Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Buffer Zone

We all KNOW it, but not all of us HONOR it. When someone disregards the buffer zone, a rage builds inside of me rivaling that of a hockey player who’s been sent to the penalty box. If only I owned a hockey stick so I could smack the offender over the head with it.

Just last week, I was at the gym and I came face to face with a violator. It was 11:00 in the morning on a weekday, so as you can imagine, the gym was virtually empty. I mean, most people work during the day. One of the best things about working nights is that you can enjoy places like the gym relatively free of annoying crowds of people. Well, not that morning. As I was running on the treadmill, a woman came over and actually got on the treadmill RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Yes, she did. There was an ENTIRE row of empty treadmills. Why did she pick the one directly beside mine? Hey lady, how about leaving at least one treadmill in between us?? Did she think I wanted to smell her b.o.? (Yes she was stinky.) Did she want to make polite conversation with me to pass the time while she exercised? (Thank God she had her headphones and didn’t do that.) As she was fiddling with the buttons on the treadmill, I gave her a look of death full of hatred and pure venom. Hell, if I could’ve shot daggers out of my eyes, I would’ve. But she was clearly in her own world. She didn’t even flinch at my odious glances in her direction. I’m not sure what was going on with this lady, but someone needs to teach her to value space and take advantage of it when it’s available!

Then there’s the subway. I am fortunate to live on the very first stop of my train line. Getting a seat is a guarantee. What is not certain, however, is who might be sitting on either side of you. Working in the evenings means I am riding the train at off-peak hours and thus, I typically avoid the rush hour madness. In other words, the train is never at full capacity. Isn’t that nice? If you have to go to work, at least having a pleasant commute where I can read, check emails or peruse Facebook helps me temporarily forget where I’m ultimately going. And having a seat with some room to relax and spread out is comforting. It doesn’t always work out that way, however. I was coming home from a trip once and I had a bunch of bags with me. In walks a woman who decides she has to squeeze into the seat next to me despite the fact that my bags were surrounding me like a homeless person and there was an empty seat across the aisle where she could’ve laid down and taken a nap if she wanted to! But no, she just HAD to sit next to me and force me to place one of my pieces of luggage on my lap. A part of me wanted to leap up and shout: “Why don’t you just take my seat too!” But grabbing all that luggage and looking dignified while simultaneously screaming at her just didn’t seem plausible.

Then there’s the kicker… the buffer toilet. Why on earth would someone want to use the stall next to mine if I’m the ONLY other person in the bathroom??? Okay, how do they know I’m in there you ask? I admit that very often a bathroom is quiet and you can’t always detect if anyone else is in there. And that’s when you do what I do… you bend down and peak under the stalls and look for feet! Come on, admit it… I’m sure some of you have done it too! Sometimes you need a moment alone in the stall to take care of business, whether it’s something bad you ate for lunch or just to have a good cry over something a nasty customer said to you. (Perhaps the latter is mostly referring to my own behavior.) In any case, bathroom time is sacred – however you choose to use it – and quite frankly, I don’t want to share it with anyone if I don’t have to. And I certainly don’t want you in the stall next to me if I DO have to share it. I used to work on Wall Street with a bunch of guys who considered their bathroom time SOOOO precious that they used to go to another floor to enjoy it. They simply did not want to run into anyone they knew while enjoying their “reading” time.

Look, anyone that knows me is aware of my warm and fuzzy nature. I am what you call a “people person”. I have been known to talk to random strangers on the street, some of whom have gone on to become my friends. (Weird, but true.) I love meeting new people, probably more than any human ever should. However, when it comes to space, I can be an evil monster if I don’t get it. Usually the most extroverted people in the world are the ones who need their alone time the most. Maybe we’re just out in the world so much interacting with others that we are simply exhausted at the end of the day and need to decompress. Dunno. What I do know is the next time you see me sitting on an empty bench, you might want to pick a different one to sit on :)

Friday, January 20, 2017

“It’s Science… You’re Not Supposed To Understand It!”

