On being ... enough already!

By Ingrid Sapona

I went to the National Ballet of Canada’s production of Cinderella the other night and when a friend asked me the how it was, I told him it was good, but that there was a little too much dancing. He laughed and asked what time I got home. I explained that it wasn’t that I got home late -- it’s just that some dances went on a bit too long.

For example, at one point a dozen ballerinas came out (on their toes, of course) and they were sort of flitting about, waving little fans. In fairly short order I figured out that they were fairies and they were casting a magic spell that would transform the mice into coachmen to take Cinderella to the ball. In terms of staging, I thought the ballerinas with their fans were an inspired way of portraying this action. After about three minutes of their flitting about, however, I was ready for the story to advance. But the fairies kept flitting and flitting. Granted, maybe it took others in the audience a bit longer to get the idea, but at one point I just felt like shouting, “enough already!”

Actually, dances or arias that go on too long are one thing (after all, I realize the directors and choreographers want to give the performers a chance to show off their talents), but curtain calls are a whole other matter. It’s not that I object to showing appreciation for the performance and performers -- I truly am in awe of their talents (that’s why I paid as much as I did to get in) and I certainly believe in showing my admiration by offering a rousing round of applause, or even a standing ovation when especially moved by a performance.

But, I’ve always thought that curtain calls should be reserved for those times when the audience just can’t get enough of the cast or particular performers. More-and-more it seems, however, that even when the applause has subsided and people are starting to put on their coats, up comes the curtain again, obliging the audience to continue (or, in some cases resume) the applause. Why is it that the person in charge of the houselights never seems to have the same sense of “enough already” that the audience has?

But it’s not just the ballet and opera that I find often go on too long. Chase scenes in movies are another common culprit. They often go well past the point of entertaining and into the realm of “I can only suspend my disbelief so long people!!” I mean really, the idea of 007 hanging off a chopper with one arm for five minutes is a bit much -- 30 seconds maybe, but more than that presses my “enough already” button big time. And I’m sure you’ve sat through comedy routines that go on to the point that they’re no longer funny.

It happens in non-entertainment contexts too. I was in a seminar the other day when someone from the audience asked a question and they kept reiterating the point they were making. I just kept wishing that the speaker would politely interrupt and answer. From the squirming and sighing of others around me, I know I wasn’t the only one who thought, “enough already … get on with it!” And the network news does it all the time -- they glom onto a story and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. But at least with t.v., when the “enough already” point comes, you can change the channel or turn it off.

In all these situations where I have the urge to yell out “enough already”, I realize the common denominator is me. So, I’ve spent a fair bit of time thinking about whether it’s just me. I’ve considered, for example, whether I’m just more impatient than most directors, producers, stage managers, speakers, etc.? I don’t think I am. After all, in this Google age all of us have been conditioned to measure time in nanoseconds, not just me. And yet, when some people have other peoples’ attention they seem to lose all sense of time (and timing).

Could the all-too-frequent triggering of my “enough already” sense be the result of a particularly short attention span? Or maybe I bore particularly easily. I don’t think I suffer from either of these conditions. Indeed, I think my friends and family would attest to the fact that I have more staying power than most. (It’s a product of the never-give-up gene that I seem to have been born with.)

I also considered whether my “enough already” reaction might be some sort of misdirected anger stemming from an underlying feeling that I’ve got better things to do, or out of unspoken resentment that I’m attending something under duress. I can honestly say that neither of these seem to apply because I’ve been blessed with a charmed life and there are few (if any) places I go, or things I see or do, other than by choice.

After due consideration, I’ve concluded that the problem is that there are people who just don’t have a sense of when enough’s enough and those people never seem to ask the rest of us for our opinion on the matter.

Anyway, I’m sure you get my point so I’ll end this before anyone starts muttering, “enough already!”

© 2008 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... questioned

By Ingrid Sapona

One day last week I went down to the boat to rig it. The first few years I had the boat, every fall I carefully labeled every item as I took it off, noting exactly where and how it was connected. Those first few springs, with the help and patience of some girlfriends, I managed to re-rig it. Eventually I realized I can do most of the rigging myself, but there are a few things -- like attaching the boom -- that do require a second set of hands. Fortunately, there’s usually someone nearby when I need a quick hand.

