Let me set the scene (keep in mind I was a theater major). The Houston area, where fur coats appear on the "ladies who lunch" when the weather dips below 50, has been hit by an unprecedented winter storm that not only brings snow and prolonged sub-freezing temperatures, but also creates statewide power outages for millions. My extremely pragmatic sister lives in a high-rise that lost power early in the storm and, thinking quickly, secures a hotel room in Houston's only five-star hotel, which just happens to be down the street from her place. Less than 24 hours later, I too lose power, but living in a house that has a fireplace, well-stocked pantry, and a gas cooktop, just hunker down. My car's parked on the driveway so I can easily access it to charge my gizmos, which also gives me the opportunity (or really, excuse) to warm up.
And it's there, while texting with Black (who, for the record, rarely texts but at that point in time it was the only form of communication that worked), that the following conversation ensues …
|Hotel lost power|
|Sorry! What are you going to do?!|
|Give it a few minutes – may be rolling blackout|
|Back on … was only off for a few minutes … maybe room has energy conservation setting since I had not moved|
|Ok, not as funny as pink utility bills but amusing nonetheless|
So, you may be wondering, why did I find this amusing and what do pink letters have to do with anything? Well, I'll start with the pink letters …
Years ago, when we were teaching a personal finance and Life 101 class at KIPP Houston High School, Black wanted the high school seniors to understand how having money's different from being smart with money. She explained how she kept receiving mail from her electricity provider that had those clear "windows" where she could see a pink letter inside. However, she ignored them because she typically paid her utility bills months in advance, so assumed they were part of a breast cancer awareness campaign.
All was good … until everything in her high-rise went, no pun intended, black. She assumed it was a power outage. Until she went out into the hallway and all the lights were on. Long story short, there had been an increase in her utility rate, so what she had paid months ago wasn't enough. Bottom line: my sister didn't pay her bill, and after sending her many "pink letter" past due notices, turned off her electricity.
So, what does this have to do with her hotel room going dark? Except for the obvious connection, actually, nothing. But it reminded me, whether she thought the hotel might be experiencing a rolling blackout or that the bills were fundraising for breast cancer, Black jumps to a "meaningful" reason for why something happens. It's typical Black. Logical and pragmatic but also looking for a bit more "meaning" to things. Which is fine, but it often makes me laugh (to myself, anyway) knowing that in reality the truth's often (actually, almost always) simpler and something us "mere mortals" easily see.
Sometimes it's best not to overthink or overanalyze …
||I don't know about you, but I keep thinking about Jackie's Facebook post on Cinco de Mayo. I'm not sure why I even paid attention to the email notice that she posted something since, as you know, I don't "do" social media.|
||Sometimes, inexplicably, something compels us to do things we would not normally do. Regardless, as soon as you forwarded it to me and I read her opening words, "Some may say I don't have a right to talk about this day …" I was curious. And then, infuriated.|
||Based on the first words you said when you called me, it was obvious you were livid. Jackie may well be the most amazing person I know, not only for her knowledge and experience in the adult education world but for her creativity and passion. So, for someone, anyone, to say that she's less than who she is just because she doesn't speak her "so-called" native language is beyond unbelievable.|
||It is ignorant. Insensitive. Naïve. Racist. Shall I continue? And, it says so much about the person making a judgment about her, based solely on her skin color and last name. As expected, Jackie was very professional as she did not say who said it, but for her to post something that personal means it hit a nerve.|
||Who cares that she may, or may not, speak Spanish? How about that she has probably, single-handedly, changed the trajectory of so many people's lives? And the ripple effect of that. I suspect she has also changed, for the good, untold numbers of people's perceptions about Latinas because of who she is.|
||At the risk of being politically incorrect, I do not know what the correct phrase is … I know Latinx replaces Latinos and Latinas, and I believe Hispanic refers to those who speak Spanish. Yet, when we taught at KIPP Houston High School, and I flat out asked the students their preference, they said we should call them "browns."|
||Growing up in New York, I think we called them Hispanics, although I remember an awful slang term. But there were lots of those offensive terms describing different groups of people. It's funny in that looking back, I realize that I lived a very sheltered life in that I never knew any Latinas or Hispanics, or whatever phrase I should use, before moving to Texas.|
||I was in an International Business program at New York University that was a melting pot of races, ethnicities, and nationalities, as was London Business School. Can I remember the first brown person I ever met? No. I cannot even remember the first non-white person I ever met. The funny thing is I do remember once making the assumption that Jackie spoke Spanish, but when she clarified that many people thought the same thing, but she was only fluent in English, I thought nothing more about it. Until now. She may not have been taught to speak Spanish, but it is obvious that her upbringing instilled important values and priorities.|
||I know! And I also know that I've rarely seen you react as strongly and as quickly as you did after you read Jackie's Facebook posting. I won't say you were in a rage, because you are always controlled and know exactly what you're saying, but you were definitely outraged.|
||I still am. The only difference is my tone of voice.|
||Well, I admit I'm not as good as you at keeping "calm". America's changing, and not for the better. It seems like issues about race and ethnicity are becoming more prevalent, and people are visually defining others and "conveniently" ignoring the fact we're all Americans.|
||Jackie summed it up best when she said she was, "Knocked down as a child for being "brown" and now knocked down for not being brown enough."|
||Which is why these words posted to her Facebook timeline were perfect … "We are who we allow ourselves to be … not who we allow others to tell us we are … or are not. Jackie, I cannot tell you who you are, but I can tell you that I think you are amazing and your dedication to helping others is what I see when I look at you."|
||I quickly posted that before I even called you.|
