Friday, March 02, 2007

Life is Short - Autobiography as Haiku

My toddler struggles as she spreads the cream cheese on her bagel. Her powerful hands lack an adult’s technical refinement. When I was her age, my grandfather would unhinge his pocket knife’s worn blade and separate the skin from an apple like a sculptor. I’d marvel when presented with the translucent, tantalizing coil. Last week, tethered to the coil of his oxygen tank, his once sturdy hands gestured to me in disbelief. “Why do I feel so weak?” he questioned. I looked down at his hands, in awe that he still had the strength to hold mine.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Little Women

At the coffee shop yesterday, a young girl proudly sat down in the big green cabbage of a chair next to me. Her three younger sisters and mother sat outside with their chocolate milks, sipping straws, telling their mother of their day at school. But inside the shop, legs crossed beneath her, with a small lidded cup (to make it look more adult no doubt - although it was still probably just a lukewarm cocoa-) this young girl sat smiling to herself. Unbeknownst to her, her mother watched her through the window, as the other daughters milled around her like fuzzy ducklings. Such beautiful children. A blonde, a dirty blonde who already hinted of the brunette to come, and a striking red head whose locks nearly seemed alive in balmy breeze, dancing like algae.

The sisters would come into the shop occasionally; to impart some detail of the traffic going by or snippets of conversation outside, but the girl brushed them off nonchalantly. She had a book in her hands that she held like a proclamation. She seemed proud. Was that it? Proud of the fact that she had this new book to read? Of drinking in words privately. A book chosen on her own for no other reason than enjoyment? Or was it more excitement? Like Proust's Madeleine’s -- to remember the excitement of being ten, eleven... with the ability to transport yourself into other worlds. A driver’s permit of sorts, years before a more tangible form of transportation would feel crucial. Her gaze hiccupped from her book almost mischievously. As if she was meeting a boyfriend excitedly after only a few dates, when everything was new, new, new and dewy and full of promise.

When she went outside, she handed the book over to her mother, who put it into a canvas bag with the other daughter’s books -- a collage of picture books, chapter books and other more puerile selections. She smiled at her mother shyly. Her mother's eyes beamed back through opaque sunglasses. Her eyes, of course, were not visible to me, but her cheekbones betrayed her love and pride for her child. It was as if she'd watched her daughter like the long-ago Kitty Hawk pilots experiencing the first few titillating lifts of flight. How it made me long to sneak a peek, just a tantalizing glimpse, of the day when I will venture out with my daughters, and in the same manner, look at them and marvel. What fantastic wonders await? I wonder. I wonder.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Come sojourn by my side, freak. Your kind is welcome here!

The other day I had the honor of sitting in a Quest Diagnostics location for three-plus hours. I needed to do a glucose tolerance test to see if I'm one of those lucky women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. I dreaded the process and the time commitment. You can't eat for at least 12 hours prior to the test and after drinking a nasty orange concoction, you have to have your blood drawn every three hours. That doesn't include the original needle stick prior to downing the dastardly liquid. I'd put it off for several days, when finally I decided to get it over with and be a grownup. I showed up well-prepared, stocked with a book, several sections of the Washington Post and a portable DVD-player. We had three Netflix at home, but one was a drug movie and another was a bank heist movie I'd already seen, so that left me with Jarhead. I was certain this was not the most appropriate film to screen in a venue such as Quest Diagnostics, but I figured I'd tilt the screen toward myself, turn on the captions and turn off the sound. It would be fine.

The office was quite packed, especially since it was rather small. There were numerous chairs lining the walls like corduroy. Most every seat was filled with some bored-looking person who obviously was as loathe to be there as I. I set up shop. First, I perused the paper. There was only one technician at the office, so I knew it was going to be a long wait. How thrilling to be pregnant, waiting to drink treakly orange sludge, while watching the minutes tick longer and longer away from lunch time! Finally, I reasoned with myself that I'd have to break out the movie or I'd be breaking out of the office like a crazed looney. I wanted to hold out and wait make the movie last... but I just wasn't strong enough to wait any longer.

Jake Gyllenhaal began to narrate the movie and I began to feel myself calm down and ooze into the plotline. But not for long... because that's when my new best friend arrived. Mr. Mumbai. --No that's not his name. But it's the nicest name I can come up with at this point. Mr. Mumbai was a 50ish East Asian man. He was dressed in his best navy blue Dickies slacks and shirt, complete with a matching trucker's cap. It was clear from the uniform, if not from the distinct scent of Au de Toilette de Exxon that he was a gas station attendant in his working life. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Of course not. I just wished I didn't have to catch a whiff of it across the three foot space between us while I was nauseated and hungry. Oh the joys of pregnancy!

