Running Sdrawkcab

Every day it seems as if a latest and greatest idea is introduced to help improve your health. There are endless diets to make you want nothing more than to quit them cold turkey. There are home exercise machines that you would never allow yourself to be seen using in public (the Horse Riding Fitness Ace Power is one such piece of genius that specializes in ultimate personal embarrassment). I’m sure shadow boxing with coffee grinds in your socks is just around the corner, as is 3-meter springboard yoga diving, and cross-eyed jump roping.  Of course, many of the ideas and products have a lifespan equal to that of a housefly.

I’d like to point out one idea that I find completely useless:  backwards running.

The idea is that by running backwards you will strengthen your calves, quadriceps, and shins more so than by running forwards. That’s all well and good, but for me the problem with the idea is that I don’t run well backwards. Nor do I particularly run backwards in the safest places. In fact, there really is no good reason why I should run backwards other than for getting in touch with my inner child. (Obviously, my inner child is lacking in some departments, such as street smarts.) When I run backwards I hit things like parking signs, buildings, sturdy oak trees (they’re actually worse than buildings), and old ladies (well, I haven’t hit one yet, but I’m sure old ladies are much worse than trees because bowling them down requires a complete explanation to the paramedics and police as to why I was running backwards)…

Cop: “So, why did you run backwards into Mrs. Thompson? Do you realize you broke her collar bone?”

Me: “I’m so sorry, but thank God I didn’t break her neck! What a mess that would’ve been. Look, I was merely trying to strengthen my calves, quadriceps, and shins. It was an accident. Kinda wish she were a tree, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

Cop: “Well, we are having this discussion. And excuse me, but you wish Mrs. Thompson were a tree?”

Me: “Yeah. A big oak tree.”

Cop: “Mr. Hill, I want you to stop right there with the insults. I think you owe Mrs. Thompson an immediate apology. Do you understand me?”

Me: “I already said I’m sorry.  I have to say it twice?”

Cop: “You know what…I’ve had it with your type! Turn around, you scum.  I’m cuffing you. Taking you in for disobeying a police officer and aggravated assault.”

Me: “Aggravated assault!? Are you kidding me? All I was doing was running backwards, trying to put some bulk in my quads.   Old lady Thompson’s dang lucky I didn’t knock her into a passing car.  Then what would you cite me for? Murder!!!?”

(Memo to self: Do not smart-mouth cops.)

I fear an immediate sentencing of guilt is just around the corner. I fear the misinformed newspaper headlines: “ELDERLY WOMAN NARROWLY ESCAPES LOCAL MAN’S ATTEMPT TO DISFIGURE AND DISMEMBER HER WHILE BACKING UP”. While “backing up” what?  A car? A truck? NOOOO!!!! It was just me. It was an accident!!

So, I decide to flee the cop and begin running forwards instead of backwards. But I only get as far as the total collapse of my neuromuscular system will allow. In other words, the cop’s Taser has hit, and the world goes to black.

*          *          *

So I wonder: Just how important is strengthening my calves, quadriceps, and shins, if I’m going to have a high chance of ending up in jail or suffer other dreadful outcomes?  If I run backwards along a lake trail, it’s a given I’m going to trip and take a dip and, in the process, hit my head on a large rock.  If I run backwards in Ireland, I’m going to be the butt of the jokes at the pubs. If I do it in New York City…well, forget it—I’m not attempting to run backwards in New York City.  Really, the only place that I can run backwards safely is the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.  Oh, how convenient.

Of course, proponents are out there.  According to runaddicts.net, there are many benefits with running backwards:

 It will improve your posture. Wrong.  A few hundred falls on my tailbone and one trip into the lake, I will have no posture.

Your senses will be heightened. Your peripheral vision will become more acute.  Are you kidding me?  I need eyes in the back of my head. Literally!

You will have fun.  Pay me about ten grand and I’ll have fun. Last I checked, I never found running into revolving doors, mail boxes, construction workers, city buses, cactus, my mother-in-law, or man holes as necessarily being fun.

You can still run while you are injured.  The last thing I want to do is something completely counterproductive while healing an injury.  Look, after just five minutes of running backwards, rest assured I won’t be running backwards.  I’ll either be in the Emergency Room, the Operating Room, or the morgue.

Maybe I got it all backwards about running backwards. Maybe I simply need to accept that I am a backwards failure, and should move forward with my life.  It’s a wise suggestion, but there is a problem: I am a very curious person, and now fear I might try an alternative to normal forward running.

I am a slow learner.  Watch out people, because here I come…running sideways!

