Saturday, September 13, 2014

Who Knew?

Why do I write about fashion when I don't even know how to comb my hair?
I am - and always have been - "fashion-impaired".  This is not false modesty, nor is it just my opinion, since - on more than one occasion in my life - a kindly friend has gently prompted me to update my wardrobe or do something with my hair.  Usually my efforts produce acceptable, though lackluster, results.
My fashion impairment doesn't stem from a deficit of awareness or inspiration.  I enjoy following fashion and appreciate its importance to the human community.  It provides a visual medium of proof as to where one falls between the ever-shifting dividing lines of society.
For example, one's chosen attire can help identify one as:
  1. Classic or Trendy;
  2. Deep or Superficial;
  3. Wealthy, poor, or middle/working class;
  4. Socially conscious, or Republican;
  5. Sighted or blind.
Without a word spoken.
I am writing about fashion today because I am about to embark on an extended journey, and am doing some research on what clothes I should bring.  Being that I only travel with a 20" suitcase, it is - necessarily - a short list.
Fortunately my friend, Chris, regularly sends me printed evidence about what is going on - fashionwise - in New York, because I refuse to accept what I see on the streets of Chicago.  And, bless her heart, she has just sent me a well-annotated copy of the September issue of the Wall Street Journal's Women's Style magazine, knowing all-too-well that I would be way over-stimulated by a copy of September Vogue.
This is what I learned:
  1. Dior is coming out with some very silly shoes;
  2. Patti Smith lives.  In a good way;
  3. The ad campaign, "Enduring style 10 years with Kate Moss" should have been read out loud (by Kate Moss) before being adopted;
  4. Classic Coach is back, which is encouraging because I've managed to score some second-hand;
  5. People without eyebrows are disturbing;
  6. Pastels frighten me;
  7. Shoes now come in two styles:  "Sister Mary Arnoldine" and "Criminal Conversation";
  8. Interior design is every bit as terrifying as fashion;
  9. There must be a link between Photoshop and depression;
  10. Grey cats are the latest thing in accessories.  I'm putting mine up for sale.
Oh, and one more thing:  the latest rage in denim is "mom jeans".
Yes, you read that right.  The single-most-reviled style in denim history has become de rigueur for anyone who doesn't want to look like they're shopping Norm Thompson mail order.
Who knew?
What could account for this stunning reversal?  For years - if not decades - the words "mom jeans" were synonymous with "antediluvian", only to emerge this season as the hottest ticket in town.  The Internet and fashion magazines are bombarding us with sylph-like creatures looking downright fierce in their mom jeans.
Of course, this has inspired millions of us moms to head straight to our closets and pull out the precious pair of mom jeans that we have hoarded for years and kept out of sight, except on days when we are inspired to clean out our basements.  Splashed by paint, clawed by cats, baggy and faded at the knees, we are now in possession of one truly fashionable item.
And do they make us look fierce?  No.  They make us look like moms.  At least moms without gym memberships, hair colorists, and Botox providers.  Because the secret, which we already know, is that sylph-like creatures look fierce no matter what they wear.  Hell, I could sew together some pillowcases and put them on a sylph-like creature and come up with "fierce".
Which is just as well, because last summer I finally laid out a substantial amount of cash for some quality skinny jeans.  Which are cute, comfortable, and perfect for travel.  So that's what I'm packing.
The other news in fashion is that people are dressing "up" again.  The word on the street is "ladylike", a word of which I have always been fond because it implies that the state of being a lady can be emulated without going the whole nine yards.
How lovely would it be if - in keeping with dressing up and being ladylike - good manners came back into vogue?  I offer the following scenario, played out the other day at my place of underemployment, with myself the victim of a spectacular display of bad manners by some Euro-trash son-of-a-bitch determined to impress me with a demonstration of his superior sophistication.
Some background:  my workplace is dominated overwhelmingly by persons of the male variety and, as a consequence, there exists a wall-size flat screen television that stares at my desk from across the hall because modern men cannot survive without this touchstone of the outside world.  I am treated to its offerings all day long, which means that I know more than I want to about:
  1. The stock market;
  2. World news;
  3. Cars;
  4. Hunting and fishing (seriously, these guys dress up like they're doing ground duty in Afghanistan just to shoot a poor, dumb turkey);
  5. Cialis.
Anyway.  This guy comes up to my desk and says, "You have the best seat in the house."
To which I reply, "Yeah, I'm a lucky girl."
Silence.  Then:
"Well...if that's what you want to call yourself..."
Or what, you bovine-brained bastard?  Maybe I should have said:
  1. "Yeah, I'm a lucky fossil";
  2. "Yeah, I'm a lucky old heifer";
  3. "Yeah, I'm a lucky femme d'un certain age".
Or maybe I should have slapped him.
Or, maybe, and more in keeping with the "mom" theme, I should have hit him with my classic Coach purse.
Now there's a trend I'd like to start.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Your Attention, Please