So says Linda Belcher on the animated show “Bob’s Burgers.” It was literally music to my ears when I heard Linda utter those words. It’s good to know I am not alone in my thinking… even if my science soul sister is a cartoon character. I simply can’t remember a time when I ever pondered the mystery of HOW something works. I flip a switch on the wall and PRESTO! I have light. You think I care how electricity is made? Nope. Didn’t Benjamin Franklin stand in the rain with a kite waiting for lightning to strike him so he could prove electricity existed? That would never be me. I hate the rain, and you’ll certainly never catch me outside in a storm if there’s a possibility of getting electrocuted. No, thank you.

Science is something that has always made me run screaming for the hills. I can’t even remember one science experiment I did in school other than the one where you put a battery and a light bulb on a wooden board to create a circuit. (It’s ironic I remembered that project, since I’ve already established I don’t give a hoot about how electricity is generated.) Science was so lackluster a subject for me that I don’t remember any of my teachers other than my Biology teacher, who was even shorter than me. I didn’t like her and neither did anyone else, evidenced by the little plastic army men scattered along the ceiling who were holding guns pointed directly at her desk (and her head). Even when I took Physical Science aka Earth Science, I was a lost cause. This was the class most people referred to as “silly science”. There was nothing “silly” about it for me. I had about as much of a chance of understanding ocean tides as I did of climbing Mt. Everest. (Thus far, I’ve only managed to climb Mt. Olympus in Greece.)

By the time Chemistry rolled around, I had officially given up on science. As they say in Monopoly, I passed go, and immediately sat my butt down in study hall, while the rest of my classmates played with their periodic tables and Bunsen burners. No way Chemistry was going to ruin my A+ average and mess up my college applications! Sometimes when friends commiserate over their high school/college Chemistry classes, I feel a slight twinge of sadness and regret but it passes quickly. Screw that! Sounds like I dodged a bullet!

As I’ve gotten older, my inability to understand science has not changed. Just the other night, someone was explaining to me how air conditioners worked. I thought it was by ADDING cold air into the room. Silly me. It apparently REMOVES heat from the room instead. How does that happen exactly? Don’t care. I’m the science dummy, remember? Then there is the issue with my thermos. I’ve had it for two years and it has faithfully kept my coffee super hot in the morning. It’s been delightful. But I’ve noticed recently it wasn’t doing the job so well anymore. I looked up online what could be causing my thermos to lose heat. Maybe, perchance, even someone like me could perform a quick fix and get it to work again. Well, the minute the website started talking about vacuum seals and insulation the game was over, and I was instantly on Amazon looking for a replacement product. Why try to understand why my thermos was broken when I can just throw it in the garbage and get a new one for $24.99?

         The kicker was when I asked my friend yesterday about dogs and cats for my Instagram page Dogtalesnyc. I wanted to know if by calling dogs and cats different “species” I was using the correct terminology. His text response was: “Dogs and cats are both animals, mammalian, and carnivores, but differ in family, genus, and species. Domestic dogs are canus familiaris and domestic cats are felus catus.” When I pointed out that even humans are animals, he stated: “Correct. I was just going through the different branches of taxonomy.” Ummm… okay, I don’t think I asked for all that. And I KNOW I didn’t understand any of it. But I’m pretty sure somewhere in there he said that dogs and cats ARE different species.

            I’ve come to accept that science is beyond the scope of my understanding. Kudos to my friends who work in the scientific field and DO get it. I’m comfortable trusting in others to provide me with any science information I may need. Yeah, fat chance. I’m reminded of one of my favorite scenes from the film “Baby Boom” where Diane Keaton’s character lives in small-town Vermont and has a complete meltdown upon discovering she has no water. When the repairman tries to explain to her why it’s not working, she exclaims in desperation: “I just want to turn on the faucets and have water.  I don’t want to know where it’s coming from!!!” Amen, Diane!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Time… Friend or Foe?

Time. It’s a double-edged sword. We cry when we don’t have it; we scream that we want more of it; but then when we finally get it, we curl up in a fetal position moaning that we don’t know what to do with it… Or maybe that’s just me.

