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That was no lady, that was just me

At work today, one of the guys who came to take our old computers called my boss "Sir," wherein he said, "I hate it when you call me Sir, it makes me feel older than I am." Which reminded me of the various titles I've been given from the customer service sector. Miss. Ma'am. Lady. Ms.

At least no one's calling me "Old Woman" yet.

But here's the thing: At what age do you go from being a Miss to being a Ma'am? When do you start getting called Lady? I've looked all over for a rulebook, and I can't find one. And it isn't consistent: I've been called Miss by teenagers in one story and Lady by teens in another. I'm a Ma'am to nearly all telemarketers, except for the few who call me Mr. (my voice is not that deep, and believe you me, I have never purchased anything from any idiot who has called me Mr.). I'm apparently Ma'am to women who are near my age or older. And nearly all children who don't know me call me Lady. I hate that the most. It makes me feel ancient. It makes me feel like being a mean old lady to the kids. Well, not really. But it is a bit aggravating.

One of the things I've learned as I've gotten older is that teenagers have no concept of age, so anytime I want to get a free compliment, I'll ask a teenaged girl how old she thinks I am. She's usually off by at least a decade. This has also led me to a complete understanding of the phrase "fishing for compliments." And here's a free bit of advice to all you guys out there: If a woman ever asks you "How old do you think I am?" you must always, always subtract five years from what you were going to say. Subtracting ten is all right depending on how old she really is; never under any circumstances attempt to guess correctly a woman's age.

I have never looked old, but I've finally realized why women lie about their age. It's not vanity. It's much simpler than that: We just don't want to be that old. Which is why my favorite age-related phrase is "You're only as old as you look." Yes, I know, I changed the popular phrase. Why? Because I don't look my age.

And yet, I am called "Lady" by ten-year-olds. Bummer.--MAY



It's a bad habit of mine

Every once in a while, I hear or think of a really bad joke. And I find myself forced to share it with all my friends and neighbors. So be warned now, and stop reading if you don't like bad jokes.

Okay. There are these chickens, most of whom are nesting on full loads of eggs. Every night while they're sleeping, some mysterious assailant comes along and plucks feathers out of the moms on the nest. After getting numerous complaints, Rooster Police Force sets a trap one night and grabs the assailant, who is trying to pluck more feathers from the chicken mommies. The two rooster cops leap out, grab the assailant, and yell, "Up against the wall, mother-plucker!"

I told you not to read this. The frightening thing is, that came to me while walking across campus this morning. A mind is a wonderful thing, isn't it?--MAY



Of Liberty I sing

Statue of LibertyI've changed my mind about opening the Statue of Liberty. As we neared her on the ship, I got that feeling of hope and dreams fulfilled and realized that if we have one symbol that would bring us collectively to our unconscious knees if it were lost, it would be Lady Liberty. Not that we'd stay there, but it would be a devastating, irreplaceable loss. You can replace the World Trade Center with buildings that look exactly like it, or with other buildings, and it ultimately won't matter much--just a difference in a skyline view. But where will we get another Lady? If we replace her ourselves, it won't be right. Would France give us another one? Even if they did, it wouldn't feel the same. I'm sure you know that the Statue of Liberty is mostly a proletarian icon. The government wouldn't fund it, the rich would have none of it, and Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, literally got schoolchildren to donate pennies to get the Statue up in the harbor. She was built by us working stiffs.

So let's keep her safe and secure, and standing in New York Harbor as a symbol to the world, with the Declaration of Independence in one hand, and the Torch of Liberty in the other. She was the first thing my great-grandparents--on both sides--saw when they came to America. Long may she reign.--MAY



This ought to give you nightmares

I've added a new site to my links page. Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and a columnist for the New York Post, writes about Islamism and the danger to America. How true are his writings? True enough to cause the Council on American-Islamic Relations to buy and have it redirect you to a page that attacks Daniel Pipes. He calls CAIR "a particularly worrisome organization because it has succeeded in portraying itself as a public affairs organization promoting 'interest and understanding among the general public with regards to Islam and Muslims in North America.' In fact, this organization is radical to the core; it seeks nothing less than the imposition of Islamist mores on the United States."