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2016

Two Minutes of Eternity

I set two alarms on my watch, three minutes apart, to wake me up. Almost without fail, the first alarm interrupts a dream. Typically I’m involved in some sort of bizarre impossibility, such as trying to fight off killer whales in a public swimming pool. Or were they gigantic penguins? I don’t even know why I set the first alarm as I might as well be listening for a pin drop in a rock concert. At 7:10AM I sleep through the first alarm. At 7:13AM I stir to the distant annoying beeps of the second alarm. Why is it I have to summon every cylinder of motivation to get my fingers to generate enough energy to press the ALARM OFF button? I’d rather be saving the world in my sleep—fighting off those killer penguins with a kickboard.

The fact is I have to get up.  But I might as well be a corpse sealed in a granite tomb.

The awareness of the morning creeps into view as my eyes try to open. It’s that moment when I might lapse back into sleep for ten or twenty seconds. And when I awake again, there’s a heavy brain fog that’s cloaking the memory of my dream. The details are quickly fading. I was in a pool. Or was it a pond? And I was fighting something, but I can’t recall what.  Wait—it was a fish.  A seal? Or was it a large black inner tube?   My awakened conscious state acts as an anesthesia, erasing the recent events of my unconsciousness. The dream—and whatever the source of water was in that dream—instantly evaporates.

Two dogs lay beneath the covers: Domino, a rat terrier, and Sonic, a rat terrier dachshund mix. Sonic will sleep forever. Domino knows my alarms and prepares himself for the moment I swing my legs off the side of the bed to begin sitting up.  That’s the moment he will rise into his first stretch of the day. But that moment is a long, long, long time away.  At least two minutes.

Two minutes of eternity.

I lay in bed and notice just how wonderful it feels to have no weight on my legs.  How wonderful it feels not to be upright. How wonderful it feels to have arrived with a mind recharged.  My senses fully heightened.  It’s when I think: I need to write about this. Within these two minutes, there is no rush, there are no deadlines, and there is no stress.  Cocooned in a swirl of bed sheets and a blanket, I do more than just hear the birds outside my window—I listen to them. To the busy man on the street, birds are nothing more than producers of the same pestilent noise repeated over and over.   But the busy man is missing it, for he is the one out of tune. He has no idea of the complexity of their communication. And so he shuffles past the trees, and crosses the street before entering a building where he is irritably late for a meeting.  An hour prior, this man overslept his alarm clock and arose in a mess of hurried agitation.  Somewhere in there, if he were lucky, he had at best two seconds of eternity. At best.

My time is up.  My two minutes have ended.  I know exactly what needs to be done in order to leave the house on time.  As I swing my legs out of the bed, Domino pokes his head out into the open, then rises into his ritual stretch.  Simultaneously, I lean into him and press my face against his soft neck, while slipping my hand under the covers to feel Sonic’s belly. There’s a warmth there that never fails to reassure me that I am truly connected to these animals.  It’s a communication that is ours and speaks volumes.

And then the epiphany hits: I’m learning to extend my two minutes.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2016

It’s Time to Tranquilize Hotel Managers

Twelve hours on the road, and all you can think about is a hotel room.  Drop your suitcase, and flop onto the bed like an uninhibited free fall into a swimming pool.  Twenty minutes ago you exited the highway, anxious to free your vision of a hundred thousand segments of broken white lane lines.  You don’t need anything fancy—just a bed to plunge into sleep.  The La Quinta Inn will do just fine.  You park the car, then walk inside to be greeted by Carol— a middle-aged receptionist at the front desk.

Carol: “Hello.  Welcome to La Quinta. How may I help you?”

You: “I just need one room for myself only.”

Carol: “King or queen size bed?”

You: “Queen will be fine.  All I need to do is crash.”

Carol: “That’ll be four-fifty-five.  Check-out is 11:00AM.  All I need is your license and a credit card.”

You’re standing there ever so slightly wondering if maybe, just maybe, you misunderstood her.  There’s a slight snicker in your voice.

You: “Uh, how much for the room?”

Carol: “Four-fifty-five.”

Yep, you heard her correctly.

You: “Like four-hundred and fifty-five?”

Carol: “Yes, sir. Formula One is in town.”

You: “But I’m not here for Formula One.  I’m just a tired guy who’s been driving for twelve hours and needs a bed to crash on.”

Carol: “Sir, I’m not quite sure if you realize who you’re dealing with. This is not just La Quinta Inn. This is the hotel industry.  This is the one worldwide entity that can jack prices so high, you have no choice but to hand over that little plastic card in your wallet and pretty much consider yourself screwed. And you can kick and scream and go into demonic gyrations that’ll look like you need an exorcism, but the bottom line is: we ain’t budging.  Now, will that be credit card or cash?”

