Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good Morning, Grace!

By now I'm sure I sound like one of those disgustingly clumsy characters you read in a really bad fan fiction heroine. A "Mary-Sue" if you will. And believe me, it disgusts me as much as everyone else.

The truth is, I would love to be graceful and have some sort of equilibrium, but the chance of that happening at this point is nada. I try to do what I can to increase my balance including purchasing a "balance ball" and practicing yoga. But, I have yet to become more graceful. Or, you know, walk in grass while wearing flip flops without tripping.

My mother likes to joke that of her five children (yes, FIVE, the horror) I cost the most money. It's probably true. For a brief stint, the ER workers at the local hospital and I were on a first name basis. While entering a hospital, "You're back!" is never a good sign. At one point, I had my own pair of crutches, a splint for each wrist, and assorted knee and ankle wraps. I kept trying for a wheelchair (think of the pity possibilities!) but it never happened. Drat.

Even through college, my clumsiness followed me. At a house party my freshman year of college, I drunkenly decided it was time for another beer and attempted to leave the house to get a beer out of the cooler in my ride's truck. Out of fear of having his beer stolen, he had stashed it in a large igloo cooler in the bed. Very discreet. Instead of using the front door to make my beer run like a normal person, I decided to cut out the side kitchen door so I wouldn't have to stumble through the living room/dance floor. Unlike the front door with one step down, however, the kitchen door had two steps. I missed both of them. There was a pop in my right foot, and some cussing, and like a brave little soldier I limped on to the truck to get my beer. My ride was there and when I told him of my predicament, his advice was sage: "Keep drinking and you won't feel it." So I did.

The next morning, my foot had ballooned to roughly the size of a very large orange or a very small grapefruit, depending on which you prefer. According to my friends, it was obviously fractured. According to my "My mom can't know I drink beer" reasoning, I was not going to go the doctor. So, I limped for a few weeks and let it heal. Funky little ridge be damned.

I didn't count on getting hurt again that summer. While lugging a saddle out of the tack room, I managed to step just right so that my foot slipped into the tiny little space between the cinderblocks that served as the step up. I rolled my ankle. There was a pop in my left foot. And some cussing. My mother freaked out and promptly hauled me to the emergency room. Where I was greeted. By name.

While in the examining room, the doctor felt on my foot, and then turned to me.
"I need to feel the other foot, to feel for any differences."
You have got to be kidding me. So he felt. And felt. And felt some more just for good measure. After appropriate (and inappropriate) feeling up of my foot, he made his comment.
"It feels as if there is an old fracture here."
"Ha ha! Oh that!" I look at my mother who is giving me the You Are In Trouble Now look. "I was walking down to the barn and stepped on a rock and rolled my ankle! But I was fine! I didn't even know it fractured! Ha ha ha! Funny story, right?"
"...right," my mother replied.

On the bright side, my left foot wasn't fractured. Dodged a bullet on that one.

But the fact remains that I can't seem to shake the Clumsy Bug that has followed me my entire life. Even now, when I go home for a visit, after I roll out of bed and stub my toe in the morning my father still calls out his morning welcome to my swearing fit: "Good morning, Grace!"

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ka-boom, and the job is done. Or whatever.

A lot of people who meet me in classes or at work think I'm a really neat and organized person. Maybe I give off that vibe, I don't know. However, if these same poor souls were to actually see my bedroom and bathroom, they'd probably faint. Warzones are more organized than my meager living space. My closet has exploded out to cover everything from my desk, to the floor, to my TV stand. The bathroom is just as bad.

In just a few short weeks, I should be moving back to the home-spot. Assuming everything works out, of course. In my attempt to find someone to sublease my apartment for the rest of the summer and trying to pack everything up, I decided it was in my best interest to actually, you know, clean my mess and make the place look somewhat habitable. Since my class today was cancelled, I decided to blow off my previous plan (laying out by the pool and reading) to make a little leeway on the bathroom. I readied myself for battle. Zebra print bandana, cut-offs, appropriately stained and torn t-shirt. Even if I'm not Susie Homemaker, at least I can look the part.

Armed with a roll of paper towels, a sponge, and Kaboom!, I gently kicked open the door to the bathroom. The counter was covered with mineral makeup, hair products, and tanning oil. For a moment I considered just throwing everything under the sink and wiping down the counter. And then I did it. Don't get me wrong, there was some organization involved. Everything was chunked under in corresponding piles of hair product, medicines, or lotion, but chunked it was.

Then came the heavy duty work: actual cleaning. I have never understood how it is possible to lose so much hair and not go bald. No lie, my hair was everywhere in varying shades to document the many times I have colored my hair over the past ten months. I must admit, the Kaboom! did the job and really cut the grime that I had allowed to build up. With my counter top clean (it only took three different rounds of spraying and wiping), I was feeling pretty good. I am Kabooma, fighter of all things grimy! Dirt? Where? Lemme at it, lemme at it.

It made perfect sense to move onto the toilet and tub. Again, my hair was everywhere. Does my hair really fall out in such a way that it can easily become caught under the toilet seat? Trying hard to not gag, I managed to clean (most) of the toilet in record, nose-pinched time. The part that people would actually see is clean...the base, well there's not enough paper towels on a roll for that.