Who knows what mysterious lab work Mr. Mumbai was supposed to have? We'll never know, because he just sat there without signing his name on the registry. He sat in his maroon seat with a perplexed look on his face, scanning the room in search of a guide? a friend? a victim? And because I seem to have a neon sign above my head flashing, "Come sojourn by my side, freak. Your kind is welcome here," he got up from his seat and slid into the one other empty chair in the room. At this point I immediately developed severe osteoporosis. That is to say, I curved by body protectively over the screen of the DVD player and made it seem as though I was unable to see, hear or be aware of anything else in the room. But Mr. Mumbai was steadfast in his quest, and he inched in close and ignored my body language.

"What kind of stone is that?" he asked.

"Huh?" I said.

"What kind of stone -- in your ring -- what kind of stone is that?" he asked again.

"Uh, a diamond." I said. After all, it was clearly a wedding ring. It should have been obvious to him. But I guess this was his cool way into getting my attention.

"Does it touch the skin?" He continued.

"What?" I said.

"Does the stone touch your skin?"

"No. The setting is up on top of the band." I said with a bland, disinterested tone. This clearly didn't matter to him. He was hungry to converse.

"Look. Look at my rings," he said, sliding silver and gold bands off of fingers not traditionally used for rings. "See how the stone touches my skin?" Well, I don't know about that, Mr. Mumbai, I thought to myself. All I know is that it looks like you've cut the circulation off in your fingers for years and now the skin looks all atrophed and sickly white. I just nodded my head.

"In India -- I am from India -- I learn about gems. I know all about different stones. It's very important that the stone touch your skin so you can get the power of the stone." He urged. I just said, "Interesting" and tried to keep my eyes focused on Jake as he drunkenly danced with nothing more than a Santa Claus hat on little Mr. Gyllenhaal.

"I also read palms. I am very good. Very accurate. Give me your left hand." He said. So to get rid of him, and really, I thought he'd get his blood drawn or provide a urine sample and be on his way sometime soon, I figured what's the harm? I held up my left hand.

"No, your left hand." He said. So I fluttered the fingers on my left hand in "jazz hands" formation.

"No. Your Left Hand." He urged again.

"Uh, this is my left hand." I said, my eyes widely bugged out as if I was someone with thyroid issues. He grasped my hand and began lightly squeezing the area of my palm near my pinky finger.

"My eye sight, it's not so good." He smiled, "You are going to have a son." He said please with himself.

"Nope." I said, "It's a girl."

"Then you have a son at home." He countered.

"Nope. Another girl."

"Then you are going to have another baby. It will be a boy. I am sure of it. I am very good. Very accurate. I learn this back in India. Not like the lies on the internet." He said.

"Nope. This is my last baby. We're not having other children." I said, and clicked the rewind button. I was missing dancing Jake and although I was somewhat embarrassed that Mr. Mumbai was watching this over my shoulder, I wasn't embarrassed enough to miss the scene entirely. It required patience, diligence and attention. And I was willing to sit through it again out of um... respect.

People around the room were looking at us. They flashed the "better you than me" sympathetic glances. Bastards. Someone rescue me! I turned to the young pre-teen and her mother at my right and mouthed, "help me!" but they just giggled and smiled. Sigh. Bastards.

There wasn't much I could do except pack up my belongings and hide out in the bathroom for a few minutes. My hope was that another seat would free up and I would take that one... one far from Mr. Mumbai. But by now, you know my luck. My fate. My curse. The only seat that was still available when I returned was next to Mr. Mumbai. The very same maroon-cushioned chair that marooned me next to Mr. Mumbai. I slowly shuffled back and sat down, a defeated Persephone to his Hades. I would have to do my time next to him until I was allowed my freedom.

The phlebotomist arrived at the reception window and motioned for the man to come over. She took his paperwork and said that she was unable to perform the lab work he needed, but that he could go to one of two other locations and they would be happy to do the test for him there. She took out a brochure and circled the two locations and handed it to Mr. Mumbai. He just looked at her quizzically. She explained again. And, again the befuddled expression was returned to her glaze.

"I must call my daughter!" He said, and asked to use the office phone. But she refused.
She was a tough nut to crack, this lady. But you could understand why. After all, she was alone in the office with no one to watch her back while she drew blood all day. She only allowed one patient back at a time and locked and unlocked the door with a key before and after walking to the examination area in the back.

