If you checked into a hotel and there was a card that said, “Thanks for joining us again, Jennifer!” and it was kind of sitting near a bottle of wine, but there were also several other expensive bottles of wine in the mini bar, would you:
a) Assume the wine was a gift and drink it.
b) Assume the wine was a trap and leave it because you knew they were going to add $67 to your hotel bill.
c) Assume the wine was a trap and drink it anyway.
d) Smash the bottle against the bathroom mirror and slice up the bedspread with the broken shards because they called you “Jennifer.”
e) Open up the $4.50 tin of mini Snickers and hide the wrappers so that housekeeping wouldn’t know you ate them all.
I did one of these things. And I’m still not sure about the wine. Seriously, gift or trap?
And by the way, it’s Leap Day. Make the most of it.
I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. The internet could disappear today, and it all would have been worth it just for YouTube. Today’s reason for loving YouTube is that it has reunited me with two of my most passionate crushes of all time, Ann Wilson and Steve Perry. And until just now, I never noticed that they pretty much had the same hair. What do you know?
Please take a moment to rock out.
The wonderful thing about being near-middle aged is that it has given me the perspective to disdain not only the old, but the young as well. Now that I’m almost 37, I have come to discover that there are three distinct stages to life: Annoying > Not Annoying > Annoying Again.
Babies are annoying because they cry a lot and poop in their pants. Kids are annoying because they ask too many questions and need too much attention. Teens are annoying because they wear clothes that are a) too small or b) too big. Twenty-somethings are annoying because they think they run the world. And then people over 60 are annoying because they think they have earned the right to be rude to everyone.
I call this phenomenon the Annoying Quotient, and thanks to my Big Idea White Board™, I have been able to graph out the exact points at which the AQ is at its lowest, also known as the “Sweet Spot.”
As you can see, the sweet spot begins at around age 32 and lasts until age 52*. During this twenty-year span, a person is at her most productive and least annoying, and therefore is the greatest contributor to society.
[click to enlarge]
There’s something about the Big Idea White Board™ that just gets my creative juices flowing, so much so that I was inspired to write these two poems:
Ode to the Young
Look at me! I’m young! I’m young! I can listen to Talking Heads cover bands and dance like a hippie elf at a bonfire!
I’m young! I’m young! I can wear ironic t-shirts and skinny jeans while I text message all my friends who are sitting right next to me in the movie theatre!
Hey! I’m young! I’m young! My friends and I can all lollygag on the escalator during rush hour at the train station because we don’t really have to catch a train, we’re just here to get a Jamba Juice.
Look at me! I’m young! I’m young! I put purple dye in my hair and spike it up four inches like I invented punk rock, and then I give you a dirty look if you look at my purple spiked hair, even though the only reason I style it like this is so that people will look at me.
Ode to the Aged
Look at me! I’m old! I’m old! I’m going to stand next to you and keep harrumphing loudly until you get out of my way at the DSW so I can try on these Aerosoles shoes.
I’m old! I’m old! I’m going to shove your shoebox off this bench without saying a word to you because I’m old and I need to sit down.
I’m old! I’m old! I’m going to pretend it’s the future and we all drive around in hovercrafts, which is why my Buick LeSabre keeps floating in between two lanes while I drive seven miles below the speed limit.
I’m old! I’m old! I’m going to cross against the light in the middle of a busy intersection because a) I can’t see the Don’t Walk sign or b) I’m old and I don’t give a damn because no one will dare run over an old person.
I’d better make the most of these next 15 years, because it’s all Aerosoles and hovercrafts after that.
*Ed. Note: If any of you fall outside of the sweet spot, I’m not saying that you annoy me. It’s all your friends who annoy me.
As the old adage goes, nothing brings people together like a common enemy.
I’ve worked in the same building for several years, walking in and out of the same revolving doors, seeing the same people in the stairwells during the quarterly fire drills, passing the same group of 22-year old sales guys on their smoke breaks, but I never felt any sort of kinship with them.
Occasionally I’d give a nod to one of the older lawyers on the 21st floor, or a cursory “Sure is cold out there” to the ladies who get off on that floor with the fancy lobby, but that was really the extent of our relationship.
That all changed on January 21, 2008, which will forever go down as “E-Day” in our building. It’s the day the building stood still. The day I found my hate. The day we got a new elevator system.
