Friday, July 29, 2005

Good with kids
Why is the phrase "good with kids" a legitimate description of someone but "good with adults" isn't? It's odd, because it lumps all kids in together as being alike. Even someone like me, who is most decidedly not good with kids, knows that kids are different. As different as adults. I am good with some adults. I've even been known to be good with a few, select kids. Other adults, I am not so good with. And I think I prefer it that way. Only someone like Mother Teresa can be "good with everyone."

It just seems like an odd phrase. "Good with kids." What does that mean, anyway?

The really strange thing is how many parents seem to be "bad with kids." Honestly, I don't believe people even think about having children before they start reproducing. On the whole, more thought seems to go into what breed of dog to get, or what kind of car to buy than goes into the issue of kids. They have children because that's what you do. You get married. You have kids. That's it. Which is sad, really, because I think at least 50% of parent would probably say "no" if they honestly asked themselves "do I really want to have children?"

I know that I don't. I have always known that I don't. I have no maternal instincts whatsoever and I'm way too selfish to be a good mom. I like being impulsive. And I'm so full of self-doubt that I know I wouldn't be able to raise the kind of fearless, confident child that I'd want to raise. No, I like that it's just me and my sweetie.

But then again, I'm not "good with kids."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A change of view
We're getting new windows at our house tomorrow. Our landlady has decided to replace the two big windows in the living room, and the one in the office. Lovely, but a heck of a lot of work to clear out space. The window guys need 3-4 feet of clear space inside the house to work. Given that our house ins't that large, finding places to move a sofa, a large work table, a desk, etc., isn't easy. But we did it.

Now it looks so strange.

I'm sitting in a chair that usually faces the fireplace. Now it's where our sofa usually lives. The view is familar, but not. The ancient and falling-apart bookcase is gone, so there's a wasteland of more-or-less sand-colored carpet between me and the window. As is always the case when you move things about, the room looks so much bigger. This space that always seems packed when I try to fit 9 people in here for our monthly bookgroup, now appears to be big enough to give waltz lessons. It's all so vast and open. In a way it makes me wish it was always like this...that we could keep the sofa up against the bookcases and just have this open space.

What is it about looking at familiar things from a different angle that always causes such a reaction? My house feels as cozy and familiar as always, but it's different. There's an airiness about the open space that provides an almost Zen-like sense of peace. Is it the simplicity? Am I subconsciously being stressed by my row of cactus plants? Do the tables that usually flank the sofa make me feel trapped somehow?

Oh well, I'm not going to analyze it (in spite of the fact that I apparently already am analyzing it), I'm just going to enjoy the novelty and look forward to having my house back in order tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Legend of "Cheap and Surly"
There's an Indian resturant nearby that my dear friend, Naveena, introduced me to. In spite of the numerous times I've been there I cannot, for the life of me, tell you the real name of this place. Since my first visit I have always referred to it as "Cheap and Surly."

To begin with, let me tell you that yes, the food is very good. And yes, it is inexpensive. But the one and only waitress that we've ever seen there is the most unwelcoming, inattentive, careless waitress in the history of served food. No, really, she is.

She never says hello. Never welcomes you. Barely looks at you. You come in, the place is always empty, and you seat yourself (because she shows no sign of pointing you to a table). Eventually, she'll put menus on your table. Eventually, you order. Eventually, food comes. Eventually, she'll bring you a plate, a napkin, and maybe a spoon, maybe a spoon and a fork (score!).

Today I took my husband there for lunch, as he'd been hearing about C & S ever since my first visit. I lived up to its reputation, as far as he's concerned.

The world's most unwelcoming waitress (WMUW, for short) did all of the above. When time came for cutlery, it arrived in a pile, sort of thrown on the table after our food had arrived. It was up to us to sort it out. A few minutes later, after I'd already used my spoon to take a helping of one of the dishes, she shows up again and thrusts a serving spoon into the bowl -- like she was poking a turkey to see if it was done.