Bad things can happen when you don't pay attention.
Which is not a bad thing in and of itself.
I am not referring to tragedies and catastrophes, though a lack of attention can certainly lead to these, too.  I am referring those events, born of our own stupidity, just annoying enough to take the wind out of our sails, and occurring with sufficient frequency to make us aware that we fucking don't know everything.  I am talking about the sort of event that hits the reset button on our carefully nurtured sense of self-regard, which can all-too-easily morph into pain-in-the-ass pomposity, a condition which should be treated forcefully and in a timely manner, like a Whack-A-Mole.  A little hubris goes a long way, as evidenced by any number of corpulent white men in America who draw our reluctant attention.  Chris Christie comes to mind, as does Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump.  I'd throw Ann Coulter into the bunch, too, if she were corpulent and male.  Which she may well be, given the powers of Photoshop.
Paying attention doesn't just mean looking both ways when crossing a street.  I believe in portents and omens, much to the exasperation and disdain of my children. 
But they'll find out.  The events of last Thursday prove my point.
If I were a religious person, I could say, "Oh, God did that," which would relieve me from the necessity for further inquiry.  But I'm not, so I don't, though I make an exception for that one time in Boston when I was suddenly visitated by the Feast of St. Anthony Procession & Marching Band.  To this day there is no doubt in my mind that it was a harbinger of things-to-come, and that St. Anthony personally interceded to find my son his fancy-ass job.
I prefer to keep an open mind.
But I never thought I would be receiving messages-from-beyond via a purse.  This is true, as you shall see, and definitely tips the scale in favor of idolatry, would I need to choose.
Here is what happened:
  1. Last Thursday, I took the train to go have dinner with my aunt and our friend Babs;
  2. She picked me up - in her car - at the Walgreens by the train station, having come from a doctor's appointment;
  3. I needed to stop at the bank, which we did;
  4. Then my aunt wanted to stop at a store, which we also did;
  5. And when we came out...
  6. ...the front of her car was gone.
Not the whole front.  Just the part below the hood and above the tires.  Nowhere to be found.  Gone.
What does one do when the front of one's car disappears?
Call the police?  Why?  This was a new one on me, as I would imagine it would be for most of the human race, a realization which made me feel singled out and targeted by some great power capable of inflicting bizarre circumstances on the innocent and unsuspecting.  It lent a note of paranoia to a bemusement so profound that I was rendered speechless.
Fortunately, the arrival of Babs brought me slowly back to myself.  She assured us that it was perfectly legal to drive the car in its present state, and the fact that she somehow knew this jump-started my breathing.  We encouraged my aunt to go investigate the parking lots at the doctor's office and the Walgreens, and we would meet her shortly at the restaurant.
No luck, and a pall of unreality and discouragement permeated the rest of our dinner together.  Some things are even beyond Stoli.
After dinner, my aunt drove me to the train station.  I had a 20-minute wait until the next train and a vague recollection of an excellent second-hand store about a half-a-block away.  It was still there, and it was open.  I walked in.
And someone handed me a large glass of champagne.  Happily, I have long been of the opinion that drinking and shopping are not mutually exclusive.
Now, had I been paying attention, I would have realized that the unexpected arrival of a substantial glass of champagne in my hand was a sign, my first Cosmic Clue that everything was all right.  Better than all right.  Everything was glorious.
But then I looked up.  And there it was:  The Most. Perfect. Purse. In The World.  I am not lying.  I will never have to buy another one.
Emboldened by the champagne, I snatched the purse off the shelf and raced for the register.
"I have ten minutes until my train."
Whereupon which the register line melted away.  
And I was informed that the purse was 50% off.
I made the train with five minutes to spare.  On the train I noticed that the purse was brand new, tags still attached, dust cover included.  Cosmic Clue #2.  And yet I went home and spent the rest of the evening with my spirits considerably dampened by my aunt's misfortune.  My husband regretted that he hadn't joined us for the evening, since - if he had been driving - my aunt probably wouldn't have lost (stolen?  kidnapped by aliens?) a large piece of her car.
"On the other hand," he added, "you wouldn't have found your purse."
My aunt called me the next morning to tell me she had made out a police report.
And then she called me a half-hour later, laughing.  She had gone to the bank to cash a check.  "Guess what?" 
We had forgotten that we had stopped at the bank.
That's where she found the front of her car, lying patiently in wait.  It had just spontaneously fallen off.  Better in a bank parking lot, I say, than barrelling down a highway at 60 mph.  She managed to get it into her trunk, and drove to a mechanic.  Who reattached it free of charge, because everybody loves a good story.
This has left me pondering:
  1. Is shopping, for me, like the slaughtering of a chicken in a sacrificial ritual designed to curry the favor of the gods? or
  2. Was the purse an omen?
Either way, the answer is:  I hope so.
And I have started paying better attention.  For instance, what could be the meaning behind " aggregation of anchovies amassed near Scripps Pier..." (for no apparent reason), in La Jolla, California, looking like a giant, writhing leviathan from the aerial photographs?  They have to be trying to tell us something, though what a multitude of like-minded anchovies could have been trying to communicate to homo sapiens last week is a little beyond the limits of my imagination.
Maybe I'm just reading too much into it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Three for the Road

