Best Day Of The Week?

People often pick Sunday night as the worst part of the week.  Not the daytime, but the late afternoon into evening part.  It’s the time when we realize the weekend is over. Even if it’s been a lousy weekend and we should be glad it’s over, still we dread Monday. 

I’m surprised how many people I know who, all through their adult lives, confess to a vague sense of dread as Sunday comes to a close.  Is it the memory of having to give up our free time and go back to school Monday morning?  Even mature adults who love their work and don’t mind at all showing up on Monday, say they deal with feelings of melancholy on Sunday night.  

My favorite day of the week is Thursday, because on Thursday, we’re already through half of the week and headed into the part where we’re looking forward to a weekend.  Though I work at home and don’t have to show up anywhere most Monday mornings, I still get that looking-forward-to rush every Thursday.

The one thing in life I feel I can control is anticipation.  People say “Don’t get your hopes up.”  I like getting them up.  So I like Thursdays the way I enjoy most of the nights-before: The night before a birthday, for instance, and the ultimate night-before – Christmas Eve. 

In fact, I like Christmas Eve  better than Christmas Day.  It doesn’t have to do with presents expected, but more to do with having everything waiting and yet to unfold.  Christmas Day requires special maneuvering to keep it from feeling a bit like Sunday night. 

So Thursdays are like Christmas Eve, when hopes are high and all things are still possible.  

Ó Anita Garner 2008

Defending The Weather

Weather forecasters on radio and television are always apologizing about the weather, when most of the time the weather’s just doing what comes naturally.  

Specific weather patterns occur during certain times of the year.  And sometimes each of these patterns lasts a big longer, or doesn’t last as long as usual.  It’s not a surprise. 

In a region famous for its fog, our forecasters say, sadly, ”No sun tomorrow morning.  Maybe later in the day.”  Some of us aren’t sad about the fog.  Some of us look forward to it slipping onshore and staying around for as long as it wants to. We live in a fog belt.  We don’t expect sunshine every morning.

Take the weather in a region that enjoys a full range of winter-related behavior – sleet and hail and cold and wind and rain.  When I’m visiting and watching/listening I always wonder why weather people feel the need to complain when they predict more of the same over a period of months.  Winters have been cold and wet for as long as anyone can remember. 


In southern California, where some of my friends are in charge of reading the forecasts – and where I once handed out my share of same to audiences – whenever much-needed rain appears (and it’s not that many days out of a year) someone invariably expresses eagerness for the sun to return.  Southern California is a desert.  The sun will be back soon. 


The only people regularly expressing surprise at these regular occurrences are weather forecasters. 



Ó Anita Garner 2008


Extended Warranties – A Troubling Concept

I’m suffering from a recurring condition:  Extended Warranty Resentment.  I’m offended at the notion of buying insurance that seems to bet on a brand new item dying too quickly. 

I don’t expect a plastic item that costs $1.00 to last forever, though some do, but extended warranties remind me of the planned obsolescence theory, and that’s not a pleasant thought.

Remember when we first learned about engineered extinction? When we went to buy our first new car, older and wiser friends gathered ’round to tell us that no matter what we paid for the thing, it was programmed to be obsolete at a certain point.  They said that no matter how well we maintained this shiny new car, it wasn’t going to last nearly as long as we thought.

So – we began to buy the extended coverage against all manner of mechanical ills that, it seems to me, we shouldn’t have to expect so soon.

Then the extended warranty sales pitch attached itself to our new appliances. No more do we pass down a refrigerator to the next generation. (Not that they’d want our old one, but it used to be an option.)  Today we buy a brand new one with bells and whistles, and at the same time, we buy an insurance policy. It’s a reminder that this beautiful new kitchen companion is likely to begin breaking down soon.  I take that very personally. 

I object to the notion that the manufacturer doesn’t warrant every product.  I expect when I buy something with movable parts that costs $50 or more that the manufacturer will have tested it under all kinds of conditions and barring some freak occurrence the manufacturer should give us a realistic estimate, based on their tests, of how long the movable parts will function.

I’d rather see pricing that reflects the realistic life of the product.  Adjust prices if we must, but do away with buying insurance on something that’s brand new.  

I can barely afford the insurance that pays somebody else when I expire.  I need to take better care of my own movable parts in order to get every possible premium discount.  

When we give in to sales pressure and purchase the extended warranty at the same time we buy the product, aren’t we taking on the maker’s responsibility?  No religious reference intended.

Ó Anita Garner 2008




You Can Call Me Sweetie.

