August is Back to School Month

We have a front door and in front of that, a heavy screen door that locks with a bolt. Most days we have the front door open. This allows for a nice flow of air through the screen door, except in the summer when we would really appreciate it.

I don’t know much about air and how much it weighs, but you definitely need a shovel to move it in August. Without a shovel, most of the August air just piles up outside and we can barely push through it to get to the car.

I like having a screen door, but it does have disadvantages, mainly if someone shows up at your door unannounced and sees you sitting in the living room, it’s hard to pretend you’re not home. My boyfriend has a friend who likes to show up unannounced. If I’m lucky enough to get a glimpse of him coming up the walkway, I’ll hide behind the sofa until he goes away. Hiding behind the sofa is not an effective long-term solution though, because friends who show up unannounced are like mice. You pretty much have to kill them to get rid of them.

The advantage of the screen door is that you can talk to people through it without ever having to unlock and open the door, which is particularly useful when dealing with door-to-door salesmen, and sometimes even your mother. I don’t get many door-to-door salesmen anymore unless you count missionaries, and to be fair, they’re not technically “selling” salvation.

Once in a while a young kid comes around selling candy. He always wears a plastic-laminated badge around his neck that’s supposed to look official, but never does. He says he’s sells candy for a non-profit organization that works to keep at-risk kids, like him, off the street. I don’t really believe the story and he doesn’t seem to either. I always buy some candy even though it’s ridiculously overpriced because I feel sorry for the kid. I’m pretty sure he’s mixed up in some sort of child labor ring, but I don’t have any proof, and it seems rude to ask.

I’ve read about businesses like this where somebody hires a bunch of kids, shuttles them around to different neighborhoods to sell candy door-to-door, and then pays the kids a commission, usually a couple bucks for every box of candy they sell. Laws vary from state to state, but “for-profit” door-to-door sales are illegal just about everywhere for kids under the age of 16.

I unlock the screen door and open it to hand him a five. “I’ll take a Reese’s,” I say.

I want to say something else, something like, “Stay in school and study hard,” but it isn’t really my business. And as my college-aged nephew is quick to point out, “Steve Jobs dropped out of school.”

It’s hard to make an argument for school these days when you can learn just about everything from YouTube and Wiki, including important stuff like how to play beer pong without a table. I have two degrees and still don’t know the answer to “Why is the sky blue?” So when my niece asks me, I just shoot back with “Why are we even here?” which is a lot to hit a first-grader with.

“Hey,” I say, as he heads down the walkway, “If you want to earn some money, you can come back tomorrow and shovel some air.” He looks at me like I’m crazy and I lock myself back in.

Packing List

I’m off to Hawaii tomorrow. You know what that means. It’s time to start packing. Well, not exactly yet. I still have the rest of the day. For now, there are too many other things to do, like begin my swimsuit exercise regimen.

I’m a little late on this, I know, but I figure if I do 100 stomach crunches an hour for the next 10 hours, by tomorrow I’ll look 1000 stomach crunches better than I do right now. Of course, tomorrow I’ll just be sitting on a plane drinking Bloody Marys and eating salted peanuts, so what’s the rush?

Even with the 1000 stomach crunches, I’m still going to look a little bloated when I hit the beach on Monday. That takes some of the pressure off to get to the whole swimsuit exercise regimen right away. The other thing that takes the pressure off is my age because even with 1000 crunches, I’ll still have spider veins and dry elbows.

Packing, like exercise, is rarely an easy task to get to, which is probably why so many people put it off as long as they can. Some people even have other people pack for them, like children and Paula Abdul.

I can understand why children need help. Imagine if you said to your 6-year-old son, “We’re leaving for Hawaii tomorrow. Don’t forget to pack.”

He would hardly forget. In fact, he’d probably finish sooner than you if it meant not having to clean his room. Then he’d get to Hawaii, unzip his bag and the only thing in it would be his blankie and his goldfish, Nemo, which he cleverly packed in a Ziploc bag full of water.

“What on earth?” you’d say, “Why did you pack the goldfish?”

“So I can put him back in the ocean,” he’d say.

Gee, kids are cute. Unfortunately, they are also crazy-making as you have just arrived in Hawaii and now the first thing you have to do is drive to the mall to buy your kid some underwear.

That thing about Paula Abdul having someone pack for her, I saw that on her Bravo TV show “Hey Paula” that aired for a quick minute about a decade ago. I remember it because it never occurred to me that you would have someone else pack for you.

My mom once said if she could have any kind of help she wanted, she’d have a personal chef. I said a personal driver. My sister said a personal shopper. It was easy to see what each of us was tired of doing. None of us said a personal packer.

Packing is one of the most personal things there is, which is why it’s so disturbing when a TSA officer opens your bag in public and start fingering everything in it. Standing next to someone in the drugstore line can also be very personal, especially if you stare at what they’re buying.

What’s public and what’s private is an interesting question. Many women consider their age private, mainly because we live in a culture that thinks younger is better–and it usually is when you’re in a bathing suit. But making one’s age public can be useful too–and it especially is when you’re in a bathing suit.

“What do you want?” you can say, as you tap your bloated Bloody Mary-and-salted-peanuts belly. “I’m 50.”

Or you can jump up and down and scream, “Fire!”

Either way, no one will notice you because two 18-year-olds sun bunnies are playing Frisbee nearby.

I suppose I could pick up some kind of natural diuretic at the drug store to deal with the bloating, but I might run into someone I know who will stare at my purchase and wonder if I’ve developed an eating disorder.

Or I could go the mall and look for a new super-strength shape-slimming bathing suit that not only flattens my belly but also constricts my breathing.

But I still have to pack and do my 1000 crunches. So the question is, as it always is when any of us is packing: What do I really need?

I know! A tan. If I hurry, I can get in three sessions before dinner.

Sammy Be Good

Be kind
I say to myself
when I walk out the door
if I remember.
Do unto others
what goes around comes around
it takes eighty-six muscles to frown
and only two to smile.
Be generous
there are children in Africa
with less
besides you can’t take it with you.
I glare at the idiot in front of me with more
than ten items
and wonder if he’s ever heard of the Golden Rule.
How golden it would be
to whack him on the head
with my lone baguette.
Maybe a string around my finger.

Snack Haiku

A full bag of chips.
Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.
Empty bag of chips.

Peanut, all dressed up.
I’m still going to eat you.
Top hat, anyone?