Crossing the Border

A colleague of mine was recently on a road trip in Alabama. He was headed to a town north of Atlanta GA and stopped halfway for gas.

“Hey, you got a cat in there?” the guy next to him at the pump asked.

“Huh?” my colleague said.catintheengine

“There’s definitely a cat…open your hood,” the guy said.

Sure enough there was a kitten lying on top of the battery. It got up and scrambled into the engine somewhere. That’s when eight people tried for 45 minutes to rescue it, but it eluded them.

My colleague had a meeting he had to get to on time, so he closed the hood and kept driving.

Another 100 mcapturediles at 75-miles an hour he got to his hotel, and turned off the engine. He could hear the kitten crying. He drove to the local tire store where the guys spent a half hour taking the car apart, and after chasing a frantic kitten around the engine, they finally captured it.

That kitten deserves a medal for its bravery, tenacity and powerful will to live. One of the guys felt the same way. He took it home to his wife.

Calvin says, “Stupid cats. No dog in his right mind would travel like that.”  beagle

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The Cost of Mastery

Malcom Gladwell in his book, Outliers, wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Gladwell used well-known figures as his examples like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Beatles and J. Robert Oppenheimer, to name a few. However, most of us are not the Gates and popular musicians of the world.

We’re ordinary.

Which got me thinking. suffering

I wonder if 10,000 hours is true for airline pilots, surgeons, and clergy.

After all, these types are responsible for people’s lives, much more so than the examples in Gladwell’s book.

I wonder if pilots, surgeons and clergy realize how serious their jobs are.

Probably not, especially if they’re young.

Years ago I needed a surgeon and the man was pompous and verbose. He knew he was good. He was a young guru with magical hands.

Then I needed him again ten years later. I barely recognized him. He was overweight, still talkative, but this time he was humble. He told me he had slaved at the altar of success only to bring his marriage to the brink of divorce, that he had lost more patients than saved them, and that there was more to life than the surgery room.

I wonder if that’s true for pilots. After all, a jet is a jet, the controls are the same, and the view out the cockpit window at 30,000 feet pretty much looks the same everywhere. A flight attendant friend tells me that pilots are usually found at the hotel bar at the end of a shift. Most are divorced or living with unhappy wives. That’s scary.

And clergy? Just think of the problems they hear – the agonies, the failures, and the disappointments of their parishioners. The lapses in church attendance. The struggles with their own marriages and children. The need to preach relevant messages every week to congregations that don’t listen anyway.

Ten thousand hours for mastery? Is that all? I say you need a lifetime to be an expert in being human.

Calvin says, “Well, I’ve mastered being a beagle except you haven’t noticed lately.” beagle

 

 

A Reality Ride Home

Last week’s subway train was late pulling into the station. The crowd shoving to get on board reminded me of a stampede of cows racing down a hillside before an earthquake hit. A few stations later, a commotion between two people began at the back of the car.

“Don’t touch me!” a woman yelled to a man who had pushed his way onto the car.

“I didn’t touch you!” he screamed back.   Christmas2

“Yes you did! Don’t you touch me!” she bellowed back.

Their voices intensified as we traveled through the tunnel to the next station. At this point everyone was straining their necks watching them.

A reality show was unfolding before us.

Next the name calling began, followed by obscene language, and then tempers erupted.

I didn’t want to be witness to a homicide. I prayed. I asked God to calm them down. He did, but it only lasted until the next subway station. Then both parties detonated again.

“Don’t you remember they taught  you in kindergarten to keep your hands off of other people? Did you learn that?” the woman said.

The man said nothing. He drew a knife.  The woman screamed even louder.

The subway was now parked at the station.  Seconds later the police showed up and stepped on board. They handcuffed both parties and escorted them out of the station.

The rest of the ride home was in eerie silence.

Calvin says, “What they need are sniffer dogs to ferret out eruptions like they do drugs at airports. I’m game. I’ve had lots of practice.”  beagle

 

Due for Another One

At midnight last night four cop cars pulled up in front of my neighbor’s house across the street.

Alf was awake and watched from the bedroom window.

I like my police department. They have heart.  cropped-rubbed-my-tummy.jpg

They could have screeched their way into the neighborhood like they do in the movies with lights flashing and sirens screaming, but instead they crept in like silent ninjas.

Alf said it was their voices that caught his attention.

People, one by one, came out through the front door, with one man in handcuffs. The last person to leave was our next door neighbor. She crossed the street and went into her own house.

The cop cars left as quietly as they had arrived and the neighborhood fell silent again.

Even the birds had stopped chirping in the trees.

I was sound asleep so I missed the entire thing. Alf told me in the morning.

That explained why I dreamed cops were combing my front yard and looking behind every bush.

Wait. That happened several years ago and I was awake then.

