Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cellphone Etiquette

I was in at a Subway restaurant the other day ordering a sandwich, when I saw a sign that said "Please do not talk on your cellphone while ordering."  Is a sign like that really necessary, you ask.  Would you believe it if I told you that it most definitely is?  While I haven't been made to wait by someone on their cellphone at a Subway restaurant, I have been made to wait at a Starbucks and at a grocery store.  I have also been irked by thoughtless cellphone usage in other situations that have made me very uncomfortable.

Nobody can deny the the cellphone is one of the most useful and important modern conveniences.   With the advent of do-it-all handsets like the iPhone, the cellphone does more than just keep people connected with one another.  There is the convenience of GPS, a camera and the Internet at your fingertips, not to mention an application available for pretty much anything you want your cellphone to do.  Of course, when you put a cellphone into the hands of certain people, their behavior becomes so obnoxious that you wish you could take it back from them right away.  So to preserve the sanity of the rest of us, I thought it may be a good idea to talk about the potentially explosive subject of cellphone etiquette.  I know that some of you are probably thinking, "How DARE she tell me what to do?"  I am going to go out on a limb here even if you hate me for it.  I KNOW I'm not the only one who feels this way about cellphone usage, and I believe I speak for those who don't have a voice or feel too awkward to say anything.

WHILE WAITING IN LINE:  It is perfectly acceptable to talk or text while waiting in line, waiting being the operative word.  You just want to make sure to modulate your voice so we can't hear you.  When it is your turn to order or check out as the case may be, please dispense with all cellphone use until you have done so.  This means you should not get to the front of the line and continue your conversation while the rest of us wait, neither does it mean you continue the conversation between placing an order and paying for it.  Once you get back into your conversation, more often than not you get so absorbed in it that you don't hear anyone around you.  So when you are told how much you owe, you don't hear it, making the rest of us wait longer than we should. 

WHEN YOU ARE WITH PEOPLE:  In this situation, the polite thing to do would be to allow the call to go to voice mail.  If you absolutely have to take the call, first make sure to excuse yourself.  Then retreat to a quiet location and take the call, but keep it short.   Please don't have a long and loud conversation in the presence of the people you're with.  

IN PUBLIC RESTROOMS:  This includes the restrooms at work as well.  Is there really any conversation that can't wait until you're out of the restroom?  Also, if you're comfortable having people listen to your bodily functions as you perform them, good for you.  I on the other hand, feel bad enough that you can hear me go to the bathroom. I don't need your friends to be able to hear me as well.

WHEN YOU HAVE A CRYING CHILD:  The crying child needs your attention.  You are the adult.  Hang up the phone and calm the child down.

WHEN IN PUBLIC ANYWHERE:  No matter where you are, nobody wants to hear the conversation you are having.  Please don't inflict it on us.  It is suggested you observe a 10 foot rule to have a private conversation.  If you can't manage to find a place 10 feet away from everyone in order to have a conversation, then stand in one place, speak softly and have your conversation.  Do not walk around while talking. Also, set your phone on vibrate if you're in church, in a meeting, in a movie theater, at a funeral or any other place where it is inappropriate to have your phone ring. 

WHILE DRIVING:  This is probably my biggest pet peeve.  Using the cellphone while driving has been outlawed by many States including WA, but it still continues.  I know you think that you can drive just fine while using your phone.  However most people can't, and for the safety and well-being of everyone the law has been put in place.  Please obey the law.  Again, there is no conversation that can't wait until you get to your destination.  If it truly can't wait, then pull over to a parking lot, have your conversation and then drive. Don't contribute to the statistic, or worse become a part of it.

I know you have choices.  Choose wisely.  And please consider the people around you.  Please.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Heeeere's Wendy!

Picture: Courtesy Wendy Liebman
 "I wanted to get married at the drive-through wedding chapel. That way if I wanted a divorce, I could just drive in reverse."

That was the first joke I ever heard from Wendy Liebman. She was being interviewed by a local radio station back in 1999. (103.7 FM - The Mountain, Seattle WA.) I have since then had the opportunity to hear Wendy on the radio station's 7:20 and 5:20 Funny. The more I heard this smart, amazingly funny comedian the more I was hooked!

By her own admission, Wendy Liebman has been told that she resembles Ruth Buzzi, Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss and Prince.....Charles, who she thinks looks like a frog that had been kissed but it didn't quite take. That is what I love about Wendy's act, the timing of her delivery. Just when you think you've heard the joke in its entirety, she delivers a zinger of a line that makes you laugh even harder. Wendy also didn't want to go to her 30 year reunion because she had put on 100 lbs....since kindergarten. She loves weddings, but she always cries...because they are not hers. Wendy Liebman has been described as "The Comedian With The Subliminal Afterthought" and "The lady with the time-release punch-line."

