Saturday, December 31, 2005

It's not the first time I've been busted by a cop.

It is my natural tendency to try to always do what cops tell me to do. It's not that I'm an obedient person by nature, it's just that I like living outside the prison walls. I will do pretty much anything a cop asks me, within reason, but the kinds of orders I'm used to hearing from cops include the following:

"Drop your weapon!"

"Back away from the body slowly."

"Do not swallow that baggie!"

"Put your clothes back on, ma'am."

In the past, when I've disobeyed the commands of police officers, I've ended up maced, in leg irons, or with broken ribs. In my defense, I'd just like to say that I would probably have obeyed the orders cheerfully had I not been high on PCP at the time. But ever since I quit doing dust back in 9th grade, I've had almost no trouble with the police whatsoever. Well, significantly less. A bit less, anyway. Okay, less.

So when Frankie The Cop recently told me I had to make a full confession, I felt I had to comply. He wants me to confess to 3 things I do that others don't know about. The problem with this is that I've pretty much spilled my guts here on this blog, so I had to think long and hard (yes, with the same tiny brain I've been using all along). Haven't I already told you guys every Thing Wrong With Me? (Well, the first 90 out of 100, anyway.) But again, I'm obedient when it comes to orders barked at me by cops. So here goes. Please, officer, don't hit me with your nightstick again.

1. My friend Becky and I used to shoplift when we were in high school. We didn't really need any of the stuff we stole--mostly it was clothes, and neither of us was destitute--we just did it because we were bored and it was fun. We probably only did it for about a year, if I remember correctly--at some point it occurred to us that we might eventually get caught and then sent to a women's penitentiary where we would become lesbians and develop an appreciation for flannel shirts and corduroy pants. So yes, I was a teenage criminal. But don't worry, I'm not going to hell for that. There's a long list of other things I'm going to hell for.

2. This is almost too silly to confess, and up til this moment, I've never told anyone about this except my husband (who looked at me like I was an escaped mental patient): I have a paranoia about being knockkneed--meaning I'm afraid that my knees are too close together. All my life since the age of about 13, I have consciously stood in such a way as to push my knees apart while leaving my feet together, in an effort to create more space between my knees. Not only do I do this when I'm out in public, but I also do it when I'm alone and no one's watching--every day, all the time. Here is a picture of me standing the way I would naturally, if I weren't so freaking paranoid, and a picture of me pushing my knees apart like I normally do.

I know what you're thinking--that I have too much free time if I'm spending my energy examining the distance between my knees. Either that or I'm deeply, unbelievably self-absorbed. Yes, and yes.

3. Sometimes customers at work show their appreciation for us by baking something--cookies, cake, banana bread, etc. These offerings go on the table in the breakroom, where employees can partake of them at their leisure. We rarely know which customer made a particular item, because it's not like anyone goes to the trouble to label the food; it just gets unceremoniously dumped on the table by whatever employee happens to receive it. I eat this food. I know a lot of you are thinking you wouldn't eat mysterious baked goods because you don't know if the maker of the item washed her hands, or if she lives in an abandoned RV with 35 cats, or if she has hepatitis C and a flesh-eating skin rash, etc. I think about those possibilities each time I pick up a mystery cookie, I really do. And then I think, "Yum, cookie." Now, in my defense, I will say that I do make a judgement call based on the appearance of the gift. If it's cream cheese cookies in a festive holiday tin that's streaked with bloody fingerprints, I wouldn't eat that. If it's blueberry muffins with enough strands of human hair scattered on and around them to make a wig, I wouldn't eat that. If it's a loaf of pumpkin bread with a mouse tail baked in, but protruding halfway out, I wouldn't eat that. The tail, I mean. I'd eat the bread.

So there you have it. Three more reasons to be glad you're not me. Thank you, Frankie, for further alienating me from my people. I'll probably grow old and die alone like a former child actor. Is that what you want?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The new Karla in 2006

Okay kids, Christmas is over. That means it's time to stop goofing off and get busy making New Year's resolutions. This is a time-honored tradition which every living human is required to participate in. Everyone understands and follows the unspoken rules of New Year's Resolutions:

1) Set lofty goals for yourself that you have no reasonable expectation of ever accomplishing. Generally these are the exact same goals you've been setting for yourself every January 1st since you were 18 years old.

2) Spend the first two weeks of the new year pretending you're really working at these goals.

3) Give up entirely in week three, and sink into a depression in which you berate yourself for the next month or more for failing to achieve your New Year's resolutions yet again. By mid February, the cheer and general good will of the Christmas holiday has completely evaporated and you are now nearly suicidal and full of self-loathing. If your goal was to lose weight, you are now stuffing your entire face into fast food containers and potato chip bags to ease the depression of failure. If your goal was to stop smoking, you're now smoking three cigarettes at a time to distract you from the self-deprecating voice in your head. If your goal was to start going to the gym every day, you are now napping five times a day because in sleep you are able to forget for awhile that you are too unmotivated to go to the gym.

