Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Which I Wish I Hadn't Heard

When you speak to the general public on the phone for a living, you get the opportunity to speak with some pretty weird people and hear some pretty weird things. I spent the past three years working for a medical call center until I switched jobs in December. Now I work in a call center for a large bank chain, and throughout all of my years on the phone I thought I had heard it all. 

I've heard people fart, burp, use the bathroom, and vomit while on the phone. I've heard mothers smack their children and husbands verbally abuse their wives. I've been yelled at and screamed at, told that I was incompetent and ignorant, and one time this one guy even wished that I would get hit by a car and die. Life in the call center definitely isn't all clear sailing. It's a roller coaster, just like any other job out there. Just one call at a time, and after the thousands of calls I've taken, I thought nothing could faze me.

And then I got this one gentleman on the phone.

Our conversation started out pretty normal. He was just another guy on the phone looking for his account balance, and everything was progressing smoothly. I was just about ready to read back his balance to him when he cut me off.

"Hang on a sec," he said. I heard him pull the phone away from his mouth. In a muffled voice I heard him say, "What are you doing? What?" He paused for a few moments. "Why do you have to do that while I'm on the phone? Can't you just wait a minute?"

A brief burst of rustling static and he was back on the line with me. "Sorry about that," he said. "My wife has had a bit too much wine tonight and is feeling a little bit fris-" The phone dropped down again. "Stop that!"

I sat there at my desk, trying my hardest not to picture what was going on. "Sir?"

"Yes, I'm here, sorry," he apologized, "it's just my wife. She's... well, whatever. So what's my balance?"

"No problem, sir." I was eager to get this call over with. "Your balance tonight is-"

"Will you cut that out?" he cried to his wife, not bothering to lower the phone this time. I winced and pulled my headset away from my ears. "Now? You can't wait thirty seconds until I'm off the phone?" A mumbled response. "No? Well, don't just stare at it. Do something with it." More scuffling of the phone, and then he was back. "Sorry again. My balance?"

"Yes, sir. Your balance is-"

"Don't just tug at it!" he demanded. "Fine. Suck it, then. Suck it." 

I sat back in my chair, stunned and grossed out. Is what I think is happening really happening?

A shuddering sigh confirmed my suspicion. This call needed to end. NOW.

"Hello, sir?" I called out.

"Yeah, I'm... here," he said loosely, clearly distracted. A low groan came through my headset. He pulled the phone away again and spoke to his wife again. "Suck it. That's good..."

"Your balance, sir?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. My balance. What is my balance?"

"Seven hundred and thirty-two dollars and seventeen cents," I said. I aimed my mouse over to the Disconnect button on my telephone and prayed for this call to be over. My customer, though, had other things on his mind, and wasn't paying attention. It was my suspicion that there was more blood going to a different region of his body than to his brain.

"Slow down, slow down," he said quietly. Another sigh. More phone scuffling. "I'm sorry, what'd you say?"

"Your balance? Seven thirty-two seventeen."

"Oh, okay." To his wife again: "Slow down, slow down... Slow... yeah..."

"Anything else I can help you wish tonight, sir?" I asked quickly, seizing any opportunity to end this call as quickly as possible.

"No, I'm good. I'm really good." He sounded like the happiest man on Earth.

"Alright, sir. Have a good night."

"Already having it," he said, again in that loose, distracted voice. His breathing increased and he started to grunt. I hit Disconnect and ripped my headset off, wanting to distance myself as far as possible from the conversation that had just taken place. 

I felt used. I felt wronged. I felt disgusted. I felt so many things, but most of all I felt that I could have gone through my night just fine without having had that conversation. 

Have you ever wanted to pour hand sanitizer in your ears? 

I have. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

In Which It Just Isn't The Same

SCENE: It's Friday night at the club. The music is pumping, the alcohol is flowing, and every person in the club has their eye on someone else. The air is heavy with the fog that drifts down the stage where the DJ is set up, illuminating the multi-colored laser light show synced perfectly in time with the chest-thumping pulse of the loudspeakers. On one side of the room a man leans against the wall, nursing an imported beer. He's been staring at this one woman at the bar all night. Olive skin, brilliant smile, legs that go on for miles, and hair that just begs to have hands run through it. He's in the middle of thinking of what he would say to her, when at long last there are no other men hovering around her. With no time like the present, he makes his way over.

---

Her back is to him as he sets his beer down on the bar and leans up against it. Hearing him, she turns around to see who else has come up to try their luck. She gives him a quick once-over and smiles.

"Hi," she says. She extends her hand politely, and he grasps it between both hands. 

"Hello," he replies, raising his voice to be heard over the music. He lets go of her hands. She sips at her drink, and looks at him over her glass, clearly waiting for him to say something.

"Take my order, 'cause your body like a carryout," he says at last.

Startled, she sets her drink down on the bar. "Excuse me?"

Thinking she can't hear him over the music, he leans in and speaks into her ear. "Let me walk it to your body 'till you hear me out." 

She pulls back, confused and uncomfortable. She's starting to get a weird feeling about this man. 

"What are you trying to say?" she asks, although she's not so sure she wants to know the answer.

"Do you like it well done? 'Cause I do it well... 'cause I'm well seasoned if you couldn't tell," he goes on to say. Why isn't this working? he thinks. It sounded so good in my head.

"Um, no, thanks. Go away. You're starting to creep me out." She picks up her drink and swivels around on the bar stool, turning her back to him once again.

