Monthly Archives: March 2012

Long layover leads to damaged vertebrae epiphany

by Viv Sade

I have two deep-rooted fears – flying and earthquakes. Well okay, three, if you count the approaching Zombie Apocalypse.

So when I fly to quake-prone San Francisco, as I did last week, it’s Fear-squared.

I’ve tried everything from meeting with the pilot to meditation to hypnosis to taking psychoactive drugs with a Miller Lite chaser. I prefer the latter.

So, a few times annually – directly related to the number of times I take flight – I take a couple of Xanax.

Once I visited a holistic doctor and told him I needed some Xanax to fly. He said he did not do that and suggested I drink a cup of chamomile tea before boarding the plane.

Are you #$%*ing kidding me?!

The only way chamomile tea will calm me is if I mix it with Xanax and snort it, I told him.

But this time the problem was not the flights, but the layover.

I realized when I booked the trip that my return flight was the red-eye special, but it couldn’t be helped. What I did not realize until that day was that I left San Francisco at 6 p.m., arrived in Chicago at 12:45 a.m. and then caught a flight to Fort Wayne at 2:40 a.m., or so I thought. Which was bad enough …

… but it was 2:40 p.m.

Holy shit. A 14-hour layover.

Are you #$%*ing kidding me?!

I was homeless. I was living in O’Hare Airport. I was Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.”

First of all, airport seats are not designed for sleeping. Hell, they’re not even designed for sitting.

Second of all, I – excluding the third shift custodial workers – was the ONLY person  in the entire American Airlines terminal from 1 a.m. until almost 5 a.m.

I found a large screen TV in one waiting area and positioned myself underneath it, lifting my feet when necessary so the janitors could vacuum.

I watched the news repeat itself six times and fell asleep with my head resting on my purse at an unnatural 180 degree angle. I was startled awake two hours later by the sound of my neck splintering in half and my head hitting the steel arm of the plastic chair.

Only ten more hours to go.

Turns out the airport begins to come alive at 4:45 a.m. The nearby McDonald’s workers were hustling to open at 5 and a few passengers were straggling in to catch an early flight.

I gathered my carry-on suitcase, my purse and my giant “I (heart) San Francisco” bag, balanced everything precariously on top of the carry-on and rolled over to McDonald’s, baglady-like.

I ordered a “senior coffee,” which is a medium size and only 52 cents in Fort Wayne. That, by the way, was when I first realized I was old – when I  swallowed my pride at age 50 – the senior qualifying age – and chose frugality over vanity. It’s a defining moment in a woman’s life.

The very nice clerk told me they did not offer a senior coffee.

I ordered a small, instead. It was $2.25.

Are you #$%*ing kidding me?!

I was too tired to fight. Plus, my neck was broken.

Nine hours and 45 minutes to go.

The moment I saw a clerk at the airline counter, I went in for the kill. I explained my predicament and asked if there was an earlier flight she could book for me.

No problem … could get me on an outgoing flight at 10 a.m., but it would cost me $150 to make the change.

Are you #$%*ing kidding me?!

Forget it. I’d show her.

And I did. For the next 9 1/2 hours.

In addition to Xanax, the other thing I digest only a few times a year is the famous Chicago caramel and cheese popcorn mix.

I bought a giant bag of the stuff and positioned myself on a chair in the main portion of the terminal to people-watch.

About 90 minutes later, after my fingers and hands had turned into sticky orange gloves, and I had observed every freakish person flying through O’Hare airport, I decided I had to get some sleep.

I was feeling sick. It was either sleep-deprivation or the Company’s Coming Special bag of sweet, cheesy popcorn I had just devoured for breakfast.

After washing my hands, I went in search of sleeping quarters.

Food mall – too noisy.

Book store – nice, but no chairs.

Main terminal – too risky. Airport security might mistake me for a vagrant and subject me to a full-body scan, find out I’m carrying contraband – 4 ounces of shampoo, a full ounce over the limit – and throw me in Federal Airport Prison.

Gate waiting areas – very crowded, but wait … what is that little alcove at the end of the terminal next to the last gate?

I walked to the end of Gate H-15 where a solid wall of windows and chairs were tucked back in a corner away from the crowd.


