Friday, November 28, 2008

Cave Person Day at the Palace Golf Club and Spa

Today we had the privilege of golfing at and enjoying the services of the Palace Golf Club and Spa in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. However, it wasn't as glamorous as it sounds.

I started playing golf fairly recently, in fact the word 'playing' may be an exaggeration, I have the equipment and go through the motions but I still don't think I am justified in saying I play golf. My first time out I think I broke every single rule, every one. In attempt to be efficient and help my brother I apparently walked across his 'line' when I should have walked around and avoided the vicinity of his ball entirely. I also made the mistake, on several occasions, of taking a practice swing while someone was 'addressing the ball'. Being totally out of his sight, I thought this was acceptable, but apparently the swish of air caused by my club was a disruption to their zen-like state of concentration. I had a hard time keeping track of my shadow too, it had to be watched every minute lest it interfere with someone's concentration or strategy or whatever it is they were doing in the five minutes they took to stare at the ball, then the hole, then the ball, and the hole again. Normally when playing games at my house (Monopoly, Cards, etc.) we have some kind of time limit on turns which is usually supported and enforced by everyone. But all of a sudden the whole idea of timed turns went out the window in favor of totally silent, standing, staring acceptance of long, drawn-out indecision. Man alive! I have a hard time being instructed about polite behavior when my dad is the instructor, but when I got shhhh'd for groaning after someone's tenth practice swing, and reprimanded by my 11, 15, and 17 year-old brothers for impolite behavior, it was absolutely irritating and unacceptable! They took great pleasure in pointing out my stupidity. I was shocked that my brothers who have no problem burping loudly in the middle of a family dinner or spontaneously erupting in fistfights in public were turned into masters of restraint and propriety just because they were on a golf course. It was some kind of parallel universe where they were the smart and sophisticated ones who totally understand sports and I was the sloppy, stupid, cave-person who wandered into the path of flying golf balls, knocked branches off trees with inadvertent swings of her giant club, or the equivalent of someone who stands up and tells the refs to call traveling at a football game! I don't like being the blithering idiot, but I didn't give up. I wanted to get good, so good in fact that I could be the one who steps up, addresses the ball, hits a beautiful drive, and looks over my shoulder with that look that absolutely says 'That is how it's done.'

Unfortunately I'm not there yet. I spent most of our 18-hole round in the sand, although that was not due entirely to my lack of skill...this course had an unusually large number of sand bunkers. After hitting my first sand shot, an ugly one that barley cleared the sand and landed on the edge of rough between the bunker and the green, I thought I would head over to my ball and continue to play. So, that's just what I did. I was not aware of this unwritten golf rule that governs sand traps 'When one is in the sand, one leaves the bunker along the same path one went in. Then one erases every TRACE of evidence that one was ever present in the bunker." Like the cave person that I apparently become on the course, I had tromped across almost the entire thing and left footprints larger and deeper than I would like to admit. My putting woes continued today as well, every time I get that putter in my hand I seem to turn into Grog the alpha cave person who has to prove his strength by yelling "I am Grog, see me putt!!" and putting with great gusto (off the green in some cases).However, my prehistoric cave-dweller ways came roaring out much more when I arrived at the Spa. I had an appointment to get a massage, but I let someone else take it because, well because I didn't want to get one. I had my book, the sun, and a nice lounge chair and I didn't think a stranger greasing up their hands and rubbing them all over me would be any more relaxing than that. I did however decide to get the manicure and pedicure. I was a little nervous about the whole thing, mostly because we are in Mexico and I was worried about being the only English-speaker and not understanding what was going on. However, I realized that I am no more a minority or out-of-the-loop here than I am at hair salons back home. I walk in, am assigned one of the many blond hair-dressers, and they ask what I want done to my hair. I give my usual response "Cut a couple inches and color." Then the blondes start asking questions of me, the neanderthal brunette who doesn't understand words like 'layering' or colors like 'auburn', and I am reduced to grunting once again, "Cut same, color same." I can usually refrain from chest pounding, but there is a lot of awkward pointing. Once they decide what they are going to do with me though, I am usually pretty good at sitting still and not getting in their way.

