had ideas of sentences and paragraphs in my head describing an amazing experience I’d had that shift as a nurse. This experience was a realization of where I am in my career, how I finally found my place in my field and a career-defining moment I had in the care of a patient that made me feel all the struggle was worthwhile.

My last shift this past weekend I was assigned a new patient. My patient assignment usually changes here and there, but when you work consecutive nights it is nice to have the same assignment for consistency, follow-up and streamlining of tasks to do. I had a new patient on my assignment and I was so tired, I really dreaded having to get to know a new patient and routine.

My patient was a new stroke.  A young guy by my standards, and who was someone who didn’t like to admit they needed help. He had a hard time accepting that he could no longer get out the words he wanted to say, he couldn’t move as easily as he had before, and was very frustrated. His brother stayed with him to help out during the healing process. I immediately noticed the vulnerability of this “tough guy.” His struggles to find the words were heart breaking for me, but nothing I didn’t expect from a stroke patient with expressive aphasia (someone who can never find the words they want to say, but can understand everything that is said to them). I spent my time saying things out loud that he might want, like a guessing game. “Are you in pain?” “Are you cold?” “Do you want a blanket?” “Are you thirsty?” and so on. His brother was also helpful in interpreting and they were both very appreciative for the help I was offering.

At around four in the morning, his brother wheeled him around the nurses station to get a change of scene. They wheeled up to where I was at the nurses station and he tried to say how he was feeling. He made hand gestures and his eyes filled with tears. I said “Are you scared?” And he said “yes.” He took my hand and said “thank you.” and his brother helped him explain how he was afraid of what was happening. I reassured him that he was doing so much better than the day before when he first came to the unit. That day he wasn’t even able to find any words and was very frustrated. When I said he had already improved, he kept saying “thank you” to me. I got him a box of tissues and he and his brother went back into their room. In the morning when I left, I met up with the brother at the elevator. He thanked me for my help with his brother and said “You’re a good woman.” I never know how to take compliments so I immediately told him “your brother is lucky to have a good brother like you around to help him out.” And I went home.

I then sat in front of the computer and didn’t know how to write this meaningful patient interaction down into a structured, essay format for my blog. It was overwhelming sitting at the keyboard to explain why making a difference and helping people is why I went into nursing in the first place. This experience with my new stroke patient, who I was not happy about having in the first place, turned into a very satisfying, rewarding and defining moment for me in my nursing career. How do I find the right words to explain how working as a nurse to help make a difference in the lives of my patients and their families is what it’s all about for me? I had no idea how to write all this down, so I instead I surrendered to my mind numbing exhaustion and went to sleep.

Three hours into my sleep I was awakened by a phone call from my mother saying it was hard for her to speak. Her speech was slurred and she didn’t know what was going on. I told her to unlock her front door and I was calling and ambulance and would come right over. I told her it sounded like she might have had a stroke. When I arrived at her apartment the ambulance was there and she was ready to be taken to the hospital I work at. She was tired but alert. Her speech was getting more difficult. The whole drive to the hospital I followed that ambulance she was in. I kept staring at it while also wondering what was going on. Was she getting sicker? Was she scared? I flashed back to the times in my childhood when my mother was the pillar of strength in our family. How she never got sick and always boasted “I’m as healthy as a horse.” Now I was in a position of wondering if she will be able to live alone anymore, will she need to go to a nursing home. I realized she was not invincible. She was human and frail and mortal.

At the hospital, the doctors sent her out for testing and monitoring and we ended up staying in the Emergency Department for hours. My sister and I took a break to look for coffee and in the elevator was my patient’s brother. When I told him I was there because my mom had a stroke he became immediately concerned and alarmed. Here he was now comforting me in my moment of vulnerability. “She’s a great nurse,” he told the person he was with as we all walked on towards our destinations.

As I made my way onto my unit there was my new stroke patient from the night before. His face lit up when he saw me, and when I explained why I was there he looked at me with empathy. And then he reached out for my hand. I had no idea how much that would mean to me. Usually as a nurse I am the one who is in control of the situation, but here my own patient was giving me the same comfort I had given to him less than twelve hours before. I’m not good with moments like that. I thanked him and left shortly thereafter with my sister and our coffee.

That moment will never be forgotten. I believe that people and patients come into our lives for a reason. Somehow there is a purpose, and it is up to us to find the meaning and significance. I have always said how I learn from my patients and get my strength from them. However, I’ve been a nurse for some time now. Recently I’ve been on a quest to find out where else my nursing career can go besides working at the bedside – which quite often is physically and emotionally exhausting. Yet, this one moment I had with my new stroke patient changed my doubts. It has renewed my spirit. I don’t think I could ever leave the bedside and working in direct patient care. For me, there is no more rewarding place to be.