Read his response to their lies to learn more. But believe me, what he writes is the stuff of nightmares, particularly to Jews, but should be frightening to all Americans. I'm not advocating a racist ethos here, but I am starting to think we need to do some serious re-thinking about who we let into our country. Remember, all but three of the September 11th terrorists were in the country legally.--MAY



Boredists and September 11th

My friends are on the train back to Richmond, Gracie has gotten over the trauma of having an eight-year-old here all weekend, and my apartment is still sparkling clean. So it's Sunday night catch-up time. It was a good weekend, with many good things happening, but a few sobering events happened as well. And both Heidi and I were called boredists by her daughter. Apparently, the word terrorist has sunken in to her lexicon deeply enough to coin a new one. We practiced boredism on her because we insisted on going to the Empire State Building (boring) before seeing FAO Schwarz (fun, which we never did visit). This tourism stuff was full of boredism, she discovered.

The first sobering event happened on the ramp to the Port Authority parking garage. There was a police cruiser stopping all traffic and inspecting every vehicle. They checked trunks and required the driver's license. Then they ran our licenses. Not a good time for anyone to be driving with an expired or suspended license, but that's not my problem. And while I'm happy they're protecting us from people trying to blow up the Port Authority building, I gotta tell you, I'm really not liking living life with terrorism.

The first thing we did was take a Circle Line cruise around Manhattan. The boat was filled with both American and international tourists. Shortly after leaving the dock, we saw a barge where they were off-loading debris from the World Trade Center and bringing it to Staten Island. The tour guide pointed this out to us, and the entire boat fell silent as we passed the barges. A bit later, when we came level with the site of the Trade Center, we could see the charred walkway and the injured buildings, and the ship again fell silent. I know you've read this dozens of times, but it's true that the pictures don't do it justice. Even from out in the harbor, the equivalent of several blocks away, the horror of the destruction is heart-rending. And we couldn't see a whole heckuva lot from where we were, but it was enough.

At the Empire State Building, we had to go through metal detectors and our bags were X-rayed. We saw policemen in their dress uniforms all over midtown; another funeral scheduled for Saturday. Midtown was crowded. Between the beautiful weather and all the tourists in town for the NYC Marathon, it seemed like a normal Saturday afternoon.

The view to the south of the Empire State building was both the saddest and the most popular. International tourists were crowding each other to take pictures with the remaining Trade Center buildings in the background. The holes left by the Twin Towers' absence seemed even larger from there. It was starting to feel like I was at a funeral, but one that sort of popped in and out of my reality depending on where I was.

Ground Zero

Heidi decided early in the day that she needed to make a pilgrimage as close to Ground Zero as they'd let us get. So we took a cab to Katz's and had dinner, then we got on the subway and headed south. We got off at the City Hall stop and walked two blocks to Chambers Street, where we discovered that you can now get to within a block of Ground Zero. Close enough to see the cranes, and the lights they dig by. Close enough to see the broken façade of the American Express building, with its windows all blown out. Close enough to wonder what it must have felt like for those thousands of people running for their lives on that horrible day.

I could have stayed there, thinking and watching, for hours. I wanted to ask the police officers if they were there that day. I wanted to be able to see the site close up, the way they're letting the VIPs gawk after chiding us working stiffs for being ghouls for wanting to do the same.

I think we should be allowed to see it. I think, especially, they should organize tours for all the media blatherers who are already trying to get us to stop the war. All I wanted to do after coming back from Ground Zero is find Our Buddy Bin and prop him up against a wall and shoot him. And then get the rest of his organization and the Taliban, and do the same to them.

They murdered the woman who takes your tickets when you go up to the Observation Deck. They murdered busboys and waitresses from Windows on the World. They murdered janitors. They murdered secretaries.

Those people were real threats to Our Buddy Bin and his followers. And now they lie buried in the rubble at Ground Zero, where, nearly eight weeks later, the rubble still smokes, the workers still search, and the people still come to watch, and pray, and cry.

The week after September 11th, I was driving home for lunch and smelled what I thought at first was fertilizer, but I didn't see a lawn service, and it was permeating my entire area of Montclair. After a while, I realized that the wind was from the east and it was the smell of the smoke from the disaster site. I smelled it again a few weeks later. When we first got out of the subway station at City Hall, I smelled the odor that has become all too familiar to me. It's fainter, but it's still there. Eight weeks later, and it's still there.--MAY