Saturday, November 29, 2008
Age of model: 25
Bare-chested guy in jeans, six-pack abs and great pecs, leaning against a junky car.
Age of model: 30
Construction worker, standing next to a late-model pickup truck, holding blueprints. This guy’s so good-looking that you think he’s probably gay.
Age of model: 35
Hot guy in Dockers and polo shirt, bedroom eyes, holding open the door to a Cadillac, smiling into the camera
Age of model: 40
Guy in a well-cut suit, sitting at a desk, still hot, smiling more with his eyes than his lips
Age of model: 45
Guy in a custom-tailored suit, a little silver at his temples, still hot, leaning against a black BMW 7 Series sedan with his arms crossed. A smile plays at the corner of his mouth.
Age of model: 50
Luxurious silver hair, great tan, standing in front of a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet, holding a bouquet of long-stemmed roses.
Age of model: 55
Silver-haired, not all that hot, holding out a diamond bracelet. He's smiling, but with his lips closed.
Age of model: 60
Black tie, paunch, standing in front of a Lexus LS 430, his teeth may be dentures
Age of model: 65
White dinner jacket, silver hair, balding, a chauffeur is holding the door to his Rolls, not what anyone would call hot, and he’s kind of grumpy looking (a la Dick Cheney)
Age of model: 75
Standing in front of his huge house with his walker, even more bald, kind of frail – looks kind of like a baby turkey -- but not quite so cranky looking.
Age of model: 80
Sitting in wheelchair in a marble foyer, his bony shoulders and concave chest don’t fill out his expensive bathrobe. A curvaceous blonde in a nurse’s uniform stands beside him.
Age of model: 85+
In a hospital room, on life support. The blonde now wears diamonds and furs and she looks very happy. In the hallway outside the door stands Mr. January.
Friday, November 28, 2008
I’ve got those steadily depressing, low-down, mind-messing
Working at the job fair blues…..
It was in the early 1990’s, when unemployment was hovering around 7.5%, while working for a department store chain headquartered near Cincinnati, that I worked my first job fair.
There were supposed to be at least four staffers working our booth, but, for whatever reason, I was the only one who showed up. Someone from HR came by, looked relieved to see that we had a presence, and promptly disappeared, leaving me with a line of potential applicants that stretched back to what appeared to be infinity.
As I scanned resume after resume, shaking hands and assuring applicants that I would pass their info on to the appropriate manager, I observed several things:
- A surprising number of people feel the need to cough into their hand in a loud, productive manner, immediately before shaking yours.
- Although people may be anxious to find work, this eagerness does not necessarily translate into good hygiene.
- Desperation causes people to abandon good manners and ignore all the people in line behind them while they monopolize the one poor schmuck working the booth for up to five minutes.
- There are a lot of weirdos out there.
This final point was brought home to me when a 6’3”, 150 lb. man in a chartreuse, crushed-velvet tuxedo, complete with tailcoat, reached the front of the line. He doffed his top hat, removed a single red rose, held it out to me and said, “You will never forget me.”
It turns out what he was looking for, as best as I can recall, was someone to help him make a connection with someone in some middle-Eastern country – Iran? Syria? – so that he could market some product he’d invented. I have no idea why he thought he’d find that person at a job fair, and even less why he’d joined my queue, since the booth was clearly marked as belonging to a domestic retailer. And, I have no recollection what the product was.
He was right about one thing, though.
It’s been nearly twenty years, and, by golly, I’ve never forgotten him.
Also, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who's reading, and everyone who's passing the link on to others. I had a goal of 100 hits a week by Christmas, and I've already surpassed that.
Now, back to work on today's entry, so that I can accomplish my other goal, publishing on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday of each week.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Ask your boss: "Is this because I caught you doing the nasty with that blonde from the mailroom?"
Haggle over the severance package. Compare it to mythical packages from other companies.
Deface the framed poster that lists the company's core values with the single word "Bullshit" scrawled in dry erase marker.