I understand the supply and demand going on here, but is it really necessary for hotels to hike up room rates as exorbitantly as they do? When Formula One was in Austin, Texas, the Best Western in a town 30 miles away charged $450.00 for a regular room.  Whatever happened to hotel managers treating customers like customers and keeping prices steady, regardless of what’s going on in town? Did the hotel industry ban them from working?  Were they fired for dishonorable greed?  Were they scooped up by a front-end loader before being pureed in a gigantic blender, and then poured into the Hudson River?   I say we do some undercover work by collecting the names of all hotel managers who are participate in these 400% rate increases, and treat them as they should be treated.

I got a plan…

We’ll start by hiring an expert marksmen to wait outside their residences.  With a tranquilizer gun they’ll shoot the managers in the rear as they bend over to get the evening paper. (Aiming for the rear eliminates the risk of hitting any major organs. Plus, when you see someone with a feathery dart lodged in the buttocks, there’s a sort of comical Three Stooges added bonus.) If they don’t subscribe to the paper, then they’ll be shot as they head out for an evening jog. If they don’t jog, then our man on the streets will hit them in the grocery store.  And if they only eat delivery pizza, then we’ll pay the delivery driver to put them in a headlock and rotate them so their rear faces the street…bulls-eye!  After being tranquilized, we’ll microchip their hands which will be nonchalantly scanned at any point-of-purchase to verify identification.  Typically, the scan will read: “GREEDY SOB”, “BLOOD SUCKING VAMPIRE”, or “NOT A NICE PERSON”.  Once identified, “Operation Screw You Hotel Manager” will go into full effect…

Convenience Store Cashier: “One Snicker bar.  Will that be all, sir?”

Hotel Manager: “Yes.”

Convenience Store Cashier: “That’ll be $15.99.”

Hotel Manager: “Excuse me—did you say fifteen-dollars and ninety-nine cents!?”

Convenience Store Cashier: “Yes, sir. Formula One is in town.”

 

Yard Sale Homeowner: “You’d like to buy the measuring cups set, Monopoly game, and flat-head shovel?”

Hotel Manager: “Yes.”

Yard Sale Homeowner: “$320.00”

Hotel Manager: “Outrageous!! Formula One!?”

Yard Sale Homeowner: “You got it, buddy.”

 

Honda Sales Rep: “So you’d like to buy the used 4-door Accord with 57,000 miles?”

Hotel Manager: “Yes.”

Honda Sales Rep: “That’ll be $520,999.”

Hotel Manager: “I know, I know…Formula One.“

Honda Sales Rep: “Actually no, that ended yesterday. But this is the Day After Half-Price Sale. Now, how would you like to pay, sir?”

It’s time to give hotel managers a taste of their own greed by letting them know what it’s like to live on the other side of the counter. After all, these guys are making movie theater concessions prices seem as if the popcorn is just being given away.

Classified Ad: In the market for a new job? Seeking a career change in a field that thrives on taking advantage of its customers? Then perhaps a hotel manager is your calling—no previous job experience needed.  Only the mental skill set of a bank robber.

It’s a cultural phenomenon how we accept increased pricing set by hotels due to holidays, seasons, and local events. Even though there is as much a demand for food, fuel, and toothpaste as there is a place to sleep, we don’t see grocery stores price-shafting us because there’s a college graduation going on:  “College graduates and families—-Welcome to Gas-N-Go Mart! Fuel your car here for only $17.00 a gallon!!  Then grab a freshly-cooked rotisserie chicken, bag of chips, and a soft drink for just $99.00!! And what better way to end the day than by cleaning your teeth from a $15.00 tube of toothpaste!!”

Yes, these are certainly exciting times when the economy is so robust you can throw customer service out the window, and simply implement a mad price hike to get all you can get.  When Formula One is in town, even churches should charge people to put money in the offering plate, or at least establish a $20.00 minimum.  Look, guys, do you or do you not want that new Sunday school wing built before Christmas?  Follow the hotel industry’s lead and, before you know it, your monetary needs might never require another single prayer again.

Hallelujah!!

Copyright Ros Hill, 2016

Ascending

There are stretches of highway in West Texas where the road just goes and goes. Where the distance to the horizon seems as long as the horizon is wide. These are the stretches of endless miles where the mind can contemplate without barely an interruption. Where one thought can remain lodged at the forefront of your consciousness, and the only chance to escape it is to pull over and fall asleep.