Not wanting to be shut down this quickly, he reaches over and puts his hand on her shoulder, turning her back around to face him. "Let me get my ticket, baby, let me get in line. I can tell the way you like it, baby, super-sized."

Shock and fear spreads across her face. Is this guy for real? she wonders.

"I think you need to leave me alone now," she says, "before I call the bouncers over." 

He glances up at the door, noting the two men flanking it. They are nothing but muscle, a walking advertisement for the steroid industry. He swallows hard, and gives it one more shot. Opportunities like these don't come up all that often. He leans in close again. 

"Have it your way, foreplay, before I feed your appetite."

She's had enough. She slaps him in the face, and hard. He staggers back at step, and puts a hand to his face to calm the stinging. For good measure, she throws the remainder of her drink in his face. The alcohol burns in his eyes, and a brief thought passes through his mind. So that's what she's been drinking... Long Island Iced Tea.

The other people at the bar stop their conversations and look over. The bartender signals the bouncers, who immediately leave their post at the door and approach the bar. He sees them coming through bleary eyes, and tries out one last line he had prepared.

"What's your name? What's your number? I'm glad I came, can you take my order?"

She slaps him again, this time on the other cheek. He feels his bottom lip split open and then tastes the bitter copper flavor of blood. The bouncers arrive, clamp meaty hands on his shoulders, and start dragging him away.

"Turn me on, my baby, don't you cut me out!" he cries, struggling against his captors. 

"Shut it down, Rico Suave. You're done here," one of the bouncers says in a deep baritone.

Before he realizes it, he's outside into the cool night air. The bouncers literally toss him out the door, and he takes a few staggering steps before sitting hard on the sidewalk. He wipes the dripping alcohol from his face and rubs absently at his split bottom lip. He hears sniggering laughter coming from the line of people waiting behind velvet ropes to get into the club, but ignores them. He's too hurt to care, both physically and egotistically.

I don't know why that didn't work, he thinks. It all sounded so good in that song on the radio

---

If you didn't get the reference, this is my interpretation of what would happen if someone actually tried to use the lyrics from a rap song to pick up a girl at the club (the music video is linked above). Proof that some of the songs on the radio are just ridiculous. 

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, March 26, 2010

In Which I'll Never Win

The Boss was watching TV (that new show "Parenthood" on NBC, if you must know) the other night, and I looked up from the book that I was reading because one of the voices sounded a bit familiar. Upon looking, one of the actors looked a little familiar, too. I thought about it for a minute, trying to place what else I had seen the guy in. Finally, it clicked.

"Hey," I said, "that guy right there." I pointed at the screen. "He looks familiar."

"I know!" The Boss said. "I've been trying to place it all night."

Now, let it be known that The Boss prides herself as a movie/television show buff. She thinks she knows everything there is to know about almost every movie or TV show ever made. She is king (or queen, as it were) at Six Degrees Of Separation. No matter what random combination of actors or movies, she can always find a connection in no more than six steps. It's amazing and also kind of scary. I mean, just think of all the valuable brain space all that information is taking up (says the guy who knows all the words to just about every Weird Al song ever made)? 

Anyways, The Boss hemmed and hawed about what she thought the guy was in. I was pretty confident that I knew the answer, so I went for it.

"I think he played that guy named Nate, in the movie "Lucky Number Slevin". 

"No," The Boss said right away. 

A beat.

"At least I don't think so."

"I dunno," I said playfully. "I think I'm right."

She considered it for a minute, and then shook her head. "No, I don't see it."

"You don't? I bet I'm right."

She turned to look at me and smiled cockily. "You bet? What are you willing to wager?"

"If I'm wrong, I'll publicly admit that I was wrong and you were right," I said. "What about you?"

She thought for a moment, and then said, "I'll wager the same thing." 

Confident that she was right, she turned on her computer and looked the actor up. And sure enough... I was right. 

"Fuck," she said quietly. "Fuck!"

"Ha! I knew it!" I gloated. I very rarely get something past her when it comes to this sort of trivia, so I was pretty pleased with myself. I let her sulk for a few moments and nurse the bruise to her ego... but then it was time to claim my winnings.

As anyone who has been in any relationship knows, there is often the battle of who is wrong and who is right. It doesn't matter what the issue is, but there is always something. The Boss and I are no exception, but I've got no problem admitting when I'm wrong. In my life I've been more wrong than right, after all. She just doesn't like to concede when the situation comes up that I am right, no matter how trivial.

Wanting to document this momentous occasion, I pulled out my cell phone and started recording a video. If she was going to admit that I was right about something, I wanted something to remember it by, goshdarnit. 

The result:




You'd think that I was trying to get her to admit that she wears zippered-crotch panties.

Of course, after I gave up and stopped recording, she finally admitted it. But I don't have the proof.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Which I Have No Excuse

A number of years ago, when The Boss and I were still dating but living together, we went to visit my parents. They had called us up the day before and invited us over for dinner, even offering to let us bring our laundry over if we had any to do. We, of course, jumped at the chance. Their offer was for two of the best, most awesome things for young couples: a free home-cooked meal, and free laundry. 

Visiting home was always a whirlwind during those days, as there was always something going on and plenty to get caught up on. I usually got roped into doing some chores or helping my dad with some stuff around the house, but I didn't mind, especially considering the free laundry (I'd gladly sweep the floor or take out the trash if it meant I didn't have to sit at the sketchy laundromat in town). The Boss would sit and drink tea and chat with my mother, and on the day in question, I suppose we got a little caught up in visiting and forgot about our laundry. 

