Saturday, January 05, 2008

An Evolution in Transportation

This is the story of one woman's fall from grace. Her name is Caprice.

A picture is, as they say, worth a thousand words. I'll try to eke out 750.

First, some history. The first van in this story was a 1990-something Dodge Ram conversion van known as the Kidnapper Van. I don't think it ever served as an accomplice in an actual kidnapping, but it certainly could have. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the Kidnapper Van. However, I did find this incredible stock image (see photo), which doesn't accurately portray the condition of the body of the true Kidnapper Van or its general fear factor. But maybe it gives you an idea.

Perhaps these descriptions will help:
* When Caprice drove the Kidnapper Van, her left foot rested on the gas, while her right foot was somehow poised on the enormous dash, which could have doubled as a wet bar. It was not the most flattering pose, especially in the summer months.
* If she was running late in the morning and didn't have time to feed the kids, she would let them eat in the car. That in itself is no big deal. We all do that. Except that her kids ate cereal. From bowls. With milk. And the bowls weren't always returned promptly to the kitchen.
* On occasion, she would take a handful of my kids to school, which created all kinds of anxiety for both of us. One of us was always running behind, a negligent child would leave a lunchbox behind, blah, blah, blah. On one particular day, my kids piled into the Kidnapper Van and slid across its nasty, nasty interior. Halfway down our block, something broke off, like a cup holder, or a window. My oldest and most smart-alecky reportedly said something like, "This van is a piece of crap," or "What the crap just fell off?" Caprice slammed on the brakes, swiveled around in her captain's seat and bellowed, BELLOWED at my children. "Look, your mom's van is just as crappy as mine! This is a fine van!" She wiped her eyes, put the van in "drive," and sped off. I think that may have been the last time we carpooled.

For months, years even, the Kidnapper Van would spend an equal amount of time in Caprice's driveway and in the parking lot of our favorite mechanic's garage. It was like the van was the pawn in a custody dispute--one week here; one week there; hey, where's my check?

After the Kidnapper Van finally died, and Caprice agreed that she couldn't dig a hole deep enough to bury it, she sighed and decided it was time to buy another car. Our favorite mechanic was able to breathe new life and a new transmission into the Kidnapper Van after he bought it from Caprice. He went on to resell it, and I have since seen it on our city streets, being driven like a four-wheeled ghost by someone who fits it better. He's large and fast-driving, usually leaning forward. Maybe he's a kidnapper. I'm not sure.

Caprice, in the meantime, could have had her pick of any, ANY car in the world. Or, at least, almost any color. Instead, she chose solid white, or what she calls "a blank canvas," and what I call "an absence of color." In either case, it lacked the, say, "personality" that the Kidnapper Van had. Hey, even a bad personality is a personality.

One look at the white van, and I suggested dark red and black flames down the sides. Or maybe "Hot Mama" painted in gothic lettering on the windshield. Instead, the "blank canvas" initially served as a backdrop for cheap daisy magnets that would have looked more appropriate on the bottom of a bathtub. Eventually the sun faded the ink off the daisies (whew!), leaving behind an unfortunate residue that her husband may or may not have noticed yet.

The same woman who for so long resisted the minivan option based on hippie principles has not only caved under suburban pressure and joined our ranks, but she has taken it way too far. (See photo.)

I don't know what to think of this. On the surface, she seems to have evolved in some way, but I find it frightening.

(Look for a future installment on Caprice's new sleep pants. It will be riveting.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Back to the Keyboard (or Where the Heck Have I Been?)

With a nod to the new year, I've taken the time to clear off some posts and devote some energy to this blog, which is linked to my website. Please bear with me as I get cranking again. The past seven months have been a long and winding road. Here's what has happened ...

My epiphany (some call it a revelation, others call it a nervous breakdown) occurred at a restaurant in December while celebrating my anniversary and crying about my cat, Deb, who had to be put to sleep that day because apparently she had been hit by a car and nobody -- NOBODY -- could fix all the awful things that had happened inside her little orange and white body. Not even if she could have been airlifted to Auburn University. So I ate a bite of triggerfish, choked back tears and announced, "I'm very sad about my cat."

It wasn't until the third glass of wine that I realized (and verbalized to my slightly embarrassed husband across the table) that I was certainly justified in being sad about my cat and now who was supposed to sit outside my kitchen window each morning, I want to know? And by the way, my job was making me crazy.

How could that be possible? I was Mary Richards, for Pete's sake. I could turn the world on with my smile. I could take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile. Love was ALL around me.

I'll tell you how it's possible. I was a square peg; the job at the magazine was the round hole. I was trying to do something that I shouldn't be trying to do. Like ceramics. Or baking homemade bread. These are all good and noble things, but what do they have to do with me? The only part of the job I wanted was the part I had no time for, and that was writing. Ew, that sounds egotistical. So what I mean to say is that the writing part is the part I enjoy most, not that I'm any better at it than anyone else is. But as most people in magazines will tell you, editors don't really get to write a lot. And that's very unfortunate.

"So, quit your job ... and pass the salt?" Idiot. People don't just up and QUIT jobs like that. They marinate in them. They lose sleep over them. They develop stomach issues because of them. I am HONORED to have this job, I told him. Still, as I kept eating triggerfish, I tried to process what my life would be like without that job. And without my cat. I couldn't bring my cat back to life, but I could have my life back without the job.

Fortunately, I was just bold enough to admit, hey, this isn't for me. Maybe I am spoiled. Maybe I am old. Maybe I am too set in my ways. Whatever I am, I am smart enough to know when to call it a day. So I did, that very next week. I submitted my notice, returned to my home office and resumed my freewheelin', freelancin' life.

That was last year. Or two weeks ago. And now it's 2008, and I'm back to the drawing ... er, keyboard. Yea, me!