March 31, 2014

Thoughts on a Good Deed

Category: Contemplative — Cranky @

Last night I was driving out of a grocery store parking lot when a lady flagged me down. It was minus 12 celcius. She was slim, middle-aged, and clearly from the Phillipines. She asked in broken English if I could help her, and so I parked my vehicle and walked over to her 1990s Toyota Camry. She had locked her keys and wallet in the car.

She was trying fruitlessly to get a gap to open up between the glass and the car frame, but she had no “step 2”. I could tell immediately that the only option was to call a locksmith. I asked her if there was somebody she could call, and all she said was, “No. My mother is very old.” Those brief words told me quite a bit about her situation. I offered my phone for her to call a locksmith. She was very shy in answering that she didn’t have money for that.

Her body language and demeanour just felt… defeated. Clearly this woman was near the end of her resources. So we sat in my vehicle to warm her up, and I called for the locksmith. She put up her hand and I simply said, “I’ll pay.” She was shocked, but in no position to refuse the offer. We chatted a bit while waiting, and she was trying to figure out something to offer me in return. I just smiled and said, “It’s fine. No need.” She teared up.

When the door had been unlocked she asked me for contact information. I said, “I’d prefer not. But I’ll take a hug instead.” I then paid for the service and departed, catching a waving hand from inside her Camry.

What was most interesting to me about this encounter was how I drew the border around it. I denied the possibility of future contact. It was an act of protection. I’ve seen other people help somebody out once and get locked in a cycle of assistance. By refusing her request I allow the moment of altruism to remain just that – a moment. I’ll never know anything more about her than I do today.


November 4, 2013

Cleaning Up My Thoughts

Category: Contemplative — Cranky @

As I grow older I’m becoming much more zen in my thinking. Like anybody, for instance, I experience moments of subdued road rage, and all my life it’s been habitual for me to sum up the entirety of a person in a few thoughts, and instantly label them. The guy who cut me off is just an idiot who shouldn’t be driving. The woman stopped at a light in front of me who suddenly turns on her signal, delaying me, is a pinhead.

No more. When I get a thought like that I stomp it down now. All I can say about those people is that in that one moment they made a mistake. That’s all. They could be brain surgeons, philanthropists, civic leaders… everybody has an off moment. They might, in fact, be jackasses too – but I don’t have enough information to make the call.

I’ve realized that when I have those labeling moments, it’s me who suffers. It’s the quality of my thought that is poor, and that’s much more corrosive to my existence than anything somebody might do to anger me in traffic.

In much the same way I’ve actively guided my thoughts about women. As a perfectly normal male, I appreciate appearance and sexuality, but I do my best not to basely objectify. I can’t hold myself accountable for thoughts I have when presented with clear outliers, like stripped-down girls in night clubs, but I can clean up my thoughts day to day. A pretty girl can be simply appreciated as a pretty girl. I don’t have to mentally disassemble her into her lady parts – it’s disrespectful, even if it’s just occurring in my own mind.

I work with some very smart women who also happen to be attractive. I respect them for their abilities and their contributions, which are plentiful. When I was younger I would have appreciated the beauty first – now when that happens, I consciously direct myself to consider their character and talent.

I have to live in my brain all the time. I prefer it to be a place of calm observation, and respecting others in my thoughts helps keep it that way.


October 6, 2013


Category: Happiness — Cranky @

This morning I awoke and discovered I felt like a nice breakfast was in order. I texted a buddy who lives close by, and who is often amenable to a meal at a nearby restaurant, but he was unavailable, so I set about making it myself.

I allow myself bacon under certain circumstances. I buy it dry cured at a hungarian deli nearby, freeze it individually, and then cut most of the fat away using a small utility knife. A couple of reduced slices of bacon, chopped celery, sliced red onions, and chopped radishes all bound together in a half cup of egg whites became that breakfast. All in all, it was a healthy, crunchy, and tasty way to start the day.

The star, however, was the coffee. I’ve been using my Aeropress for a year or more, adjusting all the variables in search of a really terrific cup of coffee, but thus far it has eluded me. But not today.

In the words of a colleague you have control over three things when it comes to coffee – time, grind, and temperature. I used one and one third scoops of beans ground on “fine” with my grinder, water at 200 degrees,  and four minutes of stirring using the “inverted” method. And the moment that coffee hit my lips, I knew I had nailed it. I had just the right amount of everything.

To prove the point, I made a second cup. Success again. I relaxed on the couch, thoroughly enjoying my coffee while watching GPS on CNN. My cat Thelma must have tuned into my happy zen moment, because she leapt into my lap, settled immediately, and started purring. All was right with the world.

I have no point except that sometimes it’s clear when you get what you’re after, and sometimes it’s just about incremental improvement. If this coffee never gets any better, that’s perfectly fine with me. It’s terrific exactly as it is.