Door-holding etiquette

25 May

holding-doorI’m not a Game of Thrones fan, but I do know enough about the show to know that my husband has been chanting “hold the door” for the past several days after seeing this week’s episode. I have no idea what that means, but “hold the door” reminded me of something that I like to talk about — etiquette for holding doors for people.

It is so so so nice that in the year 2016, in our modern era, people still hold the door for each other — especially chivalrous men holding doors for women. I am not complaining about this. It is very kind and whenever someone holds the door for me, I am reminded that there is good in the world, that strangers can offer each other small gestures of kindness, that people truly have good hearts.

But. (I’m sure you know by know that my blogs always have a “but.”)

Sometimes someone is so eager to do an act of kindness for me — or maybe they’re looking at me from afar and thinking, wow, that woman has been very lax on her weight-lifting and yoga arm exercises so I better help her with this door — that they do it too early. They mess up the door-holding timing.

If we’re walking through the door’s threshold at the same time, then of course, you should hold the door for me. If I’m a few seconds away, then, yes, oh wow, that is so nice of you, thank you. But if I’m several feet away from the door — let’s call it 10 seconds away — what happens is that your holding of the door for me forces me to speed up my walk to relieve you from your chivalrous duty. I might have wanted to walk leisurely out of the building. Maybe I was hoping to take a few more seconds to go into the building, lingering in the beautiful weather, attempting to break my streak of always always always being 10 minutes early to anything. Maybe I wasn’t even planning on crossing that threshold.

But I want to keep these kindnesses alive! I want to live in a world where people do this! So, as a good citizen, if someone is holding the door, I have to go through that open door, even if it means rushing a bit, walking faster, maybe changing my plans.

So next time you’re about to hold the door for someone … for the most part, do it without thinking about it. But if your potential door-holdee is more than 10 seconds away from the door, don’t make her rush rush rush to relieve you from duty. The would-be door-holdee might appreciate those extra few seconds of leisure.

All of this being said, here’s a shoutout to door holders of all kinds — thanks for keeping this world a little kinder.

New coin traditions for Chicago, inspired by the Trevi Fountain

18 May

Adam and I spent the last leg of our Italian adventure in the history-filled city of Rome, where we visited many of the world-famous sites. One of those sites was the Trevi Fountain.

Selfie in front of the Trevi Fountain

Selfie in front of the Trevi Fountain

“Legend has it,” Adam read to me from his phone via a site online, “You will return to Rome if you throw a coin into the water. You should toss it over your shoulder with your back to the fountain. Approximately €2,000 is thrown into the Trevi Fountain each week and the coins are collected at night, and used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s poor population.”

Because of the vast amount of tourists (apparently this Trevi Fountain is not a well-kept secret), we weren’t able to get close to the water to throw in a coin, but I can definitely understand why so many people would and why the city would collect so much money from these superstitious tourists.

Then Adam quoted from Travel and Leisure’s website: “Interestingly, Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest in the world, only makes about $200 a year.” Only $200 per year, compared to Rome’s €2,000 per week? Travel and Leisure linked to an old Chicago Tribune article, which said:

“‘With wishing, there’s no instant reward . . . so people throw more money into fountains that give other feedback,’ said Mark Fuller, CEO of WET Design, a California-based company that created the fountains at Navy Pier and the new McCormick Place. ‘Whether it’s the splash of the coin, or seeing a pile of glimmering coins on the bottom, or trying to hit a target . . . there’s a sense of actualization.’

“Thus Buckingham Fountain, with burbling jets that obscure the bottom and guardrails keeping pedestrians 10 to 20 feet away, actively discourages passersby from tossing in a coin. ‘You have no sense of what you hit or where it went,’ said Fuller. ‘And you can’t see the money that other people have put in.'”

There may be some truth to this — you can’t see your coins, you can’t see all the other coins, so why bother?

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Buckingham Fountain in Chicago

But I have a different theory. The Trevi Fountain has a FUN tradition with the coins. You toss a coin, and you’ll come back to Rome. Of course, tradition doesn’t say this, but I’m sure this return trip is on an all-expenses-paid luxury cruise ship, so you might as well try to toss in a coin. And it’s like a game. How’s my aim? I’ll turn around, throw the coin over my shoulder, and then hope to hear a splash … did I make it? In a country without Fantasy Football, this is probably the most excitement many tourists participate in.

The Buckingham Fountain, on the other hand, has no such tradition. Presumably people recognize that any coins you throw into the fountain will somehow make it back to former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s hair salon fund.

