Traveling With Technology, Baby Boomer Edition

Traveling With Technology, Baby Boomer Edition

After several delays, we were able to travel to Denver this past weekend and see the Eagles, the quintessential Baby Boomer band, on their Hotel California tour. They play the entire album, and then two more hours of their greatest hits. This was our first trip in the age of Covid, but we decided the safety protocols on the airline and at the concert venue were in place, so off we went. I also decided to use as much technology as possible on this one. This had some comical results.

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

Let’s start with all of the uses for your smart phone. I actually decided mine wasn’t so smart on this trip. It started with trying to download our boarding passes for the airline. They sent QR codes, not regular passes on the airline app. This didn’t work. So I went back to paper copies, which always work. Paper is reliable and doesn’t have internet disruptions, or user errors. Hooray that we can still use it!

We also needed our phones to check into the hotel, which went fine. But the room keys didn’t work as stated. They said we needed to use them to access our floor. I tried waving mine, swiping it, waving it again, and finally gave up. We sat in the elevator on the lobby floor until another older couple showed us you had to hold the key next to a round thing. No instructions for that! I paid this forward and rescued two other couples later in the day. They were very grateful. It’s one thing to stand in front of a sink where the water won’t turn on, or the paper towels won’t come out, waving your wrinkly old hands. Much more embarrassing on an elevator.

Next we had a question for the front desk. I picked up the landline and looked for the Front Desk button. Nowhere to be found. There were buttons for the closed restaurant, housekeeping, an outline, and gallery host. Tried them all, and none worked. Went to the lobby and they told me they are the gallery hosts. Not a gallery in site, but alrighty. But when a Boomer can’t figure out your landline, there is something really wrong with your phones.

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Next, we encountered the QR code problem. We found lots of outdoor seating options, but the restaurants in downtown Denver all use QR codes for you to access their menus. Most don’t even own paper copies. Our lovely server at the first restaurant tried to help us, but we have androids and she has always had Apple phones. Their website menu was out of date. We finally ordered burgers and they were fine. And we had to handle the check by ourselves with a small computer. Doesn’t anyone over 60 go out to eat there? This whole process took way too long.

Undeterred, we next decided to use a ride app to practice using one before the Saturday concert. Why have I just started using them? Well, we usually rent a car when we travel. But they are so over priced at the moment, we didn’t. So enter our use of the apps.

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We found a place to go, and I accessed the Lyft app to find a driver. It was easy to enter our hotel address, and our destination. Then I saw the name Scooter pop up, with a low price, and thought I was choosing our driver. I also thought that was the perfect name for a driver, and started clicking buttons. Luckily I soon figured out the Scooter option was for actual scooters- the electric ones you see all over. They are cheap because you rent them and drive them by yourself. Good grief, no. But I found a real driver and we made our first trip. Easy, peasy.

Photo by Sebastiaan Stam on Pexels.com

When it came time for the concert, I felt like a pro. We had used both Uber and Lyft, and knew to check each for the best deal. So we got our ride to the concert arena, and had to use my hubby’s phone where the tickets were stored to get in. No way we could split them up, so he scanned the first one, and then the second. The turnstyle would only let him through, so I was told to hurry through at the same time. My skirt got got on the rod, and let’s just say it was weird and a bit of a show for the people behind me. Good grief.

After the concert ( it was fabulous by the way- go see them if you can), we knew to wait awhile before ordering our ride to the hotel so that prices would come down. And we did get a better deal by waiting. They even had a designated area for Uber and Lyft pick ups. At the end of the night, I felt downright Millenial in my ability to use the apps. No more scooter mistakes for me!

As we made our way home through the Denver airport, I was struck by the long lines and size of the place. It is under construction, and they are adding a lot more automation- not only will you tag your own bags, they will be weighed and sent to the plane without a human touching them for quite awhile. Gate agents will only be checking id’s and boarding passes. This is opening in November, so be aware if you fly there. And don’t pack anything too valuable in your checked luggage!

As we were riding an escalator to the terminal train, I noticed an advertisement for bitcoin. I looked up a definition and it mentioned “vitual” and “crypto” currency. It is the subject of numerous court cases, which have ruled it is a currency and subject to regulation by the SEC. But it seems a bit like the wild, wild west in the way it is being used. So I plan to stick with my old fashioned dollars and cents, and sincerely hope we can can use them without interruption for the foreseeable future. I need to figure out QR codes before I learn more about this mysterious money!

You’ve Heard Of “Karen”? Let’s Add “Kurt” To The List Of Obnoxious People

You’ve Heard Of “Karen”? Let’s Add “Kurt” To The List Of Obnoxious People

One of the most puzzling derogatory nicknames of recent memory is the use of the name Karen and the numerous stories about her in the internet. A common definition of its current use is as follows: a pejorative term for women who feel entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is normal. (Wikipedia- a source I never allowed my college students to use, but this is a blog, so why not?). I think Karen needs a male counterpart, and I am naming him Kurt. More about him later.

Photo by Teona Swift on Pexels.com

First, I must mention that I have friends and family members named Karen, and they are delightful people and nothing like the common use of the name now. I was curious about how this all got started and there isn’t a definitive answer. One suggestion was that the 2004 movie Mean Girls had a character named Karen. But that was long before this use became common. One of the most plausible answers I found was that a meme showed up in 2016 after Nintendo ran an add that mentioned “Antisocial Karen” who always brought her Nintendo Switch to parties. This seems more likely to me, so we will go with it for this post. As someone who had to do precise research and writing with academic/legal sources, I find the ability to use whatever definition I like on my blog a wonderful thing. But I digress.

Over time, Antisocial Karen got shortened to just Karen. The best photo depicting her I could find on my free Pexels account is above- she is older than the original Karen, but it has no age limit. She is the type of person who demands instant service wherever she goes, and asks to see the manager if anything is not up to her standards. In the photo above, Karen does not like the look of those birthday brownies one bit. In fact, she hates them. And she doesn’t want her picture taken. Even if she made the brownies, they are not up to her standards.

My research also found Karens referred to as entitled forty something soccer moms with short blonde hair, and a white woman walking her dog in New York who called the police because a Black man was sitting on a bench near her. Sitting for pete’s sake. She didn’t just want to speak to a manager. She wanted to speak to the police manager. For Karens of any age, if something shocks them they are referred to as “clutching their pearls”. If they are from the South, they could also be saying ” I do declare”. You get the idea.

While there is some humor in all of this, I think it is very unfair to limit the meme to women. Haven’t we all had some interactions with less than pleasant guys? So I think Karen needs a male counterpart, and I am calling him Kurt.

Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava on Pexels.com

Let’s use the photo above as our prototypical Kurt. He is a guy who doesn’t just mow his lawn, he sculpts it. He has multiple lawn mowers, edgers, leaf blowers, spreaders, and the biggest garage he can afford to hold all of his equipment. No riding mowers for Kurt- he likes the old fashioned push type. He mows at least twice a week, especially if one of his next door neighbors has done so. He uses an edger and cuticle scizzors for the small spots the edger can’t reach. His driveway is regularly cleaned, and he caulks it annually. He is outside all the time when he is home.

Kurt is the type of guy who takes up way too much room on public transportation, even when others are left standing. Mansplaining is also a problem. This happens when a man explains something in a patronizing manner to a woman. When author Janay Kingsberry asked her Instagram followers to send her examples of this, she got over 200 responses. Two of my favorites- a male client telling his experienced female trial attorney how a trial worked, and a man telling a woman that childbirth doesn’t hurt. http://www.thelily.com. You can’t make this stuff up.

Kurt may not ask to see the manager as much because he spends so much time in his yard, but he likes to lurk on neighborhood apps and post replies to every topic. He is an expert on several. He also doesn’t have any pearls to clutch, but he is grouchy. He spends a lot of time in his front yard pulling weeds and lets out loud sighs and groans with regularity. If you walk by with a dog on a leash but without a bag to pick up their waste, you will get a loud double groan, followed by a sigh. If you live in a neighborhood with covenants that govern property appearance and upkeep, Kurt is the guy you want on that committee. You might as well have him there because he is going to report all of the violations anyway.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels.com

I think we also need a subgroup of Kurts for older guys. Retired Kurt likes to do yoga in his backyard and needs silence to do it. He also loves to keep his lawn in tip top shape, but hires some of it out. This gives him a chance to supervise the lawn staff with great gusto, which he misses from his managerial working days. He plans to take up Tai Chi in the near future, and will require even more quiet time from his neighbors to do so. He has insomnia and tends to be up very late at night, monitoring his new security cameras, especially the one in his doorbell. Have a break in or property destruction at your house? Retired Kurt just might have a video you can give to the authorities.

So there you have it- my take on the state of entitled people that walk among us. Maybe we can get Kurt to trend along with Karen if we encounter obnoxious guys. Or not. Either way, I had a lot of fun writing this and trying to get some equality going in the world of memes.

Playing Competitive Sports- The Good, The Bad, And The Funny

Playing Competitive Sports- The Good, The Bad, And The Funny

The summer of 2021 provided a lot of sports to follow for those who are so inclined, from the Tokyo Olympics to local baseball and swimming. As someone who has played competitive sports most of my life, I think this is a good time to reflect on the good, not so good, and funny aspects of these endeavors.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

I learned to play tennis at the ripe old age of five, and participated in my first tournament at age six. Although the equipment was very different ( racquets were made of wood), I remember being about the same height as the net. So the above photo from Pexels media fits.

Everything was fun- I liked the sport, you only played in the summer, and lots of kids my age learned to play at the same time. Tournaments were very low key, and we were all fairly evenly matched. This continued until middle school, when you moved on to more practicing and tournaments if you were progressing in the sport. Eventually, it included travelling around the Midwest to more competitive play, but remained a good experience.

There were occasional glimpses into the less desirable aspects of kids sports- over zealous parents, kids who broke rackets on the court, and some cheating. But overall, it was a good activity from my point of view. Especially since Title IX hadn’t come around, so school sponsored competitive sports for girls were non-existent.

The funniest thing that happened to me was the time I was playing in a tournament out of town and I got a fly stuck in my ear during a singles match. You can’t take breaks other than to switch sides on the court, so my “fly in the ear” issue could have made me default and lose the match. Luckily, the tournament director took pity on me, and let me get it out. This involved lots of jumping around, shaking my head, and some tweezers. And I managed to finish, and win, the match.

My next phase of competitive sports was as a parent, and this started with micro soccer for my kids. Micro is for 4-6 year olds, and is played on a short field, without goalies. The kids can run, kick the ball, and shoot at will. No score is kept, and all of the players get a chance to play.

The above photos sum it up pretty well- varying levels of participation is the norm. Some kids run all over, some never move. If you have a very reluctant player, parents can take the child on the field and swing them like a pendulum so that their feet connect with the ball. And some kids sit out the entire time, or decide to play goalie even though there aren’t supposed to be any.

If you want to pursue soccer and play in high school or beyond, you have to switch to try out teams and year round playing by about fifth grade. This is true of other team sports, but I am most familiar with soccer.

The select teams and year round play weren’t my favorite thing, and it has only gotten more serious and competitive since my kids were young. I think playing a variety of sports is better than hyper focusing at such a young age. But if you want the best coaching, it tends to be on the select teams. And keeping kids physically active, and away from electronics, has some merit.

There were fun and funny aspects to some of the soccer games and tournaments. At one game, when my daughter was about 12, we were playing in a nearby city on a cloudy afternoon. Sitting with our team’s parents, I noticed the opposing parents arriving late, and several of them had large coolers on wheels. I thought they really went all out and brought food and drinks for their team.

Au contraire, naive soccer mom. The coolers were full of beer- tall boys to be exact- and by the end of the match many of the other team’s parents were well lubricated. And as the match ended, it started to rain. Two of the more colorful dads on the other team decided to start wrestling in the middle of the field, which quickly turned to mud. A teachable moment for ourgirls.

The other most memorable time was at a tournament in Kansas City. Our coach was in charge of two teams- ours and a group of younger girls, so we all stayed at the same hotel. They offered free breakfast and cocktails each evening, so what’s not to love? At the first night’s free cocktails, some of the moms on the second team decided to do cartwheels in the bar. The girls were there, and thought this was embarrassing but funny.

Some of the moms on our team, yours truly included, weren’t drinking, but decided to try some cartwheels too. But we went to our floor, and tried this in the hallway. It didn’t go too well. Let’s just say the center of gravity had shifted for all of us, who were in our 40’s at the time. So partial cartwheels were all we could muster, and I am being generous calling them partial. As luck would have it, our daughters came upon us trying to do this. They all thought we were inebriated when we really were just old and a bit pudgy. Thankfully, this was before smart phones and videos.

My adult years in sports started with some women’s tennis teams that were part of a program throughout the country sponsored by the USTA. This offered great competition, and if you won at the local level, you could play regionally and nationally. I enjoyed the first few years, but eventually the competition really got out of hand.

