• Laurel A. Rockefeller

Mini Golf adventure: put down the damn phone

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

I rarely get out of town. Part of that is money. Part of that is the time challenges of owning my own business. Part of that is my visual disability preventing me from driving while living in an area with poor to non-existent public transportation.

Imagine then how happy I was when an acquaintance, we will call her Lady West, from the Canton of Westland Mor in the Society for Creative Anachronism kindly offered to come out to Johnstown for an afternoon playing around with music, getting my covid shot, and then a bit of miniature golf at The Ranger in Sidman, PA. Central to her desire to take me out for the day: I was not yet vaccinated for the lack of transportation to a site offering the Johnson/Johnson option and she wanted to help.

I first met Lady West at a couple SCA events between 2011 and my official retirement from the SCA in 2013. She seemed nice, teaches both vocal and instrumental music, and is a flute specialist. Overall, nice lady. Nice enough that three or four years ago I gave her my 21 chord autoharp along with SCA stuff like camping gear, fabrics, and especially SCA-related trims that I no longer needed now I was no longer in the SCA. My harp, as much as I love to play it, was out of tune beyond my capacity to re-tune it. Being a music teacher, Lady West has the necessary skills to put the instrument back in shape and of course would make good use of it in her classroom.

Playing my autoharp in 2009 at an event in the canton of Lion's End.

Though I hadn't see Lady West since that visit, I still maintained contact with her over the years. And why not? Many of us have acquaintances we keep in touch with and chat with from time to time on social media. This was no different.

That all changed on 29 June, 2021. Lady West arrived about an hour late, leaving us little time to play music. Despite the shortened time, she brought the harp I gave her along with her concert flute. The idea was that I would fiddle with the harp and flute and she would get to try out my little plastic fife that I bought in 2009 during one of my final trips back home to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Almost immediately, the day when sour. She insisted on greeting me with a hug. I offered her my hand instead. She tried the force the hug. I stepped back and refused the unwanted touch. Inviting her in, I offered her a chair -- and pointed to her the folding camping chair I was giving her that was too small for me and not returnable to Walmart. Immediately she opened the camping chair to try it out and happily started assembling her flute.

Before I knew it though she had popped out of her seat and started putting stuff in my fridge with barely a "do you mind?" Wanting to be polite, I nodded a half-hearted consent at her boldness. There was no effort to reason with me or really even properly ask. She just did want she wanted in my home, looking around, and treating my home as her home.

When she picked up my fife, she acted puzzled. I pulled my precious binder of sheet music out and found the page where I had carefully curated fingering charts for multiple woodwind instruments, including my fife.

To my shock and without a word or even glance in my direction, she starts to twist precious binder until the page appeared as she wanted. This was a page I could have easily and carefully removed from the binder for her; I had my sheet music stand at ready to set up for her. Instead she treated my music and music binder as hers and promptly broke the spine and the front cover so that things would be as she liked them. As she did it, I speechlessly could not believe my eyes at her audacity. Who comes in to someone's home as a guest and does this sort of thing? I found myself staring and trying to be nice as she switched back and forth between fiddling with my fife and fiddling with her smart phone.

Before I could say anything, I noticed the time. The plan had been for us to walk over a few blocks so I could check my mail on the way. But now we were in serious jeopardy of missing my covid appointment. Alerting her, I quickly gathered up my soft sided cooler I filled with chilled bottled water and with frozen bottled water and ushered her out of my flat, leaving everything a mess in my living room. We enter the elevator. She returns to focusing on her smartphone -- until someone with a dog comes aboard and then she fawns over the dog. In the past 90 minutes she had not bothered to notice me or interact with me as she was that dog. Wanting to be polite, I stay quiet.

We reach her car -- or rather her husband's SUV. I give her directions since the map app on her phone was giving her wrong information. She drives with just one hand on the wheel and the other on the smartphone.

We reach RiteAid pharmacy. You would never know we were together. After finding seats, she gets up to go shopping. When she comes back she's back to the phone to continue the conversations that have so far consumed the day. The only time she speaks to me is to ask me pointed questions about stuff she noticed on my walls, stuff intensely private and absolutely none of her business. The remarks are judgmental and condescending, particularly on the subject of actor Peter Capaldi.

Somehow through all this nightmare I actually see the pharmacist and get my covid shot. But I am increasingly uncomfortable being around Lady West. Still, I want to be polite. I'm hungry and the plans were to drive over across town to get some Arby's, the local restaurant being only open as a drive through. Stressed out and furious, but being polite, I say only to her what I need to in order to get the food and to help her navigate to Sidman to The Ranger mini golf course.

We sit down at one of the many picnic tables between the mini-golf and this neat ice cream shop next door. She barely notices me; she's back to her conversation on her phone. It's as if I were eating alone. A few minutes pass. I eat as much of my lunch as I can before returning the food to the SUV. We go to the front window for the golf course. Lady West plays for my game, though I offer to pay my own way. She insists on the purple ball; I am happy to use blue since I'm wearing my Americana skirt. We start to play.

This game of miniature golf was like none other. Normally when you play a game with someone, you play the game together. We didn't. When it was my turn to play my ball Lady West went back to her phone and continued her conversation as if I were not there and we were not playing a game together. When it was her turn, she had to finish up whatever she was saying before she would put her ball down at the starting point for the hole and actually play it. This went on for the entire 18 holes. While I waited for her I sat down whenever I could find a bench close by, hot in the humid 90F degree weather and more than a little annoyed that she was spending more time chatting on her smartphone than she was playing our game. I was completely invisible to her but because I had no way home without her, knew I had to stay silent about her behavior.

The only time she noticed me during the game was when she needed to sit down and asked me to retrieve for her the water I packed for us. Being nice and wanting some water myself, I took her keys, unlocked the SUV, retrieved two water bottles, relocked the SUV, and carefully found my way back to her. She was, of course, looking at the phone.

Understandably, I could not wait for the game to be over. I wanted ice cream, but by this point I wanted to be home and for her to get her stuff out of my apartment as fast as humanly possible. As she starts up the SUV she quietly mumbles an acknowledgment that she was spending too much time on the phone. I pretend to be okay with it, realizing that if she were in a bad mood she could strand me in Sidman with no way home.

Finally, at very long last we reach my apartment building, finding a parking space across the street from my building. Even now she can't be bothered to cross the street and promptly come with me back to my place: she has to continue her texting/chat whatever it was on her phone. I find myself waiting at the entrance for another ten minutes before she's close enough to me for me to open the security door. When we arrive at my home, she insists I keep the badly neglected and out of tune harp. "I'm coming back to see you again," she asserts. It takes me three refusals to get her to pick up the harp and take it with her. Finally, finally she leaves. Achy from my covid shot, I try to lay down. It's hot. I'm annoyed. The energies in my apartment feel odd and uncomfortable. I am stressed out.

In the days that followed, I process how rude Lady West was and why I was so stressed out. My friends look at the photos and remark about my body language. This was supposed to have been a fun day out. My first break from Johnstown since I moved here many years ago. Instead it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. Never before had someone been with me but completely absent from my company at the same time. she was physically within feet of me, but I was invisible. She claimed friendship, but disrespected me in my own home, treated my belongings as hers, and then demanded I account to her for things up on my walls in the most private portions of my home that she could only know about by snooping. As if my entire life was to please her.

It's not. Lady West is someone I met in the SCA and chatted with sometimes. She was the beneficiary of enormous generosity on my part. Yet she treated me this way.

I have of course unfriended her on social media. I doubt she's even noticed.

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