Published today in the Savannah Morning News
I’m not sure whether Mercury was in retrograde or whether His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama perhaps stubbed his toe. Something happened yesterday, and the butterfly effect fanned the flames in my house of communication.
I went to Darien last week and did a bunch of interviews, only to have my voice recorder corrupt the files before I could transcribe them. The morning I thought was going to be productive was spent rescheduling interviews in which I’ll have to coach my subjects time and again: “Pretend you didn’t tell me this. Can’t you say it more colorfully like the last time? Was the shrimp good, or did it, in fact, make you smack your mama?”
It never ceases to hurt when technology that was meant to make our lives easier is but an unsupportive brace on a serpentine spine. Just last week I updated my one-and-only Mac to Snow Leopard from plain old Leopard. It’s just a CD install, a $20 upgrade meant to allow me to then install Microsoft Office. I went to get Elliot at day care only to discover the install failed, the CD was stuck in the drive, and the old system software was giving me the finger. So, my voice recorder’s bird was just the icing on the cake.
After three quarters of a wedge of brie and more salami than my cholesterol medicine deems appropriate, I took a nap. I’d have to get Elliot soon, and there was no way I wanted him to see me cheesed to the gills and muttering about my career going down the toilet thanks to a $35 piece of equipment from RCA. I’d regroup, carry some worry stones in my pockets, and take him to the park.
It started well at first. The park is a piece of rawhide for Elliot’s inner wolf. I let him out of the car, and he heads into mass of kids covering the entire surface of a merry-go-round. Elliot even enjoys pushing but inevitably falls to the ground once or twice like a hampster who has got his wheel going too fast.
While this is going on, I take a seat by a picnic table and notice how I’ve graduated to one of the outer rings of playground mommies. The innermost are standing in the mulch with the kids. Some of them are pregnant again, and I can’t even imagine a second. I am a whole swatch of grass away from the chaos caressing polished stones in my coat pockets. Elliot’s fallen again and calls mama this time.
We escape the fray for the calm of the baseball diamond. A couple kids are drawing in the red dirt with sticks. It’s nice until Elliot gets in the middle of two adult men kicking a soccer ball. He has to move their cone thing and wear it like a hat. I remove the cone, and it crashes the hard drive that is my son. He spits, falls to the ground, screams some MS-DOS commands that I don’t understand, and forces me to carry him to the car like an ungreased tin man.
It’s a long walk to the car, and I explain that he wasn’t playing nicely. Tantrums mean we go home. I’ll play nicely. I’ll play nicely, he says. Nope. You don’t show your tush, spit like a camel and get to stay at the park. I put my son in the car seat, and he’s essentially gone into the Macintosh spinning rainbow wheel mode. Nothing is getting in or out of him.
He’s screaming enough to make himself choke, and I make a great sacrifice by inserting the Barney Christmas CD. I don’t like Barney, he tells me. Great! Me neither. I take it out. I like Barney! I like Barney! We go back and forth inserting and removing the CD a few times until I say forget it and play Lindsey Buckingham’s Big Love. Elliot calms a bit, because he’s waiting for the dog barking at the end. I use this time to suggest he say the months of the year. I don’t like it, he says. The months are your thing! Come on: January! I get nothing except I want Barney. If you’d just give Lindsey a chance. Wait! The dogs are at the end of Holiday Road!
Finally, we’re on the final approach. I ask who do you like better: Cookie Monster or Grover? He snarfs a bit and then cries, January.