At first it was an office joke. “Hey! Did you see the 4-page memo about our new elevator system coming next month? Hello, overkill?”
“No doubt! Umm, yeah. How complicated could it be? The button with the arrow pointing up means you want to go up. The button with the arrow pointing down means you want to go down. Do they think we’re morons?”
Apparently in an effort to cut down on the long morning and evening waits for elevators, our building purchased a new highly intelligent vertical transportation system which uses sophisticated algorithms to determine the most efficient route for each person to travel, resulting in the minimum number of stops and maximum speed to destination.
We all laughed about all the celebratory signs that began to pop up throughout the building: Coming Soon! New Elevator System!
Shortly thereafter, our laughter started to show the first signs of strain. “Hey… uh, did you guys see the latest email from the building management? There’s a 15-minute instructional video we need to watch. On how to use the elevator system.”
“Ohmigod, are you guys watching this? ‘Press the number of the floor you want to go to. The kiosk will then tell you which elevator to step into. If you are with a large group all going to the same floor, you must all still punch your floor into the kiosk, and be aware that your party may be split up into multiple elevators for maximum efficiency. Do not get into an unassigned elevator as it will not stop on your floor’ What the hell?”
A few days later, flyers were posted over the Up/Down buttons threatening that “Traditional call buttons will be deactivated. Floor buttons inside the elevator will also be deactivated. Please use the main kiosk as of January 21st.”
When E-Day arrived, the building management had representatives from the elevator company standing by all the kiosks, wearing ill-fitted blazers and plastered smiles, encouraging everyone to “Hey! C’mon over here and punch your floor into the kiosk!” as though we were each getting one free pull on the giant slot machine and a 2-for-1 coupon for foot long hot dogs at the Golden Nugget.
The first day was mass chaos, and a clear indication that our crisis management team is poorly prepared in the event of a real emergency. I waited in line for the kiosk and saw the person in front of me get assigned to Elevator H. I pressed my floor into the kiosk and was told to go to Elevator H. The person behind me pressed her floor and was told to go to Elevator H. None of us were going to the same floor. As I squeezed my way through the crowd gathered around the kiosk to get to Elevator H, I realized that every single person was being assigned to Elevator H. Elevator H never came. Nor did G, I, J, K, or L.
The man in the blazer pulled out a walkie-talkie.
“Uh yeah this is Andy on the south bank. Yeah, uh, something’s wrong with the kiosk. It’s assigning everyone to Elevator H, but it’s not coming down. Yeah. Uh huh. Yeah, can you override that? Uh huh. Okay.”
He took a deep breath.
“Folks? Having a little problem with Elevator H here, so uh, I’m gonna need you all to re-enter your floors back into the kiosk. Yeah. Just working out some bugs. Sorry ‘bout that.”
If harnessed, our collective dramatic sighing, sarcastic huffing and bitter grumbling could have powered a small city. I would have settled for just one elevator, though.
“Well, that was sure a great investment!”
“I’m so glad I don’t have to press that confusing Up/Down button anymore.”
“Yeah, now I only have to stop on five floors to get to mine INSTEAD OF THE TWO I used to stop at.”
It was like the building sold our stairs for a bag of magic elevator beans, and we were ready to kill some giants.
The initial system hiccups didn’t get much better in the weeks to come, and the complaints grew. An entire floor of people missing their trains one evening because the elevators didn’t arrive for twenty minutes and they didn’t want to walk down the seventeen flights. Kiosks that told us to go to Elevator J when clearly Elevator J had no intention of stopping on our floor, so we had to ride it back down and start all over. People making a mad dash to their assigned elevators only to have the doors shut in their faces before they could hop on.
Do you have any idea what it feels like to get on an elevator that has no buttons inside it and suddenly realizing that it’s not stopping on your floor? It’s like being in an iron maiden, that’s what it’s like. As if to taunt us, a few of the elevators still have buttons in them. You can press them all you like, but they won’t work. They won’t even light up to give you the false sense of control.
The machines have taken over. Resistance is futile. The call is coming from inside the elevator. Stop on the nineteenth floor, HAL! STOP ON THE GODDAMN NINETEENTH FLOOR! I’m afraid I can’t do that, Jenny.
The management company tried to make amends by plying us with treats. On Valentine’s Day, we all arrived to a lobby full of pink and red cookies, each individually wrapped and tied up with red ribbons. We grumbled as we snatched the sweets off the table without even making eye contact.
