Saturday, January 2, 2016

How Not to Make a New Year's Resolution



Rotary phone with earpiece. The thing that looks like a tiny
 condom is to put on your finger so you don't break a nail.
When it comes to self-improvement, I am a maniac. My efforts take the form of resolutions, which I make not only on New Year's Eve but daily, hourly, constantly. Last week, I resolved to whittle down my in-box from 16,000 emails to zero. The first day I made great progress, reducing the total to 777, mostly by diverting the stream into folders, including one labeled "Reading stack," which is, of course, a form of procrastination, since I am really just shuffling things around and will eventually have to dive into the reading stack and start reading. Or not. This morning, I eliminated one email. Here's what happened.
       January 2, 2016, 8 a.m. Before tackling my in-box, I compose a top-priority email to my friend Sian, apologizing for missing our planned New Year’s Day walk in Fontainebleau Forest. I didn’t forget that we were supposed to walk; rather, I got my days confused. I was in Paris, on my way to my in-laws to eat oysters (more on that in subsequent post), when I said to Patrick “What day is it?” and he said “Friday,” and I said, “Shit. I was supposed to walk with Sian today and I’m an hour late.” “Call her,” he said. We were at the Gare de Lyon, on our way to the metro. He handed me his phone, since mine was at home, on a shelf in the kitchen, where it always is. After much fumbling with my American-issued smartphone, which I only use as a camera (I wanted to photograph the oysters), I managed to locate Sian’s number, a miracle. My smartphone isn't smart enough to call anybody in France, however, so I read the number to Patrick, who dialed it on his phone and handed the phone to me. By now we were on the subway, speeding toward Issy-les-Moulineaux and the oysters, and I could hear nothing. Was that a voice on the other end? “Hello?” I said, tentatively. Still nothing intelligible, so I ended the call.
     Back to this morning, the day after the missed rendezvous. In my apologetic email to Sian, I use the word “phonedicapped.” Then I pause, and in that split-second pause, my to-do list gets hijacked.
      Phonedicapped, I say to myself. Is that a word? Hmmm. I google it. One result. Google is puzzled: “Did you mean handicapped?” Is phonedicapped not a real word? This could make me famous. I google “new words 2015” and check the Oxford English Dictionary. Not there. I scan the OED list of new words for 2015: crowdsource (hmm, the prissy OED is a bit late on that one), hyphy (what’s that?). The OED website won’t let me look up words because I'm not a subscriber, so I google "hyphy." Suddenly I am reading the lyrics of Keak da Sneak’s “Super Hyphy.” "Something went off in my head on my strap/But I'm smoking purple sipping 'yac." I am in way over my head.
     On the positive side, I have just increased my vocabulary and a door has opened to a foreign world, the world of Oakland rappers. On the sinister side, I am blowing an entire morning on stupid shit.
     But there is hope. Maybe I can turn “phonedicapped” into an essay and post it on my blog, which is, I must admit, sadly neglected, owing to many mornings such as this one. (Another resolution: revive blog). Then the next person who googles phonedicapped will find Sadie & Co., and pretty soon I will be famous.
      I suddenly remember a family artifact that my husband showed me the other day, when he was rummaging in a drawer in his mother’s apartment, where we now live. “Can you guess what this is?” he asked, offering me a pearly stick about three inches long with an emerald-colored stone embedded in one end. I couldn’t. "It’s for dialing a rotary phone. It was my mother’s. So she wouldn’t break her fingernails. She kept it in the rotary dial."
     I take a picture with my smartphone of the rotary dialer. Then I wonder what it is called. Back to Google. I discover Wikihow instructions on how to dial a rotary phone (really? instructions? maybe it's only logical if you're over 60), but nothing resembling the artifact in question. Now I am deep in the land of getting nothing done, the land where resolutions get derailed.
     I call to my husband, who is in the next room: “Come look at these images of French telephones from the 1950s; they’re on my computer screen.” He does. “Which one most closely resembles the one you used to have?” He identifies one with a funny appendage, which he explains is an extra earpiece, “so that you can listen in stereo.” Fascinated, I ply him with questions, and he tells me that his parents got their first phone in the 1950s and that the number was POR-2438. I write it down.
      I now have 776 emails in my in-box. My accomplishments for the morning: unearthing my husband's childhood phone number from the burial pit of memory, composing one email, deleting one (Bernie needs more money), and reviewing my Facebook page, where I discover a very interesting video about dance therapy that makes me want to be a dance therapist. It would be a good way to counteract all these hours of sitting at a computer keyboard, which is unquestionably bad for my health. Why not? Most of my clients would be at least as old as I am, probably older. I have enough contacts in the acting world so that I might even, with hard work and a little luck, become a famous dance therapist. A dance therapist to the stars, one with her own reality TV show. Something to add to my to-do list.

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