Sunday, October 24, 2010

It’s all my daughter’s fault …

Okay, how many times have we heard it, “It’s all my mother’s fault”?  Doesn’t matter what it is, Mom probably is as the core of it.  Freud was famous for blaming all your problems on poor potty training (now, really, is dad going to train the kid?  No, it’s mom’s job, so, again, it’s all her fault), but as radical as his thinking was proclaimed to be at the time, was it really all that earthshaking? Come on, people have been blaming mom for all their problems, shortcomings, bad habits, about as long as Jewish mothers have been making their kids feel guilty (although I must admit that it's not just Jewish mothers that have mastered that technique.) So I thought I’d switch things around and blame everything on my daughter.  After all, I know she blames me for all her problems, and I’m not getting any younger, so she’ll have lots of time after I’m gone to blame me for things when I’m not even here to defend myself.  So here goes.  Let’s see, there must be something I can blame her for.  Ah, yes:  Coffee.
Now, that doesn’t mean she’s to blame for all coffee in the world.  Really, how silly that would be.  I mean, that would be taking the blame thing way too far.  For this to have any real meaning, I’ve got to keep it realistic.  Just ask Freud.  Oh, wait, he’s dead.  Well, never mind.  Keep reading and you’ll get the idea.
See, I’ve been a teetotaler all my life.  I blamed it on my British heritage, but that’s because I didn’t have anywhere else to put the blame.  My mom didn’t drink that much tea, and my father used to love iced coffee in the summer and hot coffee in the winter, and I must admit the smell of it was rather enticing, but the taste!  Yuck!  He said it was an acquired taste, and I saw no reason to put any effort into acquiring anything so revolting as a taste for that bitter stuff.  No, tea was fine.
I grew up in the U.S.  Let me tell you here and now, the U.S. will never be known for its fine tea.  Uh-uh.  I used to drink my tea black.  It was perfect, or so I thought then.  When I was about 13 I went to England for the first time.  My aunt offered me tea and asked how I took it.  “Black,” I stated emphatically, “no sugar.” She gave me a genuinely puzzled and astonished look and repeated for clarification purposes, as though I must have been speaking a foreign language, “Black?”  “Yes,” I said, thinking that my American accent surely wasn’t all that hard to understand, especially when I only said one single word, “black.”  “Okay,” she sighed, and made a nice cup of hot tea for me.
Well, I couldn’t swallow it!  It was so strong that, if I had gotten it down, I’m sure all my hair would have fallen out instantly!  I was not to be beaten, however.  “I think I will have a little milk with it,” I said softly, and poured about half a cup of thick, rich British cream into the cup of steaming liquid.  It was without doubt, the best cup of tea I’d ever had in my whole 13 years of life!!!
But it spoiled me.  I was hooked.  How could I buy Lipton’s anymore?  It was dishwater.  So my search for stronger, more flavorful teas started at an early age, and still continues today.
When I moved to the South twenty-some years ago, you would have thought I brought in a novel idea every time I asked for a “cup of tea” at a restaurant.  I finally got into the habit of asking of “hot tea” so that they’d realized I did not want it iced.  Sweet iced tea must be the “national” drink of the Confederate states, followed by bourbon, sour mash and mint juleps. Even when I got across the idea of an actual cup of HOT tea to the waitress, I then had to fight for milk, cream, anything other than a slice of lemon.  Drinking hot tea with lemon is something I only do to clear phlegm from my throat, not to enjoy with a meal.
I lived in Washington State for three years and still never touched coffee. If the South is known for its sweet tea, Washington must be the coffee capitol of the U.S.  And no wonder!  With 9 months of the year being overcast, you’ve got to stay awake somehow.  As a result, coffee bars are everywhere!  In gas station parking lots; lobbies of every sort of store, office building, hospital, even funeral homes; drive-up coffee houses in every supermarket parking lot.  Yeah, We Southerners now have a Starbucks in the mall and local hospital, but, I kid you not, coffee houses in Washington State are as plentiful as churches in the South or bars in the Irish section of Chicago.
After three years of thinking I had some fatal disease causing me to sleeping 18 hours a day, I moved back to the South to find out that it was nothing more than lack of sunshine.  Who knew?  But then disaster struck.
