Tag Archives: Manners

Surprise! Happy Birthday! You’re a Jerk!

Since the day we married, my husband and I have struggled with my birthday expectations.

Whereas his family trained him to point out the exact item he wanted, my family’s gifts were always a surprise.  I got everything from underwear from my two aunts, to broken toys given by a little brother.  Somewhere in the pile of gifts wrapped in Sunday’s comics I’d come across one or two that not only surprised, but delighted me.

I expected that when I married, the tradition would continue.  For some strange reason, when my husband married, he expected his tradition would continue. Weird.

So, after years of receiving gifts such as a belt clip to hold my cell phone and a calendar from our health insurance company, I surrendered. “Just don’t get me any gifts – ever!”

This year, two weeks before my birthday he said, “I was going to surprise you, but–”

“WAIT!” I shouted. “Dont’ say ‘But’.  I want to be surprised!”

“But…you might not like it.”

“Well, duh. That’s pretty much the definition of a surprise birthday gift.”

“But…it’s expensive and it doesn’t make sense to waste that money.”

Sigh. “Go ahead. What is it?” I asked.

“A hot air balloon ride.”

“Are you kidding?” I screamed. “That would have been a PERFECT surprise birthday gift.”

In his defense, he had scheduled me for the sunrise ride which would entail me being awoken at 5:00 am.  That would not have been a nice surprise for either of us.

After all the fuss, the hot air balloon ride was cancelled due to high winds. Feeling a bit sorry for myself, I awoke the day after my birthday in a foul mood (okay, I felt more than a bit sorry for myself.)

Husband and I were sitting in our sunroom reading when he said, “I thought we’d go to dinner tonight to make up for the balloon ride.”

I immediately perked up. “Great! Where?”

“The mexican place down the street.”

“No. I’m trying to eat healthy.”

He set his stubborn jaw and said, “Well I want to eat Mexican food so that’s where we’re going at 6.”

“You’re a jerk!” Okay, I didn’t say that out loud but I thought it.

At 5 o’clock my stomach started growling. “Hey, lets go now,” I said. “I’m hungry.”

A repeat of the stubborn jaw look. “Well I’m not hungry yet so we’re going at 6 like I said.”

You’re a jerk! my petulant child thought and I climbed onto the couch to kill an hour watching some bad tv. When Husband sat down next to me, I scooted to the other side of the couch.

“What’s that about?” he asked.

Wrasser, frasser,” I mumbled.

We waited out the hour in silence. At precisely 6 pm, I climbed into the driver’s seat of our car and honked. We made it a few blocks away when Husband said we’d have to turn around because he forgot something.

“No way,” I said. “I’m starving. Whatever it is, you can’t possibly need it right this moment.”

Stubborn jaw. “I do need it.”

Tires screeched as I made a U-Turn and raced back to the house. He returned to the car carrying a grocery sack. Great, I thought. He got me a gift from the grocery store.

When we arrived at the restaurant he told the hostess, “I have a reservation.”

My mouth dropped open and I stared in disbelief. Really? A reservation? Do you know how many hours I’ve spent at restaurant bars nursing a diet coke waiting for our table because he refuses to make reservations?

“Okay,” the hostess responded. “I have it. For eight, right?”

Eight? Why would it be for eight?

By now, you’ve all figured it out, but clueless me was still too cranky for anything logical to enter my brain. It wasn’t until we walked to the table where I discovered two of my brothers and their families.

“Surprise!” They shouted. “Happy Birthday.”

Husband reached inside the grocery sack and removed a luscious chocolate cake that was placed in front of me.

While they sang the Happy Birthday song, I said to myself, “you’re a jerk!”


My brother, Larry, and I were taking the long subway ride home to Manhattan from Queens when I realized, there should be a list of rules for novice subway riders.


Larry and I jump on the train and, after standing for a stop or two, manage to squeeze into two seats in the middle of the car.  Immediately my eyes begin their midwestern trait of looking around.  This is not, as my brother has told me many times, a good idea.

I look directly across from me, where I discover the most impressive Dolly Parton breasts I’ve ever seen.  I stare (much longer than appropriate) at the woman’s massive cleavage and eventually raise my gaze to her, quite angry, face.

Blushing, I shift my eyes to the left, toward a young man playing an accordion.  I then break the one unwritten rule I’m aware of: Do not make eye contact.  Beads of sweat break out on my forehead as I realize he is headed my way, ready for a private serenade.

Whipping my head to the right, I focus in on a pile of filthy rags resting on a bench seat, entirely free of any passengers.  The rags are moving back and forth, rhythmically and I realize it is a man.  My eyes focus in on the Picasso-esque structure as I try to sort it out.  There’s his leg, his arm, but where’s his hand?  ACK!  I realize the rhythm of his movements coincide with an exercise my mother said was certain to make me go blind.  Involuntarily my eyes meet his and he grins.

Sweating and blushing, I scrutinize the ceiling of the train, where I read each and every advertisement, attempting to polish up my Spanish by comparing it to the English language advertisement beside it.

I breathe easier now, knowing I’ve figured out the correct subway stare.   My gaze leaps from the signage on one side of the door to the other and lands on a smile so bright I have to blink to keep from being hypnotized.

The handsome young man, who obviously stepped right out of an Abercrombie and Fitch ad, expands his smile and nods his head.  I feel like we’ve made a connection and we’re quietly laughing at all the kooky people on the subway.

At the next stop he lets go of the overhead bar and walks my way.  Mesmerized by his teeth, I flash him a smile which quickly turns into a frown as he moves one step past me, to talk to my brother, Larry.

I spend the rest of the trip staring at my shoes wondering if I’ll need to polish them before I go home, and compiling a list of rules for a novice subway rider.

Rules for the Novice Subway Rider.

  1. Step onto train and grab pole in middle of car (ignoring your OCD instinct to imagine how many other sweaty palms have been there before you.)
  2. Do not yet sit down.
  3. Quickly, without letting your gaze linger, size up the members of the group you will be riding with.
  4. Scope out the people collecting their things, making ready to leave at the next stop, then check out the people on either side of them to look for signs of Crazie.
  5. Slide into empty seat and immediately (IMMEDIATELY, I SAID) stare directly at your feet.  Avoid letting your gaze wander past the tips of your shoes.
  6. Never ride the subway sitting next to your cute brother.

And, here’s a rule that pretty much applies anywhere in life.

If you see a pile of Picasso-esque brown rags – move in the opposite direction, before you go blind.


On the right side of this page is a picture of my new book.  Click on it, and then, maybe buy it?  I’m trying to earn enough money to taxis the next time I’m in New York.