Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father Nasty: An Amusing Interlude, Dream Inspired and Recalled

I think dreams are amazing, but my philosophy about them is the opposite of most who try to interpret them. Generally, my perception of dreams is to figure out what aspect of my life--what event, person, conflict, etc.--inspired them, and consequently, how I really feel about that aspect of my life through what I dream about in relation to it.

I had a dream last night about telling a story about my experience working as an altar server at my local church. I'm not sure what inspired it, but it did remind me of a great story from years and years back.

I come from a Catholic family, and when my siblings and I were growing up, every Sunday, we went to mass in the morning. Although this was not quite our favorite activity, I recall that we were pretty well behaved overall, mostly because we knew what the consequences would be should we step out of line. When I was around 10 or 11years old, I decided to become what our church called a "cross bearer." Basically, it was a way to get kids, particularly girls, involved in the mass. There was a legion of alter boys who directly assisted the priest, but at the time, girls were banned from that position. Our church thought it would be a nice to let girls lead the procession in and out of the church instead. A cross bearer would dress in the same robes as alter boys and would carry a large, brass cross in front of the priest, the alter boys, and the readers on the way up and down the aisle before and after mass. Cross bearers would sit, segregated off to the side of the altar with the readers, while the priest and the alter boys settled directly in front of the altar for the duration.

In 1992, Pope John Paul II changed this policy--girls could now serve on the altar with the priests. In response to this, and in order to include more young people in the mass, the altar servers were divided into groups of five. In each group of five, there were two altar servers, one cross bearer, and two candle bearers to accompany the cross bearer. The participants would rotate between jobs every week they were assigned, so everyone got a chance to serve in each of the available positions. The two priests that served our church were at the forefront of initiating these changes and training the female former-cross bearers for new responsibilities.

Fairly soon after the turnover, one of the priests was notified of a family emergency back home in Ireland, and he returned there for a few months to attend to it. To make up for the loss, the diocese rotated in other priests from other local communities.

One of these gained the nickname "Father Nasty."

Father Nasty was a short man, in his mid-sixties, who, at first, seemed to be a nice guy. My group of altar servers was the first to work with him. We all dressed in the same place, so he got to see the small band of five people, made up of two young men, one very young lady, and two older girls--myself and my friend, Cathy. After dressing, we saw to the general responsibilities before the mass, and it became apparent to Father Nasty that he wouldn't be working directly with the two boys on the team. Instead, Cathy and I were assigned to be his direct altar servers, and it was clear as soon as he realized this that he wasn't a big fan of his Holy Father's decision.

We processed in, and once we got to the altar, his dissatisfaction was clear not only to us, but also to the congregation as a whole. On top of it all, Cathy and I were both about four inches taller than Father Nasty, and I am sure this only contributed to his negative attitude. Nothing we did was right--nothing. When we set up the altar for the second half of the mass--the part focusing on the bread and wine--he literally rearranged everything we did. He took the Bible and literally plunked it down on the other side of the sacred service with a scowl. The worst part, though, came soon after. At one point, the altar servers must wash the priest's hands with holy water stored in a cruet on the side of the altar space. Cathy went to retrieve this item, and I met her where the priest was standing at the left side of the altar with a plate, to catch the water, and a napkin. Just as she started to tip the cruet to pour the water, Father Nasty hissed,

"GO get more holy water. There isn't enough."

Now, how he could have possibly known this was beyond both of us. Cathy and I had set the altar up before the mass started, and he hadn't lifted, let alone tread near, the holy water cruet at any point before or during the mass.

Cathy's face registered a combination of shock, surprise, and fear.

The subsequent look on his face was all the answer she needed, and she rushed down the side aisle and back to the dressing room to obey his instructions.

The mass was "on hold" for about two and a half minutes, and it felt like a lifetime. Needless to say, the mass couldn't end soon enough for Cathy and me. Fortunately for us, though, Father Nasty made no friends in our congregation by his actions. Somehow, this may have gotten back to him--or perhaps, he had some kind of divine revelation--because the next time we worked with him, although we were holding our collective breath the whole time, he was much more pleasant and even thanked us in the end.

