Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Behind the Ladies Room Door

The last time my in-laws visited, a month ago or so, we went to lunch at a family restaurant that has a few locations in Rhode Island. It is not a particularly fancy restaurant, but they are known for their impossibly fabulous cakes which I daydreamed about from the moment we sat down in our booth.

Before our lunch arrived I got up to use the ladies room. I was at the sink washing my hands when an old lady struck up a conversation with me.

“You know, I’ve written to the manager of this restaurant and asked him to move the waste basket in here,” she gestured toward the trash bin, located just under motion sensing electronic paper towel dispenser. She waved her hand in front of the sensor, and the paper towel shot out the bottom of the machine. “See? The clean paper towel ends up inside the trash can. And then I have to wipe my hands on something that’s been in the trash. It’s not sanitary,” she complained.

I reached over, shoved the can under the sink and said “There you go.” She smiled at me, threw her paper towel into the newly relocated trash bin, and walked out of the bathroom. I returned to the booth and told Todd and his parents about the interaction I just had in the ladies room.

“I mean,” I spoke of the incident, “I can’t wait to be old so I’ll have enough time to write to the manager of a restaurant to complain about the location of the trash can in the rest room.” We laughed as our entrees were served.

We ate our meals, Todd and I shared an obscenely large piece of cake, and then my mother-in-law excused herself to the ladies room. When she returned she was laughing, “The trash can is back under the paper towel dispenser. That little old lady is going to be so mad.”


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


It’s raining out. The sky has this color to it that can only be described as “blah.” The busy season, for me, has largely ended. I still have a few events coming up in the next 3 weeks that require my attention, but they are largely on auto pilot. This coming weekend is a 4-day weekend, and the anticipation of having 4 days off has sent my already narrow attention span to dangerously slim proportions. It also does not help that my excellent husband is working from home today. Let’s just slap a giant pair of air quotes around the word “working” and call it a day, shall we?

We are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time ever this weekend. Todd’s parents will come in from Vermont, and our friends John, Jen, Sean and Heidi are also coming over to celebrate with us. Todd will pick up our turkey from the farm a ½ mile down the road from our house this afternoon and begin the elaborate turkey preparation tomorrow which involves the word “brining.” I think that’s like marinating, but different. Good thing I am not the cook in this family. We’d all be making sculptures out of inedible mashed potatoes around the table while our guests casually checked their watches and exchanged glances that would only mean “When can we blow this popsicle stand and get a Big Mac?”

The Saturday before last we met our turkey. We arrived at the farm, and followed the farmer to the pens where gaggles of turkeys were housed. He vaguely pointed to a big one in the middle of the pack and told us it could be our turkey. We stood there, not knowing exactly what to do. I mean, there’s an animal that would soon be on the end of my fork happily gobbling away with its other pen-mates. I think we must have somehow complemented the farmer on his turkey growing prowess before we dodged the mud puddles and made our way back to the car.

But until I dangle the forkful of neighborhood turkey near my open mouth, I still have about 12 hours of work to go. And I swear the clock just ran backward a little bit.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Street Legal

I think I may have written before about my extreme dislike for the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles, and my disdain for anything even remotely bureaucratic. So, imagine the nausea that welled up inside of me when I noticed that the registration on our pickup truck had expired several months ago. I swallowed back the bile and proceeded to ignore the “March 08” sticker on the corner of the license plate, then casually mentioned it to Todd a few hours later.

“You mean to tell me that you were unemployed for seven months, and you didn’t bother to go to the DMV?” he asked me with a tone of disbelief. I can’t imagine why he’d speak with disbelief. He knows full well that I’d rather peel the skin of the tops of my feet with a pair of rusty pliers than go to the DMV. I mean, how could he possibly be surprised that I had approximately 140 business days to get that done and I didn’t try at least once?

I think I responded to his disbelieving question with something resembling a long “Ummmmm” as I tried to come up with a damn good reason as to why I didn’t go to the DMV. My reason, of course, came out as a garbled “Snurg, plip, kurkel, splat” as I fumbled to find my damn good reason. He rolled his eyes, shook his head and went back to cooking me dinner.

“So, now it’s going to be my problem, huh?” he asked, irritated.

“Well, it doesn’t have to be a problem, per se. Look at it as an opportunity to drive our truck legally. I mean, if you get it registered we can speed again without fear of eventual arrest and prison for life. And you are so much better at the DMV. You have that tractor beam of cooperation thing going on. They take one look at me, then check to make sure their paper shredder is plugged in. I am telling you, the DMV hates me!”

