Problem? No, Learning Opportunity!! Or, How Not to Make Christmas Cookies

It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity. Right? Right?

Years ago at work, right after I nearly had to call security, a colleague advised me that she didn’t see such things as problems – rather as learning opportunities.

Oh, well, thanks! Yes, I guess being in fear of your physical safety can be regarded as an opportunity to learn…hmm, let’s see..to get the fuck out of that job as fast as you can?

I had a day full of both learning and opportunities yesterday.

To wit: annual Cookie Press Conflagration.

You’d think after decades of Christmas cookie making I would remember:

  • how to assemble press (nope, three tries)
  • that dough would be way too dense and stiff (even if you follow the recipe, chill, warm up again, etc. – what’s the point of that?)
  • and that lemon juice or almond extract gives much better flavor than plain old vanilla. (Not. Zoned.)

Three ejected tubes of dough and a quarter cup of heavy cream later, a much softer, more pliable dough is loaded into cookie press. Viola! Fat, relatively flavorless but at least decorative cookie lumps vaguely resembling stars, trees, and ornaments.

IMG_20181219_095900.jpg

Bleh. Regard this an as opportunity to try again Friday, wised-up.

While dough is uselessly chilling, mix up a different batch of dough for peppermint thumbprint cookies that were so delicious last year.

Follow recipe. Dough is really crumbly. I’m supposed to be able to form it into balls, roll in egg white and sugar, dent the middle and put a peppermint kiss in the dent.

Crumbly dough rolled in egg white just sticks to hands. Mess. Manage to roll in sugar and form vaguely round blobs with dent in the middle for peppermint kiss.

Recipe says ungreased cookie sheets, which usually turns into a burned-sugar mess. I know! Parchment paper!

Recipe says cook 10 minutes, tops, don’t overcook.

25 minutes later, they still don’t look done, the peppermint kisses in the thumbprint are browned but not melted (supposed to be the other way around) and several cookies have little puddles of cooked egg white around them. Pull them off the parchment paper and put them directly onto the cookie sheet. Cook five more minutes,

Success! Kisses melt, cookies cook.

Sort of.

Too chewy, underdone, too much flour, not sugary enough.

Dump the whole batch.

An opportunity to do better when I try again on Friday.

At least the new carpet I splurged on has arrived and is being installed! But wait, what’s that? It looks like tread marks, right across the middle of the room, as if someone drove a miniature bulldozer across it.

Oh, that must just be from that loud old vacuum the installers use, right?

Except the tread marks don’t go away when you brush over them with your foot or hand, like they would if they were just marks from the vacuum.

Do you mean to tell me that this carpet, carpet I waited over two months to receive, carpet I splurged on because I thought remaking the bedroom would help me in my grief,  is damaged? Flawed?

I know what this is. I had to wait two months for it so the manufacturer could get enough orders for it to make it worth a run, and they gave me, probably the smallest order, the mangled-remnant-tail-end-of-the-run.

Breathe.

View as an opportunity to get a boatload of my money back, dammit!

And, bonus! The installers, who move the furniture, caused my headboard to fall apart.

Oh, Yay! An opportunity to spend an evening I was going to spend regarding the tree and listening to Christmas music with my daughter rummaging around in the garage to find that little wrench tool that came with the headboard (three tries to find, but at least I had saved it) which is the only tool that will undo the nuts that hold the bolts that hold the headboard to the bed frame, so I can remove it and rebuild it and reattach it, having tightened the cam locks around the screws…oh wait, they LOST one of the cam locks! And one of the wooden pegs that I had the opportunity to add wood glue to, to tighten the damn thing up, also lost.

I had been meaning to tighten everything up. I just thought I’d do it when I had all the parts.

Which I don’t, now. Found the lost wood peg in the wastebasket in my daughter’s room. Cam lock still missing.

Oh Yay! I have the opportunity to go the the hardware store (they are always happy to see me at the hardware store) and try to find a cam lock of the same type and size.

Needle, meet haystack.

Feh.

I thought I’d do the headboard repair on a day when my side wasn’t killing me, because while I was trying, in order to restretch them, to pull on the shrunken leather Ugg boots that my precious daughter innocently put in the washing machine because they had road salt stains on them, shrinking the boots and turning all her other clothes in the load a blueish green (toss) I sat down in a chair, bent over to pull the boot on, and

FOING!