For thirty minutes she found that escape in her car at a vacant roadside rest area. She reclined her seat and drifted off, entering a dream occupied by a line of ten tornadoes–each a different shade of blue–moving over hundreds of acres of flat farmland. Oddly, the colorful twisters were not threatening, but were, in fact, tilling the soil; working the land. And they did so in complete silence, with not a hint of tornadic turbulence. Their violent nature had seemingly been harnessed to operate without destruction. They magically swept around old farm houses and lifted safely above herds of vulnerable livestock. Families stood out in the open, mesmerized by this supernatural scene: speechless and trusting, and nearly collapsing to their knees in awe of the dutiful and attentive twisters.

When she awoke, she up-righted her seat, then rolled down her window. A comforting wind infiltrated the car, sending strands of hair dancing across her face, and triggering the memory of her dream. The tornados…why were they quiet? Why so helpful? And why so blue? She stared down the open road, out towards a distant mountain range. This remnant of her dream–this color curiosity, wherever it came from–felt quite real, as if it was taking shape in her conscious world. If this wind engulfing my car had no sound, but rather color, what color might it be? She paused, then thought, Blue. As soothing as one of the bluest tornadoes.   What was the likelihood that she would have ever evoked the color blue from the absence of sound without the memory of her dream? Was this some sort of premonition? Color and sound–what was the relationship?

And that was all it took. One word–relationship–to bring back the one single thought that made her pull the car over and escape into sleep. The one thought that incessantly gnawed on every square inch of her brain: the bittersweet feeling of love.

*         *         *

Like so many close relationships, it was born from incredible moments, such as their first kiss in the rain. No matter how deep the thunder grumbled or how ominously the lightning struck, they were determined to stay beneath the oak tree, shielded by nothing more than a canopy of branches and leaves, and a blind faith that convinced them that their passion was unstoppable. The safe passing of the storm was a sign that no matter how chaotic the circumstances, their adrenalized infatuation would defeat all. Spontaneity was king: water balloon fights in the shower, piggy-back rides on hiking trails, making love in a clothing store’s dressing room, and racing shopping carts in the grocery store parking lot. Laying side by side on a cool bed of Bermuda grass, beneath a full, burnt-orange harvest moon, nothing needed to be said. They were drinking in all the details–consuming all the things that mattered.

Yet, as much as she hated to confront the reality, one day she fully recognized that their relationship was constrained by an outside force. One that was stubbornly unforgiving, and would eventually sever their bond. As the months rolled by, and their intimacy surged well into the second year, she began to express a strong desire to have a child–the one missing link of fulfillment in her life. They would surely get married and, no doubt soon after, they would begin their own family. The topic often consumed their conversations. She was all over the map talking about the future newborn: the baby’s room, stroller rides to the park, the first Christmas, the first bus ride to school, and growing old together with a son or daughter who would bring into this world a newborn as well. He didn’t have much to say during her long-winded wonderings of the future. He sat silent and listened, but in his duty to do so, there was a distance in him–a separation of interest. What he knew he was certain would be the deal breaker. A thousand kisses under that oak tree in the rain bore no weight against her want for a child from her womb.

Inevitably, the investment of their passion was going to run dry. Dissolve far more quickly than it had taken to build. The future was clear: there was nothing but an imminent farewell. He held the one card that he had no choice but to play against himself: he announced that he was infertile. And there was no easy way to lower that hammer. But the news would not shake her. There was a way around this. Medical science would pull through. Certainly the brightest minds were well aware of the dejection that infertility brought. Certainly science was on the cusp of something great. But optimism sometimes has its limits. Hard as she would try to sell herself that adoption was just as viable, her maternal instincts would override it as mere irrational thinking. And as hard as she would try to be rational, one thing kept getting in the way: the essence of him. That all-encompassing feeling of love. Torn between staying with the first person who had ever offered her love beyond definition, and declining that love to seek out having a baby with another man, she found herself nowhere but lost. It was the rift in the relationship that would eventually create the final divide. The heartbreak of a star-crossed love.

*             *               *

She was done with the tears. She had wept enough mourning of their final separation. Lord knows he was the greatest gift that she had ever received, but a child from her bloodline was the one gift that had yet to be opened. Driving on that open stretch of endless West Texas highway, she was en route to anywhere to rebuild from the bottom up. The memories of him would always be there. Outside of sleep, that was an inescapable fact. To be in love, but realizing that love wasn’t enough–how would she ever be able to carry the weight of that reality? She needed a physical detachment as a whole. A fresh beginning.

For two-hundred miles she continued westward, making her way into New Mexico. The unlikely event of blowing out a front tire would lead to the first encounter of the helpful man who, two years later, would be the father of her first newborn child.

Though her husband lacked the fiery passion that poured from her previous love, she still found herself in a place of contentment. And he was, above all, a man who would do his fair share of raising a child. He was trusting and compliant. He was all that any mother or child could ask for. In times of good or bad, he wasn’t going anywhere. Loyalty was a given. Nothing was more evident to prove that, than when tragedy struck.

