Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What Would You Do?

The other day I was on a conference call at work. I held the phone to my ear and listened to the conversation unfold. Then a heard it. It. The worst noise I have ever heard piped directly into my ears.

“So,” crunch crunch crunch crunch, “when the {work related jargon} and the {work related mumbo jumbo}…” crunch crunch crunch, “then what happens?” client asked.

“Um, I’m sorry, what?” I asked distractedly.

Crunch crunch crunch “The {work related stuff} at the {work related place}, how does that work?” crunch crunch crunch.

“I’m sorry, can you say that again?” I asked, fighting the urge to swallow a thumb tack in an effort to scratch the itch that developed on my spinal cord.

See, client was eating while on the phone with me. She was chewing the world’s crunchiest food, and thought that I might want that noise amplified over my ear drums and directly onto that spot in the middle of my back that was causing me to shudder uncontrollably at the sound. I cannot stand it when people eat while talking on the phone. Not only is it gross for the person on the listening end, it’s rude. I just want to shout out “Can’t you wait just a few minutes before stuffing your face and loudly chewing into my ear? What the hell is the matter with you?”

So, what would you do in this situation? You have a client on the phone who is eating while they are talking to you. You are on the verge of losing it, because you are completely grossed out by having someone chew in your ear. Do you:

A. Let it go. They’re a client, after all, and they are paying you to do the work. Suck it up.

B. Passive-aggressively ask, “What is that noise? There seems to be some sort of interference on the phone. Do you hear that? It sounds like a crunching noise…” and hope that they take the hint and stop eating.

C. Just flat out say “Will you please stop eating? It’s very distracting.”

What would you do?

The real life me, went with response A, then after I hung up I had to do the “skeeved out” dance. You know the one. I’ll bet you’ve done it. It’s that maneuver you where you say “Blech” a lot, and you shake your hands rapidly, as if you have mud and dog poo on them. Then you do a full body shake, as if you are a dog that just rolled in something thick and stinky.

The pretend me, however, would go for option C, and pretend me would still have the respect of the client and still be gainfully employed after the call was over.

The things we put up with to make a client happy.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

“Way Better Than I Thought”

A few weeks ago, before the school year started, I had a phone conversation with my 14 year old niece, Maggie. It was a few days before she was going to start high school and her mom—my sister in law—had told me that she was nervous about it.

“You know,” I said to her, “I remember I was nervous about starting high school. I mean, there would be so many kids who were older than me. I mean, the difference between a 14 year old and a 17 year old is pretty big. The seniors even looked like they were bigger than me.”

“That’s exactly it,” she replied. “They will be a lot older than me.”

“It’s going to be OK,” I said in what I hoped was an assuring tone. I had gone to a microscopically small high school, just like Maggie does. “You’ll meet the seniors everywhere, and you’ll make friends with them. You’ll sit next to them in band, you’ll play sports with them, and all that stuff. And yes, some of them will be jerks and some of them will hurt your feelings. It’s just life, you know? You’re going to meet a jerk everywhere you go, right?”

“Yeah, I know that,” she sighed. I could hear the tension in her voice, and my heart broke just a little bit at hearing it.

Her first day of school came and went. The first week came and went, too. I held back on calling her to find out how it went, because I wanted to give her a chance to settle into it first.

Tonight I called her, “So, you’ve been in high school for a few weeks now. How’s it going?”

“It’s way better than I thought,” she replied, excitedly. “I am having a lot of fun.” She told me about how for the first few days she hung back and tried to get the lay of the land. Then a senior girl she knew approached her and introduced her to some people, and now she’s making friends every where she goes.

“There’s this weird boy in my grade, everyone calls him weird. And, well, he is weird. But one day I talked to him, and he’s so cool! We’re really good friends now,” she reported.

“The weird ones are almost always the more interesting ones anyway,” I mused. I love hearing about the world from the perspective of my nieces and nephews. Maggie told me how her French teacher is “so weird” and I thought back to the odd French teacher in my own high school, and how the Spanish teacher is always made fun of in every single high school all over the US. She went on to tell me about how she asked her math teacher why certain theories are true, and the teacher basically responded with “That’s just how it is.” Maggie expressed her frustration at that answer, just like I had at age 14. I sat there wondering if things had changed at all since I was in high school. I heard her talking about some of the same exact things that I observed when I was in school. Then I shared with her one of the more important things I learned about math.

“Maggie, there are certain things in math that are just given, and you’re going to have to accept them. You are curious and you want to know the why about the what. But it’ll make you nuts. If you just accept that certain things just are, then you’ll be a lot happier,” I advised.