Every few years we have some criminal activity and it always seems to end up in front of our house. We’ve had our share of car chases, and thieves and escaped criminals running through our backyard with cops and police dogs in hot pursuit.

I guess we were due for another incident.

Calvin says, “It’s thrilling when those German Shepherds strut their stuff. Makes me proud.”    beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heights Are for the Birds

My Los Angeles sister had a birthday this week and she wanted to take a balloon ride, so her husband organized one over Temecula. It seems that region now sprouts vineyards and beautiful landscapes. So they got up at the crack of dawn to be in the basket by 6:30. They were there with several other crazy people armed with bottles of champagne and off they went like Mary Poppins. She loved it.

I would have turned green and hung my head over the side and thrown up the entire time. I do that on boats, too. Balloon

I remember years ago taking a chairlift ride over a theme park with Alf and my children. My legs dangled from the seat and there was only a minuscule handlebar keeping me in.

There was too much sky and space around me.

I couldn’t look down.

I couldn’t look up.

Either direction made my stomach flip.

I had to keep looking straight ahead and pretend this was a bad dream that I’d soon wake up from.

Then it the middle of the ride, the chair stopped. The cable made loud, crunching noises. There I was suspended between earth and sky.

I began to perspire.

My hands locked onto the handlebar.

One of my flip-flops came off and sailed into the giraffe area.  While my children squealed with delight, I was having a panic attack.

The ride resumed with a jolt and continued on forever.

I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs that I wanted off! Nobody warned me this would be hazardous to my health. So I did the next best thing – I closed my eyes, took deep breaths, and visualized strangling the owners of the park. There should be warning signs in large letters before a person gets on one of these things. How do skiers do it? I know. They’re packed into parkas and boots for protection. Me? I was in shorts and sunglasses. More in keeping with a Margarita on the ground.

Calvin says, “I love heights. I can drool and fart to my heart’s content.” beagle

 

 

The Rumble Under My Feet

My sister, who lives in Los Angeles, was rocked awake this morning by a 4.4 earthquake.

“Our cats levitated off the bed, helicopter style, with fur on their backs straight up. Impressive!” she said.

Then she added, “Keep those emergency supplies well stocked! This is California!”

And Kentucky, and Oregon, and a slew of other states that are not immune these days from the earth moving under people’s feet.

I grew up in earthquake country.  Floorless roller coaster

I can sense an earthquake before it hits. There’s an eerie feeling in the air, and everything grows quiet. The birds stop chirping, the weather is warmer, and oftentimes a dark cloud hovers over the city.

Not sure if that was true of Los Angeles this morning, but I wasn’t there.

As a child, as soon as the floor began to rock and roll, my father would run into the living room and hold onto the crystal vases that lived on top of the bookshelf.

My mother hovered over the parakeet as the bird flapped around the cage panting it’s little heart out.

My sister and I looked on in wild-eyed amazement at the floor until it came to a stop.

I lived through the 1989 earthquake. I was home with my children. The garage door was open and Calvin and I were checking the freezer for dinner when all of a sudden the driveway transformed into a corkscrew roller-coaster track.

Calvin’s fur stood straight up, his ears flapped back, and he bayed. Then he fled into the house.

Calvin says, “I didn’t flee. I hid under the bed covers because I was dizzy.”

beagle

Not On My Watch

This morning on the subway ride to work I called the police.

A while back I had the presence of mind to add the police number to my cell phone just in case I ever needed it.

Today was the day.

Three men staggered into my car. An African-American and two Caucasians. The Caucasians looked like wild mountain men with long, unwashed hair, and straggly beards. They came on smoking pot. They huddled in the back two rows. One of the mountain men pulled out a Sharpie pen and began doodling on the window. Every other word was the F word for everyone to hear. All three wore hoodies and jeans.

Not a single man on board pulled out his cell phone to call this in. Nobody got up to tell the conductor. Instead everybody stared straight ahead, enduring the tension with a passive resignation.  photo (20)

Well, I was going to have none of it.

I dialed the police.

A woman dispatcher answered. I told her the problem. I answered her questions including identifying the car number we were on. She told me she’d report it.

Meanwhile new passengers came on at the intervening stations, sat with the three men until they realized they were crazy, and one by one  got up and moved to the other end of the car.

At the third stop a policeman came on board and blocked the doorway. He motioned for all three to get up and leave. They obeyed him like docile school children. The officer continued to stand in the doorway and asked for the person who called in to identify himself.

I raised my hand.

“Do you want to come out and make a citizen’s arrest?” he asked.

I pondered it for a few seconds. I thought that sort of thing went out with typewriters and cassette tape recorders. It certainly would add to my list of adventures. I could tell my grandchildren, and even blog about it.

“You handle it,” I said.

It was cold and the problem was off the train.

Thank God for cell phones and no-nonsense police officers.

Calvin says, “Wow, what chutzpah. From now on I will hold you with new respect.” beagle