The pharmacist called out “just a second, sweetie” as I walked away – no doubt to alert me to something I’d forgotten at the counter.  At least I think he was talking to me, so I turned around and gave him a smile.  Though I’m likely older than his mother, I never take a term of endearment for granted.  One good one can make my day. 

Back when women were supposed to consider it demeaning, I never took exception to familiar forms of address. For me, no matter what the speaker’s intent, the whole issue hinges on the recipient’s attitude.  Even if the person doing the talking may be trying for a bit of sarcasm with the “well, sweetheart” line or the “sure, sure, darlin” stuff, I choose to accept it all quite literally. In fact, if you call out any of these cozy words and I’m nearby, I’ll answer.

You know those old movies where a hard-bitten restaurant coffee-pourer or short-order cook addresses the waiting customer in that very familiar way – ”just a minute hon” or “be right with you, cutie,” and in that context it’s a phrase meant to establish who’s in charge here and that you’ll wait your turn like all the other customers?  Well, not only do I not consider that insulting, but I find those scenes and those phrases oddly comforting.  

People who object to this level of familiarity say it comes down to respect, and that these forms of address are inappropriate among people who haven’t been introduced.

I say it’s better than being ignored. So you can call me “sweetie” anytime. 

Ó By Anita Garner 2008

Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer

Anticipating the next Fearless Flyer!

I’m embarrassed to admit how much I miss receiving Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer in the mail. I live in a small town in northern California a bit too far away from my nearest Trader Joe’s. Once in a while I make a trip to the nearest store, but living outside their neighborhood means they don’t mail me their periodic “Fearless Flyer.” After spending decades living close to Trader’s, this has been a serious adjustment. Here’s how the company describes their mailer:

“The Fearless Flyer has been likened to a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine. We’re not sure who said that, but we think they pretty much got it right. The Fearless Flyer is kind of like a newsletter, a catalog and a bit of a comic book all at the same time. It’s our chance to give you loads of interesting (hopefully) information about our products. And along the way, we like to toss in some witty (we try) tidbits and even a few old-fashioned cartoons.” Trader Joe’s ® 2008

There’s a rumor that a new store will open next year within five minutes of my house. The very best part is that  I will be back on the Fearless Flyer mailing list.

I can skip a New Year’s celebration because a nearby Trader’s is gift enough to start the year. Sounding a bit over the top, you think? Not at all. I like food. I like to cook. I like saving money on what I cook.

I also enjoy good writing and respect smart marketing. I spent years working in advertising and Trader’s gets five stars from me in all those areas. I’ve seldom (if ever) seen a case of marketing strategy so well matched with in-store follow-through, seldom have I seen a case of advertising that is this clever and straightforward and entertaining and – yes – absolutely true.

Trader’s print and radio ads are fun all by themselves.

If you don’t yet know about Trader Joe’s, I hope one will soon open in your area, because after it does, you’ll likely plan your grocery shopping around it. And now in a completely unsolicited final plug, here’s a link to their website. Feel free to click and enjoy for yourself.

Counting down to the announcement of the official opening date of my new Trader Joe’s, here’s my pledge: I will never take you for granted again.

Ó By Anita Garner

What Are You Looking At?

Ever try to go unnoticed?  Well then you know the natural outcome – if you don’t want to be looked at, people won’t be able to stop looking.

Some people spend a lifetime enjoying being the center of attention, starting as class clowns in grade school.  Others want to disappear. For most of us, it’s probably somewhere in the middle – wanting people to notice when we’re all cleaned up, and when we’re not looking or feeling our best, it would be nice to be ignored.

People will stare – because of unusual physical traits or because we’re caught in a place where we aren’t expected to be, and because sometimes onlookers are rude. This is rattling to the spirit.  

Crossing a bridge over a creek last week, I watched a crane or some other kind of oddly tall bird with very skinny legs, standing absolutely still, pretending he wasn’t there. Though we made eye contact – if a crane can be said to make eye contact – he ignored me. While he tried to act like a statue of a crane, he was the center of attention. 

He stood in a spot where generally only ducks (and the people who watch ducks) gather. He was in the water barely up to his ankles – if cranes can be said to have ankles – while the rest of the waterfowl dipped and swooped and floated. 

When we meet people with outstanding physical characteristics – some incredibly good-looking and some missing features that others have, it’s enlightening to note that many of them don’t seem to waste a minute on their differences.  Proof that it can be done. The lesson we’re all trying to learn is to accept that our physicality is only a fraction of who we are.

For the times when the crane finds himself a bit off-course, in a body of water that’s too small for his exceptional self, a sense of humor might be helpful – if a crane can be said to have a sense of humor.

