Thursday, October 25, 2012



My friend Colleen from Oregon was here visiting me all last week, and I had a lot of fun playing tour guide, even though it meant getting up at the crack dawn instead of going to bed at that time, as I usually do.

Colleen wanted to see Boston, so I was determined to show it to her. The only problem is, to me, driving in Boston is kind of like being the ball in a giant pinball machine…only worse.

When I happened to mention my fear of driving in Boston to Rob, a friend of ours who lives in the Boston area and has had years of experience driving in the city, he offered to drive Colleen and me around all day…once we arrived in Boston. It was the “arriving” part that bothered me.

“What’s the farthest distance you’ll travel to come pick us up?” I asked him, hoping he would say somewhere in New Hampshire – like Manchester.

“Oh, maybe Watertown or that general area,” he said.

As far as I was concerned, that still was about 40 miles too far.

So I headed to my computer and searched for information about buses to Boston. I was excited to discover that Concord Coach had an express bus leaving every hour for only $28 round-trip.  I immediately bought two tickets.

The last time I’d taken a bus to Boston, I was a senior in high school and my friend Maureen and I wanted to buy some “cool” clothes like the ones sold on Carnaby Street in London.  That, however, was so long ago, the bus we’d taken probably had been pulled by a horse.

But this bus to Boston turned out to be modern and spacious, with comfortable seats, plenty of leg room, and even hook-ups for computers. The only thing it lacked was heat. The temperature that morning was about 35 degrees, and I could swear the bus had its air-conditioning on.

We arrived at South Station in Boston an hour and 20 minutes later.  It was a huge station, with people and buses everywhere. We immediately called Rob, our private chauffeur, and told him we’d arrived.  He said he was on his way.

All I can say is cell phones are a real blessing because a half-hour later, we still were trying to find Rob.

“Are you near McDonald’s?” Rob asked me over the phone. “Can you see any street signs? Go to the food court in the bus station and stay there!”

Finally, we connected, and were off on a whirlwind tour of Boston.  Rob took us to all of the main attractions: Boston Common, Fenway Park, Cheers, the Prudential Building, Faneuil Hall, the theater district and much more.  He also gave us a running history of each site, and when he didn’t know the exact details, he’d make them up.

“There’s Faneuil Hall, where…Samuel somebody signed the Constitution…or something…back in the old days.”

“Wasn’t that in Philadelphia?” Colleen asked.

“Let me show you where the ships dock,” he answered, changing the subject.

Colleen and I went to the top of the Prudential Building and “oohed” over the breathtaking views of Boston from up there – although the glass, with all of its fingerprints, nose prints and heaven only knows what other kind of prints, could have used a good cleaning.

Then, we headed over to Quincy Market to grab something to eat. Never have I seen so much food in one place.  It was like a mile-long buffet, all under one roof.  I think just about every nationality was represented – and I drooled my way through every country. 

As Colleen and I were trying to decide which of the 100,000 food items we wanted to try, a guy came up to us and said, “We’re filming a show called TV Diner with Billy Costa, and we need some ‘bodies’ to stand behind him and applaud. Want to join us?”

It had been a long time since anyone had wanted my body for anything, so Colleen and I said, “Sure!” and were led over to Billy and his co-host, who were surrounded by cameras and lights. We stood behind them and were instructed to applaud and cheer when Billy mentioned some restaurant, the name of which escapes me now. Anyway, we cheered enthusiastically for a restaurant we’d never even heard of.

The worst part is I probably never will see our 15 minutes of fame because Direct TV, which is what we have, doesn’t carry the station on which the show, TV Diner, appears.

Still, considering the fact that it was one of the windiest days of the year in Boston that day, and my hair was standing straight up on my head by the time we hit Quincy Market, it’s probably a good thing I’ll never see myself on TV.

The bus back home was neither as modern nor as spacious as the bus we’d taken on the way down.  But at least it was heated.  Unfortunately, and there usually is one in every crowd, Typhoid Mary sat on the other side of Colleen.

