Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you most thankful for this year?  Through ups and downs, one person always keeps me laughing . . . my Wonderful Husband.  In honor of what I'm most thankful for, here are some of his "greatest hits" over the past year.  Enjoy!

WH discusses what it might be like to be an air marshal: Marshal Plan

Why you should never look down while riding the Metro across a bridge: Looking Up

WH stands up for hardworking people: Take Pity On the Working Man

He loves his toys: Toying With Us

WH details how you can get deleted from his address book: Listen to Your Inner Voice

Preparing for the worst: Zombie Apocalypse

The real scoop on vampires and werewolves: The Witching Hour

WH does our retirement planning: Get Rich Quick

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from WH and me!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seven Minutes in Heaven . . . With the TSA

With news this week of the impending TSA body scans and pat downs at airports across the country, I was reminded of a particularly joyful experience WH and I had in Key West a couple of years ago.  We had gone down to celebrate a friend's birthday and were returning to D.C. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Not a great day to travel, but from Key West it wasn't so bad . . . the airport only has one gate. 

We were standing in line waiting to be screened and board the plane (which basically all happens within 50 feet of each other) and chit-chatting.  WH pointed out a photo on the wall of an FBI's Most Wanted terrorist -- he looked like your garden variety terrorist: disheveled hair, long beard, soul-less eyes, slightly constipated.  WH said, "You know if that guy shaved his beard, combed his hair, and put on a Budweiser baseball cap, these idiots would never know the difference."  This was, unfortunately, within earshot of one of the TSA agents.  I bet you can guess what happened next . . . we were selected for "additional screening."

At the time, the body scanners were only a twinkle in Big Brother's eye, but the pat down was already in the TSA toolbox.  There was even a private little "room" cordoned off behind a curtain where the agents took those needing "additional screening."  I got to go first, while WH was stuck talking to another screener.  The woman was business-like, albeit completely unfriendly.  I mean, if someone's going to second base with me, shouldn't she at least entertain polite conversation?  Or buy me dinner first?  (Does this remind anyone of "Seven Minutes in Heaven" that game from boy-girl parties in the sixth grade?  You'd go into a little room, probably some closet, and then stay in there for seven minutes, doing who knows what.)   

Behind the curtain we went.  The agent patted down my legs, butt, back, arms, and middle.  Then she got to my bra.  I'm no Dolly Parton in that department . . . more like Keira Knightley.  Using her wrists (apparently screening for bombs is similar to testing the temperature of a baby's bath water), she scanned my boobs.  She seemed troubled by the underwire, as if she had never felt one before, as if she wasn't wearing one herself.  What is this? What could this strange metal be? I'm going to have to go in for a better look.  So she reached in (using her fingers this time, as I'm guessing the dexterity of her wrists simply didn't allow for what was to come next), grabbed my bra, touching the underwires, and pulled.  Then she let go.  Not since seventh grade gym class had I had my bra snapped.  And now it was all in the interest of "national security."  "You're free to go," she informed me, but not really, as I had to wait for WH and talk to the other delightful TSA agent before we could board the plane. 

While I waited for WH, the other agent made "small talk," which I'm sure was really meant to find out the true meaning of my business in Washington, D.C.  "What is your business in Washington?" "Well, I live there." Frowny face, "So, where are you staying when you get to Washington?" "Um, at my house."  Eyebrow raise, "I see.  And what was your business in Key West?" "Drunken birthday partying." Furrowed brow, "I see.  What do you do in Washington?" "Public relations.  I work for a nonprofit." Blank stare, "I see."  By that point, WH was done with his jostling and we both stood there, waiting to be cleared.  At last the "interrogating" agent informed us that we were "free to go."  

The entire plane had been held while we were being scanned.  We boarded to the derisive looks of the other passengers.  I'm not sure what they were so pissed about.  They hadn't had their nonnies jarred by a stranger. Obviously we weren't terrorists, we were tourists.  Though I can see how someone might mix the two up -- Hawaiian shirts are easily confused with army green jihad outfits. But they let us on board and off we went. 