Mr. Mumbai came back to me, with the brochure clutched in his hand and a defeated look. He took out the lab order and showed it to me. It looked much like the one I had, except with different circles were blackened in and a different name and address at the top of the sheet. He pointed to the address and said, "How do I get to Bell Street? It is around here, yes? I have seen it."

"The woman said to go to one of the locations here," I said, pointing to the brochure.

"But Bell Street, " he insisted. "It is around here, yes?"

"It might be. But the one you're pointing to says 'Houston, Texas.' That's not around here." Mr. Mumbai did not understand.

"Yes, I know HOUSE-ton" he said pronouncing the city the way you're supposed to pronounce the famously-mispronounced street in New York. "How long does it take to get there?" he asked.

"Well, here's where we are on the East Coast, "I pantomimed, "and alllll the way over here is Texas. It's quite far." I said, trying not to sound condescending. I didn't want to annoy this unstable man, number one, and number two, I wanted to convey that he could go to one of the other labs and most-importantly out of my life!

"Will it take a long to get there?" I pleaded.

"Well, it's several time zones away. The other sites are just down the road. I'd go there instead." I smiled.

"I need to call my daughter, but she won't let me use the phone!" he said, clearly incensed with the phlebotomist. "You have a phone," he said. Earlier, I'd taken out my Blackberry to try and quickly send a message to my husband to come and hang out with me. He was telecommuting, so it would be possible. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the message out to him due to poor cell coverage inside the building. Curses!

"There's a phone in the lobby, just as you walk in." I said.

"But you have a phone. I can use that one."

"This is a work phone," I lied. "And you keep pointing to a long distance number. I'm not allowed to make long distance calls with this phone." I said with conviction. Where the hell did that come from? By the power of GreySkull - I was SheeRah/HeMan all of the sudden.

He looked pissed. Mr. Mumbai was certainly not a happy man. But I had little sympathy. I missed most of my movie. My stomach ached with hunger. I had horrible reflux from the glucose drink and the crook of my arm was angrily turning a bloated shade of purple from being prodded so much. I'd had enough. And so had Mr. Mumbai. Who would win?

He scanned the room again, looking for a new ally. Finally a nice man rose to his feet and drew a map on the back of the brochure showing Mr. Mumbai how to drive to one of the other lab locations. Mr. Mumbai looked at me like a father who'd just resigned himself to disowning his only son. He turn his back to me. Stood for a moment or two, and then walked out of the door. It opened and shut with a quiet sigh.

When I was sure he was gone, I turned to the pre-teen and her mom who were still seated to my right and said, "Gee, thanks for your help!" jokingly. But really, it was no joke. They'd cowered in their foxhole together while I was out taking bullets for the rest of the squad. Obviously they weren't familiar with Band of Brothers. And really, doesn't everyone get the History Channel by now?

Later in the day, during my next blood draw, the phlebotomist told me that Mr. Mumbai "freaked her out. He's a crazy man. I called my supervisor and told him that I wasn't going to draw this man's blood. He's crazy."

"Great, so you left him out there with me!" I said.

"Who thought he'd stay that long?" She said sadly. "That older woman that came in before you said, 'there's some crazy man bothering a pregnant lady. Why doesn't she run out of here!'" the Phlebotomist laughed and put her hand on my shoulder. Oh yeah, because that was a real-world option.

"Yeah. No one came to my rescue. You all just left me there!" I said. She smiled and laughed again. Because one person's horror is always funny to someone else. It's just like after you have a frightening dream, and then you retell it the next day to someone else and it sounds ridiculous. --Like something Sid and Marty Croft would stage with big bright foam costumes and character names like Whitchy-Poo. At least it makes for a good story.

Now if only I could find a way to bash in the neon sign above my head. Or at least make it read, "Go Away! Beware of Blog."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Out of the Mouth of Babes

We all have heard those stories about kids who issue truths in public. It's the story you hear over coffee or while having dinner with friends - - "And then he said, 'Mommy that lady is fat!'" Or "...and Janey said, 'You smell!'" We laugh. Sometimes we're astounded and wonder what we'd have done if put in the same situation. Mostly, though, we seethe in secret jealousy. If only we'd be free to innocently spout off those same observations.