Why did I dream about telling this story? I have no idea, but I woke up thrilled to have recollected it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Betrayed By Lunch

When I lived in the city, I walked home, spending my lunch hour there. I'm sure it is a common case to have a full hour for lunch but to be unable to spend the whole of it actually lunching, and I made use of the time by preparing a meal that required more than the simple open-Ziploc-bag step. Then, I would usually sit for a little while, relax, play with the cats--it was a nice change from the work place environment. Then, with ten minutes to spare, I would make my way back to work.

My last laptop was an HP, and it experienced innumerable problems. I remained continually thankful for having purchased one of their warranty programs that allowed me to send it back to them, free of charge, to be repaired. One afternoon, an empty box arrived on my apartment doorstep just in time for my arrival home for lunch. I eagerly carried it inside. Two days prior, my laptop had suddenly shut down without explanation, and to add insult to injury, a blue notice on the screen indicated that the hard drive was somehow unreadable. Although it was after 11, I called the HP hotline and asked for a box. All I had to do, which I had done many times before in tried and true fashion, was put the laptop in the box as instructed and drop it off at a FedEx location.

I built a quesadilla by layers in a pan on the stove--tortilla, cheese, grilled chicken, veggies, tortilla. I turned the heat on medium and I went into the bedroom to pack the computer. I opened the box, fit the packing, and....

My concentration was destroyed by a burst of pulsing noise from the front hallway. I dashed into the kitchen--the bottom tortilla was entirely black, there was smoke pouring up from the pan, and the fire alarm had responded in kind. I switched off the burner, but the tortilla continued to cook from the residual heat. What to do? I picked up the pan and put it down on the nearby countertop--big mistake. The counter was lined with plastic, and after lifting it up in acknowledgement of the error, the surface had responded by producing a round, brown spot and a raised boil. Oven mit on hand, I held the pan, desperate to find somewhere to put it. I opened the kitchen window and set the pan on the sil. Then, I opened the door by the alarm, calming the sound.

Quiet descended for two minutes. Then, the doorbell rang.

At the door were two firemen, both dressed in full grey and yellow gear, helmets included. I caught a glimpse of the firetruck, lights ablaze, behind them.

"Hi, we got a call."

Until that moment, I thought my series of mishaps was a form of private suffering. Annoying as it all was, the parking lot behind the house was conveniently empty. I doubted that anyone in the nearest houses could hear the alarm. The truck in front of my house changed the game entirely. Neighbors came to their windows, pedestrians slowed down on their walks and runs to observe the action. Now, everyone knew I had done something stupid--and it didn't matter what.

A little reassurance and the firemen left, and they couldn't have moved the truck away too soon.

I went back to the pan, which had cooled with the combination of time and air from the open window. When I lifted it up, about half of the top layer of paint on the window sil came off with the bottom of the pan.

Suddenly, the pre-packed sandwich looked like a much better option.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Hazardous Ads on Wheels

A nameless carpet cleaning business has a new commercial featuring a distraught employee weeping over a discarded, soiled carpet he could have "saved." I will never use this nameless carpet cleaning business for any of my upholstery-cleaning needs, and it isn't because the commercial is ridiculous.

About three years ago, I was on my way to work. I was nearly there, driving in the right of two lanes. I put on my directional, indicating that I would be taking a right onto the next exit. As I turned the wheel in the direction of the ramp, a yellow blur whizzed by me, obviously eager to get to the exit before I did. I slammed on my brakes. Hard. I could feel the brake pad desperately grasp the axle, unable to stop my car immediately. The car swerved with the sudden shock. I was terrified--the guardrail was about a meter away.

The culprit? A van from this carpet cleaning business.

From that point forward, I decided that if that business was going to hire that kind of an idiot, I didn't want that same brand of idiot with the fate of my carpets in his hands.

I don't think that businesses realize just how badly their incompetent drivers may actually hurt their bottom lines, especially local businesses. If you were run down on a local road by a jerk in a truck with a logo on it, I'll bet you made a note of that logo and that company. You may not have remembered it right away, but when a job came up, like mowing your lawn, taking care of your hot water heater, or hauling away an old car, if that same logo came up as one of the possible businesses that could help you, I'd bet you didn't call them.

Perhaps businesses should realize that their cars and trucks, proudly painted with their names and contact information, are an advertisement--good or bad. And assholes shouldn't be in control of those ads.