We arrived in D.C. without further incident, thankful that we could begin our holidays in peace.  So, whether you're scanned, fondled, jostled, or are simply staying home this Thanksgiving, make it one to remember.

Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels, my friends!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Little Mary Sunshine

I am not a morning person.  The sooner you know this about me, the better friends we'll be.  There is nothing I hate more than having my sleep interrupted.  I've been known to rain hellfire down on anyone who calls me while I'm sleeping.  It's all I can do to be civil to most people before noon.  I used to have a roommate in college who would start the day with, "Mornin', Sunshine!" It set my teeth on edge. Not only do I not like to talk to anyone early in the morning if I don't have to, but I certainly don't like to be made fun of and called "Sunshine" because of my not-so-delightful early morning demeanor. She never did get that hint.  If it was acceptable, I would never leave the bed before midday (I'd stay up till the wee hours, though, so as not to waste time).  But it's not, really, so I'm forced to rise at the ungodly hour of 7:00 each day to get ready for work. 

Mostly it's not so bad, as WH usually has either already gone to work or is still asleep, so I don't have to talk to him in the morning (and he's not really a morning person either).  I ride the bus and speak to no one.  And then I get to the office.  The front desk guy in our building is exceedingly friendly.  I find that I steel myself for his cheer each morning.  "Good morning, my friend!" he says.  I can slink by without speaking if there are a bunch of other people arriving at the same time (and that's just the way I like it).  But there are those days when I have to muster a "Good morning."  Those are not my best days. 

Once I get to my office, I usually say a cursory good morning to anyone I might run into on the way to my desk.  Then I sit down and hope that nobody talks to me until at least 10:30.  This works pretty well most of the time.  But that wasn't always the case.  I used to work in an office with Little Mary Sunshine.  You have probablly met her (or someone just like her) at some point in your life.  She is always cheerful.  She ends all of her sentences with exclamation points!!!  She has corn syrup running through her veins.  She says "darn" and "poo" and "geez." She is enough to make you want to slap her mother for giving birth to someone like her. 

Anyway, the LMS in my former office was the queen of them all.  She sat right next to the door to the office, too, so I had to walk by her every morning in order to get to my desk.  And, of course, she always got to work early because she is what we like to call a morning person.  I'd peer in the door, hoping she'd be on the phone or have her mouth full of oatmeal or anything that would stop her from speaking to me.  But she never was, and thusly I was greeted with, "GOOD MORNING, WASHINGTINA!" every single morning.  Rainy days, sunny days, days where the sky was falling, this woman was officially the worst. 

Turns out my other coworkers were not exactly enamored of her either.  Finally someone in the office realized that we could go a roundabout way through our conference room to avoid the barrage of saccharine-sweet greetings.  That, unfortunately, only worked for a little while, because she would then come find me at my desk to say "GOOD MORNING! AND HOW ARE YOU TODAY?!"  I really hated her for it. I'm pretty sure she hated me too . . . but she'd never let me know that.   She was way too nice for that.  Instead, I think she took sadistic joy in taunting me each morning with her chirpy enthusiasm.  I could always imagine her going home to her husband and having a good giggle (she always giggled, never laughed) about my obvious dismay. 

The good news is that she got pregnant and we were all saved from having to pretend we were human early in the morning when she left her job with us to be a stay-at-home mom.  We threw her quite a lavish party, and I'm convinced it wasn't so much the good wishes for the baby (sure, we had those), but a deep-seated joy that we wouldn't have to act like we were awake before we'd had our morning dose of caffeine. 

Are you a morning person?  A night owl?  A Little Mary Sunshine? 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Plastic Bag Pariah

I committed a cardinal sin this morning. I forgot my reusable shopping bag when I went to the farmers' market.  I left the house in a rush to get the the market before all the good stuff was gone, and in my haste, I left my bag at home.  They always have plastic bags to put the produce in, but it wasn't until today that I realized nobody ever really uses them. 

As I strolled around the market picking out root veggies and the last of the summer tomatoes (and a few green ones for frying), I began to notice that everyone else had their Whole Foods and Trader Joe's bags slung over their shoulders.  There was even a token bag from The Strand.  What can I say, I live in a hipster neighborhood. And there I was, conspicuously without one.  What had started out as a jolly shopping trip turned into a covert operation as I skulked around the stalls trying not to be noticed.  But the real trouble began when I got in line to pay.