Sing "Zippedee-doo-dah" at the top of your lungs as you pack your stuff. Bellow the part that goes, "My, oh, my, what a wonderful day!"
Make up a rap song about the HR lady and serenade her, complete with simulated turntable noises.
Do Brando in Streetcar, dropping to your knees and wailing your CEO's name.
Shout: "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty I'm free at last!" as you exit the building.
Stop at a bar on the way home and knock back a shot of Jack Daniels with a beer chaser at ten in the morning, thinking about your family history of alcoholism -- what better time to exploit that legacy than now?
Visualize what the department will be like for those left behind. Picture them posting a sign that says, "Take a Number: 50. Now Serving: 3."
Imagine a scenario where your boss realizes he made a mistake and calls you and begs you to come back, giving you a raise by way of apology.
Make a deal with God that if he'll just let this not be true, you'll start tithing like you promised.
Think about the woman who was laid off in the last restructuring. She had nine years of experience and an MBA and she's now working as a telemarketer.
Pull into your driveway promptly at 5:23 like nothing's wrong.
Go through the motions of eating dinner, gnawing your way through meatloaf that morphs into granite when it hits your stomach.
Notice that your daughter's front teeth are starting to overlap and think about your dental insurance, which expires at midnight.
Listen, for the umpteenth time, as your wife brings up the Caribbean cruise she's been lobbying for.
Tell her everything is fine until your voice becomes brittle and too loud and she falls silent.
See the look on her face when she comes back from the garage and realize she's seen the box perched on your back seat, and she knows, she knows.
Tutor your son on the impact of the Monroe Doctrine on current events and wonder where you get off teaching him anything when it's clear that if you knew your ass from a hole in the ground you'd still be employed.
Watch "CSI” until the kids are packed off to bed and it's just you and her, staring at each other.
Sit beside your wife on the couch and hold her as she cries and tell her you love her, and it'll be okay, and you'll figure something out.
(Author's Note: I wrote this several years ago, after an earlier round of cuts, when we laid off a guy who had three kids with Muscular Dystrophy, all chairbound.)
Sunday, November 23, 2008
On the one hand, we have the conservationists, who believe every sheet beyond the bare minimum constitutes a crime against nature. On the other, the hygienists, who consider that thin ribbon of paper to be all that stands between mankind and germ terrorists.
My husband, like my father before him, belongs to the first group. He feels that toilet tissue should be treated as a precious resource. Based on a tip he heard on TV, he squashes the toilet paper rolls before he mounts them on the dispenser, so that they don’t roll freely, but bump along, a square at a time, until you give up in disgust and take what you’re given.
And he’s by no means the most extreme. Growing up, I had a girlfriend whose father decreed that four squares were sufficient. And he knew that, given 200 sheets to a roll, if his four daughters used the toilet an average of three times per day (five on the weekends), a roll should last two to three days.
All I can say is, this is clearly the viewpoint of someone who shakes and dabs, as opposed to owning real estate that actually needs to be de-moisturized. Sara was my best friend from age 6, when we met in first grade, to 12, when she moved away, so I don’t know if he adjusted his formula in response to the demands of puberty, but if not, there was some really unpleasant drippage in that house.
My step-daughter, on the other hand, leans to the hygienist ilk.
The term “cheapskate” has sometimes been bandied about among my husband’s offspring, though he prefers to think of himself as prudent. His tightfistedness is second, however, to his reticence. This is a man who, when he goes to buy underwear, checks to see who’s working the register. If the clerk is female, he puts his purchase back on the shelf and returns another day. So, when the amount of toilet paper we were buying doubled soon after his youngest daughter came to live with us, he found himself caught between the Scylla of shyness and the Charybdis of cheap.
One day when she was in the bathroom, he motioned me over to the door.
“Listen,” he hissed.
Concerned that she might be in pain, I joined him, but it was not an organic noise, but a sort of rattling “wheeeee” sound, like a cardboard spool performing rhythmic gymnastics.
“You need to talk to her about this,” he said.