We talked some more about her friends, and she said “You know, I can see it in the other kids how they try to be cool, and all I just say is ‘Hi, I’m Maggie’ and I am making friends and having fun, you know, just being myself.”

I sat there holding the phone and listening, as I grinned ear to ear. Maggie has stress induced alopecia. Just before the school year started, her hair fell out of her hair in clumps, to the point where she wears a hat or a bandana to cover it. And tonight she expressed such confidence and such comfort in her own skin. This 14 year old girl has lost most of her hair, and already knows that all she has to do is just be herself and she’ll have a blast in high school no matter how her hair looks.

I have never been more proud. And I have never been more inspired.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Spotted Fin Butterfly Fish

It happens every year. The Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean shifts. The warmer water migrates north, and with it come tropical fish. Normally the fish here in Rhode Island are a dowdy grey, and even brownish. But in September and October the fish glow yellow, orange, blue and green. Gossip spreads through the dive community about who caught what exotic fish for their aquarium. Last year a friend of ours caught a rare lion fish for his tank. Last weekend another friend of ours caught a sea horse for her tank. I’ve never seen a sea horse in the ocean, and my lucky friend caught one.

Here's a lion fish, like the one our friend caught, photo credit: www.taba-heights.co.uk/DivingSnorkeling.html

On Sunday Todd and I went diving at Fort Wetherhill, on the southern tip of Jamestown, Rhode Island. We saw the usual lobsters hiding in the rocks, and the dowdy looking fish. But this time I saw two spotted fin butterfly fish. Then the same friend who caught the sea horse before, also caught a spotted fin butterfly.

This picture is kind of like the fish I saw on Sunday, photo credit: piddlefish.com.

I am terrible with fish names. I can never seem to get them to stick in my mind. But a few years ago I saw two clown fish--you know, like the ones in Finding Nemo. The kicker is I saw these clown fish on a dive just off of Newport.

This, my friends, is why I dive.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rabbit Proof Fence

I’ve seen the dingo fence when I travelled in Australia. It’s a chain link fence that extends almost to the center of Australia from the east coast. It was originally built as a rabbit proof fence, but was later converted to keep wild dogs away from the sheep farms in the south eastern part of the country.

In the western half of the country, the state of Western Australia, there is a network of rabbit proof fences that extend for thousands of miles. These fences were designed to keep the rabbits on one side, and the farms on the other, and were erected in the late 1800s. While not as impressive as the Great Wall of China, it’s still quite a feat to nearly bisect the entire continent of Australia with a chain link fence.

More than a decade ago I visited the Tandanya Aboriginal Culture Center in Adelaide, Australia, twice. The first time I visited they were running an exhibit on the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children. The Stolen Generation consisted of children whose mothers were Aboriginal (native Australian) and fathers were Australian (white men). These children were dubbed “half-caste” by the Australian government. These children were forcibly removed from their Aboriginal homes by the government and forced into camps and dormitories as early as the late 1800s and into the early 1970s. The idea was that these children would be educated and introduced into Australian society, and eventually the Aboriginal would be bred out of the generations that followed these children, thus solving the “problem” of half-caste children.

The removal of these children was done as part of the Aboriginal Protection Act of 1869. This act gave the government guardianship over the Aboriginal people. The brutality of removing the children from their Aboriginal home only served to displace the children from their own world, and from the world that the Australian government forced them into. Despite their “education” they were never accepted into Australian society, and were too far removed from their Aboriginal home to ever go back to it.

I walked the exhibit and spent hours gazing at the photos of scads of children dressed in uniforms, not a smile on a single face. I read about the conditions they lived in at the dorms, and the so called education these children received there. The Stolen Generation had lost touch with their families, many of them to never see or hear from them again. The sadness of the exhibit has haunted me ever since.

Tonight I just watched the movie Rabbit Proof Fence in my Todd’s-away-and-Beej-stacked-the-Netflix-queue binge. It was a beautifully done based on a true story movie about three half-caste girls from their village called Jigalong in Western Australia. (Oh, and Peter Gabriel did the soundtrack! I LOVE Peter Gabriel. It just doesn’t get any better than that.) In the beginning of the movie the three girls were ripped from their mothers arms in the early 1930s, despite the village’s efforts to hide and protect the girls. They were placed in the Moore River Native Settlement. After some time there the three of them escaped the settlement.

They determinedly dodged almost every attempt to be captured by an Aboriginal tracker that worked for the Australian government, and ended up spending nine weeks walking along the rabbit proof fence that was erected in Western Australia, their only landmark from their home. Over the course of the 9 weeks they walked 1,500 miles just to get home.

Just to give you some perspective, this is a map of the rabbit proof fences and the track that the girls walked to get home:

It's hard to see, but there's a dark blue line that starts in Moore River, on the east side of the map, just north of Perth. Then you can follow it northeast to Jigalong. Keep in mind the terrain there is very rough, portions of it are desert. And these three girls, age 5-14 walked the whole way.

If you’re looking for a historical drama that will draw you in, I highly recommend this movie. The bleakness of the Western Australian scenery is stunningly gorgeous, the music is great, and the story is both chilling and inspiring.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Two Sphinxes

The Husband in Vegas update stands at: up by $2,000 from the three card poker tables, 1 proposition from a prostitute, and two Cirque du Soleil shows. Never mind the fact that I’ve always wanted to see Cirque. He went without me. But then I went without him to a movie on Friday that he’d wanted to see. But it’s not the same. Cirque du Soleil, twice, versus Tropic Thunder? It hardly compares. The only reasons why I didn’t go with him were that I still don’t have the vacation time at work piled up, and it’s the busy season now, and we’re prohibited from taking more than two days off in a row. No, I am not jealous. Nor am I bitter. Nope. Not at all.

The busy season’s been interesting, to say the least. Today I came back from lunch at 1:20, then the next thing I knew it was 3:40. I had a meeting at 4 and I hadn’t yet prepared for it. Where did the time between 1:20 and 3:40 go? I have no idea. And this isn't the first day this has happened, and I imagine it won't be the last.

My dogs have taken it upon themselves to be the men of the house in Todd’s absence. Sure they doze when I am just chilling out and watching TV. But the moment we go upstairs to sleep, they take their position on the foot of the bed. They sit like a pair of sphinxes, facing the door of the bedroom.

Sometimes Griffen will drop down to the floor and stand at the top of the stairs, staring down with his head cocked to the side as if to say “What was that? Wait. There it is. Did you hear that?”

Then Nemo will pop down from the bed, and stare with his brother, his hackles slightly raised, as if to say, "Yeah, I heard it too. Do you think they have steak?"

"No, they don't have steak, you moron. But wait, if it's Todd he might. It could be Todd," Griffen cocks his head to the other side.

"Do you think we should check it out?" Nemo half barks.

“Guys, there’s nothing there, come on to bed,” I’ll say. They hesitate at the top of the stairs for a moment longer before turning back to the bedroom. The tiptoe into the room, easily jump back onto the bed again, and assume the position of two sphinxes standing guard as I read, waiting for intruders bearing steak.

And then one of them will get distracted from the vigil and try to hump my shins.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Forced Inactivity

It’s Sunday afternoon, it’s raining, and I have a husband who is in Vegas. So far today all I’ve done is wake up, then take a nap, eat and watch movies on TV. And you know what? I am enjoying every minute of it. Oh, and you have no idea how psyched I was to find a little packet of Skittles in the pantry. Score!

Todd just called from Vegas a bit ago; he’s been there since Thursday and will be home next Thursday, so I have a husband-free week. It’s awfully quiet in here.

And what will do with my husband free week? So far I’ve gone to the movies on Friday night, then yesterday afternoon some of my oldest friends came over to try their luck with my cooking. We sat in the living room talking about their upcoming wedding and I studied the both of them, and thought back to how long I’ve known them.

I met Krista roughly five minutes after we moved into our dorm freshman year of college. She lived on the first floor and I lived on the third. She was friends with a girl who lived on my floor that I was friends with too. Eventually the other girl on my floor moved on to friends that were cooler than Krista and I, and she faded from our circle. Krista and I, however, remained good friends. (I wonder whatever happened to that other girl…) Krista’s soon to be husband was one of my teammates on the track team in college. We both high jumped, so we spent a lot of time together in the gym jumping over a bar and falling into pits made of foam. A few years ago at my 30th birthday party they sat next to each other and flirted shamelessly with each other, and on November 1 they’ll say their vows. If you told me that would happen when we were all in school I would have said you were crazy. In fact, I’d still say your crazy, but I think I’ll stop saying it on November 2nd.


I’ve been a bit absent from the blog. Work’s been heating up lately, and I’ve been pretty tired every night when I get home. Life stuff has also been a bit busy, and I’ve barely gone straight home after work lately. Please bear with me, I’ll post when I can.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Life has been hectic since we came back from Florida on Monday, sorry about not posting sooner. Here’s the rundown on the adventures we had on vacation.

