New Englanders are not sissies. In our winter not as snow-dumped as the coastline’s yet brutal in its wind and crushing sub-z temps, we’ve had to make due. As we observed the recent anniversary of the liberation from Auschwitz and current global horrors, we know things could be much, much worse.
And so, because we can, we amuse ourselves in between the complaining. I, for example, unapologetically guzzle discounted Valentine chocolates in bed without brushing. Dreaming is cheap and I go hot places—the Keys, Hell, some award ceremony where I’m burning up under the lights. Others are stoking their woodstoves with such vigor it’s like Havana in there. They’re making dinner in their underwear, as did probably the colonists. Wood heat is sizzling, man; between that and their itchy wool, colonists were surely warmer than today’s oil burning homeowner playing Drop That Thermostat against housemates or sometimes even himself.
As a stranger once advised, unsolicited, during my first icy winter in Vermont: “You have to embrace it.” That year I’d snowshoe in gale-force winds, wincing (passers-by thought smiling?) and willing myself, by God, to embrace it. This year as nutters pass, ice-jogging in shorts … kids with no mittens, no hat, unzipped jacket (hood hanging useless) blowing wide open … I’ve embraced it — not while undulating in a stalled chairlift at 20 below but by reading under a blanket, baking, knitting … with a brief tundra walk daily in a fleece burka to pretend I’m outdoorsy. Others more brave went snowshoeing, skiing, skating and, insanely, ice fishing. They claimed to like it. Stockholm syndrome?
Still, people are getting cranky. Things that annoy have become intolerable. A friend writes:
“If Google is going to track my every move online and use it to serve up ads, couldn’t they at least do it better? Last fall I bought a dehumidifier. Every website I visit is still shows me ads for . . . dehumidifiers. Brilliant. Because really, who can stop at just one? Someday, the technology will advance to the point where The Cloud understands that a person who just bought a dehumidifier is a person who now owns a dehumidifier and as such, is probably no longer in the market for a dehumidifier. Someday, the uploaded consciousness of Don Draper will determine, ‘Maybe the dehumidifier was a desperate act and now this guy could be in the market for, say, a mold abatement service.’ Or the Internet will offer the proud new dehumidifier owner fun accessories like an “I ♥ DEHUMIDIFIERS” bumpers sticker or a cross-stitch pillow saying, “A dry basement is a happy basement and it’s also a perfectly fine dwelling for your brother-in-law until he can get his act together and besides, it’s just for a few weeks, we think.” See guys, that’s the real promise of big data—that’s artificial intelligence; that’s the future. That’s when I’ll know that handing over my last vestiges of privacy has been truly worth it.”
Another crank, a surgeon, explains how he learned to detest the inconsistency of the Automatic world of modern tymes:
“It began while scrubbing at the surgical sink for five minutes. They installed one row of scrub sinks that automatically went on by hitting them with your knee, with another “modern” set that automatically went on by sensing your hand under the faucet. I sustained an Automatic Injury whenever I would hit the bottom of the sink with my knee expecting it to go on only to realize that I was not at the Automatic Sink. It begat Automatic Envy as my knee was hurting and I wished I were at that other sink. Automatic Anger took over as I’d go limping into the operating room. It doesn’t stop there.”
One antidote to automatic envy, cabin fever, and Polar Vortex antics is … music! I sing badly to homemade CDs, playable in my unModern car. Studies show that, of people who do things in groups (sport teams, political clubs, choirs), people who sing together are happiest. And healthier! Some suggest it’s the vibration on the thymus gland improving immune response to biogremlins. I chalk it up to the sheer joy of harmonizing, resonating, and laffs, for all chorale groups snicker together. Who couldn’t, with what the tenors are saying back there?
My republican and democrat friends fraternize, often singing. We red and blue Valley pals have the best time, snorting away—we just don’t talk politics. Or we do and let it go. We know we’re lucky to have heat and power; what’s a little difference of opinion among friends? Little tip for you there, warring peoples of the Land. Warble, harmonize, titter your way to amity. Good vortex. Good day.
A friend requested a column on weird modern phenomena, like how we stand in front of doors now and expect them to magically open. He named our dismay when it doesn’t happen: Automatic Envy. After traveling, you expect the home faucet to run when you put your hands under it. I’ve hit the back button on my car’s (obsolete?) CD player because I missed what someone on the (oops) radio said. And who doesn’t want to Undo? All signs of the Apocalypse. (Repent!)