Last weekend we went to get a poster framed. There were people being helped ahead of us, but we decided to wait, thinking it would only be a few minutes until our turn. Of course, that only happens when you have all the time in the world or you're not with a three year old child. The store was hot like menopause. I was constantly blousing my shirt, trying to generate a little relief. The air was thick and my watch, each time I checked it, looked a bit more and more like a Dali painting.

At some point, two biddies strolled into the line. Or rather, they strolled adjacent to the line. As if they were going to merge in. Yeah, nice try. But not on my watch, Esmerlda. In my mind, I ran a few lines to hear how they sounded. "Um, I believe I was actually next." Or "Excuse me, we were next and.... well, I don't know how much longer my child will be able to handle waiting." Hmm.. too desperate?

Esmerelda and her friend were into sewing. They had their wares with them and they were planning on how they should frame their latest craft. I have great affection for people who can sew and sew well. There are some lovely creations lounging on sofas and adorning walls all over America. I remember the intricate table clothes my mother brought out on special occasions that she and other had embroidered. And there was the wall hanging she did for my father's office with the (for the era) witty quip: "Old Lawyers Never Die, they Just Lose their Briefs". But Esmerelda's piece did not fall into that category. It was done with a saccharine design that she no doubt created on her own. The kind of thing that would go well with the "Hang in there!" kitten poster from the late 70's/early 80's. The main color was a washed-out cabbage green, accented by baby-vomit yellow-brown. Make no mistake, these ladies were not being courted by anyone from TLC, Discovery or The Home and Garden Channel.

So we waited, and waited. And I could tell that my three year old was getting restless. She'd had enough. She wanted out and needed to make her own little Shawshank Redemption plot to get free. So.... just loudly enough to be heard, --and was that a twinkle in her eye? -- a smirk on her face?-- she said, "Mommy, that lady has a funny-looking face." Now that was true. Her face was funny looking. There was something very asymmetrical about it. But as funny as her face was, I'm sure her ears were in perfect working order. Standard issue eardrums and all. I saw her freeze in her tracks. She must have heard. Yes, she heard. So I had to make a big show of trying not to make a big show of reprimanding my child. I leaned in closely to my child's face, our noses nearly touching, and did my best imitation of the scary face my mother used on us. Not like that ever worked, of course. But I whispered hotly that that was not a nice thing to say and that we didn't talk about people that way. I figured this would do it -- and if need be-- I'd let her merge in front of me in line. That would be my punishment. Luckily, a shadow box frame caught her fancy and all of her attention was diverted away from us. But best of all, two sales people appeared out of nowhere. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Commuter Couture

Yesterday, on the bus ride home I sat next to a guy that looked like a member of Right Said Fred ["I'm too Sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it huuuurrts.] He had the bald head and gold hoop earring and a tattoo of a lotus flower (I’m guessing ) on his wrist. It was partially obscured by the cuff of his shirt, so it looked like a muddled chrysanthemum. Not very sexy. Not at all Fred.

Right Said Fred was sitting alll the way forward on his seat, like he was waiting for the coach to send him in to pinch hit. I just wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shove him back in his seat. Where did he think he was going? But then it became clear that he was whispering into the ear of the guy in the seat in front of him. So I had to be a big fan. Because, there's nothing sexier on the bus than whispering. Way to go Fred. [I wish more people were too sexy to chat, to sexy to chat, oh chatty cathy, whatcha think about that?]

The bus is a great place to people watch. Never a dull moment, for sure. You have these people who are very, very finely dressed. Put together in pinstripes, cuff links and tasteful hint of cologne. And then you take in the ... the.... Land's End Mocks. The 10-year-old Reeboks. The ~GASP~ worn-to-the-cork-nubbin- Birkenstocks with black socks. Oh the humanity.

In the morning, it's not out of the ordinary to see a woman putting the finishing touches on her makeup. In most cases, it's analogous to adding a sprig of parsley to a dish before sending it out of the kitchen. But one woman, and really - I'm impressed here - brings a whole tackle box full of make up each day. It's truly amazing. She puts on several different layers, much like an artist priming a canvas. Just watching her balance everything on her lap, hold her 45 record-sized mirror and apply the make up is like watching the Cirque de Soliel. But to have to carry all that crap around with you everyday seems silly. Wake up an extra 15 minutes early, sister. One of these days the bus is going to jolt forward, the Clinique is going to surge into the other seats and we're all going to emerge from the bus looking like trampy Tammy Faye Bakers.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

You've Come a Long Way, Baby - Now, Take a Few Steps Back!

