Everyone knows that anything in miniature form is inherently better than its normal-size counterpart. Those mini glass Coca-Cola bottles. Mini cupcakes. Mini whisks. Try to argue against me, I dare you. I had this thought (as I often do) when I recently passed by one of those mailboxes that look like a miniature house. Which reminded me of a house in Colorado Springs that has a tree house that is a miniature version of itself. People with these sorts of constructions are some of the few that I’d actually like to meet.
The last couple months have left me brooding as usual, but the revelations have been fewer and far between. I suppose it reflects the COVID times. What was once depression and isolation transformed into glimmers of hope as the nation slowly reopened. Now that we’re reopened and likely doomed, it’s hard to know what to feel. I mostly feel an acute sensation of “meh.”
So, in the spirit of “meh,” here are the few irrelevant, mundane things I have thunk the past few weeks.
I’ve always been irked by people waiting in line. I’ve spent enough time in Cuba to know we do lines all wrong in the U.S.
In Cuba, you wait on line for everything. I mean everything. But shockingly, you do little idle waiting. When you approach a line, you simply ask, “Último?” or “Quién es el último?”—“Who’s the last person in line?” Someone raises their hand. Now you’re the last person, the último. Once another person arrives asking for the último, you can raise your hand, and then you’re free, essentially. If the line looks long, you can go run another errand, knowing that your fellow line-mates will hold your spot. It’s an honor system that is so obvious and ingenious and would never, ever work in the U.S.
In the U.S., people cut in line, grumble and groan, fidget, and generally get under each other’s skin. It’s like being stuck in traffic—it seems like such an inconvenience, until you realize that your presence is creating the traffic. The habit that has always irked me is how much people try to close gaps in the line—as if by being physically closer together, therefore closer to the front, they’ll receive attention sooner. But being closer doesn’t change the number of people ahead of you—so could you back off, please?
Enter COVID-19. Not only are there demarcations on the floor separating people in line, but people actually want to give each other space. It’s no último system, that’s for sure, but it does warm my heart just a smidge.
I am beyond blessed to have received my grandfather’s 2009 Subaru Impreza this last February (I know, just in the nick of time to drive NOWHERE because you know, COVID). But in all seriousness, I feel enormously grateful for this adventure car to take me on all the climbing and hiking and camping trips my little Colorado heart desires. There are just moments while I’m driving where my heart stops momentarily.
At least when I initially received the car, the interior had a strong odor of my grandparents—my grandparents’ house in particular. I didn’t mind the smell; it was familiar and comforting. However, it quickly turned discomforting when I had the utterly terrifying realization that the smell may wear off. And years from now, I may never smell that smell again. I could forget what my grandparents smelled like. Or worse, what if the smell doesn’t wear off, but I lose my grandparents? And then every time I smell it, I break down at the thought that they’re no longer in my life? These are thoughts no one should have while operating a motor vehicle.
I was chatting with my brother on the phone a few days ago. He indicated he’d have to ring off soon, since he had an optometrist’s appointment. “Do you have to get your pupils dilated?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but I hope not. Getting your pupils is kind of the worst—in an underrated way. And besides, I have the NBA to watch tonight.”
We both chuckled at that. He was right; you never see it coming, and then your optometrist is like, “Oh, looks like you’re due for that terrifying puff in your eye that will leave you incapable of doing anything for the rest of the day.”
I remember one of the last times I had to get it done, I was completely unprepared. Luckily, I hadn’t driven to the appointment, so I didn’t have to get on the road with janky eyesight. My brother picked me up and said casually, “Mom was hoping we’d pick up some things at the supermarket after I got you.”
I assented weakly, figuring it wouldn’t take too long. But when we arrived at Shoprite, my brother continued, “Well, I should really stay in the car with the dogs, since it’s hot. So you just go in and grab those few things.”
You may as well have told me to do a Biles II. I stumbled out of the car into the store and felt blinded by the lights, labels, and colors. My depth perception fluctuated wildly as I tried to grab boxes of cereal and bananas. It should have been a 10-minute endeavor, but probably took 30. I can’t recall if I did self-check-out or had a cashier, but my eyes were definitely bugging out of my head in the process. I returned to the car to find my brother completely unperturbed.
