Saturday, December 19, 2009

Just Tell Me How Many Times to Hit "Popcorn"

Thanks to comedian John Caparulo for my new word for simplifying life. He was talking about his frustration when a frozen dinner instruction adds steps to what should be a one-step process. He said, "Just tell me how many times to hit 'POPCORN.'" Can't you identify? I sure can.

When I'm trimming the Christmas tree, I'm thinking, In two weeks, it will take me four hours to get all this stuff packed up again, and I sure won't be in the mood. Wait, I'll just hit POPCORN. No strands of lights and only a third of all the ornaments later, I'm on my way to other things. And the tree still looks gorgeous.

When I'm wrapping packages, I'm thinking, When will I find time to buy the rest of the gifts and groceries I need to have in a week? I hit POPCORN once, pretty-up the packages with colorful paper, but don't even consider using ribbon, and hop in the Honda to get those errands run.

This time of year, my e-mail inbox clogs with five to seven advertising e-mails every half-day or so. Following my new POPCORN approach to simplifying life, I decide not to be even a little curious about 10% off or free shipping, and I press DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, then UNSUBSCRIBE, UNSUBSCRIBE,

Sometimes the popcorn approach doesn't work, like the other day when I thought hey, why dirty a dish and a whisk? I'll just prepare the egg for my omelet by vigorously shaking the egg in the shell.
But other times, extra steps just aren't necessary.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Life, As Seen From the Examining Table

So I'm sitting up on the examining table in my doctor's office. I'm waiting ... and waiting. Antsy, I try exercising by twisting my torso for a few reps, then raising my legs one at a time. The stiff white paper the nurse rolled out for me (medical version of a red carpet welcome?) crinkles and pops loudly, so I abandon my pursuit of vigor in favor of quieter looking-around-the-room exercise.

The mechanical roars and back-up beeps just outside the window prompt an obligatory peek through the blinds behind me. That noise is just too hard to ignore; when the doctor comes in, she and I will be shouting at each other, I worry. Sure enough, the rumbling, gouging, and scraping machine-creatures are moving enough earth to make a new hospital wing.

Turning back from the big brown mess outside, I study two framed watercolors hanging across from my perch. In contrast to the cacophony of progress, the watercolors hum an old-fashioned lullaby to quiet productivity. Natural birch wood frames meadows of greens and golds gently rolling past sleepy farm houses tinted rose by the setting sun. The clouds are roiling and riotous, tinged with lavender and rose. In one scene, I imagine the curling clouds to be two French poodles having a tete-a-tete. Nose to nose, they appear to be smiling and chatting, perhaps about the French food.

On the third wall, above the sink, are closed cabinets flanked by three open cubicles. The top shelf is empty, and the bottom shelf is cluttered with small boxes covered no doubt with usage instructions for the contents, indications, contraindications, and disclaimers stating no one is legally responsible for mishaps. From atop the examining table, I can't say for sure what the boxes are; I'd have to go over and look, but who wants to read that stuff anyway unless you have to?

The middle shelf is more interesting, in a bland way. This cubbyhole contains someone's decorating attempt, or holding area for items destined for their next garage sale: four clear glass bottles. One is a short, squat empty one; one is an empty Pepsi bottle whose glass ridges spiral up the bottle like a barber pole. Corks stop the other two, one of which is filled with black beans with beige spots on them, the other with beige beans with black spots on them.

Beneath the blank box, the boring boxes, and the bland bottles ~ in the shadow of the shadowboxes, so to speak ~ is a tissue dispenser mounted on the wall. It reminds me of a stone Easter Island head, except a white tissue unfolds from the nostrils like sneeze spray. I smile imagining the noses of the actual Easter Island heads sneezing out huge white sheets to billow in the breeze.

Lastly, the fourth wall. From a molded plastic brochure rack, twelve apparently deliriously happy people beam at me. Do they know they have DIABETES, REFLUX DISEASE, HIGH CHOLESTEROL, OSTEOPOROSIS, and eight other serious problems printed right above their heads? Apparently not. Just behind my head are the blood pressure apparatus and another rack for practical things like cotton balls and gagging sticks that make saying "aaahhh" sound like "agckgck."

It occurs to me my surroundings here are a lot like life ~ some chaos, some placid beauty, some sameness, some change, some emptiness, some fullness, some truth, some lying, some health, some sickness, some aaahhhs, some agckgcks, some just doing what needs to be done, some trying to figure out what to do with the beans.

Well, so far, I've been doing all the examining in this room. The doctor still hasn't shown up to examine me.
I glance at my watch. It has stopped. So I make the rounds again. Wall number one ... I lean back to peek through the blinds ...