Kabooma felt the drive to get the tub cleaned too. After about five minutes of hard scrubbing with paper towels, and Kaboom! seeping into my pores, I brought out the heavy duty sponge, also known as the former dish sponge. Spray and scrub, spray and scrub. The edges taken care of, I turned my attention to the Cat in the Hat-like bathtub ring. I scraped at the ring aggressively, leaning far into the tub.

Finally, the sponge decidedly ruined and the bathtub clean enough, I went to stand up. My knees creaking, I pushed off the bottom of the slick and kinda-clean tub. Kaboom!, in times of drought, can be substituted for water on a slip and slide. My hand shot out from beneath my body, and I tipped forward. My right boob smashed into the tub lip as my fingers jammed against the other side. Pain shot through my chest. Struggling to breathe, I grasped my broken breast and rocked back on my heels. I always knew that cleaning was hazardous to one's health.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thanks for the concern, I think...

Back in February I had a typical late morning before class. I ran to the shower, turned it on to let the water heat up, and leapt in. I also promptly lost my balance. Falling in slow motion, I started to grab the shower head to keep myself upright before thinking "That's a bad idea!" and instead let myself hit the tub.

I managed to nail my right shoulder and upper arm on the lip of the tub. The pain was enough to cause little birds to cheerily tweet-tweet and fly around my head. I laid in the tub, curled in the fetal position and unable to stand for a good five minutes. I managed to get up and took a cold shower (at that point my roomie had started her shower and stolen the hot water away). Despite the throbbing pain and inability to lift my right arm very easily, I struggled to straighten my hair and went to class.

Over the course of the following days, the pain subsided but a very stubborn and deep bruise was firmly in place. On Saturday, I headed into work wearing my usual museum attire: cap sleeve shirt, trouser jeans, Sperry's.

My day was pretty typical, but around 4:30 I had a lingerer. A lingerer is a retail shop worker's least favorite person. Typically a lingerer comes in around 20 or 15 minutes before it's time to close for the day. They handle everything. They buy nothing. If they do buy something, it's a candy bar or a bottle of water.

This particular lingerer came in with a larger group. The group bought their candy bars and waters and headed back out. The lingerer remained. After sighing loudly, starting to turn off lights, and turning off the muzak, she got the hint. She approached the cash register, bottle of water in hand. As I rang her up she leaned in closely. I thought she was trying to see the computer screen.

"That's one dollar."
"OK." She leaned in closely as she handed me the bill. "You know, there's places you can go." Her stage whisper was atrocious.
"I'm sorry?"
"To get away..."
"Oh, I know, right! I'd totally love a vacation everything's been so busy lately," I reply innocently.
"No, to get away from him," she whispered.
I looked around, completely puzzled. "Who?"
She looked at me with a face that said "Oh, she's one of those" before calmly and clearly stating: "The man who bruised you."

At this point, I finally catch on to what she's saying. I glance down at my bruised and battered upper arm. Trying hard not to smile, I addressed the lingerer. "Oh, it's no biggie. In order to be in an abusive relationship, ya gotta be in a relationship first."

She left. No doubt to alert the authorities.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

You know those guys who go out, act slutty, and are generally total skeezes? Of course you do. They're in every bar, every grocery store checkout line, and every college class ever. They also have a fun saying whenever they get caught being man-sluts: "Don't hate the player. Hate the game."

The fun thing is, it's not the game that is causing the problems. What game are we playing anyway? The dating game, the who can be a bigger idiot game, Monopoly? What?

The dating game is not fun for anyone. I, for one, would like to play a game I have a chance at winning. However, there is still no excuse for the generally tasteless behavior that is regularly seen flaunted about by some of the more classless guys out there.

"Don't hate the player. Hate the game." It's hard to hate the game. You see, Monopoly has never built a row of hotels leading to Boardwalk. Sorry has never bumped me back to start and forced me to start over again. Clue never guessed the murderer, weapon, and location before I could even though I had the right answer and was too far away to make it to the room in time.

It wasn't the game that did any of it. It was the player. So, Mister Hate-The-Game-Not-Me-I'm-Totally-Innocent, I will hate you. Not the game.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Mother, How I Love Her: A Collection of Shorts and Very Shorts.

My mother and I have never had that relationship that some girls seem to have. My mom was never interested in being my friend, she was my mom. That said, we didn't do a lot of things that other girls and moms did. We didn't shop together because she is a loud talker and had no shame telling me that whatever I had on was "really tight across your bust. You are really getting a bust!" I believe it's because of this that I have developed such a dislike of dressing rooms. Even now, I hold whatever I am buying up against myself, buy it, and hope for the best. If it's too tight across the bust, I'll return it. No questions asked. Don't ask, don't tell. Just the way I like it. Unfortunately, this compulsion has also caused me to waste a lot of time standing in customer service lines at various department stores. And in the case of the "No return policy" stores, I just don't buy anything that looks questionable. My mom, I've noticed, is big on trying stuff on. Luckily her loud announcements of bust size has been passed on to my younger sister. Poor kid.