Cheating was rampant the closer you got to qualifying for the regional event. This was done through bad line calls- yelling “out” when a ball was clearly in. It topped anything I ever encountered in my younger days, including playing in college. Something about getting those crystal paper weights shaped like tennis balls as prizes turned several women into nasty opponents. So between that and several injuries, I gave up the game and switched to golf. I know better than to play golf for anything other than fun, so no stories about competition gone awry there.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

My current competitive sport is pickleball. It is a recent sport, developed by older folks, who still want to play a racket sport but need some adaptations. So it is played on a smaller, modified version of a tennis court, with large plastic balls, and a small racket that resembles a ping pong paddle. Games are usually doubles, and the first team to 11 points wins. It is great exercise and easy to learn.

But like all sports there are some interesting things that happen, especially if Baby Boomers are involved. Outside of cities that have lots of retired folks (like Phoenix), games are co-ed. This creates some awkward moments when some of the older guys assume they are better players than all of the older women. This leads to lots of unsolicited advice about strokes and strategy.

I can usually hold my own with the guys since it is very similar to tennis, but the advice still rears its head occasionally. I used to ignore it, but have now developed the perfect comeback- “That’s interesting. I’ll let you know if I need any help”. The other way to nip it in the bud is to win a few points by myself.

I avoided learning to play pickleball for quite awhile because I thought the name was so strange. But once I took it up, I found it to be great exercise and one of the most inexpensive hobbies around. It’s also way more fun than a treadmill or exercise class, so I usually play several times a week.

I plan to play golf and pickleball for as long possible. Even with the occasional three putt at golf or missed shots on the pickleball court, these are great hobbies that keep me out of trouble in my retired years. But I’ve only been retired for 15 months, so there’s still time for some strange things to happen. I’ll save those for a future post!

2021 Technology And Other Things Our Elders Would Find Amusing

2021 Technology And Other Things Our Elders Would Find Amusing

Being raised in the agricultural part of the Midwest gives you an appreciation for wide open spaces, stewardship of resources, and farmers who work very hard to produce crops and livestock to feed the world. Regular blog readers will know that my parents were raised on farms in western Iowa, and three of my four grandparents were as well. Our roots here are deep, dating from the 1850’s. I was raised in a large city close to the farms, but I have relatives who still live there or in the small towns nearby.

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My grandparents lived on their farms until they were in their later years. As is the custom, they “moved to town” and relatives did the farm work. I saw them frequently, and other than my maternal grandfather, they lived long lives. I don’t think their generation ever had a name. Their children, however, were part of the Greatest Generation that came of age during the Depression and World War II. My parents lived and worked in the city, but remained very connected to their rural roots. Both generations were used to limited resources and periods of hardship, being very attuned to the weather, and limited modern conveniences. I frequently think that they would find things we experience regularly in 2021 as strange, funny, or both. So here’s my list.

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

Weather– this is great place to start, because farmers follow the weather closely since their livelihood depends on it. Our local tv stations still focus on the weather a lot because of our location. But most of their forecasts are wrong, and would probably get a chuckle from the elders.

Let’s start with naming weather events and winter storms. This has happened a lot in recent years. I have learned what derecho is (basically a bad wind storm). We have also had winter storm names for about 10 years, courtesy of The Weather Channel. Anybody remember Snowstorms Abigail, Billy or Constance from 2020? Me neither.

I think my elders would have found all of this strange, and a little silly. In the Midwest, we have winter storms. Lots of them. They can occur anytime from October to April. Sometimes we get a lot of snow, and wind that creates large snow drifts. We don’t name these events, but we do occasionally remember a really bad storm by its year- The Blizzard of ’52. That could be 1852 or 1952- these tend to live in infamy. To get a year of remembrance, it has to be really, really bad- several feet of snow, huge drifts that close roads, and being home bound for days.

The other thing they might have found amusing is the “wind chill factor”. My elders would have layered up or down depending on what the weather was like, and it really didn’t matter how cold it was. The work had to be done regardless. Cold is cold, and in January and February this isn’t much a surprise. Bundle up and head out the door.

What did they rely on? They had rain gauges, outdoor thermometers, and windmills. Radio stations gave a lot of weather information. And don’t forget the Farmer’s Almanac-still in print and probably as accurate as some of our local tv forecasts, which are notoriously wrong. This in spite of super duper 4d doppler radar. They do well with severe weather as it is occurring- but forecasts? Not so much.

All of this has created a strange mix of skepticism and panic among the locals in the winter. If you live in a city, it’s pretty rare to be home bound by the weather in 2021, but there is something in the dna of most of us that creates a rush to the grocery store if any snow is predicted. Add in Covid shortages and it was survival of the fittest getting bread, milk and the holy grail of toilet paper last winter.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Technology- fancy watches that are basically a computer on your arm would have been a true wonder for the elders. Their telephones didn’t arrive until the 1930’s, and were party lines since they lived in the country. No need for social media when you can just pick up the phone and eavesdrop! They found radio broadcasts and eventually television entertaining, but anything beyond that was a bridge too far.

The first technology I tried to introduce to my parents was a VCR in the 1990’s. They had grandkids visiting who wanted to watch videos, and I thought they would find it helpful. It didn’t quite work out that way- even with step by step written directions, they couldn’t get it to work unless one of said grandchildren was there to help. When we sold their house in the mid 2000’s the VCR was still there, flashing “12:00”, connected to an ancient tv in the basement. But they did try.

In fairness I should mention that my mom learned to use email in her later years. She never mastered initiating one, but she was able to reply and that was useful to stay in touch with far flung children and grandkids as they went off to college. The speed of her computer was a challenge since a dial up modem was her preferred connection to the internet for many years. But we got that changed at some point, and it worked pretty well.

The things we do with all of our technology would have been a surprise as well. I think endless selfies and pictures of food that is about to be eaten would rank as the two of the most curious photos that are shared on social media. I also find these amusing, so that is probably an indication that I am in the elder years now too. But I do have Twitter and Snapchat accounts, and I even know what Tik Tok is, although I doubt I will ever post a video unless Geriatric Tik Tok becomes a thing.

Other Stuff-The immediacy of everything would also have been a surprise. There wasn’t any fast food or meal prep delivery, so meals took time to prepare and were almost always eaten at home. Farm wives also knew how to cook for a crowd since it was expected when hired help was around.

Newspapers were powerful vehicles for communicating, and fortunes were built from their ownership. The idea that someday they wouldn’t be mailed or delivered to your door wouldn’t have occurred to them.

I think the lack of civility and being a good neighbor that seems prevalent today wouldn’t just surprise them, it would probably make them sad too. In order to survive in our harsh weather, farming communities have always been among the most helpful and friendly. Long before Go Fund Me and Meal Train websites, my elders helped anyone in need that they knew about.

This continued when we moved to the city where I still live. There were only 300,000 people in Omaha when I was born the 1950’s. According to the most recent census, we are nearing 1million. That is getting too large for me, but I like the fact that there are still a lot of small town traditions that carry on.