Ó Anita Garner 

Putting On A Cell Phone Show

Every cell phone is a potential camera and a potential record of something embarrassing we’re doing right now.  Strangers can hold up a phone and send a picture of us anywhere. But that’s not the most intrusive thing cell phones can do.


Worse are the performances we’re forced to watch against our will.  Lately everywhere I go, cell phones are treated as stages, with the holder of the phone putting on a show.  The trouble is, I didn’t buy a ticket nor do I want to get in for free. 


I just came back from Starbucks, a confined space, where several people in different corners of the coffee emporium were busy working on productions that were too big for the room. 


One man paced back and forth between tables.  Another was loudly talking into his phone about something he needed everyone to know about him.  He tossed around the word “millions.”  This guy reminded me of the olden days when one man puffed up a story like that while acting as wingman for his buddy at the bar. 


A woman raised her voice telling someone on the other end of a conversation what an awful week she had. She named names.


A man pushed open the door, stood in the center of the room and shouted into his phone, “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”  He turned around to scan the line waiting to order.  This was no quiet little glance.  It was a large whoosh of a turn. Then he spun back around, and projecting like one of the Redgraves, he said, “Go ahead.  Get started.  Ten minutes.  Yes.  Start now and I’ll be there.”


All of these performances break two rules of show business.  Rule number one:  If you’re going to draw attention to yourself, don’t be boring.  Rule number two: (If this isn’t a rule it should be.) Be sure you have a willing audience. Willing does not include people who are stuck next to you because of coffee cravings.  


Do you ever wonder who’s on the other end of these conversations? One day, while I waited in the market checkout line, the man in front of me talked into his cell phone loudly enough for the people in the back of the store to hear, while the checker scanned his stuff. 


At first I thought, oh he’s letting his mate know he’s successfully completed a shopping list, but because of the responses, that notion was dispelled.  It was clear he and the person on the other end of the call were making a plan to do something tomorrow but the guy in the store couldn’t seem to think a thought without repeating it into the phone, so there was not only boring conversation, but also a recitation of products.  


Evidently some new rules were written since I read my manual.  Here’s the revision: If we own a cell phone we must talk into it at all times.  Loudly. And while we talk, we must pace up and down in a small space, the smaller the better.


While talking, imagine there is a camera pointed at us, recording our lives.  A producer may need this material one day.  I’ll leave you with a transcript of that supermarket conversation, and you decide if this is a reality show you’ll want to watch.


“Yeah.  Beans. Okay.  Tomorrow.  Rice.  Nine sounds good.  Tomatoes.  You off all day?  Bacon.  Nah, I’m going in first. Potatoes.  Just for a few minutes though.  Onions.”  


Ó Anita Garner 2008

Fear Of Change

I love routine.  Embrace it.  Find it invigorating.  Routine enables us to accomplish new things because we know we can return to stand on the smooth and relatively splinter-free platform of the everyday, emboldened by the foundation we’ve built.     

All new experiences aren’t better than the old ones. Just because we decline to try a new thing, that doesn’t always mean we’re afraid to shake up our routine. Sometimes it simply means the invitation isn’t that interesting. 


There’s nothing wrong with preferring certain companions, specific kinds of mattresses, chairs, coffee and food.  These are often the only things I can control for weeks at a time, so I’ve learned to count each choice a small victory. My routine gives me the freedom to feel most like myself. 


In this way I’m very like my granddaughter, who at three-and-a-half, embraces every detail of her daily routine and reminds anyone who forgets.   


When I leave my own comfort zone in order to have a different experience, it’s a blessing to know the familiar waits for my return.  Sometimes the new works out, sometimes not. 


The real enemy, of course, is the fear of change. 


The very young ones haven’t learned that part yet. They’ll try anything. We supervise them closely, because in their quest for new experiences, they’ll jump too high and land on an unfriendly surface. 


Somewhere in the middle is the hoped-for balance.   


Ó Anita Garner

Nobody’s Home

Twenty years ago, during a pre-dawn drive through Los Angeles neighborhoods on my way to church early on a Sunday morning, I wrote notes on this subject.  It was my turn that day to help prepare the chapel for worship and as I drove to my first stop at a coffee shop, I noticed lights in a few windows and imagined early risers like me, with coffee or tea and the Sunday paper.


Turning a corner that took me into an urban area, the buildings grew taller and the lights inside shone only into empty offices and corridors.  Not a single person was there at this hour. Thousands of square feet of space remained empty all weekend and every night after workers went home.  Come Monday morning, freeways would be clogged with people driving to temporarily populate these work spaces. 


All of a sudden, that one Sunday morning, everything about this picture seemed wrong.