Well, I'm not falling for it this year. I mean, I'll definitely make New Year's resolutions, because it's a tradition. Without traditions our society would spiral into chaos, and eventually cannibalism would run rampant. But the difference is that this year I'm not going to set myself up for failure. I'm going to set goals I can actually achieve, so that I end up feeling good about myself all year long instead of wishing I were dead by April. To ensure victory, I'm also going to set up a reward system so that I can celebrate my successes along the way. This will be an added incentive beyond mere personal growth, which is the only reward people usually expect to get from accomplishing their resolutions. And personal growth is a lousy prize no matter how you slice it, so it's no wonder people give up before February.

And because you guys are a nosy bunch, I know you want to hear what my resolutions are.

Karla's New Year's Resolutions for 2006

1. I will not scale Mt. Fuji.

2. I will eat only edible food, and drink only potable water.

3. I will wear a bra when out in public. Usually my own.

4. I will speak English primarily.

5. I will do all I can do prevent flies from breeding in my car.

6. I will use the phrase "gutless swine" in a sentence at least once in 2006.

7. I will not kill anyone with a machete.

8. I will drink more in 2006. While everyone else is promising to drink less, I will take the path less traveled, and I will drink more.

9. I will not sleep with any dictators this year.

10. I will read great works of literature to sharpen my intellect and help develop my analytical thinking.

11. I will wipe front to back.

12. I will steadfastly refuse to participate in any plots to overthrow the government. And this year I mean it.

So there you have it: My New Year's resolutions, hereafter referred to as The List. At the end of each month in 2006, I will review my performance for that month. If I can honestly say that I have stayed on my chartered path and am still well on my way to the New Karla in 2006, I will reward myself with a handful of ecstasy tablets and a bottle of cheap 100 proof whiskey, which I will drink alone under the bleachers at the local high school on a weeknight. By the time 2007 rolls around, I'll be dead of liver disease, possibly following several arrests for public intoxication, but I'll have accomplished all my New Year's resolutions for 2006, which is more than most of you will be able to say.

And I call that a successful year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The true meaning of Christmas

Christmas isn't supposed to be about the gifts you get. It's supposed to be about the spirit of something-or-other, and family blah blah blah, and now that I think about it, I think some famous guy was born that day or something. So yeah, it's this magical time when people come together in love to share their joy and...some other stuff that sounds like it came straight out of a Hallmark card. And that's what it's about; that's all it's about.

But I got some really cool stuff this year! I got a Roomba, which hopefully will allow me to get drunk and eat ice cream with my bare hands while it does the vacuuming for me (because that is always what I'd rather be doing when I'm vacuuming). And I got Sirius satellite for my car and home, which hopefully will help me teach Jake all kinds of dirty words as we listen to Howard Stern together. And I got an iRiver .mp3 player to replace the one I lost a few months back, which will allow me to tune out the rest of the human population when I'm forced to be out among the heathens while shopping or working out at my gym. Plus I got gift certificates to several cool places, which will keep me from having to shoplift things I want, at least for awhile.

These things, of course, are just things. Not important at all, and not what Christmas is about. But they do help to make up for a few of the downsides of the holiday season:

Like candy canes. As candy goes, candy canes are at the very bottom of the barrel. They are not tasty, and barely qualify as candy at all. They're more like a breath mint than a treat. And yet all December long, every time I turn around I'm getting a candy cane shoved in my face along with a shout of "Merry Christmas!" There is nothing merry about these little striped mouthwash sticks.

And fruit cake. I know there are going to be a few of you freaks who disagree with me on the candy cane score, but not one among you has the nerve to pretend that fruit cake is edible, or that you don't promptly toss them in the trash when they are given to you. Know what fruit cake is good for? To take as a gag gift to a white elephant gift exchange, in the event that you can't get your hands on any chum.

And canned cranberry sauce. Adam Carolla claims the homemade stuff is good, although I've never once laid eyes on a homemade batch, since everyone in the world buys the canned stuff. And as I once told this crack junkie I sometimes fraternize with, cranberry sauce is disgusting and vile. What other food do you eat that's purple? And it's got that creepy jelly-like consistency, making it look like muppet phlegm. Somehow we as a society have been brainwashed into putting this crap on each and every holiday dinner table, all of us blithely ignoring the fact that it does, in fact, taste like can-shaped shit.

And poinsettas. These are the world's ugliest plants, and yet people hand them out cheerfully this time of year, smiling like they're giving you something worthwhile. I'd rather receive a can of cranberry muppet phlegm than one of those tacky neon red monstrosities.

And that, my friends, is why the gifts are important after all. I spend all month saying thank you for the candy canes I get shoved up my ass every hour on the hour by every person I come into contact with, pretending to admire the beauty of a lot of ugly red plants that look like they've been fertilized with nuclear waste, taking pains to discretely throw away the fruitcakes I'm given before they attract the cockroaches that are the only living things who enjoy eating them, and biting my tongue to refrain from speaking out against the cran-slime that is wiggled under my nose at the dinner table. The gifts make it all worthwhile.

And oh yeah, that family/love/religion stuff, too.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

100 Things Wrong With Me (Part 9)

It seems like every blogger out there has a 100 Things list, in which they detail 100 miscellaneous facts about themselves, usually along the lines of "I believe the eyes are the windows to the soul," and "I once broke my arm in two places." These are the kinds of facts that are probably interesting only to the blogger's mother and therapist. Therefore, I give you my list of 100 Things Wrong With Me. I'm posting the list in installments, on the assumption that the majority of my readers either have Attention Deficit Disorder or are chronically drunk. Here's 81-90.