What the hell was that? Something inside on the left went “bloop” and sort of slipped up over my rib! OW! Sit up slowly. Remember this is an old injury from a previous warehouse job. Not as bad as then, I can handle it.

An opportunity to go find that elastic corset-like thing that provides support to the ribs, and BONUS, acts like a waist nipper.

So I might be groaning in pain when I move, but damn, look at those curves, girl!

Lemons, meet lemonade.

Carpet guy who was supposed to call before he came didn’t call, but did show up.

Looked at the carpet.

Agreed with me.

Wait, what?

Where’s the learning opportunity in that?

I learned that sometimes, customer service actually serves. Wow.

We’ll see what happens when the store guy calls to offer solutions. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime,

Wishing you a day of learning actually sought and opportunities happily fulfilled,

I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, actually-looking-forward-to-baking again on Friday,

Ridiculouswoman

The Three Years Tree

Rule of three tries…

Approach the task with good humor and humility. Presume things will go wrong. Resolve to be patient about it. Presume, but don’t believe, because you got this. Third time’s a charm, Right?

Third time without him, that is.

Set specific time to depart for the local big box hardware store where we always buy the tree. Wear Santa hats.

Strap tree to top of car, rather than stuffing it in the car to provide a year’s worth of needles to vacuum from various crevices for the year.

Get home without tree falling off top of car. Leave tree in cold garage for lunch break.

And now….

Tree stand.

Complimenting yourself for being clever enough to leave the stand on the work shelf in the garage since last year, rather than high and unreachable in the rafters where Mike used to put it, pick up stand.

Discover that unspecified rodent has purloined substantial amounts of insulation (must be from the bathroom in the breezeway that connects to the garage – the one that is now so cold) to construct cozy nest in the tree stand base. Eww.

Don gloves. Remove insulation. Wipe with disinfecting wipes.

Place protective plastic on floor in front of bay window (that Mike meticulously re-puttied when he was so sick, taking breaks to sit down, over three days), for inevitable spillage of water when attempting to nourish tree.

Attach base that looks oddly like a giant cervical cap (ewww) to fresh-cut base of trunk. Place in larger base, that has a foot pedal that is supposed to allow you to waggle the tree around until it is straight, upright and stable, and then lock it there.

Angelic daughter holds tree strait. Perfect! Lock.

Let go.

Tree immediately lists sideways.

Try again.

Tree lists again.

Remove tree with giant cervical cap from larger base.  Notice puddles, resulting from brilliant inspiration to put water in the stand before you put the tree in, on the plastic intended to protect wood floor, running inexorably toward said wood. Dash to kitchen for paper towels.

Angelic daughter decamps to watch TV when Mom’s swearin….erm, expressions of frustration, become a bit overwhelming.

Notice that in your efforts to place and lock tree, plastic has skidded on the floor, shifting tree way off center in front of bay window.

Sigh.

Try again.

Breathe. Employ observation, reason and calculation. Realize giant cervical cap thing needs to be snugger on trunk, and needs to sit lower in base.

Use garden loppers to remove low branches interfering with giant thorn-looking thingees that have to be screwed in tight to tree trunk.

Screw in giant thorn looking thingees.

Sit back in satisfaction. Nice and tight.

Time to try again.

Third time’s a charm, right?

Lift tree with giant cervical cap thing into larger base, and feel the satisfying click as it settles in to the correct spot. Feels stable. Step back to look.

Looks straight.

Praying (because God really cares about whether my Christmas tree is straight and stable, right?), shove foot pedal intended to allow waggling-around into lock position, and stomp down.

Holy crap. Maybe God does care that it is straight!

(No, dumbass, God cares that you get this done so you can calm down and stop swearin…expressing frustration, and move on to the decorating part which allows you to involve angelic daughter, retrieved from her retreat to the TV).

Praying more (hey, it worked), every-so-gently drag plastic back to center tree in front of window.

It worked again.

Lights!

Having been brilliant enough to buy two extra sets of lights last year, in anticipation of the future inevitable malfunction of lights that worked perfectly before, begin stringing lights – smugly, because you checked, to be sure the star that will go on the top gets the female end it needs to plug into.