Today however, was another story. The first thing I had to do was pick a color for my nails....once again more awkward pointing and some grunting, "Toes (point), fingers (point)." Then there was a lot of dipping, rubbbing, pruning, and generally strange hand stuff. I never knew where to put the hand that wasn't being worked on. At first I thought, oh I'll just follow where she puts the other hand. I learned that was the wrong thing to do when both of my hands would not fit in the tiny bowl of water she had placed my right hand into. She quickly removed my left hand and said, "No." It was like I was worse than a cave person, like I was a dog! While she was painting one finger, I apparently kept touching nails she had already painted to the cloth and my other fingers....she had to repaint one nail 4 times because I kept messing it up. We went over to the pedicure chair and I realized I still had my golf shoes on, "Not a problem," I thought, "I'll just take them off." So I reached down and started untying them. When Thelma turned around she twitched like she was about to reach down and stop me, but then she changed her mind. I think she'd given up. I just went on merrily untying, then when I was in the chair realized I had just messed up three nails. The most embarrassing part was yet to come however. Having never had a pedicure, I did not know that I apparently have very very ticklish feet. When Thelma started using the scrubby thing (no idea what that is called) and the little toe-bush thing (is there a technical name for this?) I giggled out loud. She stopped for a minute and I said, "Tickles." She nodded knowingly and bent low, working intently. Then it happened. My leg twitched, not a lot, but just a quick little tickle reflex, and my foot hit her face! I apologized profusely, she was fine, it was really only a tap. The real problem is that I couldn't stop giggling for the duration of the pedicure. It was ticklish, I was a little sleep deprived, and my foot hitting her face was kind of funny. Once again, I was the cave person, this time laughing at the slapstick humor of someone getting hit in the face! I walked out of the spa shamefacedly shoeless (I hadn't brought any shoes other than golf shoes and my nails hadn't dried)...just like cave persons of old.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

As the most thankful of Thursdays approaches, I need to write the obligatory ‘What-I’m-Grateful-For’ post. I, like most people, have many things to be grateful for. I am hesitant to list them for fear of appearing unthankful for all the things I forget. I could say I am grateful on this day for Utah football, and believe me I am. I could say I am grateful for the opportunity to go to Cancun with my family (more on this in the coming days), and I am. I could say I am grateful for my family and friends, and I am. But today I am going to talk about how grateful I am for my roommates.
I am sitting on a plane on my way to Cancun and I keep thinking of everything I'm missing in Provo, and am kind of bummed I won’t see Ainsley, Becky, Brandi, Sally, or Whitney for a week. Lest you think I am a pathetic zoobie who’d rather be in Provo than Cancun, let me explain a little bit about each of them and maybe you’ll understand.

Ainsley is the mother of the apartment. She cooks for us regularly, and at least in my case, is always making sure homework gets done. Every Monday and Wednesday I come home to an empty apartment as everyone else is either in class or at work, but without fail the silence is broken by the sound of the dishwasher going. Why? Because Ainsley is the first one to get back from class and she ALWAYS does the dishes before heading off to work. She is tentatively majoring in Accounting but she does not have the hideously boring personality that typically accompanies Accountants. She’s just good with numbers, she has a gift and might as well take advantage of it before she pursues her real dream of going to Culinary School. She is Mary Poppins-like in that she is practically perfect in every way. It's a little annoying sometimes, having a perfect friend, but it's who she is and we've accepted it. I go to Ainsley when I need someone to roll their eyes at me and tell me to get back to work.

Becky is the decorator of our apartment. I have to admit that I was not that excited about going to live in Provo until I walked into our place for the first time. Becky made it feel like a home and I actually couldn’t wait to move in. One of the most endearing things about Becky is her laugh. It’s sort of difficult to describe, she laughs with her whole body, almost uncontrollably, and it’s almost impossible not to laugh once Becky gets going. I also enjoy the fact that she will laugh at almost anything and so she makes me feel like a top-of-the-line comedian…it’s good for my ego. Becky also provides us with a surprise in our living room on occasion, his name is Hunter. It’s happened several times that we’ve come out to find the two of them asleep on the couch, exactly where they were the night before. He’s a nice guy though, so we don’t mind too much. Besides, it’s kind of exciting waking up not knowing who may be sleeping on your couch…like living in some sort of youth hostile. I go to Becky when I want to rant and rave about Grey’s Anatomy. We share a passion for all things Grey’s.