You see, I’ve spent the better part of my life working multiple jobs. I didn’t even notice I was doing it at first. I graduated college and became a full-time accountant while still working part-time at the Limited. Want me to teach you how to fold a sweater using a clipboard? I’d be happy to! Wanna know what big slobs women are in the dressing room? Just ask me. Over the years, I’ve often juggled multiple jobs while pursuing a career as an actress and more recently, a writer. I would tell myself that this is just what people do when they’re “artists”; you work to support your craft. What I didn’t realize is that pulling myself in so many directions with so many different jobs was actually counter productive to being an artist. I was never truly in the moment… I was too busy trying to keep track of which job I was going to next, while making sure I didn’t screw anything up in the process.

Time management has always been an issue for me. I struggle with how much (or how little) time to spend on something and then berate myself afterwards for whatever choice I made. I’ve never been good at picking and choosing… often it has to be dictated to me in the form of a deadline imposed by someone else. I sometimes wander around my apartment aimlessly, trying to figure out which project I should work on next. And what about those projects? How many balls can I juggle in the air at the same time before one drops? (Side note: I was in the musical “Barnum” in my teens and I never managed to juggle more than three balls simultaneously if that’s any indication.)

My juggling skills proved to be effective enough to write four plays and perform in numerous shows over the years. But looking back, it was usually at the expense of my sanity. One of my plays was in the NY International Fringe Festival in the summer of 2015. It was truly a career highlight and I am grateful every day to have been a part of it. However, much of the experience was a big fat blur because I didn’t take the time to stop and catch my breath.

So here I am… it’s the beginning of 2017. (Small and quiet “woo hoo”.) I quit one of my jobs at the end of 2016. (BIG and LOUD “woo hoo”!) I’ve saved up enough money to work part-time for the near future. (Another BIG and LOUD “woo hoo”!) At year’s end, I kept telling people we need to create space in our lives for new things to come into it. Doesn’t that sound so smart and new agey? Well now that I’ve created that space I find myself thinking, “Okay smart-ass, now what?” Seriously, what do I do with this newfound time I have on my hands? I almost want to hide, convinced someone is going to find me and ask me to DO something: “Dina, now that you have more time, can you please do xxx?” I reply: “No! Leave me alone! Get away from me!” And I’m instantly curled up in that fetal position again. But secretly I think it’s myself I’m hiding from… I’m afraid my inner artist is going to ask me to do too many things at once and my head will explode.  Or I won’t be able to decide which project to tackle first and I’ll shut down and end up doing nothing. My brain thinks a lot of crazy things these days.

However, I will not let my fears consume me. Yes, I’m scared, but isn’t the definition of courage acting in spite of fear? So that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to take action. I’m coming up with a game plan and I even have a career coach to guide me. (Tessa Faye is a goddess FYI!) If I’m going to be successful, I must find a way to juggle more carefully. And sometimes that might mean throwing only one ball in the air and being okay with that. It means saying no to projects that don’t resonate with me. It means accepting that priorities are ever changing and what’s critical one minute, might be moved to the bottom of the list the next. It means trusting myself that I CAN do it, and if I can’t, there’s probably a good reason and I don’t have to beat up on myself. Things always have a way of getting done in my world, even if the timetable shifts along the way.

I think about all the things I didn’t allow myself to do because I told myself I either didn’t have the time or that I shouldn’t spend the time. What a jerk I was! Heck, this blog has been dormant since the end of 2013 because I felt it took too much time away from other things. (Note: this blog entry took me less than two hours to write. Is that really a lot of time in the course of someone’s life? I personally don’t think so!)

Time need not be my enemy. As long as I’m breathing, there’s always more time. Whoa – admitting “there’s always more time” was really hard to say, but it needed to be said. And I need to embrace that sentiment in my life on a daily basis. Another thing I need to do… STOP. And as my friend Drew says, “Take the time to stop and smell the flowers.” FYI, Drew, I think it’s “Take the time to stop and smell the roses,” but I love you for the sentiment and I couldn’t agree more!