So instead, I’d like to propose some new Buckingham Fountain coin traditions:

  • Toss a coin into the fountain and you’ll meet your true love on your next trip to Chicago.
  • Throw a penny into the fountain using your right hand, think of your favorite Abraham Lincoln quote, and you will grow taller and more honest.
  • Order deep dish pizza from your favorite restaurant, pay in cash, keep the change, throw the change into the fountain the way a pizza maker would, and legend says that you’ll never see any more deep dish pizza calories in your hips ever again.
  • This fountain accepts bills, too! Throw a $10 bill into the fountain, but first, kiss Alexander Hamilton’s face, and you’ll automatically be entered into a lottery to get tickets to “Hamilton” on Broadway in Chicago.
  • Toss a big check for the Democratic Party into the fountain and Donald Trump will not be elected.

By the time this blog post is released to the internet, Adam and I will be en route back to Chicago. And next time I’m downtown, I’ll be sure to drop a coin into Buckingham Fountain and see what crazy luck comes my way.

Lia, Italy’s freelance English proofreader

11 May

If I ever decide I want to move to this magical land where literally all they serve is pizza, pasta, and gelato, I found myself a profession: Freelance proofreader.

It is so so so nice that many of the signs here in Italy are translated into English (and often even a few other languages). That is so thoughtful and helpful to us tourists! But I can’t imagine it’s that hard to have the English be spelled correctly, right? That’s where I’d come in. I’d live my life, wandering around town, eating at restaurants, stopping at bus stops … with a big red pen. Ideally the restaurants or the government would pay me per correction, with payment in the form of either cash or Nutella cookies.

Here are some examples of what I might find.

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This last one might not be immediately clear to everyone, but “Lorem ipsum” is what’s sometimes called “dummy text” or “filler text,” for designers to use when they don’t have the actual wording yet but need to get the layout and fonts ready to go on a page. My guess is that “maccheroni al salmone” probably means “macaroni with salmon,” but really, will the world ever be sure?

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So, Italy, are you ready to hand me the red pen and make your signs, menus, and advertisements ready for the masses? I’ll just be here, eating only the kinds of pastas I can properly translate.

Unwillingly feeding the birds

4 May

Adam and I are having a great time on our Italian adventure — so far we’ve spent a few days in Venice and are now in Florence. But there is one disappointing story I’d like to share with you.

Many of you know that I am physically unable to walk by a crepe stand without purchasing one. Well, for the first three days in Venice, because of time constraints, the crepe somehow did not happen (though luckily pizza, pasta, and gelato were waiting for me with open arms). So Tuesday morning, I was so excited for my crepe.

Me, about to enjoy my Nutella crepe:

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Once I figured out how to eat a crepe while standing (I’m more of a fork-and-knife kind of crepe eater), I took four glorious bites as Adam and I walked toward St. Mark’s Square, Venice’s central piazza and busiest area. Adam thought it would be a good chance to snap the perfect shot of the beautiful and historic area while I ate my breakfast. But St. Mark’s Square is full of tourists — both humans and pigeons.

As I was about to take another delicious bite, as Adam headed toward an optimal photo-taking spot, a pigeon — or was it a seagull? — actually flew into my head while another bird knocked my crepe out of my hands, onto the ground.

Sorry, Lia. The birds need this crepe more than you do.

I was in such a state of shock that I didn’t know quite what happened. One minute, it was warm Nutella oozing out of a fresh crepe; the next minute, OW, something on my head, crepe on the ground, birds all around. I stood there, mouth agape, when I saw that other tourists had seen it happen and looked at me with sympathetic — and “so glad it’s you and not me” — eyes.

Here’s a shot of the culprit, enjoying breakfast:

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And me, sad and hungry:

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Later that evening, aiming to redeem my “crepey” morning (get it?), we wandered through the streets of Venice looking for a specific crepe stand I had seen a day earlier, not wanting to jinx myself by attempting the crepe stand from that morning. But alas, without a street name or a landmark (other than “I’m pretty sure it was near a bridge and next to a Sephora”), my Tuesday crepe was just not meant to be.

It was probably for the best, though, with all of the Italian foods I need to be working my way through.

Electrical adapters: The key to world peace?

27 Apr

plugAs Adam and I prepare for a vacation to Italy, we’re busy packing the essentials — sunscreen, walking shoes, and, unfortunately, raincoats. But one of the weirdest things we’re trying to figure out is which technology adapters to bring.

Wouldn’t it be great to say that we’ll go tech-free on this trip — you know, when in Rome, live as the ancient Romans did? It would be nice, but we’d have no maps, no hotel confirmations, no ways to charge our camera, no ways to call my mom and tell her we’re still alive, and really, really wet hair. So, adapters it is.

The funny part is that we knew that each continent has its own plug style and need for a different adapter — but apparently Italy is not on the “Europe” adapter system, and even within Italy, we may need at least two different adapters.

I would just like to know how this came to be.

