God’s name is George ~

Readers of this blog may remember a post I made a few months ago called God in the checkout lane, in which I noted that God is working as a cashier at my local grocery store. I knew that because this man sounds more like God than Morgan Freeman does.

Tonight he was there again.

We said hello. I got up my courage and asked his name, and it’s George. I introduced myself.

I said, “You’re the man with the voice.” He answered, “And you’re the girl with the hair.”

That took me aback. So he was serious in our last encounter when he complimented my hair, which happened, as it so often does, to be dirty and disorderly. After I realized he wasn’t being snide, I’d thought perhaps he was just being charitable. After all, he’s a religious man; I remember he’d said that he sings in his church choir, ostensibly praising…well, God. (That seems appropriate. If the Bible is God’s Word for humankind, then any reasonable person must acknowledge that God thinks highly of himself.)

Anyway, I said, “Yeah, and it’s messed up again.” He said, “No, no, it looks good.”

Woo! God likes my hair. He approves of it. I have at least one redeeming quality.

We chatted some more as he scanned my items and my grocery bill grew to alarming heights. I told him I was hoping to start singing lessons again. He said, “You sing?” I said yes but that I wasn’t very good (you don’t lie to God, I figure). When he looked at the plastic sheaf of hydrangeas I’d placed on the checkout counter and said I had good taste, I didn’t know if he meant that in an aesthetic way or if it was a comment on the price. I quickly owned up that I buy flowers for myself, but that this bunch (seven bucks!) was a real splurge and that I usually go for the two-dollar carnations.

As I was loading the bags into my car, I realized there was something I wanted to know and I hadn’t asked.

Is God married?

If not, would God maybe want to get coffee sometime, or iced tea, or a beer, or whatever God drinks? Is that thought de facto blasphemous?

God is probably married. Or gay. Or too weary to get coffee with some crazy, dirty-haired white woman who, unbeknownst to him, writes about him and would perhaps like to be his friend. (I know God is supposed to be omniscient, but I don’t think he knows about this blog. Shhh!)

The very notion poses problems. For example, it would be helpful to know God’s last name. And can you just blurt out to God “Are you married?” And if I did, could I ever use his checkout lane again? If other people heard me, would God be embarrassed?

Does God have a last name?

Stay tuned.

I had to rewrite the ending of this post because I forgot, or perhaps repressed, the most critical thing. As I was wheeling my cart away from the checkout lane, God said, “Now you behave yourself.” And instead of saying “Yes sir,” I said, “You too.”

Imagine here a cartoon character clapping her hands over her mouth in horror. No one tells God to be good. No one in the Bible even suggests to God that he might be better, that a potential act is not worthy of his righteousness—except for Abraham, in one of the most remarkable passages in the Old Testament (Genesis 18:20-33).

When the next thunderstorm comes, I’m going to be especially wary of lightning strikes.

God in the checkout lane ~

In case anyone’s interested in making a pilgrimage, God is currently working as a checker at Schnucks grocery store in Carbondale.

I don’t know his full schedule, but he definitely works Tuesday afternoons. He is older, tall, and African-American, which is germane because he has a rich baritone (or bass?) voice with a timbre I’ve only heard in black men’s voices.

This man sounds more like God than Morgan Freeman does. The first time I met him I didn’t realize he was God. I asked him if he was a singer. Naturally, he is.

Yesterday I met him again. As I was taking my receipt he said, “Now don’t mess up that hair.” I thought he was being sarcastic. My hair was dirty. I was tired and sweating. Even my hair was sweating. “It’s already messed up,” I said. “Naw, it looks good,” he said. “Now don’t mess it up, hear.”

If I could have leaned across the checkout counter I might have kissed him. People simply don’t say this kind of thing to me. Ever. It made my day. Absurdly, I heard myself say, “I’ll try not to.”

If only he’d given me my marching orders when my hair was clean, I could have tried to comply. Really, I could have.  But…I had to wash my hair eventually. Right? So I did. Now it resembles one of the Monkees’ hairstyles, only not cute. Kind of smooth and spherical.

The next time I go to Schnuck’s I’m going to have to avoid God’s checkout lane. I can’t bear to hear a reprimand in a voice more authoritative than Morgan Freeman’s.