Every so often, I think about buying a car.
More precisely, I think about encouraging my husband to buy a car, since I don't drive.  I used to drive but was very, very bad at it.  I accepted the fact, quite early in the game, that behind a wheel I was definitely a menace to society.  And though it has been inconvenient at times, both for myself and for the kind souls that have had to ferry me about on occasion, better some inconvenience - I daresay -  than a body count.
In truth, we do have a car - one car, second-hand, held in common with our children on their occasional visits, and unworthy of any insurance beyond the requisite collision  - that has managed to function quite nicely as our mode of conveyance in this ill-conceived, God-forsaken confluence of habitation known in the United States as a "suburb".  But our car is old and ratchet and may be ready to retire and sit in our backyard for four years (like our last one).  Until some gypsies come by and offer to buy it  (also like our last one).  My husband, though possessed of many fine qualities, has difficulty parting with material possessions, a trait that is nicely balanced by my own tendency to throw everything away, often to my later chagrin ("I'm sorry, were those your baby teeth?") and regret.    
Thus, I have recently given some consideration to the acquisition of a (real) car and a driver's license.  I am thinking that, just maybe, I now have the emotional maturity to maneuver a vehicle as far as the train station, the library, and a grocery store. I would trust myself to drive no further and, even then, would confine myself to days when I was in a good mood.  True, I would be giving up the smug feeling of moral superiority that I so enjoy over those who lose thousands of hours of their lives half-listening to books-on-tape and despairing at the realization that the moron who just cut them off might possibly go on to spawn offspring and/or be the deciding vote in the next presidential election. 
And, also true, I would be missing out on a considerable amount of fun.
A train trip into the city last weekend is just one example of how much fun it is, sometimes, to transport with the public. 
My husband and I had found the last two adjacent open seats.  "Lucky us!"  I thought, before realizing that there was, indeed, a very good reason for those two seats to be open.  Kitty-corner from us was a person - male, plethora of tattoos, legs splayed in the air, shoeless feet hooked over the seat in front of him - speaking in angry, ear-rending tones on his cell phone.  I often marvel that people who speak loudly on cell phones while on public transportation can have people in their lives who actually want to talk to them, but then I recall myself and acknowledge that I, too, have been guilty of this same crime on a few occasions and am overwhelmed with guilt and feel contritely grateful to those in my life who actually want to talk to me.  However, the effects of this soul-searching do not extend to charitable thoughts toward other offenders, and I can happily say that I have not splayed any part of my body in public since 1976.
My husband is perilously close to being stone-deaf and refuses to get a hearing aid, citing that the condition holds distinct advantages, and had to wait for the re-telling of the following conversation:
"Fuckin'-A.  And you know what she said to me, man?"
(No.  Do tell.)
"She said, 'No job, no date.'   Can you fuckin' believe that?  Fuck!"
(I can believe it.  But I think what she probably meant was, "No meds, no date.")
This went on for several minutes, and at an objectionable volume, until:
"Okay.  Okay.  I gotta go."
(So soon?)
"Bye, Mom."
At about the same time, I had taken notice of a young man sitting across from us, behind the gentleman with the tattoos who was now singing and swinging his feet.  I took notice because the young man was in the circumstance of being approached by an attractive and stylishly attired (designer sports bra, designer bike shorts, designer bike bag, and super-cute helmet) stranger, a "bicycle" person of the female persuasion.
"Hey, I locked my bike to yours back there."
The young man immediately straightened up (from his own splayed position), pulled the earphones out of his head (cue: powerful sucking noise), and said:
"Go for it."
Now, "back there" meant the three seats in the back of the train car usually occupied by mothers with babies and buggies, pre-empted today by the young man's bicycle.  If my calculations are correct, he now occupied four seats on an overcrowded train but only paid for one, which never ceases to amaze me and is somehow deemed reasonable by lesser intellects.
"Can I sit here?"
(Oh, goody.)
The next fifteen minutes were occupied by an intense discussion of where they respectively resided, which - after much sparring and convoluted explanation - turned out to be, predictably, in the suburbs and with their parents, though "just until I decide what I want to do" and "only during the week, because I spend most of my time in the city."  (Anthropologically speaking, it would seem that in present-day American culture one's degree of attractiveness corresponds directly to one's tenure within the official limits of a metropolitan area.  And rightfully so.)  Hence, it became vital that each conversant carefully establish a level of metro-sophistication consistent with the other's need for such in an acceptable mate.
"Yeah, I was in the 'burbs this weekend because my friend had her wedding at The Arboretum."
(Of course she did.)
(This could be love.)
"Where do you work?"
(No job, ...)
"Oh, here and there.  I'm in construction."
(Translation:  I work with my dad.  Sometimes.  Loser.)
There was an ominous moment of hesitation.
"Well, I'm, like, in finance."
(Like in finance?)
"That's cool."
(Ya think?)
"Like, I'm in investment banking."
(Like, I am so, so glad you're not investing my money.  Can I get an "OMG"?)
"Do you bike a lot?"
(Well, given her elaborate and costly accoutrement, I sure hope so.)
"Not really.  Did you forget your helmet?"
(This could be a deal breaker.)
"Nah, I don't use one.  I hate 'em."
(You should have said you forgot it at home.)
"Yeah, my boyfriend won't wear one either."
(See?  I told you.)
"Yeah, like, this old dude came up to me the other day and really went off on me about the whole helmet thing."
This last statement got the enthusiastic attention of the gentleman with the tattoos, who had stopped singing and was listening intently - as was I - to their conversation.  He turned around suddenly, and shouted:
"Be a rebel, dude!"
An unexpected turn of events.  The suburban bicyclists gave him their polite and undivided attention, probably for the following reasons:
  1. After the mention of the "boyfriend", there was nothing left to talk about;
  2. They suspected that the gentleman with the tattoos lived in "the city", and it was therefore important to demonstrate how well they could deal with "city" people in order to maintain their credibility;
  3. They were scared shitless of this guy.
"Dude, I didn't used to wear a helmet either, dude, but then I, like, - you know - fell off and knocked myself in the head."
(You don't say.)
"Whataya guys up to in the city?"
(Watch out, he smells fresh meat.)
At which point the conversation was promptly and deftly turned to protracted whining about the abuse and mistreatment of bicyclists in an ignorant and uncaring world:
"Chicago cabdrivers are such assholes!"
"Dude, I barely clipped her and she kept crying!  Yeah, okay, she was eight-years-old, but, dude."
In all of Hollywood, there is no one who could write better dialogue.
We pulled into the station.  The gentleman with the tattoos put on his shoes and went to get his girlfriend out of jail.  The construction worker and the investment banker studiously and meticulously spent a minimum of ten minutes unlocking their bicycles.  Until they were sure Elvis had left the building.
This was some quality entertainment, and my husband agreed after I filled him in on what he had missed (using semaphore flags).  Screw cars.  The closest one comes to any significant human interaction while driving a car is road rage, which is unpleasant and usually not at all entertaining.  For my money, I'll take a comfortable seat on a train - after 5, with a cocktail - and let the games begin.  Where else could one witness life's unfolding drama between a part-time construction worker, an investment banker, and a lunatic with potential brain damage?  I particularly enjoyed the bit about the eight-year-old girl. 
And I would love to hear her side of the story. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Post Script

