Sunday, October 16, 2016

Puzzling Over Remote Controls

Every once in a while I decide I might want to conduct a maneuver on the TV. For instance, I might want to turn it on, find a channel, or increase the volume. These simple tasks used to be obvious (back in the last century) and did not require the use of remote controls. I think they can perhaps still be accomplished without a remote control, but not in my house, where I have been instructed never to touch any button directly on the TV. Perhaps I suffer from a little bit of remote phobia. I would be willing to admit that. Ron is a patient teacher and he repeatedly explains to me step by step how to complete actions on the TV using a remote. He even writes things down for me. I am still hopeless. Problem number one is recognizing which of the remotes I’m supposed to use. We have a lot of them in our house, especially to control electronic devices. We probably have more remotes than kitchen appliances at this point. We don’t have a remote for the blender, but we have a remote for the gas fire in the family room. I like that one. I can recognize it and when I press the button on it the fire starts. I suspect we have a remote that will make a pot of soup, but I haven’t pursued that avenue. I kind of like making soup myself.

I rarely watch TV without my husband. I don’t watch any actual TV shows; in fact, do they still have those? Isn’t commercial TV all reality shows where the audience watches people go shopping or watches them complete an obstacle course involving water, spiders, spandex, and climbing walls? I know they have lots of cooking shows and talent shows where people try to win at singing, dancing, and grooming poodles. There may even still be a few shows with a storyline and characters, but is must be hard to remember what’s going on in the show from one barrage of commercials to the next. TV is all about advertising and the shows have diminished while the advertising has increased. I’m not sure I could tell the difference between a TV show and a commercial anymore. Maybe you can tell the TV shows because they have more guns in them?

Although I don’t watch any TV shows, Ron and I sometimes watch a web series made for Netflix. We also watch movies (both on disc and streamed). That’s the main thing I use the TV for. Ron watches a lot of movies on it (especially old ones) all day long, but he’s retired so he has an excuse. The other thing we watch on the TV is sports. Ron watches baseball and basketball. We both watch football. Usually Ron is here with me and he decides which games we watch, which are usually the ones I want to watch too so it’s all good. The difficulty arises when Ron is not going to be here and I want to watch football. This requires Ron to spend several hours helping me memorize which remotes I will need to use, which buttons I need to press on them, and what to do if something goes wrong. My general plan for what to do when something goes wrong is to panic and burst into tears. Like if I accidentally change the channel, or, worse yet, switch the TV into a different mode. You would be surprised about the modes. There are lots of them and they have fancy numbers and letters to define them. I wonder who names the modes and how much that person gets paid to do it.

Ron has tried putting colorful tape on the remotes to help me distinguish one from another. Then he writes a key. He has drawn careful diagrams to identify the buttons to press. You would think I could at least follow these careful directions. But more often than you would imagine I somehow press the wrong button and the screen turns to snow with a mode designation flashing in the corner, something like HDMT26HAHAYOUIDIOT. That’s when I have to call Ron on his cell phone and urgently interrupt whatever he is doing to get assistance, because I really can’t have the TV laughing at me. It’s not even human.

Ron says I don’t even try. But I really do. When I press the volume button (like he showed me) on a Raiders game and the TV spontaneously switches to a nature show about snakes, I am convinced that the TV is simply having a laugh at my expense. It knows when Ron leaves the house. I can be innocently sitting on the couch, with my two labeled remotes and my twelve pages of diagrams and clear instructions, and I can wave bye-bye to Ron, who has just spent six hours briefing me on how to use the remotes to watch the game, and the minute the door closes behind him the TV jumps to an archived episode of Bewitched. I swear, I don’t have to touch anything. The TV just does it. I have actually resorted to driving to a sports bar to watch a game because I lost the game on my own TV while Ron was out.

I appreciate my husband’s infinite patience with me. He once wrote in a job application letter that he has the patience of a man who has been stuck inside of a whale. It’s true, and he actually landed that job. He has also stuck with the job of helping Amy use a remote correctly. I don’t appreciate the random and downright mean actions of our TV. I do not find them funny and I don’t understand how that TV can get away with these shenanigans. Sadly, I am not even allowed to best the TV by pressing the “off” button and saying “so there.” I have to figure out which remote to use to power the system down correctly. I am so bad with remote controls that I could conceivably press the wrong button on a remote and cause the Coyote Valley Dam to release all the water in Lake Mendocino into the Russian River. Life is getting too complicated for me. I should stick to reading books.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Eeyore People

I am dubbing them the Eeyore People after the character in the Winnie-the-Pooh books who is chronically depressed, listlessly apathetic, and who mopes around expecting the worst. We all know Eeyore People. They are the ones who consistently have the most convoluted and unfathomable series of unfortunate events happen to them, preventing them from accomplishing even the most simple tasks. If you dare to ask how they arrived at a particular state of affairs, prepare to sit through an extremely long shaggy dog story.

