I know that I have discussed that I can be a bit memory challenged ad nauseam here in the old blog-a-roonie, but yet again this week I was reminded how my brain’s recollection ability functions a bit like a rusty sputtering 1995 Ford Aspire in the passing lane on the Tollway.
The other day I rushed out of the house 10 minutes late to pick up my wife. I knew it was going to get worse since I had promised to stop for gas on the way. I was feeling all cocky about my brain since I actually did remember that I needed to fill-up but when I called her from in front of the pumps to say I was running behind I could almost hear the ‘waa waa waa waa waaaaaaaaaaa’ sound effect. “Actually you are about 40 minutes early for when I said I could get out of here” she replied. Trying to feel ever so slightly less pathetic I mentioned that at least I correctly recalled I had to pick her up AND that we needed gas. ‘A two out of three average would make me a top quarterback or the best weatherman on the planet.’ I don’t think she bought it. Either way I still had a half hour to kill.
As soon as you wade knee-deep into January, holiday decorations on a house turn quickly from happy cheery pretty to sad pathetic lazy. My yearly goal is fairly easy to reach; don’t be the last one on the block with decorations still flopping around in the dreary post-holiday winter winds. I had been running behind (I thought) to pick up my wife because it took longer to yank all the remaining festive crap off the house and shove it up in the attic then I had allotted for. I felt like a bit of a dope for having rushed around like a manic for the past hour when it turns out I had time to spare.
I had scratched up my hands pretty bad unclipping strands of lights off the house eaves and fighting the front yard foliage that battled me like an army of angry Ents as I detangled lights and sharp-ended branches. Now the cold wind between the gas pumps was making my hands sting and ache as I told my wife on the phone not to worry or rush. “I’ll find something to do with the extra time.” I was too far to head back home but I was determined to use my newfound time wisely. Having a blank half an hour is a rarity these days. My wife and I seem to be in one of those crazy busy modes where the ‘to do’ list keeps growing but spare time seems to be shrinking.
Being a Sunday evening my options for wise time use were limited. My first thought for the smartest way to spend some extra time was to head over to my favorite pub for a pint to help me forget about my bad memory and throbby fingers. The problem with that plan was the vortex effect that my old friend T-Bone and I frequently discovered. Sometimes when you think you are stepping into a bar for a quick sip you unknowingly fall into a deep vortex sometimes not coming out the other end until the morning sun hits your groggy eyes several days later as you find yourself waking-up laying in the sand on some random warm beach several dozen states (physically and mentally) away from where you started. It sounds pleasant but there is no time for that.
Wanting to prove my lack of total mental incompetence, I instead found myself strolling the depressing aisles of a Target store on a quiet winter Sunday night. Normally the peppy music thumping in the air around the sickeningly happy loud signs propped on insanely bright-lit red displays seem appropriate in Target when there is the usual throngs of pushy shoppers but when the store is as empty as a Brady Bunch vacation trip to a Nevada ghost town, like it was that night, it seems downright creepy. Like when you see pictures of the insides of abandoned shopping malls or inexplicably empty city streets in post-apocalyptic Sci Fi movies like Andromeda Strain or I Am Legend.
The day before, my wife had pointed out that our house phone would not charge correctly on its cradle unless it was delicately propped, tipped and angled the exact right way. I know, I said house phone. Yes we still have one of those. I worry that I won’t hear my cell if I get some late night emergency call, so every year when my wife asks do we really still need this antiquated old-timey money-sucking grandpa-esque contraption in the house, I always say yes. I say the same thing about the VCR too but at least that serves a constant purpose holding up the DVR and Netflix receiver on the TV stand.
Years ago stores like this would dedicate multiple aisles to house phones. Dozens and dozens of colorful shiny models in numerous rows waiting to be taken home and placed somewhere prominent. Some were freestanding, some wall mounts, some corded or antennaed, some with built in answering machines that could be digital or on little tapes. Hundreds of em’. No home was without several. Hell, when I was growing up, atop the stairs to our second floor we had an entire nook of the house dedicated to our telephone table that featured an attached cushioned bench, slots for multiple phonebooks and of course a counter top that held the big black corded rotary dial behemoth of a phone.
I remembered where the telephones used to be in Target but they must have been moved long ago and that night I had to hunt. Off in a darker less visited corner near magazines, CDs, DVDs and other near-dead media on a couple of low shelves just above the floor I found a few house phones huddling together like Charlie in the Box, the Spotted Elephant, the Train with Square Wheels, the Water Pistol that Shoots Jelly and the rest of the unwanted gang from the Island of Misfit Toys.I kneeled down and started comparing feature notes on the boxes like I always would have in decades past but my knees hurt and didn’t have my readers. I suddenly felt old. Maybe I was holding onto this house phone thing for psychological reasons? I imagined tumbleweeds blowing down the empty store aisles in the dark corner I was standing. Is this the type of head trip my 86 year old Dad feels standing outside an Apple computer store?
Head spinning I put down the phones and wandered aimlessly. I finally stopped in front of a bright, tall huge display twice as big as the entire home phone area dedicated solely to Fitbits. This was no accident, based on the size and location they obviously sell a gazillion more trendy but useless $100 silly ‘count your steps’ rubber bracelets then home telephones. How did I get here? How did the world get here? Maybe there was still time to go to that pub and find the vortex. I looked at my watch (yes I wear a watch) my half hour was almost up.