“I’m diabetic, and I took two.”
“They owe us for these elevators.”
“I ought to grind these into the carpet.”
“That’d show ‘em.”
“Hey, you have a good one!”
“Thanks – you too!”
Twenty-one floors of laser-focused, collective hatred and I’ve never felt such a heart-warming sense of belonging in my life.
Toilet paper. I’m out of toilet paper.
She stops at the drugstore on the way to the train station.
Still time to kill. What else do I need?
Toothpaste… sensitive teeth… whitening with breath strips… tartar control with whitening… clean mint gel with maximum cavity protection.
Arms full, she crosses through the candy aisle on her way to the checkout and spots the Valentine’s Day display. Picked over, mostly. A clear plastic container of Hershey’s Kisses, red and white M&M’s, sugar-free cupid lollipops. On the bottom shelf, she spots the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Whitman’s Sampler, $2.99.
I really shouldn’t. But maybe I could bring them to work tomorrow, to share. Will that seem weird?
She watches the unsmiling woman at the register telling customer after customer to have a wonderful day and that she hopes to see them soon. She hands everyone their bags without looking them in the eye.
She’ll just think I’m buying this for someone special. Or will she think I’m cheap to buy a $2.99 box of chocolates?
Sitting in the train station food court, she eyes the red cellophane peeking out from her bag and runs her finger along the curved edge. It crinkles. She looks at the back of her hand and is glad she remembered to buy lotion.
She looks back at the red cellophane, then glances at all the people shoving food in their mouths in the final moments before their trains arrive.
They’d probably feel sorry for me, eating chocolates alone in a train station. I feel sorry for them with their tacos.
She picks up her bags and walks into the bathroom, selecting a stall on the far end. She sits down and carefully pulls the heart-shaped box out of the bag, turning it over.
I hope there’s raspberry.
The cellophane echoes in the near empty bathroom. It is so much louder than she anticipated. She coughs as she rips open the box, and then selects the round milk chocolate piece with dark chocolate drizzle.
Ew. Strawberry. And salty. How is it salty? I don’t want this.
She looks at the uneaten half in her hand, wondering what to do.
Can I drop it in the toilet? What will that sound like?
She considers putting it in the garbage can, but doesn’t want to lift the lid. She’s afraid she might see something that would make her lose her appetite, so instead, she shoves the rest of the candy in her mouth and quickly swallows it.
The next one is coconut, but doesn’t taste anything like a Mounds bar. She thought it would taste like a Mounds bar. She sighs as she puts the box of candy back in her bag and exits the stall.
I bet they’ll be half price tomorrow.
I’ve always found that making lists makes me much more productive, because I can actually visualize what I’m accomplishing as I cross each item off my list. As you can see, this was a highly productive weekend.
A word of caution: if you watch the entire first season of Dexter - the show about a serial killer with a moral compass – in one weekend, you will have bad dreams. A lot of bad dreams. Dreams about serial killers, and pools of blood, and scalpels, and body parts, and meeting serial killers, and being a serial killer, and thinking serial killers are really hot. Consider yourself warned.
It is time for my cats’ annual checkup and vaccinations, so I load them into the cat carrier and prepare myself for the most stressful seven minute drive I endure all year. Alien mostly just works herself into a vegetative state as soon as I turn on the engine, making her body as small as it can possibly get or burying her head under the fleece blanket lining the carrier. Predator, on the other hand, takes a much different approach. He starts screaming and clawing at the door to his carrier from the second I buckle my seatbelt. There is nothing I can do to calm his cries, so I turn up the radio instead.
The woman at the front desk verifies my address and tells me to have a seat. I notice that the office is firmly divided between cat people and dog people, and I don’t want to make waves so I sit next to a woman talking in soothing tones to two boxes covered with dishtowels. Angel has an eye infection, but Cocoa is just there for moral support. And perhaps a nail trim.
“I found Cocoa four years ago. Well… he found me, really. Showed up on my porch one day and been with me ever since. Sweetest cat you’ll ever see, so calm, good natured. Angel, on the other hand…”
I open up the door to my cat carrier, letting Predator peek his head out and sniff the air. He is silent. Alien is a blue fleece lump. A stylish young man walks in and the screeching begins once again. I tell Predator to be quiet, but then realize that he wasn’t talking, it was that man’s cat.
A Siamese, I think. I’d know that voice anywhere.
