Tag Archive: teenagers

Grand Theft Dinnerware

spaghetti-warehouseA Meetup group I’m a member of, Dallas Ukulele Headquarters (DUH), is having a Christmas party at the Spaghetti Warehouse (formerly the Old Spaghetti Warehouse) in the West End. I’m not able to make the party, but it got me to thinking about the Old Spaghetti Warehouse (OSW for brevity). When I first went to OSW, there was no West End. There was a parking lot and car lot nearby. It was a warehouse district – hence the name. Which made it cool and unique, but could be a pain in the ass to park. And it was dark in the area.

In the early ‘70s, a bunch of friends and I decided to dress up and go to OSW. Just to do it for one thing. And for another, no one ever “carded us” to buy liquor or beer when we were dressed up. Mark, Brian, and myself would dress up and go down to Gatsby’s Bicycle Bar in the Hilton downtown and drink tequila sunrises (thanks to the Eagles song and it being a good drink). No one ever ask for our i.d. But that was a different time.

Anyway, we arrived at OSW, parked, and trekked to the restaurant. We were seated on the second floor, which was for larger parties – the DUH party is on the second floor. I think there were about eight of us. It was about even, male and female, but all mostly friends. If not, no one knew yet. The restaurant was busy and it took a while to get served anything other than water.

Keep in mind, we were teenagers on the loose, with time left on our hands waiting for the waiter. Small talk led to silly talk which led to strange thoughts. I said it was the ‘70s, right? A lot of giggling and outright guffaws ensued. For amazingly little reason.

Then we came up with a master plan. Someone had the bright idea that we could take the entire table of place settings without leaving a trace. I’ll cop to it being me because it sounds like something I would come up with (I was a writer even then), but I have no idea as to why. Probably because we were bored, left alone, and we could. I’ll also cop to it because what actually happened was excellent.

I put silverware up my sleeve. I would like to point out – just because – that I got a lot of wear out of that suit. I got married both times in that suit. It had a vest, so I think that was how I got plates. The napkin was easy. I think the girls got the glasses in their purses/bags. When we were done, there was nothing on the table but the tablecloth and centerpiece. And we did it in seconds – maybe almost a minute. And no other customer or waiter on the second floor noticed – like I said, it was really busy.

We sat there, full of pride and nervous as hell, and had a hard time acting serious. Finally, a waiter – I’m not even sure it was ours – walked by and actually turned around to gave us an inquiring look. And headed off, obviously intent on finding a manager. Which he did, of course.

In almost less time than it took to abscond with the dinnerware, we had the table set back up. Almost better than it had been when we arrived. The manager thought the waiter was a little off. That was one of the best spaghetti dinners I’ve ever had. I still feel a little bad about the waiter being “caught in the middle.” But other than that, it was one of the slickest thefts that never was.

Peace be with you.

I washed dishes two or three times the other day – I lost count. Which, with a family of five – three of whom are teenagers – is not unusual. I have a love-hate relationship with the task of washing dishes. I do not enjoy the task, per se, but it gives me a chance to think. Not surprisingly, no one seems to bother me when I am at the sink. I wash them by hand and use the dishwasher as a draining board.

Be that as it may, a thought occurred to me while I was washing dishes for what I hoped was the last time. I realized I was washing the same dishes for the third time. The same plates, the same glasses, and the same silverware. Over and over. Time after time. Day after day. So on and so on.

Looking back on my life, there have been quite a few things I thought I might be  remembered for doing. I have also thought about what my purpose in life might be. Yet I never actually considered washing the same dishes day after day for years on end to be my toil in life. True, it is not anywhere close to the only thing I do or have ever done in my life. But do I really want to put it on my resume?

Qohelet would say it does not matter. It is all vanity and a chasing after wind anyway. “This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot.” (Eccl. 5:18 NRSV)

So should I try to find enjoyment in washing the dishes? Derive some pleasure from washing wasted condiments from plates and dried milk from bowls? Receive brief satisfaction from having clean dishes – albeit temporarily?

While it made for interesting thoughts during my dishwashing toil, my consternation at continually washing dishes was causing me to miss the point. The New International Version (NIV) says “satisfaction” in place of enjoyment. The New Living Translation (NLT) says “accept their lot in life.” Which I think might be closer to the point Qohelet was making. ;

In verses 13-15, Qohelet laments the fate of those who hoard wealth and find that they still – through circumstances during life and the finality, and pennilessness, of death, end up with nothing. “All their hard work produces nothing – nothing they can take with them.” In verse 19, he states that “whenever God gives people wealth and riches and enables them to enjoy it, to accept their place in the world and to find pleasure in their hard work – all this is God’s gift.” Concluding the chapter in verse 20, “people shouldn’t brood too much over the days of their lives because God gives an answer in their hearts’ joy.” (CEB)

The answer lies, not in my receiving some weird satisfaction from such mundane tasks such as washing dishes, but in enjoying the life that God gave me. Whether pleasure or toil, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to experience either one. Which is a theme Qohelet returned to more than once.