Carefully distribute two strings of 300 lights in tiers around tree. Pick up third and final string.

Realize that final string will have a female end where it needs to plug into the wall.

Swea…Sigh. Breathe.

I put 600 lights on the tree, backwards. Used the female end that also has a male end at the top instead of the one with just the female end.

Unwrap lights. Rewrap lights. Decide 600 is enough. Last year’s tree, which had 900, was bigger.

Plug in.

Looks good!

Angelic daughter, creeping back in from TV room, proceeds with garlands and chains, and we (ok, I) only break four ornaments in the process of getting them out of their nests in the Christmas boxes and up on the tree.

After placing all her own handmade ornaments and garlands from school years, especially anything that has a picture of her on it, and the one with her Dad’s name on it, daughter decamps to take another break and watch more TV.

Which leaves me to hang the significant ornaments.

Listening to Vince Gill, “Breath of Heaven.” Hold me together.

The one with the little mouse at the front door, welcoming us to our new house nearly 20 years ago. House had LOTS of mice, we discovered.

Sniff.

The one of the little snowman with a shovel, that symbolized that year that Mike shoveled every two hours, seemingly for weeks on end. Big snow that year.

Tears.

I didn’t expect the one that really got me, though – a little bear dressed as Santa.

“Bear” was my pet name for Mike.

More tears.

“Can we have our quiet time now?

Breathe. Dry up.

Of course, sweetheart.

Regard the tree.

Oops, forgot the star.

Managing not to break anything (third time, anyway), clip top of tree with garden loppers. Pop star on top, held by treetop twig through the arms of the star.

Plug in.

Ta-da!

I really should have put that third string of lights on.  The lowest branches have none.

Abandon perfectionist tendencies.  Decide this is good enough.

Because, however imperfect, to me, there really isn’t anything as lovely, peaceful, and comforting as a Christmas tree.

Angelic daughter is tired. Sit with her upstairs until she falls deep asleep.  Return downstairs for more “tree regarding” time.

Play Christmas choral music, volume very low, by some Englishy choir, recorded in an echoey-Englishy-medeival stone cathedral.

Lo, how a rose ere blooming.

Smile.

Wishing you a beautiful tree, or Menorah, or whatever brings you peace and light this time of year, and hoping to get over this cough in time to sing Englishy carols in a big stone church, I remain,

Your tree-regarding, Santa-hat wearing, soon-to-be-cookie-baking,

Ridiculouswoman

Naughty and Nice

Before we go all holly jolly, a pre-holiday dive into the Snark Tank…

Or, nice and naughty, if I ever meet the right guy (Ha! in my dreams!)

Anyway,  since this is the time of year we draw the naughty/nice line, I think it is time to toss a few more things into the Snark Tank (naughty!), just to get them out of my system so I can flip the switch on love and joy. I’ve got two new topics to cover over there, and welcome your contributions –  “I Guess the Rules Just Don’t Apply to You,” and “Shit Doctors Say.”

I’ll keep the goodness and light over here in the “nice” part of my blog.

So if you’re not quite ready to go all holly jolly, take a dive over there.

I’ll be back over here with something nice.

As soon as I think of it.

Ho, Ho, Ho and all that,

Ridiculouswoman

Gowf

How I feel about golf, in one photo…

As I was leaving total body fitness class a few days ago, I was greeted with the above pictured troop of frozen golf carts.

(Or “gowf carts,” as those who play this spectacularly dull sport usually say it – especially the TV commentators. Mike used to watch “gowf” on TV – which, for me, is somewhere between watching paint dry and sticking knitting needles in my eyes. Suffice it to say, I was always able to find myself something else to do until the “gowf” was over, which often was somewhere between six and ten hours in).

So the sight of frozen “gowf” carts?

Oh, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, HA!

Just sayin’

Preferring brisk walks not involving attempts “to place a small ball in a smaller hole with weapons ill-designed for that purpose,” (Churchill),

I remain,

Your loyal, non-conforming because non-gowfer, but hoping the fitness class can get me skiing again someday,

Ridiculouswoman

Fantasy Island Serves Lousy Food; or, the Tale of the Terrifying Turkey

OCD invades fantasy island…

Thank God the gentleman caller didn’t show up.

glass horse

Because I cooked The Worst Turkey Ever.

