Obsessive?

A friend of mine has long been a far-reaching, outside-the-box thinker, seemingly knowledgeable on any subject, no matter how esoteric or mundane.  If plotted on a graph, conversations with him would not reflect a normal back-and-forth pattern between us, regular and predictable along the spoken axis; rather, his portion would appear as jagged deviations from the anticipated flow of talk, spiking off in all directions from what might be expected.

the-free-thinker

He never tells a lie, so far as I know.  But his conversational pattern reminds me of what one might see on a lie-detector print-out—the lines ordered and sure while I’m speaking, careering wildly up and down on the page when it’s his turn to talk.  His free-thinking tendencies result in tangential observations I sometimes have difficulty understanding in relation to what we’re supposedly talking about.

My pseudo-psychological label for his thinking process is random-hysteric.

By contrast, I am as predictable as the sun at dawn, and as ponderous in my thinking as he is not—my label, perhaps, fixed-stable.  Although I love my friend dearly, it can irritate me when he strays from our conversational path, rather than continuing along what I perceive as the direct route from A to B.

stable

“What’s that got to do with what we’re talking about?” I often cry after one of his rambling excursions.  “Stick to the point!”

More often than not, he’ll simply shake his head at my apparent obtuseness.  But he doesn’t change his approach.  In his wide-ranging mind, everything he says is related to the topic at hand.

Deep down inside, though, I suspect the problem is mine, not his.  I am a plodder in most things.  It’s amazing how many times, as I journey from here to wherever, I am unaware afterwards of almost everything lying between point of origin and destination.  Stop to smell the flowers is not an adage I have ever rigorously adhered to.

When flying, if I know the expected time it should take to get there, I become impatient with deviations to the flight-path that might delay arrival.  When driving, I hate if we pull in at roadside attractions or scenic lookouts because stopping means we’re not actually getting to where we’re going.  When reading, I constantly check how many pages I’ve read and how many are left yet to read—even when I love the story.

When swimming in our pool, I count each lap faithfully, and get annoyed if I feel I’ve lost count.  It was actually a depressing moment when I first learned that a lap is properly measured as two lengths of the pool, not one; I felt cheated, as if I had lost half the number I had accumulated.  And worse, it got harder to keep accurate count!

swim2

Because I alternate strokes after each lap—freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke—I have my own counting pattern: 1-1, 1-2, 2-1, 2-2, 3-1, 3-2, 4-1, 4-2, 5-1, 5-2…until I hit my goal, 20-2.  And then, while showering, I go over it in my head, trying to ensure I didn’t miscount.  Obsessive?

If you look up the word methodical in the dictionary, my picture will be there.

And so it is in conversations with other people.  I absolutely love when they stick to the topic, acknowledge what I’ve said before beginning their reply, listen politely when it’s my turn again, offer their further thoughts when I finish, and (I really must say it again) stick to the topic.

Because I’ve long been aware of this eccentricity of mine, it has occurred to me that it might be one of the reasons why, when I find myself in a social setting with several other people enjoying conversations with each other, I’m often the only one not directly engaged—a gadfly, as it were, flitting from eavesdropping here to overhearing there, nodding and smiling as if I were part of each exchange.

talking3

But never mind.  A plodder I may be in just about everything, but in writing I find my escape.  For some reason, it seems not to disturb me that I can ramble on, hither and yon, from the start of an essay to the end—likely confusing many readers as to my thesis, my conclusions, even my thinking (such as it is).

Granted, there is always a starting point for each piece; but I seldom know at the beginning where the end will be found, or on what grounds I will trespass as I look for it. Most of the time, I just stop writing when it seems best.

There is a lovely peace that steals over me, and a surcease of compulsive demands, when I hie myself off to write.  Perhaps my brain draws respite from its normally-plodding behaviours as I lay down on paper the thoughts jostling each other for escape.

writing3

Once there, however, those thoughts are fixed.  As Omar Khayyam wrote (according to Edward Fitzgerald’s 1859 translation)—

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

And so, here I shall stop for now.

Really? It Was the Dog?

“Honest, sir!  The dog ate my homework.”

In my youthful years as a grade seven teacher, I bet I heard that timeworn cliché from a student a dozen times.  My two daughters, themselves teachers now, tell me they, too, have heard the ridiculous excuse more than once.

