Thursday, April 30, 2015

Could I Be Part Norwegian? That Explains a Lot.

Seagulls don't talk. I like that about them.
Before we boarded the from-the-airport train in Oslo, Norway, Younger Daughter, who currently lives in one of the capital city’s outer neighborhoods, whispered advice.

“Norwegians don’t make eye contact with strangers and won’t strike up conversations. If you attempt to chat with strangers, they’ll think you’re weird.”

I found that information comforting rather than off-putting because I dread getting stuck with a chatty seatmate who plays a version of Twenty Questions. If you’ve spotted me on a plane, train, or bus, you know I favor the window seat and my gaze seesaws between my Kindle and the view outside.

Maybe I’m Norwegian. That would explain a lot.

While waiting on the T-bane (Oslo’s rapid transit), I surreptitiously observed commuters. Men and women wore no-nonsense shoes, toted backpacks, and sported no-fuss hairstyles.

Maybe I’m Norwegian. That would explain a lot, especially my love for of clunky Merrell shoes.

Before I could tell my daughter about our likely Viking ancestor, a man eager to enter the arriving T-bane elbowed me aside. He said nothing in the way of apology, and I shrugged it off. Later, a commuter let a door smack me in the face. What the heck?

In the privacy of her apartment, my daughter told me Norwegians rarely apologize for bumping into others and don’t hold doors. “Men and women are equals, so men don’t hold doors for women. And Norwegians figure they’re bothered you enough by bumping into you, so they don’t bother you more by apologizing.”

Since I’m the kind of American who says, “I’m sorry” when someone crashes into me, I began to doubt the existence of a Viking forebear.

From my daughter, more insights followed: “The resumes of Norwegians tend to be brief and factual. They don’t brag.”

I’d rather stick a pencil in my eye than puff myself up, so I put the Viking back into the family tree.

“Generally speaking, Norwegians are tolerant. You won’t hear them criticize people.”

Hey, I’m tolerant.  I try to guess the name of my Viking ancestor. Leif, Harald, Nils?

“There’s no real word for “please” in Norwegian,” my daughter says.

Whoa. Leif's days are numbered. “Is there a word for thank you?” I ask.

“Takk,” she says.

I’ll work with that unless someone far younger pushes me out of the way to snag a seat on the T-bane. If that happens, Leif’s toast. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Fine Print

I own multiple readers. Got a problem with that?

Me, I think Bush misplaced his reading glasses.

Reading glasses are all too easy to misplace. Those of us over forty put them on to peer at the computer screen, skim a newspaper article, or read a text message, then take them off to talk to a colleague across the room or across the building, and forget where we left them. People my age buy non-prescription multiples at the drugstore, Costco, or Sam’s and squirrel them away for peace of mind. No matter what happens: natural disaster or zombie apocalypse, we’ll be able to read the small print.

Jeb Bush’s identity may not have fused with his wife’s, but I bet he’s borrowed her readers. Ever been at a restaurant and seen one pair of reading glasses shared by a table full of middle-aged diners?

Unfortunately, Bush won't be able to borrow his wife’s reading glasses for much longer since everything about the appearance of presidential hopefuls is scrutinized. That scrutiny will keep him from wearing readers on a lanyard, tucking them into a pocket protector or hooking them over the neck of a tee shirt. If he peers at people over them, he risks looking professorial—a turn-off for some voters; if he attempts to read the printed page without them, he’ll either appear cross or cross-eyed.

Some eye doctors advise patients who are both near- and far-sighted to wear one contact lens to correct myopia and the other to correct presbyopia. Bifocals without lines or progressive glasses are another possibility, but I have no clue whether these options fit Jeb Bush’s situation.

I own several readers, and if Jeb ever has to fill out forms in my vicinity, I’ll lend him a pair. If you see me squinting at small print because I've misplaced my magnification, I hope you'll let me borrow yours.

Your turn. Do you wear readers or do you consider 10-point type easy on the eyes? If you use readers, how many times a day do you misplace them?