When I finally remembered, I ran downstairs to the laundry room. My mother, quickly stepping into her role as the caretaker that she had missed since I had moved out for college two years prior, had long since switched over The Boss' laundry and started my laundry in the washer. By the time I made it downstairs, it appeared that she had even folded The Boss' laundry when it was done drying. My wash was almost done it's last spin cycle, and as I waited I sifted through The Boss' laundry to make sure everything was folded and not just the few things on top.

I lifted up her bath towel on top of the pile, and froze. What I saw made my blood run cold. 

Sitting on top of a pair of neatly folded jeans was a pair of The Boss' underwear, but not just her regular underwear. They were her pair of zippered-crotch panties.

Wrap your mind around that for a moment. My ultra-conservative Christian mother, who told me directly that she didn't approve of The Boss and I living together before marriage because we'd be living in sin, folded a pair of my live-in girlfriend's zippered-crotch underwear. 

I wanted to burst into flames from sheer embarrassment. I know they weren't my underwear (I suppose I would have had some explaining to do if that was the case), but of all the things I wanted to keep from my mother, the fact that my girlfriend sometimes wore zippered panties was definitely one of them.  

Oh, man. Oh, shit. 

I quickly buried the evidence under a few more layers of clothes and went back upstairs after putting my laundry in the dryer. My mother was standing in the kitchen, leaning up against the counter with her arms folded across her chest. One of her eyebrows was raised slightly, and I felt the chill of judgement raise the hairs on the back of my neck. My face became warm and flushed.

"Thanks for folding her laundry," I said after a moment of uncomfortable silence. 

"No problem," she replied, her voice heavy with disappointment.

Just then, blessedly before the conversation could turn in any direction closer towards the scandalous underwear, The Boss emerged from the bathroom and joined us in the kitchen. She looked at me and smiled, and I smiled back. I thought to myself, you won't be smiling when I tell you about this on the ride home.

The Boss was, of course, mortified. It was a long time before she would come with me to visit my parents again. And thankfully, the topic has never come up for discussion with my parents. It has been a good memory to laugh about ever since, although I think it helps that she buried the underwear deep in her dresser in her attempts to distance herself from the embarrassment. 

And no, she never wore them again. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

In Which It Must Be A Celebrity Thing

Dear Guy Fieri,

Hey, how's it going? Pretty good here. Just thought I'd drop you a line and see what's up. Well, I've got a few more things to say than that, considering I just watched the premiere of your new game show on NBC called "Minute To Win It". The show was pretty good I guess, but I'm just curious... how in hell did you land that job? I mean, aren't you a chef or something? You probably were looking for work since it seems that Gordon Ramsay has the market cornered for chefs-turned-reality TV hosts right now, and you probably jumped at the chance to be on the show. I can understand that completely. Anything beats sitting at home and watching Soaps, right? 

I can picture it clearly. The producers of the show were sitting around the conference room before taping the first episode, wracking their brains for ideas for a hip, modern host for the show. One of the producers mistakes a misfiring neural synapse for a brilliant idea and yells out, "Guy!". The other producers look at him, not understanding. "What?", they ask. "Guy!" he yells again. "Well... yeah, a guy host would be appropriate," they agree. "No, Guy Fieri!" "Who is that?" they wonder. "You know... that guy who was a guest chef at TGI Fridays," he says. He is met with blank stares. "That chef who looks like the Boss Elf from Rudolph?" Expressions of recognition flash across the conference table. "Yes!" they all cry out in agreement.

I'm right, aren't I? Thought so.

In the search for a hip guy to host a new game show, who better than a hip guy named Guy? It's like a match made in Heaven. So what if your facial hair currently looks like you have a miniature show dog on your face? So what if your bleached-blonde and spikey hair makes you look kinda like the white version of Samuel L. Jackson in the movie "Jumper", or a less bald version of the guy who bites it in the last scene of "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade"? So what if the earrings you wear look like they're durable enough to be used as anchor points if the need to strap down machinery comes up?

Forget all of that! You're a celebrity! You've been on multiple shows and been around the block a few times! If it's widely accepted for Lady GaGa to dress up like a fucking mountain range, it's perfectly fine for you to express your originality, even if it does makes you look like a douchebag with a Landing Strip on his chin. 

I also think that now you've got one show under your belt, the producers should really consider scripting your lines on the show. Some of the things you said during the show were borderline obscene, or at the very least "That's what she said" worthy. I can't remember the exact quote, but it had to do something with being blindfolded and grabbing at balls. Just like your Friday nights, right? I kid, I kid. 

All joking and sly insults aside, the show itself is pretty creative and fun. If I had a bit more pride to spare, I might even consider trying some of the games myself here at home. I'll probably tune in again next week if I'm not doing anything else. After all, I was pretty surprised that you made a pretty decent host, even if you are kind of hard to look at.

Hope this gig works out better for you than with TGI Fridays. 

All the best,
Mike

P.S. Spend the twenty bucks, invest in a beard trimmer, and trim down that Yeti growing on your chin. It looks ridiculous.

---

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, March 19, 2010

In Which I Am Perplexed

I am no stranger to seeing weird things.

No, I'm not talking about hallucinations (although there are times when I think seeing imaginary things would be pretty cool). I'm talking about the crazy things I see when I'm just going about my daily life. A quick stroll through the archives here will be proof enough of that. I've seen vertically-challenged firemen, graphically obscene car decals, and ninjas walking around in plain daylight to just name a few, but don't let me spoil it all for you. Take the time to go through the archives if you haven't already. I promise it will be (mostly) worth your time.

