People of West Virginia
A young friend invited me to her family dinner. When the subject of conversation touched Christmas, she said „That's always a great moment of the truth. With one look at the gifts under the Christmas tree, I learn who is cheap and who is my real friend.“ The people laughed, some loudly, some not so... I thought about the package of my favorite Vienna coffee that my kids send regularly from Austria. I intended to give it to her as a taste of Vienna. Sadly, I felt uncertain when I realized the package costs only 16 dollars, so the coffee stayed in my handbag.
The next morning, I had a dental appointment in the downtown area. I was just enjoying my breakfast coffee that stayed with me yesterday, when my other friend Janet called. "Radio reports say the access to the Interstate is blocked by a wrecked truck,“ she said. "Take a different way otherwise you might be late.“ Janet knew about my early appointment and also about my poor knowledge of WV roads and about my talent for getting lost easily. Yes, I would find myself in difficulties if I took the usual route to the downtown.
She called to make my life easier. I felt touched. Her gesture had no price tag but it definitely identified her as a real friend. Janet Billups, thank you for being the real one...
Today, was a day I'd been dreading for two months. Never before had I been summoned to court, and accordingly, I imagined horrible things that might happen to me, including going to jail.
Two months ago, I was out of state driving on the Interstate in an unknown area. When I approached my exit, I couldn't change to the right lane because it was full. Aware of my rare talent to get lost easily, I was determined not to miss that exit. I increased my speed for 20 seconds and changed to the right lane ahead of the other cars. And there it happened... In the very next moment I saw blue lights behind me. I had never been pulled over in my life, but I knew they wanted me to stop. But where? Emergency lane? Feverishly, I tried to remember if police lights are a case of an emergency. I called a friend and asked about it. She screamed, "Stop the car or they will shoot your tires!" I continued to drive though (not without checking in the mirror if the bleu light did go away but they didn't!) until I found a supermarket with a parking lot. The officer informed me that my speed was very high but that he would write less on the ticket or otherwise I would lose my driver's license. I explained what happened and said that it was very nice of him not to shoot my tires. He smiled and advised me not to miss my court date.
The countdown began. I became more and more nervous each day leading up to day X. Today, the time had come for me to appear in a court four hours away from Tornado. I entered the court parking lot and tried to back into a parking space. Another car driver who had pulled in just behind me honked his horn impatiently. I moved to the side to let him pass. But he just took the parking space I was aiming backwards. I don't remember how it happened, but that was the moment I lost my nerves. I jumped out of the car to reprimand him. Before I opened my mouth, the young man yelled he had never seen someone parking so awkwardly. I shouted back that he had seen it NOW and he should get himself a coffee because his behavior was ugly! For half a minute we were engaged in a screaming match before the female parking attendant came out and called: "It's enough people!"
He left, and I got into my car, embarrassed and crushed. What had just happened? That couldn't have been me! It was a bad sign, I thought. I created a bad karma and therefore will probably end in a jail.
I parked the car and was leaving when I saw the young man coming back straight to me. Behind him, in the parking attendant booth, I saw the lady bending and lifting up a riffle. She must have recognized the dangerous situation. I always had planned when I would be about to die I would text my kids the last time: "I'm dying. I love you..." and such. But in that critical moment I didn't even have time to find the phone in my handbag. I heard my mother's scolding voice in my head: "You should have stayed in Austria!" I hoped only the riffle lady was a good shooter.
I looked straight in his eyes.
"I am very much in a hurry and I am so sorry" he called out and then grabbed my hands.
I saw the parking attendant putting the riffle down.
"And I am a criminal and extremely nervous today!" I answered and explained: "I am summoned to court because of a speeding ticket."
"No, you are not a criminal!" he protested. "You'll be fine!" We apologized and hugged each other. Good karma?
For several hours I saw people sentenced to fine, prison, driver's school...
"How do you plead?" the judge asked me.
"Did you come to my court room all the way from WV? How do you like it in there?" he continued.
"Oh, I like it. The West Virginians are very friendly people." I answered.
The judge looked at his papers and said to the police officer who gave me the ticket. "We have here a very friendly West Virginia lady with a sweet Austrian accent and an immaculate driving record..."
"Your honor," my arresting officer interrupted. "I felt really bad writing her the ticket!"
They let me go. I didn't even have to pay the court fee. Oh happy day!