Irony of ironies, then, that my youngest daughter recently tried to make that same claim, or one very similar, on her own behalf.  The girls were flying to New York City, with two friends, to celebrate the end of another school year.  My daughter’s airfare was paid by her older sister, a birthday gift, but they were on separate flights.

The night before, the younger gal was online, printing her boarding pass, when she was called away for a few minutes.  When she came back to her computer, she claims, she found her passport on the floor, mangled and torn by the family dog.

When such calamities strike, my daughter usually exhibits a good deal of forbearance (unlike her father), and so it was this time.

“It was my fault,” she told me later.  “I’m always telling the kids not to leave stuff lying around.  I can’t blame the dog.”

Upset, but undeterred, she set about to repair the damage, carefully piecing the torn pages together with transparent tape.  It was a well-used passport, lots of pages stamped from previous trips, and she hoped that fact would override any challenges she might face from border agents.  When closed, it looked almost normal; opened, however, not so much.

passport

As a seasoned traveler myself, I’ve had lots of experience with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.  These men and women have enormous authority to deny entry to their country, with no recourse to appeal for those turned away.  So, it’s a testament to my daughter’s charm, megawatt smile, and persuasive powers that she actually managed to convince the CBP agent in the pre-clearance area at the airport to approve her entry and stamp her passport.

Safely admitted to the lounge, she spent the next six hours dealing with repeated flight-delays and changes to boarding gates, wandering to and fro through the airport.  Unbelievably, her flight was eventually cancelled, the only alternative being a flight leaving early the following morning.  So, there she was, forced to go home overnight, before a pre-dawn taxi-ride back to the airport.

That, of course, meant another encounter with a tough-as-nails CBP agent, proffering the same mangled passport and same shaky story.

“Honest, sir!  The dog ate my passport!”

Wonder of wonders, that staunch defender of Trumpian immigration policy believed her, and she was once again granted entry.

The gals finally met up in the Big Apple later that morning, and proceeded to have the time of their lives for the next few days.  All the trouble was worth it, my daughter told me later.

“It was like one of those fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen.”

megan in nyc

On the final day, they were scheduled to fly home on the same flight.  But, when they arrived to check in, my daughter was denied permission to board the aircraft.

“Why?” she asked, dismayed and disbelieving.  “What’s the problem?”

“Your passport,” she was told.  “It’s not acceptable.  You should never have been let into the country.”

Despite pleading her case, using the fact of her Canadian citizenship as suitable reason to let her go home, she could not get on that plane.  My older daughter, in a gesture that brought tears to my eyes (although it was no surprise to me), refused to abandon her sister.  Their two friends reluctantly bade them farewell and left on their flight home, while my two girls—ever bright, assertive, and resourceful—plotted their next moves.

After a few face-to-face conversations with airline staff, and some phone calls, they were promised a refund for the cost of their flights (in the form of credits to be used within the next twelve months).  They booked a rental car, negotiating a reduced rate, and phoned their husbands to tell them they were driving to Buffalo.  My sons-in-law, gentlemen of the first order, immediately drove together to Buffalo to fetch their wives and bring them home.

Of course, the four of them had to clear Canadian border security on the return trip.  In my own experience, the agents with the Canada Border Services Agency are among the friendliest, most helpful, and welcoming to be found anywhere.  Not so this time, however.

The four travelers were pulled aside so my daughter could attempt to explain the sad state of her passport, and convince the skeptical CBSA people that she truly was a citizen, just trying to re-enter her home and native land.  After what must have seemed an interminable wait, she was finally granted permission—with a stern warning to replace the offending passport.  The girls (and their gallant guys) finally arrived home in the wee, small hours of the morning after they left the airport in New York City.

“Was it worth it?” I asked my daughters the next time I spoke with them.  “All that hassle?”

“For sure, Dad!  We had a blast!”  the older one replied.

“I agree,” her sister chimed in.  “The problems were really my fault, when you think about it.”

Far be it from me to point a finger of blame. But, when I do think about it, I agree with her.  That passport couldn’t have been damaged the way she said.

I mean, what kind of dog eats passports?  That’s the most ridiculous excuse I’ve heard since…well, since I was a teacher.

Dogs get a bad rap!

macca