Electric Avenue

Yesterday morning, I awoke to the nostalgic sound of my favorite 80’s and 90’s music:
“…saw him dancing there by the record machine…”
7 minutes later:
“…experience has made me rich and now they’re after me…”
7 minutes later:
“…and she’s loving him with that body, I just know it…”
7 minutes later:
7 minutes later:
Finally, my internal body clock kicked in and told me that something was amiss. Where were my tunes? I squinted at the clock to see what time it was and saw – nothing. No blurry numbers, no numbers at all. I flipped on my light and nothing happened.
I shot out of bed immediately, fearing that it might be 9:00am, but as I fumbled for my watch, I discovered that it was only 6:23am. But what had happened? Why didn’t my clock or my light or my computer work?
Oh god. The power is out. What am I going to do? How will I dry my hair? How will I iron my pants? How will I toast my poppy seed bagel? I can’t eat a raw bagel like some kind of savage!
It’s times like these that I really wish I had kept my Y2K readiness kit. I’m so hungry, and my throat is so dry! Boy, would some sweetened condensed milk and sardines taste good right about now.
I’ve always heard that you can really learn a lot about yourself in times of crisis, but I never knew how true that saying was until this exact moment. I learned quite a few things about myself, as I stumbled across my pitch black apartment like Mr. Magoo.
Mostly, I learned that I really like electricity. I had never really given it much thought prior to this moment, but I do. I really like it.
I also learned that unless you are adequately self-medicated, you should never, ever, look at yourself in the bathroom mirror using only the harsh glare of a flashlight. There’s really no effective way to use a flashlight to look at yourself, other than to slowly scan the surface of your face in a searchlight fashion, like a warden looking for an escaped prisoner. Or you can hold it under your chin like you’re telling a ghost story.
My god! I’m hideous! Why didn’t my friends ever tell me that I look like David Carradine? The unforgiving beam of the flashlight amplifies every pore, each wrinkle, and every imperfection in the skin. I quickly trashed the flashlight in favor of the adoring glow of a candle. Oh look! I’m lovely!
[Sidebar: I’d like to take a moment to thank my Aunt Therese – even though she doesn’t read my blog, or know what a blog is, or own a computer – for giving me candles for every major and minor holiday for the past twelve years. I never appreciated them as much as I did yesterday morning. Thanks to her thoughtfulness, I was able to find my way around the apartment by smell: lavender was the living room, cinnamon was the kitchen, vanilla was the bedroom, and so on. Thanks, Therese!]
Just as I started to make out my last will and testament, and size up my cats to determine which one I would eat first if the blackout continued much longer, I heard a strange sound. I think that my senses had become heightened due to sensory deprivation, so like a desert fox, I put my ears to the ground to trace the source of the sound. In addition to the gnawing of termites eating away at my floorboards, I also heard the mechanical whining of my DVD player turning back on.
The electricity is back on! I can see again! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I ran around my apartment flipping on all of my appliances.
Toaster – works!
Hair dryer – works!
Computer – works!
Television – works!
Microwave – works!
Air conditioner – works!
Jack LaLanne Power Juicer – works!
I can’t recall the last time I felt this elated. I twirled around my apartment in a joyous interpretive dance, swaying and twisting to the dizzying hum of technology. And then, of course, I blew a fuse. But no matter! I knew that this new blackout was just a temporary one, ended quickly by the simple flip of a switch.
After thanking the electricity gods, I went back into the bathroom to touch up my hair, where I learned that you should never apply makeup by candlelight. I was shocked to see that I looked like I was auditioning for Victor/Victoria. Left half = man, right half = woman. Left side = Jason Robards, right side = two dollar whore. I quickly rebalanced my makeup, and was once again all woman.

I ate my bagel, watched a few minutes of the Today Show, and checked my email, relieved that the world was once again back in synch. These were the longest and most terrifying 53 minutes I’ve ever endured. Oh sweet, sweet electricity. Please don’t ever leave me like that again. I promise, I’ll never take you for granted!