81. When I brush my teeth, I get toothpaste everywhere. In my hair, on my feet, on the floor, even on my back sometimes. The problem is I try to multitask, and put things away or clean things up while I'm brushing. So the end result is that, yeah, I do manage to put away my comb, some makeup and two barrettes, but now my bathroom is coated floor to ceiling in foamy white slobber.

82. I hate winter. I would be happy if I never saw another snowflake again--which is weird because I'm originally from Alaska. We moved out of the state when I was 8 years old, which I'm really glad about because people who live in Alaska statistically have a 1 in 5 chance of dying by freezing into a solid block of ice while reaching into their mailboxes to check their mail. And to add insult to injury, those same people are often then eaten by polar bears during the next thaw. In fact, a recent ad campaign supports my claim: 83. I was a cheerleader in high school. If you knew me, you'd recognize the irony of this, since I'm hardly peppy and enthusiastic, nor particularly athletic. I didn't even look good in the skirt, because I had sad little stick legs and arms back then. And I don't even really like sports. I'm also not all that coordinated, or good at dancing. I think in most school these things are on the list of requirements for potential cheerleaders, but at my tiny-ass school I think the only requirement is that you be a warm-blooded mammal. Luckily for me, I was able to barely qualify on that score.

84. I love going to parties where there's a white elephant gift exchange--you know, the kind where you bring a gift without knowing who will receive it. People take turns at either picking a wrapped gift, or "stealing" one from someone who has already unwrapped one. There's nothing more fun than buying a random gift for a random person. Usually when you buy a gift for someone, you try hard to get them something they'll like--not so much because you want them to be happy or any of that do-gooder BS, but mostly because you know they'll mock you behind your back if you give them something they consider strange or undesirable. My mom once received a two-foot tall, pink and white carousel horse figurine as a gift, although nothing in her house or personality would lead you to believe she was a collector of huge, frightening carousel animals. This is the kind of gift that nets the giver a warm, "Thank you!" to his face, but many snide comments behind his back.

But the white elephant gift exchange is a thing of beauty. You can buy any bizarre, insane, useless thing that strikes your fancy without fear of repercussion. Gifts I have brought to such parties in the past include: A Spam snowglobe, a bag of shark chum, and a travel urinal. I consider this a Thing Wrong With Me because of the perverse glee I get from watching someone unwrap a package that they're surely hoping will be something decent, only to discover it's something no one would ever want, like a bag of chum.

85. Brian and I have an ongoing squabble over whether to leave the blinds in the house open or closed. He wants them open all the time, while I at least want them closed at night. I am perpetually convinced that someone could be looking in at any moment. This bothers me for at least three reasons: 1) The potential peeper might be aghast at the condition of my toy-littered house, 2) He might be scouting potential rape and/or murder victims, and decide I look puny enough to overpower, or 3) He might see me slobbing around the house in my Olive Garden boxer shorts and ratty striped tank top. I'm not sure whether I'm more afraid of being violated or being spotted in clothes that look like they should be in a Goodwill box, but Brian does not understand my paranoia. He considers this a Thing Wrong With Me. Maybe the reason he can't identify with me on this is that not only does he statistically stand less chance of being raped by an intruder, but he also doesn't have to worry about being seen in slob clothes because he doesn't have any. When he gets home from work, he simply leaves his work clothes on, including shoes and socks, until bedtime. Sometimes I'll look over at him, laying on the couch watching a movie in his tucked-in, button-down shirt, slacks, shoes and socks, and I'll think, "Holy cow that's weird." I assume he occasionally steals a glance at me laying on the other couch in my Metallica sweatpants from 1987 and my Eric Clapton t-shirt from 1990 and thinks, "Holy cow, that's weird."

86. I have no problem getting up and changing seats in a movie theater to avoid the screeching a-holes in the seats next to us. My polite husband thinks getting up mid-movie to switch seats is akin to causing a scene, and would rather sit there and basically miss the entire movie rather than quietly moving a few aisles away. Come to think of it, this sounds more like a Thing Wrong With My Husband than with me. Strike this one from the record.

87. I have a ridiculous number of shoes. I realize most girls have this same problem, but my shoes aren't even a collection of varying types of interesting and different styles. Most of them are black, and even the black ones don't vary all that much from one pair to the next. And in spite of a shoe collection that probably outnumbers that of Imelda Marcos, there are two pairs among them that I wear 98% of the time, while the rest just sit in my closet looking fabulous.

88. Sometimes I steal money out of my friends' purses to buy heroin. Okay, that one isn't true. Believe it or not, I'm starting to run out of Things Wrong With Me. Maybe I should let my husband write the rest of the list for me. (In which case, I might need to expand the list to 1000.)

89. I eat this on a regular basis:

And yes, it looks just like that every time. It's a veggie burger, and I purposely burn it beyond all recognition. I don't put it on a bun or anything like that, either. I eat it just like you see it in the picture. I don't even use a plate or a fork, I just hold that piece of char in my hand and munch on it like a hobo. Except I'm pretty sure no self-respecting hobo would eat that. All I can say in my defense is that I like char.