Please stand by ~

To Higher-Ups:

The Technical Team has noted serious technical difficulties with Blog entitled “Vapor and Flow,” with no forward (or backward) movement observed since mid-January. Blog is currently parked in the Driver’s front yard, where it seems to be accumulating trash. Driver has not yet had it put up on blocks, but Technical Team is on alert.

Team suspects a problem with the fuel injection system, though without hands-on investigation it is impossible to tell whether the gasoline tank might simply be empty. Team had noted some juddering of the steering wheel, accompanied by slightly erratic driving, in December and early January, indicating the need for immediate tire rotation and rebalancing. In addition, tires should be checked for wear. Driver has done none of this.

Driver herself, rather than repairing the Blog or addressing various ethical quandaries in her life at the moment, has become obsessed with the dog urine stains in her carpeting and the possibility of replacing the carpeting with something that can simply be hosed down. She daily repeats a monologue that always begins the same way (“I can’t stand this! What am I going to DO?”) and ends the same way (“But how would they move the piano?”). Technical Team estimates that said piano, a tall, ancient upright, weighs slightly more than a Volkswagen Beetle, flower holder included. Unlike a Beetle, the piano would probably not float, although Team finds this an intriguing question and would very much like to be notified of the results of any experiments along these lines. LOL.

Excuse us, that was unprofessional on our part. To continue, Driver also appears obsessed with a new personal best in Scrabble: her highest-ever non-bingo word score (GAZEBO, 84 points). While interesting numerically, this is judged by Team to be a rather trivial achievement in the grand scheme of things and recommends that Driver should just Get Over It.

Excuse us, please ignore editorial comment. Finally, Technical Team notes that on multiple occasions recently Driver has stated that she “dodged a bullet” because the voice student portion of a recent music recital was cancelled. This comment has been flagged for further analysis, but Team can only assume that someone slated to attend said recital was prepared to use firearms in the event of Driver singing. Team has insufficient information to gauge (pun! LOL) the appropriateness of the posited firearm use.

Excuse us again; Technical Team is fatigued and too easily amused. Team judges that Driver is currently earning A’s in Reading and Scrabble (quantity only), D’s in Physical Therapy and Caregiving, and F’s in Voice Lessons (lack of practice), Problem Resolution (dithering), Diet Remediation (inaction), Photography (inaction), and Blog Repair (inaction and negligence). Given this poor functioning, Driver’s hair looks better than might be expected, although Team is not well trained in assessing such matters.

In conclusion, Technical Team advises continued close monitoring of Blog and Driver, with future updates as necessary.

—Submitted February 23, 2014, ungodly hour of the morning
(Technical Team wishes to note that it has worked overtime on this report and would like to be duly compensated. Thank you.)

The woman and the wasp ~

One of the many bits of wisdom parents perpetrate on their children is this one: “If you leave it alone, it’ll leave you alone.”

This is a blatant lie, especially where stinging insects are concerned.

It is true, of course, that you’re at much greater risk of harm if you provoke a bee or yellow-jacket or some related critter. When my sister was about three years old, she was riding her tricycle down the alley when she tipped it over directly into the path of a bee, thus simultaneously bagging two highly improbable achievements. The bee, of course, promptly stung her, but who could blame it? It was just cruising along minding its own business. A bee doesn’t expect a tricycle to suddenly come toppling into its flight path.

My sister soon got her revenge, though. One early summer evening my dad called me and my mom to the back screen-door of our house. Our tiny lawn was filled with clover, and hence with bees. My sister, who was forced to wear heavy orthopedic shoes when she was young,  had discovered that she could kill the foraging bees by stomping on them. Very possibly Dad suggested the idea; if so, she carried it out effectively and ruthlessly. She was stomping with glee; Dad, delighted and impressed, was snickering with approval; and Mom and I were staring at both of them like they were crazy.

Our family had no more run-ins with stinging insects until several years later, when I was a teenager. In the early 1970s Mom and Dad bought five acres of land with an old two-room house on it. This was just outside Perryville, Mo., the town where my grandparents lived, and it was intended as a weekend retreat. The house had electricity but no running water. There was an outhouse and a cistern, a small yard with an old wire fence, a chicken shed, and an enormous dump. (The ancient farmer who’d owned the property had just chucked all of his trash, from food cans to rat poison, over the backyard fence. For years. But that has nothing to do with this story.)