I’m not sure how it happened, but my daughter somewhere along the line had become a coffee drinker! And just like the alcoholic who needs company while he drinks, she introduced me to the start of my addictions:  the latte!  Thought she loathed Starbucks and was appalled when they took over Seattle’s Finest, that was where my downfall started.  First it was once in a while, then once a month, then every Saturday as a treat on my way to Weight Watchers at 7:00 in the morning.  But addicts just can’t stop!  It became, I’m ashamed to say, every day.  Then twice a day.  I would get one on the way in to work early in the morning and another on the way home at night.  The one on Saturday was not sufficient; I had to stop in the middle of the day to go to Starbucks once again for another Venti nonfat, no foam, no sugar vanilla latte.
Becka had a calendar on her wall about, well, what else, coffee!  On the cover was the most expensive and rare coffee beans of all, the Kopi Luwak.  You’ve never heard of them?  Well, then I guess you can’t afford them.  Of course, neither can I, but that’s not the point.  Seems these coffee beans, most of which come from Sumatra, are (now get ready for this) excreted by the civet cats who eat them for the yummy fruit that surrounds the bean.  Then they poop them out, at which point they are collected, washed (thank goodness) sun dried and ground. Why, you ask, must one only use the beans after they’ve been pooped out by a civet?  Well, apparently the digestion process creates shorter peptides and more free amino acids resulting in an aromatic blend with less bitterness.  I’ve wondered about the “aromatic blend” part, but I’m now hooked on coffee, so I’d love to try it.   
I mean, look at that cute little critter!  Isn’t he adorable?  Oh, come on; do not even dare to cringe at the thought.  I mean, look at where eggs come from, and chickens aren’t near as cute as civets!
One day I figured out that I was spending over $100 a month at Starbucks. Yeah, that was the end of that.  Thank goodness I got a new job, one that supplies me with unlimited amounts of coffee and Crème Brule creamer.  I go through at least 8 cups a day, and it’s all my daughter’s fault.  Yeah, she’s to blame.
Then there’s technology.  Well, not all technology.  I did have her growing up with computers, after all.  But a coworker asked the other day how I wound up with 5 iPods.  I blame my daughter.
You see, she introduced me to the portable CD player, or was it called an MP3 player?  I don’t know.  But it was round and heavy and you put a disc in it and carried it around with you to play music.  Wow, it was almost as good as the transistor radio we all had plugged into our heads as teenagers in the ‘50s!  Just without the DJs and only one album at a time.  But cool, nonetheless.  She showed me that I could get a tape that plugged into the cigarette lighter, the tape deck in the car and the MP3 player so I could play CDs in the car!  Boy, was I impressed. 
Well, unfortunately they tended to break a lot.  I mean, you couldn’t just pop one in your pocket and go for a walk.  They fell off counters when you were working in the kitchen and forgot that you really didn’t have the music in your, not even attached to you, except by a pair of earplugs. So I wound up with a lot of MP3 players.  I still have them too!  Some need rubber bands around them to keep them closed; others probably don’t work at all.  But they are still here in my dresser drawer, along with about a dozen of those tape deck thingies to make them work in the car.  Of course, now my car has a built-in CD player.  But who cares.  I don’t use that anymore either.  It’s so passé.
I vividly remember the day I went to Circuit City to buy yet another MP3 player, having broken the last one I had.  I walked and walked around in a circle, followed by my daughter, looking everywhere for those stupid things and finding none.  What kind of an electronics store is this, I wondered, where not a single player was in sight?  I finally stopped a salesperson in the section where I presumed such items should be kept and asked, extremely miffed by this time at the absence of visible players, “Where are your MP3 players?  I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find any,” I whined.  My daughter said nothing.  He looked at me with a confused daze and swept his hand around in a huge arc, pointing to walls and walls of things that looked like cell phones.  I had no idea what that poor, obviously simple, fellow was trying to convey, so I asked again, this time more slowly and distinctly, attempting to describe through simple words accompanied by hand gestures exactly what I was looking for so that he would not be confused by the question.  I assumed he was one of those mentally deficient people that needed a job and I applauded Circuit City for hiring him.  I certainly did not wish to cause him any grief, I just wanted a simple portable CD player.  “No, these are things that are round,” I described, making a 6-inch circle with my hands so he’d be sure to get the picture. “You put CDs in them,” I explained, “but you can walk around with them,” I smiled, hoping I had finally enlightened him. He slowly turned to his left, sweeping his hand in the direction of a small display hidden at the end of the huge section of electronic things that he’d been showing me previously.  “These,” he asked incredulously.  “Yes,” I affirmed, glad that I could be of some help in educating the lad.  Still my daughter said nothing, but I’m pretty sure she was smirking all the time.
