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Debbie M. Price, admiring fan and fellow wordsmith. 

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If you would just direct your attention to the flight attendant who is standing in front of you, seat belt simulator in hand, we can get started. We know any idiot knows how to attach and un-attach that thing, but regulations require us to bore you with it anyway. And for heaven’s sake, in case of a crash or something, please look at the flight attendant when he or she tells you how to save your own life, for Pete’s sake.

Since we now stuff all of you into your seats like sardines and still allow those of you rude enough to do it to recline your seats, let’s just go over a few guidelines for passenger etiquette, shall we?

  • The middle armrest. It isn’t a case of “dibs.” Two of you are expected to share it. So for heaven’s sake, one of you take the back end, and one of you take the front! And really, don’t touch arms. That’s just creepy.
  • Our food is expensive, and we realize there is a sorry selection. So we get it. You bring food on board with you. But will whomever chose the tuna sandwich please touch your “call attendant” button? We are sorry, but you will have to relinquish the tuna and have it in the boarding area after we land. What is wrong with you?
  • This is a peanut-free flight. There is an allergic passenger. This is a serious matter, because peanut fumes can kill (they are actually lethal; although tuna fumes just seem that way). Don’t think you can sneak a bite of your Snickers. That would be murder, you ignorant slob.
  • Keep your feet to yourself. The space under the seat in front of you and the overhead bins are absolutely crammed with luggage that nobody wants to pay to check. So despite the fact that some of you may be over six feet tall, just shove your feet against your carry on and hug your knees for the remainder of the flight. Remember, don’t touch the passenger next to you. How many times do we have to tell you that touching that person is just weird?
  • You may use your electronic devices in “airplane mode.” How on God’s earth we can determine if your device is actually in “airplane mode” is an excellent question. We have no idea. However, if the pilot comes charging out of the cockpit screaming the F word with spittle flying out the sides of his mouth, it’s a safe bet that he figured out that your device is not in airplane mode. Enough said.
  • Your seat tray is filthy. Babies have been changed on it. Passengers have probably sneezed on it at the beginning of that nasty flu that is going around. So if you want to open your “complimentary” bag of pretzels and spread them out all over your tray, go right ahead. It usually takes at least 24 hours for symptoms to appear, at which time you will be safely delivered to your destination.
  • Thank you so much for choosing to fly with us today. We know you have many choices of airlines, all of which jam-pack their flights and charge ridiculous prices, and we understand that flying these days is nothing like the pleasurable experience it used to be in the 50’s, but we appreciate your business, and we would like to announce that even the people in First Class are now being given their cocktails in plastic glasses. Have a wonderful day, wherever your travels take you.
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“Hi, kiddo!”

A small face flashes onscreen, then nothing. Oh. It’s their ceiling. Overheard “NO, I WANT TO HOLD THE PHONE MYSELF.”

“What did you do today—did you go to school?”

I see the back of a running boy. His mother has commandeered the phone. He turns and disappears up the stairs. I look at the walls of the staircase as his mother follows.

“Are those your trains?”

“YES.” I watch as he puts one through a tunnel. He reaches for the phone. His mother says urgently “DON’T PUSH THE RED BUTTON!”

The screen goes black. I sigh. The phone rings. I answer and see a small, impish face, grinning widely.

“Watch me press the red button!”

I am so thankful for modern technology.

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People love to travel. They go on road trips. Many of them get into a plane and fly away. Others load  suitcases into their cars and get on the open road to explore this great country of ours. And some of them, apparently, get what are called RVs. Recreational vehicles allow people to take their “home” with them on vacation. They have a bedroom or two, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a TV that they tow around with them.

This is fun to these people, who seem to really enjoy being crammed into these RVs. They like the idea of “glamping,” I think it is called: camping, but you don’t have to sleep on the ground, the outhouse concept has been dealt with, and if it rains, you have an actual roof over your head.

We visited the Airstream factory. Airstream makes the famous tin capsules that we have seen tooling down the highways of America for generations. They are charming. So charming that when we looked at the models in the showroom, I casually commented that I thought going in a trip in one might be “fun.”

MY HUSBAND: *eyes rolling*: What exactly do you think would be so fun?

ME: What do you mean? This one is so cute and cozy. Only $30,000 for the base model.

HIM: Notice the bed that is crammed in there in the back?

ME: Yes, so?

HIM: Where would YOU sleep? *gesturing along the width of the bed, which is indeed the size of a small cot*

ME: Oh, right. Well, we would have to go up a size to the next model, I guess.

HIM: And have you thought about where we would have to stop each night?

ME: Right. In one of those places with all the other trailers.