Last week a diamond fell out of a homemade ring I own. Gone forever. Didn’t care. I lose my phone for 24 hours? Panic. A girl’s best friend used to be diamonds. Now it’s a radio frequency transmitter -receiver.
If you ask older people (50+) if they’d rather travel backwards or forwards in time, they mostly say backwards. The YPs* say forwards — because they dread neither horrific new developments nor the vexations embedded in modernity’s [alleged] conveniences. Dear Reader knows of my distaste for modern tymes. The punishments in Game of Thrones faze me not (, my Lord). I’ll take a cat-o-nine tail flogging over the horror of forwarding an e-mail to the wrong person any day of the week.
Polling (electronically!) my friends for their modern peeves, the response was uproar. From technophobe to misanthrope, they went OFF. I have categorized (and sanitized) them for your reading pleasure.
When did sending an email become a good way to end a 6-month relationship? The whole idea of “selfies.” Surveillance. People who don’t read your entire e-mail (what, they’re too busy?), then ask questions you’ve already answered (Now I’m too busy!) Internet bullying – comments made by cowards. How complicit we are daily in giving up control over our personal information. Notices from Linked In—who cares?! People who think Facebook solves all communication situations; people who change their portrait daily. Social media: enough already. When people haven’t tested equipment/remotes for their PowerPoint or whatever and it doesn’t work; for the love of God, go in EARLY! Phony, planted e-mails like “A great company is interested in you!” When my long e-mail disappears just before I hit Send. The buffering signal cycling while waiting for the Internet to do something. PASSWORDS. And [from a tech genius:] People who refuse to make an effort to understand technology.
Trucks’ infernal backing-up beeping. Loud TV commercials. Radio commercials with dangerous driving-distraction sounds (cell phone sounds, sirens, bells). Leaf-blowers – get a rake!
Telephones—the quality is crap now; I used to be able to HEAR people when I talked to them on the phone. Friends toying with their phones (no eye contact, constantly checking their devices). Morons having loud cell phone convos in stores — or your car. Robocalls. Checking phone messages on three @#$! phones. Automated phone “receptionists.” When people call you and immediately say “Hold on.” That every new phone requires different chargers. How everyone has a preferred method of communicating – text, phone, email, FB. If your way doesn’t match your friend’s, you NEVER talk.
A GPS takes you to a wall/obscure goat path. Left lane drivers refusing to pass the car next to them or driving in the left lane when there is no one in the right lane. Massachusetts drivers. Unorganized travelers in front of me on the TSA line. No one has manners anymore –could people say excuse me while they shove past you in a crowd? Hell no!
People needing to record every moment on devices rather than actually experiencing the moments. Interviewers who ask questions & don’t let the person answer as they keep on jawing. Reality TV glamorizing rude, competitive individuals with faces so distorted from plastic surgery they look like “the Hunger Games.” “Parties” where my “friends” are selling items I do not need but feel obligated to buy; I could stay home, drink better wine, and save my money. “Tweet us live at hashtag [whatever]!” Everyone writing a YA novel.
Corporate jargon. Acronyms. Branding. Modern sayings like “It’s a no brainer,” or “Reframe it.” People saying “literally” when they mean “figuratively” blow my figurative head off. The attitude of being horribly offended within “Really?” and “Seriously?” People who say “Hash tag xyz” (#peeves) in real life. Apostrophes wrongly before the letter “s” (= the Vermont Special). Use of “I” where “me” is objectively called for. Mangled common expressions (“A tough road to hoe”), called eggcorns by linguists.
Truffles. The Cloud. Millennials. How countries still invade other countries. Kids in hazardous situations while parents text. Celebrity perfumes. The new light bulbs. Archaic contagions resurfacing. Hand sanitizer. Too many things in my life. Stores using a decimal point and the cent sign (.35¢), meaning the item is less than 1 penny. Open floor plan office spaces. Media reporting a story before the facts are proven. Gluten-free. How we can’t learn the price of medical procedures ahead of time. Tip jars at Starbucks, DD, etc. Pomegranate in EVERYTHING. Dog owners who let their dogs bark at, sniff, or mate you. People not washing their hands in the restroom—many of them out there. Families ignorant of Hot Tub Etiquette. My achin’ back. My mother.
And finally, from my misanthrope: Calling tech support; smart phones, stupid people; people.
And there you have it. You didn’t ask, but me, I’m going back in time. Catch you at Stonehenge (, Sassenach!) Good day.
Suggested Bumper Sticker from Braintree Naked Swim Club:
IT’S A NICE DAY FOR A RED WEDDING;
IT’S A NICE DAY TO THRONE AGAIN.