International Writers Magazine: Life Moments
Lerner wrote a monthly column called Observations for
the senior newspaper that went to his Northern California retirement
community. After eight years, he sometimes found it
difficult to come up with a subject to have observations about.
Usually, when this happened, he fell back on what he called LLAs,
or Lifes Little Annoyances.
There was an endless
supply of these: the car that zipped in front of you to take the
last space in the parking lot; the lady at the supermarket check-out
who had to write a check for her purchases and took hours doing so;
the daily mail with its load of credit card offers; the phone
calls at dinner from people wanting you to donate to their cause; and
so on and so forth.
Nothing was so annoying first thing in the morning, thought Paul, than
not to have your newspaper there when you went out to get it.
It was one of those things you couldnt quite believe, like not
finding your keys in your pocket after locking the door of your house.
Of course, it was also a rainy morning. He ventured out
to see if maybe the paper was in the driveway, but all this accomplished
was to get him wet and more annoyed. He went back inside
and told his wife Sally, No newspaper today.
He found the newspapers number in the phone book, called and was
put on hold. He held on for almost ten minutes while an
automated voice kept assuring him that his call was important.
Finally, he banged the phone down with a curse. Cant
even get through to a human being any more, he told Sally.
I dont have all morning to wait.
Go ahead and have your breakfast, said Sally.
Ill call them later.
Good luck, grumbled Paul..
This was the morning that Paul played pool with Sid Kaplan, another
retirement community resident. The pool room, which held
six tables, was in a building called the Lodge, the center of most of
the communitys activities. Sid was an acerbic guy,
who had all kinds of rules about playing pool. If you scratched
when sinking a ball, not only did that ball have to come out but another
one as a penalty; if you were snookered and couldnt hit
your ball you were penalized a ball. This resulted in their
having very long games. Sid was very competitive and when
he was losing he complained that Paul was playing too slowly and sometimes
he claimed that Paul hadnt hit the proper ball when Paul was sure
he had. All of this was annoying, but Sid had introduced
Paul to the game when Paul was recovering from a surgery, so Paul didnt
think he could complain. He just kept on getting more and
In their first game that morning, Paul was shooting well, then with
only the eight and one other ball left he kept getting snookered because
Sid had so many of his balls left on his table. After a
while, Paul had almost all of the balls hed sunk back up on the
table. Paul eventually won in one of their usual long, drawn-out
games. Then at the end of their next long game, when Paul
tried to just tip the eight ball and missed it by a hair Sid claimed
that meant hed lost the game, although Paul could have sworn the
same thing had happened a few weeks ago with Sid and hed only
penalized himself by putting up one of his balls. At any
rate, Paul said, Okay, and when Sid suggested a third game,
he said he had some errands to run. Paul left the pool room
even more annoyed with Sid than usual.
Paul did have an errand to run; he had to go to the bank to deposit
the monthly check he received for writing his Observations
column. Going to the bank was invariably an annoying experience
and this time proved to be no exception. There wasnt
the usual long lunchtime line (the bank seemed to be able to provide
only two tellers even at the busiest times), but each of the tellers
had a woman customer whose transactions, whatever they were, seemed
to go on forever. Finally, one of the women took a considerable
amount of cash and managed, after a struggle, to get it stuffed
into her purse.
Paul stepped forward and handed the teller, a young man who looked barely
out of high school, his check and deposit slip. The teller
looked at these, then said, with a bright insincere smile, Howre
you doing today, Paul?
Paul? Had he met this youngster before? No.
Paul was tempted to say something, but he was of a polite generation,
unlike the current one, so he just replied, Im fine.
Id like to deposit the check.
The teller examined the check, then said, Do you know your PIN
Why? I just want to put some money in, not
take it out. Now Paul was getting really annoyed.
If youll just enter your PIN.
Paul almost asked what would happen if he had forgotten his PIN;
did this mean he couldnt put money in his own account.?
But, still polite, he entered his number and, after a time, the slip
with his deposit amount came out.