The boat came with a furling jib. I love having it, but the mechanics behind it are still somewhat of a mystery to me. That said, over the years I’ve had to troubleshoot some problems, so I’ve learned a thing or two about it. One of the main things I learned is that my furler isn’t a particularly common brand (at least at my club) and there are some very distinct differences between mine and some of the more popular makes and models. In other words, I’ve learned the hard way that what works on other furlers doesn’t necessarily work on mine.

Anyway, the other day I was contentedly puttering away, attaching the jib. Some of the steps are a bit finicky, but everything was going well. As I was raising the sail, a friend stopped and asked if I needed a hand. I had everything under control, but it is a bit easier with two -- one person to hold the line (him) and one person to cleat it off (me). So I said sure and handed him the line.

As I bent down to cleat it, he asked why I was doing it there. I told him that that’s where the line goes. He said, “Why don’t you cleat it off at the mast? That way, if you want to adjust it later, it’s easier to reach it.” I told him that though it was somewhat inconvenient, this was where it had to be cleated. He then asked, “Why?” I said I didn’t know why exactly, but I assured him it was cleated there for a reason.

To my less-than-informative response he then said, “I’m sure you could cleat it off at the mast -- that’s where I cleat mine”. A few minutes later I remembered why I can’t cleat it at the mast -- it has to do with one of the significant design differences between my furler and most other brands (including his). So, as I started on the next step (attaching the jib sheets -- the lines that control the jib while under sail), I explained the reason I cleat it where I do.

Attaching my jib sheets happens to be one of the particularly finicky steps. The sheets are quite thick and every spring it’s a struggle to get the two of them through the clew (a metal ring at one of the bottom corners of the sail). I know they both fit through, it’s just a matter of muscle and patience.

When he saw me struggle with the sheets, he asked why I use such thick lines. My answer, however unsophisticated, was because they are the jib sheets the sail came with. I assured him the sheets fit and I continued working. As I struggled with them, I figured the next question would be, “Why is that clew so small?” Fortunately, he spared me that question!

Next, I wanted to test to see whether the jib furled and unfurled. At this point I ran into a problem -- one that I’ve encountered before. After cursing it, I proceeded to start fixing it. This immediately provoked further questions and suggestions. I didn’t have answers to all the questions, but I rejected all of his suggestions, explaining that all I know is that my method -- though painstaking -- worked, so that was how I intended to proceed. At this point, sensing my exasperation with his “help”, he took leave.

Left alone, I eventually managed to finish the job. All the way home, I replayed the conversation in my head, trying to figure out why I was so annoyed at the questions. If there’s anyone who should be open to questions, it’s me. I’ve always lived by the rule that there’s no such thing as a stupid question and that, as my father used to say, “questions are free”. And yet, if he’d have asked me one more, I think I’d have completely lost it.

I know part of my reaction was because I somehow took the exchange personally. But why? Sure, some of the questions were a pretext for offering unsolicited advice. But why couldn’t I just take the advice or leave it? After all, I know this guy pretty well and I think he meant well.

I realized that every time he asked something that I didn’t have a specific, reasoned answer for, I felt stupid. And, even though I knew what I was doing, in the face of question after question that I didn’t have a ready answer for, I felt inadequate, which was absurd. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time I’ve had this type of exchange and have experienced these feelings, which is why it was important for me reflect on it. Eventually it dawned on me that though I may not have lacked skill or knowledge, what I did lack was self-confidence.

In reflecting further on this type of interchange, I’m happy to report that I’ve come up with the ultimate response -- one that’s so straightforward and definitive, it’s bound to end the discussion right then and there. (Frankly, I’m embarrassed that I haven’t come up with this before -- but maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don’t have children.) Anyway, I think you’ll agree -- in some situations, the best response is the tried-and-true, “Because I said so.” Go ahead, give it a try -- I’ll bet it works!

© 2008 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... back in the saddle

By Ingrid Sapona

The subdivision I grew up in was called – believe it or not – Green Acres. (It was built long before the hit TV show of that name.) One of my favourite recollections of childhood was riding my bike all over Green Acres. My bike was a hand-me-down: a pink, girl’s Schwinn. It had one speed (unless you peddled really hard!) and to brake you simply peddled backwards.