They had taken a scuba diving trip to Belize. A 10-day vacation to do nothing more than get away and see the sights, both above and below water. It was on their third day of diving when–perhaps she was feeling a bit too confidant–she took the liberty to descend too quickly. In the process of not allowing for adequate equalization with the increasing water pressure, she critically perforated both ear drums. The result was a middle ear barotrauma–an unfavorable condition that led to her permanent loss of hearing. Unable to fly due to cabin pressure, they had to board a cruise ship in order to return home. Severe as her condition was, and recognizing there were obvious lifestyle adjustments to be made, through it all she found peace: she was his prize, and he would do anything to assist her. Though she could still speak, she felt it important to learn sign language, which they mastered in no time. In fact, they created a few original signs of their own: a fist to the head was, “coconut brain”, a choke hold on one wrist was, “stop talking so much!”, and a slow finger drag over the top of the tongue was, “Meet me in the bedroom”. Needless to say, adjusting to the sudden loss of hearing wasn’t easy. There was knowing what things sounded like, but an inability to turn up their volume from a memory. There were the days of staring at a group of trees. Just staring, and tilting her head to one side like a dog might in order to hone in a specific sound. In her case, she just wanted to hear the birds. What once had so often been background noise, was now something that she wanted to experience front and center.

And then there was the one sound that brought her down more than anything: the one sound that she had yet to hear–the first cry of her forthcoming newborn infant. An ultrasound showed that a girl was on the way. What would her voice grow to be? And if she could sing, just how would she ever capture its audible magic? Adjusting to the deaf world was work. Luckily, her husband was up for the job as well.

On a thunderstorm-infested evening, she went into short-lived early labor at their house just before midnight. Active labor was impatiently knocking on the door as her dilations were steadily increasing. This baby wanted out. It was not an easy drive for her husband as horizontal sheets of pelting rain attacked the car. They were six miles from the hospital. He had to guard his speed for fear of hydroplaning into a ditch. Beyond the beam of his headlights, everything was pitch dark. Only when lightning occurred did they get a quick glimpse of their surroundings: telephone poles, a distant barn, and trees on the horizon. The windshield wipers could not keep up with clearing the water. Just ahead he could barely make out the sight of an overpass. Despite her labor, he had no choice but to reach it and stop as the storm was now depositing golf ball-size hail. Repetitive indentions in the car’s exterior were beating like a hundred drummers. He heard them. She felt them. And then, a sudden, dense round of larger size hail pulverized the windshield, spidering cracks in multiple jagged directions. This atmospheric violence was, at last, thwarted by the protection of the overpass. Another ten seconds of fist-size hail and the windshield would have collapsed into their laps.

When he stopped the car, he signed to her asking how she was doing. She said out loud, “Scared.” He held her hands, looked into her eyes, and voiced slowly for her to read his lips, “Our baby will be fine.”

Seconds later, multiple bolts of lightning lit up the sky, illuminating the one thing they never saw coming: the tornado. Their car was no longer a place of refuge. He helped her out and guided her up the steep ramp that led to a rectangular concrete formation beneath the girders of the overpass. This was no easy hike for her condition. At their last sight, the tornado’s location appeared to be a fair distance away, out on the horizon. But now, as they wedged themselves between the girders, they lost all view of that direction. With each contraction, she fought to make herself comfortable. The struggle to give life and to protect herself was tiresomely painful. Swirling debris began to dance in a chaotic pattern beneath the overpass. It was a calm scene, but only momentary as a straight line gust of dirt and more debris accelerated along the highway. Part of a fence and a large section of a tree uncontrollably blew past, just missing their car. All of this she viewed in complete silence as the wind churned and carved off the top soil of New Mexico. Preparing for the worst, they forced themselves back as far as possible into their crawl space, knowing that every single inch bought them another inch of security.

And there she huddled, watching the scene unfold beneath her. She wondered if he could hear the twister. Was its horrifying sound on top of them? Another contraction set off an agonizing pain in her lower back–sharp as a knife, and stubbornly refusing to let up its grip. She closed her eyes tight with clinched teeth to fight it. Mother Nature might make up her own rules, but under no circumstances was she going to take away this baby.

Perhaps she was too focused on the pain of her labor, but during her battle to find comfort, she found herself sitting upright, with her back propped against a slab of concrete. Her breathing was heavy as she felt the baby crowning. Neither of them were prepared for this, but preparation was hardly a worry. For a thousand years the will to be brave had always taken on the world by itself. The motherly instinct to do whatever was necessary had always prevailed. All of her fears; all of her doubts suddenly vanished–she was going to give birth.