There you are, said the teller. Anything
else we can do for you today? Another big insincere
Just dont lose my money, Paul muttered as he
When Paul returned home, Sally told him theyd gotten their newspaper.
They had a new carrier on their route and hed missed a number
of homes. Great, said Paul. I
hope he doesnt mess up tomorrow, too.
Steve called, said Sally. Steve was their youngest
son, who lived only a few miles away. They want
to bring the kids over Sunday afternoon. Theres some
kind of concert they want to go to.
The kids were their two grandsons, Mark, age four, and Eric, age two.
You mean well be baby-sitting? For how long?
I dont know; all afternoon, I suppose. Isnt
that all right?
As far as Paul was concerned, that wasnt all right.
Sunday was his day of relaxation. He liked to have a leisurely
breakfast, then do the Sunday crossword puzzle, and this Sunday there
was a football game he was looking forward to watch.
You know I watch football Sunday afternoons. When
are they going to find a baby-sitter? Besides us?
Steve and his wife Jane had moved to their new house two years ago and
ever since Paul and Sally had been doing a lot of baby-sitting.
Sally would never refuse and it seemed to Paul that his son and daughter-in-law
were taking advantage of her. And if Sally baby-sat that
meant Paul would also have to do so.
Dont you want to see your grandsons?
Yes, but I dont want to be on call all the time.
Next time can you please ask me first before you say well baby-sit?
You werent here.
All right, well baby sit, but next time ask me.
God, Sally could be annoying at times. Paul grabbed the
newspaper and went into the bedroom to finally read it.
After lunch, Paul went to his computer to compose his Observations
for the month. When hed finished a draft he turned
on his printer so that he could print it out and show it to Sally as
usual. But as soon as the printer was on it began to spit
out paper, one page after another. Paul turned off the printer
as quickly as he could. He went into the living room and
asked Sally if shed used the printer that morning.. She
said she had but something had gone wrong. Well, youve
messed up my printer again, he told her.
Paul went back to his computer and saw that, sure enough, there was
an uncompleted printing job. Sally appeared in the doorway.
I was going to tell you, she said, "but then Steve
called and I forgot. Can I do anything?
Yes, just go away and let me alone. This had
happened before and he went through the steps to delete the job to clear
the printer. He didnt always remember the correct
sequence of steps and this time it took him almost half an hour before
he was successful. Damnit, Paul thought, this was turning
out to be a miserable day. When he printed out his Observations,
he left them on his desk. He didnt want to see Sally
Paul and Sally ate their dinner mostly in silence. Afterward,
Sally watched her usual television programs; Paul again went back to
his bedroom chair and read. The young hero of the novel
he was reading had decided that hed lost his belief in God and
didnt believe in an afterlife. Paul had turned 75
the year before and had realized with a shock that hed been around
for three-quarters of a century. Since then, not a day passed
by that Paul didnt think that, like a runner nearing the finish
line, he was coming to the end of his lifes journey.
When you were young it was easy to dismiss religion and the usual notions
of an afterlife. Paul didnt believe that there was
a Heaven and a Hell, but the idea that once his life was over that was
it was one he didnt like to dwell on.
In his mind, Paul reviewed the events of the day, -the missing newspaper,
the pool games with Sid, the moronic young bank teller, the printer
fiasco, his annoyance at having to baby-sit his grandchildren the coming
Sunday. Lifes little annoyances. Was he
becoming an old grouch? Thats the way he thought of
Sid. Did other people think the same of him?
Was it resentment that the time he had left was much less than the time
gone by that was making him so edgy? He shouldnt let
himself get so upset over trivial matters, like the newspaper.
He should be nicer. Well, not too nice. He went
into the living room and watched television with Sally until eleven.
When they were in bed, he turned to her as he did every night, kissed
her and told her he loved her. She murmured something.
Lying on his back, he thought, maybe instead of writing another Observations
on lifes little annoyances he should write one on lifes
little pleasures. There were some left, werent they,
even when you were 75 years old. There were Mark and Eric,
his grandsons; they were a pleasure, most of the time. Hed
think about it.
Green November 2008
<mgreensuncity at yahoo.com>
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