Earlier in Ecclesiastes, in 3 10-11, Qohelet says that “God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end.” He ends the book of Ecclesiastes with “So this is the end of the matter; all has been heard. Worship God and keep God’s commandments because this is what  everyone must do. God will definitely bring every deed to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or bad.”

The fact that I am tired of having to wash the dishes – or any other task which I am required to undertake – is inconsequential. Having faith in God, attempting to live Christ-like to the best of  my ability, and enjoying the life I have been blessed with, both good and bad, is what is important. God will take care of the rest.

Peace be with you.

Words and phrases that may have begun as an original thought with an apparent obvious meaning and intent, after constant use, misuse, and abuse, over time become catchphrases and buzzwords with thoroughly ambiguous meanings. Thinking “outside the box” was the hot business concept in the late 1990’s. Through the years, the expression has been bandied about and used in advertisements and press releases to represent ideas and supposed innovations that, in the end, were not so out of the box after all. All anyone succeeded in doing was expanding the box.

“Whatever” was originally used having to do with making a decision. As in “get a Coke or a Dr. Pepper or whatever you want.” Or ” it has to do with Kleenex, napkins, paper towels, or whatever.” Currently the word is most often used to mean “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” Or a sign of being noncommittal. Our teenagers and their friends use it when they have gotten themselves in a conversational hole and do not want to admit it. “Whatever!”

The phrase “don’t guilt-trip me” gained prominence in the 1960’s with accusations that the “establishment” was trying to lay a guilt-trip on the middle and lower classes. While I sympathized with some of their positions, I disliked the phrase even then. It is more distasteful to me now when my children use it toward me. What the phrase actually means is “I know I’ve screwed up a lot (or owe you a lot), but I don’t want to be told that, I want to get what I want.”

Other variations could be applied, but that is the gist. More often than not, what they refer to as guilt-tripping is actually telling them the truth. For example, one of the boys asks us for something that requires financing from us. When we go down the list of things they have already received no return effort – even though that was the arrangement- we are now required to add “and I’m not trying to guilt-trip you, just telling you the truth.” Beat them to the punch, as it were.

I grew up under the impression that it was easier to keep problems and debts to a minimum rather than endure the bothersome situation of feeling bad. It is our conscience that causes us to feel remorseful. Other people cannot make you feel bad – or guilty – if you have no reason to feel bad in the first place. But most of us feel shame over past indiscretions of one sort or another. In addition to a natural inclination to get defensive when being told we are being selfish. Because, on some level, we are all being selfish. But we would prefer not to admit it or have it made public.

Which led me to wonder if sometimes we do not try to guilt-trip God. As if making a list of our Christian “accomplishments” will persuade God to lend a special hand and eliminate our particular situation. A situation which seems important to us, but in God’s grand scheme of things is quite minuscule. Yet we have the audacity to think that we could have possibly done enough good in our lives to not only outweigh our myriad of failures, but move us higher up on God’s to do list.

“Where are you, God? I go to church every Sunday, well, most every Sunday. I attend Sunday school. I am at the Wednesday dinner s. I read the Bible every day. I pray every night for everyone on my prayer list. I try to be kind to everyone. So why am I stuck in this situation? Why will you not help me?”

God did not put us in the situation we are in – we did. We may not have been the direct cause of our current malady or tragedy, but in some way we had a hand in it. Regardless of whether we were a part of the cause or had little or nothing to do with it, God most certainly was not the cause. Why are we blaming him and ridiculously trying to make God feel sorry for us and give us the outcome we want. We do not want the outcome that God wants or the outcome we may deserve. We want the outcome we think is best.

Just like our teenagers. They do not want to hear the truth. They want to be told they can have things their way. Telling them the truth is guilt-tripping them. We are alongside our children when we ask God for help. We do not want to be guilt-tripped by being told the truth or what is best for us. But we know in our hearts and souls that God wants the best for us. So why are we trying to blame and guilt-trip God?

In trying to guilt-trip God, and when our teenagers try to guilt-trip us, one thing is overlooked. It is, in fact, what is wrong with the term guilt-trip in the first place. It also renders the term irrelevant. And it is quite simply this: you cannot guilt-trip a truly innocent person – or being – as the case may be.

Peace be with you.

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