The Seven Dwarfs of Grief








No paper trail, of course

I went to the cash machine and made a withdrawal from checking. The machine was manufactured by the Diebold company, so after I got my cash the screen read, "Confirmation Message - You have just cast two more votes for George W. Bush, Republican, for President, 2004. Thank you for voting." I gotta change banks.

Pets never lie

While I'm making supper, one of the cats hops up to the counter and then to the top of the refrigerator. She likes to look down on me while I'm getting the food together. I'm busy for a minute and when I look up, the purring cat has this look of complete devotion, looking straight at me. This is why people have pets: because pets don't lie, and their affection is simple and genuine. I step toward the refrigerator to pet the cat, and she shifts her head to the side; I'm now blocking her view, apparently. I turn around and there's some chopped sausage on a plate, to go with the pasta I'm boiling. I step back to confirm... She's purring at the sausage bits with a look of love.

That and the chafing

Twice this week I've encountered people who discuss riding down a "zipline" in Costa Rica. One of my friends from work will go later this year. I had never heard of this. When she first mentioned it I thought it meant they insert a hook in the seat of your pants and dangle you over a ravine. Actually, you get strapped in a harness and hang from a cable strung horizontally through a rain forest. The cable gently slopes down, so you ride in this harness down through the forest.

How fast do you go? Twenty miles per hour? Fifty? One hundred? Do you hit any birds? How far does it go? How long does it take? Do you feel like you have to go to the bathroom halfway through the ride? What are your options at that point? Can you stop sliding? What if somebody comes along behind you at 100 mph and you're stopped, admiring the view?

Imagine you're not on the zipline but hiking through the rain forest and overhead, every five minutes, you hear the steady shriek of somebody whooshing down a zipline at high speed. The Doppler effect lends a high pitch to their scream as they approach, and after they pass, screaming loudest, the pitch of their scream lowers.

How do you stop? Is the lower end of the cable tied to a big tree, with bark worn away from the impact of so many high-velocity tourists? Is the tree leaning away from the cable after so many collisions? Maybe the cable's end is suspended so you just go flying off and land in a pile of fellow travelers. Maybe the cable gradually approaches the ground so you have to start pedaling your legs before you land, like a Fred-Flintstone-powered plane.

This is why I never travel anywhere. One minute you're in Italy touring St. Peter's Basilica and the next minute you're giving in to peer pressure and riding a zipline through a grotto full of dead popes.

Trust your chicken

In the grocery store's produce department, a promotional sign showed a guy holding an apple next to his head. The sign's text: "Gerald says, 'I tried this and it was great!'" Gerald looked apologetic, as if he was about to ask the photographer an embarrassing question. Gerald looked like he had never posed with produce before. I would look uncomfortable too, in that situation. (The sign's caption included a description of why that particular kind of apple was great.)

One aisle over, there was a flat-screen TV with a video of a chef in a kitchen. I swear he said, "Before roasting, you have to trust your chicken." That's what made me look up at the screen, where, of course, the chef was trussing the chicken with special twine to ensure that the bird would be cooked uniformly all over.