Also the most expensive. What was I thinking?

Well, I was thinking (and this is for you, RomComDojo, because I know you’ll understand):

  • This is the year of Rotten Romaine and Terrifying Turkey, so,
  • after throwing away ten bucks worth of Romaine lettuce because of the e-coli scare, I’m damned if I’m going to make us sick from salmonella turkey, so
  • how about an organic turkey? organic turkey farms must be safer, right?, yet
  • organic turkey was obscenely expensive; nevertheless,
  • it’s worth it if it will help me not worry about it, right? so
  • buy it anyway, because it is smaller for just the two of us even though it is OBSCENELY EXPENSIVE, but
  • even though it had been in the fridge for three days the damn thing wasn’t completely defrosted when I opened it to get the giblets out for the gravy, so
  • I put on nitrile gloves and put the bird in an aluminum pan in the sink remembering that even though this was an organic bird it was still a Terrifying Turkey that was Potentially Poisonous and I dug out the giblets for the gravy while I took note of any surface or object that might have got splashed with Terrifying Turkey juice so I could wipe it down with antibacterial wipes, and put the bird back in the fridge to keep defrosting and started the stock, which smelled really good and used my home-grown herbs, so yay me we got that good Thanksgiving smell in the house, however
  • it was the day after Thanksgiving which meant I needed to put up the Christmas lights, and it was not cold outside, which it will be next week, so yay me for getting that done, with help from my angelic, patient, hungry daughter, except
  • I got behind schedule on our day plan and realized that I needed to get the bird in the oven right away so I was little rushed, but I still
  • noticed this bird seemed greasy, and a little discolored on the legs but I put that down to being more “natural” and “free range” and “organic” besides
  • even though the instructions on the plastic that had encased the bird said to rinse it, all the Terrifying Turkey warnings said don’t do that, but then I
  • realized I can’t get the salt and pepper in the thing without touching the salt and pepper containers with the gloves I was wearing that already had Terrifying Turkey grease all over them so I
  • take off one glove and open the salt and pepper one handed with help from my chin and then
  • realize I also wanted to butter it all over and inside and say hell with it I have anti-bacterial wipes so
  • take off the gloves and shove butter under the skin and rub it all over with it and somehow get it in the oven using my elbows and then
  • rub all over the sink and countertops with disinfecting wipes, even waiting 10 minutes to rinse, so yay me and
  • I cook at 425 for 15 minutes to seal in juices before I reduce the heat however
  • I realized the instruction said 325 and I started to wonder whether the plastic thingee that that had held the legs together but could not be removed from the turkey was ok at 425 or will the plastic break down and poison us even if the turkey doesn’t? oh hell with it it’s already done and who needs instructions anyway I’ve been cooking beautiful turkeys for 30 years, plus
  • some article I read said you don’t really need to baste it just lets the heat out of the oven so OK I won’t and then
  • my god that looks really brown and where are the juices in the pan? so I basted it once anyway then
  • I noticed it really looked like it was drying up even though the timer said it needed 45 more minutes so try the meat thermometer but
  • what do they mean by “the thickest part of the thigh” anyway? and don’t touch bones? how do you do that? so
  • I tried the thigh and it was 180 so that meant overdone but I wasn’t sure so I poked the breast with it and
  • that’s when juice squirted out of the breast which made me understand why they tell you to poke the thigh, dumbass, now it is sure to be too dry, so
  • I take it out of the oven and “let it rest” like they say to while I finish prepping sides but then I notice
  • the juices look really pink, and it got cold really fast, so I’d better
  • put it back in the oven to make sure it is really cooked and won’t make us barf with salmonella, so now I
  • get all the pre-prepared sides out of the fridge and up to room temp before I put them in to warm and now it’s
  • time to carve the thing but the wings and legs would not come off, I never could find those joints anyway and the crispy skin on the ends of the legs tastes awful WTF? and I start to worry that maybe this particular bird was accidentally coated with some sort of foul industrial grease that was meant for machinery and I start to worry that we’ll both be paralyzed if we eat it but I’ll decide to wait and see for a week and if we make it to next Friday OK, I’ll call it on that particular bugaboo but still I should have basted it with butter and orange juice and
  • the breast is dry as a bone, even though it won’t come off as easily as it should dammit is it still not done? oh what the hell she only wants potatoes anyway but
  • what good are potatoes with gravy that looks sort of grey-green? How could the gravy be awful? I’m really good at gravy, so I decided that it must be that
  • this accursed obscenely expensive greasy organic turkey and the giblets I used for the stock are a con and the scrawny, gamey, greasy damn thing ruined my perfect fantasy island dinner and by the way
  • I’m exhausted and sore – maybe it was
  • bending over the garbage can peeling 10 pounds of potatoes, 5 of which I threw out because I did it early in the day but I didn’t think I should cover them with water because that would make them too soggy but they turned brown and looked gross and does that mean they’ve gone poisonous too? but fortunately
  • the pumpkin pie turned out OK and my sweet potato carrot puree was delicious and the stuffing, cooked separately from the probably poisonous greasy gamey scrawny obscenely expensive bird was OK and the cranberry sauce was delicious and when everything was put away and I mopped the floor because I dropped the greasy gamey scrawny obscenely expensive turkey on its way to the garbage can, I plugged in the Christmas lights and then
  • took a hot bath hoping that Dr. Teal and his epsom salts would work their magic, and even though I was feeling flat and disappointed and missing Mike and had a good cry, I ended up feeling
  • OK. I forgave myself. I decided I will never do this again. If we don’t go to someone else’s house, we will have a modest little meal, with rational portions just for two, and I will buy
  • a CHEAP breast-only major brand turkey with one of those pop-up things that tells me it is done and makes it their fault if it pops up and it isn’t done and it poisons us and I’ll make the gravy with less of my fresh herbs and more pan drippings from that cheap commercial turkey breast which I will baste liberally even though that let’s the heat out of the oven and there will never be a gentleman caller but, we will be

