Friday, December 30, 2011

614. The Recent Interview

I have been on many interviews in my time. Most I have even cared about. Typically, I will receive a phone call from some mystery person whose name I didn’t quite catch because I didn’t recognize the number and therefore was bracing for a telemarketer.

Mystery Voice:  Hello, may I please speak with MOV?

Me (as a question):  This is she?

Mystery Voice:  Hi, MOV! My name is Kara/ Karen/ Caroline Something-or-other Johanson/ Cranson/ Shmansonson. I work for Perfect Job Company and I am calling about your résumé?

Me:  Hi! Yes! Great! Oh, hi! Uh, what is your name again, I’m sorry?

Perfect Job HR Guru (ignoring what I just said):  I see here that you used to work in the airline industry?

Me: Yes!

Perfect Job HR Guru:  Great! Can you tell me a little bit about that experience?

Me (choking, now realizing that this is in fact, going to be an impromptu phone interview):  I loved flying! I loved people! I loved flying people! I flew with flying people for 10 years! Best. Job. Ever.

Do I need to mention that Perfect Job Company had absolutely nothing to do with flying/ travel and that I possessed no discernible transferable skills? You just eavesdropped on the “best” part of the interview.

Fast forward to today. The eight-year-old walks into the study where I am pretending to “work” (read: blog) but am actually surfing the J.Crew website and their spectacular after-Christmas sale. He taps me on the shoulder and says, “Are you ready for your interview?”

My mind catapults to the aforementioned hideous phone interview and I suppress an involuntary shudder. Next, I panic. Does my older son know something I don’t? Is there an interviewer currently at the front door and as usual I am still in my pajamas (the flannel ones with the snow globes)?

“Is something wrong, Mom?” he inquires, as if we were not just bound by DNA but bound by impressive ESP skills as well. “Because you said I could interview you.”

“Of course, Tall, you can interview me. Fire away!” (I make a quick mental note to not use phrases with the words “fire,” “firing,” “got fired,” or “should have been fired” for real job interviews in the near future.)

He sits down, opens his notebook, and clicks his pen.

“What is your name?”

Easy enough. I should be able to get this one right. I give my answer.

“Have you ever had a nickname and why?”

I smile to think of the sweet but boring nickname my doting grandmother gave me: Blondie. Because I was blond. I confide this interesting tidbit about myself, to which my son laughs.

“That’s a dumb nickname. Besides, you’re not really even that blond. Are you sure she didn’t mean to call you Gray-Gray or Klutzy or something more apropos?”

This is the way Tall speaks. Like a second year law student instead of a second-grader. He uses words like “discerning” and “blasphemous” and “irrelevant.”

I struggle to come up with something better, something that will make him happy. Was there a different nickname that I am perhaps blocking out? A funny nickname, a sporty nickname, a silly nickname that reveals important information about me?

“That Super Smart Girl Who Knows Everything.”

He scribbles something down, then crosses it out.

“We’ll stick with ‘Blondie.’ Okay, next question: What is your hidden talent?”

I pause. I am very, very good at handicapping horses at the track. I have been known to win several hundred dollars in a day.

“I can pick winning race horses.” I smile, proud of my answer.

“Huh.” He scrunches his little face. “Anything else you can think of?”

“I’m good at drawing?”

More scribbling. Some flipping of pages.

“What present do you want for your next birthday?”

Queen Good Mommy arrives on cue. “Absolutely nothing. I have everything I need. You and your brother are—”

“What about that trip to Hawaii you are always talking about with Pop?”

“Oh, yeah, put that.”

Scribble, scribble. 

“Last question: Which movie star are you most like?”

“Gwyneth Paltrow,” I answer without hesitation. “We could be twins.”

“Excuse me, Mom, Gwyneth Paltrow?” He shakes his head. “How do you spell that name?”

I spell it out for him. He has no idea who she is.

“This concludes our interview for today. Thank you for your participation.”

I would like to tell you he is reading from a script at this point. He is very much not.

I wonder when I’ll find out if I got the job?


Monday, December 26, 2011

608. Amazon Is The New Santa

Looking back on my childhood, Christmas was a special time. My siblings and I knew that the entire month of December was a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. This we knew, we knew on an intrinsic level, deep in our DNA. We might have known this, we might have said this if asked (“Why do we celebrate Christmas?” “Because that’s the day Jesus was born,”), but that is not what we actually thought. Oh, no.

What we thought was, “Let’s build a shrine to Santa, he’s the one we really need to impress.”

