10.19.2006

Oil Change

All I wanted was a cheap oil change. I guess you get what you pay for. I pull into the lot under a banner draped over the front office: "Ladies Day: Wednesday Oil Changes 11.99." It's Thursday. Damn. But still half the price of Jiffy Lube.

Two guys: one behind the counter says, smiling, smooth, mullet, "Can I have your first name, please?" Guy leaning on the counter says, "Tell him your phone number and I'll try to remember it." Me: Ha ha. Tense smile. Smiley: "Last name? Address? Phone number?" I'm cringing. I recite the numbers. Guy on the counter: "I'm a clown. I'm always like this." Me: "OK." Smile, kind of. Trying to ignore him. Not easy.

I leave them with my keys and my only car. I leave but then I remember another question. I come back in. I know counter guy's got a comment. What does he do, just hang out in Monroe Muffler all day waiting for women to walk in? "Uh OH!!! She's BACK!! We're in TROUBLE!!!!" My least favorite thing for men to say. Do they really all think I'm their mother? "If it's all the same to you, can I pick it up at 5?" I can. I will. I might pay the $16 no-harrassment surcharge next time. I imagine saying, "Pretend I'm a 50 year old white man. Just imagine that for a second." And then I worry I'm overeacting.

10.13.2006

Define 'sanity.'

My friend tells me that she grew up in a "very sane" family. I keep wondering what makes a family sane. And what family is sane? Can you learn how to be more sane than you already are? My scientist husband suggests saying "rational" instead of sane; "it's more precise," he explains. I think of my cultural models of sanity. The character of Agent Cooper, for instance, on Twin Peaks. He was such a highly evolved person that he dealt with other people on multiple dimensions. I could never keep a straight face and describe him as rational, but I believe in my heart that he was. It's just that he was so rational, so remarkably, profoundly rational, that he seemed insane. Rational means understanding cause and effect, and Cooper could perceive cause in places most of us cannot. Or maybe it's me who seems insane for thinking he's so not.

I've come to believe that being sane is about understanding, and being able to cope with, people. Very simple. How truthfully do we relate to others? Except it's not simple at all. That knowledge of others is based on a core of understanding yourself. Which you never really master, right? Because you change and you have an unconscious. And you have desire, and longing, and parents. Which brings us back to the sane family.

At work, I hire based on self-awareness. "She had the right experience," I told my team, "but she didn't seem to possess much self-knowledge." A principle of my workplace culture is that you can learn self-awareness, but you have to start with the desire to go down that road. We have personality tests, life coaches, career coaches. We confront our own inadequacies, and we love it. It's a little addictive, and maybe that's why nearly everyone at work is crazy about their jobs. (Yes, cultish, I know.) I always say it's because we can BE ourselves; I suppose it sounds like we're trying to change ourselves. But it feels very open. There's recognition of who and how people are, not willful ignorance of it.

It's like one big, sane family.

At the very least, I think, learn clarity in communication: you need the language to describe how you feel, even if you can't possibly understand what makes you that way. And the next step is reminding yourself that there's more than how you feel. So much more. And that's it! You've arrived at rational.

So can there be sane families? I feel like, yes. But everyone has to be there: self-awareness, wanting to learn, curious about others, tight grip on the bigger perspective.

Did Cooper have a tight grip? Tightest I know, I think.