Friday, September 23, 2016

Not Made of Sugar

In Isaac Asimov’s a short story Rain, Rain, Go Away, a strange family, the Sakkaros, move next door to the Wrights. They always seem to be sunbathing, they rush indoors whenever there is a cloud in the sky, and the process she goes through to pour Mrs Wright a glass of water is peculiar indeed.

The Sakkaros are rather reclusive, and the Wrights decide to try to be neighborly and invite them and their son to go to a carnival. They Sakkaros check the forecast, which says it will be clear, and they agree to go with the Wrights. Everyone seems to be having a good time (the Sakkaros eat mass quantities of of cotton candy and other sugary foods). But then, the sky starts to cloud up and Mr Sakkaros hears on his portable radio that it is going to rain. The Sakkaros insist that they really need to go home. Right now.

So the Wright’s drive them home and when the husband gets out of the car to let them out of the back seat, he thinks he feels a drop.
The Sakkaros tumbled out, faces drawn with tension, muttering thanks, and started off toward their long front walk at a dead run.

 “Honestly, began Lillian, “you would think they were….”

The heavens opened and the rain came down in giant drops as though some celestial dam had suddenly burst. The top of their car was pounded with a hundred drumsticks, and halfway to their front door the Sakkaros stopped and looked despairingly upward.

Their faces blurred as the rain hit; blurred and shrank and ran together. All three shriveled, collapsing within their clothes, which sank down into three sticky-wet heaps.

And while the Wrights sat there, transfixed with horror, Lillian found herself unable to stop the completion of her remark:

“…made of sugar and afraid they would melt.”

I t occurred to me when I read the story years ago that the Sakkaros family should have carried large umbrellas “just in case.” We should have had umbrellas last Sunday.

The weather forecast on Saturday was that Sunday would be “bright and sunny.” How fortuitous for our friends, who had planned a party for Sunday for the wife, who turned 86. It was supposed to be an outdoor party on their lovely deck starting at 2 p.m..

At about 12:45, I left the house and took the Mollywog to the park so we could get some exercise before leaving for the birthday bash. Yes, friends and neighbors, I can walk now, but my gait is very lurchy and I need the crutch – or at least I think I do – for longer distances (I believe the crutch is starting to become “a crutch”). I noticed as we started off that dark clouds were forming in the distance, and there was lighting flashing and I could hear thunder rumbling. By the time had I just about finished, the sky was very dark indeed. The first drops started to fall just as we got to the car.

As we were leaving for for the 14-mile or so drive to their house, the heavens had opened and the rain was pouring down. Pouring down so hard that Richard had to slow down on the highway because the wipers could not keep up. He  parked as close as he could to the long cement walk leading up to their porch (I don't do well on gravel) and looked in vain for the umbrellas that are supposed to be in the back seat, but they weren’t there.

I found myself thinking about the Asimov story as I opened the door and got out in the pouring rain and walked—slowly, very slowly—up to the porch. By the time I got there, I was soaked.

I like to think I am sweet, but I am happy to report that I did not melt. They got me a towel, and I dried my hair. The rest of me eventually dried, too.

And we had a lovely visit with these dear people (who were the pastor of our church) and other friends and family.

By the time we were ready to come home,  the rain had stopped, so we were able to stroll back to the car without getting any soggier. And perhaps Richard will remember to put the umbrellas back in the car.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

We Are Annoyed

Even though Blomkvist was used to Salander’s penchant for shocking clothing, he was amazed that his sister had allowed her to show up to the courtroom in a black leather miniskirt with frayed seams and a black top—with the legend I AM ANNOYED—which barely covered her many tattoos.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
We do not have black tops with the legend “I AM ANNOYED” but if we did we would be wearing them.

We don’t often eat out at a sit-down restaurant with waiters, although I suppose the great pizza place in town does count, since a server does bring the food to the table even if you stand at the counter to place your order, but sometimes you want something else besides pizza (even if it the best pizza ever).