It happened exactly 4 years ago on 30 November 2016, but it is still on my mind.
Warmed by Ice Cubes...
I had a dinner in great company at that day.
In the course of conversation, I said, more to myself than to anyone else, that I wished to have ice in my warm tonic water. But the waitress was nowhere to be seen.
A moment later, I noticed how one of the friends was shoveling ice cubes with a spoon from his own drink into mine. I felt touched.
Those were not just ice cubes going into the glass. It was a compassionate, generous heart splashing into the tonic.
Being a giver myself, I love noble and kindly spirits. At the same time, I don't understand stingy people. What prevents them from sharing? Lack of money is not an excuse. We don't need fat bank accounts for great gestures, for sharing ice cubes, for a smile, good words or "likes" and uplifting comments. Especially now, during this special time of year.
It is amazing how they can communicate without words...
I'm home alone. The dogs are in their pen outside, as usual. I was painting for a while when I happened to notice that my phone didn't work. I immediately felt uncomfortable, realizing that I am alone on a big piece of land, practically in a forest. I started to calculate how long it would take me to run downstairs and open the door to the dogs' pen, in case of dealing with an intruder. In this very minute I heard the door sliding and all three dogs were suddenly standing in the doorway to my work studio. They know they are not allowed here.
Have they developed the habit of guarding me when I am alone?
Is it a coincidence that they forced their way into the house immediately after I got this uneasy feeling about being helpless?
Do I make those stories up for myself with my romantic soul or do they really read my mind?
While traveling up north, I learned that in certain situations, I cease caring about looking and acting like a lady and my endless enthusiasm for all aspects of life decreases... My friends and I joined a group of whale watchers in a fishing boat and headed out to the open sea. It was a dreary, rainy day but I liked it anyway and was excitedly taking pictures. Someone spotted whales breaching, leaping out of the water, so the captain stopped the boat.
The arctic wind blew rain into my face as the boat started to roll with the waves. The captain's daughter offered me a pair of binoculars but I suddenly lost interest in looking for the whales. As the wind swung the boat more intensely, I looked around for a better place to get out of the spray. The others on the boat used the binoculars, and thank goodness, no one payed attention to me because I wasn't feeling very gracious.
My stomach was becoming more and more nauseated as the wind kept tossing the boat. I realized that I was suffering from the legendary seasickness and felt embarrassed. I didn't want anybody to notice. After the next wave I tried to keep from throwing up. Then another wave hit the boat and I thought, “Oh no, not on the floor!!!” In the next second I was bent over, hanging over the railing. “Are you okay?” asked the captain's daughter. I didn't bother to answer.
“Whales! Whales! Sooo big! Sooo great!” I heard. I struggled to lift my head. Yes, there were those magnificent animals delivering an impressive performance. But before I lifted the camera and pushed the shutter button there was only a tail to be seen.
The captain said proudly to one of my friends that his daughter knows the sea better than he. She predicted that today's wave would make only one person sick. And I had to laugh when I learned that they never even mentioned that they knew me.😀
People of West Virginia: While waiting today in the drive-thru line at Tudor's, I fished in my handbag for money, not paying attention to the fact I was still rolling. Bump!!! Since it was the first fender bender in my life, I became extremely upset. I jumped out of the car and started to apologize to the lady driver in front of me. She said: "No damage! Don't worry! I did that several times myself." And then she... hugged me.
I've been all over the world but never heard about a custom of hugging the shocked traffic offenders. That kind of generosity of spirit is obviously a West Virginia speciality.
I was so impressed that I neglected to ask for the lady's name. Would love to hug her back. ❤️
About a home and no home, and blood on the pillow... I was driving home after a dramatic tooth extraction when I saw a friend of mine. I hoped a friendly “Hello” would cheer me up, so I stopped. She pointed at the shopping bags in the open trunk and at her husband chatting with their neighbor. “He always talks to everybody instead of helping me,” she complained. Irritated, she jerked a plastic bag that tore apart and continued, “Sometimes I think I would be better off without him.“ As oranges rolled down the driveway, her husband interrupted his conversation and hurried to gather the errant fruit. The scene reminded me of the unwritten rules in my family. If one of us had a mishap— like pouring something out on the floor, throwing up, or shattering glass into pieces—the others immediately came to clean it up, in order to soothe that misfortune. That was one of the things that made my home a home.