I shook my head. I’ve done enough step-parenting to know that my input should be limited to, “Thank you,” “Nice job!” and “Are you sure you have enough money for lunch?”
“She’s your daughter,” I said.
He stewed about it for a while and, as I could have predicted, chose not to address it.
He got his revenge, however, when she called a while back, complaining that her 4-year-old had fed the end of a roll of toilet paper into the bowl and then pulled the handle.
Because today’s hygienists are tomorrow’s cheapskates.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Last year, Nebraska passed a safe haven law, allowing parents to drop off children at designated hospitals without fear of legal reprisals. It was the last state to do this, but their law had a different twist: there was no limit on the age of the child being left.
Now, they’re dealing with an influx of parents, even parents from out-of-state, dropping off teenagers.
The only question I have is: why didn’t they see this coming? Is there not one single parent of teenagers in the entire Nebraska legislature?
Because anyone who has ever survived an American adolescent knows that every parent, at some point during those long, long years between 13 and 20, fantasizes about driving his or her offspring out a lonely country road, slowing the car, then pushing the child out the door and speeding away in a cloud of dust and maniacal laughter.
My own daughter was a great kid. Good student, good citizen, athlete and popular. You couldn’t ask for better.
And yet, the year she was fourteen, I thought I was going to have to kill her. To this day, when I ask how old someone’s daughter is, and they reply, “Fourteen,” I automatically respond, “I’m sorry.”
Although I don’t have any deep beliefs against corporal punishment, we didn’t spank her, because she didn’t need it. (With this exception: when she was two years old, she went through a phase where she was out of control at the grocery. She’d grab things off the shelves, try to climb out of the cart and – this was the worst part – hold up her little arms to total strangers and beg to be rescued – “Help me! Help me!” After several humiliating weeks of this, we told her, in the car just before entering the store, that if she did any of these things we would spank her when we returned to the car. That happened two weeks running, after which her behavior improved.)
The year she was fourteen, however, I remember taking her and a friend of hers shopping. I asked the friend something, and Anne, evidently deciding it was an inappropriate question, answered for her. I don’t remember what she said, but I do recall the jut of her hip and the curl of her lip. And I remember hissing “If you ever speak to me in that tone of voice again, I will slap you so hard you will have to pick up your mouth on the other side of this store. Do you hear me?” And I remember her eyes growing huge as she nodded. We never had that conversation again.
My husband tells a story about when one of his daughters was around that age. He asked her to do something, she refused and it escalated. They reached the point where he threatened to spank her and she responded, “You can’t. I’ll call Children’s Services.” Which meant he had to spank her, of course. Afterwards, he handed her the phone. “Call them,” he said. She declined.
The purpose of these child abuse anecdotes is this: both of these teenagers grew up to be wonderful, successful women; good citizens with good jobs who are a source of joy to their parents and pride to their communities.
But if they were growing up in Nebraska today, they’d be on their way to foster care.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The 70-year-old said, “My health is pretty good. In fact, my life would be perfect if I could just take a healthy piss.”
The 80-year-old nodded. “My health is pretty good, too. In fact, my life would be perfect if I could just take a healthy shit.”
The 90-year-old shook his head. “Every morning at 7 o’clock, I take a healthy piss. Every morning at 8 o’clock I take a healthy shit. My life would be perfect if I could just wake up before 9 o’clock.”
This is not my joke.
I heard it on HBO back in the 1980’s (maybe even the 1970’s) on a pre-historic version of “Last Comic Standing.” The winner told the joke as a John Wayne impersonation. It turned out that, even though he was very funny, comedy wasn’t his true love and he couldn’t wait to ditch her for the girl of his dreams – directing movies. He used his 15 minutes of fame (okay, it was more like 90 seconds) to beg for an opportunity to do that.
If anyone remembers his name, please leave a comment. I’d like to research what happened to him, because I’m interested to learn whether he was successful in making the transition.
Because here’s the thing: this is a guy with perfect comic timing, but he didn’t really like comedy.