Suffice it to say that weirdness and I are good friends...

... Which is why I was so stunned by the woman I saw on Wednesday, while waiting in the doctor's office with The Boss for an appointment.

I'm not often at a loss for words, but I really had to stop and think about where to start when describing her for this post. She was so beyond weird that it forced me to reconsider my own definition of weirdness. She was a 37 on a 1-to-10 Scale of Weirdness. She was a train wreck of so many weird things that I could not help but stare unabashedly at her screamingly overt weirdness. 

She had a nose like those eels from The Little Mermaid. Her hair was sticking out in every direction like she was charged with near lethal amounts of static electricity. She either had no teeth or had forgotten to slip in her dentures that morning, so her lips were sunk into her mouth. Her lips had to have been very dry because she kept licking her lips every thirty seconds or so, making a sloppy wet sound as she did so. Her eyes looked like they were too big for her head to a point, yet they were still a bit weasel-like.

She was wearing neon green fleece sweatpants printed with Christmas trees. She wore a t-shirt that said "Proud To Be A Redneck" under a zip-up sweatshirt... the pockets of which were full of old candy wrappers and spent tissues that made a crackling, rustling noise every time she moved. The metaphorical cherry on top of this ice cream sundae of oddness was the tube socks and sandals she wore on her feet. 

And that was just what she looked like.

I don't think I posses the skills to properly describe the pain she inflicted upon my ears when she spoke. Keep in mind that this was in a doctor's waiting room, where proper etiquette states to speak in hushed tones. This lady talked like she thought she was in a wind tunnel. She bellowed each and every syllable to make sure that the rug rat that was sitting next to her could hear. It's important to mention that because of her lack of teeth, she spoke with a lisp and her voice had a sort of liquid quality. And all during she extensively interrogated her son about where his "thneakers" were and if he ate his "thandwich" for lunch, she kept savagely licking her lips, suspending strings of saliva between her lips whenever she opened her mouth wide. 

It was all I could do not to stare. 

I mean, with the hair and the pants and the lack of teeth and the nose, it's not like you'd need to call any more attention to yourself by speaking so incredibly loud. She had to have been hard of hearing or just lacking any tact whatsoever. I just couldn't fathom that so much weirdness could be contained in one person without spontaneously combusting. 

I can't bring myself to speculate what she may have been thinking when she got dressed that day. I can't bring myself to really elaborate on anything about her. I am just in awe. Seeing her was like seeing an elusive rare butterfly... a really trashy, rare butterfly.

I wanted to take a picture to prove what I saw, but I couldn't get a good angle with my camera phone. Who knows... maybe I'll luck out and see her again. This town isn't all that big.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Which I Am Concerned

Ever since I started this blog, reviewing the search terms people have used to come by my site has never ceased to amaze me. It's been a while since I've written about them because it's something that a lot of people do, but I've come across some lately that just have to be shared.

---

"duct tape chastity" - I don't even know where to begin with this one. While I do have to agree that duct tape is one method of ensuring chastity, there are definitely better and less adhesive ways of achieving abstinence. Like an Everlast, for example.

"I am weak and 24" - Welcome the club, my friend.

"badass checkbook covers" - I could write a veritable laundry list of all the different "badass" things people search for. You name it, I've more than likely seen it on my search term list. But this? Checkbook covers? No. I'm sorry, but there is just no way to make writing a check look badass.  What's more, how can purchasing anything, regardless of payment method, be considered badass? Unless you're flipping Benjamin's off of a roll of bills.

"funny paper towel experiences" - I can totally understand this one. I mean, hasn't everyone had a funny experience with paper towels? Anyone?... Anyone?

"badass hole" - I don't want to know. I really, really don't want to know.

"I like to put hot water on my balls because it feels good" - Ouch. Just... ouch. I'm all for people having fetishes and whatnot that helps get their respective rocks off, but I draw the line when it comes to introducing scalding hot water to my California Raisins

---

Weird stuff. But then again, normalcy is all relative. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

In Which I Kick Ass

I'm guest posting over at Tony's place today, in honor of an awesome contest he's having. Head on over there to check it out, and to see how you can participate.

Because I exhausted all of my creative energy on my guest post, please forgive me for re-posting a story that was originally up a few months ago. It's one of my favorites, despite the memories I have of the event itself.

---

*NOTE* This post is not for the squeamish or the light-stomached.

A couple of months ago (about two weeks before we moved), The Boss was on antibiotics for an ear infection. As anyone who has ever been on antibiotics will tell you, the medication fucks with your stomach and can make you feel quite sick. Having been on the medication for a couple of days, The Boss was coping with some pretty strong nausea but was managing okay otherwise. In fact, she almost made it through the entire course of the medication without incident.

Almost.

On day three or four of the antibiotic regimen, The Boss and I shared a dinner together out on the porch of the apartment we lived at at the time (you know, the one with the noisy landlords and haunted bedroom). She had made tacos, and we ate while overlooking the lake. She seemed to have her normal appetite about her, but once everything had been brought inside after dinner, The Boss started feeling a little queasy.

"Are you alright?" I asked. Her face was pale and she was holding her stomach.

"Yeah, I'm fine," she said, breathing slowly and evenly through her nose.

"If you're gonna puke, you need to let me know."