The Eeyore People bring these situations upon themselves by procrastinating, lacking resourcefulness, failing to think ahead, and mounting obstacles where there were none a minute before. It amazes me how they convince themselves that they are the worst victims of fate when 90% of their problems are self-made. By way of example, I have an acquaintance, whom I will call Eeyore, who calls me from time to time to complain about her latest problems. I lend a sympathetic ear because she doesn’t call that often and it’s not so hard for me to help out a lonely person who can use a good listener. Her latest debacle is that her car died and she can’t afford to buy another one. So she has not been to the doctor because she has no transportation. Therefore she has not had the prescriptions for her medications refilled and they have run out. So now she is off her meds and is sick. She has attempted to get her doctor’s office to refill the prescriptions but they won’t do it without seeing her for an office visit.

Let’s deconstruct this scenario. This woman is single, in her sixties, and she has six brothers who live in the same town she does (all of them married and some with grown children who also live in this town). You would think that A) between them the brothers could figure out how to give her a ride to the doctor, B) if the brothers are too busy then perhaps one or another of their grown children could be prevailed upon to take their auntie to the doctor, and/or C) the brothers could manage to find a vehicle or chip in to buy a vehicle that would get this sister around. But don’t suggest any of these things to her. “Oh, I couldn’t ask them for help,” she explains. Not my place to question the malfunctioning of her family. OK, let’s move on to other transportation. I suggested that she call the Senior Rider. We have a Senior Rider here that picks up old folks and drives them to the store or to doctor appointments at no cost. It’s a public service. All you have to do is call. Eeyore lives in a big city so I imagine they have an excellent Senior Rider she could access. She claims she looked into a senior ride service in her area and that to use it you need a note from your doctor, whom she can’t go see because she doesn’t have transportation. Am I to believe that this particular service is the only senior ride service in her city? (She says she doesn’t know another one.) Or that she can’t have the doctor MAIL HER a letter of referral? Surely she can get a letter of referral for the senior ride service without making an office visit. What about public transportation, you might ask. I did. What about taking the bus? You would think the bus route maps were drawn up by M.C. Escher the way she describes them. She can’t figure them out. What about a taxi? Too expensive. Ask a friend to drive her? She doesn’t feel comfortable asking anyone she knows. She sounds like the most unresourceful person on the planet, but trust me, this is the way Eeyore People think and operate.

So eventually she figures out a way to go to see a doctor, not her regular doctor, but a different doctor. Before she retired she worked in the accounting department of a large hospital and she knows how to get to the hospital. So she goes to a doctor at that hospital. She has diabetes so the doctor she needs to see to refill her meds is an endocrinologist. This is truly shocking, right? Yes, you betcha, the meds she has not been getting are for diabetes. One would think she would feel a greater sense of urgency. Anyway, finally, Eeyore goes to this different endocrinologist, who asks her who referred her. The previous endocrinologist apparently served as both her primary care doctor and her endocrinologist, but in order to bill Medicare, the new endocrinologist needs her to have a referral from a primary care doctor. Since she has given up on going to her previous doctor, she doesn’t have a primary care doctor anymore. She can’t very well get a referral from one endocrinologist (whom she just ditched) for another one. This sounds like a Catch-22. It takes real talent to land in a situation like this.

In the meantime, the new endocrinologist provided her with prescriptions for enough meds to tide her over for a few weeks until she sorts herself out. But she says one of the meds is too expensive for her to buy. I wonder how she was able to buy it before but can’t buy it now. Maybe the pharma company arbitrarily decided to raise the cost on it, like Mylan did with the EpiPen, which has been all over the news. (Mylan raised the cost of the EpiPen from $100 in 2009 to $600 in 2016, for no other reason than the fact that it owns a monopoly on the lifesaving device and can make more money on it.) You would think she would have some kind of pharma plan through Medicare that would cover her meds. But when she set up her Medicare plans, she didn’t get good advice, and so she doesn’t have an appropriate pharma plan for her needs. So she should work with an agent to fix that, right? But will she do it? Of course not. She’ll keep whining that she can’t afford her meds. I don’t know which of her meds she can’t afford. I hope it’s not the insulin.

