May 9, 2014
Dear Weather Channel App on My Smartphone:
There’s something that you need to hear. We’ve all been thinking it for a while, so here goes: No one cares about Past Radar.
Okay, well, perhaps some people, like my sister and brother-in-law, who are Real Life Meteorologists, care about Past Radar for some geeky, science-y, meteorological reason, but most people—especially the people in your Target Audience—don’t give one flying flip about a picture that shows us what the weather was doing just a minute ago. We care about what the weather is going to do. That’s why they call it forecasting.
But perhaps I am being hasty. Perhaps I should step back for a moment and attempt a more generous read on this seemingly-confounding feature of your radar maps. Let’s imagine a scenario in which I might need to know the weather that has just happened. Perhaps it is the dead of night and I am suddenly awakened by a loud booming noise. In my half-asleep stupor, I might need to confirm if the noise that’s just woken me was a clap of thunder or if Godzilla has just thrown a car onto my roof. I might have been leaning toward Godzilla, but one quick look at that Past Radar will set me straight right away! Phew! Thank goodness! That sure did save me from one awkward call to my local authorities!
Or suppose I am trying to reach my mother who lives down along the Gulf Coast and I can’t seem to get through. Suppose I somehow missed the fact that yet again, some pesky hurricane had been sneaking up on her for days even though is it likely the first thing I notice when I scroll past your weather video news stories and even though anyone with half a brain and one working ear would have heard about it in passing (never mind the aforementioned Real Life Meteorologists in the family who would have surely alerted me to this phenomenon). Perhaps if I were unable to contact my mother, then I might scratch my head and wonder what her weather was like. Perhaps then I might find the Past Radar particularly fascinating.
But not really.
Weather Channel App, when I tap on your little icon and scroll down to your radar screen, I’m not hoping for some wistful glimpses from the Ghost of Weather Past. I want to know if I need to sprint out to the parking lot and roll up my car windows. I want to know if I should switch the TV over to my local weather coverage. I want to know if I have to fear the thunder that could potentially wake up my toddler or if it’s passed us by. I want to know if I need to dig up the bike helmets and get the storm shelter ready. I want to know if I will have to get up an extra 45 minutes early to shovel out my car. I want to know if I will need my rain boots all day or if this is just a little cloudburst.
I want to know what is coming next. I do. We all do.
Please, Weather Channel App. We deal with so much—no job security, crappy vision and dental insurance plans, unreliable public transportation, rising gas prices, a lack of the feminist perspective in standardized history curricula—at least give us this. This one Small Thing.
Tell us what is coming next.
Because I don’t need an app to tell me that I just got caught in a sudden downpour without my umbrella.
January 6, 2014
Dear Grocery Store Ruby Red Grapefruit (from Texas):
You know, you’re actually pink. Like what Barbie might eat if she were inclined to eat grapefruit, which she isn’t, but if she were, you would be the perfect accessory to her pink kitchen, and her pink grapefruit bowl, and her pink serrated grapefruit spoon because god knows that Barbie would not peel you. Barbie would slice you in half and scoop out each half segment and worry over the seeds but eat you anyway because she once heard that you used more calories eating a grapefruit than you took in, which is totally something she would think about, were she inclined to think.
I actually prefer white grapefruit.
But that’s not your fault.
Just like it’s not your fault that some four years ago in January I sat on the deck of a schooner in the Caribbean peeling white grapefruit from Grenada and eating the sharp, juicy pulp by whole handfuls as though I were dying and only this One Thing would save me, only this One Thing as we sliced through waves and salt air and my hair whipped my eyes and I hunkered in the shade cast by our mainsail and stripped away pith and skin. We didn’t know—how could we?—that in that moment my whole understanding of you would change and that I would know you for the first time as Imposter. Doppleganger. Homonym.
How bittersweet for you, then, must my longing be, my desire to return not to that moment, rather, to the moment just before. To the time when a grapefruit was simply a grapefruit. When I thought—no, when I knew—that what I was getting then would be no different to what I’d had before or what I will, forever, have again.
To the time before Knowing.