These notes come from the late 1980’s, B.E.  Before the Northridge Earthquake of ’94. In the aftermath of that quake, after crucial freeways collapsed, some employers set up satellite offices so workers could get to a space with computers. It was a swell solution but it didn’t last. 


These thoughts troubled me B.A.I.T.  Before millions of citizens began to embrace An Inconvenient Truth about the effects of global warming and how our present way of life contributes to it. But we still haven’t changed many bad habits.  


My notes are B.C.O.C.  Before the Current Oil Catastrophe.  Now that gasoline prices have reached a new obscene level, we’re hearing about more employers considering flex time and job sharing – ways for commuters to take care of their families and not go broke getting to work everyday.  But it’s not happening fast enough. 


Lately we’ve added the current housing market crisis. Twenty years after that Sunday morning, we’re still not close to solutions.


That Sunday, instead of listening to the sermon, I scribbled notes.  Recently I found them and the notes ask, Is it time for a real urban village?  Is it time to re-purpose office buildings? 


Within one tall building in any city, an entire village could reside, with shops and services and education and housing in all shapes and sizes.  A skyscraper could serve its original business, but with more people working from home, the need for office space is minimized.  With entire floors devoted to living, the commute for others is gone completely.  


What about the people who own those buildings?  How can they receive a return on their investment?  I don’t know as much as business leaders and politicians do about manipulating the economy, but I’m confident they’ll find ways to make money in any kind of market. They always do.


One approach to replacement revenue might be to use some of the subsidies that now go toward housing on a local and national level to defray costs.  Responding to the needs of this new urban community, services and stores inside the buildings would pay rent. Tenants would pay rent. 


I know people – some of them young and single, some retirement age, some families, who are ready for this kind of new village right this minute.  For the “show me” others, when it exists, it’ll be an option they’ll consider.    


It means changing dreams. The notion of a house in the suburbs, miles away from a city, relies on automobiles and gasoline. Instead of building more freeways to carry us to houses far away from work, we could make upgrading mass transit a priority.   


Money can buy options for many who won’t have to face changes, but for millions of people right this minute, downsizing is necessary. I won’t use the word “affordable” next to the word “housing” because so often it’s an insult.  How about “realistic” instead?   


Architects with skills and vision and heart can turn any existing tall building into a workable and lovely and sustainable small town.


Using what we’ve already got isn’t a new idea. Our ancestors did it.  The principle of re-purposing is something we heard about from our elders.  It worked for them.  If we’re smart, we can make it work for us. 


Ó Anita Garner 2008

Multi-cultural Microcosm

My daughter, Cathleen, was born in California.  Her husband, Edan, arrived from Israel a few years ago. My granddaughter, Caedan Ray, goes to Temple Pre-School, where many songs are sung in Hebrew, where the cantor, when he teaches the little ones a song, counts off “One, two, three, go!” in Hebrew. 

Caedan knows the Sabbath prayer. She greets her family with “Shabbat Shalom” and that’s about all I understand from their Friday night ritual.  Even if I did understand Hebrew, I’m not sure I’d grasp what the three year old is saying.  She doesn’t have a hard “r” sound in her arsenal and she does some creative things with l’s and y’s.  It’s easy to imagine why Mommy and Abba smile when Caedan says the prayer. 

When I arrived for a visit recently, I rang the doorbell and the little girl answered.  Behind her, I could see Abba chatting on the phone. The little one (“Yiddie for short – her “l/y” situation results in her saying “yiddie” for “little” and we’ve added that to her list of nicknames) gave me a hug and said, “shhhh, Abba is talking to Einat (A-not) in Israel.”  Then she said quite slowly, to be sure I understood, “He is talking Hebrew.”

My daughter and I ask Abba if he speaks Hebrew to Yiddie when they’re home alone.  He says he forgets, because he enjoys English so much.  His English is colorful; a bit more formal than the way it’s taught in America, with fewer contractions, but then he tosses in the occasional “dude”  and “s’all good.” 

So – Caedan has English.  And pre-school speak.  And bits of Hebrew.  And she has Dora The Explorer on PBS. She watches faithfully and shouts out the answers in Spanish.  

Many neighbors near her home are Spanish-speaking.  One boy, Eric, goes to school in his wheelchair. He waits out front with his parents for the special van. Caedan stands eye to eye with him and says “Hola, Eric.”  His parents smile, pat her on the head, and say a whole bunch of sentences I don’t understand.  Yiddie smiles back and this goes on for a while.   

I have no idea if she understands what Eric’s parents are saying.  In her world, everybody speaks different languages, so maybe it’s already second nature. While she works on her l’s and y’s and r’s, Eric’s parents are working on English and Abba will soon be working on the answers to his citizenship test.

Ó Anita Garner 2008