Brandi is the athlete of the apartment. She is on the BYU lacrosse team and loves almost all athletic activities. She was very patient and taught me how to throw and catch with a lacrosse stick, she played with me for almost three hours. By the end I could actually catch and throw, but she had to put up with a lot of waiting around while I chased the ball and I think I even gave her a bruise due to my inability to aim. Brandi has boys galore but she doesn’t get carried away by the whole thing. She sees no conflict in having different boys for different geographic regions, in fact I think she prefers it that way. It’s less complicated. Brandi goes to bed early, by eleven every night, a fact which amazes us all. She is very insistent on getting her sleep, and for some reason doesn’t think sleeping until noon on the days she doesn’t have class is the right way to go. This I do not understand. I go to Brandi when I want some down-to-earth and practical perspective. She is always cool-headed and doesn’t get carried away with the ups and downs of every day life.

Sally is the one roommate we didn’t go to high school with, and we were a little worried about who we’d get stuck with. However, we all feel like we lucked out. She’s hard to describe, she’s got a lot of uh, spunk and is not afraid to say what she thinks. This is also good for my ego I think, although in a less pleasant and more humbling way. She is up until the early morning hours doing one of two things…studying or partying, hard. Sally is a Nutrition major and thus is in lots of science-type classes that would make me want to kill myself. She has a friend, Kristina who comes around fairly frequently, another one who may be sleeping on our couch when we wake up. Sally likes to share, she shares my bed, my lamp, my food, my pens, whatever she needs. It’s a little unnerving when I walk into my room and find her already occupying it but I guess it’s good, she’s helping me learn to share. I go to Sally when I need to pick a fight. She always wins when we argue, that’s probably because she’s louder than I am and all the other roommates think it’s funny to jump in on her side. I also go to Sally when I need a good laugh, she’s always good for a witty comment or at the very least a well-placed swear word.

Whitney is the social coordinator of the apartment. I don’t think there is one new person I’ve met that hasn’t been a result of her bringing them to the apartment. I guess that makes me kind of a recluse who won’t go out and proactively meet people, which makes me even more grateful for Whitney. She is also very studious, but has a bit of hard time choosing studying over sociality. She’s been given the nickname ‘Distracted’ due to her inability to concentrate on homework when people are having fun somewhere. I cannot count the number of times we’ve been sitting in the living room just talking when we’ll hear the disembodied voice of Whitney jumping into the conversation from down the hall where she is supposedly studying. She always manages to get her work done though, in fact she is one of the hardest workers I know. I’m pretty sure she never slept over the summer as she was insanely busy working two jobs and picking up overtime shifts in the middle of the night. I go to Whitney when I need a break from studying or sleeping and just need someone to talk to about whatever because she is a good listener and easy to distract from whatever she happens to be working on.

These are the people that I go home to, and I am thankful that I have the privilege of living with every one of them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Year of the Ute

I don't have much to say about today's game, what could I say? BYU put up a good fight, they made some big mistakes but I think Utah earned this win. There was no better place to be today than Rice Eccles Stadium. I am proud to be a Ute fan, I look forward to our BCS game in January, and...Go Utes!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hoods - Rain Protection We Can Believe In

Today was a rainy day, not in the figurative sense but literally a day with heavy precipitation, and when the rains came down the umbrellas came up. Unfortunately the manners that are necessary for the proper handling of these bumbershoots were totally absent. I am one of those who prefers toughing it out with a good hood covering my head rather than bothering with the cumbersomeness of umbrellas, but today it seemed that I had to put up with their incommodiousness without actually reaping the protective benefits. While walking around campus I was already pushing my luck trying to avoid objects, people, and puddles in my path with my hood seriously limiting my peripheral vision. I did not think to worry about the potentially eye-poking, or even blinding, spokes or the streams shooting off the edges of other peoples' umbrellas, and apparently neither did they! After a day full of unfortunate umbrella encounters and full of hope for the change this new administration will bring, I plan to petition for ethical umbrella use laws, one of which will be an absolute ban on the spinning of said umbrellas while in use. At the very least I will push for umbrella wielding licenses which will only be issued to those who can prove they have a good sense of common courtesy and self-awareness. We hooded people hope we have found our candidate of change in President Obama and look forward to his umbrella reforms.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Democracy and Senior Citizens

Tuesday I had my first voting experience working as a poll-worker. It was not the efficient machine-like system of democratic expression I had expected but more of a slow-motion geriatric comedy of errors. Hearing aid problems here, senior moments of forgetfulness there, and the distinct scent of the elderly was everywhere. But for all that, the people in our precincts were lucky to have these old poll-workers, and I was lucky to have been put with this group. There are not many people with whom I could spend 15 straight hours but I thoroughly enjoyed almost every minute with them.