90. I have a collection of cigarette lighters, some of which are old and hard to find. I bought most of them in little antique shops, but some one eBay. The strange thing about this is that I don't smoke, and never have. I mean don't get me wrong, I can definitely see the appeal of smoking. What kind of person wouldn't want to put a burning object in his mouth and suck on it? Especially if it made his breath stink, made his clothes smell like they were scavenged from a house fire, turned his teeth yellow, and killed him slowly over time? Plus, it's a fun way to spend money, which everyone has lots of. But perhaps even stranger than someone who spends good money to stink, turn yellow and die is someone who collects cigarette lighters and doesn't smoke. It's just plain odd. Although I will say that a real smoker could never collect lighters, because other smokers would just steal them. Have you ever noticed that 90% of a smoker's energy is spent trying to steal the lighters of other smokers? Go to any bar on a Saturday night and you'll see a big crowd of sneaky lighter thieves; all of them stinking and turning yellow as they nervously eye each other's lighters, waiting for just the right moment to make a grab.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Your prizes are on the way!

It's time to announce the winners of October's caption contest! When asked to find a funny, lighthearted way to interpret the horrible, possibly illegal picture I took of my son, you rose to the occasion like yeast rises in a Mexican border town prostitute's panties.

First prize goes to Soapbox Superstar, for this entry:

Pot-Luck (just not so lucky for some)

Congratulations, Superstar! As you surely remember, the first prize is my son, Jake. You are now the mother of a cheerful, chatty, snaggle-toothed infant. You can look forward to many exciting times ahead, especially if you like being repeatedly rammed in the shins with a walker that looks like a car.Nothing that's less than 18 inches off the ground is safe from the grubby hands of my--ha! I mean YOUR--precocious young son. Just beware of his fecal hijinks. He's well-known and feared for his diaper pranks, also referred to as "Trick or Worse Trick."

My dear friend Donna (also known as Boom, Boomer, or by any one of the hundreds of aliases she rotates through in an effort to evade capture and subsequent death by lethal injection) slides into second place with her entry:

"Wait 'til you see the special sauce I'm cooking up down here!"

Donna might have taken first place if not for the fact that she stubbornly refuses to get a blog of her own for me to link to here, in spite of the ridiculously long list of stories she could tell you that would no doubt blow your collective mind. If you ever see her on the street, ask her the meaning of this phrase from her past: "Actually, it tasted kinda salty." But I recommend only asking on an empty stomach.

Donna, since you and I have been friends since we were little kids, I thought your prize should be something more personal. I thought of giving you my virginity, but we both know where that went. So I've decided to give you my liver. It's in about the same sorry shape yours is in, but I figure if you put the two of them together, you'll almost have the equivalent of one healthy, functioning organ. I thought about giving you my dignity as well, but that's in worse shape than my liver, and in your hands it would be reduced to charred tatters in about a week and a half. So take the liver and be happy with that.

And third place goes to Lee, for this caption:

What do you call a baby boiling in a pot?


Admittedly, it would have been funnier if my kid were actually named Stuart. Lee, you should talk to Soapbox Superstar; once she has legal custody of Jake, she may consider changing his name. The third prize is a lifetime subscription to! That's right, you won't ever have to pay monthly dues again! Really, this should have been first prize, now that I think about it.

As you can see, I'm in the process of packing the first prize to send off to Soapbox Superstar. Am I supposed to cut air holes in the box? How much should I insure it for? If anyone has any experience shipping human children via the US Mail, I'd appreciate any advice you can give.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It's only fair to warn you: You're probably too smart to be reading my blog.

You know how every once in a while you hear about someone who is mentally handicapped, with, say, the mind of an 8-year-old, but they are living on their own, maybe in a little apartment in town? Don't you wonder how they do it? Wouldn't you think it would be dangerous or scary for someone with limited mental faculties to run a household alone? Make dinner, pay the bills, go to the store and make it back safely? Yet somehow they do it, and we are often a bit awestruck that they are capable of so much despite being technically handicapped.

That's me, folks. You should have seen me at the post office today. It would have made you clench your fists in rage at the ineptitude of the public school systems that are responsible for educating our youth. Either that, or it would have made you shake your head sadly that I was so lazy in school as to let my perfectly healthy brain stagnate and bloat like a diseased liver rather than taking the opportunity to learn a thing or two.

Yes, it's true, I hate the post office. I avoid it at all costs. I'd rather remove my own appendix than go to the post office. And at this time of year, it's the worst-- every time I've driven by one in the past week or so, the line has been so long it looked like a Hands Across America photo shoot. But this trip would be a relatively painless one, because I was driving out of my way to go to a location that was equipped with plenty of gadgets to prevent people from having to negotiate the surly cashiers and the snaking lines. This particular post office has a digital scale with a vending machine attached, so you can weigh and post your own packages, paying by credit card if you prefer. If that machine is busy, there's a regular scale for weighing, plus two other vending machines that sell stamps by the book or individually, although you can only pay in cash at those machines.

While the scale and stamp vending area is nowhere near the cashiers, the lines were so long that they coiled back well past the stamp vending area, so I felt a certain sense of glee as I excused myself to step between the people slowly decaying in the eternal lines so that I could get to the do-it-yourself area. The listless people in line turned their dead eyes toward me, sadly jealous that they still had approximately 42 more hours to go before completing their transactions, while I would apparently skip in and out of there like a child playing in a department store's revolving door.

I had a few Christmas cards to buy stamps for, and a book I needed to mail to someone who had purchased it from me on It was The Dr. Drew and Adam Book, if you're dying to know what a deep thinker and intellectual reader I am. Although I didn't end up reading it, now that I think about it. I tried, but it was really very silly. I love the radio show (Loveline), and thought that must mean I'd like the book. But I learned a valuable lesson: Hearing a free-running conversation between 3 or 4 people can be interesting. Reading that exact same conversation verbatim on paper is more tedious than reading this blog. But I digress.

I plopped my cheerful infant on the clean-looking floor in front of the vending machine. (I know, you're thinking, "Ew." Hey, I'll tell you what: Next time, you come with me and hold him for me, okay? He doesn't crawl, having deemed that "too babyish" for the rock star image he's trying to cultivate with the ladies, so I didn't have to worry him putting his hands on the floor as long as I gave him something to play with. So I handed him my wallet and went about getting book of stamps from the vending machine. Normally when I come to the post office to use the self-serve area, I spend a certain amount of time digging through my purse while clutching the baby by one or more of his chubby limbs, so this time I left my purse in the car and carried only my wallet and keys, so I'd have less junk to contend with. I think ahead, my friends. That's my middle name. Karla-Think-Ahead, they used to call me in prison.

I put stamps on my letters and fed the letters into the letter slot. Now it was time for the package. I set Jake's butt on the counter and pinned him there with my body while I weighed the package. He attempted to grab everything within his 12-inch armspan, as I struggled to block his pinwheeling arms with my body and navigate the digital scale. To send this package Media Mail, it would cost $1.84. Sounded fair to me, so I began peeling stamps off my new book of stamps. Here's where the action stopped. Hmm. Stamps are 37 cents. How many times does 37 go into 184? I stared blankly at the book of stamps. Seriously, if there were a video recording device in my head, you would have seen snow on the screen, like when a TV station goes dead. Seconds ticked by as I stared. Okay, let's do it this way: I know 37 plus 37 is 64. Wait, that's not right. Okay, 40 plus 40 is 80, minus 6 makes it 74? Okay. Now how many times does 74 go into 184? Blank stare. That didn't help at all. Normally, this is where my cell phone would come in handy. There's a calculator function on my cell phone--probably on yours too, but you wouldn't know that because you never use it, right? Because you can add in your head, like every other normal person on the planet. The calculator function on my cell phone is perhaps the most important feature, with the calling feature coming in at a close second. But remember, because I'm Karla-Think-Ahead, I had left my purse in the car and brought in only my wallet, so I could minimize the amount of things I had to juggle. Now here I was, not juggling anything but the helium balloons bumping up against each other in my head.

I looked up. I was inches away from roughly three thousand people who were standing line. I looked them over. All with working brains, all of perfectly normal intelligence, I guessed. Any one of these people could answer this Super Duper Advanced Level math question for me. Some of them were looking right at me anyway, making funny faces at Jake, having nothing else to do while waiting. And I might have asked one of them for help, too, if not for the fact that I was holding my cute baby with red cheeks and a funny blue hat on his head. If I revealed to them that I was operating on a 2nd grade intelligence level, the crowd would have closed in on me in mere seconds, snatching my child from me and whisking him off to Child Protective Services, where he would go into The System, and eventually be placed in a home with fully functioning foster parents. I had to play it cool. "Look smart," I told myself, "Pretend you're capable of raising this child."

I decided to just put a ton of postage on the package. I figured I'd just plaster enough stamps on there that it'd be guaranteed to make its destination. But here again was something I wasn't smart enough for. I had idea that 5 stamps would be enough, but I wasn't sure, so I added a sixth one just for good measure. As I started to drop the package in the slot, I thought, "Wait. Maybe 6 isn't enough, either." I stared at the package. Should I add a seventh stamp? Should I buy two more books of stamps and just put them all on the package, covering every inch of space except the address label?

In the end I gave up on the whole "thinking" thing, and just went out to the car and got my cell phone. Turns out 5 stamps was enough. Back into the post office I went for a second time, defeated, meekly excusing myself to get between the people in line so I could slip my package into the slot and then speed away in my car before anyone caught on to what I had been up to for so long in there.

So yes, this is a sad tale of a halfwit trying to make it in this great big scary world, getting by largely on luck and the kindness of strangers. But there will eventually be a happy ending to my sad tale of unchecked stupidity. The good news is that in few years Jake will be able to tell me how many stamps to put on my packages. If I can just make it that long without someone taking him away from me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I am a thoughtful friend.

The other day, my friend Brooks left his hoodie sweatshirt behind when he took off to do whatever it is that he does when he's out of my sight. As I sat there idly looking at his plain black sweatshirt, I got to thinking about him. Brooks is a quiet guy, intelligent and thoughtful. He's not the kind of person who wants to be the center of attention, and certainly not someone who wears his heart on his sleeve. If you want to get to know Brooks, you have to be patient, because you're not going to figure him out in one day. You know how there are some people that you seem to know everything about in the first 5 minutes of meeting them? Not Brooks. But he's so worth the effort. Once you get to know him he's funny and friendly and kind and interesting, and just plain great in general--but upon first meeting him, you wouldn't understand all that, not yet.

