The atmosphere around me today is charged with weepy farewells to our Virginia summer, and teary welcomes to our fall season. The drizzle cascades down my car windows as I tune in to WTOP: From the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center . . . the weather forecast. It always cracks me up when the announcers say this! Apparently, the station began using the slogan as a lure line to get their ratings up and, after it succeeded in doing so, they decided to continue using it. What the hell does it mean, anyway??
Behind me an impatient driver seems to want me to speed over the 45mph limit. I can’t do that. My bank account is still burning from the recent ticket I got! The Police Officer was nice that day. “I should give you a ticket for reckless driving,” he said, “but I’ll just do speeding.” That Saturday, I was going about 20 miles over the limit. Nice cop! Well, there were no cars, or anyone on the road; nice sunny day; just back from my gym; Dean Martin singing to me, while the car seems to compel to me go fast without my even realizing that I am! I am an embarrassment to my just-got-the-license-grandchild to whom I am always preaching about driving safely!
First stop is at Trader Joe’s. In the aisle ahead of me is a meek-looking old man walking behind his strident wife. I assume that they are married, because there is a certain relationship aura that can be easily discerned between couples who have been married for very long. It’s in one instance comfortably content, in the other contentedly bored. She turns around, tells him something, he goes back and fetches an item and hands it to her. She says something, impatiently. He goes back submissively and gets something else. The woman has that: I-am-definitely-in-control attitude! I slow down my pace imagining how a man of that era probably worked hard all his life, provided, saved for their retirement, maybe made most of the decisions regarding their lives, perhaps they raised a family, had their ups, their downs same as all married couples do, stuck it out and, as Erma Bombeck once said: by the time I got serious about divorce (which no couple I know has not thought of), I was too tired to go through with it! Now retired, he seems to be happy tagging along and having someone else making the decisions, including where they go on vacation, what they’re doing for Thanksgiving, where they buy their groceries from, and, practically all else. Their roles have been reversed, so that he is humbled and she feeling oh! so powerful! Ah, life! Your cynicism amuses me!
That encounter though, takes me back to the stereotypical Arab and Middle Eastern women: intimidated, subjugated, dominated and weak. The truth is that, while this is generally correct (there are always exceptions), and to complete that truth, we should add: that once these women attain menopause (or, whereabouts) they become feisty, vocal and in control of many things that they did not control prior to that demarcation line and, that their now older (sometimes much older) spouses, with not much fight left in them, have become much more accommodating and, even, intimidated themselves. It is as if the fear that their women might dishonor them by running around and getting impregnated by another man has now been eliminated so they can afford to relax the machoism and be much less menacing. And do some of these women play this up to the hilt, becoming even more and more assertive with time! I tell you, the paradoxes of life never cease to amaze and amuse me!
The younger couples at the store are quite different. Going around earnestly with their computer-generated lists, holding onto their phones, consulting with each other about every item, scanning the coupons they downloaded that morning and giving the impression that this shopping chore is to be tackled with precise and very serious management and navigation skills. Hey sweethearts, I want to shout, where’s the fun in all of this? Chill!
As I weave slowly in and out of the aisles, I notice that most of the women are still in their flip-flops, rain notwithstanding, and I realize that those flip-flops are NOT coming off until it’s fifty degrees below zero! Not kidding you! I mean, why waste all those pedicure dollars on sensible shoes? It doesn’t make financial sense! Thank you India, Afghanistan, Kurdistan and all you flip-flopping dark-skinned females of those other worlds for this lovely gift to the white females of the Western world! Many thanks also from all our immigrant Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian pedicurists who are making a pretty penny off this!
Next stop is the Afghani store which carries my Arabic coffee, Middle Eastern bread, orange blossom water for my tea, rosewater for my face and so on. The cashier is a newly arrived young Somali woman. We always chat, and she always says: Salam Sister, when I enter and Ma’a al Salamah Sister, as I am leaving. We, people of all those Middle Eastern and North African countries, have an instinctive affinity and bond; one that senses the other’s war pains, uprooting experiences and adjustment issues. We don’t need to talk politics to know that. Simply by saying: I am Somali, or Palestinian, or from any of these countries immediately creates a mix of sad and pleasant emotions. And, after exchanging a few Arabic words (common, Koran based ones that we all understand), we become family!
The male clients at the store are a different story. Afghan, Indian and Arab men who are as sour and dour as Wolf Blitzer. (And wouldn’t Wolf be much better suited for the sour and dour Arabic Al-Jazeera channel then CNN?) Anyway, these guys never smile, never nod, always frowning and seemingly upset! Geez!
In front of the K-Mart, they have the flower shelves displaying all the pumpkins and mums of the season. Same size, same shape, same Monsanto seeds that are ruining the eco systems and our health! How disgusting!
At the bank there is a line; only two tellers, one of them serving both the window and the lobby. “Must be that the bank is going through some financial difficulties,” I sarcastically state to the teller. She looks at me deadpan, doesn’t respond. “Would you like to refinance your car?” She asks me after she hands me my receipt. “Do you realize,” I respond caustically, “that there is a scandal going on with Wells Fargo for those same obnoxious sales tactics you are trying on me?” She doesn’t have the faintest idea what I am talking about, and probably thinks to herself: this is just a batty old woman! Ah, those millions of sheeple graduating from all our schools and colleges. They are exactly what political and corporate America wants. They are, as Judge Judy says (not her exact words, close enough), why America is going down the tubes! Perfect slave-citizens who cannot write a decent grammatically correct paragraph, let alone speak correctly, or know what’s going on in their world! Tragic!
In the car on that day, I am listening to President Obama speechifying at the United Nations. First of all, the UN has become a real joke, so that forum isn’t as impressive as it once was. In fact, at this juncture, it is utterly useless. Second, Obama’s words seem to have evolved into delusions. It’s as if he really doesn’t know what the real scorching situation in the world is. What has happened to him? It’s really pretty alarming!
It’s lunch hour in Reston, and the technology company personnel with their IT badges swaying, are poring out of their cubicles in search of the many restaurants and grocery store food and salad bars that are numerous around here. They literally hold our world at the tips of their fingers these days, don’t they?! That’s powerful stuff! Probably why none of them simply walk. They strut!
Most people go about their daily lives almost the same as mine: running errands, or working, caring for their children and homes, tending to older parents, working out at the gym, seeing to their young children or shuttling the older ones to their various activities, preparing meals, enjoying a drink with friends and so on. At the end of the day, I realize that most people, including myself, are living schizophrenic lives these days promoted by world-wide political leadership that has lost any semblance of reason, logic or responsibility. Irrelevant of all the collateral damage and infernos we are igniting all over the world, we persist in exulting idealistic values that we talk, write and sing about as long as they do not interfere with any of our petty desires and mundane lives. Understandable. Tragic and very dangerous nevertheless.
It’s Just Another Day after all, perhaps I can only Imagine . . . .