I must admit, the commuter bus has its pluses: a nap to and from work. No worries about finding a parking spot or fighting traffic. No uncomfortable moments with carpool buddies, etc. But it's not all a bed of roses. You have to wait outside in the elements for a bus to arrive. Heat, rain, snow. And if you miss one by seconds, it's not going to stop as you run after it like Dwayne from What's Happenin'?! But, by far, the worst I've had to deal with is Virginia Slim. She seems like a nice lady, sure. She's got that no-nonsense short grey hair that says, "I'm not fighting it anymore. Who needs color when I have grey steel?" She carries her trade-association/convention totebag and of course, her ensemble would not be complete with out her pixy stix-length pack of cigarettes. Now, you'd think she'd just light up the moment she exited her office building. Women with those Cruella DeVille ciggies are hooked and need their fix as soon as they can sing the Jolene theme song. But she holds off, preferring to carry them like a Nextel walkie-talkie all the way to the bus stop. There's a formal procedure to it. An order. It's as if it's a Japanese tea ceremony for her. She shakes the pack and magically the baton-sized cigarette pops it's head up and says, "hey there sweet thing, care to dance?" Then, out comes the lighter, then the lovingly cupped hand to protect from the unkind breeze and finally the sensual suck, that first sex-filled inhalation of smokey goodness. She cuddles with her filtered friend until the bus arrives, escorting it all the way to the doors of the bus, then euthenizes it with a stomp just before she hops up the steps. It's a free country, though, and so far, we've managed to leave one last smoking area open for the citizens of Marlboro Country - the entire outdoor portion of the planet. How generous of us!

So what's a girl to do? The options are: (1) step out of line, or go to the end of the line. (2) Ask that she stop smoking in line. (3) Call the bus people and push it on them. (4) Make passive-agressive overatures.

(1)Well, if you step out of line, you risk losing a seat. And unlike other modes of transportation, they're all too happy to take your full fare and let you stand for 40 minutes. And frankly, it sucks.

(2)I guess I could ask her to stop smoking, but she doesn't have that mother-0f-the-earth-I-give-a-sh*t-about-you aura enveloping her. And, basically, I'm just too much of a coward to open my mouth. Thanks so much mom for instilling this dread of confrontation. (Mom's mantra - "Don't make waves, don't make waves. Just suffer - it's easier. Far more pleasant.")

(3)I emailed the bus people, and although they responded in record time, they're just as impotent as I am. There's no way to enforce a no smoking rule (even though there is one), since the city is outside of their jurisdiction and frankly, they can't station someone at each stop as a ciggie monitor. [I think Mike Lookinland (Bobby Brady) could probably revive his hall monitor gig, seeing as his career isn't as groovy as it once was. He was just so damn good at it. Someone should give him a ring and make him an offer.]

(4) I tried the passive-agressive stuff and pretty much she's one of the X Men - she's Carcino-Gina - able to ignore all hand waving, huffing and puffing and "Jesus, how can anyone smoke in this 115 degree heat?" faces.

So now I take the later bus. What a hero I am. Call up Norma Rae and tell her I'm taking over.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Chatty Cathy

A few days ago, while the heat hovered in the hundreds, I took a different commuter bus home than normal. I'd gotten a ride from a co-worker to a different bus pickup location, so I decided to brave it. There is something to be said for keeping to a routine -- for sticking to known evils and the like. I've learned my lesson for sure. Number 1 - Never opt for the window seat when you have to ask someone to get up to give it to you. There's a reason they've sat down in the aisle seat. It's a signal meaning (a) I smell badly. (b) I lack social skills. or (c) I have to be near the aisle so that the authorities can escort me out at any time since I'm so damn annoying. Number 2 - If someone tries to engage you in conversation, pretend that your earbuds are blocking out all sound. This is the most important tip of all.

So that brings me to Thursday afternoon. I trudged down the aisle, shimmering like tinsel, dragging a remnants of a trail of humidity from the outside with me. All I wanted was to sit down, position the little air jets above the seat onto my body and close my eyes for 40 minutes. I asked a seemingly normal-looking man if I could have the seat next to him. Now, had he just moved over into the window seat, I would have been fine. But he did that pivot move -- the one where you have to scoot by and you feel like you're shoving your ass in the person's face. Not comfortable. But what can you do? He said, "Tough day at the office?" as I had sighed heavily when sitting down. I answered, "Nah, just hot out today," and immediately inserted my headphones into my ears. That's the move. It means, "I'm not interested in talking. I'm locking myself into a sphere of silence and pretty much, you do not exist." It's not rude. It just is. It's standard for commuting, regardless of the mode of transportation. You don't make eye contact. You don't talk. If your phone rings, you talk quietly for as little time as possible.