“So, you mean to tell me that you can’t register the truck because the DMV doesn’t like you?” Again with the disbelieving tone.

“Well, when you say it like that, it makes me sound crazy. But it’s true! The DMV hates me.”

“Um hmmm” he sighed as he dished out the dinner he’d made onto plates.

This morning I spent approximately an hour calling the DMV over and overto check, double check and then confirm what I needed to get the job done. See, the truck used to be owned by the dive shop. The dive shop was sold, we kept the truck. Unfortunately I couldn’t just keep registering the truck in the name of an entity that no longer exists. So I had to give the truck to myself, and pay the sales tax on it all over again. (Isn’t there some sort of law against double taxation? Wasn’t a shitload of tea dumped into Boston Harbor over that very issue? I digress.) On the third or even fourth time I spoke to the DMV this morning I listened to the operator’s probably obnoxiously long acrylic nails clicking on a keyboard on her end of the phone.

“OK,” she breathed out, “It looks like the fair market value of your truck is $13,600. So you need to pay 7% of that to register the truck.”

“What?” I asked, trying to tame the outrage that was building inside of me, “We spent $10,000 on that truck 3 years ago! How is it possible that the market value is $13,600? That’s more than I bought it for 3 years ago!” (Pretend Me was leaping out of my chair and pounding her fists on my desk “Yeah, whose definition of fair is that, anyway? Listen, you little cow, that’s just plain robbery.” Real me held up her hand and told Pretend Me to calm the hell down.)

I went to the DMV and sat for two hours. I had all the forms, and a near ream of paper that would serve as proof of this and proof of that, neatly filled in and stashed in my purse. I took my number from the machine and read on the ticket that my wait time would be 2 hours and 9 minutes. I ignored the wink from a Ricky Riccardo look-alike, and buried my nose in my book and tried to squash the guilty feeling of skipping out on work for 2 hours. Just under 2 hours, my number was called. I stood up and quickly straightened my shoulders before they called the next number to leave me waiting for 2 hours all over again. I put on my friendliest voice and set my near ream of paperwork on the desk.

I chewed the inside of my cheek as the woman behind the counter inspected each piece, as if she were looking for something to bust me on. I expected her to say something to the effect of “Oh, I see that the dot on this ‘i’ isn’t actually over the ‘i.’ Sorry. Next!” Because, well, that’s exactly how it would happen in my world. Todd would roll in with the TR-1 form printed on a cocktail napkin, and he would be granted more plates than cars we have, you know, in case we need them later. Then the woman behind the counter would then offer him a homemade brownie from scratch and call him “honey.” But I roll in there with everything impeccably filled out and get called out on something completely innocuous, and then be asked to provide a homemade brownie from scratch.

But today was different. I may have not been offered a homemade brownie from scratch, but I left the DMV with not only a finished book that needs to be returned to the library, but brand spankin’ new license places. Valid license plates, even.

And I am totally making Todd stand out in the cold to put those plates on the truck tonight.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Trip Down Amnesia Lane

There is a woman I work with, a part-time temp who is in college and has an internship in Providence. She’s in her early 20s and can only be described as vivacious and spectacular. She came into work wearing a suit and learned that she had a job interview that day. I asked her where she interviewed, and I was brought back to a job interview I had gone on when I was in my early 20s.

I was fresh out of college and trying to start up my career. I was trying like hell to move to the Boston area, and several times per week I drove to Boston from my home state of Connecticut for interviews. Talking to this woman at work about her interview yesterday brought me back to the summer of 1996 when I went on an interview that sounded exactly like what she had described.

I was 22. I drove to Woburn, MA, just north of Boston, to meet with a prospective employer about a marketing position. I must have struck a chord with the hiring manager, because I was invited back that Friday for an “Observation Day.” On Friday morning I donned my periwinkle blue silk suit, purchased on the cheap from the Chadwick’s catalog. I put on an off-white shirt underneath it, and threw on a pair of off-white heels that matched the shirt perfectly. I examined my reflection, ran my hands through my hair, removed the small silver hoop I still wear near the top of my left ear that my mother warned me about. “They’re going to think you’re weird if you show up there with that thing. They’ll never hire you with that on. Take it out, please.” I pulled the car out of the driveway and headed east until I arrived in Woburn.

I looked around the reception area at all the eager faces attached to bodies in suits. I assessed the competition as I sat down. I was called into an office and introduced to Manny. Manny had been with the company for several months, and was promoted to a training supervisor position. Also in the room was a shy looking girl named Jen who wore a long, floral print skirt and sensible shoes. Jen was already hired to work for the company and would spend the day getting trained by Manny while I would observe.