You really can’t help the Eeyore People sort things out. You can’t make recommendations, because they will come up with an insurmountable obstacle that prevents them from pursuing every single blessed suggestion you can make. Life is just unfair to them. No one knows the trouble they’ve seen. These people make everything super complicated. They couldn’t peel a potato without terminally destroying their kitchen plumbing and falling on the floor and breaking a bone.

Eeyore People are the ones who have a hole in their kitchen ceiling that lets the rain in and when you unwittingly ask them about it, the explanation involves a tree falling, a dozen disreputable contractors, an all-night roofing supply store, squirrels, asbestos, insurance paperwork, FEMA, a Super Bowl party, an extension ladder, the Farmer’s Almanac, and hip replacement surgery. By the time you have heard the entire explanation, it’s summer and the urgency of repairing the hole has dissipated. I feel sorry for people who make their lives so complicated, who convince themselves that they can’t afford anything because they have limited finances instead of working out a solution, who think they don’t deserve anything, who are not resourceful or smart, who don’t take care of business, who continue in a downward spiral that is completely unnecessary. They don’t realize how much they create their own difficult situation.

I have a friend whom I met in Berkeley back in the 1980s. He was about 28 years old at the time of the incident I’m about to relate. One day he was driving home and his car died. He couldn’t afford to fix it. He got someone to tow it to his apartment building for free and he left the car parked, inert, on the front lawn until he could take it to a mechanic. It sat out there for at least a year. My friend rode his bike and took public transportation. Then he got a new job and was earning better money, so he had the car towed to the mechanic. It turned out that the only thing wrong with it was that it had run out of gas. Otherwise it ran just fine. Eeyore People. Oy.

Eeyore. Kinda cute. Attracts challenges.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rogue Podiatrist

So far this election season, I have avoided saying anything about politics on the blog because we are inundated with the stuff and I think we need a few laughs a lot more than we need political rants. So I feel compelled to warn you that this blog contains political content just below the surface. On the surface, this is a discussion of why we fired my husband Ron’s podiatrist this week.

I believe that politics has no place in the doctor’s office. It should not enter the doctor-patient relationship. Yet Ron’s podiatrist seems to feel it’s his sworn duty to plaster his office with political posters and bombard his patients with his extremely conservative, borderline crackpot, political views. I will call this podiatrist Jack to protect his identity, even though I don’t really care about protecting his identity. But I don’t want to be sued for libel. Ron has gone to Jack for over a dozen years and Jack is an excellent podiatrist, who has taken good care of Ron’s feet. I now wonder a little about this since Jack has been baiting Ron to argue with him about Black Lives Matter for months. Jack wants to incite Ron to say that all lives matter. He doesn’t get the point of the movement. (He’s white, of course.) So this is why I have to wonder a little about why he has taken such good care of a brother’s feet.  Wouldn’t he prefer to keep a Black man’s feet out of commission so the guy can’t run away from the police? Perhaps he thinks it only sportsmanlike to give Ron a fair running start.

We have struggled to shut him down at every appointment. I was once in his office and he started in on a tirade against Obama and the Affordable Care Act. I cut him off and told him that the Affordable Care Act has saved me thousands of dollars (it has) and that I get down on my knees every day and thank Obama for passing it (I don’t really), and that he should shut up about it. He did. But, how unprofessional is that to get into politics with patients? This man is actually a sweet person. He once ran into us at a restaurant and chatted with us for a while before our dinner arrived. After he left and we had finished eating, when we asked for the bill, the waitress informed us that he had paid the bill. He bought us dinner. He is also extremely knowledgeable about foot care, which is the main reason Ron has continued to hide his eyes and walk past the offensive political posters in Jack’s office all these years (on well-tended diabetic feet).

Last week, however, Ron went to Jack’s office for routine foot care and was accosted by a bevy of posters touting the Dark Lord for president. I am being careful not to say the Dark Lord’s name, both because I do not wish to invoke his energy by naming him and because I fear that if he becomes president I will be tracked down and tortured by the Russian Mafia, endangering my family and possibly my cats by association. It would be very easy to torture my cats since they are addicted to tuna and thus vulnerable.