The cistern, it’s important to mention, didn’t last much longer. Two miles away, blasting for Interstate 55 was taking place. As most dedicated cavers know, Perry County is basically a huge chunk of limestone riddled with caves and sinkholes. One weekend we arrived at the house to find a big, deep pit at the back corner of the house where the cistern had been. Dad didn’t bother to fill it in or cover it. I think he may have put up a token sawhorse between the side door and the cistern hole, in case someone had to get up in the middle of the night to use the outhouse.

Anyway. The house itself came equipped with virtually nothing except wasps. It had a narrow, fairy-tale–like door that gave onto steep steps that led up to a small attic. Up there lived a veritable wasp society, possibly composed of multiple colonies. But this menace could be dealt with by simply never opening that tight-fitting door. The real problem was the porch, where an especially aggressive colony of red wasps had set up housekeeping in one corner. These wasps would come after you if you so much as looked their direction, and often if you didn’t. Unfortunately, whether you were inside or outside the house, you couldn’t get to the car or the rest of the property without passing the porch.

No matter how much I pleaded, Dad wouldn’t get rid of the colony. I gave these wasps as wide a berth as possible. “If I leave them alone, they’ll leave me alone,” I would chant to myself sardonically as they made threatening forays.

One day the wasps apparently had had some sort of bitter family dispute, and they were more pissed off than usual. I was walking cautiously in the yard toward the front of the house, so far away from the porch that I was practically scraping the rusty old fence. Maybe 12 feet away. Maybe 15.

It wasn’t far enough. One of the wasps zeroed in on me at warp speed and landed in my hair, which was extremely thick and long. I started running when I saw the wasp coming, but I didn’t have a chance. When I felt it tangling in my hair I flailed around with my hand to try to get it out. Instead, I accidentally closed my fist over it. In the midst of this mayhem, I had time to be impressed by the stone-like solidity of its body. Then a needle-sharp heat shot through my palm.

Meanwhile I was still tearing around the house. As I rounded the back corner, the cistern hole suddenly loomed directly in front of me. I’d forgotten about it. Like a palsied football player, I leaped sideways with a graceless lurch and almost ricocheted off the chicken shed. Still running, I managed to fling myself through the side door of the house. Somewhere along the way the wasp had escaped to live another day. Thank god only one of them had gone on the warpath. Since, unlike my sister, I’d never been stung by so much as a honeybee, I was unprepared for the amount of pain a wasp sting can cause.

That was some 40 years ago. My wasp phobia has abated somewhat. For a time, in my mid-twenties, I lived alone and therefore had to deal with any wasp problems without help. I lived in the second story of a house—essentially a large, finished attic, which had some little doors leading to unfinished storage spaces. Wasps lived in those spaces, and periodically one would squeeze through into my territory.

A coward to the bone, I didn’t know if I was more afraid of the wasps or of the toxic bug spray I needed to kill them. So I invented a different solution. Whenever I spied a wasp, I grabbed my bottle of 409, set it to “Stream,” and hit the wasp with a jet of liquid from as far away as possible. My aim, focused by adrenaline, was pretty good. The detergent in the 409 would gunk up the wasp’s wings, disabling it just long enough for me to move in with a blunt object for a safe kill. Then it was simply a matter of wiping up the 409. (My apartment was unusually clean in certain sectors.)

Anyone who’s afraid of wasps—or bug spray—is free to use this method. You’re welcome. Use at your own risk, however. Remember, it only works on one wasp at a time. Don’t try to wipe out a nest with 409 or everyone will deem you an idiot, assuming you live to tell the tale. And if for some reason you fail at this method, or if wasps have evolved a detergent defense over the past few decades, don’t sue me.

Also, when it comes to wasps, don’t ever tell your kids that if they leave it alone, it’ll leave them alone. Tell them to leave it alone and get the hell away.

Salon series ~

I had an appointment the other day to get my hair cut and colored. When I got to the salon (I prefer to think of it as the hair-cutting place), I realized I had brought along nothing to read. But I did have a little Canon point-and-shoot in my purse, so I amused myself while the hair color set in by opening the drawers in the station cart and taking photos. These aren’t very sharp; they’re acceptable only for web viewing. But I like the set. I oversharpened a couple of these—especially the hairbrush closeup, since nothing in it is in focus (and not in a good way).