It seems that the media is bombarding us with advertisements for drugs that will cure what ails you. Depression, overactive bladder, or restless legs, there is a cure for you. Just talk to your doctor. My mother has always been a little bit of a hypochondriac. When these ads suddenly spiked in popularity, my older sister and I knew it was bound to be trouble. We had joked about Mom's ways, but always knew there was nothing really wrong with her. We didn't realize just how off her self-diagnoses could be. I remember walking into my parents' bedroom to find my mother sitting on their bed, riveted to the television screen, a familiar look of fear and anxiety on her face.
"What's up?" I asked nonchalantly, sitting next to her.
"I have," my mom began shakily, "all the symptoms."
"Oh?" I glanced at the television screen to see what prescription-only pill was being hawked today. I tried, unsuccessfully, to hide my grin as I told Mom my opinion. "Mom, I really don't think you have prostate cancer."


Abner was my little brother's first guinea pig of his own. My older sister had a series of Billies for a while, but Joey never had a real pet of his own before Abner. Abner came from a feed store that sold small animals on the side. Also, his original name was "Abby" because he was supposed to be a she. Even so, he was a fun pet. He would whistle for his carrots when he wanted a snack and was basically head of the household. About the same time Abner came to live with us, Oprah had a special about animal communicators. My stay-at-home mother of course watched. Convinced that it was a sham, Mom decided to give it a try with Abner. As she stood in the kitchen, Abner in hand she shushed all of us (we weren't going to miss out on this show) and concentrated. And concentrated. And concentrated. And just for the heck of it, she concentrated a little more. About the time we were ready for her to give up, Buster the Cat strolled into the kitchen.
"AHA!" Mom yelled out.
Buster, Abner, and all of us kids jumped.
"Abner doesn't like Buster. He just told me."

Laughing, we brushed it off. Then Dad got a new team of driving horses. Babe and Bess, affectionately known as the Big Ugly Mares or BUMs. Dad didn't like Babe's name, and according to Mom, neither did Babe. So, Babe became "Wanda". Because she said that was her name when Mom communicated with her.

Then, yesterday I talked to my mother on the phone. A family friend recently purchased a new horse. Because of his blue eyes, he was gifted with the uninspiring name "Blue". While meeting him for the first time, my mother and the friend were talking about how Blue didn't come when called. Mom said that maybe he didn't like his name. On the drive home (as she often does) she had something come to her: Blue's name. She instructed my younger sister to call her friend and tell her that Blue's name was really "Buddy". Laughing, the friend went out to the pasture gate and called for Buddy. The young horse immediately looked up from his hay and walked to his owner, who was amazed.

Today, while talking with Mom again, I jokingly asked Mom to ask my horse what she would think if I got a hot pink show outfit. My mother responded perfectly honestly: "Oh, they just tell me their names. I can't do any of that other stuff, really."


Moms in general seem to have a tough time with phones. When my mother got her first cell phone, I was insanely jealous and also incredibly entertained. The second we left the Cingular store, the phone was out and she was calling everyone she knew, including my uncle who had had a cell phone for several years. Watching my mother attempt to use the cell was hilarious. She didn't believe that the small phone would pick up the sound of her voice when she spoke, so she took to using the famous "Mom Walkie-Talkie-Phonie" during which she screamed into the mouthpiece and then quicky jerked the phone to her ear to hear the reply. This continued for several weeks.

Even now, she is awful about plugging one ear and screaming into the phone when she talks. Even if she is in a library, she will still plug her ear. It's a phenomenon. However, her worst habit is to call with a story, or a question, hang up and immediately call back because she forgot something. Because she drives a standard and is anal about not talking on the phone while driving, this duty usually falls to whoever was gutsy enough to call shotgun. She hands over the phone, instructs the passenger to call someone, tells them what to say, and five seconds after the hang-up: "Call back and ask..." I refuse. I refuse. I refuse. For one, I know how annoyed my father is by this. For another, I know how annoyed I am by this.

Recently, she picked up a Palm Centro. Because the Centro has a full keyboard, she can text more easily. So now, instead of a voicemail or a phone call, I get the text message: "Call me when you can." Immediately, I go into panic mode. Something happened to my dog. Something happened to Dad. Something happened to my grandmother. Panic. Sunday morning I was awakened by one of these texts. I immediately called back, and her phone went straight to voicemail. Panic, panic, panic. Three hours later, she returns my call.

"Hi, I got your voicemail!" she said perkily.
"Mom! What's going on? Why did you need me to call you?!" I cry.
There is a long, pregnant pause.
"You know," she says, "I forgot what I needed to talk to you about."

I love my mother.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

That's Not a Threat, That's a Fact.

When I was in high school, my sophomore year US History teacher was Mr. Young. Mr. Young was, in fact, not particularly young. He was a middle aged black man whose favorite saying about his male pattern baldness was that he owned his own personal island. That's not the only thing Mr. Young bragged about. His tales usually included talking about his "lady friends."