It was too good to last.
Not ONE HOUR after publishing my thoughts on catastrophe-free living and its negative influence on the writer's muse (at least this writer, whose sense of self-esteem and source of inspiration relies heavily on frequent interactions with comparatively inferior beings), I received a telephone call from a pre-recorded voice identifying itself as a representative of the wholesale warehouse club where I occasionally shop.  It informed me that the case of peaches my husband and I had been gorging ourselves on over the previous week had been recalled due to a risk of Listeria.  Which is actually a very unpleasant sort of infection, mind you, in spite of the fact that it has a name reminiscent of air fresheners and the daughters of long-time Kentucky residents.
My first thought was, "How can one recall peaches?"  My husband's first thought was, "Damn!  These are good peaches!  Maybe if we wash them with soap...?" 
Just like a man. 
In this case, my natural tendency to anticipate being hit by lightening at any given moment prevailed, and the few remaining peaches went into the trash.  However, in retrospect, I think we should have taken the peaches back to the seller - audibly retching - and demanded a case of imported vodka in compensation.
The relevant fact about Listeria, which I found out upon a hurried investigation, is that it has an incubation period from one to 90 days.
One to 90 days.  That means, for the next three months, one or both of us could be suddenly struck down by a potentially deadly disease with highly disgusting symptoms.  Of course, this is true of just about everyone and almost any disease.  But still.  I had only lately achieved a tentative sense of being at home in my own private Sea of Tranquility, to be wrenched away by a cruel fate. 
Particularly disturbing, because, finally:
  1. My job had settled into a pleasant, stress-free groove;
  2. I had acquired hardwood floors;
  3. A tornado hadn't decimated my neighborhood in ages;
  4. My bangs had grown out; 
  5. My house had recently celebrated seven whole months of not being on fire.
(Is that too much to ask?  Really?  Maybe a BMI within normal range, too?  Oh, and eyebrows.  Of the two, let's go with eyebrows.)
And now I may - or may not - be incubating Listeria.  Which definitely does not appear on my wish list of situations I would welcome to add a little dramatic tension to my life.
Here is what I would find acceptable:
  1. A kale shortage
  2. An argument with Justin Bierber (in Ibiza) over Miranda Kerr;
  3. Homeless suburban tortoises;
  4. Anatomically correct boy dolls;
  5. The Washington Redskins (who, BTW, could easily change their names from the "Redskins" to the "Fedskins" with very little cost in alterations to their wardrobe and/or decor, and having the added bonus of insulting people who are truly deserving).
But I'm stuck with Listeria.  A three-month grace period.
It will have to do.  For now.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Me and My Wonderfully Horrible, Awful Day at Work