I settled in, positioned my broken neck and used my carry-on for a footstool. Not bad. The windows faced the east, and the sun felt delightful.

Watching the steady stream of planes in the sky taking off and landing within seconds of one another had a calming effect on me.

“Why, with all of these planes successfully landing and taking off every second at just one airport in the world, the odds of my plane crashing are almost zero …”

It appeared that I did not need Xanax after all. All I needed was to sit and watch the planes land and take off before my flight while drinking a $2.25 small cup of coffee.

I soon fell into a deep sleep. I woke up to find a little boy staring at the line of drool falling from my open mouth.

I smiled at him and looked at my watch.

Only five hours until I was no longer homeless.

Things were looking up.

Fourth grade pipers lead parents over edge

I’d like to address the parents of fourth graders everywhere throughout the world:

My sincere sympathies.

Isn’t that the year the teachers send home those wonderful, little musical instruments called flutophones or recorders? They are meant to teach the kids the basics of music, but only end up leading parents to the Xanex Horn of Plenty.

The flutophone – sometimes referred to as the Horn of Eternal Darkness – is a direct link to non-smoking parents going out to buy a pack of cigarettes and never being heard from again.

When my first two children brought home this adorable instrument I was just as excited as they were. With my third and fourth – well, not so much.

The year my third child gleefully unpacked his new flutophone, I sighed and feigned excitement through clenched teeth.

“Hey mom, listen – want to hear me play “My Bonnie Likes to Smear on the Lotion?”

“Uh, well, okay.”

Eeeeeiiiiiiikkkkkk, iiiiiieeeeeerrrrrkkkkk, rrrriiiiiaaaaaaaeeeekkkk …


He proceeded to emit sounds that reminded me of the time ole’ Mama Cat got tangled in our new turbo engine weedwacker.

I grinned – or maybe grimaced – and told him how wonderful he sounded.

Our newest cat, MnM – short for Meow and Mix — screeched and ran straight up the wall. Seriously, straight up the wall.

The youngest, a second grader, screamed and ran to his room. The two older kids, who hadn’t cracked a book since adolescence discovered them and they discovered “My Changing Body”, sprinted out the back door, saying they were going to friend’s house to do homework.

Obviously, the cat and his siblings had no appreciation of the Fine Arts, I said, trying to console the fourth-grader.

Later, during the umpteenth rendition of “East Side, West Side, Come and Get This Clown,” my unadulterated admiration and pride began to wane.

“Listen, hon,” I said. “You sound great. But maybe you could just take it into your bedroom for a while? Mommy’s got a nasty headache.”

Which he did. Until the second-grader came sprinting out of the bedroom yelling, “Make him stop! Make him stop! It’s making my eyes roll up and drop out to the ground and my legs and arms twist in circles like this!” (wild gyrations, eye rolling and flailing of limbs)

I then sent the fourth-grader into the bathroom to shut the door and practice his concerto.

As I walked back to the kitchen, I violently kicked the recorder case into the next room.

About eight minutes after he moved into the bathroom and began rehearsing “She’ll be Humming Around the Fountain,” I asked him to please move to the basement and kindly shut all the windows and doors.

Soon he was crouched on top of the washer and dryer in the basement practicing, “I’ve Been Working on the Dead Toad,” while the second-grader and I sat on the sofa and tried to stuff throw pillows into our ear canals.

Seconds before the pulsating vein exploded and hemorrhaged in my frontal lobe, I decided distraction was the only way out.

“Let’s go for a walk!” I announced, and soon all three of us were outside walking, the second grader and I now communicating through sign language.

As we approached the home of another fourth grader on our block, we heard the familiar sounds of the recorder wafting from the basement.

Eeeeeiiiiiiikkkkkk, iiiiiieeeeeerrrrrkkkkk, rrrriiiiiaaaaaaaeeeekkkk …


I nodded sympathetically at the boy’s mother and father, who were sitting on the front porch, rocking psychotically. They were not in rocking chairs.

They nodded and smiled vacantly while filling their mouths with sharp stones and stirring them with wooded spatulas.

Or maybe they were just gritting their teeth.

Either way, that fourth grade year is eternal.