For most of the year, majority of us in seventh period US History were convinced that his lady friends were high class whores. Regularly, Mr. Young decided to forgo the lesson plan (who needs to know about Kennedy's assassination anyway?) in favor of regaling us with his adventures in Ladies Man Land. We girls were usually offended, while the boys took it as an opportunity to suck up and go for a few extra credit points. One day after class, I asked my friend Hunter about it.

"Hunter, do you really think that he has that many women interested in him?"
Hunter laughed, "No. He's full of it. There's no way. Would you go for a guy like that? Of course not. He's totally making it up to be cool. But as long as I'm on his good side I'm going to pass. So, play along."

Play along we did. How much a teacher makes in a year, I don't know but it can't be much. Still, Mr. Young was sure to tell us how much he paid for his haircut ($65.00) and his shoes ($210.00). There were also regular degrading stories. The most memorable involves him loaning a dollar to one of his lady friends, who bought a lotto ticket, which won (not the jackpot, but a decent amount). Mr. Young instructed her to give him some of the money. (Asshole). So, when she left his house, he found three-thousand dollars on the nightstand.

Mr. Young was a typical pompous ass in all forms. His statements were usually followed by "That's not a threat, that's a fact!" even though it was usually his opinion. Marijuana should be legalized, "and that's not a threat, that's a fact!" His grammar was notoriously poor as well. It wasn't uncommon to enter the class room and be told to place your homework on the "opodium". Opodiums, a distant relative to the Opossum, are rare. So, it was natural that Mr. Young would have one.

His temper was volatile and legendary around the campus. Even after she had graduated and moved on, stories still circulated about Lindsey. Lindsey had graduated with my older sister, two years before myself. Legend has it that one day Lindsey couldn't take it anymore. With her mother breathing down her neck about getting the good grades to get the good scholarships to get to the good colleges, Lindsey was under a lot of pressure. Naturally, Lindsey was worried about her future, and the utter failure that was sophomore level US History was not going to get her anywhere. One day, in the middle of a story about his lady friends, his haircut, and his shoes, Lindsey snapped.
"What are we learning?" she asked. A valid question.
Mr. Young was flabbergasted. "What?"
"What are we learning in here?" Lindsey repeated. "As far as I know, this is US History. Not Mr. Young's Show."
Mr. Young stared in silence, his mouth agape.
"I don't care about your lady friends, or you 'two hunnerd ten dollah' shoes!" Lindsey loudly proclaimed.
The next day, she was in a different class. Against her will, and her mother's wishes.

By the time the end of our sophomore year of high school came around, Mr. Young had changed drastically from the original "fun-loving" guy he once was. Now, he slurred when he spoke often went off on tangents that were not in his usual repertoire. And then, there was the day of the famous trip.

On the floor of Mr. Young's classroom lay a small white tablet. Fifth period made sure the whole school heard the story. When asked what the pill was, the class didn't know. So, Mr. Young did the only thing that made any sort of sense. He took it. As the class period went on, Mr. Young's behavior became erratic at best. He raged about the classroom, and was finally escorted out by a security guard when one of the students ran to the office for help. By the time we arrived for seventh period, a substitute was firmly in place with the instructions to not answer any of our questions.

Eventually, we found out more about Mr. Young. He spent his lunch hour parked in his Celica in the neighborhood across the street drinking. What had sent him over the edge nobody knew. At the end of the semester it was blatantly obvious that Mr. Young's contract was not going to be renewed. Though we'll never know the real Mr. Young, a lunchroom discussion led us to a unanimous decision. Despite his talk of lady friends, partying weekends, and good friends, Mr. Young was really just a lonely older man with no real friends or love of his own. We felt pity for him, but at the same time we found it interesting that he would strive for approval from a bunch of sixteen year olds. Heaven knows he couldn't have picked a tougher group of people to try to get acceptance from. While we may feel a little guilty, when I do see my friends from high school now, we still joke about Mr. Young and speculate on where he ended up. And that's not a threat, that's a fact.

Friday, April 10, 2009

One of those things you just know is going to be a great story...

Right before Christmas, my friend Haley called me to go to a concert at one of the local college bars. Of course I went, even though I didn't even know the band or any of their songs. Crown and Coke was on special. I was there.

After far too many drinks, I headed to the restroom. On the way, there was a guy standing near the stage wearing a beat up cowboy hat. Me, being the snarky person I am, had to say something (though what it was, I don't remember) and then continued to the restroom. After coming out of the bathroom Mister Cowboy Hat was leaning against the bar and called me over to talk. About what, I don't remember. I do remember him asking for my phone number and I quickly rattled it off, followed by "Or whatever..." and left him standing there. I didn't think I would ever hear from him.

A few days later, I started getting text messages from him and we started talking. Cut to New Year's Eve.

I rolled out of bed at about noon. And my phone rang at about noon-thirty.
"Hello?" I asked.
There was a long, long pause (during which I repeated "Hello?" twice more).
Finally, right before I hung up came a response: "Hey. It's Cowboy Hat."
"Hey, what's going on?"
Another long pause. Seriously, the whole conversation could have only lasted about a minute and a half but the long pauses on his end made it closer to a five minute phone call.

Eventually, I got out of him that he was at his cousin's house in a nearby small town and they were bored. Would I like to come over? I was thinking maybe six or seven that evening, have a few drinks and then go home. His answer: "Now."

