Category Archives: Foibles and Faux Pas

Word Nymph laughs at herself, while implicitly paying tribute to Erma Bombeck

Drill baby

Who would have thought I’d wake up today with a fat lip? Not I, but my endodontist did.

Yesterday I had a bit of dental surgery. I didn’t know it was surgery until I was being sewn up and given a set of post-surgical instructions.

I knew I was to have two root canals. And I knew one would entail entry from the gumline, or apicoectomy/periradicular surgery. I just didn’t think enough about it to build any expectation.

In 51 years, I’ve never had so much as a cavity, so dental work is alien to me. I did have a root canal 24 years ago; I remember it vaguely, with no major trauma associated. Then, eight years ago, while in Arizona, I broke off a front tooth and had it repaired by a hack in Tucson. It turns out shabby work was done to both teeth, numbers 9 and 10 or, as I affectionately call them, the gray one and the brown one. As a result, both had to be re-done.

To sum it up in numbers, I had five shots of Novocaine, two root canals during which three x-rays were taken, six stitches in my gum and, after a $500 discount, a bill of $2,125.00.

To sum it up in words would require some illustrative excerpts.

Not realizing the air conditioning had gone out in the dental office on a 100-degree day, I thought my blazing body and projectile perspiration were symptoms of an anxiety attack. The endodontist brought in a fan and apologized for the heat. I said, “Oh, good, I thought it was just me,” to which he replied, “It’s not that I don’t think you’re hot…” I took his attempt at humor as a compliment.

When the whole procedure was over, the Novocaine had gone to my head, my vision was blurred and, as Bill Cosby once observed, my face was sliding off of my skull and my bottom lip was in my lap.

After receiving my post-operative instructions and a prescription for pain pills, the doctor pronounced me free to go. I asked the nurse, “Would you please hand me my glasses,” to which the doctor replied, “You’re wearing them.”

What? You don’t know the Cosby routine? Have a listen. I finally understand what he was talking about.

By the way, did you know that, when your face is swollen, your wrinkles disappear?

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Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Health, Movies, Television and Radio

Year of the Nymph

On March 31, 2010, I wrote my first blog post, questioning the value of blogs. My premise was that no one wants to read anyone else’s innermost thoughts—and blogging seemed to be the place where innermost feelings become outermost feelings. But I went ahead and started Word Nymph anyway.

My one-year anniversary post isn’t going to be anything spectacular, so if you’re reading this blog for the first time today, please dig deeper into the archives before you form a first impression.

If you’re among the small but potent community of regular readers and commenters, thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness, even on days when your basket is brimming with reading matter. Thank you also to the four or five people who advised me in the beginning of this undertaking. And thank you to my husband, who kisses me good night as I sit in the late hours staring at a blank screen and panicking about what I will write about the next day. Three hundred nine times, so far.

Over the course of the year, I’ve heard from people that they want more personal stories of my childhood or of the careless foibles of my adulthood. Others believe I should stick to my knitting; one reader said he was going to unsubscribe because I wasn’t doing enough on language and grammar. At times I’ve wondered how I might satisfy everyone in this regard. But, as Ricky Nelson once sang, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

Some readers tell me they can’t keep up with my six-days-a-week schedule,  that they get behind and struggle to catch up. I don’t want people feeling like they’re drinking from a fire hose, so maybe I should slow down, pace myself so I don’t run out of ideas, or worse, generate forced content for the sake of adhering to a self-imposed schedule. On the other hand, some readers call me when I’ve posted late or missed a day, wondering where their Word Nymph is.

As I struggled with these questions, a friend and supporter sent me a link to another blogger’s ideas. These very usefully address my very conundrums. If you’re contemplating starting a blog yourself, or if you’d like to join me in contemplating Word Nymph’s future, you’ll find these thought-provoking—and a good read all around.

I know one thing for certain. Your comments–good or bad, serious or funny–are what make it worth the effort.

That’s it for today. Still thinking about the future. I welcome your ideas.

Thanks again for reading. Must find cake.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Reading, Technology and Social Media

Sweet surrender

I’ve hit bottom.

I started with a pack a day, which turned into two packs a day. Within weeks, I was inhaling up to four or five. For so recent an addiction, this one has taken hold with quite a grip. Today I did something of which I am not proud.

It started last October, about a month after I had given up alcohol, coffee and chocolate. At Halloween, when there were pounds of candy in the house, I turned away from chocolate and turned on to SweeTarts–and the powder form, Pixy Stix. We had such a large supply that I was able to make it last until Christmas, when I became distracted by other forms of sugar. The loneliness of January turned to the darkness of February and I missed my old pastel-hued habit. For Valentine’s Day I asked my husband to substitute my traditional box of chocolates with SweeTarts. He gave me a big bag of individually packaged heart-shaped ‘Tarts, five to eight to a pack. When they ran out about three weeks ago, I got the shakes.

