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Aisle Seat: Problem? Take It to the Complaint Department

By Naomi Serviss / New York City



My coping mechanisms are toast.


I’m flailing and short-tempered.


And I was doing so well these past two years.


Some months, at least.



Now I’d like to file a complaint.


Question is: to whom?


Here’s what temporarily assuaged


my stinky disposition


(Covid’s fault, natch):


  • Yoga in the Park


  • Meditation

  • Letter writing

  • Art projects

  • Central Park morning walks

  • Netflix bingeing

  • Zooming

  • Reading

  • Sugarless scones

  • Interneting


But this latest Covid mask confusion


has grated raw


my last achy breaky nerve.


See that white flag hoisted


from the 10th floor


of an Upper West Side prewar building?


Mine.


The mask decree-or-not-decree


gives me a headache in my eye.


I’m weighing my mask options,


donning one in stores and restaurants.


Or when passing gaggles of workmen


lunch-breaking and smoking.


Besides, it keeps my nose warm.


And it’s a handy nose blotter


on those brisk days.


Construction crews proliferate


when Spring prematurely threads the air.


Next door, workmen concocted


a pedestrian walkway


with green planked walls


and a NO SMOKING sign, ignored.


It’s an unpleasant conduit


for humans and canines


who grudgingly share the claustrophobic space.



My newly adopted 9-lb. pup Janis


eye-pleads to be carried


through this terrifying juncture.


I don’t blame her.


I wouldn’t mind being hefted Cleopatra-like.


A 22-story luxury building


is being erected with great fanfare


next to ours,


Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Not a toe-tapping orchestral fanfare.


I’m talking air horns, hammering, drilling,


back-up truck beeps, concrete smashing


and other auditory insults


which have been


poisoning our lives for two years.



It’ll be at least another year.


Three elegant brownstones were sacrificed


Central Park sunrise
Central Park sunrise

so no Central Park millionaire views


would be obscured.


I’m also mad as hell


like Howard Beale in Network.



Nothing’s any good,


to steal a Joni Mitchell lyric.


The rent’s too damn high,


electricity bills are shocking


and Café Bustelo


just jacked up their prices.


To recap,


the relaxed mask mandates


are making me twitchy, not joyous.


The MASKS MUST BE WORN


IN SHARED PUBLIC SPACES


sign has been stripped off the elevator wall.


Now what?


Will the doormen follow suit?



(And what kind of idiom is “follow suit”?)



Does that mean we’re out


of the proverbial pandemic woods?


I’ve become an existential malingerer,


cranky and insatiably hungry to boot.


Like the character in a story


I wrote for my daughter,


Moody Melinda.


Where’s the sunny side of the street


during these barren, wintry days?


The delightful 60-degree days are cruel.


Those belong in April,


not on Presidents’ Day.


(It’s a poem reference.)


My mornings begin at 5 a.m.,

before next door’s construction begins.


It’s pitch black, quiet


and no dogs need walking.


Janis
Janis

Espresso is dribbling through


the unbleached filtered,


Chemex coffee canister


not fast enough.



The first cup is life-affirming.


Second is manna.


Just enough Hazelnut creamer (no sugar!)


for café au lait,


reminiscent of Paris weeks.


I check email and churn through


websites like there’s a butter shortage.



Irony isn’t dead, just stunned.


Humor is gone with the wind,


or maybe that was just gas.


My gratitude journal


is merely another dust collector


on the tchotchke shelf.


It’s half-full (or half-baked)


rather than half-empty.


Wait. Is that a shift


in my emotional temperature?


Am I harboring a fugitive optimist?


I am a Sagittarius, so odds are good.


Who am I kidding?


I’m Ms. Resilient!


With a natural bent towards happyish endings.


Deep down inside, I secretly know


those bad moods are temporary albatrosses.



Like so many recurring nightmares,


they will finally slip off into the ether.


There’s much to reconsider


when flailing about


at my sage age.


In theory, at least.



My husband and I are still nuts for each other.


Our kids are navigating tempestuous seas,


knowing they are unconditionally loved.


The tiny white Maltese asleep at my feet


just sighed deeply.


Moody Melinda doesn’t stand a chance.


 






Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com

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