Life has settled down lately.
It almost makes me believe in seven-year-life-cycle theories, since it was almost exactly seven years ago that some not-so-good stuff started happening to me. Some of it was my own fault; most of it was not. Some of it had silver linings; most of it did not.
But, thankfully, there seems to be a lull at the moment. In fact, not only has my life been devoid of cataclysms, but I have had a few nice surprises.  That's a good thing, right?
Sort of. Without jinxing what I hope will be the trend for the next seven years, I confess that my state of beatitude has a drawback: whatever am I going to write about?
Truly, as I have struggled over the past few weeks to come up with a topic that doesn't sound like a dispatch from Hello, Kitty's litterbox, I have come to realize how much of my creative genius relies upon the adrenaline boosts provided me by anger, frustration, dread, and a general contempt for the American middle class. (I can't decide whether this is healthy or not.)   I am like a soldier, home from the wars to find that peace can be a little boring.
However, as I wallowed in my new-found bliss with little more than my upcoming colonoscopy to provide some much-needed dread, Life Itself intervened with a treat for me:  last Friday I was scheduled to work at my least-favorite location, an office in a government building.
There are several reasons why hate this office and this building:
  1. Like most government buildings, this one is dark and dirty and has inadequate temperature control;
  2. The denizens of the building - and hence our clientele - are government workers, who personify the American middle class.  They almost universally share the delusion that they are important, and should be accorded the same deference and awe they feel are due a freely-elected, high-ranking official.  Like the President;
  3. There is one, two-stall, public ladies' room, to be shared with the entire female homeless population of downtown Chicago, many of whom are disgruntled with the treatment they have received at the hands of the government workers, probably for not showing sufficient deference and awe, and they find the public restroom a perfect venue for revenge.  And bathing. 
Anger and frustration ebb and flow.  The American Middle Class is forever. Culturally, if not economically.
So it wasn't long before an incredibly annoying person walked in.
"I broke my glasses."
(I can see that.)
"This is the second time."
(Which does not surprise me, since you weigh at least 300 lbs. and have hands that Oscar Meyer would want to deli-slice.)
"I'll come back for them."
(Okay.  Your name?)


