June 15, 2002

Whine Connoisseur

I knew it was going to be a bad day. The whining began immediately at our front door as we rushed off to school and work. By the time we were safely ensconced in our secure subway seats my daughter was broadcasting loud and clear to the hundreds before us! “I’m tired.” Not just just like it reads but more like “Iyaaaaaaam tirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRD.” Oh, it defies transliteration! Ask any parent to repeat this to you over and over and over and over for its full effect.

My usual, logical next step is to accommodate my little one. “Put your head on my thigh. Cuddle up here.” But she twists and turns. No position is comfortable. All the while she is moaning her call to the wild. And I’m repeating silently to myself: “I’m in a public place, I’m in a public place. I’m in a public place that is turning into a beautiful sandy beach: endless gentle waves rolling over my feet.” “I’m TIRED!” I’m in a public place.

horoscope for June 15You’d think by the age of four some sort of rational thinking would have kicked in. No matter how much I try to help her, nothing is right, even when I do exactly what she asks of me. [Note: I finally got her back on track by using my ace-in-the-hole, the Big D: distraction. I simply feigned shock as I told her I had just seen Winnie the Pooh go flying by outside the window. This has never failed me—she forgot she was tired and all whining immediately ceased).

An actual physiological transformation takes place when one is subjected to the sniveling whine of a child. It’s been proven that an infant’s cry can drive people to the brink of insanity. Soon after our second child arrived home I saw a TV report on this. I was so interested in reading the full study I even tracked down the story to a local ABC affiliate in North Carolina. I needed scientific confirmation that if I was losing my mind, it was all within the norm.

Technology. Where is good technology when you need it? A white noise anti-whine machine would be a good idea (especially good in public spaces but with a home version available). A Cone of Silence would be perfect. Technology has served me so well recently, I don’t think this is too much to expect.

Two new technological marvels have entered my life and I can no longer function without them. First, keyless car entry. How did I live without it? And the power. From across the parking lot I can now unlock my doors. Of course, that may not be a wise idea. My initial exhuberance at long distance unlocking has given way to a more practical, safer, and shorter unlock stance.

But now I loath unlocking my wife’s late-model, but hopelessly outmoded minivan You have to use a key! Can you believe it? I’ve been trying to convince her to sell our five year old, perfectly functional (and otherwise very nice) vehicle for one of those new models, you know, where you can not only unlock the doors remotely but instruct them to open for you. Last summer we rented one for a family vacation to the Bay Area (well, we actually rented a midsize Plymouth something-or-other but they were out of them so they gave us a Voyager minivan instead). I was hooked. Maybe they sell an aftermarket version.

The second hit tech gizmo I’ve become enamored with are toilets that flush automatically. I’ve become so used to the auto-urinals at work that I am finding myself walking away from normal ones without flushing. It can be embarrassing. Sort of like being caught not washing your hands as you leave.

My children, I must admit, have been slow to embrace this neat little item. In fact, they are downright scared of auto-toilets. You see, these things can flush when they’re not supposed to, automatically as it were. Like right in the middle of, well, you know what. At best, you get the sense of being on a bidet, sort of. It’s not very relaxing and if you’re in a public restroom, people begin to wonder why it’s taking you so long to exit the stall.

It’s not as bad at the urinals, except when they fail to work (the institutional plumber has been notified). Last summer I passed a kidney stone while standing there. I have passed two in my life and I must be blessed as I have never had any pain or inkling that it was happening until it was all over and out.

As I looked down I knew immediately what it was and what I had to do. If I really wanted confirmation, I’d have to retrieve it for analysis. But I had to be careful and swift. Any false moves and it would go down the drain, automatically. I held completely still as I slowly, very slowly reached forward.

My children, if they could read this report, would immediately admonish me for using bathroom words. Rules, as I recently wrote, start out as black and white ideas. And, what I’ve written here would be a clear violation in those terms. But, as I learned in art school, once you learn the rules, the hard part is learning how to break them successfully. I expect my daughters will forgive me. By the time you’re able to read this, hopefully, I will have taught you this fine art of rule breaking.

I love technology! And I can only imagine what inventions will be common place when my girls are my age. But for right now could one of you forward thinking practical inventors do something about that whining?

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