Posted in Today's File

“Hello My Name Is”

This morning a customer didn’t bother to tell me his name, just went straight to spelling it.

Yeah, it was one of THOSE names. Not as confounding as some, but definitely not one I would have gotten right without having him spell it out.

My sister and I grew up with a maiden name we always had to spell.

Now she’s a Jones and I’m a Smith!

On the other end of the phone my customer laughed with me, and then said, “Mine’s Italian. It means ‘eat goat’.”

I couldn’t help myself. “That’s awesome! EAT GOAT.”

Next time someone upsets me, that’s what I’ll say. “Hey! You. Eat goat!”

I have a tenant who has a very long name with very few vowels that ends in -wczyk. It occurs to me that he has never said his name to me either. It’s like a secret password that only the chosen can know…

In my maiden-name days, that’s how I used to screen for telemarketers: if a caller correctly pronounced the name, I didn’t immediately hang up. “Smith” doesn’t lend itself to that kind of screening…

Although there was the one time a phlebotomist labeling my blood sample asked me how to spell it. I was so taken aback I just blurted “Smith!” again, because isn’t that word self-explanatory for a native speaker of English?

I should have told her to eat goat.

Posted in writing

Radio-Speak (Do You Copy?)

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snapshot from the British Virgin Islands, Christmas 2003… Uncle Dick at the helm, my sister (holding my son), and me (pregnant with my daughter)

My first sailing trips were under the tutelage of my uncle, who’s a stickler for doing things properly. (Best training ever! Sailing with Uncle Dick made my later “official” training a breeze. Even when the “breeze” was 18 knots!)

Uncle Dick’s pet peeve regarding the radio is when someone signs off with “Over and Out.” So okay, for the record: it’s EITHER “Over” (meaning you’re standing by for another transmission from the other party) OR “Out” (if you’re signing off entirely). We hear “over and out” on the TV, but it’s actually a mixed message—are you over or are you out?

Working at the RV park office, we use radios to communicate with our outside guys, who serve as parking guides for new arrivals and pump propane for guests. We’ve had a couple military guys who know radio-speak, and I had fun “being proper” with them, since they understood and appreciated.

I don’t break out the full-on marine-radio etiquette though, because that would be silly. An office coworker and I were giggling yesterday about what that would sound like, if I used the triplicate marine hail: “Parking Guide, Parking Guide, Parking Guide! This is Office, Office, Office, Over.” Somehow that sounds fine when you’re hailing a marina or a drawbridge with your boat-name, but pretty goofy if you’re hailing a golf cart from a desk chair!

radioStill, I guess I do take after Uncle Dick, because I prefer “affirmative” to “yeah,” and “Office receiving” to “Mic check,” and “copy that” to “okay,” and a “Bravo” designation when someone is parking in the B-row… I keep my transmissions clipped and concise (though I do add the human etiquette of “thank yous” that aren’t strictly part of radio etiquette).

And like Uncle Dick, I’ve discovered I have a radio-peeve. Mine is when someone asks “Do you have a copy?” So okay, for the record… “Copy” is the verb in that query, meaning to acknowledge receipt of the message. It’s “Do you copy?” Copy that?

And with that little note, I’m “Out.”

Posted in People, writing

Advice from a Polyglot

imageYesterday I asked my co-worker Shawky where he’s from. He was born in Cairo, he answered, and grew up in Greece—and he used to work on ships, visiting 89 countries and acquiring six languages. Apparently Home Depot doesn’t have an “I speak Romanian” badge, because that’s the only one he’s missing.

I joked that he probably doesn’t have much call for that here, but wouldn’t you know—not half an hour later a customer made a beeline for his register, greeted him by name, and started chatting him up in (you guessed it) Romanian.

One of our mandates as cashiers is to get customers to sign up for the Home Depot credit card. While most cashiers got a handful, or maybe a dozen, apps in the last month, Shawky had a stunning 111 credit card applications. While I worked the register next to him yesterday, I watched him sign up three more people as smooth as you please.

I teased him about his “magic” but asked him in earnest what advice he would give me to help the magic rub off on me.  He answered me very seriously, in his accented but impeccable English. “Listen. I will tell you. You must have absolute confidence. Don’t say so much. Choose what you say,” Continue reading “Advice from a Polyglot”

Posted in Mental Health, Recovery

On Vapors, and Vapers

who vs whomLast week CBS This Morning hosted a lexicographer from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, talking about the malleability of language and the ongoing task of incorporating new words into the dictionary. Although prescriptive grammarians (unlike descriptive ones) would have you believe that our language and its rules are static, nothing could be further from the truth. (Sure, I know when I’m supposed to say “whom”—and I sometimes even do it—but these days those rules are largely at odds with actual usage.)

Speaking to new words that have been recently incorporated, the Merriam-Webster editor gave examples like “photobomb” and “binge-watch.”  By this point, “selfie” has been in the dictionary so long it’s old news. I’m fascinated by the cultural commentary afforded by new words…  The one I’m interested in today has only been in the dictionary for a couple years, and won Oxford’s “word of the year” honor in 2014:

vape definition Oxford word of the year

The Merriam-Webster definition adds to the verb definition of vape: “like someone smoking a conventional cigarette.” That definition might already be outdated. Most of today’s vapes have so little in common with cigarettes that they’re not even getting called e-cigs anymore. Early models did look like cigarettes, but these days they range from boxy models to flashy pens—virtually no resemblance to the nasty originals.

