Thursday, August 30, 2007

Two Milestones In One Week--Almost More Than One Mom Can Stand

A few weeks ago, while reading the short story collection The Lives of Rocks by Rick Bass, I came across a passage in the short story "Goats" that seemed directed specifically (and maybe even a little eerily) at me:

"I've read recently that scientists have measured the brains of adolescent boys and have determined that there is a period of transformation in which the ridges of the brain swell and then flatten out, becoming smoother, like mere rolling hills, rather than the deep ravines and canyons of the highly intelligent, and that during this physiological metamorphosis it is for the boys as if they have received some debilitating injury, some blow to the head, so that,neurologically speaking, they glide, or perhaps stumble, through the world as if in a borderline coma.

Simple commands, much less reason and rules of consequence, are beyond their ken..."

Though Mr. Bass was writing fiction, I know this to be a fact. Not because I Googled it (although I did because that's the kind of geeky girl I am), but because I've spent the last seven years with one, then two, then lord help me, three teenage boys. I know without a doubt that at some point something goes horribly (and, let's hope, temporarily) afoul inside their brains.

Son-Three was arrested last week, two days before Son-One was dropped off for college. And you thought he was too busy with "Bible study" to get into any real trouble.*

Son-Three had some friends over--they had been at soccer practice together earlier in the evening and then "walked around" together for a little while before ending up in the tent in our backyard. I looked out before I went to bed at eleven and I could see five distinct teenage boy shadows and figured we were good--after all, we'd been good every other night this summer. There's a TV out there and a Playstation, a boom box (or whatever they're called now) and a few old chairs. It's essentially a soft-sided guest house.

Anyway, they were out there--Son-Three and four of his friends: G, C, M and M's foreign exchange student, three days off the plane from Brazil. I went to bed. And was awakened at 3:30 by the local police. Son-Three and one of his friends had been stopped driving the flower delivery van. (The police officer said, "We called Cranky Boss Lady, and she was not aware that they had the van." You think? Um, Son-Three doesn't have a license and it was 3:30 in the morning--were you thinking I thought she gave them permission to drive the vehicle? I don't mean to mock law enforcement, but--okay, maybe just a little, from a respectful and anonymous distance.)

Apparently, the five boys were out there in the tent and S, the Brazilian foreign exchange student, was anxious to meet some "American girls." (In instant messages before he came to the States, S told Son-Three that he had had a girlfriend in Brazil but that he broke up with her so he could "do single in the US.") The only American girl available at 2-something a.m. was NF, of Bible study fame, who lives a long, dark four miles from our house and who happened to have an also available friend staying over that night.

Somehow--and I'm not sure exactly how and the reason I'm not sure exactly how is that asking them how it happened and what they were thinking when they did it seemed the ultimate exercise in futility because was there any answer they could give me that would even approach normal human logic? so I didn't ask--the boys came to the conclusion that the best way to get the girls to our house was to take my shop keys and get the shop van.

I assume the shop van was preferable to the car in our driveway because a) it's an automatic and our car is an aging and temperamental manual and b) the van would be much less likely to be missed during this escapade than would our car. (Son-Three may be an idiot with a (temporarily) unridged brain, but he's an idiot that realized he has two parents with insomnia and three nocturnal (especially during the summer) siblings who would certainly wonder where the car had gone.)

So, leaving the other four boys in the tent, M and Son-Three walked to the flower shop where they used my key to get in to the shop to get the van key. Son-Three had the presence of mind to lock the shop behind him. He did not, however, have the presence of mind to turn on the headlights.

By the time he realized that not only were his headlights not on, he had no idea how to turn them on, a police car was coming around the bend from the opposite direction. Full-on panic must've set in at that moment and Son-Three was pushing, pulling, turning and jiggling every button, knob, and dial within his reach, all to no avail**. He had the windshield wipers waving (front and back), the radio blaring, the A/C blasting and he'd probably turned the overdrive on and off six or seven times. They were pulled over and taken to the police station. After an hour and a half of questioning, they were released to their exhausted parents.

Cranky Boss Lady, in an unprecendentedly uncranky move, declined to press charges so the boys were only charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, which is a misdemeanor but since neither of them has ever been in any kind of trouble before, it's likely to be dismissed as long as neither of them gets into any additional trouble in the next six months.

Here's hoping this etched some deep ridges into their brains and not just some new lines on their parents' foreheads***.