And there's nothing wrong with that, of course. But I love Brooks, and I just wish more people knew him the way I know him. I sat there and thought to myself, "What can I do help broadcast the truth about the real Brooks?" It would have to be something people could recognize immediately upon seeing him for the first time, the way a big, broad smile lets you know that a person is friendly and approachable. Then it hit me. I could personalize that simple black sweatshirt for him in such a way that it telegraphed to the world "I am Brooks, and here's what I'm about."

So I did it. I put some vinyl letters on the back of his sweatshirt--just a few concise words, not a whole book-length speech. Just a simple statement to distill my friend Brooks down to the core element of his personality, the thing that really makes Brooks "Brooks." I did it out of love. I am that kind of friend.

And then I had another friend model the new-and-improved sweatshirt so I could get a picture of it for a memento.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dear Jackass, Volume 6

Dear Every Employee at Every Post Office I've Ever Been To:

Okay, I get it. It sucks to work at the post office. That's clearly the message you're trying to telegraph to every customer who patronizes your workplace. I'm unclear what's so bad about the job--from what I see, it's a lot like being a cashier in a grocery store. Not an incredibly fun job, but not backbreaking work, either--just a lot of "That'll be $54.68. Next customer in line, please." Maybe what makes you bitter is the stuff I can't see: Bad benefits? Long hours? Mandatory employee beatings before and after each shift? I don't know. But maybe it would be more constructive for you to voice your complaints to The Man instead of taking your frustration out on the line of average citizens just trying to send a birthday present to Aunt Pearl in Minnesota.

For one thing, it's not physically possible for you to move one bit slower as you go about doing your job. No one expects you to be huffing and puffing, sweating and exhausted from processing packages at light speed, but may I suggest you step it up just a tad, asshole? I can literally hear the scraping of your shoes as you drag your feet crossing the small area between the package window and your cash register. You move like mommy's calling you to come to the living room for a spanking. Now you appear to be straightening pens and idly shuffling through the stamps in the stamp drawer, emitting a long sigh for dramatic effect while I shift my heavy package on one hip and my infant on the other. The eyes of 15 people stare intently at you from the long line as you yawn and stretch and ask the employee next to you about her weekend. Finally, with another heavy sigh, you roll your sad Bassett Hound eyes toward an empty spot on the wall and mumble, to no one in particular, "Next," in the same tone of voice you might use if you were dictating your suicide note. Then, when I finally do have your attention, you act as if I showed up at your mother's funeral to ask a favor of you, instead of coming to your place of business to ask you to do something you're being paid to do.

Why are you so miserable? I'm the one who should be unhappy--I've never made it through a post office line in less than 25 minutes, no matter how many or few people are in the line. And I do take into account the busy times, and try to plan it so I get there when it's slow. But you're one step ahead of me, Angry, Passive-Aggressive Postal Worker, because while you stock the cash registers with a whopping two or three cashiers during the busy times, you reduce the number of cashiers down to one for the slow times. So despite my moment of joy as I park in a nearly empty post office parking lot, congratulating my genius and my sense of timing in managing to get there at the slowest possible time so I can get in an out of the line before my next birthday, I am quickly reduced to tears when I see that there's only one clinically depressed cashier at work inside, who seems to be deliberately taking 20 minutes to process each of the 4 people in line ahead of me, each of whom she treats like a retarded kid brother that Mommy forced her to take along with her to the movies with her friends.

What are the requirements for getting a job at the post office? Do you have to flunk out of Toll Booth school? Do you have to have failed the psychological profile at a minimum of four other jobs? Do you have to check Yes in the box on the application where it asks, "Do you hate all humans equally, living or deceased?"

If anyone reading this is a post office employee, incensed by my depiction of your brethren, and prepared to leave an indignant comment letting me know that you are a postal worker who loves his job and has great customer service skills, then my apologies to you. I will retract my statements if you will tell me which post office you work in, so that I may go there to mail my packages from now on, where I can presumably be waited on by someone who doesn't appear to be off her antidepressants. And yes, I'm in Texas and you may be in Ohio or New Mexico, but no matter; it's worth the drive. With each subsequent visit to the post office, I lose a bit of my will to live. At this rate, I'll have the personality of a postal worker by this time next year.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Public toilets are useful for many things. Lunch isn't one of them.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a little creeped out by people who are way too comfortable with public nudity. One particular woman at my gym can often be seen lounging around in the locker room naked for ridiculously long periods of time. She's just not one of those people who gets out of the shower and changes into her clothes with any kind of sense of urgency. Rather, she ambles about completely nude, fixing her hair, applying her makeup, chatting up passersby, in no hurry to cover her parts.

Now, I have no problem with how Barebutt looks nude, although there are plenty of people I'd go to absolutely any length to avoid seeing in the buff. But she's a workout fiend--she's at that gym every single day, as far as I can tell--and she's in great shape, which is maybe why she's so happy being naked. Maybe she figures the locker room is her one place to showcase the fruits of her labor. I've often lamented that it seems like the people who are the most comfortable being naked in the locker room for the longest periods of time are the people you'd least want to see in the nude, so it's nice to know that, mixed in with all the visual punishment you're guaranteed to get in the locker room, there are a few sights that don't make you want to ram a ball point pen in your eye to blind yourself.