Date Abase Management

Why must everyone learn things the hard way? Why can’t people just look at the critical mistakes their friends and family make and avoid these same pitfalls? Who among us will be the first to break this vicious cycle? These are some of the great unanswered and unanswerable questions that plague our society.
I just thought that Natasha was smarter than the rest of us. She’s witty, talented, driven – she has a bright future ahead of her. So why – after witnessing first-hand the trauma that defined my Internet dating experiences – why did she insist on signing up for match.com?
I feel like somehow I am to blame for this. Maybe I sugarcoated my online dating experiences too much. Maybe I sheltered her from the truth. But if I did, it was only to preserve the innocence that defines dear Natasha. I mean, didn’t I tell her about the guy who took me to the zoo and laughed maniacally as he told me about all the species of monkeys that are being poached to extinction? And then who, even more disturbingly, drank a 48-ounce bucket of Hi-C Fruit Punch in 30 seconds flat, leaving a thick red Kool-Aid mustache for all to admire?
I feel certain I must have shared these details, so where did I go wrong? What part of “red Kool-Aid mustache” did she not understand?
I guess it’s pointless to speculate, because regardless, the plan is in motion. Nat has been on match.com for only two weeks and already has five dates lined up. Fortunately, even though she chose to ignore my initial warnings about the dangers of cyber romance, she has sought my sage advice in the selection process.
In a bold move that illustrated Nat’s blind faith in my judgment, she gave me her match.com User ID and password. This was mainly a move done out of necessity since her dial-up connection is even slower than mine, and she needed me to update her profile.
Still, it’s kind of like she gave me power of attorney, so I’m taking this responsibility very seriously. I’ve found that I’m taking a much more strategic approach to furthering Nat’s social life than I did my own. To shelter her from the overwhelming flood of crazies who, for some reason, seem to be drawn to her profile, I’ve been logging into her account every few days and deleting anyone who seems slightly mentally unstable. Or who has really long hair. It’s just better this way. [Ed. note: I’m also deleting anyone I think would be better suited to me, but not before I jot down their User ID’s.]
These are some of the criteria I use to weed people out:

  • Does he say he’s looking for a best friend and soul mate to spend every minute with?
  • How many pictures of his dog did he post? Do they outnumber the pictures of himself?
  • Did he leave the marital status field blank?
  • Did he say “Go Cubbies!” more than once? (OK, that’s not to weed out crazies. Just people who would potentially annoy me.)
  • Did he actually use the word “supposably” in his profile?

So after a few weeks of screening out potential axe murderers, or just murderers of the English language, Nat and I have narrowed down our pool to a few key candidates. For ease of reference, I’ll call them:
1. Funny Guy
2. Artistic Guy
3. Sensitive Guy
4. Athletic Guy
5. Brainy Guy
So far, the only gaps I see in our strategy are Rich Guy and Foreign Guy, but I’m still looking.
This afternoon, Nat has a date with Sensitive Guy. I’m not sure how I feel about her decision to put Sensitive Guy in the starting lineup. Personally, I would have chosen Funny Guy or Athletic Guy to begin with, but I guess the girl’s got to trust her own instincts sometimes.
Nat also violated my Rule #4 of online dating by telling her date to meet her at her office before they head out to lunch. This could prove disastrous if Sensitive Guy transforms into Since Nat Won’t Return My Calls I’ll Surprise Her At Work With a Bouquet of Origami Lilies I Made After Yoga Class Guy. Because, as we all know, that guy often quickly morphs into Restraining Order Guy.
But, I can’t live Nat’s life for her. All I can do is give her roots and wings, hope for the best, and secretly manipulate as many variables as possible from behind the scenes. Like this lunch, for instance. Fortunately, Nat works fairly close to me, so I plan on taking an early lunch, buying a wig and fake goatee or perhaps a Van Dyke at Walgreen’s, and following them to the restaurant.
While incognito, I will be able to observe the date and objectively assess any abnormal behavior from either Nat or Sensitive Guy. In my disguise, I will also be able to finally solve the mystery that has haunted me for years when I stroll into the men’s room to find out once and for all what exactly these “urinal cakes” I’ve heard about really are. I mean, if anyone should be getting cake in the bathroom, it’s women.
But back to Nat, I plan on logging all my findings into a simple database I’ve developed, and after I run the data through a few quick regression models, each date will receive a weighted quantitative score. The higher the score, the higher the likelihood for future bliss. My own biggest mistake was letting emotion enter into romance – I won’t let Nat fall victim to this same error. She’s counting on me, and I’m not going to let her down!