"I'm fine, Mike. Just feeling a little sick to my stomach," she assured me.

I paused for a moment.

"Because if you puke, I puke."

(As an aside, I am a sympathetic vomiter. Not sympathetic as in, "Aw, I'm sorry you're sick. Let me hold your hair." Sympathetic as in if you blow chunks in front of me, I'll puke immediately afterwards, possibly even while you are still in mid-puke, if there is a lot coming up. It is an automatic reaction that I have little to no control over, and it has made for some pretty messy incidents.)

"I'm fine," she repeats, "just a little bit nauseated."

She doesn't look like she believes a word that she is saying, so I keep a watchful eye on her. She turns her attention to the news on the television, but I can tell she is in distress. After a few minutes, she suddenly leans forward, her eyes wide.

"Are you gonna puke?"

"Nope. I'm good," she says in clipped words, and leans back. "False alarm."

"Should I leave? If you're gonna puke, I need to know so I can leave."

A pause. She leans forward again, and an expression of panic flashes on her face, and then fades.

"... I'm good."

Right now, she is the worst liar ever. I can practically see her seething, her stomach churning. It is my turn to lean forward now, hands poised on the arms of my chair and ready to spring up and run out of the room at the first sound of a retch.

She groans lightly and raises a hand over her mouth.

"Should I go?" I ask.

She shakes her head no. Her hand drops.

"Should I go?" I ask again.

Her hand rises again, hovering in the air just below her mouth. She swallows hard.

"I'm good," she says, wiping the corners of her mouth. "I'm good, I prom-"

Her stomach heaves and interrupts her mid-sentence. Before I know what is happening, The Boss lurches forward and clamps her hand firmly over her mouth. She turns to look at me, the panic on her face very clear and very real.

"Should I go?"

She nods.

In a flash, I am up out of my chair. With unheard-of agility and coordination by a man of my stature, I step lightly around the obstacle course of various boxes and storage bins that lay strewn around the living room. Amazingly, I don't hit or knock over a single thing, and in three seconds time I am out of the room and out the front door. I turn around to close the door behind me, and I see The Boss scrambling to pick up a bowl that had for some reason been left on the coffee table. The door slams closed and I plug my ears with my hands.

It wasn't enough. Even on the other side of the door and my hands cupped over my ears, I hear her retch and heave, and vomit. My stomach starts churning, and the bile rises in my throat.

No. NO. I will not throw up. I will NOT throw up. I start humming to block out the noise coming from inside and focus on calming my stomach. The urge to revisit my dinner is strong, but with sheer determination I force it away. I continue humming for a few moments just to be safe.

A minute or two passes. I stop humming, lower my hands, and crack open the door. The Boss is leaning with her head over the bowl.

"Are you okay?"

She nods her head.

"Is it safe to come in?"

"Yeah," she says weakly. "Just don't look over here."

You don't have to worry about that. I have no interest in seeing a bowl of freshly made taco salad soup. I step gingerly back inside and close the door. The Boss wipes her mouth with the back side of her hand and sighs heavily. Barely three steps inside, she groans again, and I freeze.

"Mike?" she asks nervously.

"Yeah?"

"I'm going to need a bigger bowl."

---

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, March 12, 2010

In Which I Feel Weak

A few nights ago while on our way home from work, we had to stop and get gas. The Boss likes to drive the car until it's practically running on fumes, insisting that the warning light that comes on when the fuel level is low isn't any cause for concern. This time was of course no different, and I could feel the car start to chug and wheeze as we pulled up to the pumps, just barely making it on the last traces of gasoline fumes left in the tank.

The Boss was driving and I, being the chivalrous man that I am, got out into the chilly night air to pump the gas. I swiped my debit card in the reader first, entered my PIN number, and while waiting for it to authorize my card, opened the fuel door. 

Also while waiting, I noticed across the aisle at another pump a guy about my age. He was at about the same stage as I was in the fuel-pumping process. We gave each other the obligatory head-nod of male acknowledgement, and he unscrewed the fuel cap on his car. It spun off easily, and then he began fueling up. My pump beeped at me letting me know I was good to go, so I reached back with my right hand (my non-dominant hand, I should add) to unscrew the fuel cap on my car, too.

It wouldn't budge.

The other guy made it look so effortless. Not wanting to seem like a wimp or bruise my ego, I struggled with it for a few moments, trying my hardest not to grimace with the effort. Because The Boss had pushed the car so far on fumes, a vacuum had occurred in the fuel system, holding the gas cap down like a vise. Much to my chagrin, I had to turn around and switch to my left hand (that's what she said), but still I had to wrestle with it to get the damn thing open. 

After setting the pump handle inside and clicking down the hold switch, I looked back over at the other guy. He gave me a knowing nod and shrugged his shoulders. I replied about as much, throwing in a backwards nod gesturing towards the drivers seat. He seemed to understand and nodded again. 

In those situations, it's always better for one's ego to shift the blame elsewhere. 

What kind of awkward or embarrassing situations have you been in lately?

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Which I Malfunction

My immune system just isn't working right anymore. 

That is abundantly clear to me, considering all that I've had happen recently pertaining to my supposed allergies and whatnot. I'm beginning to see similarities between my immune system and Toyota, where you start out thinking it's going to be reliable no matter what, nothing to worry about... but then all of a sudden, shit just falls apart. There is no manufacturer warranty for me, though (I've checked), so I can't just pull into my local service station and have them swap out the faulty parts. Instead we've got to do a bunch of tests and wait to see what happens. 