*Yes, I know, and more importantly, so does he that "Bible study," especially advanced, unprotected "Bible study," has its own share of potentially very real "real trouble."

**The light switch is on the dash to the left of the steering wheel. Difficult to find under normal circumstances and, I would imagine, much more so when you're busy crapping your pants at the sight of an oncoming police car.

***The jury's still out on the new ridges, but it does appear as though Son-Three has mono (he's being tested in the morning), which I can't help seeing as a little viral karma.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thisclose To Speechless

The countdown is on.

Of course, in some ways the countdown has been on for nineteen years or so, but now we're really coming into the final days of The Countdown.

Son-One leaves for college on Friday.

This Friday.

It doesn't seem really possible to me since I just dropped him off for kindergarten a week or so ago. I know all those "my how time flies" sentiments are cliche, but I believe they're cliches for a reason...they're universal emotions--and they kick you in the gut, no matter how prepared you are, no matter how many people you know who've been kicked in the gut before you.

You can see it coming but you can't get out of the way.

Friday, August 17, 2007

They've Reserved The Deluxe Suite In Hell For Him...

No, not Dick Cheney, my sixteen-year-old son.

We were in line at the grocery store the other night and the woman three people in front of us said hi to Son-Three. I didn't recognize her so I gave him the "who's that" look and he said, "That's NF's mom."

NF is a girl he sometimes hangs out with, for lack of a better word. She's one of the girls Daughter-Only refers to as one of Son-Three's "four or five girlfriends," not quite grasping the subtle (and somewhat sleazy) distinction that while you definitely can make out with your girlfriend, not everyone you make out with is your girlfriend. Yes, I fear my youngest son has become something of a player, a boy-slut, but that's a post for another time...

Back at the grocery store, Son-Three chuckled to himself--a somewhat frightening sound, I don't mind saying--and launched into this story: "I was up at [a friend's house who lives near NF] and wanted NF to come over, but it was 11 o'clock and her mom wasn't that excited about it so I said [here his voice switches into his little white boy version of a ghetto player voice], 'Put Wanda* on the phone.' Then I told her I didn't understand why she didn't want NF to come over for Bible study."

I gasped and used all three of his names--with an exclamation point--right there in the checkout lane.

Now barely able to speak for laughing so hard at his own cleverness, he continued, "So Wanda says [here he switches to his middle-aged mother voice, laced with sarcasm and snootiness], 'Oh, and what Bible verses will you be studying this evening?' And I grabbed the Bible off the bookshelf and read her something from Corinthians."

I was appalled.

And, okay, maybe a little tiny bit proud, too.

*Not her real name. And while we're on the subject of "Wanda," she clearly--judging from the smiles she kept shooting our way--found Son-Three quite charming. I keep telling him, "With great power, comes great responsibility." It doesn't seem to be sinking in yet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

1-800-Frivolous Lawsuit

So, there's this guy who sends his girlfriend flowers through the online flower ordering service 1-800-Flowers. And the company sends a thank you for the order to his house, where it is intercepted by his wife, who naturally curious, calls the company and receives all the details of the order, including the card message ("Just wanted to say that I love you and you mean the world to me."). And now of course, the guy is suing for a million dollars or something...

A few other facts: the couple were already in ("amicable" according to his lawyer) divorce proceedings--this revelation has made things considerably less amicable, but the girlfriend/flower thing is not the root cause of the divorce. And the guy claims that he asked that the order be kept private and was assured that the company honors requests not to discuss orders with "third parties."

My first reaction--mostly a wife reaction--is that the guy is a weasel, not just for cheating, but also for not having the balls to accept his just desserts (apparently the difference between what the wife had been willing to settle for and what she's asking for now is $300,000--so it is quite a plate of dessert). And, perhaps worse yet, for filing a lawsuit that has brought national attention to his idiocy--and no doubt additional embarassment and pain to his wife. (They were already getting a divorce, I know, but if you think this whole thing isn't an additional kick in the gut, you would be so wrong.)

My second reaction--as a florist who has been on the receiving end of more than one curious wife phone call--is fascination with the subject. Cranky Boss Lady and I have often wondered about florist-client confidentiality and what we owe and to whom. We have mostly let conscience and common sense be our guide--a wife whose name is also on the credit card account the flowers were charged to can have any information she wants. With everyone else, we proceed with caution. But then, we don't promise anything in the privacy department either--as 1-800-Flowers apparently did.