I’ll never forget the first time I rode to my friend Donna’s house. She lived on a street that was not on my walk-to-school route, so finding it was a triumph of my navigation skills and stamina. After that success, I felt sure I could find my way anywhere in the world. (I know that sounds ridiculous, but at 11, Green Acres WAS the world!) Oh how I loved my bike and what it represented: the ability to explore.

Eventually I graduated to four wheels and I didn’t ride again until I was living in Amsterdam in the mid-80s. Shortly after I arrived there, I realized I’d be missing out on the Dutch experience if I didn’t have a bike. So, when a heard a co-worker was selling one for $50, I snapped it up.

When I took delivery of it, two things surprised me: it was red and it had more than one speed. Neither of these may strike you as noteworthy, but all the other bikes in Amsterdam (at least at that time) were black one-speeds. Nevertheless, my red 10-speed made me feel oh so Dutch.

I thought I’d have a hard time adjusting to having more than one speed. I soon realized, however, that given Holland’s geography, there was no need to ever change gears. So, the only thing I had to get used to was using handbrakes instead of peddling backwards. As it happens, I didn’t have time to get too used the brakes because someone stole it about a month after I got it.

In the short time I had it, however, I did manage to take one memorable trip. I decided to cycle to Delft and Gouda and back. A one-day trip may not sound that adventurous, but given that I didn’t have a map, it seemed it. But, I had heard you could get almost anywhere by bike by simply following the signs, so I thought I'd give it a try. So, one morning I simply set out. Lucky for me, the routes were very well marked.

Of course, given of my lack of map, I didn’t realize how far Delft and Gouda were. It turns out doing both in one day was – let’s just say – “ambitious”, especially for someone who hadn’t ridden much since junior high. (Did I mention the bike’s seat wasn’t particularly cushioned?)

After Holland, I didn’t get back on a bike until the early 90s, when I went mountain biking – or mountain braking, as I prefer to call it. A bunch of us attending a conference in Whistler, B.C. rented bikes and took them two chair lifts up the mountain. (For those not up on Canadian geography, Whistler will be the site of the 2010 Olympic down-hill events.)

Though the afternoon didn’t end up being as fun as I hoped, I did come away with an important insight: I need to be in control (and going down a mountain on two wheels is not easy to do in a controlled manner). I also learned that riding the handbrakes down a steep hill is really hard on your forearms.

Of course, my mountain braking adventure wouldn’t have been complete without a little insult to go along with my aching forearms. At some point, a mountain ranger came up to me and asked if everything was ok. I assured him it was – I just wanted to take it slow. Turns out, that was going to be a problem because they wanted to close the hill for the day. I had two choices: either speed it up or take the next lift back down. All I can say is the view from a chair lift is even more breathtaking on the way down!

Five or six years ago I won a bike. I was tickled with the thought of having one, but the idea of riding it in a city of 2.5 million people (and who know how many cars) terrified me. So, it went straight into storage – I never even tried riding it. But, when I moved, I made sure the bike came with.

My condo is along the lake with direct access to the City’s extensive system of bike paths. Many friends who visited over the winter commented on how great it’ll be to ride around here. Sure, I thought – if I have the nerve.

Well, the weather finally warmed up this week so the time had come to try the bike. Only thing was, the tires were flat. So, a friend came over and helped me pump them up; then she dared me to get on. I was a bit nervous and a bit wobbly at first but the old adage proved true – you never forget how to ride.

The next day I decided to go for more of a test drive. I cycled to my sail club, which is accessible via one of the bike paths. I couldn’t believe how easy it was and how much I enjoyed it! Though I did have work to get back to, since the club’s not very far, on my way home I varied my route to stay out a bit longer, much as I used to do when riding around Green Acres as a kid.

That night I was still quite high from my ride to the club and I started getting excited about being back in the saddle again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to forgo my four-wheels for two. Hell, I’m not even sure I’ll ever be ready to get out on real roads on my bike. But I have to say, I’m excited by the fact that there are so many new paths to explore and by the fact that you’re never too old for new adventures.

© 2008 Ingrid Sapona