(Got it.)
"Don't you think you ought to write that down?"
(No, Brenda, I don't.  And I already have a supervisor.  Not being a government worker myself, I'm pretty sure I can remember a two-syllable word.  But I am also post-menopausal, so you may have a point.)
An hour or so passed without incident, and then we were visited by a veritable harpy who seemed to step out of a very scary Greek myth directly into our office, and who proceeded to tear into one of the sweet, quiet technicians, who was just sitting there and minding her own business, woefully unprepared for the maelstrom to come.
"It's hotter than HELL in here!"
(Maybe it's just you.)
"I am bringing in my MICHAEL KORS glasses, which I waited FIVE WEEKS for, and which are BROKEN now!  I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!"
(If I stand very still, perhaps she won't notice me.)
(That's what you get for buying a yesterday's-news designer.)


( I completely agree.)
(This is where the technician promises you anything, just to make you go away, though you interpret it as victory-is-yours and calm down a bit.  Noblesse oblige.)
"You know, I'm not yelling at you."
(Yes.  You are.)
"I'm just VERY FRUSTRATED with the whole situation."
(And now we all are.  When will women with big butts realize that a khaki capri is not their friend?)
The technician basically promised Mrs. Harpy that Michael Kors, himself, would be making her a new pair of glasses by hand, which would be ready on Monday, giving her - the technician - time to find a new job on another planet.
The phone rang.  I answered it.  Brenda.
"Did you just call me?"
(No, but maybe it was someone else from this number.  Did you listen to the voice mail?  No, you didn't.  Because pressing one button is so much easier than pressing two.)
"Who is this?"
(This is your doctor's office.  If you had listened to your voice mail, you would know that your glasses are taking a long time to fix - since you managed to mangle them almost beyond recognition - and therefore aren't ready yet.  We will call you when they're ready.)
Silence.  "What agency are you from?"
(Okay, I'll say it again.  More slowly and with shorter words.)
More silence.
"Why did you call me?"