Since I was feeling the pain from my dental work and the anesthesia’s relief was wearing off, I didn't want to start any debates, so I bid her goodbye. Awaking from pain that night, I noticed my pillow was red from blood. I looked at it for a moment and subconsciously waited for someone to hand me a pain pill or change the pillowcase for me. But my house was breathing emptiness. I didn't know what hurt more: the wound in the jaw or in the soul. Is home like a healthy tooth? Can it be that we don't value it enough until we miss it?
I took the dogs to the lake to enjoy the early fall weather. Joyfully, they disappear in the woods, and I found myself a lonely cove, enjoyed the mild sun, listened to the whispering leaves and watched the boats turning in the small bay nearby.
Suddenly a boat with four men steered unusually close to my spot. I felt uncomfortable when I realized that I was there alone within a radius of a half mile, and the dogs running through the woods would never hear my calls. For a moment, the men stared in my direction and then one of them yelled: “Cool dogs!”
I turned, and there they were: all three still standing behind me, with raised hackles, staring back at the men.
I don't have enough knowledge to say if they sensed my fear or just came accidentally in the right time. My German Shepherds, I'm learning about you. Respectfully, Krys.
My life motto is and always has been: Live and let live. According to that, I think I am a pretty tolerant and understanding person. But there are moments when I feel some satisfaction when arrogant people get a lesson.
I was on vacation with a group of friends and since the weather did not cooperate, the entertainers organized a chess tournament. I'm not a great player but some people are worse than me and apparently those had entered the competition. It happened in two different places: at the Greenbrier and on a ship. Since I don't remember what was where and it doesn't matter, I will combine those two events to one story.
I had learned to play chess as a child and always had to beg my older brothers to play with me. When I was lucky they agreed but mercilessly, only under the condition that I would choose the black pieces, which puts me at a disadvantage because the white ones open the game. Therefore, throughout my childhood, I developed decent skills - not so much how to attack but how to dodge the bullet. I could see through my opponent's strategy and successfully keep myself out of trouble.
Writing that, I just realized that this behavior took over my entire personality. I never bother people but I react if provoked. And even then, I first withdraw myself in order to give them a chance to stop. It reminds me of one taekwondo tournament in Vienna, Austria. The main Korean Master, Son Young-Ho of the European Taekwondo Federation, came to watch us Vienna fighters in action. As he stood with our Vienna master and commented, my daughter who was recording the fight caught their conversation on tape. When Mr. Son Young-Ho said: "She is good in dodging but that's all she does," the Vienna couch answered: "Sir, give her some time, she waits for the real attack." Later on, I was surprised that the pattern of my acting was so obvious.
Playing chess, I find fun derived from mastering difficult situation. The victory is not my real goal. Sometimes when I see an obvious mistake of my opponent, I give him one chance to take back his move and to rethink it, even if it might cause me to lose. During that tournament I played 10 games, and...well, every dog has its day...I won them all. Among the matches was the classical 4 Moves Checkmate. I really made it and got a thunderous applause. The photographer couldn't resist.
But the real funny moment was when one of the players said to his wife: "How much time do you give me to be finished with this nice lady?" (That nice lady supposed to be me!) His wife answered "One hour?" He laughed loud out. "How about twelve minutes? Or perhaps fifteen since the nice lady looks intelligent." He was older than me and so was his wife, and I found it touching that he still tried to impress her. I saw one of my friends face and recognized that his thoughts were a little bit different because he was smiling with closed lips and by raising one side of his mouth. When we sat down to the chess board and shook hands, my opponent reached to my face and petted my cheek. My other friend closed her eyes and I thought for a moment she would fall off her chair. After a while we came to a moment that my opponent was about to lose his queen. I asked the man if he would like to rethink the fatal move but he only stated: "I don't need your generosity, pretty cupcake," and looked to his wife to exchange smiles. "Are you sure?" asked one of my friends and the other one added: "She is a killer." Which I wasn't! I was just lucky that the people participating in that tournament were out of practice. But I understood why they had said that. My friends must have begun to dislike that arrogant man. My opponent answered with a laugh: "Yeah, yeah!" My friend applied again his typical one-sided-smile and mumbled: "Suit yourself." After a few more minutes, my opponent threw the game. Since it was my last match we went outside, and when no one was around, we burst out laughing. I felt so mean but I couldn't help but laugh and laugh.