#67 - Sausages, Lentils and Green Beans

We had sausage, lentils and green beans for dinner the other day. It was pretty good, but somewhat modest, and it wasn’t what I’d originally planned to cook that evening. You see, sausage, lentils and green beans was really just something I threw together at the last minute after an amazing adventure—an adventure during which I faced freezing conditions, a brush with death and confirmed a fact I’d long suspected: unlike Luke Skywalker, I do not have The Force.

I was shoveling snow (obviously,) in the late afternoon, and was planning to start making dinner in time for my family’s return from work and school. Dinner timing is a very explosive subject around here because the period between the boys’ arrival and the commencement of dinner is what my wife and I like to call “The Fussing Hour.” Basically, from the second they walk in the door at 5:30, our three-year-old and our one-year-old whine at full volume until the first few mouthfuls of dinner are consumed. The whining can be interrupted with the application of pretzels, or goldfish crackers, or Dora the Explorer, but these are not our favorite options so, when we have the energy, we generally grin and bear it as best we can, shouting, “How was your day?” and “Good. Yours?” over the histrionics of our offspring.

On sausage/lentil/green bean night I had just finished a good long shovel and was planning to head inside to start cooking when I cleverly managed to lock myself out of the house. I’d left the door open a crack because manipulating my keys after shoveling snow for 90 minutes is torturous, but when I opened the screen door the resulting vacuum pulled the inner door shut.

Now, I happen to be a man who prides himself on his ability to break into his home. On one memorable occasion I even pried open a side window, deposited Oliver—my son and second story man in training—through it with instructions to open the front door. However, after all my shoveling my hands were so frozen the idea of removing my gloves and prying off the knobs that keep the window locked was particularly unappealing, so, knowing the fam was due within the hour, I resolved to wait it out.

At first I tried hunkering down in the garage, but I was wet, my hands were stinging with cold and it was about –5 degrees in there, so I started walking to a nearby shopping center. It seems obvious now that I should have gone to the closest bar and starting drinking immediately, but instead, I chose to go to the library. We recently received a big box of books for Christmas and through them I discovered something: Reading to your kids is a lot less of a chore, and can even be enjoyable, when you’re not reading the book in question for the seven millionth time. (Who knew?) Since making this breakthrough I’d been planning to go to the library anyway, so it seemed like a productive place to wait out my exile.

There are four things in modern day America that indicate a person is, shall we say, “damaged goods.” The first of these is the use of a payphone. (Not a miracle phone, but a regular payphone.) If you’re using a payphone these days, it’s very, very likely you’re up to no good. I believe almost all present day payphone conversations involve drugs, adultery, ransom or a contract kill. The second counterindicator of a sound body and mind, and this may be Madison-specific, is the use of buses. If you’re on the bus in Madison, and you’re not a student, then you’re probably so messed up the government won’t let you drive. The third indication a person is walking the razor’s edge is his or her presence in a Kinko’s copy shop. This is because the entire Kinko’s chain is funded by unemployed people printing resumes, bands making fliers and maniacs printing manifestos in invented languages. The fourth sure sign of whackjobitude is Hanging Out In Libraries.

Now, I am not disparaging libraries. I love libraries. (And I vote.) But Hanging Out in Libraries is a symptom of mental illness, plain and simple. If you go to the library, pick up a couple things and leave, you’re fine. In fact, you might even be smart. If you go to the library with your kids for story hour, more power to you, that sounds fun. But if you head to the library and hunker down with a copy of Outdoor Life or a large print word jumble I’m betting you’re a Crazy-Cat-Lady-level lunatic at best.

After walking around a little to warm up, I called my wife and told her where I was waiting. Then I found a copy of Cannery Row—a book I return to again and again—and sat at a table to read. This seemed pretty innocuous, even pleasant, but I was in for a rude awakening.

I’d only been reading for about three minutes when the doors opened and in strolled the Great Grand Pubah of all Library Hanger Outers. He was about six foot seven, had a long, shaggy gray beard, was wearing at least five coats, orange ski goggles and, the piece de resistance, a surgical mask! Of course, the second this typhoid spreader burst onto the scene he headed directly for my table, and that’s when I made a real and concerted effort to use The Force to redirect him. I closed my eyes and concentrated all the inner energy I could muster on dissuading him from sitting near me. My teeth clenched, my fingertips pressed together, I truly attempted to use my mind to generate some kind of forcefield or psychic ripple that would cause him to change course. Alas, The Force is not strong with me, and Mr. Mask plopped down, not only at my table, but on my side of my table.

Normally, when someone stinky, or crazy, or drunk, sits near me, I’ll wait a few beats before pretending to remember an important appointment. But when it came to the Avian Flu, or whatever ghastly disease was afflicting my mask-wearing tablemate, I took no chances. I was out of there like someone hit the ejector seat, baby! I left a vapor trail bailing out of that situation.

I went into the bathroom and washed my hands for about 14 minutes and then my phone buzzed the wife’s arrival. Pulling up my collar and keeping my head down I sliced through the reading room, out the door, and into the safety of the car. Talk about your rough afternoon! I froze myself half to death, locked myself out of my home, confirmed that I will never be a Jedi and I’ve contracted some kind of exotic disease that will not only turn my lungs to jelly, but will probably make me homeless first. That’s a lose-lose-lose-lose situation by my count.

And that’s why we had sausages, lentils and green beans for dinner.


Anonymous said...

Want a snow blower?
Love, Mom