*         *         *

Beneath the dirt-covered highway overpass, he sat next to her as she held their newborn daughter–their eyes streaming with tears of undefinable bewilderment at the miracle of life. The storm, now past, left behind a trail of splintered telephone poles and trees that were stripped of their branches, entirely up-rooted, or left bowing to the earth. It also left a comforting wind that wisped strands of hair about her face. Strangely, this calming moment felt very familiar–a memory from two years past on a lone stretch of West Texas highway. It was a time of her life for escaping and starting anew. And within that remembrance there was the dream that she had always held onto: ten blue twisters tilling the soil, preparing the land for new growth. At each major turn in her life, she began to notice that there were calming moments that contained pivotal signs of promise, despite the adversities at hand. In particular, her lost first love, the scuba diving incident, and this storm had all led to something much larger than she had expected. Yes, this also included her everlasting inability to ever hear again.

Ten feet below the ocean’s surface in Belize, the two of them had been looking down into the darkening abyss. This particular spot was named the Great Blue Hole, where the deepest blues eventually gave way to an enclosing darkness that plunged over 400 feet. The moment he looked away was the moment she descended, wanting to know nothing more than just how far down she could dive. But her speed was too rapid for the depths she was descending into. The pressure on her inner ears was unable to be equalized, and the uncontrolled decompression, just shy of being fatal, led to the critical rupturing of her eardrums and the ensuing permanent loss of hearing. A tragic and unforgettable moment for anyone. But for her, now holding her newborn, she recalled the undeniable allure of her ascent to the ocean’s surface: the darkness that had cocooned her, had unveiled a deep hypnotic cerulean blue that, perhaps, held more beauty than she could ever handle.

That was until she looked down at the incomparable beauty of her newborn daughter who cooed softly with wide open eyes. Though this was the one sound she had yearned to hear, the moment had arrived in silence. The sound of her daughter’s laugh, her songs, and her cry would forever elude her. There was no way to capture its perfect translation. It was an audible gift that only the privileged many would witness. Unless, she thought, unless…

Turning to her husband, she looked him in the eyes and asked, “Tell me…our daughter’s voice…if you had to describe it in color, what color would that be?”

He smiled and signed back to her without hesitation, “Oh, that’s easy….blue.”

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2016

You’re Broke? Well, Congratulations!!

After you’ve purchased a car, why is it that nearly everyone in the dealership has to shake your hand and tell you, “Congratulations!!”? Isn’t it strange that you just gave them thirty-grand and you’re the one responding, “Thank you.”?

Something’s just not quite right.

You’ve worked hard for your money. It used to be secure in a bank, but now you’ve drained your savings and have forked it over to us. Congratulations!

You get to pay us interest till it makes you sick. Congratulations!

Your brand new car will lose $2,000-$4,000 the moment it’s driven off the lot. Congratulations!

You get to pay for a vehicle registration fee, title fee, license fee, documentation fee, compliance fee, emissions testing fee, and advertising fee (though it wouldn’t be surprising if a complimentary coffee fee, handshake greeting fee, test drive fee, and bathroom usage fee were tagged on as well). Regardless, congratulations!

Don’t forget that extended warranty. Pay up! And congratulations!!

 Best of all: From the moment you arrived, our commissioned sales vultures did everything in their power to corner you into an uncomfortable pressured situation so grossly laden with industry-wide deceptions, that if you didn’t commit to buying on the spot, then your car’s Limited-One-Time-Only-Like-This-Is-It offer would forever haunt your poor decision to pass up on the deal of a lifetime. Ah yes, the unenjoyable car buying experience that ate up half your day. Well, guess what? We got your money! Congratulations!

Why is it the high-dollar purchases hold the honors to a congratulations? Car, airplane, and boat dealers are all, well, in the same boat. And, unfortunately, the word congratulations sounds right. We’ve grown accustomed to it. Those industries have wielded their magical psychological tactics to figure out a way to make the incorrect usage of the word, correct. With other businesses, using congratulations after a purchase just sounds weird: Congratulations on buying a brand new hammer! Congratulations on your haircut! You just paid us a $60.00 co-pay for your medical exam…congratulations!

We should be thankful that businesses, from which less costly purchases are made, don’t suck us into a backwards congratulations. Imagine your local grocery store…

Whoa! You purchased a box of cereal! Congratulations! And is that a pack of cotton balls? A sincere double congratulations!!