(I'm beginning to enjoy this.)
But my hands-down, personal favorite nutbar-of-the-day was a mousy little creature who apparently forgot to take her medication that morning.
"I would like to have my glasses adjusted.  They're too loose."
(So far, so good.  Of course.  Gladly.)
One of the technicians tightened the glasses - no charge, thank you - and Mrs. Mouse went away.  Only to come back an hour later.
"These are terrible!"
The technician who had helped her before tried to take the glasses to see the problem.  Mrs. Mouse recoiled in horror.
"Not youYou stay BACK!  I don't want you touching them!!"
(Simmer down.  She's not trying to lance your plague boil.)
"You didn't even listen to me!  You just ran off with my glasses and ruined them!  I don't want you touching my glasses ever again!!  You did a terrible job.  TERRIBLE!  I want somebody else!"
(Sure.  Share the love.)
"And if she can't do it, I can find somebody in the suburbs who will."
(Ah, yes, the suburbs.  Where you reside in a little condo, since your husband ran away years ago, in a building full of commensurately demented souls.  Suburbs are such a wealth of talent.  Remind me to move.)
"You didn't know what you were doing.  You adjusted the WRONG SIDE.  They're worse than ever!  They hurt!  I'm in pain!!"
(, pant.)
"Only ONE person has ever been able to adjust my glasses!"
(I believe you.  But don't you find that odd?)
"I'm VERY sensitive!"
(Really?  That must mean that we "non-sensitives" should understand that our only role in life is to provide you with an appreciative audience for your bullshit.)
Brenda came in to pick up her glasses.  You're welcome, Brenda.
But no underemployed workday is complete without a soupcon of adventure on public transportation.  I had decided to forgo a martini-for-the-road, feeling happily inspired from my day-out-with-humanity, and had just settled in with a book for the ride home, when my train car was invaded with young suburbanites, feeling bad-ass after a day at a Chicago beach, giving a loudly spectacular display of the combined effects of sun, alcohol, and a suburban upbringing.  Summertime commuter trains are usually full of these little tourist groups, who merrily harken back to their halcyon days of school buses and field trips.  And, of course, we poor drudges are welcome - nay, compelled - to appreciate their ongoing festivities.
I immediately regretted skipping the martini.
Fortunately - for me, unfortunately for everybody else - the train broke down and we all had to switch to another one on the far side of the station.  Which afforded me the opportunity to avoid the beach party.  And to get that martini.
Recently, I have entertained thoughts of going out and finding fulfilling work - something significant, something I love.  My life now permits this pursuit.  But last Friday showed me that, no, this is what I love.  This is what I live for. 

Who else will speak for The Underemployed?
Maybe I should be moving in the other direction - Walmart,  McDonald's.  Radio Shack.  Sears!  Comcast!  Each day a tour de force of survival.  I'm ready.  Bring.  It.  On.
I think I've found my calling.  And it was right here all along.

Friday, July 4, 2014


The Fourth of July is an American holiday which commemorates the Declaration of Independence of the United States from England in the year 1776.  In a nutshell, the actual Declaration of Independence was a document that politely requested England to take their toys and go home.  The English said no, and what ensued was the Revolutionary War, a nasty business at best.  To be fair, the English were not bad as far as colonial oppressors go, at least on the North American continent, and certainly there were a great number of colonials ("loyalists") who were pretty much okay with the status quo and appreciated the help fighting Indians.  But contemplating the state of affairs in places like Ireland was enough to convince the more rebellious element amongst the colonials ("patriots") that even something as innocuous as a tax on tea wasn't going to lead to anything good.  Amidst mounting tensions, the non-European residents of North America were probably rolling their eyes and hoping that both sides would get back on their ships and disappear, but this didn't happen, and thus began the United States of America.

On this solemn occasion, I am taking the opportunity to do some musing on the topic of freedom.
In particular, I would like to say a few words about the Supreme Court of the United States.
To begin with, the Supreme Court of the United States is more and more commonly known by the Twitteresque acronym of "SCOTUS" which, for some reason, brings to my mind "scrotum" one of those awful words that comes to English from Latin to identify things of a sexual nature.  On account of this unfortunate word association, I am - at present - predisposed to thinking of the Supreme Court as "icky".

Wouldn't it be better to call them, "The Supremes"?

That being said, I now turn my attention to their recent ruling on "buffer zones".  In summary, there are some people who are anti-abortion who have been offering something they call "sidewalk counseling" to people entering health care facilities that provide the procedure to which they object.  In response, many of these facilities have resorted to establishing buffer zones of various size around their entrances, since some of this sidewalk counseling has tended toward the overzealous.
The sidewalk counselors say that this violates their freedom of speech.  The health care facilities say that their patients have the right to freedom from harassment.
The sidewalk counselors won.  Personally, I think that if certain like-minded citizens chose to display the same enthusiasm for sidewalk counseling in front of gun shops, this case never would have made it to the Supreme Court.
Without raising a moral or religious issue, I confess to being on the side of freedom-from-harassment.  And I was disappointed at the ruling.
But there's still hope.  Because, now follow me closely here, it is still legal - at a local level - to establish, not buffers, but bubbles, harassment-free floating buffer zones surrounding individuals.
And I am ALL for that.
In Chicago, where I live, the bubble zone is an 8-foot radius.  I want to know how I, as a private citizen, can apply for one of these.
Think of the possibilities.  For example, here is a list of people I would keep outside of my bubble:
  1. Religious nutbars;
  2. People who haven't bathed in more than two days;
  3. People in suits who are talking on mobile phones and using the word "feedback";
  4. People wanting to stop me on the street to talk about "the environment";
  5. People wearing more than one designer label;
  6. People whose entire vocabulary - nouns, verbs, and adjectives - consists of various forms of the word "fuck";
  7. People with small, unhappy children;
  8. Politicians;
  9. Clowns;
  10. Anyone with the job title of "regional manager".
My husband thinks there should be prenuptial bubble contracts, too.