I stood there behind all the bag people, trying to pretend I was engrossed in the items in my basket.  When that didn't work (I swear, I could hear the hipsters behind me snickering), I craned my neck as if I were looking for my companion who was nowhere to be found (s/he had probably made off with my reusable bag).  No luck. The hipsters weren't falling for my act.  Nobody pointed, but I felt their stares and judgement.

When I got up to the table to pay, the woman who was weighing my vegetables looked expectantly at me.  I looked behind me to see if I might see the imaginary companion who had absconded with my bag.  But alas, nobody appeared.  "Do you need a bag?" she whispered, looking disappointedly at me (it was the farmers' market equivalent of "Your card's been declined.").  It was like she didn't want to get stuck ringing up such an environmentally irresponsible ogre.  "Yes, I must've forgotten my bag today," I replied, praying for her mercy.  "They're ten cents," she said, unforgivingly (a five cent markup from the usual five cents the grocery stores charge).  "I don't have a car! My carbon footprint is very small," I wanted to scream, but instead I paid my pennance and slunk off amist the disgusted stares of the more thoughtful shoppers, surprised that they didn't pelt me with organically grown rootabegas as I made my retreat. 

Photo courtesy of velkr0 via Flickr

And as I walked back past the line of shoppers waiting to pay on my way home, I spied one other bagless customer.  A guy about my age who looked just as sheepish as I had felt.  We gave each other that knowing look . . . the look of someone disgraced, someone ashamed, the look of a pariah.  I can't be sure, but I think he stood a little taller after seeing me, encouraged by my fearless plastic-bag-carrying confidence.  I left knowing that perhaps I hadn't left the world a little greener than I had found it today, but at least I made another person feel good.  And I swung my plastic bag full of goodies all the way home.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baby Boomless

I'm in my mid-thirties, I'm married, and I don't have children.  This apparently makes me some kind of circus freak.  Don't get me wrong, I like kids. I was a teacher for several years just out of college.  My friends kids are some of my most favorite little people in the world.  But apparently if you make it to my age and have managed to find a Wonderful Husband, you are expected to have children before the ink is dry on your marriage certificate.

I thought that once we got engaged, I'd be free and clear of annoying questions for at least the year we were planning the wedding.  Oh how wrong I was.  In fact, I can remember a conversation I had during my work bridal shower with a senior male coworker who asked, "So, I guess we'll be hearing the patter of little feet soon enough."  I almost looked around to make sure he was talking to me.  I hadn't even gotten married yet and already I was chasing little feet?  When did this kind of comment become okay?  I realize that I was supposed to get married a long time ago (read, before I turned 30) and that by now we are supposed to have children, but we don't.  We're on our own timeline, not the rest of the world's. 

Every time I am nauseated it's not morning sickness, but thanks for asking.  If I'm looking a little thicker around the middle, it's probably because I've been indulging in a few more French fries than usual and forgoing the gym (as has been my habit for many years).  If I turn down a glass of wine, you can keep your sideways glance to yourself -- I'm probably just hungover from the night before. 

As more and more of my friends get married and move to the suburbs and have children, I am more acutely aware of the fact that we don't.  It might also be because at least once a week someone will ask me, "So, when are you going to start a family?"  I hate that question and what it implies: that WH and I are not a family because we don't have children.  That the family that we've built for ourselves that consists of our parents and siblings and an army of friends doesn't really count. 

We're approaching the holiday season . . . a time of parties and gatherings and family events.  It's inevitable that I'll be asked at least once about our family planning.  The same way we were asked for four years about our marriage plans.  And the same way I was asked for years before that if I was ever going to get a boyfriend.  (I was even told once, "Aren't you getting a little old to be coming to Thanksgiving by yourself?")  What if we were to have a baby . . . what would the next question be?  When are you going to start teaching him to read?  Where is she going to college?  When is he going to get married?  When are you going to die?  I mean, where is the line? 