Hoarding runs in the family in a low-key way. My mom’s mother – who technically is not blood-related to us – is 100% a hoarder, while my paternal grandfather is just rather sentimental. He clings to things out of the memories they hold. I can’t say I’m any different, though I’m getting better.
But I made big step away from my sentimentality a couple months ago, I’m proud to announce. After eight and a half years, I finally parted ways with my turtle backpack.
I purchased the turtle backpack after witnessing the “turtle backpack turtle spin,” pioneered by my favorite YouTube personality, Jenna Marbles. I was 14 years old. The backpack came with all four colored Ninja Turtle eye masks so I too could be “turtle-y” awesome. Halloween that year would be quite possibly the best yet. As I frolicked around the playground in my turtle backpack, donning my red Raphael mask, a yellow morphsuit, and Converse sneakers, I felt myself the epitome of cool.
Not even a year later, as I packed for boarding school, I placed the turtle backpack in the clothes pile. It was coming with me, dammit. I genuinely felt faster wearing it – how could I give up that feeling?
Despite not ever fully fitting in at boarding school, I never took any heat for the backpack. On the contrary, people would ask to borrow it, and I was able to happily milk several more Halloween and spirit day costumes out of it. The true test was bringing it to college.
My whole family tried to talk me out of it. They insisted I could not, should not, bring the backpack out to Colorado. People would make fun of me. I’d be the weird turtle backpack girl. But I refused to leave it at home. People could make fun of me all they wanted; if I became the weird turtle backpack girl, so be it.
AND I WAS RIGHT TO BRING IT.
Not only did I win numerous costume contests with the backpack, people praised it even more than at boarding school. It soon became my ski backpack, and people would call out approvingly all over the mountain. Even biking or walking down the street in Colorado Springs, I’d constantly hear, “Hey! I like your backpack!”
I had found my people.
My dad came out to ski my junior year and saw the backpack in action on the slopes. Later, in a family gathering, he even admitted: “I know we were against the turtle backpack, but we were wrong. It’s awesome.”
As vindicated as I felt, I couldn’t escape the harsh reality: the pack was falling apart. When I finally threw it out on that fateful day in May, neither of the zippers worked. One of the straps had broken. All of the masks were missing. And it was ripped in innumerable places. That backpack had been loved the way no backpack had ever been loved before.
I really thought I should hold onto it as a relic. I could mount it on the wall, right? Or save it for my kids? (Who am I kidding? I don’t want kids.) It was time.
I still feel a little pang when I think about that backpack in a landfill. But the memories will last forever.
There was a time in my childhood where it seemed like I broke everything I touched. Vacuum cleaners, pool floats, glasses – it was infuriating. Because I wasn’t really klutzy, so much as I just couldn’t gauge the necessary force to do things until it was too late.
Though I largely grew out of this stage, one particular item never was safe: water bottles.
At my boarding school, everyone carried their water bottle to and fro, idly sipping throughout the day. I was no different, but I couldn’t seem to hang onto a single bottle for more than a few months before something happened. I am not exaggerating when I say that in three years, I manage to break, lose, or damage eight water bottles. I broke water bottles you wouldn’t think possible to break. No matter the material, I somehow managed to screw up.
When I got to college, surrounded by countless NOLS-it-alls with their sticker-splattered Nalgenes, I made a resolve. I too would purchase a Nalgene and cover it with stickers—stickers I really liked and cared about—and perhaps by by fostering a strong attachment to the bottle, I would be less likely to lose or break it.
My brother gave me a Nalgene from his college, Wake Forest, and I proceeded to chip away at sticker-ing it. It was perfect. And over the next nearly five years, I never broke it. I lost it a handful of times, but I always successfully fetched it in time. I felt like I had overcome my nagging water bottle-destroying trait.
Then, just a week ago, I was carrying two large boxes to my car to take to the UPS store. I had balanced my water bottle on top. As I precariously shuffled to my Subie, my family friend, Ann, asked, “You got it? You’re sure that water bottle isn’t going to fall and break?”
“I’m good! The water bottle will be fine!” I assured her, cheerily.
The Nalgene fell to the ground and shattered.