So that people feel good about their purchases, the grocery industry could apply similar “You’ve got to be kidding me!” car industry costs to their customers. All to ensure an even more spirited congratulations…

Aisle 7 Sales Professional: “Ma’am–that box of cereal–if times are tough, we can make it very affordable. Instead of paying $3.37 full price today, we can finance it at a low 2.5% interest rate for 12 monthly payments of only $0.29. All you need to do to apply is fill out the 53-page application form with any of our more-than-friendly cashiers.

More-Than-Friendly Cashier: “Here are a couple of pens ma’am, in case you run out of ink filling out the 53-page Agony Application. When you’re finished, I’ll be happy to process you after the man who’s on page 28, applying to finance his apple. Oh, and remember, we can’t guarantee total money-back of product coverage. While you do have a top-to-bottom of cereal box warranty, it doesn’t cover Acts of Evil. Such as, if upon exiting the store, you were robbed at gun-point for your Raisin Bran. Our Extended Warranty Against Evil will guarantee a 100% money-back refund. Evil is all around us. Pit bulls, scud missiles, utility bills, and, of course–you knew this one was coming–cereal killers plague our streets.

Grocery Store Manager (extending hand): “Ma’am, I would like to be the first to congratulate you for being the proud owner of a financed box of cereal. Looks like you got quite a beauty there–fully loaded interior of sun-ripened raisins, all packed inside one classy Frost Pearl and Glossy Purple exterior. I see you purchased the warranty against Evil. Smart choice. There’s a heavily tattooed man outside our store holding a carton of milk, a spoon, and an empty bowl. Chances are you’re on his radar. But no worries…you are fully covered! That’s not just a box of breakfast in your hands. That’s an investment!And now that we have your money, well…CONGRATULATIONS!!”

Yes, the hearty congratulations from the car dealers needs to stop. It’s time they showed their appreciation for your money. It’s time they acknowledge that you practically had to rob a bank to be able to make the purchase.

And the day they can tell their buyers, “Thank you!” will be the day their buyers can offer them a firm handshake and say, “Congratulations!”

Copyright Ros Hill 2016

Refreshing Ice-Cold Coca-Colon

As a routine check-up, I get to have a colonoscopy every three to five years. When I go through the prep phase, I’m not only the butt of all the jokes around the house, but I’m always left feeling empty by the time I reach the hospital. What do you expect after drinking 128 oz. of sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride and potassium chloride? I describe the solution as “distastefully disgusting” with just the hint of “nasty”. It’s salt water meets rancid gorilla sweat. It’s what you offer someone to prove you don’t want to be their friend. It’s something that leaves you completely baffled that there’s not one single chemist on the planet who can create a prescription laxative that won’t send you into a squeamish gagging reflex. Have you seen the names the pharmaceutical companies are calling these rectal irrigation concoctions? I wonder if we colonoscopites can sue these companies for false and misleading terminology? I mean seriously…

MiraLAX (Goes down smooth like a MIRACLE!! Tastes like a MIRACLE!! It is a MIRACLE!!)

MoviPrep (It’s like enjoying a great movie!! Comes in buttered-popcorn flavor!!)

GoLytely (Goes down like it was never there!! Don’t take it so seriously…take it so lightly!!)

Can we please be a little more forthright by naming them what they really are…

MiraLAX (clinical name: Automotive Battery Acid)

MoviPrep (clinical name: Damn The Flood Gates!)

GoLytely (clinical name: Dear God What Have I Drank!?)

You would think the American Gastroenterological Association (AmGasAss) would be approaching the leading chemists of the world, asking them to band together and create a laxative that could leave the palate feeling savory and satisfied. We all know what happens after any laxative is ingested—it’s sewage pipes in a state of anarchy, literally running by their own rules. But why not at least improve the prep experience? Can we please do whatever is necessary to stop the suffering? In a world of countless natural and artificial flavors, is the task to create such a wonder drink all that difficult? If so, then perhaps it’s time the big players stepped in. Perhaps it’s time to go corporate. Time to knock on Coca-Cola’s front door.

It’s an opportunity for a soft drink company to tap into the pharmaceutical market. The Coca-Cola website mentions soft drinks contain sodium and potassium. Sounds like to me these ingredients fall within the family of those found in prescription laxatives. Add some carbonation to a clear liquid formulated by a team of Coca-Cola taste experts, and you’ll have created one of the most needed pharmaceutical products to date. Any what will they call it? None other than:

Coca-Colon.