Overheard in the Elevator

Woman 1: “Hey Margaret. So, what time are you leaving today?”

Woman 2
: “Not until 5:00!”
Woman 1: “Uggh. That sucks.”
Woman 2: “No kidding.”
[Ed. note: These were two employees from my company. Never in my entire career have I heard the words “not until” and “5:00” uttered in the same sentence, unless it was more like: When is the four-hour financial review meeting going to start? Uggh. Not until 5:00!

I love my new company. I love it so much that I might fly us both to Massachusetts so that I can marry it. And then my company and I are going to adopt some babies. Lots and lots of babies.]

A Family Affair

I have to apologize for my recent absenteeism, but unfortunately, I’ve been having some problems at home lately. There are some issues going on with my family that are sapping a lot of my emotional and mental energy right now, so I’m afraid I haven’t had much time for writing.
I knew that this might happen once I got back into the workforce and stopped being a stay-at-home-mom-without-children. It’s my twins. They’re just not adjusting well to my being away from them all day long. Aside from Judy’s bulimia, I’ve had to deal with a daily onslaught of problems from these two precocious four-year olds, and it’s sucking the very life out of me.
Every day I come home to something new. I take a deep breath as I slide the key into the back door, just wondering what hidden treasure I will find in my apartment that day. Yesterday it was an entire roll of paper towels shredded on my living room rug. The day before that it was the remnants of the laces from my tap shoes, still damp from cat spit. The day before that it was a pile of cat puke on the quilt on my bed. And today, I came home to discover that one of my cats had decided that his/her current litter box isn’t big enough, so he/she decided to leave a foul little gift for me on the kitchen floor.
I don’t need this. I work hard all day, busting my hump to keep a roof over their heads, catnip in their pipes, and food in their bowls, and this is how they repay me? With a pile of cat crap on my linoleum?
I am tempted to get us into some family counseling, but I know from past experience that the trauma of putting them into a cat carrier and driving them even for just a few minutes is enough to push me into Girl, Interrupted territory. I almost drove us all off a cliff when I had to make the two-hour trek with them in my car when I first moved to Chicago. Even though they were both doped up on kitty Xanax, they screamed for the entire trip and frantically clawed at the door of the cat carrier until I just about lost my mind. My right arm was almost shredded down to a bloody stump by the time I pulled up to my apartment. It’s just a good thing for all of us that there are no cliffs in Chicago.
I’m thinking that maybe I need a nanny to watch them while I’m away during the day. Even though I thought they were ready for it, they clearly aren’t adjusting well to being latch-key cats. I’m working on a formal job description for this position, but if you know anyone who might fit the bill, let me know. My sanity and blogging career may just depend on it!
Wanted: Experienced cat nanny to care for two rambunctious Siamese cats. Must be high-energy, caring, and resourceful. Ideal candidate will have experience dealing with feline eating disorders and ADHD. References required!

Oh the Humanity

The bird slaughter continues:

Monday: Wren

When will it stop? When will the madness end? The strange thing is that this time, the bird was covered in a purple shroud and wearing tiny Nike running shoes. What could this possibly mean? And why would a bird need to wear running shoes? It just makes no sense. No sense at all.