So this guy starts talking. To me. Even though I'm clearly plugged in and looking out of the window. "Have you noticed that people are using technology more and more and not communicating with others? Why do you think that is?" He asks. So I pull out one of the earbuds and give him the, "you talkin' to me?" look. "Well," I posit, "I guess it's just at the end of the day, people are tired and want to tune out. Get a nap in. Just rest. You know?" Of course I answer him in a quiet, almost whisper voice so he'll be hip to the fact that he's talking too loudly and for too long. What a mistake that was... engaging him. Because he took the baton and started to run with it. And of course, he talked just loudly enough to be too loud. "I guess you're right," he said. He talked about im-ing with his wife. About the fact that sometimes she got mad when he didn't answer her emails. It was payback he said for not calling him instead. He apparently detests electronic communication. For some reason, I suggested that maybe people emailed one another instead of calling because maybe they thought it was less intrusive. I said, perhaps she emailed you so as not to disturb you in a meeting? He wasn't buying it.

So, I'm still sitting there with my Ipod in my hand, earbud between my finger and thumb like a thread ready to be inserted into a needle. I'm all but ready to do the "thanks for the chat" smile and get back to my music when he pauses and says, "Can I ask you something?" -- If only I could muster the strength to say, "I think you've already asked enough Chatty Cathy!" But it wouldn't have mattered anyway, as he just started in on his next topic. "I make a great salad," he says smiling proudly. "Really great. I make the dressing from scratch and I bring it to my sister's house for all family dinners. And it's really great. I put in dried appricots and ...." at this point I just zone out. He's beginning to remind me of that other loud-talking kook, er, cook, Rachel Ray. I know there's some question coming around the bend, so I decided to tune out until I hear his voice get a bit higher-pitched and I know it's my brief turn to answer. "... and my neice and nephew never eat the salad. And it's a really great salad. And they never eat it and I don't know why," he finishes. Sigh. Who gives a shit? Really. "They're kids. Kids don't like salads." I offer. "Well, I want to just look at them and say, 'eat the damn salad!'", he says ruefully. "Do you think it would be rude to do that? Do you think my sister would get mad?" He asks. "Yeah. I think I'd be annoyed if someone tried to parent my kids," I say. "You know," I say, "maybe she doesn't say anything because it's easier to keep the peace when you're at a family dinner. Maybe she would rather talk to you than fight with her kids. Sometimes as a parent you pick your battles." I say. "But how can I get them to eat the salad? It's a really great salad." Oh enough with your salad! So I tell him, why don't you just ask them what kind of salads they enjoy and bring that one next time? Wow - what a break through. Put me on the next plane with Condi.

Finally, I give up on the Ipod. I've had it poised for 25 minutes, but clearly, I'm not getting out of this conversation. Chatty Cathy says, "I guess you haven't gotten a chance to listen to your Ipod," with a smug look on his face. Really Sherlock? How did you ever notice - your mouth has been running at such a constant pace that I can't imagine your eyes can see past the blinding speed of your flapping lips. I just smile slightly. What else can I do. Of course, at any point possible, I give the sidelong glances to the others on the bus who have turned around and looked at us with that, "when are you going to shut up?" look. At one point, I give this one tired East Asian woman the "OH LORD WHEN WILL HE SHUT UP" face.

We're not far from our stop when he turns to me, laughs and says, "Do you like hampsters?" What? Do I like hamsters? Sure, the salad conversation was strange. But hampsters? "We have this really great hampster. It should be dead, but we feed it really great food. My wife is a... nutrition-... well, she took nutrition classes in college and..." he's struggling to find the right word. "Dietician?" I offer. "Well, no, she just knows how to eat really well. The right foods. And anyway, we feed our hampster the best lettuce." At this point he starts to name all the different types of lettuce he feeds this animal. "So do you like hampsters?" he asks again. "I'm not a big fan of the rodent family," I say. "He says, "It's rodant. Like the artist." What artist you freak? Rodin? Yeah. Of course. How stupid of me.

Anyway, I blocked out the rest of the conversation, got off of the bus, shared looks with the people around me, frequently mouthing the words words "oh my God!" so they'd know I was hijakced into the conversation and not to hold it against me. I certainly learned my lesson. Next time I'm going to pretend I can't hear over my music. What a freak.