On the local news recently, there was a story about 10,000 donated backpacks filled with school supplies for children in need. When the pandemic closed city swimming pools last summer, a local donor paid to open them. Food banks and local churches have been doing heroic work as families continue to struggle with the effects of the Covid pandemic. This sense of community and generosity is so common here I think we take it a bit for granted. I hope it never goes away.

So how will technology affect us in the future? What will happen when the drone delivers dinner to our front doors, and we can’t find the family robot to retrieve it? I think it’s safe to say there are inventions on the horizon that we will find curious and amusing. Hopefully our children and grandchildren will keep their Boomer elders up to speed as we learn the new fangled things that become essential to everyday life. And as a Facebook post I once saw said, they should always have patience and keep in mind that we once taught them all how to use a spoon!

Interesting Coworkers

Interesting Coworkers

As people head back to the office after working at home, I thought this would be a good time to reminisce about interesting coworkers I have encountered over the years. From the early days working during high school and college, to the really interesting years as a college professor, I give you a veritable who’s who of my working colleagues.

Photo by Gary Barnes on Pexels.com

My first paid position was working as a waitress at a local restaurant called King’s Food Host. It was an early fast food chain in the Midwest known for its burgers and malts. In addition to waitress work, I also made some of the food on the weekends. My coworkers were primarily teenagers, and we had a good time working together. Our manager, who had just started dating his future wife, wasn’t around much. So we had free reign as long as the customers were taken care of and we cleaned up at the end of the day. We also wore lovely teal polyester pantsuits as our uniform. Ugly, but sturdy.

When things were slow, we had time to chat and make ourselves food. One favorite activity was putting candy bars in the malt machine and making new flavors. There was a boyfriend/girlfriend pair of workers who ducked into the cooler periodically for some private time. Occasional water fights between the dishwashers. But overall a fun place to work.

Other part time jobs followed: more waitressing, a photography studio, and teaching tennis lessons. The photo studio and tennis lessons were fun and pretty stress free. The waitressing was at a Pizza Hut, and it was the low point of my part time jobs- low pay, low tips and low morale among the workers. But one group always seemed to be smiling, and that was the cooks. The only perk of the job was taking home a free pizza at the end of the night. I found out later the cooks laced their pizzas with marijuana every night. No wonder they were very protective of their food, and ever so mellow on the job.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

None of this prepared me for the workplace after law school. My first job was at bank, and it included a lot time crunching numbers, drafting documents and reviewing regulations. There weren’t a lot of women in professional level jobs, and all of the senior executives were men old enough to be my dad. You could smoke at your desk, and there were a lot of smokers in my department. Really kind of a Mad Men atmosphere, but in the 80’s. The only fun part of the day was going to lunch, and that hour went by way too quickly. I kept a jar of jelly beans on my desk, along with a recipe card. Combine a coconut, with a pineapple and it was a pina colada. Other than that, it was a keep your head down, don’t ask too many questions kind of place.

None of these experiences prepared me for my years working at a college. Academia has a well earned reputation for having shall we say “quirky” folks working there. It is well earned. Here are a few of my favorites. No names are mentioned, but work friends will recognize some of them.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Let’s start with adminsitrative assistants. My first week at the college, with only two weeks until classes started, was very hectic. The admin assistant I shared with other faculty split her time between two buildings. She left me some office supplies, and then went to the other building. I rarely saw her after that. She somehow managed to always be en route to the other building when you needed her. She also had a knack for snagging things she needed, like the window air conditioner in my office, and installing it in hers. I couldn’t prove it, but I knew it was her. She had some foot issues, so she used a cane. This didn’t stop her from being amazingly shifty and hard to find.

She was supposed to work from 8 am- 5 pm, but frequently claimed to be coming in at 6 am, which no one could verify, and then leaving by 3. She had a great affinity for two older science professors who never really learned to use their computers. She liked to do their typing, and make them coffee, and they were happy to monopolize her time.

One day, she was asked to go into a messy office left by another professor who was gone for the summer, and clean out his file cabinet. Offices were being renovated, and it had to be done. When she opened the middle file drawer, she found a long deceased mouse family. After a loud scream, she somehow pulled the cabinet over, and it landed on her good foot. This unfortunate accident lead to a worker’s compensation claim, months of rehab, and ultimately her early retirement.

Two other interesting assistants- one unique character who wore blue rubber gloves every day. This was long before Covid. Her reason? She claimed to be allergic to paper. I did a google search and can’t find any indication this is a legitimate allergy, but if it is, working as an admin assistant doesn’t make much sense. The other was a long time assistant who was being let go for what appeared to be legitimate reasons, and decided to yell about it on her way out of the building. And I mean yell. Years later I heard that she may have been working under an assumed name due to some type of legal problems in her family.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

But I am saving my all time favorites for last- the IT department, and accounts payable. I have a photo of an empty room above because that was a common occurrence when trying to teach. Somehow, access to the Internet, and having everything function properly in our classrooms, was an ongoing challenge. As a small school one would think this would be avoidable. A typical problem- I remember one day trying to play a dvd on the new desktop computer in class. I also had the monitor displayed on the screen in the room. I had used this DVD numerous times, and nothing seemed to be working. I tried calling the “emergency” IT number, and no one answered. No surprise there. Mercifully, a student came in late who said another professor had the same issue, and she knew what to do- press the icon on the screen that looked like an orange traffic cone. I did, and voila! The dvd popped up. Because nothing says “click here to play a DVD” like an orange traffic cone!

And last but not least, getting a bill paid or reimbursement for a work expense. The long time occupant of this job was so unpleasant, I nicknamed her Ms. Congeniality. My first skirmish with her was after attending a conference out of town. I turned in my bill for four days of breakfast at the hotel. The bill just said “breakfast”. She refused to pay it because it wasn’t itemized, and there could have been alcohol on the bill. Alrighty. Duly noted. She once threw a check at a colleague. Several staff members refused to deal with her. There was also a huge lead time for any check to be written, and holidays (campus and her vacation days) really added to it. So if you needed any checks written between October 1st and January 15th, you needed to get your request and detailed documentation in by about the first week of September. I am not making this up.

Luckily, I had the good fortune to work with some excellent admin assistants during my last few years, and the college started using credit cards for conference payments and most expenses. Admin assistants could make the charges for faculty, and help with the documentation. It was a wonderful way to avoid the previous unnecessary stress.

If you are working from home, heading back to school or the office, or are happily retired, I hope you have enjoyed this trip down coworker memory lane, and had a few laughs along the way.

