Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Longing for Simpler Times

I was once being interviewed and the interviewer said, "Is there anything you can't do?" Off the top of my head I said, "Ironing."
That was true. I'm a terrible ironer, unlike my mother who ironed my father's underpants, and the sheets. But recently I've noticed there are other survival skills of the Twentyfirst century that I sadly lack.

For example, I am hopeless at using sticky tape to wrap up packages. I get the tape twisted and stuck to my clothing and generally waste twice as much as I put on the package, which ends up looking like a weird and wonderful mess.

I also confess to being useless at opening things. I can't tell you how many times I've found the words Open This End right after I've just opened the other. If I try to make a hole for a straw in those small milk cartons I end up getting squirted all over.

Oh, and I can't write the @ sign. Just can't do it. Never learned and can't seem to get the hang of it. So when I copy down someone's email address, I can't read it later because I don't know which is the @ and which is an a or an e or a c.

So I'm wondering if perhaps I should have been born in the times that I write about--the early Twentieth Century when Molly Murphy lived in New York City, or even the 1930s, when Lady Georgie was a bright young thing in London. They were simpler times when flour was scooped out of a big barrel in the grocer's shop, when parcels were tied up with string and sealed with wax and when addresses were Twentyfour Oak Lane instead AND when there was a convenient maid who did the ironing.
Maybe that's why I choose to write about this era, because secretly I know that I'd fit in so well.

So, dear Jungle Red Sisters, all of whom appear so talented and so together--are there any little things that you can't do, any survival skills that you don't possess?


  1. Rhys, you're hilarious. Let me just say that, first off.

    And I agree! I CANNOT open milk cartons. I inevitably try to open the wrong side of them, and sploosh milk all over myself.

    I also can't walk through doorways. Somehow I always hit one side or the other. And I'm a bad sheet folder. I COULD do it, I just don't like to. And I can't make beds. They just never look exactly right.

    And I cannot cannot cannot--sing.

    I am a terrific ironer, though. And love to do it. And I wrap a mean package. Maybe we should get together???

  2. I have never mastered (mistressed?) the ampersand.

    But I always thought if you stuck me in a log cabin in the wilderness, I would not only survive but have a grand time finding creative ways to cope. And no ironing required! (My grandmother was the one in my family who ironed t-shirts. She was also a dynamite package-wrapper, a skill she passed on to both my sister and me.)

  3. I used to have to ask my sons for help adding phone numbers to my cell, but I have actually mastered that. If I ever have to text them, however, it's real slow going. Real slow (so I don't). And I can't seem to get my own web site implemented, even though I have worked on other web sites. I SHOULD be able to do it, I keep telling myself.


  4. Most of the time I cannot operate my own phone. I can make calls but much of that other stuff eludes me..yesterday I couldn't figure out how to turn it on. This probably stems from my inability -or perhaps refusal - to read instruction manuals.
    On the things I care about that I can't do...I wish I really knew how to ride a horse, not just hang on and hope for the best.

  5. I'm not sure there ever were simpler times. My mother used a pressure cooker, which terrifies me. My grandmother could knit and can food, which I can't. My great-grandmothers knew all manner of food storage that I am ignorant of, as well as home remedies. And they all had lovely handwriting. I type everything because my writing is so homely. But I'm pretty good at learning new software!

  6. I cannot work our Tv/dvd/vcr. Too many remotes, too few brain cells flickering. And John just ordered something new that allows him to download his Netflix selections directly to the TV without messing with disks. He showed it to me last night--hopeless. If something happens to him (god forbid), I'll just have to watch the upstairs television.

  7. Sticky tape yes. Ironing no. When we got married my husband saw my feeble attempts and took the iron off me.

  8. Rhys,
    I can't do anything that involves practical intelligence.

    My husband says that when I open the cereal box, it looks like mice got into it.

    But the truth is, I can't open nearly any package. (Is it just me or have they become more complicated? I HATE PACKAGING) I also can't fix things. In fact, I have an uncanny ability to break even the simplist mechanical device.

    I'm not the best driver, either. And I actually don't like driving, I love anything historical, so I think Rhys, I'll join you and Molly and move to the early 20th century -- as long as I don't have to go back as a farmer. Did I mention that I can't garden either?

  9. I can't garden either, Jan. I like to think of myself as Mother Nature but in truth most things wither and die when I plant them.

  10. Oh, Terry! I can't open those bags either! I'm convinced there is NO magic string.

    ANd I'm also a truly terrible driver. And if Jonathan's away, I have to watch tv upstairs. The downstairs one WILL NOT GO ON no matter what button I push.

  11. Terry,
    I'm going to have to try the ironing the pillow case thing, at least once.

    Hank, do you iron pillow cases in between writing novels, investigating Boston, and everything else you do?

  12. Ha ha very funny Rhys --- my mother still irons socks. I'm not very good at parking my SUV in a two-car garage that was built when cars were normal sizes. There is very little paint left on one side.
    But my biggest struggle is opening the packaging on DVD's or CD's ---they're impossible!

  13. So many things I have issues with. I never can figure out: Am I a stupid woman with flashes of brilliance, or a smart woman who has done some pretty stupid stuff?

  14. I could never figure out how to make perfect little round melon balls. Even using the melon baller (okay, laugh if you wish, but I don't know what else to call it), they're always flat on one side.

  15. I can't sew. I really, really, really can't sew. (As in, it took me 8 hours to make a two-seam, satin-ribbon-strapped sundress.)

  16. Hey, I'd love to iron pillowcases, but no wya. And I wish, Terry, that you could come to our house. As for me, I pat myself on the pack when I manage to pat them smooth as they come out of the dryer.

    But somehow, I am an accomplished ironer of men's shirts. I don't do it anymore, whew, but you never know.

  17. I'm terrible at package wrapping too, AND ironing, AND most especially folding. I need folding lessons. Seriously.

    And I can't resist a pun. When I see a package that says "Open this flap first." I flap my arms, then open the box. This comes from being married too long to my husband.

  18. Hallie--I love the image of you arm-flapping. No wonder we get on well together. Exactly my zany sense of humor.
    The other day we stopped for coffee. The girl serving was clueless. i asked for cookies and she said, "Do you want them on a plate?"
    I replied, "No, I want them strung from the ceiling on threads so I can eat them standing up."
    And she stared as if she believed me.

  19. When I see those towel dispensers on bathroom walls--you know, they say:
    Pull Down
    Tear Up

    I can hardly resist.

  20. Patricia,
    I'm convinced those melon-ballers are a scam. Mine come out sort of one-sided and I've tried MANY times.

    And Susannah, I really can't sew either. I was so bad that my best friend in JuniorHigh did my sewing and I did her algebra.

    But don't think that means I've got practical math skills. I can only do conceptual math. Nothing you could use in everyday life.

  21. I love ironing but don't have time to do the sheets. A quick trip around the dryer drum usually does the trick.

    I wrap packages so securely the recipient needs dynamite to get into it.

    My former boss makes her @ sign like this: ~ It took me a while to figure that one out!

  22. ..what IS the deal with those melon ballers? Has anyone ever made a perfect melon ball with one of those things? Okay...herb shredder...bought it from Williams Sonoma catalog...just made green juice with it.

  23. Life was so much simpler when we just had to dismember a mammoth and sling it on the fire!

  24. Great post!

    I'm not sure if I can't iron, or won't iron.

    Can't walk without bumping into stuff. Can't remember faces - EVER. Can't do the whole hammer/nail thing without serious injury. *sigh*

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