Yeah, it seems that the age of iPods had arrived.  All those cute little gadgets he had pointed out to me, I found out much later (about the time I needed another replacement player), were a variety of itty-bitty players that did so much more than my cumbersome portable one did, and you didn't even have to feed them with CDs to make them work!  
I heard about the iPod Nano somewhere and was determined to get one.  So as soon as it came out, I bought a Nano.  I wore in on my collar all day long at work and figured I’d never need another MP3 player ever again.  I mean, this had something like 1 gig of memory!  My daughter tried to dissuade me from buying it, saying it wouldn’t hold much, but what did she know?  I mean, how much music did one need?  I knew that with that little piece of technology, I would never need another MP3 player ever again to replace it.
Today the Nano has gone through 6 generations. (Hmm, sounds a bit like Dr. Who.)  The newer ones have 16 gig, an FM radio and a pedometer. 
Within a short period of time my Nano outgrew its usefulness, having quickly filled up with no way of expanding.  But by then it was too late, I was hooked again!  Not by coffee, but by technology.  
I bought my next iPod off e-Bay.  That was before I learned how to play the e-Bay auction game, so I’m sure I paid more than I should have.  But it was a refurbished iPod, and I still have it today.  It’s weighs about as much as a small laptop, but it was cutting edge at the time.  I never had a good relationship with that iPod, however.  I named it and everything, but it often refused to work right.  Turns out, as I’ve learned since, that it had its own special cord and could not adapt to using any other iPod cord.  Madeline is a very finicky iPod.  Still, it was serving its purpose of entertaining me, and I did have quite a lot of music on it, enough to give me a great variety.  I was sure it would never need replacing.
My daughter took pity on me one day, probably after hearing me complain about Madeline over and over and over, and she gave me an iPod that she had earned as an award in her work for USAirways.  She was living in Arizona by then and had no idea that I had, meanwhile, ordered another iPod to replace Madeline.  But my new one had not yet arrived and by then I felt that one could never have too many iPods.  Nano was no longer used, Madeline resided in the kitchen plugged into a speaker system, so I really needed something more powerful and better to fill up with all my music and magazines.  Yes, I now found I could download audio magazines to my iPod.  What’s more, I could still use those silly tape deck thingies to run it in the car!  What else could one ask for?  So Gabriel joined my collection, soon to be followed by Kermit who came to me via the US Mail (yet another eBay purchase, but this time it was new, not refurbished).
But then I discovered podcasts, and that meant I needed still more gigs!  I started putting music on Gabriel and magazines and podcasts on Kermit.  Madeline was still in the kitchen, and Nano is still lost in the house, though I know where her cord is: it’s on the floor of my office. Someday I’ll find Nano and introduce her to her cord and bring her back to life again.  Meanwhile, I'd discovered the iPod Touch!!!
By this time I’d learned how to get the best price on eBay, and before too long Magellan joined the household.  Oh, my goodness!  How did I ever get along without him?  He’s sleek and powerful.  He holds all my music, my podcasts, my magazines, audio books, TV programs (yes, he has a screen!!! Can you believe it?  It’s like having a TV in your pocket!)  Plus, my calendar; card games; a program to track service time, return visits and placements for the ministry; a Spanish dictionary; the internet … oh, I could go on forever!  I mean, what more could one ask for?
So here I am, the proud owner of five iPods, and I blame it all on my daughter!  Of course, with my absolute love of technology, coffee and especially my favorite iPod Magellan (shhh, don’t let the other iPods hear that), I’m ever so glad she expanded my horizons!  Wonder if some day when she’s blaming me for stuff she’ll feel the same.

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