However, there are limits to what I can accept. Here's what went down recently in my locker room, in two separate incidents of Unforgivable Nudity.

On a day like any other, Barebutt was trotting around the locker room executing her usual list of 150 Things To Do While Naked In Public. The hair drying and the mascara application were expected, as were the 10 conversations she managed to strike up with everyone who got within earshot of her. Then came the lotion rub which covered every square inch of skin, twice. Then came lunchtime, apparently. She pulled an apple and a granola bar out of her bag and sat down on the bench, her well-socialized private parts presumably immune to whatever germs typically lurk on the surfaces of locker room benches, and proceeded to dine. Picture me, a foot and a half away, respectably clothed, staring slack-jawed at her like a mental patient, too stunned to unclench my fist from around my hairbrush.

Perhaps it's the fault of the gym itself. Maybe it's their duty to provide a lavish dining area so members can relax and have a proper post-workout meal, rather than having to scarf down granola bars while slouching naked on germy benches, surrounded by sweaty women in varying stages of hairy undress. I don't know. All I know is my brain can process "vagina" or "lunch," but not both at once. When those two concepts bump into each other in my brain, the whole system shuts down like VCR after a 2-year old shoves a peanut butter sandwich into the slot.

But last week Barebutt managed to use her excessive comfort level to kick my discomfort level's ass. She came racing into the locker room, clearly late for a workout class or some other engagement. She had her gym bag over her shoulder and a huge box of energy bars under her arm. Not one of those 5-bar packs, but more like a 15 or 20-bar pack. She charged into a bathroom stall, chirping away to no one in particular about how badly she needed to pee. I thought to myself as she passed, "Why haul all that stuff into the stall with you? There's no place to set it down." I usually put my towel and water bottle on the shelf by the sinks when I go into the stalls, because the idea of flushing the toilet anywhere within 50 feet of a bottle I'm apt to drink out of makes me want to cut out my tongue. After all, while my gym is very clean and nice, this is the same gym bathroom in which I once saw a cockroach the approximate size of my head cheerfully waving his antenae at me from the back of the toilet seat I had just risen from. So scarred was I by this incident that I ceased peeing on toilet seats for a month, instead catheterizing myself with a Ziploc freezer bag and some rubber tubing. (Okay, I made that last part up, but the rest of it, including the cockroach, is true.)

I was actually in the process of setting my water bottle and towel down by the sinks at the exact moment she buzzed past, since I was on my way to a bathroom stall as well. I thought she must just be so frazzled from running late that she'd forgotten she was carrying all that stuff with her, and therefore forgot to set it down by the sinks. But as I entered the stall next to her, the unthinkable happened: She sat down on the toilet, throwing the box of energy bars on the bathroom floor. Just as I busy reeling from the ick factor involved in putting anything on a public bathroom floor that you intend to pick back up--much less food--she tore into the box, ripping it open as she peed. She then proceeded to hastily unwrap a bar and begin eating it while peeing! Once her bladder was empty and the toilet was flushed, she exited the stall, still munching on what was left of the energy bar.

Am I a prude? Am I old fashioned? Am I too germphobic? Am I uptight? I would eat my own kneecap before I would consider bringing food into a public bathroom stall, much less noisily chowing down on it while urinating. And what ever happened to being afraid of the scorn of your peers? What kind of person wouldn't at least be embarrassed to be caught eating on a public toilet? What kind of world am I living in?? I mean, I know there are plenty of people out there who are exceedingly comfortable with their bodily functions, and occasionally I run across some whacko who's downright proud of them. But Barebutt is in a category by herself. I hope.

I go to the gym to stay thin, and I recommend it highly because it works. It works in two separate and distinct ways, one of which might surprise people: I burn a few calories during my workout, sure, but more importantly, I completely lose whatever appetite I've worked up in the locker room afterward. Try it yourself: Next time you're about to take a bite of a candy bar or a french fry, picture Barebutt eating food off the bathroom floor while urinating.

And no, she didn't wash her hands after she left the bathroom stall, either. And at that point, I have to admit, it did seem rather arbitrary.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

100 Things Wrong With Me (Part 8)

If you missed the first 7 parts to this long-winded series, congratulations: You clearly have a life. Here's a short recap:

Many bloggers have a 100 Things list, in which they detail 100 miscellaneous facts about themselves, usually along the lines of "I'm a people person," and "I believe in love at first sight." However, I don't want to get to know you any more than you want to get to know me. So how about I just make a few self-deprecating statements about myself? It'll entertain us both. I give you my list of 100 Things Wrong With Me. I'm posting the list in installments, because seeing an entire 100-item list of my faults might drive me to suicide. Here's #71-80.

71. Even though it takes all the joy out of eating, I can't help reading the nutrition labels of everything I eat. For the most part it's a good thing, because it stops me from eating fattening things most of the time. But reading the nutrition info of certain products can be dangerous, too. Once, I bought a Haagen Daaz ice cream bar at a convenience store, saying to myself, "Don't read the label, just enjoy it. You can afford the calories." I almost made it, too. But then, as I was taking the last bite, I caved, and turned the box over to peek at the numbers. I almost went into cardiac arrest. I consider it a feat of modern science that they managed to cram that many calories and that much fat into that little bitty space. That was over ten years ago, and I've never eaten Haagen Daaz since.

