I used to have about the same relationship to the 23rd Psalm as I had to the 1994 Honda Accord that I owned. That car lasted 14 years, went 265,000 miles, survived the Northfield hailstorm of 2005, and never broke down. I respected it; I appreciated it. I did not really love it. So it was for me with this most familiar and oft-recited of psalms. I respected the central position that it has garnered through the centuries, I appreciated the calm and comfort and consolation that it has brought to folks – including many for whom it is their only connection to the Bible. But for all that, it was not especially dear to my own heart. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: June 2014
The Text I Didn’t Send
I was at a denominational meeting, and an amendment was offered to a resolution that was on the floor. It was only two words, but they were important words to the person who proposed adding them. It took several minutes for the moderator, the parliamentarian, and the person proposing the amendment to work through the procedure and get the amendment and the resolution appropriately voted on. I felt cranky and impatient. Really cranky. I picked up my cell phone and was about to text, “Just shoot me.”
What stopped me on the spot was the realization that anything we text might be read by others – we know not whom. I didn’t want to be “on the record” with words that could be taken out of context as being a genuine invitation to violence.
What stops me now is astonishment (and embarrassment) that a phrase like “Just shoot me” has elbowed its way into my conversation at all. I am universally opposed to violence and specifically critical of the easy availability of firearms. What was I thinking?
One explanation is, of course, that this phrase is just hyperbole – an exaggerated way of saying that I would rather be almost anywhere else doing just about anything else, than sitting through a partially garbled parliamentary procedure about two words. And while that is true, it doesn’t really acknowledge the insidious way that a violent phrase snuck into my language.
So I will be listening for other phrases to use the next time I am cranky and impatient – phrases that are sassy and irreverent but not violent. Got any suggestions?
Who Thinks Up These Things?
There are four things that can be made “touchless” in a public restroom: the toilet can flush by itself, the water in the sink can turn itself on, the soap can dispense itself, and the paper towel can advance or the hand dryer turn on automatically.
In my travels, not many women’s restrooms are equipped with all four. (I can’t speak about men’s restrooms.) I have seen about every combination of two or three. The building I am in right now has auto-flush and auto-soap, but do-it-yourself water and towels. My favorite craft store has the opposite (auto water and towels, do-it-yourself flush and soap).
I suspect two motivations among restroom designers. One is to offer a mostly sanitary experience to the person using the facilities. The other is to minimize the waste of water, soap, and towels. Automating speaks to both of these.
I wonder who decides which parts to automate. Is there a panel? Are there experts? Do the plumbers get to choose?
Of course, I also wonder when in restaurant history the chocolate sauce moved from the top of the dessert to the plate underneath. And when in cooking history that onions went from “brown” to “caramelized.”
I wonder why butter comes in long narrow quarters in the Midwest and shorter, fatter quarters on the West Coast. Is there a “butter line” right through the Rocky Mountains? Did the salesman with the long-narrow packaging machine turn back when he got to Denver?
So I guess my habit of wondering is stronger than my interest in restroom design. Still, I wonder …
Where are the Schools?
I’ve been spending more time than usual in the Twin Cities this spring, driving around neighborhoods that are new to me. One of them is an industrial area along Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis. I’ve noticed three schools housed in buildings that I’m pretty sure were built for other purposes.
I understand that this is practical – the buildings are large, have plenty of parking, and are close to public transportation (though there are still a lot of school buses in the morning!).
Nonetheless, seeing them out there makes me nostalgic. I miss the days when schools were at the center of communities, when they were surrounded by playgrounds and baseball diamonds and big lawns. I miss the days when towns invested in buildings that were handsome and substantial. I miss the sense that we are all connected to the nearby school, even if we don’t have children in our household.
Even apart from nostalgia, there is some sense in which this just seems like the wrong place for schools. This location says that education is an “industry,” and not part of our family and neighborhood life. All three of the ones I drive by are Charter schools, and this location says that innovation is relegated to the margins of our community. If the students in these schools are (as I suspect) those who have struggled in other settings, this location says “sorry, you don’t get a beautiful school.”
I am trying to be appreciative of the practicality and resourcefulness of the folks who lead and oversee these schools. I am trying not to be old-fashioned about the importance of architecture and geography and green space. I am trying to remember that what goes on inside of schools is always more important than what they look like on the outside. I am trying … And it still feels as though we have lost something.