It turns out that no grocery or drug store in my area carries them. The ones my husband found were available for a limited time for the holiday. I started making special trips out to find them and with each failure to score came worsening withdrawal. A friend gave me a tip that they’re available at the movies, which was going to be my next tactic.

This afternoon I went to the mall to drop off some watches for repair. The clerk said the repairs would take 20 minutes. My first thought was to check to see if Target stocked my substance. Sure enough, my newly expanded Target had two boxes. I grabbed both of them and resisted opening one while I waited in the checkout line.

I had 15 minutes left to kill. Ordinarily at the mall, I’m tempted to try on clothes or shoes or costume jewelry. Those didn’t interest me one iota. All I wanted was to break into the SweeTarts.

I found a bench where I pretended to check my e-mail. I pulled out a box and began to tear at the corner. I imagined what I would look like, a desperate 51-year-old woman, sitting alone on a bench at the mall on a Saturday afternoon eating Willy Wonka SweeTarts. Sheepishly, I placed the unopened box back in the bag. I picked up my watches from the repair store.

Slowly, I walked to my car. My pace quickened. I ran the rest of the way, got in the car, ripped open a box and devoured half of it. That’s more than five servings. I was fulfilled.

I know I have an addiction. I’d like to break it, truly I would. Dr. Andrew Weil, whom I follow on Twitter, just within the last day or two, tweeted advice about breaking the sugar addiction. I had considered that divine intervention and pledged to myself to confront it like an adult. But today I caved.

The remaining SweeTarts are now in a covered candy dish in the dining room, with the spare box tucked away in a drawer. I’ll try to make them last, maybe I’ll even have the courage to give the spare box to a deserving child. Maybe I’ll overcome the habit and get to where I no longer feel like a herion addict without them. Or will I just be back on the street the next day, trying to score Pixy Stix?

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Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Food, Health, Holidays

Southern hospital-ity

The universe has a way of teaching us valuable lessons, often despite our attempts to block our learning pathways.

The obstacles I put up often are erected by my own impatience, anxiety and desire for control. The lessons I learn, despite these obstacles, often come to light as a result of my foibles and faux pas. In other words, I go through life with a mission, a strategy, profound organization and planning and compulsion for making sure things go right. For example, when I am on a business trip, I am always triple checking that I have everything I need, that I am running on schedule and that all the pieces come together precisely according to plan. Then, occasionally, I do something really flaky that throws my planetary orbit completely awry.

Yesterday, I facilitated a medical meeting at a hospital in Mississippi. When it was over, I knew I had time, with a nice cushion built in, to drive 95 miles to the Memphis airport in time to catch my flight home. I packed the trunk of my rental car and reorganized my materials and belongings efficiently for the flight. I triple checked everything: meeting materials organized, boarding pass and ID accessible, car and house keys where I could access them when I got home, phone in hand in case of emergency.

In a nanosecond of flakiness, I closed the trunk of the rental car. With the keys inside.

Everything was in the trunk of the locked car, except my purse, the contents of which I had emptied into my computer bag, also locked in the trunk. Fortunately, I had my phone and my wallet.

Let me first say that all prior moments of anxiety on this trip were assuaged by the exceptional niceness of Mississippians. From Internet and printing problems at the hotel to the logistics during the meeting, everyone who crossed my path bent over backward, not only to help but to care for me in the process. At the risk of generalizing, there really is something to the notion of Southern hospitality. It’s like having a mother everywhere you go. People really care about you and will go to whatever lengths it takes to get you what you need. This was the first lesson: no matter how impatient you are with people, they can beat you down with kindness.

After a moment of panic, I called the car rental company to see what they could do. I naively thought they could flip a switch and unlock the car remotely. The Southern gentleman rental agent apologized that this was not the case and offered to send someone out, for a fee and perhaps not in time for me to make my flight. He suggested AAA might be a better option but assured me he was there if I needed him.

I called AAA. By this time, I was in a fair tizzy. I was connected to the Northern Mississippi agent, whose name, aptly, was Mr. Nice. I could tell he felt my pain. He would send someone immediately if I gave him the address. The address was locked in my car. He remained on the phone with me patiently while I walked back to the hospital reception desk. While he waited for me to give him the address, he gave me a callback phone number and a confirmation number. I grabbed a pen from my purse but had nothing to write on, except a tea bag. I jotted lots of information down on the paper wrapping of the tea bag and, when the receptionist finally became free, I asked her for the hospital address, gave it to Mr. Nice and hung up. She asked me why I needed it, if I was already in the hospital. I told her of my foible and that I had called AAA.