72. I don't drink beer. I want to be "that girl," the supercool girl who drinks beer right alongside the men, and doesn't require the skills of a bartender to make some kind of fancy, frilly girly drink for me, but sadly, I can't drink beer. I tend to feel full after a just a little food or a little drink, and if I drink beer I can only have one or two before I feel like I need to go buy new pants. However, give me a gin martini with three olives and I'll...drink it and order another one. Then another. No new pants required. Unless, you know, I get drunk enough to pee myself. Or unless I wasn't wearing pants in the first place.

73. I don't ride roller coasters. I don't understand you goofballs who do. Is life so boring to you that you need to vomit on yourself while loop-de-looping at the speed of light in order to say you've had a good time? Fine, call me a sissy and a baby and whatever else you thrill seekers want to call me to justify your own death wish. I doubt I'll be laying on my deathbed someday thinking, "I wish I'd spent more time standing in long lines in 90 degree heat waiting to wedge myself onto a bench seat next to a fat guy with sno-cone syrup on his shirt so I could lose control of my bladder while careening upside down on a tiny track at 120 miles per hour."

74. I'm a fast eater. Often I will eat standing up, or while driving. I rarely make a whole plate of food, but instead grab something that I can eat out of my hand like a chimp. All this rushing while eating would give you the impression that I'm so incredibly busy and in demand that I can't afford the 5 minutes it would take to sit down and eat at a normal pace, but that's not the case. The truth is I'm usually rushing for no reason. I'll swallow my food in 3 bites like a Rottweiler, only to then stand around trying to figure out what to do next. I am one of those people who keeps busy constantly, so after inhaling my food I'm off to the next project, but the next project is never anything so pressing that I couldn't have sat down and had a normal meal like a respectable human; the next project is usually some aspect of house cleaning or other busywork. Because all the food I eat in a day has to be something that can fit in my hand, my diet consists pretty much exclusively of bananas, apples, cheese, nuts, fat free hot dogs, grilled chicken that I've cut into strips and bagged in Ziplocs, energy bars, carrots, beef jerky, Lean Pockets and canned tuna, which I eat straight out of the can.

75. I get June and July mixed up, as well as March and May. So if you tell me your birthday is July 24th, I will spend the entire month of June trying to figure out if I need to buy you a present this month or next. No matter how many times you tell me it's July, I will never be able to commit that to memory. Of course, I keep all birthdays and appointments and other important dates written in the calendar in my purse, but still, I find it maddening that I have that June/July, March/May mental block. Along those same lines, I also get meeting times mixed up by 30 minutes. So if you tell me we're meeting for dinner at 7:30 tonight, I will spend all day wondering, "Did he say 7 or 7:30?" I'll call you and confirm that it is, indeed, 7:30, and then later that day I'll be wandering through my house eating some crappy food out of my hand like a hobo, wondering, "Was it 7 or 7:30?"

76. I have to be entertained 24/7. Mostly this involves having something funny to listen to. I have an .mp3 of the Howard Stern show loaded onto my .mp3 player at all times, and I keep it in my purse so that if I am in the grocery store or standing in line somewhere, I can take it out and be entertained. I record, on cassette (what is this, 1981?), Loveline with Dr. Drew (and formerly Adam Carolla) so that I can play it on my home stereo while I'm taking a shower, fixing my hair, doing dishes, etc. I keep magazines in my car, books and magazines in my gym bag, TV shows and movies recorded on my Windows Media Center (kinda like TiVo, for the uninformed). I'm like a 3 year old with a red balloon. I have to have something to play with or I get antsy.

77. When Brian and I are going somewhere in his car, he's usually driving and I'm in the passenger seat. I find great big fun in putting my bare feet on the passenger-side windshield of his car while he tries to swat them away. I try to keep it interesting, and arrange my grimy footprints in a different way each time. You know, toes pointed inward for a knock-kneed look one day, heel-to-toe as if walking a tightrope the next day.

78. I drink pickle juice from the pickle jar. Or I pour it into a juice glass and drink it that way. I'm sure this isn't entirely unheard of, and I'm not the only person who does this. But I also buy these little packets of pickle-flavored salt for ten cents each. I buy big handfuls of them and keep a few in my purse at all times. For, you know, those times when you really just want to dump some pickle-flavored salt into your mouth.

79. I would make the world's worst teacher because I'm terrible at explaining things. It goes badly awry in one of two ways: Either I talk way over the person's head so that they have no idea what I'm trying to tell them, or I dumb it down so much that I insult their intelligence. And it's impossible for me to know which is the case and make an adjustment, because either way I find my pupil staring at me with a look on his or her face that seems to register either total bewilderment or perhaps fear. When I ask, "Does this make sense," they nod mutely. If you think I'm making this up, I'm not. I can't tell you how many times this scenario has played out. To make matters worse, I talk fast, so the person probably spends most our time together trying to figure out what language I'm speaking. All of this explains why I like blogging. Because, even though you're almost certainly sitting there right now with a look of bewilderment or perhaps fear on your face, at least I can't see it.

80. I know this makes me a bad mother, but I really want to get this baby t-shirt for my 10-month old son. The text may be hard to read in this pic, but it says, "Hung like a five year old."

Don't worry, I'm sure my husband wouldn't go for it. One of us has some sense, at least.