Dating In The 70’s, 90’s and Beyond

Dating In The 70’s, 90’s and Beyond

I recently watched the classic teen dating movie, Grease, as an afternoon’s entertainment. It gave me the idea for this week’s blog post about dating over the decades, and how it has changed. I couldn’t find any free photos of the movie or the cast, so some others will have to suffice this week. But who can forget the fabulous outfits Olivia Newton John wore, or the classic songs like Summer Nights?

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I will start with dating in the 70’s, since that is the decade during my teen years. In junior high, which was grades 7 and 8, the idea of having boyfriends started to materialize. It usually consisted of telling your friends you liked someone, word got back to the someone you liked, and then they might call you on the phone. Boys were the only ones who did the calling in those quaint times. And they used those colorful landlines we had on our houses, when only one person could be on them at a time. This limited time talking on the phone, and any budding relationships didn’t amount to much.

The next phase was meeting people you liked at the local skating rink on Friday night, or at a movie at the mall. Our local rink, called Skateland, was full every weekend with junior high aged kids from all over town. Skating to “couples” songs was popular, and it was the only way you would see any potential boyfriends that didn’t go to your school. As for movies, the main one I remember seeing was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were at their most dashing, and our six theatre location at the mall played it every weekend for a couple of years. I think I saw it about 30 times, mostly with female friends, but there were boys in the auditorium, so we counted that as a social outing with the opposite sex.

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Fast forward to high school, and the real dating began. There were lots of customs and family rules about dating- many girls, myself included, weren’t supposed to date anyone until we were 16. Boys were still the ones who called girls. Even if you had a boyfriend, the boy was still the only one who called. And unless you had the coveted “teenline” phone, you still had to limit your conversations. This was very constraining for those of us at all girl high schools because you didn’t see your boyfriends at school.

The main social activities were sporting events, like football and basketball games that the all male high schools had, and dances hosted by various schools. My all girl high school used the money raised at dances to pay for prom that we hosted during our junior year. We had live bands, and usually a very good turnout, so they were profitable. The bands didn’t look much like the one below, but that is best photo I could find.

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At least one funny story of course- my dad was always willing to pick my friends and me up from dances at midnight. Did I appreciate this? Not really. Too self centered and focused on the dance. And I was horrified one night to come out of the gym as the dance ended to find my 60 year old father in the lobby of the school, wearing a long winter coat, Russian style fur cap, and unzipped, black rubber boots, which he called “galoshes”. He was reading something on a bulletin board. I kind of motioned to him that we were ready to leave and ran outside.

Fast forward to my children’s preteen and teen years. This was before cell phones and social media, but the dating terminology had all changed. I remember when my oldest was about 12 and she said some of her friends were “going out” with boys in her class. I was really caught off guard by this. To Boomer parents, going out meant you were at least 16, and a boy picked you up in a car, was required to speak to your parents, and you actually went somewhere. I thought that parents of fifth graders were driving their kids on dates, and frankly that they had lost their minds. What was the rush?

Eventually I figured out this meant that a girl liked a boy, and usually the boy liked the girl, but this wasn’t always the case. I think sometimes a girl liked a certain boy, and she told her female friends about it, so they considered them to be “going out”. The boy may not have known, so an entire relationship could begin and end without him being involved. But at least they weren’t actually dating.

When they did start dating, the old rules of only boys calling went by the wayside, which was probably good. I did have some boy moms tell me that there were girls who called their sons way too much, but for the most part it was all pretty normal stuff. High school had its challenges with keeping track of everyone, but cell phones came into play during those years, so at least we had a way to communicate, assuming they left them turned on.

And finally, dating in the new millennium, after the internet changed all the rules. Now single people looking for dates had online options galore- there were services based on psychological tests, interests, religion, geographic location and occupation ( Farmersonly.com), and on and on.

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Although I have never experienced online dating, I have friends who have done so in their fifties and sixties. Of course there are sites just for this age group, but they aren’t fool proof. I had a friend who was recently divorced who joined a dating site. She posted her profile, and got several “matches” right away, but didn’t respond immediately. A couple of nights later, she had insomnia and pulled up her profile just in time to see one of her matches delete her at 3 am. It was weird to say the least. I had another friend who told me tales of agreeing to meet online dating possibilities for a drink, only to discover they looked nothing like their profile photos. And a third friend waited for a potential date at a bar and he was late. When he finally arrived, he spent the entire time talking about his ex wife and re-arranging his prosthetic ear. She could deal with the ear, but not in combination with the too recent divorce.

Luckily, I also know of many happy matches that have been made online, and this applies to all ages. It is one of the better aspects of the internet. Plus, with social media, you can find out a lot about a person online before you ever agree to meet in person.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down the memory lane of dating. I wonder what it will be like for our grandkids’ generation- virtual dances? Speed dating on Zoom? Time will tell. I hope they have fun, and also have time for some old fashioned dances and afternoon movies. Those really were the best of times.

P.S.- I will be taking a summer break from blogging and plan to be back in mid August. Have a fabulous rest of the summer!

Advice From A Professional Nap Taker

Advice From A Professional Nap Taker

Sleep, glorius sleep. We need it to survive, and the amount we get has been the subject of medical studies for years. Ask any parent, especially a first time one with a newborn, what they think about the most, and sleep ( both theirs and the baby’s) will be near the top of the list. As someone who takes a lot of naps, I thought I’d share my advice, and of course some humor, about the subject.

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Some interesting research on the subject of sleeping, and naps. A third of all Americans take a daily nap, with the number rising to 52% for those over 80. Research shows that naps can improve memory when studied in a lab setting. To “nap well”, experts recommend taking them in the early afternoon, for about half an hour to avoid interfering with your nighttime sleep. Interestingly, the Pew Research Center and CDC also report that 10-30% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia.

My relationship with napping goes back to age three and my aversion to taking them- Long before I was a Nana, I was pretty funny is my first blog post that includes a humorous story about it. As a kid, I remember being full of energy and happily busy- tennis, music and dance lessons, Girl Scouts, playing with friends, and family gatherings. As an extrovert with a capital E, I enjoyed everything I could be involved in. The busier, the better.

A major change to this started in high school, a few weeks before graduation. My activities were numerous, and I also had a part time job at a local restaurant ( Kings Food Host for any Nebraska natives reading this), and was happily looking forward to a fun summer before starting college in the fall. A scratchy throat and being more tired than usual didn’t change my schedule much, but by early June I was in the hospital with a nasty case of mono, where I stayed for a week. The rest of the summer was a lot of staying home, resting, and not having any energy.

I started taking regular naps that summer and continued when school started in the fall. They were really a necessity, and I can honestly say that I never got my pre-mono energy back. Not just that summer, but ever. So my professional napping was underway, to be developed and refined over the years to come.