September 6, 2013
Dear Asian Studies Program, a.k.a., Self-Professed Owner of the Neglected Coffee Pot on the Fourth Floor of My Office Building,
I do not know if the sticker reading “Property of Asian Studies Department” pasted to the side of the shiny, new Mr. Coffee in that positively spotless faculty lounge and kitchen just down the hall from my office is intended to scare away users from other departments or simply to encourage us to treat it with Respect. I sincerely hope it is the latter because I truly, sincerely Respect all Makers of Coffee, especially Makers of Coffee that stand Glistening in the 8AM sunlight on a fall Friday morning when I do not feel like teaching–when I would rather be outside playing Frisbee (badly) or horseshoes (very badly) or mini-golf (not as badly, but I’m no Tiger Woods) than inspiring young minds to do something other than update their Facebook statuses from their smartphones while using the elliptical at the Gym before they go Tan and do Laundry.
And I Respect that while you do not seem to use said Glistening Maker of Coffee, you nonetheless feel the need to include it in the lineup of Beverage Making Devices on the counter of said spotless faculty lounge. I Respect that you have found a place for this, the most Western of devices, sandwiched between not one but two electric tea kettles and the lovely little earthenware tea pot that someone in your department must surely sit on their desk during student conferences or perhaps just while answering email, an act that seems so appropriately civilized and zen that I envy that faculty member’s forethought to come in early enough to fill said tea pot with one of the twenty different kinds of authentic Chinese teas also lined up on the counter and I know that they are authentic because all of the writing on their lovely metal box is Chinese–or at least what I, in my undereducated Western-centric ignorance, have assumed to be Chinese, but which could feasibly be any character-driven language–and nowhere do they say “Lipton.”
I know that you are not Drinkers of Coffee because the only coffee on hand for the Glistening Maker of Coffee is Folgers and while this, in and of itself, could be seen as an Unforgivable Act, I will Forgive it because I know that you do not know better and perhaps you have believed all those ads that say “the best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup” or “good to the last drop,” which has nothing to do with Folgers because that is a Maxwell House slogan, but I’ll bet you do not know that either so I will Forgive that, too, and just tell you not to worry. I want to tell you that I will take up the proper Care and Maintenance of the Maker of Coffee you have so generously thought to bury amidst your profusion of Tea Products. I want you to know that I will Lovingly fill it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. I will give it a sense of purpose. I will provide it with good, locally roasted coffee blends that will once again restore its undoubtedly flagging faith in humanity.
Rest assured, Asian Studies Program, your shiny Mr. Coffee is in good hands–the best, most grateful and careful hands. Hands that are oh so much steadier when cradling a cup of that Sacred Nectar and no, I am not talking about your authentic Chinese tea, I am talking about
what the rest of us drink because by god, this is America and who the hell drinks tea? coffee.
And when I make coffee on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays–when I bring in that good, locally roasted stuff that will fill the small faculty kitchen with that dark, gooey warm aroma and waft down the hall to your feng shui office and curl around your little tea pot on your desk–I won’t tell anyone if you come in and sneak a cup. It is, after all, your coffee pot.
May 12, 2013
I do not want a Brazilian wax for Mother’s Day.
I do not want Logitech headphones, unlimited boot camp classes, half off Sushi and Asian fare, or exercise hot pants for Mother’s Day.
I do not want 68% off cubic zirconium studs.
I do not want one or three oxygen facials.
I do not want a cookie bouquet. Auto detailing. Pet therapy.
I do not want a NASCAR driving experience at the Kentucky Motor Speedway, although I do concede that this would be pretty bad ass.
I do not want Teleflora roses. I do not want laser hair removal. I do not want a family fun package involving go carts and/or mini golf.
What I want for Mother’s Day is to take a shower.
I want to stand under the water uninterrupted for more than 10 minutes without the hot water running out. I want to shave my legs without incident and I want to remember to put that brand new razor I bought last month in the shower before I get in so I don’t have to leave the shower running while I drip across the bathroom to go get it from behind that confounded child safety locked cabinet door. I want to blow dry my hair in small sections the way my hair dresser showed me so that it will frame my face in straight, smooth tresses and I want to actually apply that make up sitting neglected in my make up bag.