HIM: And what would we do? *pauses for effect* We would have to socialize with all of the inhabitants of those other RVs, who would be sitting in their camp chairs, drinking beers and cooking hamburgers on their portable grills. They would ask things like “Where you hail from, buddy?” and “What brought you out here on the road?”

ME: I would stay inside the trailer. Reading.

HIM: And you would not want to go hiking? Or biking? *gesturing at the bike rack* Because I think hiking and biking are about the only options for campers. Or maybe fishing. Are you suddenly fond of fishing?

ME: We could stay in the trailer and watch TV. Or play games.

HIM: Right. Like we play games. And do you see the size of that TV? Notice that it is similar to the screen of your iPad? And that it’s mounted on the wall above the bed? The single, ram-your-arms-against-the-wall bed that is back here in the aft of the capsule? *once again gestures toward the slimline cot*

ME: Why do we see so many of these things on the road, then, if they are so uncomfortable?

HIM: Because the people taking them on vacation love to hike, bike and fish. And they are not afraid of getting the Zika virus in Minnesota. They are people who wear cargo pants. They know how to read maps. They like camp fires. They don’t mind humidity. They call stuff like backpacks, insect spray, rain ponchos, and water bottles “gear.”

ME: Oh, my God. This is what they do? These people take these RVs out and all they do is be outside all the time? They don’t go to restaurants and the outlet malls? They just drive around looking at nature?

HIM: *nodding*

ME: Forget this. $30,000 to be miserable? Have these people never been to Paris or even Cincinnati? They go on vacations with no Starbucks or symphony tickets? Hasn’t anybody told them about Airbnb?

HIM: *pulling me out of the base model by the arm* Quiet–you are causing a ruckus. That guy in the Crocodile Dundee hat just gave you a dirty look. And here comes the sales rep!

We hustled out of there and into our car, where I used four Kleenexes to mop my brow.

HIM: Yep. $30,000 will buy a lot of pedicures.

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There is a groundhog living in luxury under my deck. I bet he has a little disco ball, a great sound system, a huge wet bar, and mossy wall-to-wall carpeting down there. I bet he throws great parties at night for all the neighborhood raccoons, possums, and assorted squirrels. I am sure they have a great time, too, because that groundhog serves up great party food.

This consists of all the delicious nubbins that the groundhog harvests right under our noses from the planters arrayed on the deck. These are full of an array of delectables including sweet potato vine, coleus, vinca vine, geraniums, and impatiens. We put all of this in before the groundhog made his tenancy in the condo under the deck apparent to us.

I discovered him one day as I looked out my window, and saw him munching on the begonias in my largest planter. He looked adorable. Like somebody right out of Beatrix Potter. All he needed was a little blue waistcoat.

I Googled, and I was horrified to discover that groundhogs will eat up an entire garden very quickly. Suddenly, I was in Farmer MacGregor mode. How could I get rid of this guy? I read on. The experts advised that trapping is futile, as groundhogs evade traps with great aplomb. Their advice was to shoot the groundhog.

Shoot? You mean with a gun? Murder the little face with the black nose and button eyes? Here in suburbia, where I am sure if my husband went out on the deck with a firearm he would accidentally maim one of the preschoolers next door? Not an option. After my heart stopped pounding, I Googled “plants that groundhogs don’t like eating.”

The results were heartening, as there are indeed many plants that groundhogs don’t like. So now my planters are full of radishes and rosemary.

Although they aren’t that attractive, they will remain intact for the summer, according to the pundits.

I am inviting the pundits over for dinner. We are having radish sandwiches garnished with rosemary.

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We are having soup for dinner. We have to; it is one of the meals our meal kit service sent us. But as far as I am concerned, soup is completely inappropriate as a main dish.

Soup is mostly liquid. Since when is a bowl of liquid filling? No matter that this particular soup has chickpeas floating in it, along with some carrot slices, greens, and herbs and spices. Oh, and is garnished with grated cheese. It is still a bowl of liquid. Right. They sent along a tiny baguette. Instructions are to cut it in half, put some garlic, rosemary, and olive oil on it, and toast in the oven. Now we are up to a bowl of liquid with one tiny piece of toast per person.

I frown upon people who can demurely sip at a bowl of hot liquid, then put their spoons down, pat their lips with a napkin, and call it a meal. I am willing to bet that these people go downstairs at around ten p.m. and make themselves a bologna sandwich. Or worse, they have the soup and seize up with hunger pangs at about midnight, and then have to go downstairs for cheese and crackers, sleep ruined for the rest of the night.

Maybe the soup diners expect something afterwards, like a big piece of pie. That makes sense, but around here, sugar is off limits to me, so there will be no pie. My husband can eat pie, however. He doesn’t get any pie, but I have noticed him looking around the kitchen longingly after certain particularly meager meals, like soup.

But wait. Pizza counts as pie. Done.



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