People People

by Lisa Scottoline

I love people.

I’m what people used to call a people person.

As in, I hug you whether you want me to or not.

And lately, everybody wants to be my friend.

Normally this would make me happy, but not this way.

Let me explain.

Like everybody, I’m on various apps for various reasons. For example, I have a Peloton and when the weather’s too crummy to go outside, I hop on my Peloton bike and pedal away, listening to a twenty-year-old instructor yell “put on your crown, girl!”

Which I find surprisingly encouraging.

And the Peloton screen has so-called leaderboard that has a list of people in order of who’s working out the best.

I’m usually number 2038487392033.

I’m not exercising to compete.

I’m exercising to stay alive.

The only person I want to beat is the Grim Reaper.

Sometimes, somebody will give me a virtual high five, so I give a virtual high five back.

Peloton wants me to add this person as a friend but I don’t.

Because I don’t want to compete with a friend.

That would make me their enemy.

Duolingo is the same way.

Duolingo is an app I’m on to learn Italian, since I’m about to start a novel set in Tuscany, so I’m going there soon for research.

Nice work if you can get it.

And you can get it if you try.

I mean, if I can, anybody can.

Anyway, I’m learning Italian before the trip because it would be nice to be able to ask for the bathroom in Italian.

That’s all a middle-aged woman needs to know.

I don’t care about the train station anymore.

There’s only one room I’m interested in.

Il bagno.

I got on the Duolingo app because Daughter Francesca told me about it and she really loves it. She already speaks Italian and French, but got on Duolingo to learn Spanish, so right there, you know that mother and daughter are different.

If I knew Italian and French, I’d say, enough already.

I don’t need that many words.

I’m good with spaghetti, couch, and book.

Okay, dog, cat, and pony.

Plus bathroom.

Francesca added me as her friend on Duolingo, so I added her back as my friend, only because I actually gave birth to her.

They don’t have a section for that, but they should.

They could call it the C section.

I didn’t want to compete with her, because I love her.

Also, I knew I’d lose.

I raised her to be diligent and hardworking.

Unfortunately, she is.

Francesca’s on Duolingo practicing Spanish every single day. In fact, she’s currently on a 113-day streak.

My streak lasted 2 days.

It ended when I found out where the bathroom was.

But since I added Francesca as a friend, she can send me a virtual “nudge” to get back on the app.

Which I “ignore.”

I used to check on whether she was doing her homework.

Now she’s checking on whether I’m doing mine.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I’m getting email from Duolingo: “Hi Lisa! Keep your two-day Italian streak going!”

I didn’t answer, so they sent another email:

“Hi Lisa! Duo missed you yesterday!”

It took me a minute to realize who Duo was, then I realized it was the corporate owl.

He’s never going to be my friend.

I don’t give a virtual hoot.

Copyright 2023 Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: Breezy

By Lisa Scottoline

The great thing about summer is that we all take the time to slow down, which is especially necessary in a world buzzing with laptops and phones. Today I am marveling at the most perfect low-tech invention of all time:

The fan.

How great is a fan? No bells, whistles, or BTUs. It’s plastic, and it cost only fifteen dollars. You can’t even buy gum for fifteen dollars. I am in love with my fan, even though I have bad childhood memories of same.

Let me back up.

Growing up, we had no air conditioning, and I remember going to my friends’ houses, where they did. My best friend Rachel had something mysterious and great called Central Air, and we loved it so much that we would leave her house only for the movies, where they had air-conditioning and a blue banner that advertised as much, in letters so cold that they formed icicles.

Don’t pretend you don’t remember that sign, because you do.

Anyway at home, we had window fans, which were the source of much discord. The big debate was whether to turn them out or in. To me, even at age twelve, this was a no-brainer. One side blows air at you, and one side doesn’t. So which side should face you, as you sweat your butt off?

Of course.

Stick the fan in the window, so that it blows air on you. My father, brother, and I were aligned on this opinion, but we did not prevail, as we lived with a meteorologist.

Mother Mary.

You may not have known she was a meteorologist, but she was, when it came to interior weather. By the way, she was also a doctor, when it came to swimming after eating. And an electrician, when it came to toasters near water. Mothers are women of invisible degrees, and she was no exception.

Mother Mary held that the fan should be in the window turned out, so that it did not blow on you. Her theory was that if it was turned out, it would suck all the hot air from the room and blow it outside, thus cooling the room. Sadly, the fan came with no instructions to settle the argument, and in the end, you know who prevailed, so we turned our window fans out and sweated in our living room.

Yes, it sucked.

Mother Mary also believed in cross-ventilation. In fact, if you ever meet her, don’t get her started on cross-ventilation. She can talk about cross-ventilation like some people talk about politics. According to her, you should throw open two windows opposite from each other, and the air from one window will be sucked in, whoosh magically across the room, and blow out the other window, thus cooling all the Scottolines sweating inside.

This sucked, too.

We waited and waited for a breeze to cross-ventilate us, yet it never happened. So we whined and whined for an conditioner, and one day, they relented, albeit with a compromise. We would use fans and cross-ventilation in the living room, and in the dining room, we installed a window air-conditioner, which supposedly had enough BTUs to cool the entire first floor.

It didn’t.

It cooled the dining room, but we never used the dining room except for Christmas, Easter, or another day when something really good happened to Jesus Christ.

And the TV was in the living room, so we were always in the living room, sweating amid the inside-out fans and nonexistent cross-ventilation, while the dining room remained frosty, if empty.

When I grew up, I got to be the mother, so my house has central air, window air conditioners, and fans.

Overcompensate, much?

But this summer has been so cool that I’m using only the fan. It sits in the window next to my bed and whirrs pleasantly all night, cooling dogs, cats, and one middle-aged woman.

And it blows inside, the way God and General Electric intended.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline