Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday's Words for November 14, 2018

Hellscape. It’s a word that has entered our lexicon and is used far too often of late. It’s a word that brings to mind the ruins of an obliterated, ended world—a place with no life, no future. Barren, empty, leeched of color, bled of life.

As my husband and I have sat each evening watching the news, taking in the horror of the fires raging in California, our hearts have hurt for the affliction before us. Being both of us writers, seeing footage filmed via cell phones of those driving through the fires of hell raging on either side of them as in their vehicles, they flee for their lives, begging God to guide them….

It makes it all too vivid, imaging the last moments of those poor souls who didn’t escape, whose remains are, even now and one by one, being discovered in the burnt-out vehicles melted into the roadside. Who among us does not feel heartsick at the testimony of this carnage left behind? I think a person would have to be a complete and utter sociopath not to feel compassion for the lives ruined or lost, for homes leveled—for a reality just gone.

One would have to be devoid of humanity not to feel for the futures devastated by the miasma of uncertainty and the scars inflicted by the reality of these wildfires.

I look at the devastation before me, entire neighborhoods—hell, entire towns—wiped from the face of the earth, nothing left but ash and rubble, and I wonder how anyone can ever recover from such loss, such damage. And yet…

We know, from all the examples we have seen over the course of our lives that little is, in the end, totally insurmountable for the human spirit. I don’t know how to describe the sense of wonder I feel in the aftermath of such heartsickness, when I see people rolling up their sleeves and diving in. People beginning to build not only their own lives, but helping neighbors rebuild theirs. Be it fire or flood or deadly winds, when the calm returns, so do the people. And out of the ashes, out of the rubble, new lives arise.

Sometimes things happen, and we think that the future is ruined, that we’ll never recover or get over this horrible thing that has befallen us. Be it natural disasters or man-made ones, we are hit with these catastrophes and for a time we can’t imagine how we can possibly overcome them.

But the human spirit is indomitable. There is a time for mourning, a time for grieving, a time for letting ourselves fully absorb and process the horrible thing that has happened. And then…

The sun rises, the air blows clean, and we emerge, renewed by our faith, by our life force, by our newly refurbished appreciation not only for the fragility of life, but for the beauty of it. We behold anew not only the fallacy of humanity, but its nobility, too.

 We began our existence in caves. We lived, adapted and evolved. We connected with our God, received his Grace, and began to see the world beyond our own bodies, our own narrow existence. We reached out our hands to help our fellow humans, and in so doing, opened up the possibilities of all that, together, humanity can achieve.

There are charities dedicated to helping people whose lives have been impacted by these fires. I hope you’ll give what you can. Five dollars is five dollars, yes. By itself it’s lonely. But if one hundred million people each give only five dollars, that’s five hundred million dollars, and that is a good beginning.

Thank you to all the first responders who have been working non-stop to fight these wildfires. These are men and women who turned their focus outward, instead of inward, and they are our heroes. 


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday's Words for November 7, 2018

As I told one of my good friends very recently, modern technology is a wonderful thing—until it isn’t.

Over the last few months, my cell phone had been acting up. Freezing so that I would have to turn it off and then on again and turning itself off for no apparent reason. If you know me personally, you might scoff at the concept that I’m a patient person. I suppose, since I do believe in transparency, that I need to confess that I’m not that patient at all when it comes to people. Inanimate objects are another story altogether.

My beloved maintains that’s because most people I can best, but inanimate objects clean my clock every single time. His point has merit.

Finally, however, the foibles of my phone hit the breaking point. I woke up on the 29th of October unable to turn the phone on. It had been on with a full charge when I went to bed. The next morning, nothing. I plugged it into my computer, and got the instructions on the Apple site that I needed to either update the phone, or, if that wasn’t possible, restore my phone to factory settings.

It wouldn’t update, and so restore it was—losing all my contacts in the process. And no, I did not know the contacts could be stored on the cloud. Y’all know a techie, I am not.

On Tuesday, we went to the mall, to the kiosk that represented our cell network, to get me a new phone. I expected I might have to pay for a new phone, and I was prepared for that. I never expected the process to take more than two hours.

Now, back in my day…. yeah, I hate starting a sentence with those five words, but there are times when there simply is no choice. Let me begin this stroll down memory lane by saying that my first full time position in the working world was as an accounts clerk in the credit office of a department store—one that is now defunct. This was in the day before computers were a thing in the work place. Along one wall in our office stood a line of card index files, marked A to Z. These held all the files that represented all the credit cards issued by this department store. Between each cabinet were places we could insert our headphone jacks—so that when a sales clerk called up to us from the sales floor in order to get authorization for a sales purchase, we could quickly go to the appropriate cabinet, plug in, find the customer’s ‘file’ and either approve or disapprove the purchase.

The key word in that entire paragraph was “quickly”. Customer service was to be polite, efficient, and above all, speedy.

Ah, the good old days. In those days we worked with paper, and it was a manual, painstaking activity. We’d receive the “filing” each morning, which were the credit card slips from the purchases the day before. Those were to be filed immediately to the correct accounts, so that when we were looking at a customer’s file, we could mentally add up what they’d spent so far that month and know if they had room in their credit limit for the purchase being authorized.

Now we’re in the computer age. The Internet age! The age that is beyond the space age! Calculations are performed at the speed of light…and everything, yes everything, seems to take longer.

At the thirty-minute mark, the entire time during which my husband leaned on the sales counter while I was relatively comfortable in my wheelchair, he looked at me and said, “You know, we’ve bought houses in less time than this.”

He’s a swift one, is my beloved. I giggled. The polite clerk (for he surely was that if not efficient or speedy) finally said it was just a matter of updating the new phone—which was new only in the sense it had never been used. It was an older iPhone, which was absolutely fine by me. He asked us if we could come back in forty-five minutes?

We agreed and went for lunch at one of the restaurants across the way. We luxuriated in the experience because we seriously don’t do that very much at all. We came back in an hour and a half…and still had to wait. Apparently, they were having issues with their internet reception in the mall. Imagine that. Finally, I asked the clerk to give me the phone and I would update it at home on my so-called high-speed internet. The clerk displayed speedy for the first time and had that phone, plus all my free gifts—a new case and a new portable storage unit—in the bag faster than you could say customer service.

As we were leaving the mall David said, “We must remember, next time, when one of us needs a new phone, to bring camping equipment—tent, Coleman stove, sleeping bags, air mattresses, food—and our Kindles.”

The twists and turns of life are much easier to deal with when one lives with a comedian.