I want to wear jewelry, but not fancy jewelry, just the regular kind, but I want to wear it all day without fear of toddler hands snapping it in two or shredding my earlobes by “helping” me remove my earrings.
I want to not be typing this at 3am.
I want my child to go one whole day without wiping snot on my sleeve because I want her to go one whole day without a cold or without falling down or without pitching a fit because I asked her if she wanted cheese when she obviously wanted a banana with cinnamon cut into small bites on the bias.
And it’s okay, Groupon. I get it. You’re obviously not a Mom. You’re our young single friend who thinks you want to be a Mom maybe one day and so you have Ideas about what you would want or what you should want and so you don’t know that I do not want a luxury spa package, ten beginning guitar lessons, a four-device charging station.
You don’t know and so I will just tell you that really, I just want someone else to put gas in the car and maybe vac up the Cheerios in the back seat.
Hope you make someone else’s Mother’s Day something special, Robin
Dear All of My Undergrad Students Ever,
When you are awake at 3AM trying to cram a semester’s-worth of forgotten information into your Hopelessly Overtired Brain for your comprehensive organic chemistry final that you have at 8AM and you are washing down your fifth Red Bull in an hour with a cup of stale coffee that you bought yesterday at McDonald’s, remember that I love you.
You do not hear this enough during finals week. Instead, you hear things like Why isn’t your paper double spaced? Why is this printed in blue ink? Why are you handing this in without a folder? Why did you write this in pencil when I wanted it in pen? Where is your works cited page? Where is your cover page? Where are your page numbers? Why is this late? What is this? Who are you? Are you in my class? Why are you still in your pajamas when it’s 4 in the afternoon? Why didn’t you ask me that sooner?
You are tired. You have not slept since Tuesday, or when you have slept, it has been Awkward Public Sleep–an accidental face plant onto a keyboard in the library, a gradually sagging head that finally meets the page of the book resting on the study hall table. You have not dreamed except to dream that you have slept through an alarm and when you jerk awake suddenly in your chair and realize that it was a dream you do not sigh, rather, you tense like a panther waiting to spring because you know that you have forgotten something and you know you are late for something and any minute you will remember what but in the meantime you must try to memorize one more notecard. You must commit one more composer’s birth and death dates to memory, because if you do not, you will fail. You will fail and if you fail you will have to move back in with your parents and your mother will be Disappointed and your father will not say anything at all but will start mentioning all of the part time laborer jobs he has heard about around town and your grandmother will call and ask what happened and at the family reunion later this summer you will have to face all of your aunts and uncles and your Successful Cousins and they will all know that you do not know that Girolamo Frescobaldi lived from 1583–1643.
But you will not fail. You are young or if you are not really young then you are young at heart like Chevy Chase’s character on Community, and you are focused and you have a Mission and a Deadline and even though it may not be perfect, you will Finish. You will hand in all of your work and when you have, you will feel a rush of endorphins and you will be invincible and you will sleep the sleep of the Just because everyone knows that the Just sleep in beds and not kicked back and snoring in one of those squishy overstuffed chairs at Barnes & Noble with handfuls of sociology notes spread across their torsos like a blanket.
And because I love you and because I want you to Finish, I will tell you this, All of My Students Ever, I will give you my best piece of study advice, my most prized piece of wisdom: Eat something.
Eat something starchy, eat something carb-laden. Eat three bowls of Ramen or a whole bag of King’s Hawaiian bread or several sticky buns or Rice Krispie treats from the vending machine next to the room in the science center where you like to go late at night to study because the science center is open 24 hours and none of your frat brothers would ever think to look for you there because your major is marketing. Eat something spongy that will sit in your stomach and absorb all those Red Bulls, all that stale coffee, all that Advil and Excedrin you’ve been taking for that Pounding Headache that starts behind your eyes or at the base of your skull and is made worse whenever you turn your head. If you’re busy scarfing Skittles or Twizzlers, throw in a few handfuls of Lucky Charms or a bag of pretzels because sugar alone will not get you through. This is a marathon. This is a triathalon. This is an intense week of punishment and hell and your body deserves pizza with extra breadsticks on the side.