He reminds me of a programmer I used to work with. She was really good – she once wrote a nine-dimensional table (even if you’re not a programmer, just try to conceive of tracking something in nine dimensions – it makes my brain hurt to even think about it) but she hated office work. She wanted an outdoor job. So, she quit and became a meter-reader for the local utility company. And, up until the day that a Doberman chewed off a big chunk of her right calf, she loved it. (Despite some very weird stuff that happened to her, like the guys playing poker who locked her in the basement and kept laughing while she pounded on the door, trying to get out, or the guy who led her past the open door of a room where he had his naked girlfriend tied to the bed.)
It’s hard for me to fathom someone who has a gift to excel at something, but isn’t really interested in that thing. It would be like Mozart saying, “Music’s not really my bag. What I really want to do is carpentry.”
Or, I like to think, me spending the last 33 years in IT, instead of writing this goofy stuff.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been unable to control my hilarity. Starting with rebukes from my uncle, a Baptist deacon, for snickering in church and progressing through reprimands from my high school drama teacher for succumbing to the giggles, I’ve never had much luck in containing myself when something strikes me as comic.
A few weeks ago, this trait got me kicked off jury duty. I wasn’t given a reason, but, based on the prosecutor’s sharp-eyed reaction to my responses during voir dire, she thought I was taking the case way too lightly. I wasn’t. I was taking the voir dire process, with its stern lectures and forced feeling of solemnity, lightly.
Early in my IT career, during a training session for a new accounting system, the instructor described a general ledger update program that, for some reason, had been titled “GLGLGL.” Even though he said, “gee el, gee, el, gee el,” I heard “glglgl” – the sound of someone’s Adam’s apple bobbing as they chug a beer.
The first time he said it, I choked back a laugh. The second time, I snorted. By the third, I was holding my aching sides as tears spewed from my eyes while the trainer stared at me with a combination of annoyance and puzzlement.
On another occasion, I took my 8-year-old nephew to visit my grandmother at her nursing home. Grandma suffered from dementia and we were sitting perched on the side of her bed, trying to make conversation. Her roommate, another old Appalachian woman, but one much further along in her Alzheimer’s excursion, sat facing us, ankles spread, slippers flat on the linoleum floor. Inside her housedress, her breasts hung like sacks of lead shot. Without warning, she lifted the hem of her skirt and blew her nose loudly. Underneath she wore not a stitch. My nephew’s eyes went wider than a neophyte skier attempting the slalom, and I was lost. I truly believe that homosexuals are born, not made, but if environment plays any role at all, the trauma of that day sealed the boy’s destiny. And there I sat, cackling, till my aunt ordered us from the room.
Another time, during what should have been an erotically-charged moment, a would-be lover said, in his sultriest voice, “I want to get inside that dress.”
“You can try,” I said, deadpan, “but I don’t think it will fit you.” And then proceeded to laugh like a hyena for the next ten minutes, to his irreversible chagrin.
Do you know why angels can fly?
Because they take themselves lightly.
Friday, November 14, 2008
It turns out I’m one of those heads, and I have to tell you, I may just skip the bird this year, out of sheer fellow-feeling.
When I got in to work this morning, they were celebrating someone’s 20th anniversary. The security administrator had brought in doughnuts and muffins and, as usual, everyone was encouraging me to have some. Because of a wheat allergy, I don’t eat that stuff – it gives me gas – eye-watering, room-clearing, bio-hazardous gas. So, as usual, I declined.
We had thought the layoff might come today, because earlier in the week someone had noticed that our HR rep’s calendar was completely blocked today.
At 9:00 o’clock my boss came by to say he’d been called into a mandatory meeting in the CEO’s office at 9:30, so he was pretty sure he was gone.
At 9:37, we noticed his truck was no longer in the parking lot, so I ran a search against Active Directory and, sure enough, his name came up deleted. As we were sitting around, grumbling about how much that sucks, I refreshed my screen, and there was my name, also marked as deleted.
This made me start laughing, because I have an inappropriate sense of humor (more about that some other time) and my co-worker said, crossly, “That’s nothing to joke about.” I assured him that I wasn’t joking.
