Sunday, March 29, 2009

Inconsiderate smokers burn me up

Published March 29, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

The other night, as I was driving home from work, I was stopped at a traffic light next to a woman in a dark colored sedan. She had her driver’s side window down, which was odd because the night was quite cold. As I glanced her way, I realized why. Dangling from her fingers was a small stub of a cigarette. She took a few more puffs as we waited for the light to turn green and I held my breath and hoped, for the sake of all things good and healthy, that she wouldn’t do what I thought she was going to do. Alas.

Deciding she’d had all the nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide she was going to get from this particular cigarette, she opened her fingers and flipped up her thumb in one, deft motion and sent the still burning butt into the air, where it bounced off my car and onto the street. I stared at her, irritation more than evident on my face, and muttered, “That’s right, lady. The world is your ashtray.” She didn’t notice, because she was busy lighting up her next piece of litter.

Inconsiderate smokers, will someone please explain to me why it is that you think you have the right to throw your cigarette butts anywhere you please? Is there some city code somewhere that says littering is unlawful unless your litter is very small and on fire? Do you think if your cigarette butt is still burning that it will eventually burn itself down into nothing? Are you capable of rational thought or has everything I’ve said up to this point come out as, “Blah blah blah blah cigarette?”

I feel the need to point out that I have nothing against smokers in general. I’m related to quite a few. If you want to inhale toxic chemicals for your own amusement, you’re welcome to it. I thoroughly enjoy a super greasy breakfast burrito from my favorite Mexican restaurant now and then. I don’t see much of a difference between the two. We’re all slowly dying and some of us choose to speed up the process with harmful junk. I get that.

However, when I am finished with my cheesy, sausage-y, potato-y bit of south-of-the-border goodness, I do not just toss the wrapper and salsa cups onto the street. I dispose of the evidence of my evil doing in an approved container, thus leaving streets and sidewalks free of litter. If you’re a smoker and you do the same with your butts, good for you. We can be friends…but not the kind of friends who hang out while you’re smoking, because I prefer to raise my heart disease risk with things wrapped in homemade tortillas, not in cancer causing clouds of your second hand smoke.

Did you know that almost 50 percent of the litter found in urban areas is cigarette related? Did you know that up to 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year? Did you know that if someone very industrious and independently wealthy laid all those butts end to end, they’d be able to circle the earth 16 times?

I don’t know about you, but that seems a little excessive. I think instead of lining all those discarded butts up and wrapping them around the earth, we should return them to their owners. Cities everywhere are having to clean this stuff up every day. Why not collect the butts, track down the offenders, and give them back. I think a dump truck load per home is fair, don’t you?

If there are cigarette flinging smoking litterers among my readership who are deeply offended by this column, I do apologize if I’ve hurt your feelings. Please, send those feelings in letter form care of the Spectrum and they’ll be sure to pass the letter on to me. As a conciliatory gesture, I will send a gift to your home…a little special something from me to you.

Be sure to tip the dump truck driver.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What's that geek doing at an NBA game?

Published March 22, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

So, Utah has a professional basketball team. I don’t know if you realized. They’re called the Jazz. They wear blue and play their games in the Energy Solutions Arena (sponsor Energy Solutions: Send Your Nuclear Waste to Utah! We Have Room!). I know all of this because this past Tuesday I sat in this very arena and watched the Jazz beat the Washington Wizards, 103 to 88.

I know what you’re thinking. Utah has a basketball team and it’s not called The Apostles? I kid. You’re wondering what a confirmed geek like Sarah Clark was going at a Jazz game. (I KNOW!) The answer is simpler than the apocalyptic scenarios you’re imagining. The tickets were given to my husband by his boss, and I am very cheap. Our usual Tuesday night date costs us a whopping $2, and free is smaller than 2, so there you go.

I entered the event with more than a little bit of trepidation. I, Sarah Clark, who cares less about professional sports than anyone I know, including dead people, was going to sit amongst thousands of screaming fans and pretend I belonged there. I might as well have been a backwoods hillbilly at a country club cotillion. I decided to chalk it up to a learning experience, and learn I did!

For instance, I learned professional sports games are all about mob mentality. The Jazz score? Everyone screams, “Yeeeeaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” Other guys score? Everyone says, “Awwwwwwwwwwwww.” Ref calls a foul in our favor? “Yeeeeaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” Other team’s favor? “Booooooooooooooo!” This was very helpful for me at the beginning of the game when I realized, to my great consternation, both teams were wearing similar colors and I had no idea which were the Jazz. I know there’s some rule about jerseys and home vs. away games, but I can’t be expected to know that. (See above: Things I care about even less than dead people do.)

It makes some amount of sense for fans to shout at the teams and refs en masse. It made for an exciting game and might have encouraged the players to work harder (and the refs to leave in armored vehicles). What I couldn’t understand were the people in the nosebleed section shouting instructions to individual players 35,000 feet below them. I do understand that people shout at players from their living rooms with absolutely no chance the player will hear, so I give the woman with the banshee yell in section 128 credit for actually purchasing a ticket for her shouts to go unheard.