I will not rest until this mystery is solved.

New Product Launch

CHICAGO, IL – October 18, 2004 – Run Jen Run, Inc. (Nasdaq: RJR) announced today that they are launching a new regular feature in their weekly blog. This feature is called Overheard in the Elevator, and is the result of extensive consumer research studying the ever-changing demands of the blog world.
Overheard in the Elevator will chronicle the ongoing saga of Run Jen Run on her regular trips up and down the elevator at work. Will she overhear an attempted corporate takeover? Witness the grumblings of disgruntled employees? Learn where complete strangers are going for lunch? It’s really the unpredictable nature of the elevator experience that attracted us to this forum in the first place,” said Jenny X., Chief Marketing Officer of Run Jen Run, Inc. “We are confident that this enhancement will deliver immediate and substantial value to all RJR stockholders, employees, suppliers, and customers. We feel that the addition of this new feature will help us further connect with our customers and build brand loyalty by remaining innovative and fresh.”
Jenny X. continued, “I see the elevator as the corporate version of the confessional. Leave your sins on the 15th floor. Going up, going down. Heaven, hell. Elevators are the great equalizers. Sinner and saint. CEO and maintenance man. We all use them. We all need them.”
In response to concerns from the public that this new feature might be violating people’s privacy by documenting their conversations, Jenny said, “Elevators are a public space. If people choose to reveal private details standing next to total strangers in an enclosed metal box, they accept an inherent risk that others may overhear them. Personally, I see elevators as miniature stages, where the audience is captive and the admission is free. Deep down, we all know that what we say on an elevator is a performance. I’m just taking this to the next level by actually publishing it. Plus, I change all the names, so my Legal Department has assured me that I’m covered.”
# # #

Overheard in the Elevator

Blonde Woman: “Hey, do you know when Girl Scout cookies come out?”
Other Blonde Woman: “Uhh… I’m not sure. But I think my husband just bought something from the Boy Scouts, so it should be pretty soon.”
Blonde Woman: “I hope so. I have to order some of those Samoans. Those are the best!”
Other Blonde Woman: “Now which ones are those?”
Blonde Woman: “Those are the ones with the caramel and chocolate and coconut.”
Other Blonde Woman: “Oh, yeah. Those are good! But I thought they were called Caramel Delights?”
Blonde Woman: “Umm, I’m not sure. Maybe. They’re good, whatever they’re called.”

Wild Kingdom

You know what’s weird? Now that I work downtown, I see far more woodland creatures than I ever did when I worked in the lush, tree-lined suburbs of northern Illinois.
The only difference is that in the city, all the animals are dead.
So far this week I’ve seen a dead bird every single day on my way out of the train station.
Monday: Nuthatch
Tuesday: English sparrow
Wednesday: Starling
Thursday: Yellow finch (Or possibly a wadded up McDonald’s bag. It was in the street so I couldn’t really get a good look.)
On Tuesday, I saw a woman in a business suit rip a piece of paper out of her fancy leather portfolio, pick up the sparrow, and deposit it in the trash can. I wonder if she does that kind of thing all the time. Maybe she canvasses the city looking for dead animals so she can give them a (semi) proper final resting place. Do I admire her or pity her? I’m just not sure.
This mass slaughter started to get me a little worried about what might be killing the small birds of Chicago. Is the air so polluted here that they are literally dropping from the sky? Is there a massive gas leak in the area that our inferior human senses just haven’t been able to detect yet? Is there a sniper on the loose?
As I stared up, looking for signs of a rifle or a high-powered slingshot, I realized that my train station is in a thirty story glass building, and these birds were just victims of their own poor eyesight. They saw the building just a few precious seconds too late. Oh, sweet little nearsighted birds. I think, if only I could mend those broken wings. Fortunately, this is a fleeting thought, and I quickly go back to sipping my BananaBerry Jamba Juice.
You know, if that woman really wanted to do some good, instead of daintily scooping up the bird carcasses and tossing them in the garbage, she would paint a gigantic picture of an owl on the building so the birds would stop slamming into it. That’s the problem with these do-gooders – they lack planning. Anyone can clean up the mess after it happens. But what those birds really need is someone who’s more proactive. Am I right or am I right?
Well, I’m off to work. What will it be today? Any bets? Even odds on sparrows. A robin will get you ten to one odds. Twenty to one on a hawk. Sixty to one on a swan. Takers?