||Yes, you did.|
|Is it possible that this summer might actually feel a bit more "normal" than last year?|
|Define "normal," as I am confident we are not returning to normal, but instead are transitioning to a new normal.|
|Fine. I just meant in comparison to last summer when I was hoarding toilet paper, fully stocking my pantry and freezer, and constantly wiping down seemingly every surface in my house.|
|I guess you could call it "the summer of survival" since we were not prepared for the pandemic, especially not the lockdowns.|
|Exactly! Which means that this summer will be more like a pre-pandemic summer in that we'll have more freedom, especially for those of us that are vaccinated. And it feels great.|
|I agree, but at the risk of sounding like a pessimist, we have to be careful not to lapse into a state of complacency. Yes, we are more protected if we are vaccinated, but not everyone is getting vaccinated. And, fewer and fewer people are wearing masks.|
|I know that. I'm not hiding from reality; I just want to be able to enjoy the "mindset" of summer. As in the lazy days of summer. Now, I don't mean that literally, of course. It's just when things just seem to "ease up" a little, days are longer so you feel like you have more time. You know, summer.|
|No, I do not know. For me, summer only means it is hotter outside, and it stays lighter longer.|
|Seriously? Summer for you is strictly related to temperature and daylight?|
|Correct. I do not have kids, so it is not like I have to adjust for them being on summer break. I do not work in an office where I have to plan for people to be away on summer vacations. I live alone and am a workaholic that works from home.|
|I find it very hard to believe that last summer, at the height of the pandemic, it didn't feel any different for you than any other summer.|
|That is not what I said. I said that for me, summer, regardless of the year, is the same as any other season. Unless you take into consideration what fruit and flowers Whole Foods has since those are seasonal.|
|This is when I want to say that you really need to get a life, but I do understand what you're saying. But tell me, did summer ever mean anything to you?|
|How far back are you asking?|
|As far as you want to go.|
|As a child, summer meant no school, hanging out in the neighborhood, and since my favorite television shows were all reruns, almost every night the boys from the surrounding houses and I would have watermelon seed spitting contests.|
|If nothing else, that would explain a lot about your competitiveness. Well, my most vivid summer memories are of when the girls were little, and I had to go into big-time "camp counselor" and "chauffeur" mode during the summer. It's funny, it was exhausting at the time, but now they're priceless memories. And bittersweet since Natasha's no longer living at home and Sawyer's driving herself.|
|Not to mention, she goes off to college at the end of the summer.|
|Thanks for the reminder, but I'm trying not to think about that. I just want to fully enjoy this summer. Of course, safely, but still, I want that more carefree feeling of summer.|
|Interesting concept, being carefully carefree. However, you do bring up an interesting side effect of the pandemic. It has allowed many people to experience, or re-experience, the "simple pleasures" of life. To stop and reflect on priorities and begin to make some changes about where to focus their time and energy.|
|Yes, simple things like being able to escape the summer heat by going to re-opened movie theaters. There's something about needing a sweater when it's 100+ degrees outside that just screams "summer."|
|Well, that sounds like it is related to temperature, which is how I think of summer. Anyway, I went a year without seeing friends and only recently have started going out to eat again. For the most part, we have been dining outside, but Houston's summer heat and humidity will change that to dining inside with social distancing.|
|Yes! And that's what I meant when I said that I hoped this summer might actually feel a bit more "normal". And that's mere mortal "normal", not your "normal".|
|In other words, you want a summer rerun of years gone by. FYI, I will admit that every summer I think it would be fun, although totally unacceptable, to spit watermelon seeds off my high-rise balcony.|
|Oh, that I want to see!|
Something happened the other evening, and before I could become annoyed, I started laughing because I was "guilty" of the same offense … just not recently. Looking back at what, at the time, were my mortifying actions, I realized that anyone who drinks and types (whether email or text messages) has probably done it.
It has been proven that alcohol reduces your inhibitions – some people think they become charismatic, others become the world's greatest dancers (or lovers), while others believe they can see things with more clarity and need to share that knowledge. And, the list goes on. (I know that Red loves lists, but since she does not drink, the list would be impossible for her to understand … although many of us could see it as a checklist, "Yes, done that!")
So, have you ever been holding back your feelings (good or bad) about someone, and then one evening you have a little too much to drink and decide to let them know your inner-most thoughts? It could be a family member, a friend, someone at work, a romantic relationship (past, present, future "prospect"), or given social media, even a stranger. You let your thoughts and feelings run from your head (not sure the brain is involved, other than to help your fingers fly across the keyboard) through your electronic equipment … and then out into the world.
Sometimes you realize it almost immediately, and you futilely try to "recall" the message before they open it. More often, you do not see the error of your ways until the next day when you vaguely remember sending the message (or, possibly, multiples messages), clinging to the hope it was a bad dream … until you see it in your sent file. Or, even worse, finding a response, which you are not sure you want to read.
What made me laugh was that this time I was the recipient, not the sender (the first email was an expression of deep feelings, the second questioning if I had received the first one, both obviously alcohol-induced), and I decided not to let them off the hook. Since I had been out at a business dinner, several hours had passed, so I politely replied, questioning the reasonableness of each email and then asking if alcohol had been involved.
And, I could not help but wonder,
If there are car breathalyzer devices that require you to submit a breath sample, and if your alcohol level is at or above a preset level, it will prevent the vehicle from starting … should there not be similar devices that would inactive the "send" button on your computer or smartphone?
P.S. – I think Wikipedia's breathalyzer entry is fascinating, but doubt Red would agree.