Of course, any new product is only as good as its national exposure. And with a product like Coca-Colon that will be revolutionizing the prep taste experience (and putting an end to every prep laxative in existence), once it hits Main Street America, there will be no slowing down its success. The key: grab immediate mass appeal with a 30-second Super Bowl commercial…

(Music begins: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams)  Filmed in slow motion:

A middle-age couple gleefully skip together hand-in-hand through a lakeside park, smiling like they’ve won the lottery. In the woman’s hand is a leash guiding an equally happy cocker spaniel puppy. In the man’s hand is a bottle of Coca-Colon which he’s sipping through a straw. Seconds later, their hands separate and the camera follows the man skipping towards a group of runners who are congregating under a nearby 5K race start banner. As he approaches, they take notice and then divide their group in half, clearing a pathway for him to enter a Port-a-john. An obvious lapse of time shows him exiting, happily holding his Coca-Colon up high like a ceremonial Olympic torch, and then skipping back towards the woman. Embraced in each other’s arms (including the puppy, playfully licking the man’s face), they spin around and toss their heads back with ebullient smiles. The camera zooms in on the man who winks while taking a sip of Coca-Colon. The screen goes to red with white lettering:

Coca-Colon.  Great to the Last Flush.

Copyright  Ros Hill 2016

The Bathtub

When I was six years old, I could always gauge a successful bath by how furious my mom got. It wasn’t my intention to send her into a hard boil, but things just ended up that way. I tried my best to contain the water within the walls of the bathtub, but sometimes the age of six can just get the worst of you. The image of her is still quite clear: a thick, tangled pile of dark brown hair—unkept from a long day of house cleaning and cooking—strewn about like a nest of rattlesnakes. Her brow pushed down hard upon her fiery eyes blistering with agitation. I do not remember fingers clinched around a metal spatula, but rather hawk-like talons dripping with turkey gravy. And there she stood, towering just inside the doorway–a mythological creature—part Medusa, part gargoyle.

“WHAAAAT ARRRRE YOOOOU DOING!!!???”

I looked at the bath water covering the entire bathroom floor, fully permeating the throw rugs, and seeping into the hallway carpet. There was water running down from the mirror five feet away, broken glass next to the sink, and the strong smell of mint. Whatever sense of guilt had surfaced had just as quickly been dismissed, as I realized there had been a battle here. How was I possibly to blame? I looked at my green, plastic army men snipers, positioned on the sink’s countertop, toilet tank, and atop the perimeter bathtub wall. About twenty of these snipers had fallen victim as casualties of war, and were bobbing up and down in the warm porcelain pond full of large, foamy mounds of Mr. Bubble.

Unbeknownst to my mother, beneath the soapy bubbles and darkened water ridden with dirt from a full day of playing, there lurked a sea beast (a.k.a. hand towel) intent on only one thing: to destroy each and every green sniper. This sea monster would erupt out of the water and unleash its mighty cotton tail, doing everything in its power to defeat the horrendous onslaught of enemy fire. Like a bullwhip, it lashed out at the snipers on the tub wall. Helplessly falling into the porcelain pond, the monster made sure they were sealed to their deaths by crashing down upon them as hard as possible. Over and over and over the monster repeated this thunderous impact, sending cataclysmic towers of water so powerful they splashed against the ceiling sky. Next, a raging roar echoed as the monster went into a full-body helicopter spin over the floor, thus wiping out an entire battalion of countertop snipers, including three toothbrushes, a soap dispenser, and shattering a glass bottle of mint-flavored Listerine. The monster then quickly retreated back to the tub, where it reconstituted its body with bathwater before repeating the same attack upon the division of soldiers firing from atop the toilet tank. No life would be spared.

And then the quiet.

A bathroom once occupied with heavily armed men, now stood silent in the wake of the aftermath. The monster, fully spent, retreated to the depths of the pond and laid hidden beneath the mounds of foamy bubbles—staying clear of the one force that could completely shut it down: my mother.

“WHAAAAT ARRRRE YOOOOU DOING!!!???”

Amongst this battlefield of fallen snipers who were either toppled onto the flooded floor or perished in the tub or, worse, plunged into the toilet bowl, I suddenly realized I was the lone survivor. While it’s true I had been the omnipotent orchestrator, narrator, and participant of the battle, I found great pride in that fact that I had survived this devastation.

As for the snake-haired gargoyle that stood in the doorway, breathing like a coal-fed furnace, I had only one chance of escaping her wrath. Without this one chance, I was sure to meet my end. I was sure to never return to school to tell the tale of the great sea monster. I was sure to join the dead snipers bobbing up and down in the porcelain pond.

And then I heard the footsteps. My one chance had arrived: my father.

“Well, looky here!” he said, in a jovial voice of excited discovery, “We got us a war zone! How’s it going there lil’ buddy!?”

I could not have sighed any longer or deeper. Grabbing a nearby bottle of shampoo, it was time to take my bath. And why not? After all, I had survived.

Copyright Ros Hill 2016