Thursday, July 19, 2007

Long Distance Decisions

Sure Fire Method for Avoiding Decorating Arguments

I got to thinking about all the choices that have to be made when building a house from scratch. Because we are doing it, that's why. And we are living in Arkansas but the house is being built in Massachusetts. Everything down to the cabinet knobs is fraught with potential disagreement.

Do you feel overwhelmed by wallpaper books? Do you get bewildered picking out paint samples. It may not be high up on most people's list of Things That Cause Anxiety Attacks, but it can certainly toss some people into a first class tizzy that results in putting off the project.

Since I am a big fan of making something happen as soon as I decide that I want it to happen in the first place, I am amazed at the months it takes some people to make a decision.

If you visit one of these people you might see a half a painted wall, another wall with four long stripes of various beige tones, and eight wallpaper books that are overdue from The Dakor Center.

Perhaps you've stopped by a friend’s house to bring over a half dozen ears of fresh corn, but before you leave you must listen to the alleged dilemma:

1. the aesthetic reasons behind the ‘stripes that go down’ patterns.

2. the possibilities of "going with the flowery choices"

3. the sheen concerns around the satiny group

4. why it's got to have at least a hint of mauve in it

5. and not be "too" feminine

Your friend wants you to look at the 34 samples she's narrowed it all down to and rank order them. Then she will want to argue with you about the order in which you placed them, or the price, or whether it might be a good idea to run over and get more books, like the ones with textured backgrounds. Or flocking. No! No flocking. And don’t make me tell you why I don’t like toille.


If you would like to help a person like this, or you ARE a person with a wallpaper dilemma of your own, here's a game to get you through it. Let's just start with the wallpaper. It's making a comeback, and lots of folks like it in bathrooms, regardless.

The rules are strict, but if you follow them, the decision will be made within 24 hours, not months.

1. Go to the wallpaper store, poke through the books for a few that look to be what ever you think your style is. Don't justify it. Just go with your impulse. BUT you may only check out four books to take home.

No. Not five, four.

2. When you get home, rip up a sheet of white paper into 25 strips.

3. As you look through the books, put a piece of paper to mark the page
every time something catches your eye. But you may only make 25
choices. When the paper is gone, that's that.*

*Well, OK, you can move a piece of paper if you find another one you
love, but you CAN'T add a 26th piece of paper.

4. Don't keep looking through the books when you have done this. It's a

5. When your significant other comes home, the one who hates shopping and would keel over before entering a decorating center, the next round starts.

(If you live alone, you can do this yourself, but it would be best if you waited a day to do the next step)

When your partner is relaxed and ready, because you have warned this helpmate that his/her services will be needed for no longer than fifteen minutes, here's what you do:

You say, "I'm going to show you two patterns at a time for the "whatever" room. Out of the two, you tell me which one you like best."

Since you have already made 25 choices that you like (or hastily removed a few of them within the past few minutes due to a change of heart) you can't lose. You've already chosen things that would look good.

6. Each time your partner makes a choice, remove the paper from the
"Uh, uh" page.

Bye, bye.

Take the "Uh, Huh" choice and put it next to another option. Never more than the two options at a time.

7. No going back. Just keep going forward. You'll be down to the last two in no time.

8. Ceremoniously pull the last slip of paper from the books, thus hiding all of your previous options, because you now have wallpaper that you like, and your partner has picked his/her favorite.

Tah-da! Bring the books back the next day and order what you need.


Some places maintain a very large selection of wallpaper and permit you to wander the premises with a scissors. Not only is it great fun, but you can get a larger hunk of wallpaper, and it's not bound. Therefore, you can forget about the slips of white paper. You've come home with NO MORE THAN twenty five samples.

You take your partner into the room to be transformed and hold up two samples. Crumple one as soon as a choice is made and move on, as above.

The benefits of the alternative is that the store will have the wallpaper in stock and there's even less down time to worry about your decision.

People get hung up in decision making because they fear making the wrong one. Many times there is no wrong decision to be made. This college will give you options, ideas, and contacts that will be different that attending that college...but neither choice will be wrong.

Certainly choosing wallpaper is easier, when you think of it in that context.

Now. Go look in the Yellow Pages for something like The Wonderful World of Wallpaper and get yourself there.

Oh. By the way, don't go to more than one store. Have you learned nothing from the above approach?

Simplify, simplify.

This works for paint samples. This works for tile samples. This works for fabric samples.

Practice over the years allowed my husband and I to make every aesthetic choice we needed to make including carpet on a weekend blitz visit with our builder who is working hard 1500 miles away from us, his clients. I bet he feels lucky we aren’t cruising by the building site every live long day saying, “Maybe we should move that window a few feet over. You think we could get a different countertop?"


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

What's That In Your Ear?

I’m sure that none of YOU are guilty of doing the following, so forgive me if I complain a bit about those OTHER people....the ones who are having way too much of a relationship with their cell phone. These people don’t just use it. They caress it. Fondle it. Berate it. They flip it open the way smokers used to snap up the top of their metal Zippo lighters, just for show.

Some things should be done in the privacy of one’s home, or the privacy of one’s bedroom, for that matter. Some things should be done quietly, so our own air space isn’t more polluted than it already is with thumping bass whopping you from both sides on the highway or lockers slamming between classes, or a really bad radio station played too loudly while you are trying to do some serious shopping.

First, it’s important to note that if you are an actor or a writer, you have automatic permission to eavesdrop.

Because I said so, that’s why.

You can’t read other people’s mail. You can’t tap a phone. Do not start peeking at your kid’s or spouse’s journals. If you’ve got a telescope, keep it aimed at the sky, buddy, not someone’s window.

But when you are out in public, in a waiting room, wandering the mall, on a bus, in an elevator, or standing in line for something, anything people say can be what I call MATERIAL. Perhaps a couple is breaking up at the next table in the Chinese restaurant. That could be interesting.

But this phone stuff is starting to look mighty silly to me.

First, when car phones were so expensive they were a real status symbol, I read in a catalog that you could buy a shell of a car phone, really cheap, so other people would think you had one and therefore you would be cool. A phony, I guess.

Then, just like the day that suddenly everyone is running around in shorts after a cold winter, the air turns warm and cell phones bloom every where you look. I’m not sure when it happened. But now it seems that almost everyone is connected.

A man is in the grocery store. He is standing in front of the produce section. He whips out the old phone and gets clarity on whether summer squash as opposed to zucchini would go better with the salmon, color-wise, that is. Oy. What if he got home and his spousal equivalent complained that the vegetables clashed? Absolutely a necessary phone call.

A woman is with a friend in the home accessories section of a discount department store. They are discussing lamps, just like normal people. Then debate about this couch cushion compared to that couch cushion. Uhf. Out comes the phone. “Honey? I’m here at TJ Maxx and I just wanted to know if you think that a lamp with a glass base or ceramic would be better in the den? Are you sure? Well, the glass one is like a Waterford crystal and...sure you, no, Waterford. You know those goblets that Bob and Sissy gave us? Like that. Or there’s this other lamp here that’s a really pretty green only with a dragon on it. How do you feel about dragons? Well, just tell me. How can you not have time to talk about this?!” Meanwhile her in person friend is standing there like a lump. She’s been put on hold.

People are driving and talking, their head with that little tilt, while they are stopped at the light and looking something up in their day planner. They don’t notice the light is green.

People are walking and talking. They are wandering around parking lots mumbling into their palms as though they are Secret Service scanning for snipers. Except the guy in the golf shirt and shorts has tripped on the curb. The Secret Service doesn’t trip.

The people with earpieces are even more unsettling. We are walking on a city street and we do not know if the person approaching us is using his Bluetooth or speaking to his space buddies on Neptune.

Mostly, I wish that people would not answer their phones in restaurants, then eat and talk on the phone. Or yell. People are warned in honeyed tones by the stage managers at concerts and plays to “Please, take a moment to turn off your phones and turn your pagers to stun during the performance, thankyousomuch.”

I think phones should be checked at the door with the wet umbrellas. Perhaps you think I am being a tad petty. But you know I don’t mean you. If your phone rings you answer it, say, “Uh, huh, OK. Sure. See you at five,” and get back to the people you are with in person.

But none of you were with me that day at a nice restaurant when a woman dining with four friends called home, “Just to check,” and spent the next half hour yelling at her kids. She ordered during this time. She ate during this time. She didn’t talk to her dinner companions who couldn’t talk to each other, I don’t think.

She said, “Becky. I’m telling you. Are you listening? Because I’m only going to tell you once. Becky? What did you just say to me? No, no, no. You go get your brother. I want to talk to him. Go get him I said. Becky! Did you hear me? Go. Get. Your. Brother.” The next half hour was like that. Since I was eating with my father and step-mother who are both pretty deaf, they didn’t notice, and kept trying to engage me in conversation. But I could only hear The Mother of Becky screaming on her cell phone.

Also, given that I do believe in evolution, unlike most of the students I’ve been teaching for the last five years, I think opposable thumbs are going to morph. They are going to get long and pointy, the better to text with. Students can pretend they are paying attention while they text people they saw ten minutes ago. They don’t have to wait until class is over to let people know how bored they were with our class. Or that I slipped up and cussed.

If Mother Nature wanted us to use cell phones so much we would all have ears with Velcro like strips. Until that happens, keep the phone folded until you absolutely, positively need it. You and I know this.

Flat tire on the turnpike. Lost in a strange neighborhood. Really, really late and you don’t want anyone to worry.

But not when some trivia geek stops a conversation to phone a friend and find out whether the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer falls asleep in a tanning booth is the same one in which George is especially worried about “shrinkage.”