Jimmy John’s delivers.
Waffle House is open 24 hours.
And I will be here when you come in, groveling, to hand me your final project two hours late and yes, I will still accept it, and I will smile at you as you slog off to take up the next cross you must bear and I will assure you, quietly, steadily, over and over again: you deserve waffles. You really do.
I can say this with certain calm because in less than 12 hours, I will become you again, sitting in front of this mound of grading, drinking stale coffee, and eating torn of hunks of challah and handfuls of mini peanut butter sandwich crackers. And I know I will Finish, just as surely as I know you will Finish. Just as surely as I know that we both, always, deserve waffles.
With sympathy in your time of struggle,
April 15, 2013
Dear Skinny Hipster Chick in the Pristine NASA Space Camp T-shirt Sprawling at that Table in Front of the Local Hipster Coffee Shop:
I have a Space Camp T-shirt, too.
The middle school Science Club went to Space Camp every year because I lived in Alabama and what else is there for a Science Club in Alabama to do but go to Space Camp, except for maybe seining in Mobile Bay for small sea creatures at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, which I also did, but not until 12th grade when I took Marine Biology because I was smart and saved my easy science for my senior year and chose to suffer through Chemistry and Physics in 10th and 11th grade, respectively. In middle school, I never joined the Science Club because I was in band, except that a month before the trip in eighth grade I decided that maybe I really did want to join the Science Club because this Sort Of Cute Guy with Fabulous Hair Who I Sort Of Liked was going (You wouldn’t like him. He was Classic Southern Frat Boy Material, only I didn’t know that then because I was 13, and he has probably grown up to be a Lawyer or a Used Car Salesman or a Marketing Consultant and has most likely lost his Fabulous Hair and it’s funny but I don’t even remember his name) and so I begged the teacher in charge to let me in and I promised to be the club photographer and so he did and I went and took lots of pictures with my rinky dink point-and-shoot camera (it was pink and purple and used disk film, for god’s sake) and I slept in the space-capsule-like bunk room which was PITCH BLACK when you turned off the light because there are No Nightlights in Space, and you know, it really wasn’t that great a trip except that I got to ride in the centrifuge ride and nobody threw up and I got to eat astronaut ice cream every day.
My Space Camp T-shirt is not Pristine because somewhere in high school I turned my Space Camp T-shirt into a paint smock. I painted my mother’s kitchen cabinets the week I left for college. I painted all the rooms in my first apartment, even the bathroom, which I painted lime green and periwinkle because I thought it would Look Awesome, but instead it made our bathroom look like a Kawasaki Motorcycle, but my roommate and I kept it because by then we were tired of painting. I painted the giant bookshelf I bought off someone in the want ads in grad school. I painted the café chairs my husband and I found outside Books-A-Million that weekend when we moved into our First Very Own House. I painted all the rooms and the trim and did all the cutting in BY HAND with NO TAPE when we decided to remodel our First Very Own House so we could sell it and move here. I painted all of these things and some Other Things while wearing my Space Camp T-shirt so it is most certainly not Pristine.
But I don’t really care about Space Camp or T-shirts or painting, although where would you even get a Pristine Space Camp T-shirt unless you have been to Space Camp? And why would you even wear it with your chunky plastic glasses and your skinny jeans and your over-sized Mr. Rogers cardigan that you so obviously got from some thrift store or your grandfather’s closet? And why are you even in a cardigan today? Its 70 degrees. And you’re in a cardigan. Drinking designer gourmet coffee with some froth art that you think is impressive but only because you haven’t seen froth art anywhere else.
It must be hard being So Ironic. I’ll bet you’re even Ironically Listening to UB40 or Hanson or Ke$ha on your iPhone 5 with the new Apple earbuds.