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A couple of funny stories about my naps. First, I took a fairly long snooze on a congressman’s couch. Not as nefarious as it sounds! A friend was the chief of staff for our congressional representative, and I was visiting the Capitol Building while he worked there. My usual afternoon, I really need to sleep time occurred, so the friend offered the couch in the office. Luckily, the congressman was not in Washington at the time. But a fun story nevertheless.

Another time I was in dire need of an afternoon nap, and I decided to squeeze one in before I picked up my grade school aged children from school. This was in the days of landlines, so I turned the ringer off to avoid being awakened. I underestimated how long I would sleep, and to my horror woke up about 45 minutes after I should have been there. I quickly called the school office and the lovely secretary, Pat, was glad to hear I was alive. When the girls weren’t picked up, she had arranged for another mother ( and neighbor) to bring them home, called my mom and spouse, and was waiting to hear from them if I was ok. I walked outside just in time for said neighbor, my mom, and spouse all to arrive in my driveway at the same time. It was the only time I missed a pick up in decades of parenting, but it has grown in legend over the years when my kids tell the tale.

Fast forward to my late thirties, and my need for naps increased exponentially. I told my doctors about the crushing fatigue, but they usually blamed it on parenting young kids, working part time and having a very full schedule. Luckily, I finally got a diagnoses of fibromyalgia and some relief from a rheumatologist. I don’t have as much of the muscle soreness as many people do, but the fatigue portion of the illness is very prevalent. They recommend avoiding caffeine and naps, but increasing aerobic activity, which is counterintuitive if you are exhausted. The only prescription that offers any relief for me is a low dose muscle relaxant. They also recommended a sleep study, where I found out that I also had sleep apnea.

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So what’s a tired person to do with all of this information? Get checked for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Listen to your docs, use what works for you, and adapt the rest. I do get aerobic exercise, but I still drink caffeine, and take lots of naps. I find the CDC info above to be too limiting- thirty minutes just isn’t enough time for a decent nap in my book. I find at least an hour beneficial. Take advantage of any space you can find for your rest- the napper in the above photo is living her best life by taking a nap while studying. Kudos to her. Avoiding caffeine in the evening is a good idea, but if you need some earlier in the day to function, have at it! If you snore, get tested for sleep apnea and use the cpap machine or dental appliance they recommend. They work wonders. And ignore anyone who doesn’t understand your need for extra rest, especially if you have one of the aforementioned chronic illnesses. The old adage of “you don’t look sick” comes to mind, and is utterly useless and dismissive.

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I will close with a funny story from a vacation. Two years ago, I went on the bucket list trip of a lifetime to Ireland, land of many of my maternal ancestors. I spent a year planning the trip, and made all of the arrangements myself. Between Trip Advisor, some Irish cousins, and a tour guide book my husband and I were set for what turned out to be a fabulous journey. I decided to book seats on Aer Lingus for the overseas flights, and got a great deal on the tickets. Off we went, arriving in Dublin on time with all of our luggage.

After sailing through customs, I was really congratulating myself on my planning skills, and even more so as we sailed through the streets of Dublin quickly and got to our first hotel. Somewhere on that cab ride it occurred to me why our tickets were so reasonable, and why everything went so fast. We landed at 6 am local time. The photo above shows the River Liffey in Dublin at dawn, about the time we arrived. No wonder there weren’t very many people in the international terminal at the airport. And our hotel? We got there before 8 am, and check in time wasn’t until noon. Oops.

I didn’t sleep much on the plane, and was in desperate need of a nap. So we took our luggage and found an empty couch in the lobby. I started out sitting upright, but fell asleep very quickly and didn’t wake up for quite awhile. My husband didn’t need the rest, so he sat across from me and watched our luggage. When I did finally wake up, stretched out on the couch like a bed, I felt a lot better. Hubby was still there, and had located some coffee. The only strange thing was that even though there were a lot of people in the lobby at that point, no one was anywhere near my couch. Apparently, my long siesta without my cpap machine ( which was in the luggage) produced some epic snoring and cleared our side of the lobby. It should come as no surprise that our room became available before noon too. I think the hotel staff wanted to get the snoring American out of the lobby as quickly as possible.

So my advice is to nap when you need to, enjoy it all you can, and ignore anyone who doesn’t understand. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!

Adventures In Weight Loss, Covid Edition

Adventures In Weight Loss, Covid Edition

Regular readers of the blog will remember a prior post on January 4, 2021 entitled Adventures In Weight Loss. It detailed my many years of weight managment, and was one of the posts that generated the most readers and responses. So today, I am sharing a sequel to that post, Adventures In Weight Loss, Covid Edition.

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As the world is emerging from the pandemic, there are a lot of positive things happening- getting together with family and friends is at the top of the list for most people. And those get togethers are moving from gatherings in the back yard to restaurants and larger events like wedding receptions. In addition to the happiness of reconnecting, most of us are also celebrating with food. One big problem, however, is that many of us never disconnected from food during our days at home. In fact, we took our relationship with it to a whole new level.

Think back to spring 2020 and the beginning of the lock down. Most of us were suddenly at home all the time, and restaurants were closed. What did most of us do? We started cooking and eating at home. For my generation, this wasn’t quite as big of an adjustment as it was for our adult children. We grew up before the era of fast food on every corner, and regularly sat down for evening meals cooked at home. In the Midwest, our agricultural roots also produced some really great comfort food cooks- my grandmothers, mom and aunts fit this description to a “t”. Organized sports were usually connected to neighborhood schools and fields. Moms weren’t driving kids to practices and games every night, and that was a good thing since many families only had one car.

But raising kids in the 80’s and 90’s was very different. Fast food was not only available, it was a huge help as we drove kids to and from activities. The days of sports, dance classes, and other childhood endeavors all being within walking distance were long gone. So our Millennial kids were used to food on the go, and Baby Boomer parents got used to not cooking nearly as much as our parents did. Our kids are now parents too, and busy schedules are still the norm.

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So what did the suddenly home bound people do? Started cooking, and looking for new things to try. This worked pretty well, but it also led to making desserts. Because if you have lots of time, you might as well do dessert too. Some people like savory foods, but for me, sweets have always been my preference. And why stop at dessert? Might as well have some cookies and cinnamon rolls around for snacks. They were delish, and we gobbled them up. Homemade without preservatives- better eat them before they go to waste!

After a few weeks, restaurants started partially reopening and doing creative things to stay in business- carry out orders, and even cocktails to go. We wanted to support our local establishments, and to break up the week, so we ordered carry out from some of our favorite local places. And they had delicious desserts too. Might as well give them as much business as possible!