If you have never heard of Wendy Liebman, you can watch her clips on YouTube and judge for yourself. Her humor is very self-deprecating at times, but that only comes from her self-confidence. Upon reading her bio, I realized that Wendy is a very down to earth person. There is a section titled "What I learned doing Stand Up", which contains some sage advice that can be carried over to anyone's life. "Prepare, show up, do your best and learn for the next time." Who can argue with that?

This past week I got to experience Wendy in her element. By now, if you haven't seen/heard of the Meat Dress worn by Lady Gaga to the MTV Video Music Awards, you must either be a hermit or living under a rock. Whether you think it was a bold move, or found it totally repulsive, you have to admit that the situation was just begging for a joke or two. My twisted mind took me back to 1984 when the fast food chain "Wendy's" ran the "Where's the Beef" commercials.  "There's the beef", I thought to myself.  I wondered what Wendy Liebman's take on the Lady Gaga Meat Dress situation would be.

Wendy delivered via Facebook. Here are her status messages from the past week about Lady Gaga and the Meat Dress:

"I heard Lady Gaga wore a dress made out of meat to the VMAs and is planning a cover of Who Let The Dogs Out"

"If it had been kangaroo meat, Lady G would have had pockets"

"Lady Gs dress would have looked better with spaghetti straps. (My last update on this.)"

Except that wasn't the last update. There were more:


"I'm just surprised she found a cow her exact size!"

"Gaga is the sound I make when I eat meat"

Each of these status messages generated some really awesome and funny comments.
So Wendy came up with:

"Who wants to compile a book of all of these (and ones from my other updates) and who wants to illustrate it and who wants to publish it, produce it, market it, distribute it, sell it, and go to Fiji with the profits?"

I would so love to be the one to get a book published, but I would need everyone to agree. Besides, I don't have the time. What I did manage to get though, is for Wendy to agree to let me share with you the ones I've posted above.

Wendy Liebman is going to be at the Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland from October 21st through the 23rd. I, for one, just can't WAIT!

Thank you for the laughs Wendy Liebman. Keep them coming. You rock!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tribute to a Teacher

A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others. ~Author Unknown

There I was, four years old, my first day of Kindergarten.  I wore a new white uniform and a new green tie with a diagonal yellow stripe across it.  I wore new white socks and new black leather Mary Janes.  My shoes were a little too tight.  I had a new green school bag, which had in it a new little snack box with four cookies. Everything was new.  My attire was new, the place was new to me, the people were new.   I felt scared and nervous.  It was early morning and I was one of the first students to arrive at school.  I was not quite sure what I was supposed to do, so I just stood at the door of my classroom.  Then a kind face looked into mine, while a gentle voice told me to sit down.  I looked around, wondering where I should sit.  She told me to pick any chair I wanted since I was the first one there.  She took my school bag, set it aside and gave me some toys to play with.  Soon more children began to arrive.  One of them sat next to me and began to chew on a piece of pink-colored chalk.  Some of them began to cry.  I remember one of them cried really loud.  Another one cried until they threw up, while another soiled their pants.  Needless to say, it was quite a chaotic day. 

The next day didn't feel quite so awkward.  I walked into class and the lady with the kind face, I now knew as my teacher, greeted me good morning and took my bag.  She told me that it was good manners to say good morning back when anyone said that to me.  I took her words literally and said "Good Morning Back".  She laughed a happy laugh, held my chin in her hand and told me I was cute.  I felt like somehow my teacher made this a safe place to be.  Her name was Maureen Cordeiro, as I learned at some point.  She was like a mother to me and my classmates.  She gathered all of us around her like a mother hen and we were a her little chickens.  I have no idea how she managed to control all of us without going insane. 

Miss Cordeiro was born to be a teacher. She had so much love to give. She had the patience of Job. She had the gift of making each of her students feel special and unique. She was the cohesive force that brought all of us kids together to help us get to know each other better. She seemed to realize that teaching was not about the academics, but also about helping us tap into our potential and be the best we could be, no matter how young we were. The one thing I hated to do in Kindergarten was to write. For some reasons I didn't have the basic motor skills to hold a piece of chalk and get my hand to move at the same time. Miss Cordeiro used to hold my hand and help me. I then began to depend on my teacher's help for writing exercises, which she soon realized. One day she refused to help me and told me I could try to write on my own. I had made up my mind that I couldn't. I began to cry and ask her to help me. She told me in a calm but firm voice that I had to try. I held my ground but she wouldn't back down. I finally picked up the piece of chalk and held it to my writing slate. "Good," I heard her say, "Now write the letter A." I cried hard, but I wrote anyway, tears and snot dribbling down my face and on my slate. All the while, Miss Cordeiro stood behind me, encouraging me. When I was done she applauded, then wiped my face and said, "See? That wasn't so bad now, was it?" I learned that day that my teacher wasn't swayed by tantrums. I also learned that no matter how much I thought I couldn't do something, I needed to at least give it a try