I read a joke once where a woman said, "Every time I'm at a wedding and my elderly aunt says to me, 'You're next,' I just wait for the next funeral when I can say the same to her." Maybe I should figure out a way to take this approach the next time someone pries into my personal business.  In some cases, I know it's because they care about us, but in most cases it's simply because they're nosy. 

So consider this is my pre-holiday public service announcement.  Think before you ask some of these questions.  Not everyone can have children.  Not everyone wants to get married.  And believe me, if it's a woman who lives in the D.C. area, it's not exactly easy to find a boyfriend.   Besides, the person you are asking already thinks about it a lot more than you do.  Your question just calls attention to something that is out of all of our hands.  Or maybe, just maybe, some of us are happy just the way we are. Instead, stick to gossip about crazy Aunt Jane's reindeer sweater or how drunk the office douchebag is getting at the Christmas party.  Either that or be the drunk douchebag -- at least then nobody will ask you if you're pregnant.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Every day has a dose of crazy.  Whether it's an urgent email about the $100 that Bill Gates wants to give me for forwarding it along, someone's potty training status update on Facebook, or an altercation in the alley outside my office window, I can't escape one day without a little madness.  I personally prefer to get my daily dose of crazy out of the way early in the morning, like taking your vitamin with breakfast, if at all possible.  Fortunately, today was one of those days.  There was a rare Morning Crazy on the bus today.  Picture it . . . packed bus, swelling to the brim with hipsters, yuppies, and working wounded.  And then, just like that old song from Sesame Street "One of These Things is Not Like the Others," crazy reared his head.

Close to the front of the bus was a man who was possibly homeless, drunk, and/or mentally ill.  My jury is still out on all of the above.  At first it wasn't quite so apparent -- he was just muttering incoherently to himself.  Then he started in on his seatmate, "Me, me, I like it," he said.  When this failed to elicit a reaction, he turned up the volume a little louder, "Me, me, I like it!"  I couldn't tell if it was "Me, me," as in himself or "Mimi," as in Mariah Carey (maybe he was really happy she's finally pregnant).  But whatever it was, he wanted attention.

"ME, ME, I LIKE IT!" he said in his loud, sing-song way.  The balding, 30-something yuppy next to him replied, "Pardon me?"  Morning Crazy responded with something unintelligible.  On we ambled and the crazy intensified.  "I don't get it. I don't get it," MCrazy said.  "Pardon me, sir?" the balding seatmate replied.  "ME, ME, I LIKE IT!"he repeated over and over, until finally wearing out the hospitality of the yuppy.  "Sir, I don't want to talk to you anymore," the yuppy said. 

Finally the yuppy gave up and moved away.  The seat remained empty for a couple of stops, but this enraged MCrazy.  "I'm a Cuban American!" he yelled. "I been here 31 years!" And on he went. "I don't get it."  He was getting louder and a little bit scary, so The Hero stepped up.  Another 30-something man, who in my estimation was former (or current) military (based on his haircut, the way he talked, and his ability to remain calm in a "crisis"), sat down next to MCrazy.  And then he unleashed: "Listen, you are annoying these people and I don't care what the fuck your problem is, you need to be quiet and take your bus ride and let these people go to work."  He said this in a very quiet, even voice (which I could hear because I was sitting directly across the aisle as this transpired). 

MCrazy informed The Hero, "I'm just riding the bus. I'm trying to ride the bus.  Will you take me home?"  It was kind of sad, but The Hero was having none of it, "You need to be quiet.  I'll give you money to get home if you will just leave these people alone." (At this point, I was getting nervous that MCrazy was going to get violent.  He was practically incoherent, he was belligerent, and he didn't appear to understand that he was making everyone on the bus uncomfortable.)  "Man, I got money! I got money! I want you to take me home," MCrazy said.

This went on for a little while longer, when finally MCrazy said, "I don't know what I'm saying."  Everyone on the bus gave a visible eyeroll at this point, thinking finally he'd gotten a clue, and even The Hero said, "That's the first thing you've said that made sense."