The fervor of fans is helped along by the people in charge of the game. There are all sorts of shouts, songs, and clap cadences every fan is supposed to know. For a newbie like me, this was intimidating! Throughout the game, at seemingly random intervals, an organ played a two note sequence over and over and fans shouted some two syllable word along with it. We were at a loss. Were they saying, “Reflex?” “Deflect?” “Defense?” We finally settled on Aflac and shouted it merrily for the rest of the game.

Shouting the name of a commercial company makes sense, because in professional sports, everything is sponsored. Throughout the game, an LED display kept us informed of the many companies wishing to have their names on this piece of history. It was nice to see that Workers Compensation Fund of Utah was a game sponsor. They sponsored my knee surgery, which I hear was a very lively event.

A few other points of interest: During every time out, while people all across America are watching instant replays and listening to boring commentators, Jazz fans are dancing in the aisles like crazy people for a chance at free fast food. While players are concentrated on one end of the court, an amazingly energetic little man is running a Swiffer across the other end. No matter how confirmed a person is in her geekdom, she will be swept away in the excitement of the crowd and begin screaming like a lunatic just like everyone else.

In my defense, I was screaming for the Swiffer guy, but still…

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Apparently, I am not THAT old

Published March 15, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I mention from time to time my work in the world of teenagers. For 40 hours every week, I’m immersed in hormones, tears, cliques, and drama queens. I don’t mind working with teenage girls for a living. Actually, I enjoy it immensely. Despite the bouts of hormonal drama, these are girls developing their budding identities and trying on newfound maturity. That more than makes up for the other stuff.

There is a decided downside, however, to being surrounded by teen culture. If you work with teens, you work around teen music. Folks, it isn’t pretty. As much as I try to keep an open mind about the stuff kids today like to listen to, my disgust must come screaming off my face. I tend to get reactions like, “You really hate this song, don’t you, Sarah?” I don’t tell them how stupid I think the music is. Sadly, I don’t think I have to.

I know adults had strong feelings about the music I listened to when I was a teen. I just remember the problem was that our music was too loud or too explicit. I can’t recall ever hearing, “I’m sorry. We don’t want you to listen to that in the house because it’s just really, really dumb.” Maybe I’m not remembering correctly. I just don’t recall the music of my teen-hood being so unabashedly ignorant. (The fact that I can use words like unabashedly is proof, right?)

A few cases in point:

Taylor Swift has a song out called “Love Story.” It’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet in which all the events are mixed up and the double suicide is scrapped for a happily ever after ending. While I’m not okay with revisionist Shakespeare in the least, it pales in comparison to the complete idiocy of the following line. “You were Romeo. I was a scarlet letter.” Really? You were a symbol of shame in Puritan New England? I would tell her Nathaniel Hawthorne is rolling in his grave if I didn’t think she’d respond with, “Is he a singer?” I give this song points for trying to say something lofty and literate. Then I take them away for failing miserably.

Britney Spears has a new song out called “Circus.” I know Britney has had it rough, what with the drug addiction and the mental hospital and the baldness. She’s been in full image rehabilitation mode for months now. I think that’s why I’m so befuddled that she would release a song in which she says she’s like a circus without even the least sense of irony. Am I the only one adding “freak” each time I hear the words, “just like a circus?” The fact that lyrics like, “Everybody let go, we can make a dance floor just like a circus,” make people wonder what universe contains circus dance floors is just the icing on the Britney cake of brain numbing stupidity.

Of course, neither of those songs hold a candle to Lil’ Wayne’s “Phone Home.” This “song” has “words” and “lyrics” and not a one of them makes any sense. Like a mesmerized motorist unable to look away from a train wreck, I keep listening to this song to find some sense of meaning. Lil’ Wayne’s an alien from the planet Weezy and hip hop’s his supermarket like he bought it from Target? Huh? “I never had lice and I never had fear/I rap like that and died and gone to Heaven I swear/And here I’m a bear/Like black and white hair.” I would add more punctuation, but I haven’t a clue where to put it.

Obviously, these three songs don’t represent every song teens are listening to today. They just represent songs that are so popular MOST teens are listening to them. Having a child only one year away from teendom tells me my own kids will soon be listening to this music too. I’ve filled my house with classic literature and take my kids to symphony concerts in the desperate hope that I can balance things out.

Maybe if I tell them Mozart was from the planet Weezy…

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mom tired

Published March 8, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

There are so few things in this world that I hate. I have a live and let live attitude about a lot of reprehensible things. I’m more than willing to peacefully coexist with bank bailouts, banjo music, and Britney Spears, so it may come as a shock to you that I hate (HATE!) Daylight Saving Time.

If you didn’t realize it was time to set your clocks forward today, good for you. You may have had to make a frantic dash to church an hour late, but you did so just as rested as you were last week. Me? Not so lucky. I’m writing this on a Friday and will be emailing it to certain members of my family with whom I attend church. If I stumble in late on Sunday and say I forgot, they’ll know I’m lying, and darn it if they don’t put up with that kind of thing.