OK.

Grateful for whatever food is put before us and for the roof over our heads and heat and fat old whiny Sophie cat who I forgot to get food for so she got the canned clams I was going to use for some future pot of chowder but chowder has to have potatoes which are carbs galore but I’m not going to worry about that anymore because after our perfectly delightful meal at the brother’s in-laws even though I had potatoes and pie I actually lost 2 pounds, which I’m sure I regained yesterday so now I’m trying to muster the energy to paint, because painting counts as working out, I remain,

Your devoted, disappointed but realistic, grateful and determined to do better tonight when I’ll cook a chicken and make great gravy so she can finish her leftover 3 pounds of potatoes,

Ridiculouswoman

Let’s Take a Moment to Overthink This

If the palm reader was right I’d better get busy – let me think…

When I was around 15, a palm reader at a renaissance fair told me that I’d live to be 63.

In other words, she told me I would die when I am 63.

Which is something no reputable palm reader or fortune teller (HA! oh, ha ha ha ha ha ha HA! Reputable palm reader!) is ever supposed to tell anyone, I suppose on the grounds that if they’re wrong, their pronouncement could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, or, if they’re right, who’d want to know? Just keep it vague and positive, right?

I don’t know why I remembered that recently. Maybe I felt like I was wasting time, dragging my feet, failing in my quest to really live every moment of whatever time I may have left as fully as possible – and with love and laughter.

But if we assume for the sake of argument the palm reader was right – that gives me only a few years, with an awful lot left to do.

Like getting a move on the query letter for my book, and deciding who to send it to.

(“Mr. Churchill, don’t you know you are never to end a sentence with a preposition?” Churchill to presumptuous twit: “Sir, that is a presumption up with which I will not put.” But I digress.)

I’ve been composing the letter in my head, reading the blogs and websites about form and what kind of letters are effective, and which agents represent what kind of books, and looking for agents who will look at memoirs, and somewhere in all that, I read that  memoir agents are sick of books involving cancer, particularly survival stories.

Well, mine isn’t a cancer survival story, because Mike didn’t survive.

It’s a love survival story.

But it has “cancer”  in the title.

So I changed the name of my book from “Detour in Cancerland, in which a Ridiculous Woman Attempts to Defer Widowhood through Remodeling (and Lust) to “Love, Death and Carpentry, in which a Ridiculous Woman etc….”

And then I started to think, well, if they don’t like the word “cancer” in the title, they’re not going to like the word “death,” exactly, either, are they?