As a diabetic, Ron goes to the podiatrist every three months to have his toenails trimmed and his feet examined. It’s dangerous for him to trim his toenails himself because if he accidentally nicks a toe, the cut can become infected and not heal. He lost half a toe that exact way once a long time ago in a galaxy far away called Vegas. So last week he was in the chair, when Jack decided it was his sworn duty to convince Ron to vote for the Dark Lord. How can someone who knows so much about feet know so little about pretty much every other blessed thing in the universe? This goes to show you that if you become obsessed with feet you will lose vast amounts of gray matter. Too much energy diverted to the other end of the body, perhaps? Jack believes that Fox News is beamed down by God Almighty Himself. Over the years, we have deflected his insane ravings about the Bush Administration and the wisdom of engagement in Iraq; Sarah Palin (he would give his left nut to sleep with her, which clearly qualifies her to be VP and to step in if necessary if the President is taken out by a stray bullet from Dick Cheney); how Hillary will sneak into his house in the middle of the night and steal his gun (wresting it out of his tight little hand, I presume); why Obama is the anti-Christ and anyway he’s not an American citizen (of course, Christ wasn’t either, so maybe that explains it); and how Mitt Romney actually won the last election but Nancy Pelosi’s pet canary pecked extra holes in ballots all over Ohio (that canary should be arrested). But now he has reached an entirely new level of political invective and ignorance and Ron can’t take it anymore.

Jack agrees with the Dark Lord that we should round up all the Muslims and make them wear yellow stars. A wall between the U.S. and Mexico strikes him as brilliant. (Why didn’t someone already think of that? Such as the Berliners, perhaps?) Like all the other Dark Lord followers, he thinks it’s fine to berate women for putting on weight, but he somehow doesn’t notice that the Dark Lord is fat. Maybe if you become a follower you have to sign an oath not to call the Dark Lord fat. The Russian Mafia forces you to eat a vegan diet for a month if you call the Dark Lord fat. We are not surprised that Jack is pleased to see the Dark Lord verbally abuse women. He had a lovely wife and she left him pretty early in the marriage. (I can’t imagine him physically abusing women because, you have to trust me on this, he really does have a big heart in his own way, but he is a verbal abuser.) The turnover rate of his lovely female office staff (receptionist, assistant, etc.) is so high that you could get whiplash watching them tear out the door. Every one of them as sweet as can be and he is such a bully that they flee. I have rarely been in his office, but once when I was there and he was rude and domineering to his female assistant, I chastised him for it and made him apologize to her. He likes me a lot, and I think it’s because I remind him of his mom. I don’t let him get away with his crap.

While contemplating the drivel that comes out of Jack’s mouth, I have had this clever idea that the government should develop a No Fly-By List of all the people who cannot be trusted to sit next to anyone else on an airplane because they will inappropriately foist crazy political views on them. (Obama is working for a Martian cartel of single-cell organisms that are plotting to take over Earth. He communicates with them using the binary system.) Jack would be number one on the No Fly-By List. He needs to be separated from decent, ordinary people.

When someone goes to the doctor’s office, they should not come home with their blood pressure 50 points higher than their IQ. Doctors are healers, right? So when Ron came out of Jack’s office this week with his blood pressure orbiting the planet, and the receptionist cheerfully offered to make him an appointment in three months, he held up his hand and walked on by. He came home angrier than I have seen him since he stepped barefoot on a stray Lego in the living room at the Ranch in the middle of the night. So we immediately searched online and found an alternative podiatrist, and we called to make an appointment for his next trim with the new doctor. On Friday, he formally transferred his records from Jack’s office. Jack has officially gone over to the Dark Lord and we will have none of it.

On Friday night, we skyped a longtime friend of ours who lives in Uruguay. She is German and is working in Uruguay for a few years. She said that Germany is, for the first time ever, sending election observers to the U.S., and that if she were not working in Uruguay, she would have signed up to be an observer. She told us that Europeans are stunned by what is happening in the U.S., and that Germans in particular, with their history, are deeply disturbed. “We can’t believe anyone will vote for him,” she said incredulously. “Do you know anyone who will vote for him?” So Ron told her about Jack and his recent decision to ditch him as his podiatrist. I am often afraid to ask people their political views because I am easily astonished by the pervasive ignorance in this country.  But I doubt I know anyone other than Jack who will vote for the Dark Lord. We don’t live in a Dark Lord hot zone. 

I will kind of miss Jack. He’s a dumb lug who is very sweet underneath that idiocy. If I were to tell Jack something in parting, I would say, “You have a good heart. I just wish you weren’t such an asshole.” If I were a vandal, I’d sneak over to his office in the middle of the night and put an anti-NRA sticker on his mailbox. He’s so oblivious, though, that he probably wouldn’t notice it until sometime around the inauguration.