Luckily, I was scheduled to dogsit for a friend, and was waiting until the dog was to be dropped off at four or so. I told him I would call him back then to get directions to the house. Even more luckily, the dogsitting was cancelled. So, I got all gussied up (I looked good, dammit) and figured, why the hell not.

As I sat at the kitchen table, notepad and pen at the ready to jot down directions, I called Cowboy Hat back. "Do you know where the town is?" "Yes." "OK. You're going to come up on a flashing light." I wrote that down. "Are you at the light yet?"

I'm sorry. No, I'm not at the light yet. I'm sitting at my kitchen table writing this all down. You know, like when I said I'd call for directions I meant that I would call for the directions not call as I was driving down the highway. It was agreed that I would call when I got to the flashing light.

While there was a small alarm going off in the back of my mind, I still was going to the house and really hoping he was taller than me. I'm an idiot.

As I approached the flashing light (the whole flashing light thing should give you a good idea of how small town we are talking...) I called Cowboy Hat back.

"Do you know which way is North?"
I paused. "Isn't that the way I'm going?"
"Well, go North when you get to the flashing light."

To me, that meant continue straight. Heading north. The N on my dashboard compass confirmed that much. As the conversation continued, he asked if I saw him yet as he was walking down the road to meet me. I didn't. I did, however, see a car wash and a Sonic. Apparently, going North means turn left. As in, go West.

I met Cowboy Hat as he walked down the road to meet me. That should have also been a warning sign. Instead, I let him jump in Clooney and we went to his cousin's house. As we walked to the door I tried desperately to make some sort of conversation, considering there was none in the car.

"So," I began. "Have any big plans for tonight?"
"Oh yeah!" He answered. "Big plans."
"That sounds ominous."
He grinned and nodded. Again, I am an idiot.

Inside, we met his cousin's wife. She was a nice middle-aged woman, fashionably dressed and with nice hair. She gave me hope that I wasn't going to end up chained to the basement wall and stuck eating fish heads for the rest of my days. She suggested either going out and seeing the horses or staying in and talking. Cowboy Hat thought staying in and talking would be better and booked it out of the living room like Napolean Dynamite. I had no choice but to follow, right?

In a bedroom. Oh my gosh, he's gone to a bedroom. And he's laying on the bed. Really? Really? I take a corner and try to act normal, all the while praying this doesn't go really bad.

I'll go ahead and say now. There is no way that Cowboy Hat and I could ever have a relationship together. No way, no how. To start, the guy does not talk. As in, I might as well have been speaking with myself. Talk about awkward. Finally after not getting anything out of the guy, I asked the question guaranteed to get me some results.

You see, I knew that he wasn't in college, and I knew he wasn't in high school. But I didn't know his exact age. So I asked it, "When did you graduate high school?"

His answer caused my heart to stop. Caused my mouth to follow open. And was a serious *headdesk* moment. "In May."

Judas Priest. "Oh my God. You're a kid," I declared loudly. He (in the same fashion he'd been doing all day when I said something) smiled and nodded. I tried to move away and quickly began to plot my way out of there. The kid was eighteen. And I was not. Judas Priest!

In a very high school way, he put his arm around my shoulders. Oh. Em. Gee. "I don't know you that well!" I said as I attempted to shrug his arm off of me. When that didn't work (now his hand was resting on my lower back) I awkwardly jangled my keys, as I usually do while bored or uncomfortable.

For Christmas, my father had given me a great gift: a pink pepper spray keychain. Apparently this caught Cowboy Hat's attention. "What's that?"
"Oh," I replied, mistakenly thinking he was talking about one of my other keychains. "It's the horse keychain my mother gave me."
"No, that pink thing."
"Oh! That's my pepper spray. It's for when boys get fresh."

The joke was lost. As was the teeny little threat. When all else fails, do something rash. So, in order to get away from Cowboy Hat I threw my keys across the room and leapt to my feet to retrieve them. About then, his cousin's wife knocked on the door. She loudly told Cowboy Hat that he needed to get ready because she needed to take him to meet his mom. Awesome. So, not only was he eighteen, he also didn't drive. Great. I am an idiot.

"So," He said. "We're meeting at the steak place for dinner. If you want to meet us there at 5:30..."
I cut him off, "Actually, I kind of have plans. You know dinner plans. So, I better go. Sorry about that!"

He walked me to my car and stood jerking at the driver's side door while I tried to tell him that it was locked and if he'd get out of my way I would gladly unlock my door. Instead he abused my dear, sweet Clooney. I got the door open and was about to leap in when he went in for the full frontal hug. Thinking quickly, I turned it into one of those one-arm friend hugs...the type where you kind of just meet them from the side and double pat their shoulder before letting go again. And then, I leapt into my truck and drove like a bat out of hell.

As my tires hit the highway, I called my roomie. "Oh man, have I got a story for you."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Adventures in the Cloonmeister. Part 2.

Most kids probably get their car-wreck experience out of the way when they are still a freshly licensed teen. Not having my own vehicle until I was 20 years old meant that my wrecks (or, as I like to call them, "little accidents") until later in life.