Our Poll Manager was Sue, she had been the chief nurse of a 400-bed mobile army hospital (four times the size of a MASH unit) in the National Guard for 20+ years and now works at the King's English bookstore. She was very calm throughout, making sure some of the more excitable old folks kept their cool and that we all had plenty of breaks. She even initiated a little pool, we all were betting on how many voters we'd have by the end of the day...sadly I took third.

Rex was our technician, a very very nice old Greek man. He has diabetes and so had toes and parts of both feet removed. Walking was not easy for him, but he was always quick to jump up whenever anyone was having trouble understanding how to work the voting machines. When he wasn't helping in that way he would sit by the doors on his big wooden stool, thank people for voting, and tell them about all the free Starbucks coffee, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and Ben and Jerry's ice cream they could get for voting. He would typically say 'Don't forget your free coffee, doughnuts, or ice cream.' This lead about half the people to turn around on the spot and say 'Where!?' Twice we had two people collide because the one in front turned around abruptly to look for the free food while the person immediately behind did not.

Rachel was our Provisional Judge, and the youngest worker....probably in her late 40s. She was given the nickname Deep Throat because she would get updates of election results on her phone and quietly relay them to us without letting the voters hear. (We were supposed to maintain complete political neutrality and not discuss politics in any way.)

Jeanne was the funny one in the group, a fifty-something year old English-major who came in wearing her daughters turquoise converse sneakers. She lead us all in a big cheer for each and every first-time voter who came in. She could always be counted on to know exactly how much time we had left...'six hours and 37 minutes!' When I was being too quiet she would say 'Alright Jennifer, let's turn the heat back on you...tell us why you're at BYU, or tell us about Philsophy.'

Anne was an almost-seventy year old English major with a fabulous vocabulary and a fiery competitiveness. She initiated a second contest, to see who could guess the time that we'd hit 500 voters. She beat me by 4 minutes and was tickled about it. At one point, when it was getting down to the wire, we had a man come in who had to vote on a provisional ballot. She was worried that I would count him in our tally and had he counted, I would have won, so she began saying 'He doesn't count, he's not in our books he's on provisional so his vote doesn't count!'. She made no attempt to keep her voice down and the man was looking concerned until Poll-Manager Sue went over to assure him that his vote would in-fact count.

Sue #2 was a 68 year-old originally from Montpeilier, Idaho who was sort of a math guru. When Poll-Manager Sue announced our original total numer of voters contest, Sue #2 spent almost an hour counting and calculating numbers to reach her guess. Unforunately her magical math did not give her the winning guess. Towards the end of the night as the number of voters dwindled to almost nothing, the rule of political neutrality went out the window. All of my left-leaning cowokers were letting Palin jokes fly and talking about moving to Canada or Mexico if the election didn't go their way. Sue #2 found all of this to be absolutely hilarious and would giggle to the point of tears. The sight of 68 year-old crying and shaking with laughter, on top of all the wittiness of the others made for lots of laughing all around.

Then there was Bill and Ruth, a married couple in their eighties, both with hearing aids, and seated on either side of me. Ruth graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music as an Organist and Bill is a former Physics professor at the University of Utah. Ruth was the grandma of the group, she brought homemade cookies, homegrown pear tomatoes, carrots, and nuts to sustain all of us. Bill is not a proponent of String Theory (the only physics topic I knew enough about to discuss with him) and does not understand things like music and sewing machines, he understands semi-conductors and likes them for their usefulness. Our only error in reconciling the books came when I took my ten minute afternoon break. When I got back and we checked our books against the machines we were off by one. Bill and Ruth started arguing about where the mistake was but eventually Ruth and I found the error and fixed it. Then she said, "You can't even leave us alone for ten minutes without everything getting messed up!" This gave me a completely exaggerated sense of importance.... like an indispensable cog in the machinery of democracy.

We had a good crew and at the end of our fifteen hour-day I was sorry to leave their company. But, they had stopped their almost intravenous intake of coffee and were all quickly losing steam so they each gave me a hug, I felt like I had gained eight new grandparents, and we all hurried home to watch the numbers come in. Senior citizens may not be the most efficient folks, but they take their title of 'citizen' seriously. It's not easy for an 80 year-old to work from 5:30am to 9:00pm, no matter how much coffee they've got. Things like hearing aids, canes, sight problems, unsteady hands, and even poor memories don't make it any easier. But their age group seems to be the one that answers the call of civic duty. This 'slow-motion geriatric comedy of errors' was what allowed approximately 643 people to vote, and probably millions more across the country.