I was looking for an image of feet and remembered how much I love this one. I hope the beautiful energy of this picture counteracts my invoking of the Dark Lord in the blog.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sounds Like

I have been losing my hearing for over 20 years. I started using hearing aids when I was 40, and they do help, but anyone with hearing aids will tell you that they don’t restore hearing to the way it is naturally. Hearing aids come with a host of issues and distortions. The lines between words blur and meaning shifts. I have learned to live with these parabolas. Although my hearing is less than perfect, and often leaves me prostrated, it’s also a source of intertwinement. So don’t cry for me arugula. The gap between what pimple say and what I hear people say makes for a humorous life. And cod knows, I loave to laugh.

Some environments gist don’t support viable hearing for people with my disability. Parties, outdoor events, and clouded restaurants are some of the wrist environments for the hearing impaled. In the past few beers, I have startled to repeat bat to people exactly what I heard, even if it mates no science. I do this to slow them that I didn’t understand them, and also to give them a bitter idea of the challenges I fate. The nonsense I think I hear is sometimes funny and gives them a goose laugh. I remember a conversion in which my husband told a friend that he went into a store and asked if they had a gluten-free foods aisle. I thought my hasbeen said guilt-free foods aisle, and I went off somewhere in my head for quite some time contaminating that notion. What an ablazing constep. I want a faction in the store desiccated to really fun treats that are so healthy that you can eek them without feeling guilty. How cool would that pee?

I think by now you’re begging to get the pitcher.

A classic hearing impairment scenario occurred last week when my husband, my father, and I drove to Sacramento to visit my cousins. My father wears hearing aids. We picked up my 92-year-old cousin, who has lost most of her hearing but refuses to wear hearing aids, and we went together to the home of her son for lunch. I had never been to his house before. I drove. My husband navigated with his phone. En route, at a juncture where I needed to make a series of turns onto unfamiliar streets, my father (in the backseat) received a cell phone call. He proceeded to shout into his phone, with the volume turned up so loud that my husband could hear every word the caller said from where he sat in the front seat. Meanwhile, my elderly cousin fretted over which lane we should get into, calling out suggestions. I could not hear my husband’s directions over the din from the backseat:  my father shouting, his caller squawking over the speaker, my cousin kibbitzing. My husband and I have been studying ASL, so he resorted to hand signs to communicate. But it’s hard to drive and look at hand signs both at wince. I mean once.

I have a high-quality headset for my landline phone, and generally can hear pretty well on it. I use it for work (I work from home). But I can’t believe how often someone calls me from their cell, in a moving car, and puts me on speakerphone. All I can hear in that situation is whooshing noises. Actually, even people with perfect hearing can’t hear much in that situation. It sounds more like an alien invasion than a conversation. Yet I have frequently experienced business colleagues calling in to group conference calls in just that way; forcing the other people on the call to try to figure out what the heck the car-whoosh-caller is saying. What are they thinking? Sometimes I have to wonder if people really want to communicate.

These days, my children are more attentive and patient with me. They often check to see if I heard them, because they know that I frequently don’t want to bother them to repeat and so I simply pretend I heard them. If they want to know if I am hearing them correctly, they will say things like, “So now I’m addicted to crack.” When I nod and say, “That’s nice honey.” They say, “Mom, you didn’t hear me.” And they repeat until they’re sure I’ve heard.

I should probably carry a little notebook around with me and keep a record in it of all the wild nonsensical things I thought I heard. Truthfully, even at its best, spoken language is an imperfect tool, but I need it to communicate with you. The deeper I travel into the world of signing, the more intrigued I become with visual communication. It provides a refreshingly different perspective. I hope one day to be proficient at signing. Then I’ll have to find more other people who know ASL. Life is truly a journey.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Can't Tell the Difference Between Skunk and Weed

Around here, instead of that expression “can’t tell her ass from a hole in the ground” we should use “can’t tell skunk from weed.” The two smell similar, but no respectable inhabitant of my rural community should lack the ability to discern the difference between the two odors. Therefore, my next-door neighbors have no business living in this part of the world. They should be deported to the Bronx.