Yup, I just called cigarettes nasty. I actually thought so even for the eight-or-so years that I was obsessively smoking them. And there you have the strange face of addiction. Cigarettes are nasty—but I liked them. They were my friends, They were a treat, every time I lit up, even though I hated the lingering ashtray-odor that clung to me afterward. Continue reading “On Vapors, and Vapers”

Posted in Language, Motorcycle

Love Languages & Chocolate Sprinkles

imageThere’s a new key on my ring that I can’t use just yet, but I’m carrying it anyway because I’m excited about this unexpected gift from my husband. I’m still sort of in a state of disbelief about it, to be honest. I can’t quite believe I really have this key, let alone what it goes to… But I’ll leave you in suspense for a moment and come back to that.

Here’s what I find kind of funny today. Jon and I have been reading The Five Love Languages, and we have determined that “receiving gifts” is not my love-language. As a writer, maybe it’s not surprising that “words of affirmation” are what speak most eloquently to my heart—and those are closely followed by the language of “physical touch.”

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Jon likes to leave me love-notes in cards… No “occasion” needed!

I feel absolutely adored when Jon leaves me a sweet card with a hand-written love note. Or when he calls me by a pet name, tells me I look cute or sexy, says he loves me. I even thrill when he calls me “Mrs. Smith,” because it’s an emphasis on the married-in-love “Mrs.”… We spend a few hours of every day on the phone, he with his Bluetooth in his ear while his head is under hoods of cars—we talk to each other while we go about our days, and I never tire of the sound of his voice. Words do it for me, no question! I’m also a hand-holder, a snuggler, a butt-grabber, and a happy recipient of reciprocal touches. When he puts his arm around me in church and holds my hand in the grocery store, I feel Capital-L-Loved.

Now don’t get me wrong, regarding gifts. It’s not that I don’t enjoy or appreciate them, they’re just not the currency that “proves love” in my emotional world. When he does give me something, I find myself floored by it, maybe because it seems like such an “extra.”   Continue reading “Love Languages & Chocolate Sprinkles”

Posted in Lists, Mental Health

Entering the Lists

list3My notebook is bent, battered, and buckled, every kind of abused but bruised.  The covers crease from frequent folding, and tags & stickies protrude from its pages. I’ve had it for all of three weeks.

The notebook serves as a journal, but it its pages have also filled with sketches, blog-post brainstorms, A.A. Stepwork, notes from group sessions and church sermons, quotes and definitions related to writing-topics, comparisons of health insurance plans, my checkbook register, ledgers tracking my freelance writing pay and my hotspot data-usage…  And LISTS. Lots of lists.

Some to-do lists are sprinkled through there, but those aren’t the most common denomination. The weirder ones don’t have an obvious purpose. Since I keep making them, though, I surely hope there’s something accomplished in the writing of them. I’m just not entirely sure WHAT.  Continue reading “Entering the Lists”

Posted in Mental Health, travel

Gypsying (OR: A Borderline Personality Working on Borders)

hand of cardsIf you’re not familiar with poker, the thing to understand is that you start a hand with some cards of your own, and you don’t yet know what other cards will be available to you to use in that hand. You have to “sign up” to play that hand by putting some money in the pot before the other cards are revealed, and there’s a minimum amount (the Blind) that’s essentially the baseline price of admission to play. Sometimes people will bid higher than the Blind (if the cards they CAN see bode well for play, or if they want their opponents to THINK that), but sometimes a player will hope to see the next few cards without investing a great deal up front. Calling the Blind, or going in for the minimum amount, is called Gypsying, or Limping in.

RV fifth wheel Grand Design
I literally do live on wheels. Here’s HOME cruising by my workplace one day…

The other day my counselor told me several times that the word “Gypsy” describes me. (I don’t think he even knows that I literally do live on wheels, in an RV!) In that same day, reading a book about Borderline Personality Disorder*, I got forehead-smacked by chapter-headings titled “Playing the Dealt Hand,” and “Learning to How to Limp.”

With the word “Gypsy” on my mind, and the poker-connection of Gypsying or Limping, those headings felt significant, so I read mindfully; I believe in Messages rather than Coincidence. (“As my first Sponsor always said, “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous!”)

The chapter in question talked about practicing change, which can be “a monumental struggle” for a Borderline Personality. Okay, that sounded odd to me at first, given my own very-varied past performances in Life… On the surface, you wouldn’t tag me as a person who struggles with change.

Borderline Personality Disorder job changeIn fact, if you look at my behavioral patterns over recent years, you’d probably say that I don’t Limp In or Gypsy (at least not in the poker sense) in most decision-making moments.  I throw myself headlong into whatever I’ve decided to do, nothing half-assed about it. Continue reading “Gypsying (OR: A Borderline Personality Working on Borders)”