I mentioned a little while ago that my allergist had me do some blood tests to learn a little more about what is going on. The results came back in about a week later, but I didn't get a chance to sit down with my doctor and discuss them until last week. He had left me a voicemail letting me know it wasn't anything serious as he had previously speculated, but there was still things we needed to talk about. 

At my appointment last week, he sat me down and talked over the results a bit more in depth. He had tested me for liver disease, thyroid disease, and lupus. I tested negative for all three, which is good, but some of the other tests came back with some elevated protein levels. He explained it all to me very carefully what that indicates, and then told me his diagnosis.

I have Immune Complex Disease. 

Basically, whenever my immune system encounters something foreign (like a virus or bacteria or an infection), it attaches to it an antibody to fight it. An antigen binds itself to the antibody, and instead of flushing itself out of the body like it is supposed to do in a normally operating immune system, the antibody/antigen cluster attaches itself to various parts of the body. Over time, since they are not eliminated from the system, these clusters build up. This causes a rise in certain proteins, which in turn can trigger an automatic response from whatever part of the body it's attached to. It's a big chain reaction, and the symptoms I'd have from this can closely mimic normal allergy symptoms. 

I did a fair amount of research after my appointment to make sure I fully understood everything my doctor told me. He told me that what I have is not lupus, since I tested negative for it in the blood work, but it acts very similar to it. In what I read additionally about Immune Complex Disease, it is often a main feature of autoimmune conditions, such as lupus. So it's not exactly lupus, but it's close. 

Here is where I get confused. It's like being told I am an orange, but I don't make orange juice. 

I trust my doctor when he says that I don't have lupus. I just have to wonder if there is anything else to what I have, because when I look at all the other symptoms I've been fighting over the past couple years (neurological, physical, and emotional), they each fall neatly into their own category where a diagnosis of lupus would seem to fit. I'm trying my best to not read into it, to be subjective with the information I read about it, but that only goes so far. The black-and-white logic my mind runs on has a hard time accepting that it still isn't what it seems to be, despite all of the signs pointing directly at it. 

At any rate, what this all means is that I'll likely be on some sort of antihistamine regimen on a long-term basis. I'll need to be careful with what I expose myself to, to make sure I don't get sick or take any unneeded risks. Even an infected cut or sore could cause a problem, and I'll need to ramp up my medication during cold and flu season. If my symptoms persist through the medication, I may need to go back on steroids as well, but I'm hoping it doesn't come to that. 

I'm glad to at least have more of a game plan again, even if I don't completely understand it. I really do trust my allergist, but even he himself said that this diagnosis is tough to pinpoint. I have some more tests to run, and maybe we'll know more from that. 

It's always something, I tell you. 

Always something. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

In Which I Am Impressed And Also Slightly Disgusted

I've talked a lot lately about odd things that take place in the bathroom at work. I'm not sure what that means or if it means anything at all, but I would honestly prefer that the weird stuff happen somewhere else. Sadly I don't think I have much of a choice in the matter as outside of the break room, the bathroom is where I have the most interaction with my co-workers. 

One unfortunate* thing about the urinals at work is that there is no partition between them. For the uninitiated, it can be quite awkward to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with another guy while you're both holding your respective junk. Without the partition, even if you try your hardest not to, one can often see way too much of their colleague in their peripheral vision. I don't know about the next guy, but I'd rather get through my work day without seeing my cubicle-mate shake off and tuck it all back in. 

That said, I always try to take my stance at the urinal at a slight outward angle to avoid accidentally seeing anything I don't want to see, and to also protect my own privacy a bit. I'm no homophobe, but if I may be frank, the only Johnson I want to see is my own, and that's only on an as-needed basis. 

The other day, though, I had just approached the urinal when a colleague of mine walked in. He was walking pretty hurriedly, the soles of his loafers squeaking against the tile floor. I had already taken my stance at the urinal and unzipped, foolishly forgetting to angle myself away. Not wanting to seem rude, I stayed put and began to... you know... take care of business. 

This guy, while still a good three feet away from the available urinal to my left, unbuckled and unzipped. I heard this with my back turned and my gaze aimed downward, and just assumed that the guy had to pee pretty badly and was simply preparing himself. My assumption was wrong, because he starting pissing into the urinal while he was still an arms-length away. 

I didn't have to look to know that he was pissing like a fucking fire hose. It shot straight out of him and into the urinal bowl with surprising force, gurgling loudly down the drain. As I was finishing up I couldn't help but appreciate the skill in his aim and his ability to walk slowly forward to get closer to the urinal without ever spilling a drop on the floor.

I went to the sink to wash up, and the guy had stopped peeing by the time I was finished drying my hands. He flushed the urinal, buckled up, and turned towards the sinks. He smiled awkwardly at me, and I offered a half-smile in return as I threw my used paper towels in the trash.

"Sorry about that," he said.

"Oh, no problem," I replied. "Sounded like you really had to piss."

He chuckled. "Yeah, that's putting it mildly. I didn't think I was going to make it."

"Too much coffee this morning?" I asked.

"Nope. Energy drink."

"Ah," I said knowingly. "Enough said."

I left the bathroom shortly after, partly unsure if what had just taken place had really happened or not. I shook my head in wonder and told myself it would probably be for the best if I just forget the whole thing. These sort of things probably could only happen to me, after all.

Happy Monday, folks.

*Another unfortunate thing about urinals without partitions is side-spray. Just let that thought simmer for a minute. You're welcome.

