It was just one of those weeks when, in the words of William Wordsworth… the world is too much with us. With the politicians spinning their stories and the wheels of government just spinning, I retreated from the noisy din into quiet contemplation.
It came as no surprise, then, that my insatiable sense of curiosity continued to chug right along. On any given day, I fire up the Kindle probably a dozen times to Google search some piece of trivia floating randomly through my brain.
Such was the case when I heard the phrase “elbow grease” on a talk show. My parents were great proponents of “elbow grease,” regularly reminding us kids to apply it. These days – if commercials are to be believed – “elbow grease” is no longer necessary, what with all the foams and sprays that remove dirt and grime with one swipe of a sponge. If all else fails, Mr. Clean marches in or gangs of little bubbles scrub the bathroom to gleaming cleanliness. It is reassuring to know that some people still value the time-honored practice of “elbow grease.”
Never satisfied with just one outmoded idiom, I looked up other grease-related expressions and was reminded of those restaurants formerly referred to as “greasy spoons.” Although it is currently fashionable to have fresh ingredients and recipes delivered to the front porch for the preparation of a homecooked meal, I see nothing wrong with the occasional retro visit to a short-order dining establishment. After all, I can always wipe off my silverware before savoring a blue-plate special reminiscent of another time in my life.
Google was no help in my ongoing protest against the modern interchangeability of the words “ground” and “floor.” I routinely yell at the TV when someone mentions dropping an object on the “ground” in the kitchen or on the “floor” outdoors. People, the “floor” is inside and the “ground” is outside. I am correct about that, am I not?
I am, however, curious about more than just words and phrases. For example, I am wondering if it is simply my Boomer imagination or if background music on television really is louder than it once was. At times, dramatic music literally drowns out what is being said; turning up the volume only results in louder music. My Google search alluded to possible technological reasons for the annoying disparity, but I fear that my 71-year-old ears may not be as sharp as they once were.
And my sister recently piqued my interest with a question of her own, describing how she spent $61 at the grocery store and $10 at that south-of-the-border fast-food restaurant. To her amazement, the register receipt for lunch was three times longer than the one handed to her at the supermarket checkout. I found no explanation for that one!
Just for pure randomness, I suppose, it occurred to my brain that if Ohio has a state bird (cardinal) and a state flower (scarlet carnation), why is there no state dog or state cat? During a most productive Google search, I learned Ohio also has a state wild animal, a state reptile, a state frog, a state insect, a state fossil, a state song, a state beverage, a state fruit, and a state gemstone. Who knew? Alas, no domesticated animals have been adopted as state symbols, although there is pending legislation for the Labrador retriever to be named state dog. For information’s sake, I did read that Maryland and Massachusetts have BOTH a state dog and a state cat.
Curiosity aside, I was fortunate enough to also experience a few heartwarming moments during the past week. One came in the form of a Facebook photo posted by Josh Kauffman, one of my former students. Two of his toddler children joined forces to carry the empty trash tub of their elderly neighbor back to her door. In the words of the proud dad: Small acts of kindness by small people with huge hearts warm the soul!
I was also inspired by praise bestowed upon the only one of my sisters who has not yet retired. Secretaries from fifteen plants scattered across the country converged at the home office in Urbana, in the process meeting my sister, their payroll administrator. It was the consensus of the group that they love working with her because she never makes them feel stupid when they make a mistake. I am still feeling proud that my sister feels proud that her hard work and steady efforts are appreciated.
Finally, I am giving several thumbs up for a book that completely filled my heart: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. What an absolutely lovely story, all about loneliness and human connection. This first-time novelist presents Eleanor’s life in three sections – Good Days, Bad Days, and Better Days – as much of life so often turns out to be. The main character’s life may seem ordinary in almost every way, and yet she extraordinarily finds her way through it, coming out personally victorious on the other side. This book reminds me a bit of another recent favorite of mine: A Man Called Ove by Fredik Backman.
Because the week turned out so much better than I had anticipated, I plan to continue my curious ways, all the while believing my future weeks will undoubtedly be filled with many more experiences to inspire my heart.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.