Unfortunately, we have had two rather annoying experiences the last two times we have had a meal in a real restaurant. In mid-August we had to go to Springfield so I could get the first injection of the new osteoporosis drug that the research studies say works very well with one I just finished. Although the drug is supposed to be administered in the doctor’s office, all of the doctors refer patients to hospital ambulatory infusion centers for the injection because the drug is too much of a hassle for them to take care of -- has to be kept refrigerated, would have to be ordered from the pharmacy in town in advance, etc. The doctor who prescribed the drug is in Springfield so we went to the ambulatory infusion center at one of the hospitals there. Had Not a Doctor Bob prescribed the drug, I could have gone to the local hospital, but that's okay -- I got most of the day off.

Richard's birthday was coming up ,and he said he wanted to have lunch after the appointment at the Mediterranean restaurant, where we have had lunch twice before and thought it was very good. 

The appointment was at 11:30 but I had to wait about 2 hours for the injection because they wanted to make sure my calcium levels were good before they could give me the shot in the arm and it took that long for the laboratory to run the test. My calcium levels were very good indeed, so I got jabbed and we left to celebrate his birthday.

One of my favorite things on the restaurant's lunch menu, which I had both times we ate there, was Greek spanakopita (spinach pie). I frequently make the wrong choice at restaurants – ordering something that sounds good but doesn’t turn out to be good after all – but this was not the wrong choice the first time I ordered it, and it was wonderful the second time as well.

Yes, indeed it was.

Unfortunately, when we went there this time, Greek spanakopita was not on the lunch menu. One time at another restaurant our favorite thing to eat was not on the menu but we asked specifically if we could order it, and we could. I didn't think to ask the waiter if the spanakopita was still available, so I settled for seafood lasagne, which I admit was good—but it wasn’t what I wanted.

Richard had spaghetti with marinara sauce Italian sausage meatballs. We don't have spaghetti and marinara meat sauce very often, so he was happy to order that and he enjoyed the food, but grumbled, “Why is it that Italian food, which is mostly pasta, is so cheap to make and so outrageously expensive in restaurants.”

So we were both sort of annoyed, him by the price and me because I didn’t get what I really wanted. He said he didn’t think he wanted to eat there again. Neither did I.

Yesterday we drove to Arkansas for my follow-up appointment with the surgeon, and we had lunch at Chili's – a popular franchise restaurant in this area (it may be nationwide, I dunno). We have had several good meals at Chili’s restaurants in the past and were looking forward to our lunch.

There was a small electronic tablet on the table with all sorts of choices on the touch-screen (games, menus, etc), and I thought it might be fun to play one of the trivia games while we were waiting… and waiting… and waiting… so I punched the screen for the trivia games, but before I actually selected a game and started playing, I stopped.

We have seen so many people sitting at tables in fast food restaurants and in waiting rooms, and even in real restaurants, ignoring each other while they fiddled with electronic devices – and not just teenagers but geezers as well. I realized I was being sucked into doing the same thing – ignoring my husband while fiddling with an electronic device. So I pushed it away.

The food arrived and it was great.
The texture and complexity of flavors, the aromas and commingling of ingredients, the act of masticating and swallowing- food is a sensual act, not mere science. Annelies Zijderveld
I mentioned to Richard as I was eating this wonderful combination of lime-flavored rice and black beans and corn salsa, grilled peppers and onions, and chunks of prime rib, how wonderful all of the flavors were and what a wonderful sensual act eating really was and we talked about the wonderful eating scene in the movie Tom Jones, and then we finished and paid the bill – using the handy dandy electronic device to swipe the credit card and print the receipt. How convenient.

And then about an hour after we got home, he noticed that tucked in there on the charge slip for $38 plus change, which included food, tax, and tip, was an additional charge of $1.99 because I fiddled with the electronic tablet. I don't remember seeing anything on the screen that there was a charge for this. I never would have touched it had I been aware doing so was going to cost us extra. He was uhhh… angry…  Me too.

We are very annoyed (but don't have the t-shirt to wear), and Richard says we will never eat at Chili's again. I pointed out that the food was good there and we weren't compelled to use the electronic device, but he says he won’t patronize a restaurant that uses those sorts of tactics to gouge a few extra dollars out of customers. I am cringing a little because I can’t say absolutely positively that there was no notice that using the device cost $1.99 but as my brother would say, “there you have it…”

It’s a done deal.