But the point isn’t the title: it’s to write a query letter that catches an agent’s attention enough for them to want to see the entire book. If it ever gets published the publisher will probably change the title anyway.

I’ve heard back from both my friends to whom I gave the book because I knew they’d be honest with me if they thought it was awful, and they both loved it and said I should move ahead with it.

Which led me to think that maybe I should have a few more “beta” readers to be sure I’ve gotten broad enough response to it. Every woman within 20 years of my age, when I’ve told them what it’s about, or just told them the original title, has said, “oh, man, I’d read that!” OK, so maybe I shouldn’t change the title.

The only other people I’ve given the book to are my brothers, one of whom read it and returned the thumb drive it was on to me, with no comment.

He’s the hypersensitive one, though, and there were things in there that I knew would upset him, and I told him in advance I wasn’t really looking for his comments, I only wanted him to read it so he wouldn’t be surprised, in case a miracle happens and the book actually gets published. I just hope he isn’t too upset. We’re having Thanksgiving together.

My other brother, the older one who is very free with his opinions (solicited or not) on pretty much everything, has started to read it.

Started 7 weeks ago.

He says he’s on page 90, but he too has offered no comment, which is very unusual.  My friends read it in less than two weeks. When I heard back from them I just told my brothers that I was going ahead with it anyway.  If he got to page 90 he’s pretty much read anything that would have mentioned him, anyway. So nuts to him.

Being irritated with my brother caused me to remember that I may have living brothers and sisters-in-law, with whom my late husband refused to associate, and who are not mentioned at all in the book (except for one fleeting mention of the smoking  habit of one of them), which sent me into another round of paralyzed anxiety.

Both of my parents are gone, as are my late husband’s. So do I really need to worry about what other unmentioned “family” members might think about the story, which is true anyway, when they aren’t even mentioned in it?

Isn’t that supposed to be something the publisher, if there is ever to be one, will worry about?

Which brings me back to the query letter.

And dying at 63.

And thinking about all the things I haven’t accomplished yet and how little time I have left if that damn, bored, mean-spirited palm reader (really, who would do that to a 15 year old kid?) was right.

Things like finding a new relationship, getting one more really good job, getting my daughter situated happily and safely out on her own with support provided by someone who isn’t me (because she’ll have to get used to that so we have to get started) and learning to sail and seeing Alaska before it melts completely and making the crossing of the Atlantic even though climate change is causing more and more huge rogue waves and the crews of cruise ships seem increasingly inept in their seamanship and skiing again and being able to buy a summer house in Maine and tracing some of the routes and visiting some of the (milder Mediterranean) ports of call described in the Patrick O’Brian books  and taking a screenwriting class and learning Latin and taking some kind of luxury rail travel and a steamboat trip on the Mississippi if climate change hasn’t caused prolonged drought and it is deep enough for that and getting paid singing and speaking gigs and publishing a series of Ridiculous woman books based on my continuing misadventures.

Which brings me back to that query letter…

Trying to conquer my fears and quell my OCD induced anxiety, but fully intending to be writing still on my 64th, nay, even my 84th birthday  (take that, bored, mean palm reader lady), I remain,

Your quaking, querulous, query-less, but still questing,

Ridiculouswoman

The Bitch is Back, or, Non-Toxic Love Fail Number Umpteen Gazillion

She was using her phone DURING THE PERFORMANCE! Why am I the one who feels guilty?

“I love humanity – It’s people I can’t stand!”

-Charles Schultz, via Linus

How sweet! The lady next to me brought her exhausted toddler to the performance. To her credit (the toddler’s), said toddler kept her whining to a minimum and mercifully fell silently asleep.

The toddler’s mother, however, continued to check her email, and even her voicemail, cellphone glowing at full brightness, ten minutes into the performance – while the orchestra was playing, the dancers dancing and the LIGHTING, WHICH IS PART OF THE EXPERIENCE, WAS SUBTLY ALTERING THE APPEARANCE OF THE STAGE.

I tried deep breaths, I tried holding my program up between myself and this woman to block the glow.