Anyway. What I really don’t understand is how you have managed to spread your Skinny Hipsterness so completely across the sidewalk that I simply cannot navigate around your sprawl with my Toddler in her stroller without (A) running over your tattered-bowling-shoe-clad left foot or (B) rolling out onto the Ridiculously Congested Street in our Popular Neighborhood to weave between poorly parked cars and poorly driven cars with my CHILD. In her STROLLER. You are simply not that big, Hipster Chick, and I don’t mean that as a flattering compliment, I mean that as a statement of fact. You are not big enough to take up three straight feet of sidewalk and how you have managed this is some physics problem that I cannot fathom so I will simply roll over your left foot and don’t you even THINK of scowling at me over the hardbacked copy of that David Foster Wallace book you have so obviously and proudly checked out of our local library because this is my sidewalk, too. And while you are busy looking perfectly retro and in-the-know and planning your trip to Cosmic Bingo later tonight before you go to midnight sushi where you will only eat the vegan rolls, I am busy thinking about how I will finish grading 72 poorly-thought-out unsolicited proposals and 19 vaguely self-indulgent personal narratives before my first class at 8AM while simultaneously keeping a Feverish, Snotty-Nosed Toddler entertained and who the hell has time to eat anything except mandarin orange slices and cold eggs off of the Toddler’s plate when she isn’t looking? You do. So move your damn foot.
And for the record, my Space Camp T-shirt is cooler than yours.
Dear Boston Red Sox (and by that, I mean John Henry and the Fenway Sports Group):
When you finally came to your senses and fired He Who Must Not Be Named (but whose name rhymes with Shmalentine and dear god whoever thought that was a smart hiring decision?), some of us (and by that I mean most of us) were hopeful. We hoped, quietly, that you might throw a ticker tape parade to welcome Kevin Youkilis back from Certain Exile in Chicago because everyone knows that the only team with “Sox” in the name that Kevin Youkilis should be playing for is—well, you know.
And you know, maybe you’ve just been too distracted by your other sports teams, like the Liverpool Football Club. Maybe you were so busy Never Walking Alone that you missed the newsflash.
Just in case—just to make sure we’re all clear as to what, exactly, we’re talking about—let me spell it out for you: THE NEW YORK YANKEES ARE STEALING OUR THIRD BASEMAN.
And yes, yes, yes. We remember Nomar. We remember Pedro. We remember Lowe. We remember that Johnny Damon only made it into People magazine’s list of sexiest men alive when he played for the Red Sox, not after he went on to the Yankees (and the Tigers . . . and the Rays . . . and the Indians . . .). We remember that these things that seem so dreadful at the time sometimes have a way of sorting themselves out.
But we also remember 86 years. And we can’t help but remember Bobby Valen—erm, Shmobby Shmalentine.
And we remember how much we hate the Yankees.
And we remember how much Kevin Youkilis hates the Yankees (or have you forgotten about Joba Chamberlain?).
And frankly, John Henry, the whole idea of it makes my heart sink as much as watching a constant loop of YouTube clips of Bill Buckner’s Game 6 error.
And if that doesn’t convince you, then consider this: It’s Hanukkah. What better present to give on Hanukkah than deliverance from the Yankees? (Although I concede that the gift of deliverance from a plague might seem more thematically appropriate on Passover.)
So come on. Open up thy wallet and deliver us our Youk.
Irreverently yours, Robin
September 26, 2012
Dear Woman Standing in Line behind Us in Target Who Refuses to Say Hi to My Child:
Here’s the thing: we can both see you, my daughter and I, because our shopping cart is less than 5 feet away from your shopping cart and we do not understand, my daughter and I, why you would stand there Awkwardly Ignoring her little 12-month-old advances of friendship. She has said Hi to you approximately 10 times in the last 2 minutes and she has tried waving and now she is dancing and leaning her head to one side like she does when she really likes someone and really wants them to smile at her and she is smiling at you and showing you all six of her funny, crooked little baby teeth.
Is that it? Are you afraid? Have you literally been “once bitten” and are now “twice shy”? She will not bite you. She cannot reach that far and anyway she would rather chew on the cart handle or wave at you or dance with you or say Hi to you because it is her One Real Word and she does not say it to everyone, she says it to some people and she has chosen now, here, in this checkout line, to say it to you.
