Notes from the Home - July 13, 2013



   Perhaps it’s the weather. As I was heading up the long hallway to get my mail this afternoon, Elsie was coming toward me.
   “Where are you headed?” she asked.
   “To get my mail.”
   “Isn’t anyone here today? I was sitting on that bench for forty-five minutes, and only one guy came by, and he didn’t say anything.”
   “It does seem awfully quiet,” I said.
   “Do you have family here in town?”
   “My son lives here.”
   “My kids are in Texas,” she said. “Do you ever get tired of sitting in your room?”
   “Sometimes.”
   “Me too,” Elsie said. “I like to sit here in the hallway and look at the sun. But there hasn’t been much sun to look at this summer.”
   Betty wasn’t feeling chipper either. She was sitting in the laundry room, thumbing through a magazine and listening to her clothes tumble in a dryer. Betty said she moved to Covenant Woods about a month ago.
   “I didn’t have any trouble selling my house,” she said. “My kids and grandkids are here in Columbus, but they’re awfully busy.”
   “How do you like it here?”
   “I don’t know. The people are nice. And I still have my car. It takes some getting used to; I’m still trying to adjust to living here. I’d rather be living at home.”
  
   I was talking with Annie as she worked on one of the bulletin boards when Pat, a personal care aide, came by.
   “Hello, Mr. Harris,” Pat said with enthusiasm. A few seconds later, she said hello to another resident in a much more perfunctory fashion.
   “The staff really likes you, Tom,” Annie said.
   “Oh.”
   “Didn’t you notice the difference between the way Pat said hello to you and the way she said hello Henry? The thing is, Tom, you’re not crazy.”
   Before I had a chance to thank Annie for her high opinion of my sanity, Bob and Grace came along. We exchanged pleasantries, they went on their way and I told Annie about Grace at dinner the night before. The server taken our orders, and while we waited for our meals to be delivered, Grace turned to Bob three times and asked, “Did she take our orders yet?”
   “See,” Annie said, “she’s crazy.”
   Alas, if that’s the definition of crazy, I’m not there yet, but there are days when I get real close.
  
   In his cinematic manifestation, the evil genius is easily recognized. He sports a great shock of unruly gray hair that he occasionally combs with his fingers, and a mustache that he trims once a year. He speaks with a sinister Eastern European or Middle Eastern accent. He stuffs pens, pencils, small tablets, receipts from Disasters-R-Us and the remnants of a jelly donut into his breast pocket. His career goal is world-wide devastation, misery for millions,
   Russ, who isn’t evil but might be a genius, took me shopping the other day. Our first stop was Target, where I bought two pairs of shorts to replace the shorts that came out of winter with less girth than I. From there we went to Publix, where, on a whim, I reached for a jar of peanut butter. That jar, however, had the words “Low Fat” emblazoned on the label. Granted, a man whose wardrobe is in need of expansion ought to consider the low-fat option, but I didn’t and instead picked up a jar on which there was no mention of “low fat.” Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to what it did say.
   That afternoon, I went to the cupboard, pulled out a box of crackers and the as yet unopened jar of peanut butter. Moments later I came face to face with the modern day evil genius. The jar had a clear plastic band around the lid. You know, the clear plastic band that you can’t see and don’t realize is there until you try to open the jar but can’t. I couldn’t and fetched a paring knife to cut the darn thing. How is it that the plastic band was so lose and so smooth that when I tried to turn the lid the band went round and round, and the lid didn’t?  Yet, when I tried to insert the knife between the band and the lid, the blade slid over the band and into my other hand. After stabbing myself three times, I was finally able to cut the band and remove it. The impediment gone, I picked up the jar, gave the lid a mighty twist and unleashed an oil spill all over my lap.
   And in some large corporation’s research and development laboratory a modern evil genius laughed an evil laugh of delight. He doesn’t look like an evil genius, he doesn’t talk like an evil genius, he doesn’t even have an assistant named Igor. He lives in the suburbs, drives an SUV, has a wife and a couple of kids and commutes daily to the R-and-D lab, where he invents ever more frustrating modern inconveniences.
   How did he know that I would unknowingly grab a jar of “all natural” peanut butter? I don’t know, but he did.
   How did he know I wouldn’t bother to read the label and what it said about “natural oils may settle on top of the product?” I don’t know, but he did.
   And how did he know that I’d have so much difficulty with the plastic band that when I finally was able to remove it I’d twist the lid off if a fit of anger and frustration, causing the natural oils to spill out all over my lap? Because he invented the damn plastic band with people like me in mind. That’s how.
  

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