I thought about how I wanted to be a nicer person, to show love and respect to everyone. I waited, hoping that my non-verbal signals would get through. I imagined that maybe she had another child, sick at home, and was checking on that child. I imagined she had some other family crisis which required her to use her cellphone, but that she didn’t want to make a fuss dragging her toddler over me (I was in the aisle seat – I always choose an aisle seat in case of the need for a quick exit, or in cases like this, escape to another seat) out to the lobby to take care of it.

Then she started scrolling through photos on her phone. That didn’t strike me as something you do in an emergency. Why the hell would you spend a lot of money on a good seat to attend the ballet and then SPEND THE WHOLE PERFORMANCE WITH YOUR FACE IN YOUR PHONE? That’s one damn expensive way to get your toddler to go to sleep.

I eyed the open seat across the aisle, a stand-alone seat that I thought I had purchased in the first place – my fingers must have slipped on the keyboard during the online purchase. But the balcony of that old theater is like a carnival funhouse – sloping and tilted, with unexpected ledges and steps in odd places. I didn’t want to create an even bigger disturbance by falling down the steep stairs while trying to shift my coat and purse over to it during the performance.

There was nothing for it but to wait for intermission. So I waited. A little longer.

About a minute longer. Nowhere near until intermission.

From the moment I noticed her scrolling her photos, I didn’t think at all about a nice way to ask this RUDE UNCULTURED CRETIN to STOW THE DAMN THING BECAUSE THE GLOW OF IT IS DISTRACTING AND AFFECTING MY ENJOYMENT OF THE PERFORMANCE.

Nope. I went straight to bitchland.

I turned to her and said, “Do you have some sort of ongoing emergency? Are you a doctor on call or something? Because the glow of your cellphone is very distracting.”

Fingers poised above the face of the phone, she started to say something, but then she stowed it. Both the phone and whatever she was about to say.

And wouldn’t you know it, she and her toddler, now sleepily riding piggyback, were right behind me in line for the ladies’ room at intermission.

I smiled and held the door for them.

When I successfully shifted my seat as we were all settling back for the next act, I stepped across the aisle and thanked her for putting her phone away.

“Wasn’t that second act lovely?” I said, smiling.

She glared at me and said,

“Your words to me were more distracting.”

Here I was, trying to make amends, and she was holding on to it, claiming that my asking her to put her phone away, the phone she was continuing to use, brightly glowing, DURING THE PERFORMANCE, was more distracting than her use of said phone. If she was moved to defend herself for such behavior, RATHER THAN ACKNOWLEDGE AND APOLOGIZE FOR IT, then clearly I had hit a nerve.

At least I was able to freeze my smile in place and say, “I’ve just moved over there (pointing to the seat across the aisle) and that will give us all more elbow room.”

“Good,” she muttered.

I let it go, and had another cranberry mimosa at the next intermission.

The nice women in front of my new seat were taking a selfie of themselves (DURING INTERMISSION, OK? At least these women understood time and place. They stowed their phones when the lights went down).

When I told them I hoped I hadn’t ruined their photo by returning to my seat just at that moment, they said not at all, “especially with that fabulous dress.” (The dress was one of my 1950s style “fit and flare” dresses, a black one with a white collar, worn with a white crinoline and black stockings).

“Thanks! This is my Swan Lake outfit! Odette, (white swan, flashing white crinoline) Odile! (black swan, swishing black “flare” skirt).

“It’s fabulous,” they said. Ah, civilization! Just over here across the aisle!

I counted (silently, of course) Odile’s 32 foutés, which were expertly performed, and admired the extraordinary long lines and ability to hang in the air on leaps of the guy who danced the Prince/Principal Dancer, and enjoyed the rest of the performance.

But that didn’t stop me from feeling guilty about how I had failed to find a way to ask nicely.

Because even when someone else is behaving like a jerk, I’m still required not to.

Sigh.

The good news is that from my view in the balcony I spotted at least two additional seats in that house that are stand-alones – one seat making up its own tiny little aisle at the back of a section, where I can sit entirely by myself, see around the people in front of me, and be far enough away from SELFISH, RUDE, UNCULTURED CRETINS  other people to enjoy the performance without the danger of landing in bitchland again.

Until then, I remain,

Your overdressed, ashamed but determined to do better next time, while hoping more careful seat selection will guarantee there won’t be a next time,

Ridiculouswoman