He sits on the other side of me and notices Predator halfway out of his carrier.
“Oh, you have a Siamese, too? How old is he?”
“He’s seven. I knew yours must have been Siamese by his meow. How old is yours?”
“Magnus is seventeen! Can you believe that?”
As he says the word seventeen, he turns Magnus’ cat carrier toward me, and I regret to admit that I instinctively lurch backwards. I have never seen anything quite like this animal in my life, and am struck by the thought that it looks like a Picasso interpretation of a Siamese cat.
“He’s here because we think he might have cataracts. And he can’t walk very well, but the vet said his leg isn’t broken or anything, so they’re just going to give him a shot and see if that perks him up.”
I’m no veterinarian, but I’m pretty certain that Siamese cats are not supposed to have white eyes, so I mentally concur with the cataract diagnosis. Magnus also has a droopy lip on one side that flaps a bit when he meows, and since I’ve never seen a curly-haired Siamese before, I suspect he has mange.
Cocoa’s owner looks at us and says, “Wow! They could be twins!”
I think to myself, yes, they could be twins, if Predator were cryogenically frozen and suddenly reanimated in the year 2045 by his evil twin Magnus. In that case, they’re identical.
It is finally my cats’ turn for their checkup, so I lug the carrier into the back room and unload Predator onto the stainless steel exam table. I warn my vet ahead of time that he will hiss at her incessantly, but not to take it personally. He’s just very private.
“Is he having any health problems?”
“No, no. Well, I think he’s gaining weight.”
“Okay, let’s just get him on the scale by himself and see… Whoa! Yeah, he’s fat.”
I feel shame.
“So Predator is 15.5 pounds, and that’s up a pound from last year. What does he usually eat?”
“I only feed him dry food – Iams or Science Diet – and I give him a cup a day.”
“Whoa! Each? That’s twice as much as they should be eating!”
“But… but, that’s what it says to feed them on the bag…”
I feel shame.
She recommends that I don’t just immediately cut their diet in half, but supplement their meals with something that will make them feel more full. Something with fiber. Something like canned French cut green beans.
“Canned French cut green beans?”
“Yes, so many people have told me their cats love them.”
“Are you sure they didn’t say dogs?”
“Trust me. And you should really get him to exercise a little. You should buy multi-colored ping-pong balls, poke a hole in them, and put a few grains of rice inside. They’ll bat those around the house all day long.”
Or for thirty seconds, I think, until they roll under the couch, otherwise known as the catnip mouse burial ground.
I shrug my shoulders and pull Alien out of the carrier before shoving my morbidly obese boy cat back in. Alien’s exam goes much more smoothly, mainly because it’s like examining a person in a coma. She just sits there, staring at some distant point in space, imagining she is far away from the antiseptic smell and harsh noises of this exam room. I like to think that she can still hear my voice, so I hold her paw and tell her it will all be over soon.
“Alien is at a good weight, and her teeth are beautiful.”
I feel pride.
As I pay my bill and pick up their rabies tags, I nod and smile at Magnus’ owner, but avoid making direct eye contact with the cat. I just can’t bear to look. The trip home takes less than five minutes, because I am eager to get to the grocery store and start my cats on a high fiber, healthy diet.
As soon as I set the carrier on the kitchen floor and open the door, both cats burst out and run into the living room, only to return one minute later and crawl back inside the carrier to work through some sort of feline Stockholm syndrome.
At the grocery store, I am amazed to see how many versions of canned green beans there are, but I know that I must find the prescribed French cut ones. For a good forty-five seconds, I debate whether to buy the store brand or the Green Giant brand, and then am appalled that I would haggle over thirty cents when my cats’ health is on the line.
Back in my apartment, I call Alien and Predator to the kitchen and tell them I have a special treat for them. As soon as they hear the can opener, they start meowing and rubbing up against my legs, which I never understand since I can’t recall ever feeding them cat food from a can that wasn’t a pop top. Who has taught them to associate a can opener with food? Television, I suppose.
With a great flourish, I set down the paper plate of Green Giant French cut green beans in front of them, and they look at me as if I have just set down a paper plate of Green Giant French cut green beans in front of them.
They don’t even bother doing a courtesy sniff before walking away with their tails in the air.
I stand in the kitchen, dejected, and as I lean against the counter eating the remaining green beans straight out of the can, I make a mental note to find out where I can buy multi-colored ping pong balls.