Always read the fine print

Or in this case, the regular-sized print.

This morning our secretary was out. I unlocked my office door (chai in hand), flicked on the lights and the computer, and got ready to have a peaceful morning. I had a ton of work to do, but was hoping for a quiet, interruption-free zone in which to do it. And then my boss stuck her head in my office to tell me that our secretary was out sick and to ask me if I'd mind covering the front desk. Actually, what happened was she stuck her head in my office and I, knowing by the look on her face what was about to happen, groaned "nooooooooooooooooooooooooo" before she could even ask, but the result was the same: me, disgruntled, at the front desk.

Turns out I was only needed for an hour, so I tried to put on my friendly customer service face.

After I'd been at the desk a while, a student ran into the Center and asked me if I had a pen he could borrow "just for a second, just to sign something." We have a million pens, so I handed him one. He ran out.

And he never came back. Which is fine, and doesn't matter, except that it's just weird. I mean, why not ask if he could have the pen? I wouldn't have cared. I'm very generous with writing utensils, having borrowed many myself. Why say you'll bring it back "in one sec" and then... not?

Whatev. The pen was from a drug rep and had the name of a vaginal suppository on it. So there, sticky fingers.


If you're not playing the game, you're losing it

I hate the politicking that goes with doing your job. It's not enough to do it well, you have to be able and willing to make sure everyone knows - all the time - what you've done and just how well you think you've done it. Because as it turns out, if you don't promote your own work someone else will promote it for you. Only they'll accidentally forget to mention your name.


Alphabet abuse

It's new territory for me that no one can seem to correctly spell or pronounce my last name. Which is not that hard of a thing to do, but somehow it's hard for people to do it.

Last week I was on the phone trying to order my free credit report from one of the reporting agencies. It was an automated system, so it was kind of annoying to start off with since you have to do a lot of "press one to continue in English, marca dos a continuar en espaƱol." So by the time the computerized female voice prompted me to give my name, the frustration was already brewing.

Automaton: "Please say, and then spell, your last name. For example, if your last name is Smith, you would say Smith, S-M-I-T-H."

Me: "Common Irish last name, X-X-X-X-X-X."

Automaton: "Thank you. I heard Krakowski, K-R-A-K-O-W-S-K-I. If this is correct, say yes. If this is not correct, say no." For her to say, and then spell, all this in her computerized voice took FOREVER. Plus, um, wha?

Me, impatiently: "Seriously? NO!"

Automaton, clearly thrown by the use of the seriously: "I'm sorry, I didn't understand your response. Let me repeat what I heard. I heard Krakowski, K-R-A-K-O-W-S-K-I. If this is correct, say yes. If this is not correct, say no."

Me, accepting that going off-script with my responses would only slow things down even further: "NO."

Automaton: "Okay. Let's try again. Please say, and then spell, your last name. For example, if your last name is Smith, you would say "Smith, S-M-I-T-H."

Me, having dramatically thrown my body into my office chair while she'd repeated the directions for a second time: "Common Irish last name, X-X-X-X-X-X." Twisting the cord around my neck for no one's amusement but my own.

Automaton: "I heard Xanvanken, X-A-N-V-A-N-K-E-N. If this is correct, say yes. If this is not correct, say no."

Honestly, she really did say a last name starting with X. Whose last name starts with X? I have never in my life met someone whose last name starts with X.

Me, unable to control my frustration: "For Christ's sake, NO!!!!"

Automaton, clearly thrown by the whole Lord's name in vain thing: "I'm sorry, I didn't understand your response. Let me repeat what I heard. I heard Xanvanken, X-A-N-V-A-N-K-E-N. If this is correct, say yes. If this is not correct, say no."

Me, attempting to regain some meager amount of control (I mean, why I can't just say 'no' without embellishment is beyond me): "NOOOOOO." Defeatedly untwisting the cord from around my neck and resting my head on my desk.

Automaton: "Okay. Let's try again. Please say, and then spell, your last name. For example, if your last name is Smith, you would say "Smith, S-M-I-T-H."

Me: "COMMON IRISH LAST NAME, X-X-X-X-X-X." If I say it louder, she will hear it better.

Automaton: "I heard Eshkashem. E-S-H-K-A-S-H-E-M. If this is correct, say yes. If this is not correct, say no."

At this point, I finally hung up. Okay, okay, I let loose a stream of expletives and then finally hung up. But it didn't take long for my anger to melt away into sadness. I no longer have an idiot-proof last name.

But I don't take all the responsibility for that miserable exchange. The automaton was way off given the sounds and letters I provided. I mean, I don't have an idiot proof last name, but I also don't have an afghani one.


Running hot and cold

You know how exhausting it is when you never know what you're going to get from someone? When sometimes the reception you receive is warm and loving and other times it's cool and distant? And you never know what's at the root of the temperature swings?

Well, that' s how I feel about our apartment hot water heater.

