Monday, March 11, 2013

The trouble with peripheral vision or How to pick yer... nevermind. just read it.

A disclaimer for people who haven't been to one of these kinds of church meetings:
The LDS church is organized into your regular congregation of like 150 people called a ward. You meet with them on sunday. Its just what they call the group within that geographic boundary. About 7 to 10 wards all put together on a map form a bigger entity called a stake. And so there's a church meeting every year called stake conference where everybody you normally go to church with meets with everybody else from all the other wards in your stake for a big fat meeting. This is a 2 hour meeting. Because all the churches are the same size pretty much, they have to open the back of the chapel and put up folding metal chairs back in the basketball court area of the church cuz most of our meeting houses are designed this way. As a kid these meetings were the worst time of your life because we always got there late so we were in the back. The speaker at the stand seemed about a mile away and the time seemed to drag on forever causing your lower extremities to go numb on the hard metal chairs. There. I think that summarizes the experience to get everybody up to speed. 

Today was stake conference. I got there as the meeting began and counted myself lucky as I snatched up a last open seat on the back row of the chapel. It was actually the very first row of the far left corner of the overflow that stretched far back into that darkened no-man's-land of buttocks-numbing agony.  
I had one empty seat beside me and upon glancing at the girl next to that one figured there was no one outside waiting to claim these as "saved for them"
I asked and she confirmed it. She's kind of a strange soul. Not sure how I've met her before but I have. I found out after things really got rolling that the row behind us was occupied by a young family guarded mostly by doting grandparents. There would be no discipline in this meeting. The young children already knew. 

I didn't mind so much except that the little boy, perhaps 6, kept charging back and forth behind my chair. It had to be some form of relay between his mother at one end and Grandma behind me- a fine way to pass the time. The problem wasn't the rustling papers, the hurried footsteps, or maniacal laughter, but that the kid couldn't make it past my chair without running into it somehow. Each hard kick rocked me slightly. heavy kid. I was surprised none of these were followed by the sound of a gleeful smile smearing across the floor behind me. I can't say I didn't wait hopefully. I soon learned to phase out these tiny interruptions like the ticks of a second hand on an expensive timepiece. There was an almost calming rhythm to it all. 

But then the interruptions really started as my darned peripheral vision began to alert me of the tiny commotion two seats away. The girl had pulled up a bag and was digging through frantically. She pulled a women's wallet out and poured through its contents. I directed my eyes back at the meeting not wanting to intrude. Maybe she'd lost a sugar glider. Soon she'd finished every compartment and cranny of that bag. Sighing she set one of the bags on the empty seat between us. 
There was a hymnal there next to her so lest I mistakenly think she'd moved it towards me as a gift, she set the black purse next to me. My personal space shrank slightly. The other bag hit the deck as she jerked up a small backpack… the tiny kind. Zip zip zip! Went the zippers on the bags as the 6 year old special olympian kicked my seat in time to the beating of my heart. 

Soon, somehow, the family behind us were called to action. She'd turned to them and they were handing her something. Ah. A fat wad of kleenex. It was running mucus which had caused the frantic search through every bag she owned. How had she left that out? Well I settled back in hoping I could now focus my undying attention on the stand.
But once again, my peripheral vision was revealing sights I could not make sense of.

 The girl was not blowing her nose.
 Instead the wad of kleenex was in her hand and she seemed to be tying knots or petting it. I flicked my pupils over for a look. She was twisting the kleenex carefully over and over itself to create a small finger sized cone. My face did one of those truly original acrobatic moves. It amazed my own eyebrows. I riveted my attention to the front but the motion out of the side was just continuing as she twisted and rolled and rolled this small work of ingenuity that was surely destined to rival the tool-building culture of Jane Goodall's chimpanzees that do that thing with a blade of grass to get termites out of the mound. 
I wished for a second that my nose was bigger as I closed my right eye to see if I could block my vision without my hands, but no, I could still see the wad of tissues. And I felt stupid sitting with one eye closed wondering if the people on the stand would think I was going to sleep. 

I opened it in time to see the next action unfortunately. 
I'll describe what I saw through the blurry undefined fabric of my cursed peripheral vision. The white wad of tissues were raised to the pinkish area where her face was. With some effort it appeared the "device" lined up with the shaft. It took marvelous amounts of twisting evidenced by the raised elbows and ducking head to get it inserted far enough up there. And all without actually getting any of her fingers close to the holes. I suppose this was what she was trying to avoid. Someone must have commented on her last adventure up there in public. Hence the stealth. I tried to ignore now and calm my feeble stomach as the twisting and ducking continued. Once finished the same soulful effort was employed to remove it. I hoped only one nostril required attention. My prayers were denied. So I think if anyone from the stand had looked down, they'd have noticed a slight twitch and squinting on my part as if I'd found some distraction in the ceiling tiles to my left over the door of the chapel. I stayed that way as long as I thought might be necessary to thoroughly clean the other orifice. But I misjudged and brought my eyes back too early. The other "homemade finger" had just gotten free and now the beast was holding both in her left hand wondering how best to release them into the wild. At this point I tried to look as humble and undisturbed as everyone else in the meeting as she was glancing my way now, but not because she'd noticed any temptation to flee in my countenance but because her closest bag…
 was sitting there between us…
 closer to me…
with the top open...

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