We piled into Manny’s car and rode to Lowell, Massachusetts, about 20 miles northwest of Woburn. On the way to Lowell, Manny briefly explained how the company conducts its “grassroots marketing” campaigns. He was careful not to divulge any details as we drove to Lowell.

He parked the car on a street, and pulled a stack of brochures out of his trunk. Jen and I walked behind him; at that point I don’t think I’d yet heard her utter a syllable. We followed as Manny walked to the front door of a house and knocked. A woman answered the door wearing a loose fitting tube top, a faded tattoo on her arm that may have been a picture of an anchor, fried hair that had been bleached several months before, and a silver tooth in her mouth. It was then that I learned precisely what “grassroots marketing” was. Apparently grassroots marketing is a fancy way of saying “door-to-door” sales. Manny finished his pitch for the pager service he was selling. The customer at the door raised her eyebrows, and then reached down the front of her tube top to retrieve her own pager. They compared pager plans, and she signed up for the one that Manny was selling.

We went on to the next house. Then the next. The sun began to climb in the sky, and the August heat began to settle in. I felt the sweat drip down my back, and down my legs. My feet began to swell in my high heels that I’d begun to regret wearing. After half an eternity we ended up at Subway for lunch. Jen still barely spoke, and I began to seethe at the idea that I had been duped into following Manny around as he sold beepers door to door. I decided that I would just keep my mouth shut and blow off the company at the end of the day as Manny was my only escape at that point.

We walked up and down the streets of Lowell. Lowell has some scary looking streets with a variety of riff raff lounging on the porches, staring uninterested at Manny as he recited his pitch over and over. Finally we made it back to the car, Manny had managed to sell a half dozen pagers. Jen tried her hand at a sale or two, but her pitch was barely audible as she uncomfortably mumbled it to her prospective customers. We piled into Manny’s car, and headed back toward Woburn.

“So, what do you think of what you saw today? Are you ready to hop aboard?” Manny asked, eagerly.

“Um, no,” I said politely.

“Are you sure? Once you pay your dues you’ll get promoted to management and you’ll make six figures in about a year,” he pressed.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Beej, with every job you have to pay your dues. You might as well pay your dues at one where you’ll get something out of it. You will get promoted to management after a year,” his eyes glazed as I wondered how much Koolaid he’d been drinking.

“And what will you do when you’re a manager? Send other people to Lowell to sell pagers? And while you are waiting to be made a manager, what are you doing for money? How much could you possibly be making doing this?” I asked.

“Hey, do you mind if we pull over. I know that Jen wanted to run an errand on the way back,” he pulled the car off the street. Jen got out of the car and stood at the side of the road as we pulled away. “I’ll come back and get her. No sense in keeping you when you know that you don’t want the job.” I looked back at Jen, who stood on the side of the road and watched Manny’s car pull away.

We didn’t speak as we drove back to Woburn. He left me in the parking lot, smugly wished me luck in my job search, and then pulled out of the parking lot on his way back to where he’d left Jen.

Today the woman at work had her “shadowing day” for the company she interviewed. I am 99% sure that it’s the same sort of scenario that I had encountered back when I was 22. Since then I’ve honed my crap filter and learned what questions to ask when seeking a job. Yes, I did once end up in the back row at a hotel ball room listening to some clown convince me and a room full of people to sell water filters—but I stood up and walked out after listening for five minutes.

I imagine that the girl at work is honing her crap filter tonight as I write. And I imagine that Manny is probably living off the grid with a group of “brothers and sisters” that have re-named him “Moon Shadow.”

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gaping Hole in My House 2008

When Todd and I bought this house, we knew that the front doors needed to be replaced. They were drafty, and we expected that the one at the very front of the house, at the bottom of the stairs, would likely fall into the house with a stiff wind. Being the do-it-yourselfers that we are we decided to take on this project by ourselves.

The first front door, the smaller of the two, went in without too much hassle—that is until we got to the expanding foam portion of the install. Todd sprayed the foam, which resembles puffy Easy Cheese, into the gap around the door and we watched it expand. And expand, and then expand some more. It oozed out of the gap, and began to drip onto the floor. I mopped at it with a fistful of paper towels, and before I knew it my hands were coated in spray foam.

We finished the clean up, and I noticed that the spray foam dried on my hands. “No matter, I thought to myself, it’ll come off in the shower.” Todd glanced at the can of spray foam and noticed the giant letters at the very top of the can that said something to the effect of “Wear gloves when you use this stuff, or else the spray foam residue will be stuck to your hands for a week and will be excruciatingly painful to try to peel off and will even make your knuckles bleed in spots from when you were overzealous and tried to pick the stuff off square millimeter by square millimeter.”