On Monday we headed over to the boat, and just as we were about to leave the dock two of my co-workers were walking by. They walk every day at lunch time from our office, which is located just a few blocks away from the boat. I catcalled out to them and they hesitated a bit and kept walking. Who knew that they would respond when I yelled out “Hey! Hoochie?” We set sail for Newport and just puttered around town for a few days—no big whoop.

Thursday morning we woke up at 3AM and lamented having ever moved from our old house that was located 3 miles from the airport. Groggily, we boarded our plane then landed in sunny Ft. Lauderdale. We cruised around for the afternoon and then prepared for our two days of eight dives.

The two days turned into three hours. The eight dives turned into two dives. The ocean was choppy on Friday afternoon, and we had two lousy dives. The first dive was to 90 or so feet, and the divemaster on the boat buddied us up with a man who was on his own. Once we got onto the anchor line, I was experiencing some technical difficulties at 30 or so feet. My mask was flooding and I couldn’t fix it because the current was so strong. I was afraid that if I took both hands off the line I would get swept out of position. I struggled with my mask, and looked to Todd from behind my rapidly filling mask. He and our dive buddy were further down the line and eventually they escaped my line of sight. I fussed with the mask some more, and spotted the divemaster pulling himself down the line with one hand while holding his spear gun in the other. He blew right by me as I held onto the line, alone and out of sight from the rest of the divers on the boat. He didn’t turn and flash me the “Are you OK?” sign. Nothing. He made his way down the line, and I jerked against the line to capture his attention. No response from him as he slipped further down the line and out of my sight.

Then I started to get mad. I wasn’t just mad. I was furious. I was furious with Todd for ditching me and I was furious with the divemaster for blowing me off. I made it to the surface, climbed back into the boat and told the captain what had happened. I fixed my mask, jumped back in and made my way down the line. At approximately 50 feet I encountered Todd as he was on his way back, and at that point I didn't get the chance to communicate with him about what happened. At that point, for all I knew, he ditched me. He’s never done that before. Though sometimes on a shallower dive he’ll wait for me at the bottom as I slowly equalize my ears on descent—but in that instance he can see me. On this particular dive he slipped out of sight and I was left alone on the line.

“Are you OK?” he signed to me.

I flipped him one finger, and I’ll let you guess which one it was.

He held up both hands as if to question, “What?”

I pointed to myself, then to him, and then pressed my hands together as if to say “You and me are supposed to be buddied up.” Then I held my hands as if to question him, then propped my fists onto my hips as if to say “What the hell happened to you?”I scowled at him as well as I could have with a regulator in my mouth. We descended to 90-ish, explored the wreck for a few minutes and then slowly made our way back up the line and climbed into the boat.

He asked me what was wrong, and I told him that I was furious with him and didn’t want to get into it just then as I didn’t want to be that couple on the dive boat that fought in front of everyone else. Then on the second dive we were so disconnected from each other and had a lousy time of it. We hauled ourselves back into the boat, and barely said two words to each other all the way back to the dock.

In the car we talked about what had happened on the first dive. Our dive buddy took off down the line and didn’t wait for us, you know, like a dive buddy is supposed to do. Todd, worried for the man’s safety, followed him down to the bottom. He found another buddy pair and told our buddy to go with them. Once he was sure that he was safe at the deeper depth, he started to climb up the rope to find me. His logic was that I was at a safer depth and less of a worry, while our dive buddy was going to be deeper and more of a risk at that depth. My logic was “How on earth could you abandon your wife and chase a stranger down without knowing that I was OK?” We quickly resolved the problem, and resumed our vacation. In hindsight I know he was right. Though in the heat of the moment I was pissed. We said our apologies, and salvaged the rest of the trip.

The weather cancelled the last of our dives. The wind roared and the ocean boiled. We made the best of it by exploring the land instead of the reefs and wrecks. We rented a power boat and explored the Intracoastal Waterway, which is something we’ve always wanted to do. We ate at Dairy Queen so many times that we began to call it “Daily Queen.”

All in all a good vacation, even though we don’t have any photographic evidence. I think I took only three pictures while we were in Newport. I didn’t take my camera to Florida because we hauled the video camera and the underwater housing there, hoping to record our dives. But the dives were cancelled. It doesn’t quite feel like vacation without having the pictures to prove it.

Oh well, we’ll just have to go again.

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