Clooney came with a few bumps and bruises, it's kind of what happens when you buy a used truck. But I'm pretty sure Clooney thought he was done with those days. Instead, there was a period of about a month where it seemed I was destined to get all of those little accidents most drivers have at sixteen, just to catch up and keep the world at peace and all that jazz.

At the time, I was working two jobs (kind of like I am now, but with a second different job) at a museum and a college bookstore. It was rush at the end of the semester. That joyous time when students rush to sell their used books back to the bookstore, get some cash, and loudly proclaim that we are "gouging" them. Also, it means that we're open late. Because, you know, it's normal to need to sell a book back at 10:30 pm. So, after working from 7:00 to 11:00 with virtually no breaks (because college bookstores have never heard of OSHA) I headed out to Clooney to go grocery shopping and then go home.

Apparently, the lightpoles that I thought were situated in the grass behind the parking lot are instead randomly placed in the middle of parking spaces. So, as I reversed Clooney I thought we were good to go. Instead, the jolt was enough to cause Clooney to stall out and my seat belt to effetively knock the air out of me. When I got out and walked to the back, I didn't think it was that bad. Sure, his bumper was dented, but not badly. I called my mother to tell her what happened so the 'rents wouldn't totally freak out when they saw I bumped Dad's li'l grey truck. Mom thought it was funny (Dad not so much), and told me that it was genetic because she'd backed Dad's Ford into a lightpole two days earlier.

The next morning it was blatantly obvious I had done more damaged to the Cloonster than originally thought. Instead of a little ding, the entire left side of the rear bumper was crumpled under, and I couldn't for the life of me get the tailgate down.

I waited a few days before calling Dad. His sage advice (after the swearing ended): "Get a strong rope or a chain and loop it around something. And then pull forward slowly. It'll pull it out!" I didn't try it. I could just picture ripping Clooney's bumper off. So, crumpled it stayed.

About a week later I was going through the drivethrough at Taco Bell after work -- another late night. Apparently, this Taco Bell was not planned very well. I'm sure a small car or maybe a Vespa could handle the turn around the building...but Clooney could not. The sound of his side scraping the ill-placed pole at the corner of the building was loud...and embarrassing. As I rolled down my window, red-faced, to hand my money to the cashier he just had to mention it.

"That blows."
"Is it bad?"
"Where I hit it?"
"Nah, it's just scraped up. Not bad."

When I got home I took a look at Clooney. Not bad my foot. The side of the...thingie. You know, the side of the bed where it goes back to the wheel but not really a fender, was cracked. and there was scraping.

I told my parents it must have happened in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Someone must have hit Clooney while I was shopping for healthy foods.

About a week and half later, again after work, at a Chicken Express. This time it was the right front bumper. This was also attributed to some mysterious person in a parking lot that has it out for Clooney.

Rather than blame my poor driving skills, I did the most sensible thing. I cited too much work and quit the bookstore.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Adventures in the Cloonmeister. Part 1.

The most douchebag thing a car-owner can do is name their vehicle after the girl they loved in high school that wouldn't give him the time of day.

The second most douchebag thing is naming your vehicle after a celebrity.

Clooney is my first and only vehicle. A silver Dodge Ram 1500, he came with a dented rear bumper and a camouflage Mossy Oak steering wheel cover representing his former owner's high school partying dude ways. He was the fourth Ram we'd checked out in the long string of cars, trucks, and SUVs that failed to meet my father's standards of excellence. They're pretty high standards.

I was thrilled to hear they were looking at a Ford Focus station wagon. For years I had harbored a secret crush on the station wagon. All I needed was a kayak to strap to the top of the thing and a few witty bumper stickers. Unfortunately, the used car salesman lied and said the car had only had one owner when it in fact had had three and had spent a few years in the New England area, meaning snow. So, Focus failed. So did Rusty the salesmen. Way to drop the ball on that one. A slew of pick-em-ups trucks also failed. Two for being too junky. One for being black with a black interior (that one was my mother's nixing). And finally the white Dodge that would have looked right at home outside the bodega blaring merengue music. And not my style. If I wanted to drive something that sounded like a dumptruck, I would buy a dumptruck, that's all I'm saying.

Finally, we found Clooney at a little used car lot in a tiny little town about an hour away. At first, I was far from thrilled.

"That's a good looking little truck," Dad said as we pulled in the parking lot. "But don't act like you like it. You hate it."
"Because if he thinks you like it, it's harder to bargain."

Even though Clooney was a manual, he came home. Dad's rule was that I had to practice driving him if I expected to take him to school with me in August. Unfortunately, our driveway is not conducive to learning to reverse in a stickshift. Despite my best efforts, the most I managed to reverse without stalling out was roughy half a foot. Needless to say, there many a driving session that ended with Clooney sitting where he last stalled out and me stomping into the house in a fit of frustration. Eventually I learned it was easiest to make a huge circle through the yard and park facing the end of the driveway so that I didn't have to go through the headache of reversing. My father however was not thrilled, nor was he with my answer to his question of who cut the ruts in the yard: "Maybe one of the boys did it with their bicycle."

Friday, April 3, 2009

A PSA for Museum Goers Everywhere.

Hello, it's me -- your local museum gift shop employee. How are you doing today? If you need any help, just let me know! Until then, I'll be sitting at the register watching your lovable little brat manhandle everything in the store.

Yes, pumpkin, that keychain does make noise. Oh, you want to try it out? Awesome! Yeah it's a "crazy horse". Fun right? Oh check it -- we also have a "mad cow" and a "crazy pig" too! Oh wow, you've got such musical talent, you've got all 20 going at once now. Isn't Mommy proud? Of course she's going to giggle, let you do your thing, look at me and say "I bet that never gets old!" like it's some kind of inside joke. Nope. Never! Last weekend the boy scouts were here -- 12 crazy horses, 9 mad cows, and and 14 crazy pigs in a fifteen minute time frame. But who's counting? And Mommy doesn't buy a single keychain after your little symphony....of course not.

Oh, and dear frazzled Scout Troop Mom (or...whatever) your leadership skills are divine. About as awesome as my mind reading abilities when you scream from the back of the store "HOW MUCH IS THIS?!?!" while I am ringing up another customer. There's these nifty price tags on every item! Sweet, huh? Maybe some detective work on your part could be of use? Oh, and letting your entire troop run wild, eating candy they haven't paid for while you loudly proclaim that our prices are like thievery...well, lady, until your troop pays for those candy sticks, you've got a little band of thieves running around my store. When I ask you (quite politely considering your overworked mom act is grinding my nerves like a supersize piece of sand paper) to please refrain from allowing the children to eat before paying in the future, I would greatly appreciate it as would other store workers across the country, please don't get huffy with me that you paid for 12 fourteen cent candy sticks and you know you didn't get that many -- you did not pay for two $1.00 lollipops that made their way out of the store in the hands of your troop.

Oh, Miss This-Is-Price-Gouging, I haven't forgotten you! Firstly, let me point out that this is a museum gift shop -- notorious for overpriced knick-knacks as all MGSs are. You saw that cookbook for $7.95 and now it's $20.95? Three choices A) you are a liar, B) There was a sale, or C) The nifty fluctuating economy. See, the economy does this thing where it goes up and down like the tide, or the temperature, or Oprah's weight. Sometimes things get more expensive over time. It happens. I would like to point out that we don't price our cookbooks based on thickness, pictures, or quality of recipe. Considering that we order that volume directly from the author, I can guarantee that she is that proud of her work. No, I do not have the authority to sell it to you at $7.50. Cost is $17.95. No, I'm not selling it to you for that either. Sure, hang around mumbling until five minutes before close, scare off other customers, bitch me out, and but the book anyway. Me: 1, You: 0.

Now it's time for Mr. I'm-Better-Than-You. Yes, you and your wife have awesome clothes, matching Louis Vuitton wallets and pay for a $1 bottle of water with a $100 bill. Just because you are obviously successful does not mean you get to ask what I make "doing this shindig" or offer to tip me to "help make ends meet". You sir are a pompous a-hole. Let me clue you in -- most people who work in MGSs fall into two chief demos: older ladies who don't actually need to work and college students. So, sir, while I might currently be living a penniless existence that my boss liked to say means I am "poorer than a churchmouse but still can't get foodstamps". In a few short months, I'll be off in a career with a kickass reference from my boss. I suggest that instead of just writing a check as community service (if you even do that), you go out and do something for the people you obviously delight in demeaning. Maybe you'll gain a little perspective and compassion, which is worth way more than your bank account.

And of course you, person who cruises in at 4:45, handles everything until 5:05 (we close at five!) and then cruises out again without buying anything. You spin me into a dimension of pissed off I can't even begin to describe. Not only do you keep me late, you also keep our security guards who can't leave until I have finished closing. Thanks from them!

Other things I have no control over:
  • the hours of the museum
  • the hours of the store
  • the museum exhibits
  • the weather
  • not sounding like a hick despite that book saying all Texans do.
  • your credit card being declined.
  • the register crashing.
Of course, I've met some awesome people too.
  • All the folks from the Pitchfork and the Sixes -- especially Linda who has always been a total sweetheart to me.
  • The deaf couple and their adorable son who LOVES trains!
  • The alumni who come in on game days and talk smack with the visiting team's fans.
  • The alumni who genuinely are interested in my degree and what I am doing.
  • And, of course, the two dudes from Switzerland who randomly decided to take a two week vacay and roadie from LA to Dallas to watch the Cowboys-Eagles game. Sorry, Romo still sucks!
It's people like you who make me love my job!

Lowly Museum Gift Shop Employee

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Word Power.

Originally written April 6, 2008. Vintage!

This is something I’ve been pondering since Friday. The backstory: My wireless aircard quit working and I had to go to AT&T for an upgrade. One of the salesmen and I were talking about a girl’s shoes (Jordans!) and how when they first came out way back in the day how people freaked out and the stores sold out immediately and everything. Then he said, "Man, those shoes were phat!" Phat? Really? Yeah, he said it as a joke, but I haven’t heard anyone use phat since the eighth grade.

This brought about the pondering and the question: Where did these words go?

