Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Dogs are Smarter (Or How to Cure the Holiday Blahs)

I went Christmas shopping for my wife on Tuesday night and for the first time since we've been back in California, wished that I weren't.

It was a cold evening, one I'd thought I dressed for but really hadn't. The sweater I was wearing didn't do nearly enough to warm me in the slight breeze coming off the ocean nor to offer enough protection against the damp air. I didn't want to be outside at all, but it was one of the few remaining evenings I'd have to shop, so off I went.

As for shopping itself, I've known since before we moved here that Lompoc suffers from the same things any small town of less than 50,000 does: there aren't a lot of places to shop, and if you really want the good stuff, you've gotta drive down to Santa Barbara or head north to Santa Maria or San Luis. But I was not deterred; after all, my list was small and consisting of relatively minor items, things that should be easy to find almost everywhere.

In addition, I was going to stop by the local Sears to take a look at dishwashers since we both want to replace our current offering. Shouldn't be long at this, I thought. On that point I was right, but also very wrong.

It took me barely more than an hour to hit all the major stores in town. Sears, Mervyn's, Petco, Walgreens...check (Those last two on actual errands)! The store I really wanted to spend time in was closed by the time I got there. Figures...

That's when it started hitting me...the futility of the evening specifically but also a nagging sense of "I'm trapped in hell!" Small towns have many upsides, but also frustrations and I have yet to adjust to those that are present here. Tuesday night I felt them strongly for the first time.

I arrived home empty-handed but for the couple of items I had to pick-up for my wife and dogs and completely frustrated. The frustration had me cranky before I even walked in the front door.

My wife had been busy working on Christmas stuff in the garage and reported that the dogs had been restless the entire time I was out. Something that was easily confirmed by the way they joyfully greeted my return and were seeking attention from dad.

At that point, my wife knowing me as well as she does, proposed I take the dogs and hit the drive-thru at Starbucks. The combination of two of my favorite things, she felt certain, would counter the obvious frustration I was showing.

She was right. Watching the way the dogs wait expectantly and with much delight to run out to the car is a simple but sweet pleasure that brings a smile. On this evening, a much needed smile.

Sure enough, a car ride with the girls and a near-perfect cup of Verona did much to wipe away the frustrations of the evening. Honestly, though I will never turn down a cup of coffee under most any circumstance, all I really needed was a few minutes with the girls.

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