Obviously, the tree was such a shrine. My mother would carefully unwrap painted clay snowmen and crystal pine cones, and then she would hunt around until she found the delicate glass ornament of the Virgin Mary holding the sleeping baby Jesus.

“MOV, honey, here. You're old enough that you can have the honor of putting up the special Jesus ornament!” She handed it to me with a careful reverance, as if she was entrusting me with a piece of her very soul. 

I shoved it on the bottom of the tree where the cat or my younger brother might break it, then dove back in the box searching for the carved wooden Santa Claus ornament.

“I found it!” I’d squeal, and Oakley would zip over, eager to touch the emblem of celebrity and All Things Good.

That ornament was hung front and center.

Of course, our letters to Santa started almost the day after Thanksgiving.  

“Dear Santa,” I’d begin with my first draft, “Please send me a Snoopy Snow-Cone Machine and a Pet Rock like the one Wendy Papadopolous has and an Easy-Bake Oven and the Barbie Dream House and also a new bike (in red or purple). I have been very good. And, I want to let you know I admire your work. Love your biggest fan, MOV.” Even as a fourth grader, I used flattery to get what I wanted.

We memorized the words to the songs with Santa in the title (“Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Santa Baby,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,”). We sang them all day, every day.  When the religious songs would come on the radio, we’d just turn it off.

We knew Santa was way more important than Jesus because we saw Santa everywhere: at the mall, at the other mall, outside the grocery store ringing a bell, in parades, on TV shows, on commercials, riding around on fire trucks in our neighborhood. It was Santa Saturation.  In all my years of Sunday school, I had never seen Jesus in person even once. Oh, sure, there were pictures of Jesus, but not an actual Jesus wandering around and chatting with people and passing out candy canes. And yes, there was talk of God and Jesus being everywhere and all around you, but let’s face it: I was nine and I needed tangible proof.

Presents were tangible.

Christmas morning would finally arrive and we would tear into our neatly hung stockings and Martha Stewart-perfect gifts like starved wolves at a bunny buffet. Shredded confetti strips of torn red and green wrapping paper and slivered wisps of shimmery ribbon would be all that remained, strewn everywhere as a reminder of Santa’s promises kept.

We would play with our toys for hours, congratulating ourselves on how good we’d been and how effective our letters were and how we wanted to marry Santa when we grew up so we could have direct access to all those toys.

A few weeks ago, Tall and Short wrote out their wish lists for Santa. There were a few items I’d never heard of (involving sophisticated versions of Legos), so I asked Tall to show me on the computer precisely what he was talking about.

He sat down and clicked on Amazon’s website. Within seconds, not only were we able to look at the exact Lego Ninjago set he wanted, but über-helpful Amazon had a few suggestions of “Things You Might Also Like.” Of course Amazon was right: Tall did like those things. He promptly clicked “Add to Shopping Basket.”

What are you doing?” I asked, my voice rising. “I’m not buying those! We’re just looking at them so that—”

“I know, Mom, sorry,” he cut me off, “I didn’t mean to put them in my Shopping Basket, I meant to put them on my Wish List.”

“Your Amazon Wish List?” I was amazed. How did Tall know about these things?

“Sure, Mom, that’s what Santa uses to compile his database.”


Sunday, December 25, 2011

607. The Naughty List

Growing up, we were constantly threatened with empty stockings on Christmas morning if we didn’t behave. I was a certifiable Type-A/ Teacher’s Pet/ Über-Virgo, so the whole “Just be nice” thing came easy to me. I was eager to please my parents, so I flossed regularly, made my bed, fed the cat, played with my sister, and cleared the plates from the kitchen table.

When I went away to college, I was still That Girl. I would call my parents weekly, help my classmates on group projects, turn my homework in early, bake banana muffins from scratch, and go to the gym five days a week.

While dating, I continued in earnest to be That Girl. I would paint handmade ceramic Christmas ornaments for my boyfriend’s mother, be the designated driver, and work extra shifts for my co-workers when they called in sick or hung-over.

I was not just on Santa’s Nice List, I was the Valedictorian of Nice.

I woke up one day and realized the Naughty List is a helluva lot more fun. I was studying for a semester in Italy. Some friends and I scored tickets to a sold-out Violent Femmes concert. About halfway through, I had the brilliant idea that we should try to figure out a way to get backstage so we could meet the band after the show. I schmoozed the bouncer with my minimal grasp of the Italian language and somehow convinced him that I was the lead singer’s sister. