I’ve been a part of Al-Anon for ten months now, and I am working my way through the twelve steps and recording my observations about them here. It helps to solidify my thinking to write it all out; it’s also nice to be able to go back and re-read previous entries, and note any changes in perspective (or, hopefully, progress that I’m making.) This daylog is about Step Five.

Step Five:Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

In Step Four we made an inventory of ourselves; Step Five is about finding behavioral or attitudinal patterns, the ‘exact nature’ of our character, including our wrongdoings, and facing them squarely and admitting them to ourselves as fact.

It is suggested that the person chosen to share the Step 4 inventory with not be one’s spouse, a family member, or the alcoholic; “we do not want to choose anyone who might be wounded by our version of events…we seek someone who will not criticize us, but who will be able to suggest to us any obvious omissions or give us insight into how the nature of our wrongs has affected us.” Many people choose their Al-Anon sponsors, a friend, a member of the clergy, or a counselor, someone who can be “a loving witness who can provide perspective on our spiritual journey.”1

Although the step lists admitting these thing in order to 1) God, 2) ourselves, and 3) another person, it’s much harder to pinpoint exactly when the first two occur, than the third. Certainly, at least on some level, we are aware as we take the inventory in Step 4 what the exact nature of our wrongs is, and given the omniscient quality in most people’s Higher Powers, God already knows. I guess there’s a difference, though, between knowing something and really letting yourself believe it, or in knowing that someone else knows, and coming out and telling them.

I chose to share with my sponsor. I knew when I asked her to be my sponsor that sooner or later, I was going to have to go through Step 5, and I knew she was the person I wanted to have with me on that journey. Listening to her and watching her in meetings, I had been struck by her humor, her wisdom and sense of perspective, and how completely comfortable she seemed to be in her own skin. She possessed at least some degree of the serenity I was seeking, and seemed to have boundless energy and empathy for those around her. I am eternally grateful to my sponsor for sharing with me her experience, strength, and hope, and most of all for the unconditional love I received from her.

The fact that the fifth step is only a single sentence seems strange to me, because the actions it contains span a considerable period of time. It’s like saying Rome was founded, became a great empire, and fell. For me, realizing and admitting the exact nature of my wrongs to anyone, perhaps especially myself or my Higher Power, is an ongoing process. The fact that I sat down one afternoon with my sponsor and went over my four page inventory was only a beginning.

I thought about and prepared for the fourth step inventory for more than a month before I actually wrote anything down. It took another month to schedule a day when my sponsor and I both had a big block of time in which to go over it. Four months later, I wrote a daylog about step four; now, another three months down the line, I’m finally getting around to chronicling Step Five. Certainly part of this time delay is simple avoidance; this is difficult stuff, and highly emotional.

Another issue is pride. I think I have more self-esteem and a stronger, more positive sense of self than the average bear, but perhaps my view of myself is not particularly balanced. Certainly, I’m still having trouble with the term character defect. (Elsewhere in the literature, they are referred to as character defenses; I find that easier to take.) I felt drained for a day or two after talking through the fifth step, and even though it was productive, and a good thing to have done, it was hard.

Okay, so this is what happened: we sat down one day last spring, my sponsor and I, and I read to her from my personal inventory, and we talked about it, and she helped me identify patterns of behavior and underlying strengths and character defects. I cried. She cried. We laughed. I took a lot of notes.

Our actual conversation, of course, is a very personal matter. For the record, though, and as a further exercise in admitting these things to myself, here are some of the highlights.

Although I pride myself on being a ‘responsible grownup’ (paying bills on time, being professional and reliable at work, voting regularly, that sort of thing), I’m not so great at knowing how to take care of myself emotionally. I have a short fuse, I react to things by taking them personally rather than taking a more matter-of-fact view, I have a tendency to focus on things rather than people, (things are less frustrating, more predictable, and easier to control), and it probably would work better for me if I could be more detached, more loving, more centered, less reactive, more secure.

(Among other things, my sponsor suggested I try to replace the word “should” with it probably would be better if, first when talking about myself, and eventually with others. I’m working on it.)

~Progress, not perfection~

Now, here’s the funny thing. Step 4 is about taking a personal inventory; Step 5 is about sharing it, becoming more aware of ourselves; in Step 6 we become “entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character"; not until Step 7 do we “humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.” I feel like my progress through these steps is far more circular than linear; I become aware of a particular trait, start feeling that I’d be better off without it, share something to that effect in a meeting (or at least in a journal or with my Higher Power), decide that I’m ready to change and let it go, and then ask to have it removed, one trait at a time. I think that if I waited until I was sick of all of my shortcomings, and really ready to change my behavior and get rid of all of them at once, it would take forever. I’m sure all of my character defects haven’t even occurred to me yet.

A while back, in a meeting, someone said "My Higher Power has changed me", and I realized that I have been thinking to myself, 'I'm changing/ I have changed' without giving credit where credit was due. I'm new to this whole Higher Power thing, and all of Al-Anon for that matter, but I can tell you, I am very grateful for the changes that have occurred in my life in the past year.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A few months after my sponsor and I worked through Step Five, she left the country. I knew she was going—it was a planned, permanent move—and while I miss having her close by to talk with and hug, I am very thankful for the time we had together. I had talked to her about how difficult it must be to have to say goodbye to everyone, and to get rid of/find new homes for the majority of her possessions (even her dog!) in preparation for the move. I am a pack rat; I hold on to objects that have memories attached, and to anything I think I might use or need someday. The idea of getting rid of all of my stuff was pretty unimaginable.

My house is filled with things, lots and lots of things. Watching my sponsor hold yard sales and give gifts and part with almost all of her belongings had quite an impact on me. Today, writing this piece, I found a comment from her jotted on my 4th step inventory: Love / Higher Power vs. stuff as a source of security. Her words and actions percolated inside me for a quite a while.* Two months after she left, I started putting my house in order. Out went the dead, dried corsages from high school proms and the letters from pen pals I hadn’t thought about in years, along with birthday and Christmas cards with no more than a signature on them. I gave away books, clothing, furniture, souvenirs from foreign travels, half-finished art projects and supplies that I’ve been keeping, but not found a use for. I kept photographs and some letters, and maybe 10% of the odds and ends I had stored in my attic, that I had been amassing over the last 30-odd years. Other than that, I threw things out and gave things away to the Salvation Army, to my students, and to friends and neighbors.

I feel lighter now. I feel that, on all fronts, spiritually and emotionally and physically, I have taken stock of where I am and what I have, begun the process of getting rid of that which I don’t need, and tried to make changes for the better. It is an ongoing process, but I’m pleased with the results so far.

____________________________

1Paths to Recovery: Al-Anon's Steps, Traditions, and Concepts, © Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. 1997, pages 54-55. * That, and the fact that when hurricane Isabel came through I was faced with the prospect of my house sliding down the hill into a creek; there's nothing like the threat of losing everything to put things in perspective.

step one | step two | step three | step four | step six | step seven | step eight

I am getting myself thin, come hell or high water.

There. I've said it.

I'm sick of being insulted, being put down, being generally fat. I'm getting thin, now. I've got a scheme-for every 5 minutes I use the computer (i.e, for Slashdot, noding, Quake, Unreal etc) I do 25 sit ups. Considering how much I use the PC right now, I'll either get thin or stop using the computer. And I'm betting on the former.

Wish me luck...

Note: 2:04 AM: Right now, I've done 125 sit ups. 5 and a bit minutes later, it'll be 150. Also, I may as well say that the only time this doesn't apply is when I'm doing something related to school.

Chuck Taylor's Sports Camp for Girls. I can't believe that such a place exists on God's green earth. I mean, here is a man who was extradited from Paraguay following some tax evasion hoo hah. He is found on a yacht on the Gulf of Mexico drinking margaritas with topless women of various ethnic groups and breast size in the vicinity of a big heroin bust and they let him go.

So, Chuck Taylor comes back to the mainland. He starts dressing like Don Johnson and wearing Keds sneakers without socks everywhere he goes. He is found purchasing an inflatable woman sex doll in a store with questionable shoplifting policies and he gets off because he tells them it is a gag gift for an old tax evasion buddy.

A few years later, he is involved in starting a small chain of fat guy clothing stores in the Minneapolis area. He is found in the changing room with his pants off, ostensibly "trying on new slacks" even though he is a tall, lanky man in a store for fat guys. He gets off again. Nothing sticks to this guy.

So, I'm trying to forget about Chuck Taylor and just read this book of Ziggy cartoons my friend's sexy cousin bought me for Christmas even though we only kissed a few times. The thought is really what counts. Then I'm looking in the newspaper, hoping beyond hope that there might be a new Ziggy cartoon in that day's paper. No such luck, so I moved on, looking at various advertisements for washers and dryers even though I have no place to hook up these dreamy appliances. Then, there it is, in bold print, an advertisement luring young girls into the clutches of Chuck Taylor, who once drank margaritas on a yacht with topless ladies, but I already told you about that.

Chuck Taylor's Sports Camp for Girls

This is apparently a place where your daughter and her precious virginal accesories is likely to go in order to know more about sports. I guess the magic is in the doing, not in the watching, which is where I went wrong with sports. The thing is, Chuck Taylor knows less about sports than I do because he is from another country and not these great United States. He is not familiar with our sports and their ability to make billions of dollars. He probably just watched his poor, starving cousin trying to play soccer in a dirty minefield with no shoes and kicking a rock.

So, what is Chuck Taylor doing with this so called sports camp for girls? Is he making them wear little field hockey skirts that jump up when you make a play to give the viewing audience a fearful glimpse of your butt cheek filled panties? Is he going to make you wear little shorts and tight tee shirts and stare at you while you bounce around chasing a basketball and throwing it up into a hoop? Think about what he is thinking about for a moment and then realize he is making money from it.

Please, think twice, my friends and do not let your wives convince you to send your daughters to this possibly fraudulent camp. Talk to your minister or various members of the clergy for alternatives.

Today is new year's eve. For some reason I feel like this should be a special day. Something strange and wonderful should happen on a day like this. Days like this give you an excuse to put faith in fate and hope that something interesting happens to that it will be a memorable end of a year full of forgetful memories.

Today I don't feel this way.

Granted, it has only been 'today' for about two hours. But still.
I don't feel that anything interesting will happen.
Come 11:55 tonight I will probably be in some normal place with normal people and I will feel nothing.
Maybe they are right and it is just another day.

It may be my naivety still lingering from days gone by where I thought that things and people still had good in them- but if everyday is 'just another day' - then what is the point of trying to make life special. At least on silly little holidays like this you have an excuse to try.

The bitterness should not last long.

Thank God.

I had a girlfriend. I was happy with her. It lasted for six and a half years, which depending on your point of reference is either nothing to bother with, or a whole lot of time. To me it felt like all my life.

We had plans, marriage was right around the corner. After that; a big house by the sea, beautiful talented children (she wanted someone with musical abilities and possibly a nobel prize winner, I wanted someone who'd get a well paid job playing either football or hockey, we decided on three kids) and co-authoring of the fantasy novel that would finally put Tolkien to rest. You know, reach for the stars and you'll make it to the top of mountains.

Then she got tired of me. Her feelings withered and an encounter with a charming arab, claiming to be french, triggered the whole mess. She needed to think, she needed time by herself. She needed to feel single and young again. For two weeks she changed her mind daily. On one day she woud say "I'm yours, now and forever", the next day she would say "I need to go visit the other man". This was a stressful time. I couldn't start coping since every other day it felt like this was a temporary thing that would blow over in a few weeks.

It didn't. After two weeks separated she put an end to it. All our common friends, who didn't want to take sides, took her side. I don't know if they tried to cheer me up, but everything they said made it hurt even more. "Off course I understand that you're sad, but you really shouldn't put any trust into promises made by people". "Yeah, it's definitely over, you should get on with your life". "Go find yourself a young, pretty and blond girl to make her jealous".

To me it mattered that we were engaged to be married. To me that meant something. I was not ready to go on. Noone of my friends understood me. How could they? Older they might be, but experience of these things they lacked. I needed to find someone with a similar experience and hear what he or she did in my situation. I found E2.

If you've ever had any sort of experience you can be sure to find at least two more at E2 who've had at least something similar happen to them. During my browsing I found This too shall pass. That was a start. I put All Things Must Pass on constant repeat and continued to learn of the experiences of others. I read stories of love lost, love found, missing love and loving love. I learned that while it'll never be the same again, it might get better.

The day after I felt empty, exhausted. But I didn't need to cry anymore. I had been crying every day for two weeks and I didn't need to cry anymore. To some people two weeks of crying will not seem like that much. But for me it was. Since I stopped crying due to physical trauma I've cried exactly twice. One time when I bid my farewells to a grandfather with terminal cancer, one time when my mother accused me of only wanting something to play with for a while when I had found the love of my life. Crying for two weeks was a big deal to me.

I haven't needed to cry since my night with E2 and All Things Must Pass.

Hi everybody! I hope you all had a nice Christmas, I know I did. At my dad’s house, the main thing I got was an electric guitar. It’s kind of hard to learn to play but I’m going to take lessons. I also got the Game of Life, Mastermind, Extreme Jenga and a Cribbage set.

At my mom’s house I got some clothes, a book of pictures from the Hubble Telescope, some Little House on the Prairie DVD’s, stepping stones for my part of the garden and some soccer and softball books and pictures.

This is a poem I wrote about winter and snow.

Snow is upon my windowsill
Snow is laying softly on the ground

The snowman from yesterday
Has snow on his hat
He hasn’t started to melt.

I don’t walk on the sidewalk
Where people have shoveled
And made a path
I like to make my own

This is how I think of winter
With snow on the ground.

I also made some New Year’s Resolutions. I hope I can keep them

1) Don’t get into other people’s business.

2) Try not to talk about other people.

3) Try not to exaggerate.

I hope everybody has a Happy New Year!

Does anyone care what's hidden in your world? For my own part, I don't think so.

What is the compulsion to share your darkest thoughts? I've got plenty to spare, but not to share. Your despair is a luxurious blanket of self-indulgence, woven by the world's efforts at optimism. Don't think you're unique, you just haven't figured it out yet.

What is really wrong with society? Nothing. Everything is working out just as it should. Those little unspoken pressures keep things flowing. In time you will learn to mold your rebellion into progression. The difference between what you believe in and what you espouse is in the Why, not the How or What or especially the Who. Everyone must learn this eventually or face a menial existence.

The secret is that thoughts have power, words have more power, and actions have the most power. If you can't always control your thoughts, you can at least control your words and actions. In turn you affect others thoughts, and with discipline and a little luck even your own.

Note: This was written immediately after reading Deals well with ambiguity: a savagely long wu about why boys are not like girls and other things.

It is part of the cyclical nature of culture. Notions persist until they become suspect, die, then reappear later and are hailed as revolutionary.

Usually there is some mention of statistics. There is theory, and there is observation. Statistics only mean so much to an individual; generally, viewpoints gain more credence when the individual experiences evidence of them in his or her daily life. Our brains seek data in order to ease the effort of categorization of input, so that we can lay certain nagging quandaries to rest. Why? Because we are human. Whether consciously or unconsciously, that is what we do.

I'm not sure if this is a plea or simply a symbolic shout, like placing a flag on the moon. I am an anomaly, it seems, and perhaps it is inappropriate of me to desire a non-weird category in people's minds. Perhaps this is why I was often accused of "seeking attention" as a child. I did not fit. My early childhood was spent traversing the garish decade that was the 80s; one of my first memories is that of watching MTV. They had an advert showing a stylized astronaut placing a flag on the moon. The flag was emblazoned with the MTV logo. Me? I wore Mothercare striped pullover sweaters and Polly Flinders dresses. I had braids for convenience and a perpetually impish expression.

When my mother was pregnant with me she assumed I was a boy. So did everyone else. "A boy, definitely, or maybe twins!" Why? The kicking. The constant somersaulting, the rearranging of her center of gravity whenever she spoke, ate, or moved. She'd been taking drugs to help her conceive, so it seemed possible that I might indeed be twins. My baby room was painted yellow, and in my earliest pictures, I am clothed in green and marigold and vermillion. Not pink. They couldn't tell my gender with any certainty until I was born; when they did the ultrasound, I probably showed them my back and nothing else.

My mother kept a Baby Book for me. It is impressively detailed and lucid, and I wish I had known the woman who took the time to record all my firsts and immunizations. The mother I knew was pale and distant and could barely form a coherent sentence. She seemed to forget what she was talking about mid-statement and either burst into tears or start rambling about how my father was going to leave her (he wasn't, but she eventually left him). But apparently there was a time when she was observant and articulate. Thanks to her, I know that I said my first word at four months, and had a 40 word vocabulary by eleven months. At thirteen months I knew multisyllabic words like "vegetables, saturday, and telephone." This is trivia. But it is interesting. Some scientists say that females generally develop language skills sooner than males. But really, did I talk early because I was a girl, or because I was Anne? Perhaps I'm oversimplifying. I'm not a neurobiologist.

When I was nearly three, my brother was born. This is probably when I learned that boys are not, in fact, exactly like girls. Penises, etc. But mostly just penises. And short hair. I liked to draw as a kid, and since I generally wasn't depicting nudists, the way in which I generally differentiated males from females was with hair length. My adult women, even, had boxy robot-like figures because I thought I'd get in trouble if I drew breasts on them.

So far, so good, right? Girly enough. Little pigtailed kid, chatterbox, likes to draw. But this kid wrote a book for the Young Author's program in fourth grade. The whole class had to write them; we drew pictures with crayon, wrote in pencil, and bound them with yarn and wallpaper samples. I included an "About the Author" section on the inside back cover of mine. It went something like this:

Hi, my name is Anne, and I am nine years old. I live in Connecticut. I like writing, drawing, and cats. I also like guns and blowing things up.

I wasn't a particulary violent or disturbed child. I picked a few fights, but nothing major. I drew lots of pictures with aliens in them, and exploded heads. I drew pictures of spaceships and hung them on my wall next to the unicorn posters. Many of the boys in my class did the same, but none of the girls. I was very lonely but not lonely enough to compromise my interest in things that were just plain cool. (In retrospect I've decided that exploded heads are not cool at all -- actually, they pretty much suck.) But I still maintain a fondness for spaceships.

It seems that there is some credence to the New Revolutionary thinking. I could phrase it, irritatingly, as "post-feminism", perhaps. Most little girls seem inexplicably drawn to kitchen sets and Barbie dolls. The idea that there might actually be some science and statistical backup behind the stereotypes saddens me, because it isolates me even further from my own gender. In my circle of friends (which admittedly is not extremely large), there is a generally liberal attitude regarding gender and a certain degree of fluidity of role. However, my friends and I are not representative of majority American society at large. It seems that the Internet and computer/gaming culture in general has become the social savior of anomalies like me. I know very few other girls, and in general I find females confusing and difficult to relate to. I am intimidated by them, and for some reason I always assume at first that they are going to think I'm awkward and dorky and irritating. I don't get this junior-high-esque insecurity around boys.

I am writing this because I am suddenly feeling that perhaps I've been wrong all these years. As soon as I encountered the notion that perhaps stereotypical female behaviors and interests might be more a product of nurture than nature, I pounced on it. I was probably seven or eight when I began to notice that certain toys were marketed toward girls, and others were marketed toward boys. Even as early as first grade, I was pissed that the toy ads never showed girls playing with the spaceships or the racing cars, or the tool kits. I had a little plastic toolbox; I think it was an orange Fisher-Price model with a wooden panel on top you could attach plastic nuts and bolts to. I loved that thing, and went around the house whacking on stuff with a blue and yellow plastic hammer. I am so glad that those close to me, especially my dad, did not force the girly toys on me. Otherwise I probably would not be as happy as I am today -- despite a certain sense of not-belonging, I am one of the most joyful individuals I know. And I've realized that there are things more rewarding than feeling like part of the girl collective, things that make it more than worthwhile to be myself and pursue my own interests.

My body is female. I am female, and I have no problem with that fact. I think it's pretty cool for various reasons. But I cannot escape the fact that most of my interests are considered masculine by a majority of people. Perhaps this shouldn't bother me, but it is alienating enough to make me write long wanky essays like this about my experiences with gender paradigms. When I encounter a new group (such as a discussion about video games), whether online or in real life, there is invariably a reaction to my gender. Either I get hit on (which makes me laugh when it happens online because how do they know I'm not hideous?) or I get accused of trying to join the group or conversation in order to get cool points or ego-boosting compliments from geek boys. What if I simply want to talk about a computer game? If I'm interested in a subject, it would be nice to be able to just talk without anyone caring that I'm a girl. Thankfully, this phenomenon has been minimal on E2, perhaps due to the higher common denominator here resulting from high writing standards. You might say, "Well, if you want to go chat online about gaming, etc., why not just pretend you're a boy, or avoid the subject entirely?" I could do that, and I have done that at times, especially if the conversation is superficial. But I should not have to. When joining a new online community, I often get referred to as "he". Does correcting the pronoun mean that I am an attention seeking geek-whore? Does it mean that I'm trying to get extra props somehow? No. It simply means that my gender, while mostly irrelevant, should not be something I have to hide or deny in order to participate in activities and discussion I like. Since graduating college and making some good friends, this hasn't been much of a problem in meatspace, but again, finding people I can relate to was not an easy task.

So what is my point? I read iceowl's Deals well with ambiguity: a savagely long wu about why boys are not like girls and other things. It made me think. Hard. It is a wonderful piece, one that rings very true, and one that I cannot respond to in annoyance because iceowl covered all his bases. He addressed the "oh, it's just advertising" argument. He spoke of the mystical aura of Barbie that makes most little girls glow with delight. However, the little girl in the corner of the yard trying in vain to pull of Barbie's head so she can examine the rotating socket joint that gives Barbie's head a rotation range comparable to Linda Blair's is not there. This is where I feel guilty: I should not expect all exceptions, those that describe me or otherwise, to appear in everyone's observations. Iceowl's writeup was not about me, except in the brief mention of the "gray area" kids, the ones that go through the phases. I've spent my whole life in a gray area, and for some reason sometimes it feels as if I have to expend extra effort to convince people that I exist. I am more than a phase, as are the few other women I've met that I can talk to without feeling strangely distant from.

Again, my point. I'm getting to that. This might come across as a big colossal whine, or as I referred to earlier, a plea for attention. In all honesty, all I can say is that I read iceowl's writeup first thing this morning and this was the result. It hit a nerve in my head, not because I disagreed with the author's sentiments, but because I did not. I need to accept that bicycles marketed to little girls are probably going to remain pink with white tires*, and that I'm not likely to encounter any little pigtailed girls in pinafores and jumpers playing with big, navy-blue, chunky-wheeled remote control monster trucks in catalogs. Everyone, regardless of how independently minded they are, feels some sense of aliveness and pleasure when they see themself in the world as a representation of a Human. And every anomaly, despite his or her happiness at being true to him or herself, probably wishes sometimes that the statistical tables were turned.

*I had a black and gold BMX as a kid, that I won in a Sears contest when I was seven years old. I dropped my name and phone number into a box, and got a call a few weeks later. My dad answered and handed the phone to me with a funny look on his face. Apparently, they'd asked if they could speak to his son, Anne. They figured that no girl would possibly want a bike like that, so I must, in fact, be a boy named Anne. Pah.

It's the end. It's the beginning. The Alpha and Omega.

The end of our dog's life...The beginning of our tenth year together. It's hard to celebrate such a big anniversary during such a depressing event.

Good things are happening, though. I have a new job coming up in a few weeks at Greyfield Inn. My husband just got commisioned to do Real Estate Panoramas.

I suppose that there much come an end to all good things. Reggae lived a very good 14 years. We will all miss her terribly. She was Queen of the House around here. I guess it's my time to step up to the plate!!

Saying that I'm eager for 2003 to be over is the understatement of the year. After all, this is the year that my health bottomed out and I spent six months in bed in horrible pain, and all thanks to my Crohn's Disease. I underwent surgery to correct the problem, have been recovering, and as the year came to a close I spent two weeks visiting my parents in Omaha, Nebraska and figured that as the year wound down that nothing else bad would happen. Of course life has a way of giving us all a kick in the pants when we get cocky, and yesterday was no exception. I left yesterday, flying home to Florida via Chicago/O'Hare Airport. My grandparents had offered to pick me up at the airport so I didn't have to mess with long term parking, and the plan was that they would wait at my nearby apartment for my phone call to tell them that I'd landed safely.

When the plane landed at 1pm I turned on my cell phone and made the call... and my answering machine picked up. I figured that they hadn't reached my place yet; after all, the plane was a little early. I headed through the terminal out to the pick-up zone and called again. Again, the machine picked up. 1:15.... 1:30.... still no word from them. I tried calling their house in case they forgot about the pick-up and there was no answer. I called their cell phone, but it wasn't turned on. It wasn't like them to be late or forget something like this, so my worry and fear that something horrible had happened to them began to skyrocket. My cell phone had a hard time getting a signal in the middle of the airport, so I called my father in Nebraska via pay phone to see if something had happened to them while I was inflight. Maybe the pick-up plan had changed. He hadn't heard anything, but said he'd e-mail my mother at work and see if she knew anything. 1:45... 2:00... 2:15... I called Dad again and there was still no news. I tried calling my apartment again, and still nothing new. I called Mom and she was equally worried that her parents were missing.

I couldn't do anything further at the airport, so it was time to find another way home. Not that I could get inside, mind you - my grandparents had my keys (they had been checking my mail and watering the houseplants). The plan was to get home, break the locks, and get start making phone calls to anyone who might know what happened to my grandparents. None of my friends answered their phones so I could ask for a ride, so I took a taxi home. All along the way the worst case scenarios of what could have happened to my grandparents played like a horrible mini-movie through my mind. Car accident. Heart attacks. Random shootings. Anything and everything horrible that would have led them to a bad end. My stomach tied itself in knots, my face turned pale. I had the terrible feeling that the day would not end well.

The cab fare was climbing towards the $50 mark and the clock was moving towards 3:15 when my cell phone rang. I knew that this would be the bad news call; that one of my parents had received the gut-wrenching news of my grandparents' fate. My hands slick with sweat, I answered the phone.

"Hello?"

A pause, then...

"Where are you??"

It was my grandfather!

"I'm about five minutes away from my apartment. Where are you?"

"We're at your apartment. Why didn't you call when you landed? Granny and I have been worried sick!"

Granddad was waiting when the taxi pulled up. Come to find out, they had turned off the ringer on the phone by accident, they had left their cell phone at home, and the answering machine volume was turned off so they hadn't heard my repeated calls. It hadn't occured to them to call my cell phone until just a few minutes ago. All the while that I was worried that they were laying dead in a ditch somewhere, they were worried that the airport security squad had seized me and were interrogating me in a small room somewhere. Instead of calling around to see if anyone had heard from me, however, they sat and waited for me to call... which I was doing, except they couldn't hear the phone ring because it just wasn't ringing.

After this was all sorted out I called Mom and told her the good news: everyone was alive and well. While I had been en route in the taxi, my parents had put out the Red Alert to friends and family that the old folks were missing, which launched a network of worried people searching and making phone calls. I talked to Granny this morning and she said that it's all been sorted out; everyone knows they're alive, although there were some interesting messages on their answeing machine yesterday.

So when all is said and done in this matter, this is just another of those reminders that life throws at us sometimes that we should slow down and appreciate the people in our lives: friends, family, lovers, everyone. You never know when these people will just suddenly be gone, snatched away never to answer the phone again. Even if the ringer is turned on.

Happy New Year, fellow noders. Have fun tonight and be safe out there. After all, tomorrow's another day.

Let the riot be the rhyme of the unheard.

All these months (years?) and I've been wondering what's been bothering me so much. It finally came to a head, returning from family vacation. All was fine at the Louis Armstrong International Airport - Frontier is such a great service! - until we got to the security checkpoint for the C concourse.

Perhaps a little background is in order here. I have never had a good flying experience at this airport, even back when it was called Moisant International (and thus its FAA designation of MSY) after that crazy Cajun guy who crashed in the swamp. The last time through? They held my two terrified cats inside the X-Ray machine for nearly five minutes and made jokes as the cats yowled in fear. (That doesn't even begin to cover the amount of radiation those two survived.)

My experience with TSA since it took over checkpoint security has been overwhelmingly good. Denver, for example, had horrid security just after 911 (I flew in November 2001). When TSA took over, a whole new squad of professionally trained screeners made traveling from Denver a very pleasant experience. In New Orleans, however, I still recognize faces. They retrained (and I use that term loosely here) the old security people as TSA employees.

As I was saying, all was well on our return trip until we reached the line for the C concourse security checkpoint. As we approached the first TSA agent, we took out our boarding cards and picture ID's. No problems were noted and we were waved through. I was carrying my work laptop with me and as soon as I could, I began breaking out the laptop and back and dumping the contents into bins.

The same TSA agent who had just waved us through walked up and told my wife to go on and then turned to me and said, "Sir, stand against the wall." The tone was threatening; it implied I had done something wrong. I said nothing but stepped out of the line and stood against the nearest wall.

I turned to face a second TSA agent who was working the metal detector line. She appeared confused, as the first agent had - after instructing me to stand out of line - left to return to her post at the front of the line.

At this point, some 10 minutes have passed, and some 30 people have now crossed between me and my wife. When I finally manage to get the attention of the first TSA agent, she looks at me blankly and asks me why I'm just standing there. I tell her because she told me to. She gets this attitude on her face and says something like, "I didn't do no such thing." She then just vaguely waves at me and walks off. I turn back to the second TSA agent who shrugs and motions for me to step through the metal detector. I do, without tripping any alarms.

And TSA #2 waves me into a pen: they had taken one of those two-post tape things they use to make lines for people and attached it to the corner against the wall. So I'm now standing in a place where basically no one can see me and I have nowhere to go.

I wait another ten minutes. As can probably be expected, I am quite irritated at this point, especially given that we were instructed to be at our gate for boarding at 2PM and it was already a few minutes after. I manage to get the attention of a third TSA agent, this one operating the X-Ray machine. I ask her if I need to still wait and she says she doesn't know.

Eventually, a fourth TSA agent approaches and I manage, after much loud shouting of "SIR! SIR! EXCUSE ME TSA SIR!", to get him to ask what's going on. The first TSA agent is summoned, as are the next two, whereupon the first one disavows ever having spoken to me and develops a serious face attitude. I firmly, loudly, explain that she told me, "in so many words," - "Sir, stand against the wall." TSA #4 decides not to believe me and summons what appears to be the official in charge and a cop.

I look at the cop first. He seems bored, just standing by if needed, thumbs hooked on his belt and staring over my head at the lines behind me. A cop. That is where I got seriously pissed. Lots of yelling later (the cop was paying attention now) and the official is spewing some shit about a misunderstanding. I ask if I may go (figuring it's either that, or end up getting arrested after I shove this fucker's TSA ID tag down his throat) and he says I may. I turn to do so but then turn back and tell the official that I want names and ID numbers for all five TSA people involved in the incident, as I am going to report it to TSA in Washington and ensure that they are all dismissed or actually sent to training. He refuses. (Surprise.)

A furious ten or so minutes later and I'm standing on the jetway with my wife when it dawns on me. The reason I've been so bothered lately is that I'm tired of being treated like a fucking criminal in my own goddamned country.

Fuck it, cut the cord.

Yesterday about two hours before quitting time my foreman announced that we would work over today, New Year's Eve but not to worry we'd get to leave early on Friday. So today I worked over.

Fridays are very important days for any working man, but your basic Friday doesn't outrank New Year's Eve. Not by a long shot. But i can't really blame my foreman. He doesn't get it. You see he's a dear friend of mine, and a recovering fundamentalist. Now ask yourself, what do you do when you're a fundamentalist and 19 on New Year's Eve? You go where the partiers are and try to make people come to Jesus. Harassing a bunch of drunks. and then getting abused in return doesn't make for a very rewarding holiday. Or, he told me that before he met his wife he often spent the day with his friend and his friend's fundie parents. As one of his Sunday School students once told him, "Chris, you never were a teenager."

Not that he's a bad guy, mind you. Far from it. As i said, he grew up a fundie but is no more, simply because he's honest enough to have decided to go with the evidence when the evidence and dogma conflicted. Not too many people have the courage and to abandon deeply held beliefs. But he doesn't get New Year's Eve, and really shouldn't be expected to.

Since we ride to the job together, it fell to me to explain to him, that if he had a crew full of young kids, he'd a have a crew in open revolt for making an announcement like that. Most places quit by noon on New Year's Eve. And he understood what i was telling him. But he felt he had no choice. Our project manager had riding him to hang the light poles for security reasons. But the company hadn't let us have the company bucket truck. so we'd have a crane to raise the poles onto their base.

But because Chris did understand, he allowed people who wanted to to depart early, and he decided that he too might be willing to let everyone go if things went well.

Naturally, Murphy is with you whenever you decide to let people go early on a holiday "if things go well'.

Of course, some might say their was more against us than the impending holiday. The school we are remodeling was built immediately adjacent to an indian mound. And there is a rumor that human bones had been dug up during the excavations of the new, expanded playground. Frankly, rumors fly on job sites, and this was a juicier taie than most. Certainly it would have been better to let Chief Sleeping Dog lie where he was. But, i don't believe in curses or superstition. And I can't really imagine some long dead person going, 'gee the excavators just dug me up for some white kids, let's fuck with the electricians right before the new year." That just seems a little far-fetched. On the other hand, if you're the sort of person who avidly studies Nostradamus, you can find cause for trouble.

And trouble there was. The first note of discord came when bucket truck broke two miles out of the shop. But the slow day meant we were able to borrow a big diesel forklift. The light pole bases which had been poured by a subcontractor had the studs and pipes poorly located. So we hammered pried and begged until the poles would set down on their studs. One of the ligths itself had arrived broken, and two had broken covers. Nothing to do there but order new ones. Then a pull string broke as we were pulling in a wire so we'd have something strong enough to pull the real wires in. Naturally a new string would not blow (or suck) in. And when we tried to fish the string out, the fish tape got stuck so tight, we had to use the forklift to pull it out.

Like I said, Murphy. Or perhaps probability rearing its ugly head. in construction there are days when things go smooth as silk. By doing good work and thinking ahead from Day One you can make certain that a lot of later days go smooth. As another journeyman and i agreed, that if you do things right during the rough in everything goes well. You can't make money cobbing. But there are times where small errors and chance combine to make the day a bitch.

That a bad day will happen now and then is a function of probability. That it would happen when you desperately wanted a smooth day is irony. I sometimes wonder if irony and entropy are natural forces, deeply embedded within the structure of this universe.

Proof has been attained. E2 crashed (or so it seems) just as as was submitting this. Irony is with me, again. Or did Jet-Poop strike again?

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