You know, I kind of wanted to get riffed, because I wanted more time to write (in addition to this blog, I have a novel I’m working on, and another that I shoved in the drawer a few years ago and have been meaning to get back to. And ideas for a couple more). And I knew my husband and I really couldn’t afford for me to just quit, but if I got laid off, between my severance package and unemployment, it might buy me enough time to establish a writing career that I could later supplement with a part-time job.
But as I was laughing, I was also feeling shock. You know how, when you strike a gong, the vibrations spread outward in waves? That’s how it felt – like someone had slammed a sledgehammer against my chest, and the reverberations were radiating out to my fingers and toes.
I took a couple of deep breaths, then packed up my desk and waited for them to walk me out.
And all I could think was, I should have eaten the muffin.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Maytag Customer Service
553 Benson Road
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to let you know of my intent to file suit against your company in regard to product number QAT9719, a Maytag washer, which I purchased in March, 1997.
This appliance has been reliable, cleaning an average of 6.5 loads of laundry per week with good results. In this you have certainly conformed to the warranty.
However, for the past several years, beginning around October 31st and lasting through the end of December, your washer has reduced the dimensions of my jeans and twill pants. Although I am careful to use the cold water setting, and then to hang dry my garments, they consistently shrink a full size or more in the late fall and early winter.
I have tried to locate the source of this problem, but have been unable to isolate root cause. I have, however, been successful in identifying one factor that occurs when the issue stops: Spandex somehow returns the machine to its normal, pre-Halloween behavior. As soon as I begin tossing workout clothes into machine in January, the problem goes dormant until the following autumn.
As frustrating as this issue has been, there is a newer problem that is even more troubling.
Recently, your machine has begun making alterations to my blouses, also. When purchasing tops, I make it a point to verify that there is a strategically placed button in the area covering my upper torso. This placement prevents gappage and unseemly display.
Over the past year, however, a number of my blouses have exited your washer with this button inexplicably higher. I was initially at a loss to understand what was happening, as, by all measurements, the buttons and button-holes appeared to be evenly spaced across the platen, just as they were when they entered the machine.
It was then that I made the connection. For the past eleven years, I’ve dealt with your washer’s little trick of sending a single sock (always one from a pair, never both) off to an alternate dimension until I give up and dispose of its mate. Then, just as mysteriously, the original sock is returned. A machine that has control over the entire sock anti-universe is clearly capable of adjusting a button in a manner impossible to detect.
I realize that any attempt to bring suit on this issue will no doubt result in prompt dismissal by any male judge, who, never having dealt with these machines, would find my story difficult to believe. If, however, the luck of the draw awards me a female judge, I will almost certainly win.
Should you be interested in settling this matter out of court, and without the attendant publicity, please feel free to contact me.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
When you’re young, your flesh is very forgiving. If you drink too much, or stay out late, you may resemble a plate of refried beans for a day or two, but you soon regain your looks. As you get older, though, your body becomes grim and suspicious. It starts keeping tabs, adding up the score and getting even. “Couldn’t resist that third glass of merlot?” it says, “How does it taste now, coming back the other direction?”
Over time, all your bad choices roost somewhere.
If you smoke, it’s stamped on your face in a spiderweb of lines.
If you love tanning, you start to resemble -- well, a raisin.
Your feet are gnarled testaments to peep-toe pumps and stiletto heels.
Hate working out? Your upper arms develop wing flaps large enough to land a 747.
Love fried food? Your butt takes on the approximate dimensions of a beanbag chair.
If your addiction is sweets, TSA agents have to wand your jaw before you can board an airplane.
How many of us have two sets of ear piercings – one working set, and another that serves only as a reminder of our decision not to bother with earrings for a while?
And then there are the scars. I have one on my left knee from chasing my sister, Rita, across a gravel parking lot at the Plumber and Pipe-fitters Picnic when I was eight, and another on my right forearm from scratching my poison ivy (against my mother’s direct orders).