Dad throws the net over 14-year-old

by Viv Sade

Fishnet hose is making a comeback.

My father is turning over in his grave.

The two thoughts are synonymous.

I’ll never forget how I learned, as a child, that black, fishnet hosiery is derived from a Latin term: fuho netest, meaning: “SLEAZY.”

That message was not so subliminally ingrained in me as a young, impressionable adolescent girl during a time when studies showed that the average teenage girl’s brain was composed of Silly Putty, Hula-Hoops and Nehi grape soda.

When I was 14, a Greyhound bus service offered a route from my hometown of Churubusco to Fort Wayne, about 15 miles.  Along with my neighbor and best friend, Roberta – nicknamed Bert –  we would catch the Saturday bus in front of Barnhart’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain for about 50 cents – round trip – and travel to the big city.

We saved our weekly quarter allowance until we had a pile, hopped the bus and spent the afternoon wolfing down donuts and cherry sodas at Murphy’s 5 & 10 in downtown Fort Wayne. We also visited Stillman’s Department Store, a spectacular high rise – maybe five stories in all.

It was the glam world of the 60’s – women in pillbox hats and meticulous white gloves, gray-haired ladies who smelled of musty roses and snooty saleswomen wearing strands of pearls who worked all day selling meaningless attire – I mean, for god’s sake, there was an entire floor of gloves and nylons!

The clerks seemed oblivious to the fact that the world was changing around them – young boys were dying in some war in a jungle far away; women were marching for equal pay and in the South, people were being discriminated against and some were even being murdered in their quest for equality.

But there, on the top floor of Stillman’s – Hosiery & Gloves – life stood still.

I had saved my quarters until I had enough to make the ultimate of all acquisitions for a 14-year-old in 1966 – some groovy, black fishnet hose.

I told no one but Bert. Somehow, although we’d never discussed the complex, immoral implications of fishnet stockings, I instinctively knew my parents would not approve.

Besides, I wasn’t allowed to wear hosiery at all – fishnet or otherwise. That was in 1966BP (before pantyhose), and one year away from the fabulous fashion arrival of tights, so back then wearing nylons required as many mechanisms as a Rube Goldberg competition. There were complicated snap garters, Barbie-size rubber girdles, roll-up garters (which never failed to roll down at the most inopportune times) and garter belts.

Garter belt – well, it just sounded dirty.

Still does.

Bert and I wore white anklets or knee-high socks. She was a good, Catholic girl. I was not. I was a half-assed Protestant, at best.

All I really knew was that once I possessed those black fishnet nylons – worn by all the chic, Twiggy-thin models in the fashion magazines – I would rise to the highest junior high level of popularity attainable anywhere in the Entire Universe of Churubusco.

My skin would clear up. Boys would want to hold my hand as we rode the Ferris wheel together at the annual Turtle Days Festival. The neighborhood bully would quit pulling my ponytail and spitting on my little brother. I would suddenly grow a bosom … or two? I would be invited to all the cool cats’ parties. The lunch lady would quit throwing potatoes au gratin at me while cursing, “$#%*&@ hold yer tray up!” Micky Dolenz of the Monkees would show up on my doorstep and we’d run off into the sunset singing, “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees…” I would be able to flawlessly perform The Twist, The Shake, The Mashed Potato, too.

Any old dance that I wanted to.

Life would be oh, so good. But first – I just had to get a pair of those black fishnet nylons.

One Saturday I donned my new mod, psychedelic, empire waist dress and traveled with Bert to downtown Fort Wayne. At Stillman’s, I emptied my accumulation of allowance monies onto the counter. The silver-haired saleslady smiled as she told me the fishnet hosiery was on sale and I had enough money for TWO pairs. Sweet bliss.

On the way home, sitting on the bus with our finery, Bert and I oohed and ahhed over the silky black stockings with the criss-crossed threads. I told her I planned to wear them to school on Monday.

We looked at each other meaningfully. That would be no easy task. But fortunately, I excelled in parental deception techniques.

Every morning a group of girls, who like me, were forbidden to wear nylons or miniskirts or makeup – would enter the “Girls” restroom, where we would change from our juvenile cotton socks into glamorous silk stockings with lace garters. We would roll up our knee-length skirts at the waist until they hung mid-thigh, but covered the top of the garters, which took strategic planning and an eye for detail. Some would carefully apply contraband mascara, eye shadow and Pretty in Pink lipstick, as well.