You know the ones I’m talking about. Remember the first time you heard someone say phat? Excuse me? I am not fat! No, not fat, phat. You know, Pretty Hot And Tempting? Sure, we all used phat jokingly. Nobody took it seriously. And we said it all the freaking time. Then, all of a sudden, phat was gone.

So, where do they go? Is there some Slang Word Heaven where Phat gets jiggy with Groovy and it’s like totally neato?

Is it just me or is the lifespan of the slang word getting shorter? Today, a woman came into work wearing a t-shirt that said Bling Bling!. When’s the last time anyone has said bling bling? Or for that matter, whatever happened to stuff being whack? That wasn’t that long ago, folks. Those words are gone...replaced by LOLSpeak.

Really? Really? LOLspeak is the ultimate laziness...or maybe it’s not. It takes a lot more effort to type out sumthing lyk dis && int3ntnlly sp3llng stuf rong && runon sint3nc3s wit know puntation or prop3r grammmr. That was hard. Somewhere out there an English teacher is opening up some veins. Please, think of the English teachers.

But I digress. The point is, what will we be saying next year? Krunk has gone the way of gettin’ jiggy wit’ it and next year, we will most likely not be wildin’ out...but did anyone wild out this year? It’s almost nostalgic to think of the words that we’ve already abandoned and the ones we haven’t even come up with yet. Or maybe...just maybe...we’ll be kickin’ it old school and go all Shakespeare - thou and thine and light breaking through a yonder window.

Think about it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pre-Owned Books and Pornography: An Awkward Turtle Moment

While parts of this story may be slightly embellished for dramatic effect, the "event" did indeed occur. If you need the proof, head on over to The Last Book Store on 34th Street in Lubbock, TX.

Last year, on a Tuesday, I got out of class, walked home, and decided that I really needed some new reading material. Being broke, and having a great affinity for Half Price Books, I decided to hit up the used book store I had seen on 34th here in Lubbock (we have no Half Price Books that I know of).

Now, I had been avoiding visiting this particular bookstore for a while now. It is not the most welcoming place in appearance. In fact, it brings images of tough guys with sleeves and do-rags swigging forties on the corner while smoking cigs and pushing around nerdy little white kids to mind. It has bars on the windows. It is a concrete building painted the dreariest blue-gray possible with bars on the windows. Not exactly the place you'd expect to find a fun little read.

Alas, my lack of new reading material sent me on my way. After a fairly uneventful drive, I pulled into the parking lot for the first time.

A friendly little bell chimed when I managed to fight the wind off long enough to open the door, and the old-ish guy behind the counter cheerfully asked if he could help me in any way.

"Oh no," I replied. "I'm just looking around."

He smiled and left me to my shopping.

First of all, I must say this place has a huge collection of romance novels. I'm not talking Nicholas Sparks romance, I mean bodice ripping romance. The kind that has a shirtless Fabio on the cover holding a woman in an old school ballroom gown as they make out in the forest. You've seen them.

Heh, I think to myself. Book porn.

I clearly did not know what was coming. Anyways, I found a couple airport books. (The kind of book that you read to pass the time but is in no way intellectually stimulating...) I also picked up The Notebook because I've seen the movie (who hasn't?) but wanted to read the book. And I love Nicholas Sparks's stories (I had just finished Dear John, and was in a NS kind of mood).

I browsed Westerns and briefly debated getting Comanche Moon since I just finished reading Lonesome Dove. However, I didn't enjoy the mini-series when it came on TV, and the book had a picture of Val Kilmer on his buffalo horse on the cover. Did I really want to see a bloated Val Kilmer every night before drifting off to sleep? No. Pass.

Checked out Science Fiction because you never know when there might be an interesting book.

And then I headed over to Mystery/Thriller. I was really hoping to find one of Carl Hiaasen's books that I haven't read yet. If you haven't read his books, you're seriously missing out. I couldn't find one...and to be honest I didn't really try that hard. One thing about The Last Bookstore - nothing is organized outside of it's genre.

This is when The Event occured. I turned from Mystery/Thriller and began to head to the counter when I saw The Sign. A ginormous monstrosity proclaiming New Releases $45.95 Each / 3 For $99.95.

Golly Gee, I thought, they sure are proud of their movies.

That's when I noticed that these were not regular blockbuster new releases. Oh no. They were pornography. Hardcore nasty porn. In a used book store. Suddenly, it all made sense: my sense of forboding, the ugly blue-gray paint, the bars on the windows. Everything.

The sweet old guy behind the counter smiled nicely at me and asked, "Did you find everything all right?"

This is my face at this point in time: .

I quickly fling the books and my credit card on the counter and mutter something to the effect of "Yeah."

A girl starts ringing up my books slowly, painfully slowly. I can feel the eyes of Jenna and her porn star friends staring down at me from their rack on the wall. Finally, finally, the girl bags my three books and I make a break for the door, determined not to make eye contact.

As I sat in my truck in the parking lot I realized that I can never go back there without thinking terrible things. And geez, what if someone comes in to buy porn while I'm in there? I think I'd lose it. Suddenly, I understand why so many men go to the internet for their porn fix. It's an expensive habit.