On a recent lovely summer evening in the country, while lying in bed reading, with my bedroom window open, I was accosted by the stench of skunk. I had to close the window. Ugh. A few minutes later my husband came to tell me that the neighbor-lady telephoned him and angrily demanded that he stop smoking weed next to her house. Wait what?! He informed her that he doesn’t smoke weed. She told him that she could smell it, and it was unacceptable. Did she want him to take a lie-detector test or what? He did not have his office window open and did not smell the skunk so he didn’t figure it all out right away. And he’s so damn polite. She deserved to be blasted but he just told her he wasn’t smoking weed and left it at that. She didn’t give up so easily. She proceeded to order him to go check to see what our youngest son was up to because it must be our son who was smoking weed next to her house. She knew for a fact that someone was smoking weed next to her house. I’m inclined to think it was her. Something was giving her hallucinations and she sure wanted to blame us for them.

My husband informed her, with remarkable restraint, that the youngest son in question moved to Oakland seven years ago, and is rarely at our house. Isn’t here now. I would not have been so kind to her. I would have pointed out that if someone in our house was smoking weed, at our own house, on our own property, in our own yard, it’s none of her damn business. I told my husband about the skunk spraying in the neighborhood. The neighbor was smelling the skunk and thought it was weed. The only other scenario I can conjure is that it was a skunk smoking weed. She should have called the skunk.

OK, well, I guess this is officially a rant about my neighbors. Pardon me for breathing. This incident tells me that these neighbors have been stewing about our behavior for quite some time and they are itching for excuses to self-righteously chew us out. I didn’t realize that they are investing so much energy disapproving of us. I thought it amusing when the neighbor-man offered to help me replant my lawn (which I had systematically murdered). I thought it amusing when they planted a privet hedge along the property line to block their view of my wild back yard. Now I am not so amused.

Last year the neighbor-lady called me to complain that we had ants on a tree in our back yard that bordered her property, and she wanted us to call an exterminator and spray the tree with toxic chemicals to prevent the ants from creeping into her yard and devouring her garage. If that didn’t work, she suggested we chop down the tree. An ancient oak tree, hundreds of years old! That’s what they did. They chopped down an ancient oak tree on their property because it had ants and birds on it. Ants and birds can damage houses, you know, and they are opposed to such damage.

Last summer the neighbor-man accosted my husband to berate him for our anti-suburban landscaping. The neighbor-man implied that my husband should get his renegade gardener-wife under control. The short version of our landscaping approach is that we replaced our lawn with drought-tolerant, deer-resistant plants. Our neighbors are still pining for our disappeared lawn. We also don’t pick up and remove the oak leaves dropped by the gorgeous tree in our front yard. Oak trees drop leaves. That’s what they do for a living. The neighbor-man has a vendetta against dropped leaves. He warned my husband that he and “some of the other neighbors” (as far as we can tell he means his wife and dog) were discussing measures they could take to force us to return our yard to more appropriate landscaping. (The dog suggested it could poo on our rosemary plants.) This is the same guy who shot a woodpecker out of one of our trees with a BB-gun. My husband was not so nice about that. He told him if he ever does that again we’re calling the cops. He has a serious thing about woodpeckers. Maybe a giant pileated pecked him to death in a previous life. Why does he even live in a rural area? We live in nature here. We live with critters here. He should move to Los Angeles and shoot rats and cockroaches.

This man’s yard consists mainly of rocks and grass. He regularly brings in teams of workers to beat his yard into submission using extremely noisy power tools. They mow his rocks. They turn on gas-powered leaf blowers at 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday and blow every blessed leaf off his lawn, rocks, and driveway. They then pick the leaves up in their teeth and spit them into a bag and set it on fire. His yard adheres to the inedible pristine-boring genre of gardening. Not even a stray flower blossom appears to ruin the antiseptic calm of his lawn. He poisons the gophers. Sprays the ants. I shudder to think what he uses to kill the weeds. Of course, all those toxins run off into my yard. So I’m only pretending to grow organic produce because I’m living in the path of his chemical drift. But do I call him up late at night to demand that he stop using weed killers and lawn fertilizer?

The skunk-and-weed incident reveals that the needle on the neighbors’ disapproval-rating-o-meter is pointing to the hysterical-obsessive-dislike reading for me and my yard. Who knew? I expect them to start leaving threatening notes in my mailbox complaining that my weeds are keeping them awake at night making all that racket growing. They probably blame us for attracting birds to the neighborhood with our grape arbors and sunflowers; for attracting bees and butterflies with our giant sage, bottlebrush tree, and flowers. They have obviously never learned about the birds and the bees. Or about the destruction of the environment and death by toxins. They are not concerned about this generation, let alone the seventh generation. Sigh.

I’m going to put up a sign next to my strawberry patch directing the skunks to the neighbors’ yard. The neighbors won’t notice it because it will be obscured by their privet hedge. Besides, they don’t speak skunk.