We went to school as pig-tailed Pollyannas and emerged from that restroom looking like eighth grade Ladies of the Night.

That same evening, after our trip to Fort Wayne, I decided to sneak out in my new hosiery and go to the high school basketball game. The school was only a block away and my parents would never notice.

But I forgot about The Family. I could not even floss without elbowing a sibling.

As I prepared to slide out the back door, one of my brothers yelled, “Ugh! … Why are your legs all crackly?” This caused numerous other young siblings to run in the back hallway and stare at my legs. “Ooohhh!” “Did spiders hatch on your legs?” “Are your legs rotten?” “Will you die?”

Mom and Dad entered the back hallway. My dad was frowning. Really frowning.

Okay – he flipped his wig, went ape, had a cow.

He ordered me to remove the hosiery at once. He demanded I give him both pairs and then marched out to the backyard burn barrel and set fire to my brand new purchase – all the while muttering something about “cheap, … bawdy … trash … not my daughter …”

Mom and I stared at each other – speechless. I had done some stupidvery stupid – things and would continue to do even more stupid things in the years to come, but we never again saw my dad lose his temper like he did that day.

Years later, I would wonder: Did he have a mean aunt who beat him with fishnets? Was it a painful memory of a sadistic saloon girl in Korea? Some morally ambivalent trollop from the bayous of Arkansas?

We would never know.

All I knew was that I would never wear fishnet nylons again.

On a good note, I did finally learn to do The Twist, The Shake, The Mashed Potato, too – but it was done in a pair of very uncool white cotton socks.

Smokin’ hot

By Viv Sade

There’s a reason – actually, two – that I never became a smoker: 1) I never quite learned the habit, and 2) I am ADD.

Throughout my teenage and adult life, I have tried – with serious ambitions of addiction – to smoke.

I stopped smoking those two cigarettes a year 15 years ago and never looked back.

I would like to say I do not smoke because I realize it is a harmful and life-threatening habit that is disgusting and extremely addictive.

Trouble is, I don’t smoke because I never really got the hang of it.

I’ve always had a problem paying attention to details. Every time I tried my best to light up and puff a cig, I became bored and my mind would wander.

My oldest daughter and son still remember growing up in a household of charred furniture during my trial years of trying to acquire new and more damaging vices than the ones I already had.

After a few months, every piece of furniture we owned had a burn mark on it.

Shortly after I would light up and puff and hack a phlem-filled-lung cookie, the phone would ring or there would be a knock at the door or my toenails would appear to be in need of a sound clipping.  Something always came up that made me forget I was holding a burning ember and I would begin a new task, and leave the damn thing burning wherever.

Since I didn’t really smoke, we owned no ashtrays. Consequently, I set the addictive firestick down wherever I happened to lose my attention span … television set, chest of drawers, kitchen counters, a trashy novel or a pile of newspapers.

Things would suddenly burst into flames, and I never really connected the odd habit of my random shot at smoking and the spontaneous combustion of various furniture in our household.

So, as a former smoker of sorts, I have no patience for messy smokers who throw their butts wherever.

I do however, have some respect for smokers who use ashtrays and don’t burn down their homes.

Imagine being able to adopt such a benevolent attitude at the same time you are busy trying to kill all of your healthy blood cells. Wow – that’s perseverance.

Smart phone; dumb owner

It may seem a bit odd, what with me Twittering, Facebooking, blogging, smogging and tobogganing, but I’m in the dark when it comes to technology.

I have a smartphone which I use to make and receive calls. That’s it. Every month I call the phone company and ask for Deshawnda, a representative I’ve gotten to know over the past 12 months. “Why are you charging me $40 a month for Internet access when I only use my phone to make phone calls?” I ask.

Deshawnda sighs and very patiently tells me that accessing the Internet is the most important function of the smartphone, to which I repeat my former request, “Then I don’t want a smartphone. Send me one of those old-fashioned phones that just make and receive calls. And take that $40 off of my phone bill.”