Mind you, the place was empty. WMUW was most emphatically not being run off her feet. We were the only table. There were two men who were leaving as we came in, and their table remained un-bused the entire time we were there.

One other guy came in and asked about an order to go. When told it would take 30 minutes he agreed and then almost immediately changed his mind....too late...WMUW had already disappeared into the dark recesses of the apparently soundproof kitchen. After about 6 or 7 tries of "Miss?" "Miss?" WMUW finally moseyed on out to the counter where the poor guy cancelled his order.

Mind you, all this with a Bollywood soundtrack CD blaring from the speakers. Music which she immediately switched off (not turned down, which would allow your customers to still enjoy the cool music, but turned off) when the phone rang so that she could then shout into the phone for several minutes. So much for a nice ambience. More chicken tikka, dear?

One of the more endearing features of C & S is the complete absence of a check. In all the many times I've got there, WMUW has never once actually brought a check to the table. When you're done, you walk over to the counter and ring the bell, hoping that luck is with you and the tiny ding will penetrate into the soundproof kitchen (where the big ding likes to hide in-between snarls). Of course, I should count my blessings. The bell is a relatively new used to have to stand there and just shout towards the kitchen.

Today it only took two rings before WMUW roused herself from her overworked stupor and condescended to take our money. "Good thing we're honest," my husband said, as we could easily have walked out without paying while WMUW was hidden behind the curtain of safety in the kitchen area....away from us nasty customers.

We speculated that she got roped into this against her will. That she had no desire to open a resturant but her father or husband or someone bought it and her form of protest is to make the dining experience so completely miserable that there will be no repeat customers. Unfortunately for her, the food is really good. And as long as I always go in expecting to be ignored and treated with a complete lack of hospitality, I guess I'm OK with that.

Monday, July 25, 2005

It came from Sweden!!!!
Yesterday I had one of the more frightening experiences of my life.

I went to Ikea.

If you've never been, don't go. It's terrifying. First of all, the one that I visited (in East Palo Alto, California), has a garage that makes airport parking garages seem tiny by comparison. Of course the 20-foot high concrete walls don't exactly inspire a sense of cozy - but it's vast. Immense. So big that in spite of the fact that the store was packed, the garage looks empty.

Then you enter the store (if you can figure out where the entrance is, of course). Then the "fake museum experience" truly begins. Pick up a map. Follow the arrows on the floor. Want something from the first floor? Sorry, you have to go through the "hall of soulless rooms" upstairs before you can come back down and visit the "emporium of Nordic wonders." So up we go.

Screaming kids. Smug yuppies who actually want a "house in box" because it saves them from having to be creative. Entire families sprawled in stupification on anti-grammatical furniture. Then the fake "happy home" dioramas of perfect kitchens and cold bedrooms. All with odd Swedish touches like copies of Dashiell Hammett's "The Glass Key," in Swedish on their light ash bookshelves.

Now don't get me wrong. If you're just starting out and can't afford much, the prospect of getting a table for $50 or a $75 bed is nice. But why would you want an entire house, let along an entire room, that looks just like someone else's house or room?

The truly ironic thing is that we never did find what we went there for. We did, however, pick up an office chair, which we'd needed for a while. And I bought two heavy cardboard storage boxes, shoe-box size, for photos and such. Then we get home.

The chair requires no tools or hardware whatsoever. My husband put it together, by himself, in under 5 minutes. The little boxes? They're held together with screws. Of course. I needed a screwdriver and a crescent wrench. I also needed three hands. It took both of us somewhere around 10 minutes to put together the two boxes.

I came away with a new appreciation for antiques, a headache, and a firm determination to never set foot in another Ikea. Ever.

I wonder if there will be an entire generation of Swedish children traumatized by the fact that their names have been assigned to cheap, mass-produced furniture? And is there a heirarchy to it all? Will the other kids pick on you if you're named after a footstool, but not if you've got the name of an entire dining room suite?