About a week and a half ago is the first time I took an entirely cold shower. Since the hot water in our building is always consistent (and available), I figured it was a one-off. All the same, it stuck with me the entire day. I'm always chilly as is, and a cold shower is genuinely torture for me. I shivered until I gratefully crawled under the covers that night.

I'm one of those people who loves water, particularly when it's scalding hot. I find it therapeutic to heat myself from the outside in and turn my skin a steamy, splotchy pink. Sometimes it's like I can't get enough heat - I often lay on the couch with a heating pad on my stomach just to warm my core. More than once I've let it get so hot I've given myself a lasting heat rash.

So imagine my disappointment when I came home from a long workday last night at 9:30pm, dropped my bags on the floor, shed my coat, and ran to turn the bathtub tap on only to find cold water spouting out. I'd had my heart set on a bath. (It's kind of odd, recently when I come home at night I find myself craving a bath, feeling like nothing else will help. I think it's this crap weather combined with the increasing stress I've been carrying around with me like a personal accessory.) Faced with the crisis of not getting what I want when I want it, rather than completely melt down I instead set up camp on the couch with the heating pad and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer dvd, and I stayed there until almost 2am. I can't explain that - I was so overtired it was like I couldn't sleep.

This morning I woke up to what is now becoming a familiar situation - no hot water. I endured the shower for as long as I could and then hopped out, mopping dry my still-soapy, unconditioned hair. Not a fantastic start to the day, especially since an outfit conundrum shortly followed.

And as if a cold spell is following me, now I'm sitting in my office and the entire building is without heat. Everyone's complaining, which allows me to sit quietly while the calls to facilities and the jokes about icicles growing off of people's noses are being made. Fading into the background I can wallow in self-pity as I type this post with my gloves on.


Visual thought projector on the fritz

Last night one of our friends, L, was talking about how another friend was spending the weekend attending a home and garden show. L didn't understand why.

"I mean, she doesn't even have a home or a garden! What's the point?"

Our other friend LA interjected, "I think she got the tickets for free."

L frowned. "Just because she got free tickets doesn't mean she has to go. I mean, if I got free tickets to a wrestling tournament it doesn't mean I'd go to it." After a little more thought, "Well, actually, I might go if it was wrestling. I'd definitely choose wrestling over home and garden."

Not entirely convinced she had effectively communicated her position on the matter, L continued. "Like, if I were standing in front of two doors, and one was marked 'wrestling' and the other was marked 'home and garden' I would totally go to the door on the left."

We sat for a moment in silence, brows furrowed, each of us wondering if the Irish whiskey we'd consumed in various St. Patrick's Day themed drinks had gone to our heads. Finally her husband voiced what the rest of us were thinking. "And the door on the left is....?"

"Wresting," L said.



If you were looking at this from where I'm sitting...

Tonight we have some friends coming over for our annual St. Patrick's Day corned beef dinner (all Husband). So today we've been doing housekeeping and cooking in between running errands and spending some time at the gym.

As I'm sitting at the dining room table eating my lunch Mookie calls so I chat with him for a while. He is calling, first and foremost, to 'thank' me for teaching his dog the really funny trick of stealing the mail and running circles around the living room furniture, because as he's on the phone with me he's also in hot pursuit of Sadie, trying to reclaim a first class letter. I tell him I'm glad to have contributed during her formative puppy years, and impressed to learn that all this time later she's still playing our game.

Secondly, he's calling about taxes. He's wondering if we've done ours yet, and if we've used the form he sent me. I tell him we haven't yet gotten around to that, and we're not sure if we will be hiring someone to do that for us or doing it ourselves since this year our taxes are proving to be a bit complicated. Mookie suggests, for what it's worth, that we try to do our taxes ourselves. He feels we would gain better insight into the world of taxes if we sat down one weekend afternoon with the forms and our calculator. Then he says,

"Now, I realize you guys are incredibly busy and have so much going on in your lives that you might not be able to find an afternoon to do this..."

As he is talking, I look over to see Husband sweeping the living room floor. In an attempt to get all of the furniture out of the way, he's dismantled the papazan chair and is currently wearing the stem of the chair around his neck. He has very wisely arranged the papazan stem so that his arms align with the holes and thus he still has the use of them. He totters around the living room, occasionally waving his arms around like a giant, off-kilter jack-in-the-box puppet.

"Yes," I answer Mookie with the utmost seriousness. "We are very busy and important people."


Hero discovers mud

(under all that Minneapolis snow!)

Husband's brother and his wife got a new puppy a few months ago. A quote from P: "Hero's getting bigger and fluffier by the day!"


Wine, gooey cheese, and games

Last night we went to a friend's apartment to have homemade sangria, Chicago-style pizza (direct from Chicago), and play Rummikub. Don't ask me, I didn't come up with the combo.

Rummikub is such a fun game! I've never played before. We played in teams, since there were six of us total (two couples), and you can't have more than four players. So the team aspect may have made it a little more fun than it otherwise would have been. It's possible that the sangria also made it a little more fun than it otherwise would have been, but it wasn't very strong sangria.