She said, “Honey, why didn’t you just call hospital security?” I admit, I had thought of that, but I didn’t want to detract critical hospital resources from the business of saving lives and thought I could handle this on my own. Another lady came over and joined in the chorus of “Now, you call and cancel your triple-A right this minute and let us help you.” I hesitated. She called security herself and set up the rescue. I still hesitated. She insisted. I cancelled AAA and hoped for the best. Time to catch my flight was running short.

She said, “Honey you best get out to your car so they can help you,” and said a security agent would be out, shielding her mouth and whispering, “just as soon as he tends to an urgent matter over in Behavioral Health.” Who knows how long that could take? Plus, I already had observed (from the fact that no one in Mississippi seemed to drive faster than 10 miles per hour below the speed limit) that “urgent” to this city girl and “urgent” to others have two different definitions.

The security agent arrived within 20 minutes, then took an additional five just to get out of his car. It was then I learned that breaking into a locked car is a manual process. My second lesson: The Chevrolet Impala is an extremely secure, tamper-resistant machine. The very warm and friendly man, who assured me he unlocks several cars a day, could not crack this nut. After trying every instrument in his arsenal—including something that looked like a blood pressure cuff—I decided to help. I pressed my face up against the window of the passenger door and navigated him to the well hidden and protected (for a reason) unlock switch: half an inch to the right, an inch down, back up, almost there, bingo! Actually, “Alleluia!” was what I shouted (even in Lent, when the word is taboo). I broke into tears and thanked him profusely. He apologized profusely to taking so long. The third lesson, much like the first lesson, so simple yet so compelling, being nice can change someone’s world.

A genuine Tupelo angel

I won’t bore you with the how the rest of the adventure played out; it’s better to end here.

When I said my bedtime prayers at three o’clock this morning, I gave thanks for Southern hospitality and the many souls—Courtyard Marriott desk clerks, AAA’s Mr. Nice, the two ladies at hospital reception (one of whom ran after me as I was leaving, to give me a hospital note pad) and the security guard, whose name I have already forgotten. May we all take a lesson that we can change the world just by being nice.

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Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Travel

Famed phobia

Do other Vanity Fair readers out there read the last page first? As soon as VF comes in the mail, I flip to the back, to the Proust Questionnaire, a regular feature in which celebrities are asked to reveal their true selves–even if their true selves drive them to provide flip answers.

The questionnaire is fashioned after a list of queries developed by French writer Marcel Proust, who believed that, in order to know others, we must first know ourselves. It asks things like “What is your idea pf perfect happiness?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” as well as “What do you consider the most overrated virtue?” and “How would you like to die?” Every month I read the responses of the featured celebrity and imagine what my own might be.

When asked which talent they’d most like to have, it’s surprising to me how many would like to play the piano. I would too, though being smarter and being able to sing would be higher on my list.

One of my favorites—an example of a flip response—was, when asked “What do you value most in your friends,” Dustin Hoffman replied, “private planes.”

We all relate to those who deplore cruelty in others and admire hard work. I’ve never related more to any answer than I did to one this month by New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter. To the question, “What is your greatest fear,” he said “Being unprepared.” Bingo.

We’ve all had that dream about going into a final exam after forgetting to go to class for a whole semester. Or being out in public without a stitch of clothing. I also have one in which I’ve neglected a pet too long. Gruesome, I know, but it reflects the depth of this fear I share with Jeter.

Perhaps it comes from showing up at Catholic school without my homework or permission slip, or not taking some of my college courses seriously enough. Somewhere along the way, these experiences of my youth led to some pretty compulsive behavior in my later years: packing three pairs of pantyhose for a one-night trip or leaving the house in perfect order, just in case something happens to me while I’m at 7-Eleven. Never running out of milk or floor wax or Q-tips. Reading the whole paper in the morning, not necessarily because I want to but because someone might ask me about a column or an obituary or the Dow. Getting my car inspected before it’s due and filing my taxes three weeks early. I can’t sleep at night if I don’t have at least an inkling of what I’ll blog about the next morning.

I know nothing whatsoever about Derek Jeter, or the New York Yankees or baseball for that matter. I do know, though, that Jeter’s favorite hero is The Incredible Hulk, that he would come back as an elephant, that he thinks he overuses the word “obviously” and that he hates bullies and his own skinny legs. I’d like to know how he overcomes that fear we both share and if he’s anywhere near as neurotic as I am in compensating for it.

What’s your greatest fear and, just to make me feel normal, what quirky compulsions do you throw at it?