You may be wondering why I hate (HATE!) Daylight Saving Time so much. It’s fairly innocuous on its surface. We save energy. We enjoy long summer evenings. We get to sleep in every fall when we turn the clocks back. Why the hate (HATE!)?

I’m tired. I’m bone tired. I’m dead tired. I’m anything else you can think of to denote really, really tired tired. Wait, I’ve got it. I’m MOM tired.

You moms out there know what I’m talking about. Being mom tired isn’t so much a circumstance as a state of being. Take any mom, calculate the number of years since her first pregnancy, and you have the number of years she’s been mom tired. Calculate the number of times she’s had to watch Barney or Mary-Kate and Ashley and you have the degree to which she’s mom tired.

I’ve been 87, 586 degrees of mom tired for just over 12 years now, and every spring of those 12 years, I’ve had to wake up an hour early…not because someone was sick…not for an early morning hike or fun filled road trip…not for any of the other reasons moms who are mom tired will happily lose even more sleep. No, all those springs, I’ve awakened because some wise guy on Capitol Hill thinks I should. I think this may be the year I’ve had enough of that.

Dear Wise Guy,

I regret to inform you that this Sunday, I will not be able to observe Daylight Saving Time. I have been mom tired for too long to wake up that early, and I fear I would be too grouchy to adequately perform my usual Sunday duties. I will need you to arrive at my home at 7 am (that’s 6 am to your body), get my family up, dressed, and ready for church by 9 am with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. The song is important, as you will need to lead the children of the congregation in their weekly singing time while they’re overtired and cranky. ( Bring sugar free treats and pray.) After church, you’re welcome to race back to my home for a quick snack, which you won’t have time to eat, before you head over to direct choir practice. After that is over, you may nap, as long as you’re prepared to supervise my children in cleaning up all the messes they made while you were resting. You can cap off your day making a delicious meal for my family, washing all the dishes by hand, and “relaxing” during Family Movie Night in which the kids will beg to watch “Cop & ½” or “How the West Was Fun” with little regard to the gray matter dribbling down your earlobes. After this, you’re free to return to the halls of Congress, your lesson learned.

Sincerely, Sarah Clark, Tired Moms of America against Daylight Saving Time

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ugly glasses

Published March 1, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

There are times in my life when I feel like history is repeating itself, and that history is the kind that makes my heart jump into my throat and pound away any chance for breath. It’s a terrifying feeling. Psychology types call this a parataxic distortion. I call it really, really annoying.

Today’s little bit of history involves glasses…ugly glasses, to be exact. Two of my children picked out new glasses yesterday, and I, stuck at work, was not able to guide them in choosing glasses that wouldn’t cause them to want to burn every picture ever taken of them. My husband tells me the kids chose the glasses they liked, but I know from painful experience that people who need glasses often can’t see well enough to choose nice-looking glasses. The glasses they chose won’t be here for a few days, and in the meantime, I’m struggling for breath with each strangling beat of my parataxically distorted heart.

If you’ve never had ugly glasses, you won’t understand. I’ll try to help you. Having ugly glasses is like walking around with a big, fat, hairy wart on the end of your nose…that blinks like a neon sign…and sings “Nobaaaaaahdy knows the trouble I’ve seen” in a highly inappropriate falsetto. You walk through your junior high, your depressed footfalls beating a sad little cadence of, “My glasses are ugly…my glasses are ugly…my glasses are ugly…”

I once had glasses so ugly that I secretly looked for ways to break them so I could get new ones. I didn’t do anything on purpose. I just looked for opportunities that might lead to a happy accident. I found that accident in a fortunate game of tackle football with my good buddy, Jeff Tarman. Without meaning any harm, but much to my glee, Jeff turned his shoulder down when he charged into me and that bony shoulder snapped the frame over my right lens and sent that lens rolling merrily down his driveway.

Poor Jeff, not knowing my secret desires, was mortified and chased the lens down with a look of devastation on his face. I, on the other hand, jumped up and down, danced a strange little jig, and professed my undying love for him for saving me from my most tragic eyewear. I skipped home with my friend Krystal and babbled excitedly about the non-ugly glasses I would soon be wearing.

I didn’t account for superglue.

At my frugal parents’ insistence, I wore those ugly, broken glasses for at least six more months, reapplying the glue whenever I realized it was no longer holding my frame together. These realizations occurred on several embarrassing occasions when my right lens dislodged itself without warning from my frames and rolled across the floor in front of me (and anyone else nearby). This happened at home, at school, at church, and most notably at a choir concert in a mall.

Those of you who spent years in glasses that covered half your face or glasses in wildly inappropriate colors or glasses whose frames were manufactured upside down for no conceivable reason know my pain. You’re all breathing past your hearts in anticipation of the moment my kids come bounding in the door with their new specs. The best I can tell you is that I have vowed that if my kids, suddenly able to see the glasses they chose, look in the mirror and realized they’ve made a terrible, awful, heinous mistake, it won’t take a bone crushing game of tackle football to get them replaced. Someone out in reader land is shaking his head and saying that allowing my kids to walk around in ugly glasses will surely build character.

We’ll send the uglies to him.