Deshawnda then tells me that I qualify to receive a brand new – and FREE – MaxGigo HyperMegaPixel 2800XL, which it turns out, will not only make and receive calls, but launch a rocket from NASA and emit an aroma every night at 5:30 p.m. that makes the house smell as though I’m cooking a porterhouse with onions and wild mushrooms. It sounds wonderful. I order it.

I call the phone company a month later when I get a bill for $300 plus an extra $50 for the rocket launching module and $100 for the add-on fake dinner aroma. A guy named Craig talks through his nose and tells me Deshawnda is vacationing in the Greek Islands on an all-expense paid trip after being named salesperson of the year.

I argue with Craig: “Why does it cost less to send a rocket into outer space than to fill my house with the smell of porterhouse and mashed potatoes?” I ask irritably.

Because, he explains, it’s much easier to launch a space shuttle than it is to simulate a home-cooked meal.

It’s not just phones that make me crazy.

We have a TV/sound system/DVD/VCR player/receiver/satellite/TV receiver/HD receptor with five remotes. When I want to watch The Real (i.e.: Fake) Housewives of Orange County, I ignore everything, including all the remotes, and flip the “on” button on the television, causing the system to short out and lose all of the preset programming. Then I begin switching frantically to channels that are nothing but snow and fuzz, further messing up the preset system. This causes my family great pain, although not as much as thinking dinner is cooking in the oven, when in fact, it is not.

I also have an account on Facebook that I don’t do a lot with other than post headlines and links to news stories. I’ve never once looked to see who’s posting dirty pictures and who’s not because, well first of all, I don’t know how, and second of all, I really don’t care. And third, what if it’s my kids and I’m forced to do something about it?

Early into my foray into social media, I got caught up in a virtual (i.e.: not real) farming game called FarmVille. This is where I owned a farm and buy animals and buildings and plant virtual crops and reap virtual profits. But because of my real – not virtual – attention deficit disorder — and I need to tell you that I haven’t actually been officially diagnosed with this — but have self-diagnosed through Web MD, because I had a friend who diagnosed her illness on the Internet and treated herself and she ended up dying, but it’s still a great thing to be able to save money on doctors and medical bills … Hey, is that something shiny? … after my longtime doctor left his practice, I visited a clinic in Fort Wayne, where I saw CindyLou Stephens who was in my graduating high school class. She is a nurse and has four kids, and left her worthless husband ten years ago after he ran off with …

… where was I? Oh, yes … I would forget about the FarmVille farm for weeks until my virtual neighbors sent me real emails. “Viv: All crops are dead. Barn is decaying. Animals are belly-up. Have reported you to Virtual PETA Authority.”

So now, not only am I a failure in real life, but I’m a virtual failure, as well.

And then there’s Twitter. Whatever the hell that is.

I recently registered for Twitter, mainly because I wanted all the hip, progressive people to notice that I was registered. One signs up for Twitter and then tweets. Easy enough. Only I have no idea how to tweet, for which unfortunately, I can never remember the proper name, and often refer to as “Twit” or … well, worse.

But I keep getting these emails that tell me, “Amanda Cyeenski is now following you on Twitter,” and “Abjab Hsad Hackjawed is now following you on Twitter.”

I currently have 89 people following me on Twitter.

Holy moly. Following me to where?!

In high school I was voted “Most Likely to Remain Stagnant.”

I wanted to appeal to Amanda Cyeenski and Abjab Hsad Hackjawed, “Who are you and why are you following me?!” but I did not know how.

I found myself looking over my shoulder and surveying the crowd when going out for coffee at the local restaurant. Was that Abjab at the counter in bib overalls and a ragged Purdue hat casually discussing crop yields with a local businessman? Was the waitress – who seemed much too interested in how I wanted my eggs cooked – Amanda Ceensi?

What do they want? WHY ARE THEY FOLLOWING ME?

But the scariest one I received said, “The Journal Gazette newspaper is now following you on Twitter.” I got notice of this on my phone right after I had accidentally launched a space shuttle while attempting to call my mom.

Several days later I received a notice from the Journal Gazette, informing me that they had quit following me on Twitter after discovering that I was going absolutely nowhere.


Any of my neighbors in FarmVille could have told them that.