And that doesn’t even count all the odd bumps and lumps that are transforming my once smooth skin into a topographical map of the Rockies. It’s as though my DNA is forgetting how to follow its own blueprint.
My dentist summarized it all the last time I was in his office. By the time you turn fifty, he said, your teeth have racked up a million taps. Think of that: a thousand thousand little collisions between your maxilla and your mandible. Teeth are petty durable, but even a Mercedes would throw in the towel after a million fender benders.
I wish I’d known that back in fourth grade, before I got hooked on gum.
*My apologies to Jeanette Winterson for appropriating the title of her lovely novel.
Friday, November 7, 2008
After we returned home, I came into the computer room to write and she went off to play. A little while later, she materialized at my side.
Reaching up to tap my shoulder with her wand, she said, “There, Grandma, you’re a princess!”
I clasped my hands at my breast. “Am I pretty?” I asked breathlessly.
She looked me up and down and her expression became grim. “Not yet.”
For the next ten minutes, with furrowed brow and pursed lips, she tapped various parts of my anatomy.
Finally, she lifted her wand and waved it dismissively. “There,” she said.
Although it was unspoken, the message was clear: “It’s just a plastic wand. Don’t expect miracles.”
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Barack Obama is the first black president of the United States of America!
In the coming years, I will show this picture to my grandchildren, and tell them of my tiny role in the history of our country, at the time when we were finally ready to "judge a man, not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character."
And up in heaven, Martin, along with Abraham, John and Bobby, are smiling to see us finally reach this point.
Well done, my fellow Americans! Well done!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
It’s probably not intentional cruelty that underpins this policy, but simple economics. The badges contain little radio chips that operate (or refuse to operate) various doors throughout the campus, and replacing them capriciously wouldn’t be cheap.
I wear the badge on a clip at my waist, generally beneath a loose fitting shirt or sweater, but occasionally someone will catch a glimpse of it. The dialogue always goes something like this:
“Wow! Is that you?”
“No. I stole it from the 43-year-old hottie who works in Procurement.”
“No, I mean, really?”
“Yes, it was taken a while back.”
“Wow, I guess! Boy, you sure used to have a lot of hair. What happened to it?”
“I was leaning over the mower and accidentally started it up.”
“Why are you wearing a suit?”
“The business world was different when you were in junior high.”
“You look a lot younger.”
“Time does that.”
“I mean, a lot.”
“Wow, that’s crazy. Too funny.”
The worst part is, the conversation makes me stop and gaze at that image of myself from eleven years ago. I started this job in September, after taking the summer off to finish up my Bachelor’s degree (I actually took my first college class when I was 15 – I was on the 30-year-plan and finished early). I spent that summer studying, keeping house for my brand new husband (okay, he was a little used, but I prefer to think of him as nicely broken in) and going to the local pool. The face on the badge is smiling and unlined, full of optimism about the new life and new job she’d embarked on.
So maybe it’s not thrift that prevents the company from issuing updated IDs.
Maybe they just don’t want people’s real faces glaring out from badges everywhere.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Even though it involves twelve straight hours of standing (and after 35 years of being a desk jockey, I’m much better at sitting on my butt than standing on my feet), I was really looking forward to it. A month ago I requested a couple of days of vacation – one to work the polls and one to recover.
My older sister, Carla, has been working the campaign in Florida, another battleground state with a shady past where it comes to presidential elections. I talk to her every weekend and she sounds exhausted but exhilarated. We confer about Tuesday's election with the fervor of two six-year-olds discussing what we’ll get for Christmas.
In the meantime, though, the software I support has gone bonkers, intermittently writing bad data and going belly up at the slightest provocation (provocation being too many people using it at the same time).
And since, on Thursday, my company announced they’ll be trimming 5% of the workforce before Thanksgiving, it’s probably not a good time to announce, “I’m a lot more interested in future of our country than the future of this company.”
So good luck on Tuesday, Senator Obama.
On Wednesday I hope to be saying, “President Obama.”