Did “electricity” come to the world at different times? Obviously electricity was discovered in a playground by the playful, kite-flying Benjamin Franklin (who still doesn’t have a musical written about him?); so was America the first place to get adapters? Woo hoo! Eureka! My fellow Americans, we now have electricity, so you can all finally charge your dead cell phones. Let’s give ourselves immediate access to electricity in every room of our house in the form of electrical sockets — but just for fun, when we’re building hotel rooms, let’s only give each room one electrical socket and we’ll put it behind the dresser, just to poke fun at tourists.

Then the other countries got jealous. Why does America have electricity and we don’t? Let’s get some of that powerful juice in our countries.

According to WorldStandards.eu, each type of plug around the world has a different name, and they go up alphabetically from A to O. (Unclear if AB+ and O- are still in the works.) Types A and B are for North America and Japan (naturally), Type C is for Europe, South America, and Asia; Type D is for India. Then you get to Type L, which is used in Italy and Chile.

Are these plugs in the order in which the countries received Ben Franklin’s magical spark? Do the countries that share a plug have an alliance? I know I’m definitely looking forward to all of the Chilean food that will be available in Italy.

It’s 2016 … are we getting close to a universal world adapter? I can think of no better way to bring together our very different countries around the world than letting everyone charge their cell phones together. May we all live to see the day when all electrical devices, no matter their country of origin or immigration status, can share an electrical wall of peace and harmony.

Thank you to my really old gym shoes

20 Apr

A few days ago, a ridiculous thought occurred to me. I could not remember the last time I bought new gym shoes.

I was looking down at my shoes, ready to show the elliptical who’s boss (hint: not me), and I realized that I’ve owned those shoes for a very, very long time. I had no memory of buying sneakers after college … did I buy them before college? Is there a chance that these well-loved shoes were more than 10 years old?

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I think the “rules” say people should purchase new gym shoes every year or every other year, which meant that it was definitely time to buy a new pair. And now, as we speak, I’m breaking in some exciting new shoes just waiting to travel the world (or at least the inside of a workout room).

But all of a sudden, I’m feeling nostalgic for my old guys.

Many of you know that I’ve become obsessed with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. One of the aspects of her book that make the haters hate hate hate hate hate is that Kondo recommends “thanking” each of your items before discarding them. Yes, it may be a little hokey to thank your oven mitts for a job well done, but it does make you feel less guilty about tossing them. “Thank you, oven mitts, for keeping my hands from getting burned as I baked cookies for my friends. But I don’t need three pairs of oven mitts. I hope you make someone else very happy.”

Thanking items before discarding them allows you to think about how items have more than their face value. Oven mitts lead to family gatherings. Dresses lead to memorable occasions. And gym shoes lead to health, fitness, and long walks with good friends.

So I’d like to use this post to thank my old gym shoes. It’s truly been quite a journey. According to my Fitbit, which I’ve worn daily since November 2013, I’ve walked nearly 3,000 miles over the past three years. And these gym shoes have literally supported me every step of the way (except for those somewhat painful mid-workday walks with coworkers when I’m wearing flats!).

These shoes have traveled with me around the globe — to Israel, England, Holland, Belgium, Canada, Mexico, all over the United States, and throughout so many Chicago neighborhoods. They may have made me look like a tourist, but at least when I’m wearing them, I look like a happy tourist and not a “my feet are killing me so please don’t make me go to one more stinkin’ museum” tourist.

According to some exhaustive Facebook research, this is the first recorded photo of me in the shoes, taken while exploring downtown Chicago with my college roommates in September 2008:

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These shoes have kept me comfortable, kept me walking, kept me exploring. They’ve been with me in probably more kinds of weather than is appropriate for non-rain boots.

So now, as the shoes are at least eight years old, worn and tattered, showing signs of retirement, I look ahead to my new friends for my feet.

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And maybe I should set myself a reminder for next year, April 2017, to look into getting a new pair of … gotta say it … solemates.

Peacock on the balcony

13 Apr

My friends and I had an amazing time this past week at a resort in Mexico, though we did have one slightly unexpected problem — we kept getting awoken at night by a peacock!

Believe it or not, we were on the third floor, but somehow the peacock managed to make its way (fly? climb? crawl?) to our balcony. At first, he was beautiful and crazy and so much fun to take pictures with; but then, around 3 or 4 a.m., he became an unappreciated alarm clock.

I didn’t record a video of its sound, but I’ll describe it as a cross between a squawking chicken and an angry old lady.

So, for your viewing pleasure, the closest I’ve ever gotten to a peacock:

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From a different day, earlier in the trip, we saw a peacock on top of a golf club garage:

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And, finally, a peacock in all its glory who loved to be photographed:

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