Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer's End

This summer has been coming to a close in a way that has been just as wonderful as the summer itself.  Classes start next week, and I've been getting ready for them with a clear sense of just how productive I've been this year.

A friend of mine recently posted a quote from Margaret Thatcher on Facebook.  It sums up my mindset: "Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it."

Although I do have to say that personally, I feel pretty happy after lounging around for a day, I totally see Maggie's point here.

For example, this week, I took a day to head to the beach.  It was perfect weather.  But I packed my bag full of books for school, and wouldn't you know it, I managed to get quite a bit of reading done.

So that was a Summer Satisfaction Two-Fer.  I spent a day at the beach AND got a whole bunch of work done.  And when I came home, I was so happy I had spent my time at the beach, I didn't mind sitting down at my desk and working for four hours straight.

I then celebrated that accomplishment by having a little barbecue that night.  It really was a wonderful day.

Yesterday, I went to the pool for my workout, and the two guys sharing the lane really challenged me to pick up my pace.  This was not what I had wanted to do: quite frankly, I had started the morning thinking about a repeat of my Perfect Beach Day.

But it was cloudy, so I opted not to go.  I just had a feeling.  

So there I was, in the pool, gasping and thinking, "This is NOT the morning I had envisioned."  Because when you're being outswum (that's a word, I'm sure), all you can do is try your best not to look like you're foolishly flailing because you start to worry that the lifeguards will actually try to rescue you, even though you're (technically) not drowning.  

That would be embarrassing.  Personally, I would probably gasp and cough and go limp and just see it through, at that point. 

Anyway, I spent my entire swim-time thinking, "Ima swimmin' one more lap here and THAT'S IT."  It's a testimony to the power of perseverance that I said this to myself for 72 laps, which means that in the end, I swam my usual mile, at a faster pace.

Score one for me.  That's definitely how I felt when I emerged from the pool.  And when I subsequently emerged from the building, lo and behold the sky was black and a storm was on the horizon.  It rained for the rest of the day.

Good thing I didn't go to the beach, because it would have arrived about an hour after I did.

I was hoping to get back to my house before the storm actually hit so I could close my windows, but I ended up in a line of cars behind a single car who was, for some reason, averaging a speed of about 14 mph.

To his credit (or not), the guy driving the building materials flatbed immediately behind said car laid on his horn pretty good at one point, but it did nothing to motivate the Slowpoke.  When the storm broke and it began to pour, His Slowness slowed to about 4 mph.

I had to chuckle when I heard the horn, though.  It reminded me of a conversation a friend and I once had.  Her boyfriend used to come pick her up, and he'd beep the horn when he arrived.  She told him to knock it off; he told her he didn't see what the problem was.

They asked my opinion.  I told them that I thought we were all poised on the cusp of a significant cultural shift in horn usage.

My first car was a 1978 Ford Fairmont.  It had the kind of horn characteristic of cars of the 60's and 70's.  You did not "beep" as a form of greeting.  

Horns in those days were designed to indicate that you were about to a) plow into the back of the person immediately in front of you or an oncoming storefront, or b) plow into the back of the person immediately in front of you and then shoot them with an Uzi.

The sound vibrations from the horn on my Fairmont could have crumpled the fender of a Hyundai.  (Or at least opened its trunk and dislodged some of its contents.)

Back in the day, car horns blared; they did not beep.

If someone pulled into your driveway and used that kind of horn to let you know they had arrived, they were basically saying, "Get your ass out here and into this car NOW.  Oh, and by the way, I'm in a shitty mood."

Sometime in the mid-80's, however, car horns became a way of saying, "hey, how are you?"  They now communicate something along the lines of, "Gosh... you almost bumped into me!"   If you want to make a significant statement of protest with such a horn, you have to fling your entire body across the steering wheel and lay on the horn for approximately 3-4 minutes.  And even then, it just isn't the same.

For many of us who came of age in the 1970's and 80's, the old horn-conventions are simply embedded in our psyche (this was the case with my friend, but not with her boyfriend).  In such cases, pulling into the driveway and hitting the horn automatically activates a fight-or-flight response in the amygdala. 

A similar thing happened with phones.  If you remember using an older, landline phone (back when it used to just be referred to as "the phone" and the word "landline" didn't even exist), you've experienced the emotional release that comes from hanging up on someone with a phone that literally had to be hung up. 

As one friend said, "If you got the jump on the person before they realized you were going to hang up, you could really CLANG 'em."  

With today's phone, they may just think it's a dropped call and call you back.  Or respond by pulling up into your driveway and beeping the horn.  No wonder relationships have become so complicated and confusing.

As for the drive home at 2 mph., I did what I always do in such situations.  I imagined the various scenarios that might compel someone to drive that slowly.  Because maybe there's a reason for it and I really shouldn't be all judgmental, when I don't actually know all the ins and outs of the situation. 

Perhaps they have a sneaking sensation they are coming down with the flu and they're swallowing repeatedly to see if their throat really hurts or if it was just a one-time thing.  Perhaps they read a really good book and they're thinking about it, but don't realize they're thinking about it so much that they're driving at a snail's pace.  Perhaps they are bleeding from their carotid artery, so they know they need to focus on applying pressure to that, and can't worry about applying pressure to the accelerator right now.  

Perhaps a contact lens fell out.  They can't stop to look for it, because you can't park with only one contact lens in, so really, it's safer just to stay the course.

My personal favorite is to imagine that their speedometer is malfunctioning, so they think they're actually going 70 mph down Main Street or around a winding, woodsy road and they can't imagine why the rest of us want to go even faster than that. 

Or maybe it's an elderly person who is thinking, "Shit.  I really need to turn in my license.  I swear when I make it home this time, that's it for me with this driving-thing."  If so, I'm totally willing to cut them slack, because that's a huge decision to reach and they deserve credit for achieving that level of self-awareness.

The possibilities are endless, so when the drive seems to be, this is what I do to pass the time as pleasantly as possible.

If only the summer itself could be equally slow and equally endless. 

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."