Husband and I won the first round, and we're both novice players! We were about to win the second round, but Team Sexy & Single beat us to the punch. Which put a little damper on my enthusiasm for Rummikub but I still totally want to play again. We don't have nearly enough game nights, in my opinion.


Oh baby!

My oldest and dearest friend is pregnant! It was a surprise to hear, but the very best kind of surprise! Yay! Congrats, P!

I know 5 people who have recently gotten engaged, and now one with a baby on the way. Keep it coming, friends! I enjoy watching other people's lives explode with happy news, since mine won't be exploding again anytime soon :) We're still basking in the aftermath of our most recent life changes and gearing up to face some new ones this summer as we prepare to relocate our family of two.


All that glitters

So we all know that I visit Starbucks so consistently that the baristas have become part of my extended Boston family. My favorite barista is a transgendered person. She's very sweet, is always really friendly to everyone, and doesn't have the sort of bitter barrier that I imagine I'd have if people were constantly judging me. Which, hey, maybe they're not. But I bet they are, which only proves how jaded I am.

One of the things I love about this barista is how daring she is with accessories and makeup. She paints her eyelids in bright greens, pinks, and blues, usually with glittery accents. Her lips are fushia, again with a glittery finish. And her earrings are long, dangly, and sparkly. It makes me happy just to see her in the morning. She's like a rainbow.

I was talking to Husband this morning, describing the sparkly and the glitter. I asked Husband why he thinks transvestites or transgendered people are more likely to look so bright. Husband thinks it's because they haven't had a lifetime of practice at being a woman. He asked me what my makeup would have looked like if I'd been allowed to wear makeup when I was, say, five. I had to smile at the thought. Yeah, it would have been glittery. And sparkly.

The thing is, I look at the glitter and the sparkly through my grown-up perspective and I still think she looks beautiful. Not magazine cover beautiful, but like she's somehow managed to capture the essence of the word. There's something about this barista decorating her face that makes me appreciate being a woman. It's like the chore of makeup isn't one to her, like it's more of a gift to be able to express yourself in such an obvious, on-your-face way.

I also can't help but think that this type of female expression costs her - that she wears flashy makeup and earrings despite the bigotry she might endure as a result. She fights to declare her inner gender. In the barista's glitter I see determination, fire and hope. Hope that we can create our own identify by spending $10 at the local CVS and insisting that what we desire be ours, and that the world see it, face it, whether they like it or not.


Just for looking

A couple of weeks ago Husband and I went to the aquarium. Just because. I love the aquarium. I feel like I could go there every weekend. It's so peaceful, and there's so much cool stuff to see! Also it was almost the site of my first date with Husband. Except that when we went there after work, we found it was closed. Then we went to McCormick and Schmick's and had fish for dinner. Which is kind of gross. While we were there we had a great bottle of wine, and I talked to Husband at length about hair product. You know, what kinds are good, which ones are too sticky, which ones smell the best. Then at the t station on the way home I tried to tell Husband the story about how once the escalator at Porter Square started going backwards and people fell off of it, but I got the giggles. So I couldn't tell it right. Plus it's not really funny to tell stories about people in danger. At least, it's not funny to tell them to people you don't know very well. It's a miracle we ended up married. Husband must have thought I was cute enough to make up for the social awkwardness.

Anyway... back to our most recent aquarium visit. We saw a jellyfish exhibit. Either we always time it just right so that we catch the jellyfish exhibit, or it's a permanent one, because I feel like every time we go it's jellyfish time. Which would be quite a coincidence. I do find jellyfish to be very interesting in a lifeless, do-nothing, blobby kind of way. But it would be better if we timed it just right and always caught the monster shark exhibit, or the giant eel exhibit, or some other exhibit that's simultaneously riveting and revolting.

Big jellyfish, liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle jellyfish. These are the size of dimes. Wack, isn't it?

The penguin exhibit is definitely permanent. I hate to admit it, but I don't like penguins. I know, I know, it's like saying you don't like babies, or puppies. It makes you wonder what gene you're missing that everyone else but you can see and absorb their cuteness. I fell asleep during The March of the Penguins and I won't apologize for that. I mean, thicken the plot a little, Morgan. Hit me with some character development.

The New England Aquarium has this giant tank in the middle of it, and you walk around a spiraling assent until you get to the top. There are windows all along the tank and every time you reach a new spot you see something different. If you wait long enough, and if what you're trying to see is circling the tank, eventually it will come by. When you reach the very top you can look down into the tank. At the top we saw sea turtles and it reminded us of Hawaii. I was so nostalgic I almost felt raindrops. And then I almost felt a downpour. And then I almost felt hurricane-like winds... well, you get the idea.

The stingrays were also hanging out at the top. They seemed to travel in pairs. Makes sense. Less boring.

This really cool fish is now my screensaver. I forget what it's called or what it does.

But you can't touch it.