Friday, March 5, 2010

In Which I Am Really Strange

If you haven't noticed before, I'm kind of a strange guy.

I know, I know. I really should have warned you before unloading such staggering news. Shocking, but it's true. I can't give you any specifics as why exactly I think I'm strange (although a quick trip through the archives here would probably give you a decent enough explanation), I just know that there are times where I stop in the middle of doing something or saying something and think to myself, where exactly am I going with this? When one has to stop and think, and I mean really think about what they're doing or saying, that's a pretty good indicator of oddness.

Take, for example, my recent habit of making faces at myself in the bathroom mirror at work. I'll be standing there at the sink washing my hands, and I'll make a face at myself. Nothing major, maybe a smirk or a raised eyebrow. Then I'll add in a couple of flared nostrils or cross my eyes. Next I'll stick out my tongue and wave it side to side like Jabba the Hut did when he was dying in The Return Of The Jedi (hint: it's 15 seconds in). I'll continue making the face at myself until I either realize exactly what I'm doing, or until someone else walks into the bathroom. I've been caught a few times by various co-workers, but I think I've got them fooled. I just fake a sneeze, and that usually throws 'em off.

I've also been doing this thing lately where I'll walk from the bathroom sink to the paper towel dispenser with my hands out in front of me Frankenstein-style, and pretend that the water dripping from my hands is slime or ooze or some other equally disgusting liquid. I don't know why. It's a bit childish and honestly, I feel stupid afterwards. I tell myself each time I do it that that was the last time I'm going to do it... and then the next time I'm in the bathroom, after I finish making faces at myself in the mirror, I'll stagger to the paper towel dispenser with my dripping hands and wonder how I got to be so damn weird.

I've thought about why I do these things, and I think it's my bored subconscious shining through to try to lighten things up a bit. With all the overtime I've been working lately, things can get pretty monotonous. I suppose I should be thankful, because at least my strangeness is a sort-of secret strangeness, which is more than I can say for some of my co-workers. Then again, with the times where I've been caught making faces or walking like Frankenstein, I think I've displayed enough oddness around the office since I've been there where I can only imagine what my co-workers think of me.

What are some of the strange things you find yourself doing?

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In Which I Get What I Paid For

The sound of clinking glass rises above the mixed murmur of voices in the conference room. Hushed conversations end as all eyes are drawn towards the head of the table. A man in a cheap rumpled suit raps a ballpoint pen against the side of a half-empty glass of water, and clears his throat noisily.

"Enough idle chatter, everyone. We haven't got much time to get this new snack product on the shelves, so let's get right down to it." He shuffles around a stack of paper on the table in front of him, selects one sheet of paper from the middle of the stack and holds it up. He leans his head back a bit to look at the paper from under his glasses. "Our research team has come to the conclusion that we need to add to our product line a type of party mix, or a 'snack blend'. We'll be selling it at a range of Dollar Stores around the country, and apparently our consumers have been asking for it for a while now. It's up to us to decide what goes in it. Any ideas?"

Silence reigns in the conference room. There are five people sitting around the table, and they all cast awkward glances at each other, willing someone other than themselves to be the first to speak. Someone sniffs lightly, and another anxiously clears his throat.

"Nothing? No one has any ideas whatsoever?" Bad Suit asks.

"Well, I've always thought that pretzels are pretty much the staple to a generic party mix," said the man sitting at the opposite end of the table from Bad Suit. He slides his glasses up on his nose with his index finger. "So I guess we could put some pretzels in there."

"Pretzels are good. What shape of pretzels?"

"Uhh..." Coke-Bottle Glasses stammers, "pretzel sticks? Pretzel circles? Pretzel twists?"






"Good enough for me!" Bad Suit exclaims, and scribbles down a note. "Can't go wrong with pretzels, so why not have three different shapes? Consumers are stupid. They'll think each shape tastes different." He laughs a bit greedily to himself, and runs a hand through his greasy hair. "What else?"

A woman wearing too much makeup raises her hand. Bad Suit gestures openly, giving her the floor.

"I know a guy who works in the Cracker Department who is always talking about how they always have so much leftover cracker dough from their production line. Why don't we take the scraps from them, bake them up, and add into the mix?"

"Brilliant!" Bad Suit shouts. He scribbles another note down, and looks up at Avon-oholic, who is now chewing on the bottom of her lip nervously. "What now?"

"Well, the guy I know says that the scraps leftover from the production line look a little funny after they've been baked. He says they look like white inch-worms, or maggots almost."




Bad Suit flapped his hand at Avon-oholic dismissively. "Doesn't matter. People won't actually be looking at it while they eat it." He tabulates the total amount of items he's written down so far. "Okay, people, we've got four items for our new party mix. I think it's missing one last piece."

"I know!" shouts a man with a comb-over and a painful-looking cold sore on his upper lip. "I just came across a storage room filled with unsealed boxes of these wafer-like things that look like slices of petrified German Shepherd turds. They've probably been in there since the fifties, so they're stale as heck. Might actually break a few teeth here or there. They taste like shit, too."




"Bah," Bad suit says. "Throw a dash of salt on 'em and people won't know the difference. They'll probably think they're pumpernickel chips or something."

Cold Sore/Comb Over leans back in his chair with a content smile on his face, folding his hands together behind his head. Avon-oholic can't help but notice the dark rings of sweat around his armpits, and looks away in disgust. Coke-Bottle Glasses fiddles with the calculator function of his watch, all of them waiting for Bad Suit to finish writing his notes. Bad Suit finally looks up, and focuses his beady eyes on the two people left in the conference room who haven't spoken up yet.

"You," he says, gesturing with the end of his pen. "Do you plan on contributing to this meeting?"

A man who looks like a living presentation of a J-Crew catalog sits up in his chair. "I... uh... I guess I could see what kind of spice blend we could add. I'm working on this new flavor additive that sticks to your fingers, kind of like the orange stuff from cheese curls? It's kind of salty and hurts your tongue, and it's almost impossible to wipe off your fingers with a dry napkin."

"Sounds perfect!" Bad Suit says. "What about you?" He gestures to the only other female in the room other than Avon-oholic. "Give me a slogan or a catch phrase."

"How about 'the Ultimate Snack'?" says the woman wearing a low-cut blouse who was the reason for a recent workplace Sexual Harassment seminar.




"Couldn't have come up with a better idea myself," Bad Suit says happily, his eyes drifting down below DD-Cup's neckline. He pulls his eyes away with effort, and scribbles a few last words down. "Alright people, I think we're done!"

The five employee's push back their chairs and get up to leave. Low conversations begin again amongst themselves as they head toward the door.

"Whoa, hey everyone, sit back down!" Bad Suit says loudly. "I only meant that we're done with this particular project."

A few low groans can be heard from the group.

"Oh, enough of that. We just need to come up with a few borderline-obscene names for generic food products, and then I'll let you all out early for the day. Any ideas?"

---

I swear... My imagination can run pretty rampant sometimes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Which I Preview

I've been spending some time lately going over the story I wrote for last year's NaNoWriMo. I was kind of burned out after the month was over, but that's understandable. Fifty-thousand words in thirty days is a great feat to accomplish, especially for someone who works a full-time job and has other responsibilities around the home. I took some time off after I passed the 50k point, but haven't really made the time to start up again to finish the story until recently.

I've been wanting to share the story with all of you. You've all been very supportive of my efforts in writing, and I feel almost like I owe it to you to share what I've written. I've already divulged two sections of my story over at Fiction Five Hundred, but I thought I'd share another section today. It's a little somber for a Monday morning, but it'll have to do.

The name of the story is "The Liberty Key".

---

Whenever Catherine and I had discussed our version of the American Dream, I imagined us buying a house much like Liberty. Something old, something with character and some flaws that needed improving. It was part of what captivated me so much when I first laid eyes on it. It was a physical representation of the house she and I had dreamt of. Yes, a family with one child and another on the way probably could fill the house better than I could by myself, but this was my way of staying true to the promises I made to Catherine.

A few months before her death, Catherine and I were talking of finding a realtor to begin looking at houses. We had a chunk of money stored away in our savings, and it was becoming increasingly apparent that Emily was outgrowing her tiny bedroom. We needed more space, and while we both felt like we were ready for something more, I was also pretty hesitant.

“I'm not sure if it's a good time in the housing market right now,” I had told her. “Maybe we should wait until we have a little more money saved up, and when the market stabilizes, we'll look for a house. I'm sure we can find a bigger apartment, so we can have some more space until we're more ready.”

“We're ready now, Spence,” Catherine said, placing her hand on mine. “We've been ready for a while now. We've just got to take the plunge. I don't want to live in another apartment. I want something that is ours.”

We were sitting at our tiny table in the kitchen, the television talking to itself in the living room. Emily had been put to bed an hour earlier, and it was just Catherine and I. This was the time of night that I looked forward to all day, but I always felt a twinge of guilt for feeling that way. I loved Emily with every shred of my being, but the time I had in the evenings with Catherine was vital to maintaining my sanity. 

“I want something that is ours, too,” I said. “Believe me, I'm tired of these same four walls. I'm tired of putting so much of our money towards something that belongs to someone else. I want a lawn, I want a driveway, I want a leaky basement. I want all of that, but I just don't think now is the right time.”

Catherine sighed. I could tell how badly she wanted to get out of our small apartment. There was nothing I wanted more than to be able to provide that for her, and it pained me to know that my apprehension about whether now was a good time or not was keeping that dream from being realized.

“If that's what you think, then okay. This is something we should only do if we're both on board, and if you think we need to wait, I can tough it out here for a little while longer. We'll give it some more time, and put some more money away, like you said.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “I know how badly you want out of this place, but I do think we need to wait.”

“Yes, I'm sure. We'll give it a few more months." She raised one eyebrow quizzically. "How does six months sound?”

“Six months sounds great.”

She looked at me, her eyebrow slanting now to an expression of skepticism. “Do you promise?”

I smiled. “Promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Hush up about that dying stuff. We'll have none of that. Now," she said, standing up, "kiss me before I decide to put up a fight about this.” She grasped my hand and pulled me in closer to her. I got up from my chair and kissed her, and tasted the strawberry-flavored lip balm that Emily had put on her lips earlier in the evening when they were playing. Her hair smelled wonderful and just like it always had from the moment I met her, an intoxicating mixture of her shampoo and the light perfume she wore.

Catherine walked around the table and wrapped her arms around my back, reaching up with one hand to my neck. She pulled my head down a bit and licked the bottom of my ear in the way that she used to that drove me crazy.

“Make love to me,” she whispered.

And so we did. Quietly, frantically, passionately on the kitchen floor.

Unknown to us, our second child was conceived that night. 

Catherine would die two months later.

---

Again, a somber way to start the week.

Happy Monday, folks.