things i have learned about small children

– If you hold out your hand, many children will reflexively take it and let you lead them somewhere, no questions asked. This is disturbing, but useful.

– Children are like runaway tractor trailers when they’re off task. They gather huge amounts of momentum, and it takes a huge amount of effort to get them to reverse their course. Ex.: To make a child who is running to the front of the room go back to her table, you must speak to her using an amount of enthusiasm equal to or greater than the energy she is using to run. You must will her to go back to her table with every fiber of your being.

– Giving them a small pile of crayons or a packet of fruit snacks brings them into a state of bliss.

– People with short legs move faster than people with long legs. This is counter-intuitive.

– Games like Simon Says are really just ploys to keep children focused on you so they don’t run away.

– Watching a 4-year old girl dance like Britney Spears is one of the scariest things I have ever seen.

the dress
There’s a wedding dress hanging in my bedroom. It’s not mine. It’s Amanda’s. She came to visit me this weekend, and we spent the afternoon at a bridal shop in Maryland, wading through the layers of white poofy dresses to find just the right one. We were surrounded by people trying on these amazing, intricate dresses. Ordinary-looking people, who’d come in wearing t-shirts and sneakers, were transformed into bridal princesses. It was weird. Playing dress-up, institutionalized into a bridal store chain.

I think we found the perfect dress. It’s strapless, simple, and off-white, with slightly darker ivory bands at the top and around the hem and train. I never understood why people cried when they saw their daughters or best friends in wedding dresses. But even though I wasn’t crying or anything today, I can understand it. When it’s the right dress, a dress that looks like it was made for her, everything just clicks. Wow. She’s actually getting married.

assorted complaints
I am sitting here drinking warm milk because it’s the only thing I can think to do that will be comforting. Last night was not so much a trauma as a light chill that seemed stuck in my bones today. Small things are weighing on me. My computer will not run any of my programs because the operating system is being dumb. I need OS X. That would be lovely…. Our summer subletters left us (me, specifically) with a huge electric bill. That needs to be paid. …I need to buy a pair of glasses. I ordered a pair from my optician at home, and they arrived with cracked lenses. Not good. …I need to send in all sorts of paperwork to defer my student loans after my grace period ends. Haven’t done that yet. Have to write thank-you notes, send birthday cards, all sorts of things that don’t seem like a burden at all when you’ve got a life set up and in working order. But right now, they’re adding up.

So I’ll just sit here and drink warm milk and try to focus on the important things. Like going to sleep.

life at a nonprofit
The temperature in our office today was about 55-60 degrees. I would like to wear gloves, but that could make typing a little tricky. Apparently the landlord hasn’t turned on the heat yet. It’s the end of October! Sigh.

mall me
I went to the mall this morning. I was very excited about it, too, because I haven’t been shopping in a long, long time. I only needed a few really basic, mundane things like socks, a nail file, some thank-you notes… but even so, I was psyching myself up for this trip to the mall. But the mall defeated me. And I do not know why.

I went to Best Buy first, and that may have been my problem. That store is big enough to overwhelm anyone. I wanted to return a pair of headphones I’d bought there last week. But when I got to the enormous wall of headphones to pick out a different pair, I realized that it’d taken me half an hour to pick out the original pair. So I just decided to keep them and get out of there.

Then I hit the mall proper. I was still optimistic, mind you. But somehow I got sidetracked for half an hour at the Museum Co. of all places, despite needing absolutely nothing in that store. Then I went to Macy’s, worming my way through the madding crowd, past endless rows of glittering jewelry cases. By the time I actually made it to the shoe department, I was utterly exhausted and had to get out of there right away.

I bought nothing on my list.

People must have to shop often enough to build up a tolerance to seeing such a large number of objects and people in one place.

Worried about snipers? Walk briskly in a zig-zag pattern. Other guidelines include:

  • If you must remain in one place in an area where you feel vulnerable, select the darkest part of the area to sit or stand in.
  • If you must stand outside, try to keep some type of protective cover between yourself and any open areas where a sniper might be located. For example, if you are fueling your car, stand between your vehicle and the gas pump and bend your knees to lower your profile.

Note: These are *not* to be confused with the guidelines for dressing as Clifford the Big Red Dog.

’tis the season
Andrew reports that the deli is once again selling spice cookies. I wish I could be there. Last spring, since Bob knew how much I loved them, he actually saved me the last one of the season. I remember walking by the deli on my way home and hearing the screen door open. “Excuse me, miss?” He poked his head out and offered me the cookie, no charge.

Just when I think things will be under control sometime soon, everything spins out into craziness again. Why?

what do you do…
When you live seven miles from the latest sniper attack? And your Metro stop is at another busy shopping center?

My boss gave me cab fare to get home from work tonight. And I felt a little wimpy taking it. But I figured I might as well save myself the worrying. After I caught a cab, the driver and I got on the subject of the sniper attacks. “What I can’t understand,” he said, “is how there was all those people around, and nobody stopped him! They all ran for cover!”

He was from Nigeria, he said, and in his country no one would stand for some idiot going around shooting people. If they witnessed a shooting, they’d run after the shooter. He, for one, would’ve taken his car and rammed it into the van to stop him. “I’m only going to die one time,” he said in his elegant Nigerian accent. “I’m not going to die like a rat.”

Of course, he’s an old pro at playing the vigilante. In D.C., two men with guns once stole his car. He chased them down an alley, then threw a brick through one of the windows. They rammed into a lampost, and a police car was ready to arrest them. Another time, someone got into the cab with a gun and asked for all his money. The cab driver said, “If you’re going to kill me, I’m going to take you with me.” He slammed his foot on the gas, going straight for a brick wall. The would-be mugger jumped out.

What we need, said the cab driver, is a witness to go after this sniper instead of running away. “If I was there, I would try to stop him any way that I could,” he said.

What do you do when you live in the Washington, D.C. area these days? When every nightly newscast sounds like a made-for-t.v. movie? When your boss jokes, “Hopefully I’ll make it back, guys!” before he goes to get gas? When you lie awake listening to a helicopter circle the area? You vow not to let some psycho’s mind games affect your routine. But still, every time you see a white van or box truck, your stomach flutters for a beat. And sometimes, you take a cab home from work.