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Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Reading, Sports and Recreation

Blind luck

Today’s topic is, as the young people might say, kinda random.

It might seem that it comes out of nowhere, but there have been a couple of occasions this week that stirred me to give thought—and thanks—to something I often take for granted.

First, it was while I was editing a brochure on eyeglasses that it struck me how utterly dependent I am on something so small, yet so brilliantly invented. Then a casual conversation with someone whose eyes are as bad as mine brought it home.

I started wearing glasses in sixth grade. There wasn’t a fashion accessory much cooler in 1971 than octagonal, wire-rimmed frames. Now I can’t find the alarm clock in the morning without my beloved specs.  

I always wondered what it would be like to lose them. How would I survive? One day I had the chance to find out and, although it was 10 years ago, the memory still conjures panic.

My husband, son and I were on vacation in Aruba. The first day, I slipped on some jagged rocks, tearing up my whole right side. I was so covered with bruises and open cuts and was so sore that I could barely walk.

The second day, we took an all-day boat excursion around the island. The Jolly Pirate turned out to be an overcrowded party boat offering all the rum punch you could drink and some guided snorkeling, neither of which appealed to me. I had tried snorkeling only once – on our honeymoon, an island vacation that, in addition to a bad snorkeling experience, brought me intestinal flu, bronchitis and severe sun poisoning.

In Aruba I decided to give snorkeling another try. The boat had made several stops during which I had stayed aboard. The last stop, at the deepest point in the cruise, was the site of the featured attraction—an old shipwreck. The guide gave me some special goggles that fit tightly over my glasses so I could see under water. I lasted about five minutes, decided I still hated snorkeling and swam back toward the boat. As I was climbing the ladder, I pulled off the goggles and away went my one and only pair of glasses, flung far into the deep blue sea.

Immediately, my husband and son and a few people who were around to witness my mistake swam around to search for the glasses, but found nothing.

I sat there, on the edge of the boat, blind, disoriented and by then a little seasick, facing eight more days in Aruba. I didn’t have a spare pair, or a written prescription. I didn’t even have prescription sunglasses; all I had were clip-on shades with nothing to clip them to.

Bruised, blind and crying, I could not imagine how I’d get by another minute, let alone a week. We’d have to go home.

Someone brought my plight to the attention of the guides, who had helped themselves amply to the all-you-can-drink cheap rum over the course of many hours in the hot sun. I dismissed the idea as futile. Just then, the jolliest and seemingly most rum-soaked pirate guide took a swan dive off the side of the boat. He stayed under water a good long time, without a snorkel, and came to the surface with my glasses.

I was without my sight for only about half an hour, but it was almost as if I could see my whole life pass before my eyes. Or, in this case, not.

The morals of this tale: Travel with a spare pair and a copy of your prescription, don’t prejudge a jolly pirate and give thanks for the things in your life that give you sight.

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Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Sports and Recreation, Travel

Friends in power

Here in the Washington area, we are recovering from something called a thundersnow.

After escaping the monster storms that have ripped through the East Coast this winter, we got our due Wednesday and Thursday, with thunder, lightning and six inches of the wettest, heaviest snow and ice we’ve seen in recent times. Many, if not most, people—Democrats and Republicans alike—lost their power.

Our little town outside the city experienced added drama following the collapse of our power substation. For a time, around 8:00  p.m., we had total daylight with flashes of bright red sky. I wondered why I was the only person on my street out shoveling until the eight-year-old next door came out and begged me to go inside. “You’ll get struck by lightning,” he repeated until I obeyed.

I adapted reasonably well to loss of electricity, heat and hot water. Then, my trusty iPhone, and my lifeline to the outside world, lost about 90 percent of its functionality.

Once the thunder died down, I realized just how quiet life is without power. I don’t listen to television or music while I’m working; there’s usually enough noise in my head. Otherwise, my home is filled with the sounds of music, television, ringtones and appliance buzzers. In the absence of these devices, the quiet became uncomfortable.

From time to time I took refuge in my car, enjoying the heated seats and charging my phone in hopes that it might come back to life in time to entertain me. But when I found myself sitting in the car, alone in the driveway, singing Copacabana—loudly—along with Barry Manilow, I realized that maybe quiet isn’t so bad.

Everyone will have a memory from Thundersnow 2011. Mine is one simply of neighbors who care enough to tell you to come in out of the storm and help you clear your driveway when your spouse is away, and people with power who invite you to spend a warm night. And Barry Manilow.

P.S.  Stolen from the person who hosted me last night (and the first half of my life):  “The federal government put out an advisory that only those with essential jobs should report to work. Joe Biden built a snowman.”

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Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Hearth and Home, Music, Technology and Social Media