Which brings me--and not a moment too soon--to the real point of this post. Even though I think the guy behind the suit is a weasel (among other less family-friendly words), I'm pretty sure he's telling the truth about 1-800-Flowers essentially promising something (privacy) and then not delivering...because 1-800-Flowers is one of the most disorganized, unprofessionally run companies I've ever had the displeasure of dealing with.

The way the service works is that they offer a variety of products, some of which I believe are shipped directly from their own warehouses and the remainder of which are ordered through local florists through a "wire service" (like FTD or Teleflora). The wire service collects the money from 1-800-Flowers, takes a percentage and pays the rest to the filling florist.

My first problem with the service is that partly because you're dealing with not one, but two middlemen, you're getting (0ver)charged enough to be sure all three parties get their "cut." We have heard cases where a customer has paid as much as double what we would've charged for the same arrangement if they had called us directly--and even when the difference is not so drastic it's always ten or fifteen dollars. Now if you go into it knowing you're being overcharged and you feel that the extra "convenience" is worth the extra money, then good for you, but I feel like maybe a lot of people don't really realize how much extra they're really paying for something that in the end (witness Weasel Guy) may not be as convenient as you'd hoped.

My second problem is from the florist's point of view. We repeatedly get orders from this company that are for towns we do not serve. Without getting too much into the intricacies (too late, I know) of the flower business, the wire service we deal with has a directory of florists and which towns they serve. Despite the fact that 1-800-Flowers has access to the directory, they send us orders for towns 50 or 60 miles from our shop--towns which, needless to say, we aren't listed as serving. These orders are received over a computer system and then we are required to refuse the orders over the same system, which takes a few minutes max--no big deal except, say, at Mother's Day when there aren't many minutes to spare--especially for orders we're not actually going to fill (and therefore we won't actually be paid for) and then add to that the fact that we get the same exact order five or six times in an afternoon, even after repeatedly refusing it.

Then, just when you feel your only option is to bash the computer screen with a sledgehammer or your own head, the order stops coming over the system...because they're going to start calling the order to you sometimes four or five times in an hour--even though you've repeatedly told them you don't go to that town. My guess is that these little people in their cubicles don't want to be the one who has to contact the customer to let them know their order can't be filled so they kick it back into the system without noting the previous refusal.

This is just the tip of the 1-800-Flowers iceberg and I realize I've probably lost all but the most bored* of my readers, but anyone who's still out there, don't you think I have way more of a case against 1-800-Flowers than Weasel Man?

*And if you weren't bored before, you sure as hell are now.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Oscar De La Hoya!

Something is very wrong with my brain, I just thought you all should know.

All night, I kept chasing the name Oscar De La Hoya round and round in my brain. I would wake up from a deep sleep with my first conscious thought being "Oscar De La Hoya."

Sometimes it was a question: "Oscar De La Hoya?"

Sometimes it was an exclamation: "Holy Oscar De La Hoya!!!"

Sometimes it was a simple declarative statement: "And then, Oscar De La Hoya."

For one memorable and seemingly interminable stretch between 4:17 and 5:02 or so, I engaged my brain in a long and circular debate about whether fixating on the name Oscar De La Hoya was somehow racist. Not surprisingly, considering the time and my sorry, sorry state of mind, I came to no conclusion.

If there's help out there, please send it soon.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Perfect Post For July: Do You Sense a Theme?

It should come as no surprise (after recent posts involving my getting teary-eyed over peanut butter cups and explaining to the Universe what an unselfish, level-headed lottery winner I would be) that this summer has been a bit overwhelming for me and some of those closest to me. There are a number of icky things going on, some of which I will likely elaborate on soon, and some of which require major decision making.

Decision making is not my strong suit. I've noticed especially in the past ten years or so, that I spend a lot more time reacting to things around me rather than acting to take any control of the things around me. Part of what holds me back is the nagging voice of self-doubt.

Yes, my self-doubt has a voice--a grating, whiny voice whose every sentence starts with "But..."

I thought I was a little strange, hearing voices and all, but then I found "My Inner Critic" over at The Silent K. Krista is well-acquainted with her inner critic--to the point of knowing her critic's desperate need for a pedicure. After reading her post, I realized I'm not alone in all that toxic self-doubt. I am, in fact, in some pretty good company.

So, for some good advice for putting that inner critic in her petty little place, here's my button:

Original Perfect Post Awards – July 2007

And Krista, it's all yours.

(For other winners see Suburban Turmoil or Petroville.)