 My friends and I had so much fun that year in Kindergarten.  We learned funny songs, we played games, we did art and craft projects.  One of our craft projects was tearing colored paper into little pieces and sticking them with glue like a mosaic on a larger piece of paper.  All the kids wanted to be over and done with their project.  I was so fascinated by how pretty a mosaic could look, and realized that if I tore up small bits of paper I would wind up with a prettier end result.  I sat there and tore and stuck and at the end had one of the nicest looking mosaics.  I remember being given a star for accomplishment.  Miss Cordeiro made sure to tell my mother how meticulous I was and how proud she was of me.   That year we also learned Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, which I loved to recite these in front of the entire class.  I don't know if it was the attention I liked from everyone or just the fact that I was told that I was really good, but I loved it.  Of course, none of this was without Miss Cordeiro's encouragement.  I remember toward the end of the year being made to recite every Nursery Rhyme we had learned through the year.  The purpose of this exercise was to see if I would qualify for the prize for recitation.  I cinched it.   To this day, I think the biggest lesson I took away from all those years ago is to be comfortable speaking in a crowd.  I learned that and I learned to be a good teacher.  I don't teach for a living, but whenever I have to impart any kind of training or make a presentation, it is almost always a success.  Of course there were teachers that came along later and fine-tuned these skills I have developed, but I attribute these successes to Miss Cordeiro because she taught me the basics.

Years later my brother had the privilege of being taught by Miss Cordeiro as well. When I would go check up on my brother during recess, I would get a chance to talk to her. Nothing had changed. She was the same loving and affectionate lady as she was when she taught me. At that time she told me that my first day of school was her first day as a teacher. Now that I am all grown up, I wonder how nervous she must have been, but if she were, you would never have known. Miss Cordeiro continued to teach for years and bless so many students with her love, patience and knowledge. At some point she became Mrs. Maureen DSouza and had a family. She is now retired so she can enjoy the fruits of her labor. I am so fortunate to have got in touch with her again through Facebook. She is a also grandmother to a very lucky granddaughter. . .

I am so happy that Mrs DSouza is doing well.  I am so blessed to have been taught by her.  I am filled with so much gratitude that I can write this blog as a tributeAfter all, the first step to make this blog even possible was to be able to hold a piece of chalk and write on a slate.  That's one of the few things my teacher did for me.

Words are not enough to thank you for what you have done for me, Mrs. DSouza.  God Bless You.

This blog was supposed to be published last week because Teachers Day is observed on September 5th in India, to commemorate the birthday of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, an academic philosopher and prolific teacher.  I believe that one week later it isn't any less relevant, because I will never stop being thankful.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Seven Years Ago

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.  Saturday, September 6th, 2003.

I remember waking up thinking, "This is it!"  All of us had waited almost nine months for this day that was finally here.  You were due in five days, but I somehow knew you would be born that day.  I turned my cellphone on.  Sure enough, there was a voice mail from your Ammachi, (My Mom).  Your mother was being taken to the hospital because you couldn't wait any longer to be born.  I quickly showered, threw on some clothes and headed to Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland.  When I got there, my aunt Shanti and uncle Rajan were already in the waiting room.  They told me that your Mom and Dad were in the delivery room.  We sat around for a while, talking while we waited.  Then we saw the hospital staff wheeling a bed into the room that was supposed to be your Mom's.  I continued to look past the hospital staff.  Then I saw my aunt Prema turn the corner and head toward us.  She was walking with my brother, your Dad Jonathan, who had a little bundle in his arms.  

About 30 minutes old
I walked up to Jonathan and hugged him congratulations.  I then looked into the bundle and saw a little scrunched up, newborn face.  There you were, my precious little nephew.  Eyes shut tight, squirming.  I saw the look of pride on your Daddy's face, as I took a picture of his little baby.  You were so beautiful! You began to whimper loudly.  Then you stopped and started again, almost as if you were surprised that you were able to hear the sound you were making.  I don't remember the exact sequence of events, but at some point your Ammachi showed up and so did my cousin Suganthi.  Everyone came into the room and we passed you around, ooh-ing and ahh-ing and cooing while we gently talked to you.  Someone came in and measured the circumference of your head, the size of your feet, your length and your weight.  Someone else came in to give you a bath.  I remember you making another sound of surprise when you were dunked into the warm water.  You really seemed to enjoy your bath.  It must have been so soothing and such a comfort in this strange world you came into, where everyone was passing you around and looking into your face as they talked to you in weird voices.  

3 months
I couldn't stop looking at this little miracle that was you.  You  were so small, but so alive, moving around, lifting your hands, separating your fingers.  At some point I gathered up enough courage to pick you up, this fragile little human being that you were.  I looked at you and distant memories from back in my early life came to me in a haze.  I was about three and a half years old when your Dad Jonathan was born, but I vaguely remember that day.  I remember looking at my baby brother.  I remember how red his face became as he cried.   Now I was looking at my baby brother, all grown up, holding his little son.  Life had now come full circle.  How wonderful it was that all of us were at the hospital for such a happy event!  I think that was your plan all along, to be born on a Saturday, because you wanted to make it convenient for everyone to attend your grand debut! 

6 months old, in Las Vegas
I visited you every day the first two weeks of your life, so I could bring some reprieve to your tired parents and grandmother.  All you did was pretty much eat, sleep and cry.  You had very severe colic and used to be in a lot of pain.  You'd double up from the pain in your stomach and scream out loud.  It used to make us all feel so helpless that there was nothing we could do to make you feel better.  As the days wore on, things got easier.  But every time I visited you, you didn't remember me.  You would cry every time you saw me.  Just when we managed to bond it was time for me to go home.  That was okay though, because I knew at some point we wouldn't have to do this anymore because you would remember who I was and everything would be fine.  Sure enough, when you were around six months, you didn't cry when you saw me, and you seemed to remember who I was.  To my surprise, you actually began to look forward to weekends and spending time with me.  At some point you began to express your love for me by grabbing a fistful of my long hair and tugging at it.  As you grew, you gave up the hair-pulling and you would hug my head and kiss me all over my face.  That was a true expression of love which overwhelmed me, because you were a baby and nobody had taught you how to do that.  

A little over a year old
There are so many memories created with you, and I treasure every single one of them.  There was the time you first called me "Athai" (The Tamil word for aunt).  You were on the phone with me and your little baby voice struggled with the word.  "Ath", "Ath".  Then the whole word came out.  "Athai", you said,  quite happy with yourself.  You began to giggle.  I was beside myself with joy as I laughed so hard, tears were streaming down my face.  As you grew, there was more time spent with you.  You would burst out laughing every time your Dad said the words "Scrubbing Bubbles".  Nobody knew why, but it just endeared you to us even more than we knew was possible.  You were probably too young to remember this, but I still remember the first car ride you took alone with me.  It was a long drive home from the airport, in rush-hour traffic.  I dreaded the thought that at some point during the drive you would become cranky and cry for your Mom or Dad, and I wouldn't know what to do.  As it turned out, you were more than happy to ride along alone with me.  We had such a blast, singing silly songs at the top of our voices, playing peek-a-boo through the rear-view mirror, laughing all the way home.  

Goofin' around
As you grew up and began to speak in full sentences, things became even more fun.  The first sentence you ever spoke to me was "Walk there".  Somewhere along the way I lost my "Athai" status and became Susanna, but that was okay.  I was still your aunt.  You used to love listening to stories, and the stories didn't necessarily have to make sense.  You loved your cars.  You know the names of  the make of cars by their symbols.  You could barely speak, but you could say the words "Honda", "Volks", "Merce", "Sub-ru", and "Totah" for Toyota, You loved teddy bears and your toy train, your singing and dancing Elmo.   You loved music, my how you loved music!  You would stop what you were doing and listen raptly whenever music played, then you would begin to dance.  You were an awesome dancer even before the famous YouTube baby became an international sensation.  I remember the first time you sang "Dani California" for Rock Band.  We have since spent endless hours playing that game.  You make it look so easy when you play the guitar or drums.  You're learning to play the piano now, and you did such a good job at the recital I had the pleasure to attend.  I hope one day you'll pick up and learn to play the real guitar I bought you a few birthdays ago.  

Christmas 2009
I look at all the pictures I took of you as a baby and a toddler.  I can't believe how much you've grown!  I could write a book about all the time spent with you and everything about you that makes every moment so truly enjoyable.  It makes me forget all the stress of the work week and life in general, and it helps me be a kid again when I play with you.  Just when I think there isn't any place in my heart to love you any more than I already do, you say or do something that makes me love you even more.  No matter how old you grow up to be, you will always be my Doodlebug, my only nephew.  I will always be the aunt who loves you more than life itself.  Right now you're probably too young for this blog to be much more than some pictures of you and some words on the computer, but I hope one day you will read this and know how dear you are to me and how proud I am of you.   

Happy Birthday Nicholas, have a great day and a wonderful year!