Self-Checkout Lanes = Twenty Minutes of Your Life Back

Why do so many people hate the self-checkout lanes at Walmart? I’m just asking, here. I’m one of those people, too.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wearily pushed my overloaded shopping cart up to the front of the store, being completely exhausted to the core and willing to make a deal with the devil if I could just be teleported twenty minutes into the future where I was sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee and all this shopping drudgery was well behind me. But that is just a daydream. Instead, I stand in a position in front of all the cash registers where I have the perfect vantage point to assess several things: Which lines are too crowded? Which people have too many items in their carts? Which cashiers look like trainees? Which cashiers are on their cell phones? Which cashiers are about to go to lunch? Which cashiers don’t give a damn?

At this point I notice that every self-checkout lane is empty. Crickets are heard instead of squeaking conveyor belts. The aisles leading up to them are gleaming. Makes me wonder why. I am suspicious that the rest of the customers know something I don’t. Occasionally you might see an employee zip through with a candy bar. They are in and out in a flash. Makes me wonder if they’ve really paid for their items. How could it only take a few seconds to do a transaction at Walmart? I chalk it up to tomfoolery and shenanigans, and think no more of it.

My next step on my check out journey is to narrow down my lane options to the top three that are most likely to process my order quickly: The disgruntled cashier with two customers with overloaded carts? The cashier on the cellphone with one customer but her boyfriend is hanging around talking with her? The cashier who is a trainee that keeps trying to scan a pack of gum? I need a few minutes to assess the progress of each lane. I gaze again over at the self-checkout lanes. In and out a person went with a club pack of bacon and a club pack of Twinkies. Ahhh…the breakfast of champions. He must be single. Still, again, in and out like a flash. How can that be? Maybe he left the Twinkies and bacon there for re-shops and cancelled his order. Nope. Looks like he has a bag with him.

After noticing the lines I’m assessing aren’t moving, I feel like I’m in a public service announcement for the dangers of wasting your life waiting in line. No lanes are moving and I’m trying to find my quickest escape route before I die. The panic and pressure I was feeling to get the hell out of Walmart before I ended up crying in a fetal position next to my cart and screaming for St. Jude to take me to the angels was too much to bear.

Without thinking, I abruptly sent my cart and me on a one way trip to the self-checkout lanes. The other shoppers gazed at me as if I had gone mad. I heard them whisper and buzz “She’s lost it. Those scanners are the devil’s work!” Well that also could have been my internal critic or my rumbling stomach. A bacon and Twinkie sandwich sure sounded good right about now.

The self-checkout lane is sterile and cold. The computer monitor stares at me, unblinking. I unload my cart and carefully hit the “start” button.  “Please scan first item!” I’m told by a cheerful invisible voice. I scan the item. “Please put item in the bagging area!” The cheerful but authoritative voice tells me. I put my item in the bag and jerk my hands away, afraid to touch anything I shouldn’t. “Please scan next item!” The chipper but bossy voice tells me. “Please put item in the bagging area!” I try to put the item in the bag, but it won’t fit completely. Again, I’m scolded “Please put item in the bagging area!” I jostle the item angrily until it sits in the bag. “Please scan next item!” I’m told before I can figure out what to do with the two full bags. Can I take them off the bagging area? Will I get in trouble? The cheerfully nagging voice never yelled at me about what to do in this situation.

“Please scan next item!” The computer was getting impatient. I didn’t know what punishment for non-compliance was within its arsenal of touch screen buttons, and I didn’t want to find out. I just grabbed anything I could and hurriedly found the UPC code to scan to keep the voice quiet. I crammed it into the bag before the voice could belittle me about my bagging prowess. “Please…” the voice started, but I scanned my next item before it could finish its monotone sentence. “Please…” “Please…” it kept repeating before I put the items in the bagging area. No computer was going to tell me what to do. These commands were all what I was going to do anyway. I’m getting credit for the thought.

Finally my order was through. I had to pay. I felt weird feeding my money into the machine. How easily could it suck my money in and say I never put in any? I felt completely helpless until it credited my money on the screen. Finally it spit out my change. I looked out and saw the people in the other lanes still hadn’t moved. How easily I could have still been standing at my vantage point assessing the situation, instead of taking a chance to get ahead. I could have been there twenty minutes or more at the mercy of indifferent cashiers and shoppers who wouldn’t let someone with one item ahead of their shopping cart full of miscellaneous items. I felt empowered as I put my money in my wallet. It was good to try new things! It was…”Please remove your bags!” What? “Please remove your bags!” I was still being yelled at. Even while I was soaking in my glory and empowerment I was still at the mercy of the monotone voice. “Please…” I took them off before that sentence could reach its predictably annoying end.

With bags finally in cart, I left the store minutes later. The other people waiting in line could easily be there at least twenty minutes more or longer. I really savored the idea that I had gained twenty minutes of my life that belong to me – not Walmart, not the lines, not to disgruntled cashiers and selfish shoppers.  I kind of pitied the people still waiting, even though it was their decision to wait there in the shadow of an obviously quicker way to pay. I’m convinced that perhaps my new enlightenment must have been the work of St. Jude.

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