When you hate change as much as I do, things that remain constant are a necessary comfort. Holiday traditions that recur year after year, such as Randolph’s caroling with Santa’s arrival on the green, Woodstock’s horsey Wassail Parade, the Holly Jolly project, and mitten trees provide the longboard I need to surf life’s erratic vicissitudes.
Wrapping presents while watching treacly movies on Lifetime (theme: buff, middle-aged guy new to town chooses charmingly disorganized single mother over outfit-wearing sports-car/golfing lady) or the Hallmark Channel (title: A Bride for Christmas) soothes my holiday prep time no matter what’s going in real life. Which might not be all that good. I’m not mocking these shows. Christmas in Conway enchants, and The Christmas Hope is a bawler. I’m a sap. Akin to treacle.
Another lifesaver is the expressionless decorative light-up pilgrim I bought years ago at Rite-Aid. About three feet high, he gets dusty after a year in storage and I have a good hoot washing him off every November when I get to his little plastic fanny. Should have purchased the whole expressionless family (stalwart group!). And when Grandma Al and her granddaughter make magic cookies (not the Grateful Dead kind) in their aprons, or I look up Alex Hanson’s gravy recipe online yet again, all is right in the world.
Everything changes so fast now we can’t keep up. My fairly new TV is apparently already a “dino” (cable installer guy didn’t think I’d understand this high-tech lexicon on phone call to his mother ship in front of me—get a less obvious code word, pally!), and suddenly we don’t need to connect our computers to a cable for internet connectivity at home, even without a router (what?). My shiny, year-old TV remote is archaic, outmoded, useless; my router obsolete. Cableboy won’t take any of it away with him.
What do I do with these antiquated accoutrements? The remote, the cables, the router…are others pouring same into landfill? Je refuse! I’ll find a home for them if it kills me. When I said to the Comcast guy and the TV wall-mounter guy in my living room, “Wow, I didn’t know you could tilt the TV like that on its brackets, there should be a remote for that,” they looked at me like I was some kind of sci-fi future-predicting genius. “I’ve never seen that!” one said. But I don’t want another damn remote. All I need is a sled, snow pants, hot cocoa with marshmallows, gift wrap, Jingle Bell Rock, and some people. That stuff doesn’t need upgrading. It never gets old.
Change: no! I like when people do their lights the exact same way every year. There is a little blue-lit tree outside somewhere (Tunbridge?) that, unlike nieces, never seems to grow up. That’s good. It’s distressing when houses change hands and the usual trimmings change or disappear. Driving by my parents’ empty house is saddening. It’s been empty in winter in recent years, but this time it’s permanent – and no change is worse than permanent change. When the Barnard General store quit selling penny candy 30 years ago, I never recovered. It’s all still there, right where it belongs, the little wax bottles filled with colored ick, the caramels and the Smarties®, in my mind.
Some change is not so awful. That I moved from my beloved Bethel — not great. But I stay over a friend’s house (whom I used to live so close to that staying over never occurred to us) and we have spiked nog by the Christmas tree after her cat punches me repeatedly while I write (love the Siamese—naugh-ty) and, well, maybe a new tradition is in the making. When the old traditions fall off, due to death or dismemberment or some horrible new technology, they need replacing or we’re left with nothing.
I’ll start one now. Something you can see and think, “Oh good, there’s that thing again. A constant!”
You may enjoy what autofills in Google’s search box before you finish typing … endlessly amusing. Monthly, I might post the winners. For December:
“Does a…” autofills with
-root canal hurt
-duck’s quack echo
-photon have mass?
Et voila. Your inaugural autofill of the month. Little gift fer ya there, as you jingle around the clock. Good day.
Bumper Sticker Suggested by Harry One Year Ago when I Wrote we Were Told as Children (by the Catholics?) That Writing “Xmas” Instead of Christmas was Literally a Sin:
Let’s keep the X in Xmas!
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.