All of this eating had the normal results- even though we did try to get some exercise, it wasn’t nearly enough to counteract the shut down eat-a-thon. I gained weight, and so did a lot of others. You’ve heard of the “freshman fifteeen”? The typical weight gain of a first year college student? This is kind of like that, except now we’re in our sixties. So let’s just call it the “I Ate Too Much During Covid, And Put On A Few Pounds” weight gain. No need to shame any senior citizens who enjoy a good meal.

The first indication of Covid gain for me was putting on pants that didn’t have an elastic waist when the lock down restrictions were loosened. Quite a wake up. And I have a lot of pants with buttons and zippers. I put all of them in “time out” and went back to my stretchy, elastic waist pants very quickly. Most of them fit into the athletic leisure category that is quite popular now, so at least I was semi-fashionable.

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But the moment of truth was lurking on my calendar. I had my annual physical scheduled with my internal medicine doctor, and I had to keep it because a couple of prescriptions were expiring. No way around it, so I stopped baking, and tried to make healthier choices in my carry out meals. But I knew that the scale wasn’t moving much, and the dreaded day arrived.

It was March, and still cold in Nebraska, but I wore the lightest pieces of my athletic leisure wardrobe I could find. I also made sure not to wear any jewelry or my watch. Those things add up! As I sat in the waiting area, I braced myself for the dreaded weigh in with the nurse. She called my name, and back we went. And much to my delight, it showed the weight in kilograms, not pounds! Not nearly as discouraging. Except that I went into the exam room and quickly looked up the conversion of kgs to pounds on my phone. Back to discouraging. But I plan to request kg weigh ins in the future because I can’t to the conversion in my head, and I can skip looking it up.

My blood pressure was normal, so dodged a bullet there. But the blood work wouldn’t be back for a couple of days. Next came my chat with my very nice internal medicine doc, who now has some grey hair so I no longer call him Doogie Howser. After he said hello, I went on autopilot and started telling him about my long days of lockdown, how I started cooking at home, which lead to making desserts, which lead to baking, and on and on. It felt like going to Confession after a long absence, and I know my doc isn’t Catholic, so this was all probably quite bizarre to him. But he very nicely said he understood, and recommended a low carb diet and more exercise.

So here we are, three months past my eating confession, and the adventure continues. I took my own advice from my first weight loss blog post, and got the sweets and junk food out of the house. Warmer weather has brought back the only forms of exercise I enjoy, playing golf and pickleball ( a racket sport with a weird name played by retirees). I also like to float in swimming pools, and chat with my friends, but even I don’t count that as exercise! My focus on healthier eating is going pretty well, except that a new donut shop called Hurts arrived in town and it is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is only three miles from my house, and my car is magnetically drawn to it on occasion, such as the recent National Donut Day on June 4th.

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My Adventures In Weight Loss continue, but I am not discouraged. Every day brings a new chance to eat fewer carbs and get some exercise in. Hope springs eternal! If you are also dealing with eating less and exercising more, I wish you the best. Success may seem elusive at times, but remember, even the blind squirrel occasionally finds the acorn!

Momisms

Momisms

If you look up the dictionary definition of momism, Webster paints a rather dark picture of overprotective mothers who unconsciously prevent their children from emotionally emancipating. It also has Freudian overtones. Other definitions include helicopter parenting, and questions a mom asks their child after school. These are all more negative than what I had in mind for this week’s post, which is really about common things moms said to their children when they were growing up. So our definition will be as follows: momism, noun. Something a mom commonly says. Or in this case, said, to her offspring. My memories are from the 60’s and 70’s, but many of them have become classics used on succeeding generations.

I am not sure how these phrases became so well known. It’s almost as if some moms got together in the late 50’s for coffee, and developed phrases to use during their child rearing years. It must have been quite a feat of networking, because these are so common most people will recognize them. Or maybe they were written about in one of the women’s magazines of the day. Whatever happened, they spread. So here they are, in no particular order.

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You had better stop looking like that, or your face will freeze with that expression. See that grumpy teenager in the photo? A prime candidate for this classic. I was kind of a master of grumpy expressions between ages 13 and 18, and am happy to report that my face didn’t ever freeze. But I had many chances for it to happen.

Children should be seen, and not heard. I mentioned this one in a prior post about laughing at the wrong time. But it didn’t apply if you were introduced to a long lost relative or your parents had friends over. You could be seen and briefly heard under those circumstances. You were expected to greet said guests, call them by an appropriate name ( Mr. and Mrs. Smith- no first names), answer any questions ( usually your age and grade in school) and then excuse yourself for the duration of their stay.

Don’t sit too close to the tv or it will damage your eyesight. Television was the new fangled technology of our growing up years. My mother was convinced it would damage her older children’s development and didn’t buy one when they were first available. They were also very pricey. But by the time my brother and I came along, she dropped her opposition. But you had to sit far away, and leave the lights on. Because low light was a hazard too.

Eat your food. There are starving children in (insert country). Not to make light of a real concern, because hunger is a problem, but this just didn’t work. None of us could figure out the connection between our not eating some despised vegetable and hunger in another country.

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If your friends were jumping off a cliff, would follow them? And its cousin, I don’t care if Susie’s mom is letting her do that. You aren’t. These commonly popped up in the early teen years, when doing things with friends, and plotting ways to get out of the house to see friends, became paramount.

We all have to do things we don’t want to do. Maybe, but that didn’t stop kids from complaining about chores or anything else that interfered with being with our friends. And because house cleaning, and bedroom cleaning, were so incredibly dull and boring, this one was also used a lot.

Many hands make light work. This one was actually true and could cut down on the complaining about cleaning the house. It was especially true in large families where you needed a lot of help just to get everyone fed and dressed, much less have a clean house.

When you have your own house, you can do whatever you want to in it. This also fits with the not wanting to do any housework scenario. I have a clear recollection of not making my bed unless forced to, and this was the reasoning. I can also report that still don’t typically make my bed. Just doesn’t interest me unless I am having company and someone will see the room. So I did eventually get to do what I wanted on this one. True story about my messy teenage room- my parent’s house was burglarized and the police thought they had created quite a mess in my room, when it was actually its natural state.

Santa is watching. Long before Elf on a Shelf, parents used this one from fall to Christmas to get better behavior out of their small children. It must have worked since it was a classic we all heard.

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Because I said so. The ultimate end to the conversation. See the little guy pleading his case in the above photo? His parents were probably past the point of reasoning or explaining. Some kids are very, very persistent. This may serve them well later in life, but when it comes to asking to stay up later, or stay outside, or not do whatever they have been asked to do, it can wear a parent down. Then this phrase comes in handy.