The Most Important Meal of the Day


I ate two mini Twix candy bars
and three ghost shaped marshmallow Peeps
for breakfast.
And I defy anyone to tell me that was wrong.
Then I washed it all down
with some Diet Pepsi.

That was just plain wrong.
I’m so sorry.


Now that the pressure of the job hunt is behind me, I’m looking for ways to release the stress that built up in my body during my sabbatical. It’s high time I treat myself to some pampering to channel my stress energy out of my pores and into the universe, where it belongs. And since I’ve never been one for Tae Bo, or any physical activity that resembles hand-to-hand combat, what I really need to do in order to bring my mind and body back into balance is spend an hour in a flotation tank.
Shortly after I moved to Chicago, Natasha added this activity to my list of must-do’s. This item fell just below tap dance lessons and just above dog shows in terms of priority. She did all sorts of research and found out that the oldest flotation tank facility in the US just happens to be right here in our own backyard. For those of you who are unfamiliar with flotation tanks, here’s the description from the Space-Time Tank site:

“A flotation tank is a 8’x4’x4′ enclosed structure which diminishes light and sound. Each tank holds 10 inches of water with 800lbs. of Epsom salts enabling a person to float effortlessly. The water is heated to an average skin temperature (93.5°) reducing the sensation between body and water. The tanks are fully ventilated and the solution is sterilized after each use with concentrated Hydrogen Peroxide and Ozone.”
Who wouldn’t want to spend a few hours in that?
After signing on a few more adventuresome friends, we scheduled our appointments for the tanks. Initially, I had a few concerns that I discussed with Natasha. Some of the key ones were:
1. What does one wear in a flotation tank?
2. Will I get claustrophobic?
3. What if I just obsess about work issues for the entire hour?
4. What if I get locked inside?
5. Can I get typhoid fever from floating in a tank?
6. Will I revert back to my Neanderthal origins and emerge as part monkey, a là Altered States?
With my list of concerns in hand, Natasha headed out to research all the facts she could find about flotation tanks, and returned with the confidence of a pro. She addressed my questions one at a time:
Now, I’m no prude, but when it comes to fashion, I’m pretty modest. I just didn’t know – was I supposed to wear a swimsuit? Underwear? Scuba mask and snorkel?
As I would quickly learn, unless you want to be known in the floating community as a complete freak, you wear the same outfit you were born with, sans umbilical cord. At first, I was a little uncomfortable with this. I mean, is that sanitary? Although, I don’t suppose a Speedo ever really served as any true protection against water borne diseases.
Plus, Nat sent me all sorts of links to websites that discussed the purification process used after each person floats. Apparently, not even a prehistoric water parasite could survive in that level of salt content. So there I was, naked as a jaybird. But without feathers.
A valid concern, I thought. Will I have a panic attack? If I scream, will anyone hear me? Our charming and informative guide told us that if we did get claustrophobic, we could prop open the door with our towel and leave a dim light on.
I must admit that I did have a very brief panic attack when I first crawled into the tank, although I’m not sure if that was due to the enclosed space, or due to the fact that I was buck naked sitting in 100 degree salt water. It was really the humidity that freaked me out more than the darkness. Because it’s enclosed and so warm, the air is very thick, and for a moment I thought both my lungs had collapsed. They hadn’t. I made myself calm down, put out my cigarette, and then the panic quickly subsided.
A week before going to the tanks, I had to fire one of my more emotionally unstable employees, and it was a fairly unpleasant experience for us both. I had this fear that during the entire time I was floating in the tank, all I would be able to think about would be her, and all of the other crazy people I had to deal with at work.
Fortunately, an amazing thing happens in the tank – you cannot concentrate on anything, even if you try. Your mind just keeps wandering from thought to thought in a seemingly random pattern. It’s exactly the same phenomenon that would occur whenever my old boss would talk to me about his philosophy on the benefits of micromanaging employees.
I suppose this goes hand in hand with the claustrophobia concern, but I had a genuine fear of being locked inside this tank. In my mind, the tank had a giant deadbolt on the outside that they needed for some security reason.
Of course, there are no locks on flotation tanks. There are no latches, and there aren’t even any handles. It’s just a little door that you could easily push open with one finger. I know because I tested it out several times.