We learned a valuable lesson with the spray expanding foam. I even went out and bought another can of it, with an air of arrogance. I left it on the floor of the passenger seat of my car for the installation of the larger front door. Last week, Todd had been driving the Jeep to work so that he could take the dogs in with him. One day he was pulling into work, and Griffen—who completely lacks in impulse control—got excited and jumped from the back and into the front seat in anticipation of spending the day in Todd's office and getting pet by Todd's co-workers. In his excitement, he kicked the cover to my armrest compartment, which has been broken for more than a year now, and it fell onto the floor of the passenger side of the car. The very sharp screw, that is still on the armrest cover, lined up in precisely the right angle and punctured the can of expanding spray foam that was waiting on the floor mat.

Expanding foam sprayed out of the can and all over the car. It sprayed, and expanded. Sprayed and expanded. Then sprayed and expanded some more. He pulled into the parking lot at work, and frantically threw the can out of the car and scooped expanding foam out with his hands until the car was clean. He began to attract a crowd of laughing co-workers as he scooped and scooped foam that was expanding as he tried to clean it up. Without gloves on, of course.

At any rate, here are some snaps of the construction.

I like to call this one "Gaping Hole in My House, 2008."

This is the first door we installed.

This is the big front door. It weighs roughly 4,973,452 pounds, and we lifted it approximately 573 times over the course of the installation.

This is the front door from the outside. We're debating on whether to paint it black, to match the garage doors. What do you think, Internet?

And this is my impossibly handy, MacGuyer-esque husband standing in the lawn admiring our hard work.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You Can Dress Us Up...

...but you can't take us anywhere.

*photos courtesy of Jeff Brum
Todd slipped his tie around my neck, then commandeered the ribbon from my top and tied that around his head, and began his new life as Toddbo: Avenger of Kamikaze shots.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For Every Cloud There’s a Silver Lining

I came home from work tonight at 6:30. I was fully prepared to chill for a few minutes, and then log in and get back to work again, as I’ve been doing nearly every night for the last three weeks or so.

I walked up the stairs to the bedroom, looking forward to taking off my ass-kickin’ boots and jeans and throwing on a pair of jammie bottoms. I was tired. All day long I had a pain behind my left eye that could only be described as if my retina was too small for my eyeball and couldn’t keep up with the strain of processing colors and shapes all day long.

I reached the top of the stairs and was assaulted with a foul odor that instantly burned the inside of my nose. I held my breath as I grudgingly made for the bedroom door, behind which the dogs had been all day long. I opened the door and the stink oozed from behind the door and poured into the hallway. I braced myself against the wall, let out a breath and tried to no avail to take in a clean one again. I switched on the light and saw the offending brown and red smeared into the carpet. Tears formed in my eyes, and I hid my nose and mouth behind my shirt. I saw that one of the dogs had a nasty accident on the carpet, and I couldn’t tell whether the red was blood, or that the offending hound had ingested something red.

I sighed, and lamented not staying later at the office. I headed for the stairs and opened the under sink arsenal. I armed myself with carpet cleaner, fabreze, rubber gloves, scrub brush, plastic bags, air freshener and a candle. I knelt on the bedroom floor and sprayed, scrubbed, sprayed and scrubbed again.

The phone rang, and I answered it without checking the caller ID. “Hi Ms. Blahblah, this is Jen from your undergrad alma mater. How are you doing tonight?”

“Well Jen, not so hot.”

“Why’s that?” she asked, cheerfully.

“Well, I just got home from work, and my dog's bowels had exploded on the bedroom carpet while I was gone. I am now scrubbing poo from my carpet.”

At that point I swore I heard a giggle. I listened closer, and sure enough the giggle grew into a chuckle. Then Jen couldn’t control herself anymore, and let out a full laugh. A laugh. A telemarketer laughed at me, for the patheticness of my existence. There I was, practically asphyxiating from not wanting to breathe, and a telemarketer was laughing at my plight in my ear. This is a person whose job is to call people and annoy them, and she was laughing at me because at that moment her life was way better than mine.

“Well, I guess it’s not such a good time for you, is it?” she asked after managing to collect herself. “I’ll try you at another time,” she giggled and hung up the phone. I could imagine Jen dabbing the laughter tears from her eyes before she could call and annoy the next alum on the list.

So I think I’ve cracked the code on telemarketers. The way to get rid of them, apparently does not lie in the do not call list. All that needs to be done is to talk about dog poo.