Throughout the ride back to Concord, the woman coughed, sneezed, blew her nose and nearly hacked up a lung.  I could just envision millions of cold germs swarming around us and cackling maniacally, “There’s no way out!  You are trapped on this bus with us for the next hour and 20 minutes!”

Sure enough, two days later, poor Colleen was coughing, sniffling, sneezing and practically buying stock in the Kleenex Company.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what she’d meant she said she wanted a souvenir of New Hampshire to take home with her.




Monday, October 15, 2012


It was bad enough when my husband’s van wouldn’t start a couple weeks ago when he had a doctor’s appointment, but this past weekend, the darned van’s timing was even worse.

First, let me backtrack a bit.  Thanks to my uncle, the van finally was jump-started on the Monday after the doctor’s visit. My husband drove it around the block a couple times, parked it back in the garage, and didn’t bother with it again until the following weekend. I probably also should mention that when the hood was first opened so my uncle could charge the battery, he found a mouse’s nest under there. That tells you how often my husband drives his van.

Last weekend, while I was still lying in bed, my husband announced at 9 a.m. that he was going to go get gas. “Then we’ll be all set to go pick up Colleen at the airport,” he said.

Colleen, my friend from Oregon, was arriving at 10 p.m. to spend the week with us. 

I fell back to sleep and was awakened by my husband about a half-hour later. Before I even was able to open my eyes, he said, “We’ve got trouble.”

“Define ‘trouble’,” I said.

“My van won’t start.  I tried jump-starting it again, but nothing happened. You think maybe the mice chewed the wires?”

I groaned and pulled the covers over my head.  “It’s a holiday weekend,” I said, my voice muffled underneath the blanket. “There’s not even anyone around to fix the van.”

“Well, then,” he said, “As much as I hate driving your car, I guess we’ll have to use it to go pick up Colleen. But there’s a problem with your car, too.”

I sat up and stared at him.

“You don’t have any seats in the back,” he said.

He was right. I had completely forgotten that I’d removed the seats and put them out in the garage, so my dogs would have a nice big, flat area on which to stretch out whenever they rode in my car.  So now, if I didn’t put the seats back in, poor Colleen would end up having to sit on the floor.

I went out to the garage and tried to lift one of the seats, which was covered with dust and cobwebs.  I couldn’t even budge it, it was so heavy. And even if I had been able to lift it, I had no clue how to reinstall it. I had visions of my husband stepping on the gas on the way home from the airport, and Colleen falling backwards with her feet up in the air in the back seat, when the seat came loose.

I rushed back into the house and asked my husband for help.

“You know I can’t lift anything,” he said. “I’ll end up in the emergency room.”

He finally suggested that I call AAA and have someone come check out his van’s battery.

“And what if it’s something other than the battery?” I asked him. “Something much worse?”

“Then get the guy to help you put the seats back into your car. You’re a woman, you can charm him into it!”

I rolled my eyes. At my age, I figured the only guy who’d give me a second look would be a cosmetic surgeon scouting for business.

I called AAA and they said they would send over their special battery-service truck right away. I was still in my pajamas at the time, so I rushed to get dressed.

“Put on something low-cut,” my husband said, teasing me. “We want the AAA guy to be putty in your hands!”

I glared at the back of his head.

The AAA truck arrived within an hour.  When I first set eyes on the driver, I nearly started laughing. The “guy” I was supposed to charm turned out to be a woman. 

She jump-started the battery, then tested it. It wouldn’t hold the charge. That’s when she told me it probably would be a good idea to invest in a new one. At that point, I was willing to buy a whole new car if it meant getting to the airport in time to pick up Colleen. I bought the battery and the technician installed it.

“You know,” she said, “it’s a good idea to drive the van at least a couple times a week, otherwise this battery will die, too, and it will void your warranty.”

When I told my husband the news, he was both pleased and upset. He was pleased that the mice hadn’t destroyed anything under the hood and that his van was running again, but he was upset he’d actually have to drive the vehicle twice a week.