My doctor assured me that I could not catch typhoid fever from a flotation tank. And then she asked me to find a new doctor. Apparently she’s still upset about when I paged her at home on a Sunday because I thought I had a rare combination of polio and gout.
If you’ve seen the movie Altered States, you understand what I mean by this. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is the edited version: William Hurt’s character is a scientist researching different states of consciousness and one of the techniques he employs is a sensory deprivation tank. After spending some time in one, he turns into a caveman. I can’t really explain it any better than that, so you’re just going to have to rent it on your own.
I thought I was being pretty clever when I joked with the owner about this fear. Apparently, a few other (hundred) people have seen this movie, and they all thought it would be hilarious to make this exact same joke to the owner. Since the film came out in 1980, he has heard this joke approximately 628,408 times. It was perhaps funny the first two thousand times he heard it, but evidently it has worn thin. Is it my fault that he works in an industry with limited material to pull jokes from?
So the flotation tank experience was amazing, and one that I must repeat soon. And the best part is that I did not, at any point, turn into a monkey. But I am typing this with my feet right now.

If I’m Dreaming, Don’t Ever Wake Me!

The weirdest thing happened to me at work last Friday. The administrative assistant for the marketing department came by my desk with an envelope, handed it to me, and walked away without saying a word. When I opened it up, I saw that it was a check from the company written out to me.

I saw that all my co-workers also had similar envelopes in their hands, so I leaned over to my neighbor’s cube and asked what this was all about.

“It’s Friday. You know – payday.”

Payday? I explained to my colleague that I had been out of the workforce for a while, so I wasn’t quite sure how everything worked. After I assured her that I was serious, she kindly explained the procedure for me. Apparently, we come to work every day and do stuff, say stuff, write stuff, and then after two weeks of that routine, the company sends us money.

But that’s not even the best part! I hope you’re sitting down, because the rumor going around the office is that in another two weeks, they’re going to send us more money! I promise you I’m not making this up.

I swear, I’m just waiting for that bald guy from Candid Camera to pop out of the supply closet and let me in on the prank. But my co-workers assure me that it’s no joke, or if it is, it’s been going on for 30 years with still no punch line.

Then, later that day when I was in the elevator, a woman was telling this other woman about a trip she took to Hawaii for two weeks. I couldn’t help but chime in by saying that I was so impressed that her boss would allow her to take time off during the week. Then she told me the strangest thing. She said, “Well, he doesn’t have much choice. I’ve been here so long that I get six weeks of vacation a year. Gotta take it sometime!”

I guess there’s this thing called “vacation pay” where the company actually gives you money to NOT work for a couple of weeks during the year. I know it sounds absolutely insane, but at least three different people told me the same story. All I can say is that I feel like I hit the jackpot with this company!

I’ll let you all know if the company actually sends me more money in two weeks. I mean, can you imagine? Well, I guess I should get going – I have some forms to fill out for something called a “corporate benefits plan.”

Let’s see here… medical, dental, vision… what the? You mean to tell me the company pays for most of my benefits? I don’t have to worship at the altar of COBRA, evil goddess of healthcare, anymore?

Ohmigod. Somebody pinch me!