I’m sure that you have Big Important Things going on in your life and that right now, you need to take these five minutes standing in this line to think about Those Things. Maybe you are having a bad day. Maybe you are obsessing over whether or not your Unfortunately Glittery T-shirt goes with your Somewhat Faded Black Leggings. Maybe you’re trying to decide if you really need to touch up your roots. Maybe you’re just trying to decide which Trashy Magazine to buy. All of that is debatable, but what is not debatable is that you are ignoring my daughter.
She does not know that you are ignoring her.
I know that you are ignoring her.
I know that you are ignoring her and I am making eye contact with you and when I raise my eyebrow at you like this what I am really saying is Who the hell ignores a baby? And I suppose, perhaps, maybe it is possible that you are not ignoring her. Maybe you are deaf or you don’t speak English, but even then, Woman in Line behind Us, she is waving, waving, waving and that is universal and that is so fervent and earnest that it would break your heart to see it.
If you had a heart.
For the love of god, woman, just wave at the kid.
August 15, 2012
Dear Fabric Storage Bins I just bought at Target:
While I know that you will not actually Organize my life, I want to thank you in advance for giving me the illusion of Organization. Thanks to you—thanks to your amazingly uniform presence on my shelves and you bright, hip, trendy colors that make me look so much more put together and “with it” than I could ever possibly be—you have inspired in me more than you might have ever dreamed possible.
Today, I will not only de-clutter the top of the coffee cart, but I will mop the kitchen floor. I will empty all of the sippy cups out of that one cabinet from which they keep falling onto my head and I will corral them in your roomy interior. I will ORGANIZE THE TUPPERWARE. (I will pause to let the magnitude of that statement resonate appropriately.)
I will finally get around to installing a hook for the baby backpack so it will stop taking up that 3 foot square of Precious Real Estate by the front door and I will find homes for all of the miscellaneous bags and wraps and winter hats and scarves that inhabit that big wicker basket behind the chair in the living room (even though it’s mid-August and I will probably just have to drag the wraps and hats out again in another month or so) because they have been living there since we moved into this apartment in February and let’s be honest, I haven’t worn a scarf since March, and maybe in doing so I will also find the camera, which has been M.I.A. since January. And once I find it, Fabric Bins, it will never go missing again because I can just tuck it safely inside your protective walls and the next time Stephen asks me if I’ve seen the camera I can reply with confidence, “Yes! It is in the Blue Bin!” and smile in that calm triumph that Organized Home Owners everywhere surely feel but that I have never felt because I have never been Organized.
And while you and I both know that I will never actually fold and put away the laundry that’s in the drier, or get around to unpacking those three random half-boxes of arts and crafts supplies that have somehow gotten mixed up with all those unfiled bills from 2008 and those outdated Coastal Livings I’ve been hanging onto because all of the houses pictured in those pages seem so Wonderfully Airy and Purposefully Casual and are never cluttered unless it’s Purposeful Clutter—while we both know that this will never come to pass, you have nonetheless enabled me to dream.
You have given me Hope, Fabric Bins. And Hope, as we all know, is the greatest gift of all.
July 25, 2012
Dear Baby I Live With:
Are you really eating a piece of Invisible Fuzz off of the newly vacuumed floor or are you just pretending to eat a piece of Invisible Fuzz off of the newly vacuumed floor? And if you’re just pretending, have you really thought through the ramifications of this charade? Because you’re giving me a complex. Seriously.
Dear Baby I Live With:
Why do you sleep so much during the day? I want to go play in the Awesome Neighbor’s Tiny Grown-Up Inflatable Pool. Right now.
Dear Awesome Neighbor with Tiny Grown-Up Inflatable Pool and Amazing Hosting Skills:
You are the Best Host Ever, but next time we come over, please don’t ply me with wine because I will inevitably say Yes and I still have 2 hours to go before Baby Bedtime.
Dear Baby I Live With:
I thought we had a pretty Nice Evening. Why’d you have to kill the mood by puking on me?