“You know how much I hate to leave the house now that I’m retired,” he complained.

“Yes, I know.  I practically have to put dynamite under your recliner just to get you out of it.”

“And I always hibernate all winter,” he added.

“Don’t worry, then,” I said. “I’ll take your van for a spin a couple times a week. But you know how bad I am at backing it out of the garage. I use the ‘step on the gas, aim for the doorway and pray’ method.”
Well, that was one way, I discovered, to get him out of the house.




Wednesday, October 3, 2012



One of the things that really drives me crazy is when someone says hi to me and starts talking as if we’re long-lost pals, and throughout the entire conversation I’m thinking to myself…“Who the heck are you?”

Two such incidents happened last week. The first one, I was shopping in a discount store when an attractive, well-dressed woman came up to me, smiled from ear to ear and said, “Helloooo!  How are you?”

I stared at her for a moment, having no clue whatsoever who she was, and said, “I’m fine! And you?”

I don’t know whether it was my voice or my lack of instant recognition, but the woman’s smile faded. “I DO know you, don’t I?” she asked.

I wasn’t certain how to answer that question. She may have known me, but I was pretty positive I didn’t know her. “Um…you look familiar,” I lied.

“You do, too,” she said. “But I don’t know from where.”

I made a mental list of everywhere I’d been in the past few months where I might have run into an attractive, blond, businesswoman type.  Everything from my accountant to my gynecologist’s office came to mind.  I drew a blank.

“Well, my photo is in the paper every week with my column,” I said. “Maybe that’s why I look familiar.”

She eyed me thoughtfully. “No…that’s not it.”

“What’s your name?” I asked her.  She said it was Lorrie.  It didn’t ring a bell. “I’m Sally,” I said.

I could tell by her expression that “Sally” rang no bells for her, either.

“Well, Sally, she finally said. “It’s been nice talking to you.”

“Nice talking to you, too, Lorrie,” I said.

And that ended that.

A few days later, I was in another store, when I had the opposite problem.  I was the one who thought someone looked familiar.

As the cashier rang up my purchases, I kept staring at him. He looked like someone I knew, yet I couldn’t place him. For one thing, he had a beard and was wearing glasses. I had the feeling that the last time I’d seen him, wherever that might have been, he was clean-shaven and bare-eyed.

I discreetly glanced at his nametag, hoping to find some clue. The tag was flipped over, so only the back of it was visible, which was no help…unless I wanted to know the name of the company that had printed the tag. So I struck up a conversation with him, thinking maybe his voice would jar my memory.

“I’m buying dog treats for my two rottweilers!” I said.

He smiled.

“And the sunflower seeds are for my bird feeder,” I added.

Again, he smiled.

I was beginning to think the guy had laryngitis.

Finally, as I was leaving the store, another employee called out to him, “Brian! When are you taking your break?”

When I got home, I said to my husband, “I think I saw Brian today – you know, the guy who used to live across the street from us before we moved. But I’m not sure.”

He frowned at me. “We lived across the street from him for years, and we moved away only three years ago – and you’re not sure? Why? Did he gain 100 pounds?”

I shook my head. “He has a beard…and glasses. And he didn’t say hi to me or show any signs of recognizing me…and I know for a fact that I haven’t changed at all.”

My husband looked as if he wanted to laugh, but wisely didn’t. “Well, maybe it was just some bearded guy who looks like Brian,” he said. “And his name also just happens to be Brian.”

I rolled my eyes. “What are the odds of that happening? I don’t know, it seem as if the older I get, the more people’s names and faces I forget.  It’s frustrating…and embarrassing.”

“Well, you can always use my surefire method for avoiding situations like that,” he said. “It works great for me.”

“And what’s that?” I asked, hoping for some useful information.

He smiled smugly. “Just stay home and don’t go anywhere.”

I’m not sure why, but I had the sudden urge to forget where I knew him from, too.