MCrazy finally stopped talking.  And then we got to my stop.  The Hero got off the bus (as did I), so I don't know how this little fairy tale ended, but I like to imagine that it had a happy ending:  MCrazy continued on to the stop near his house, went home, and slept off whatever was ailing him.  Maybe he was having a reaction to cold medicine or had some bad clams and was slightly delirious.  Maybe he was an actor practicing a role a la Joaquin Phoenix.  Maybe he woke up at noon and realized he'd been a compete weirdo to everyone on the bus.  But whatever it was, he got my daily dose of crazy out of the way early in the day, setting the stage for me to have a rather productive workday. And that's a happy ending in itself.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reflections on Turning 30 . . . Something

This weekend I celebrated a birthday.  I'm not sure why, but this particular birthday caused me a bit of an existential dilemma.  In short, I was feeling old.  Now, I realize you're only as old as you feel, age is just a number, and you shouldn't lie about your age, you should defy it, so say the great philosophers (and at least one cosmetics company).  But for some reason -- perhaps it's my increasingly creaky neck -- I'm acutely aware of aging.

All day I was feeling gloomy.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was sour.  Eventually you reach a point, I think, where you've got more years behind you than you've got ahead of you, and I was lamenting this all day to WH.  He, of course, told me to shut it, as that would mean that I would be dead by 70.  I'm not sure why I was reflecting on my mortality, but I was.

Wonderful Husband, in his usual wonderfulness, organized a gathering of my nearest and dearest to celebrate the passing of another year.    In attendance were childhood friends . . . friendships that span more years than the Jonas Brothers (all three of them!), Lady Gaga, and Christina Aguilera have been alive.  Some newer friends, who were just meeting my long-time friends for the first time, marveled at the longevity of our friendships.  It's something I think we take for granted most of the time . . . when you've known someone all your life, they become your second family, and you know they'll always be there.  And spending time with old friends, the people who remember my awkward phase (73-pounds, 5'4", braces, perm and 1987 bangs), reminded me that there are some definite pluses about getting older.  So, I decided to compile a brief list of reasons I'm glad I am the age I am and not any other age:

1.  You can look at the "youngsters" and scoff, "When I was your age . . ." and fill in any appropriate blank.  For example, "You think you've got it bad?  When I was your age, we had Crystal Pepsi, Brett Favre couldn't even imagine retirement, and George Bush (the old one) barfed in the lap of the Japanese President" or "When I was your age, I had to print my papers on a dot matrix printer, do you know what that is?"

2.  Betty White's career resurgence is evidence that you absolutely do get better with age (but please put me out of my misery if I'm still working in my 80s). 


3.  Toys. WH has waxed philosophically about the toys he loved as a child, and I think he's right. A little friend of mine is attached by a cord to every toy she owns. But when I was a kid (which can be used interchangeably with "When I was your age"), our toys were awesome. Favorites of mine include the hippity hop, that horse on springs you could ride back and forth, the Sit and Spin, and Hungry Hungry Hippos.

sit n spin
Image courtesy of kramerwalks via Flickr
  4.  No more 20s! Don't get me wrong, I loved my 20s. A lot.  But I wouldn't go back for anything in the world!  Case in point, Linsay Lohan.  Poor child still has most of her 20s ahead of her.  Can you imagine having gone through all that rehab and court dates and bad movies (I Know Who Killed Me, anyone?) and still having another 7 years left before you turn 30?  My 20s were exhausting, what with all the graduating from college and pretending to be an adult and social events and such.  Mostly the social events.  You have to do that stuff while you're young, because if you try that shit in your 30s, your head will explode.  But, on a side note, if you happen to run into me on the street and want to tell me that I still look like I'm in my 20s, that'd be okay.

5.  I've never had to live in a world without Saturday Night Live (even in the years we all may have wanted to). 

And as I sat there on Saturday night, surrounded by friends and family, I realized just how lucky I am.  Even if later that night someone took my bar stool the minute I stood up, so that when I went to sit back down I came crashing to the floor bruising my tailbone.  And even if, because of that, I've been walking like a 90-year-old grandma for several days.  Because when I went crashing to the floor, I looked up and saw the faces of people who love me (and who love to laugh at me) and realized that as long as you can laugh, at yourself and others and along with your very best friends, it doesn't matter how old you are.