Shut the door, we aren’t air conditioning the whole neighborhood. I didn’t hear this one much because we didn’t have central ac until I was in sixth grade. But I heard it at friends houses, and it actually made sense. The cool air was really nice in our muggy Nebraska summers. It made sense to keep it inside.

It’s way too quiet up there. If you had a two story house, and kids were upstairs without making any noise, this was not a good sign from a mom’s perspective. Something wasn’t quit right if there wasn’t a certain amount of noise. It usually involved a trip upstairs to uncover the unusually quiet activities. I remember going upstairs to check on my too quiet child and a friend, and they had filled a bathtub and two sinks full of water and bubbles, and were playing some sort of water game that also included the shower and toilet. Quite a mess.

We’ll see. The ultimate momism of all time. It diffuses the child’s allegation that you never let them do xyz, or that everyone else is doing it, etc etc. The mom isn’t saying no, so it gives the appearance that she is actually considering the request. But as any mom knows, it is the equivalent of no way, not going to happen. But is is so cleverly packaged it can prevent some negotiations with a persistent child.

As parents, it is easy to slip back into using the same expressions you heard growing up. Even if you swore you would never use them. Feel free to share any gems I missed in the comment section below Leave a Reply. The more the merrier!

Going To The Indy 500 In An Ancient RV

Going To The Indy 500 In An Ancient RV

The Indy 500 is one of the greatest sporting events in the world-300,000 people usually attend the race, and millions more watch it on tv. The race cars are single seat, open cockpit vehicles that can reach 240 miles per hour. The race dates back to 1911, and with the exception of World Wars I and II, has run continuously since that date. The 2021race will be held next weekend. I had the chance to attend three times, and enjoyed them all. But the first one was the most memorable, and is the subject of today’s post.

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In the early 80’s, before I had kids, a group of friends decided to go to the Indy 500. The tickets weren’t very expensive, but the hotels in the area tripled their prices during race weekend. So we decided to economize and take an RV that belonged to someone’s elderly relative. No one saw it until we left for the race, but we knew it was a Winnebago, which is a well known brand. It was supposed to have sleeping room for 5-6, and that was exactly what we needed. We could park it much less expensively than paying the inflated hotel prices, and probably be closer to the race track. So we packed our belongings and food and prepared to hit the road about three days before the race.

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When the RV pulled up, it was obvious that it had seen better days, but the inside was clean, and the fridge and bathroom were just what we needed to get to Indiana in good time. So off we went, and things went well for the first couple of hours. The first thing to go wrong was something mechanical. We stopped and determined it wasn’t serious, but it did raise some concerns about the age of the vehicle. The next problem was a bit more difficult to contain. One friend had brought along a chocolate cake, with mint frosting, for everyone to snack on. And snack we did, with each person enjoying a piece. But the cake baker decided to indulge a bit more, and had at least three pieces. Unfortunately, this didn’t agree with her, and she was spending a lot of time in the bathroom. And after one particularly long session therein, she discovered it wouldn’t flush. Embarrassing to say the least. She didn’t want anyone to try and fix it, and nobody really wanted to anyway. So we closed it off, and decided to figure it out later.

With the toilet broken, we then had to slow down and stop for restroom breaks. And our sick friend still had to go to the bathroom a lot, so it took us hours to make it very far. We finally got her some medicine, and were able to drive more quickly to our destination.

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We got to Indianapolis after dark, and started to look for a place to park. By this time, we also knew our toilet was beyond repair. All we could find was a parking lot near a store, that was already full of Rvs and campers. It did, however, have port a potties. The ones pictured above are actually nicer than what was available, but we didn’t have a lot of options. The parking lot crowd was a bit rough, so we ran to and from them and tried to settle down for the night.

The next problem was a nasty odor from one of our propane tanks. Propane itself is odorless, but unpleasant scents are added to the tanks so that RV owners can detect a leak. Ours was a cross between rotten eggs and skunk spray. It was nauseating, so I decided to try and drown it out by spraying perfume. This turned out to be a bad idea, and somehow made the odor worse. My travelling companions were not amused.

Somehow we survived the night, and set out on foot to the racetrack the next day. It was quite a hike, but worth the wait. The pre-race fanfare was fun- the Purdue University Marching Band, and a vocal rendition of Back Home Again in Indiana were the final events before the race began. I remember sitting in the stands watching the parade laps and not thinking it was too remarkable. Then the green flag came out and the real race started. We were behind the pit crews, and not far from the finish line. The first time the cars went by at full speed, they were a complete blur and sounded like buzzing bees. Unbelievably fast, and something the tv cameras don’t capture. After a few laps, a friend and I ventured to the infield area to look around.

The infield is ridiculously large- 253 acres, and the raceway publicizes that Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl and Vatican City could all fit inside it at the same time. That is a huge space. In the days I went to the race, it was also a bit of a free for all. Lots of campers and RV’s, but they were mostly full of guys who thought they were in New Orleans. They were handing out beads to anyone who would flash them, and there were plenty of willing participants. I had no idea this was the norm at the infield, so my friend and I hurried to the gift shop, which was air conditioned, and spent some time buying souvenirs. We also visited the nearby raceway museum.

Once we got back to our seats, the race was about half over. It was fascinating to watch the pit crews work, and how precise they were. The tire changes were particularly swift. The race itself was fairly uneventful with a minimum number of accidents to slow things down. The most interesting part was the finish-the white flag comes out before the last lap, and the top cars zoom into position. We happened to be at one of the closest finishes of all time, which ended with Gordon Johncock beating Al Unser Jr. by .16 of a second. It was a great way to end the day.

Once we got clear of the mass of visitors and made it back to the RV, we decided to hit the road right away. The parking lot wasn’t exactly the best place to stay, so we thought we would look for a campground along the way. We fired up our smelly, ancient RV, with the non flushing toilet, and hit the road.

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Somewhere in Illinois, it dawned on us that campgrounds were going to be full because it was Memorial Day weekend. It was getting dark, and the RV wasn’t getting any less smelly as we drove along. I saw a sign for a motel with the vacancy sign blazing near an upcoming exit. The entire group concurred that it would be a great idea to ditch the RV and check in for the night. The rates were ok, and it was a great relief to be able to take a shower, and use a functioning toilet.

I don’t recall anything unusual for the rest of the trip, but I think the RV was probably beyond use after we got home. The next two times I went to Indy, I flew and stayed in one of the ridiculously over priced hotels. If you ever get a chance to go to the race, I highly recommend it, even if you aren’t a serious fan. Just be sure to budget for air travel and a nice hotel. It will make your entire experience more fun, and will be worth every penny.

*I will be taking a break for Memorial Day next week. Back on June 7th with a new post.