I'm with you there, babe.
But never pass a law you can't enforce.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Business Psych 101

I have just arrived home from New York, a city where EVERYBODY dresses better than you do, except for the people in Penn Station waiting for New Jersey Transit. 
Previous to this trip, New York - for me - was synonymous with Manhattan, an error that my daughter was determined to correct.  Consequently, she took me to Flushing, which besides having the most amazing Chinatown in the United States, provides one with the opportunity to see signs like "Keep Flushing Clean" and t-shirts that say "I Love Flushing", and goes to show you what kind of fun can be had when you're in a place named with a gerund.  Similarly, while in Flushing (which is located in Queens), one would  - I presume - eventually espy something saying "I Love Queens", which is also fun, and thus the same rule applies to nouns.
I had a great day there, and I encourage travellers - upon arrival in New York - to go to Times Square and catch the #7 train to Flushing.  When you get to Times Square, avail yourself of the opportunity to shop at the local H&M.  It may very well be the most perfect place on Earth, in spite of the fact that, if you should decide to buy something, you will spend an inordinate amount of time waiting to make your purchase, especially if you are in line behind someone trying to do an exchange, which takes a minimum of twenty minutes and a three-fifths majority in Congress to transact.
(On this vacation, I was also planning spend a day on pilgrimage to my husband's childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn, until I found out that it is, for all intents and purposes, in the Bronx.  He refuses to accept this.)
Some things I learned on my trip to New York: 
  1. Fashion continues to dictate that all females, under the age of 70, need to be five inches taller than what nature intended.  This needs to be explained to me in short, easily understood sentences;
  2. The behavior of smart phone users leads me to believe that nobody, not ONE person, ANYWHERE, AT ANY TIME, is with the person they actually want to be with; 
  3. It is never a good idea to sing opera in a subway tunnel.
I learned something else, too:
  1. Air travel has become ridiculously expensive;
  2. Especially if you're flying to or from New Jersey;
  3. Maybe because nobody flies to New Jersey anymore;
  4. Perhaps because they're afraid Chris Christie might suddenly shut down a runway, just for the fun of it.
Upon expressing my concerns about the future of aviation travel to my son, he told me about Jet Blue.  According to him, Jet Blue:
  1. Is cheap;
  2. Allows you to check a piece of luggage without charging you .0005 percent of the gross national product;
  3. Does not fly out of ratchet airports.
But most impressive:  They give you free chips.  That's right.  Free chips.
"Free chips?"
"Yeah, I ordered a drink and they asked me, 'Do you want chips or cookies?'"
"For free?"
"For free.  And apparently, you can have unlimited quantities."
This was a stunning revelation for me, so stunning that it took some time to completely grasp the psychology at play here.  Yes, you could buy a bag of chips before you get on the plane, but...WOULD you?
The answer is no.  What you would do, in this age of in-flight food deserts, is to consider buying a bag of chips as you wandered aimlessly through the airport, waiting for your boarding time.
You would consider the calories, the fat and/or sodium content, the price, the sordid lure of junk food.  You would do this and continue to wander aimlessly until it was time to board and then say to yourself, "Screw it, it's only a three-hour flight."
And, chipless, you would get on the plane.
No, the "yes-to-chips" moment comes when someone hands you a cocktail.  Jet Blue understands this.  "Do you want chips or cookies?"  "Yes!  A thousand times yes!  Bless you.  And your descendants to the tenth generation." 
You will never forget it.  The timing is perfect and they have earned your eternal love and gratitude, with little cost or effort to them.  These people are fucking geniuses.  Obviously, a company that displays this level of perspicacity can surely be trusted to fly a plane.
Business psychology at its resplendent best. 
I'm sold.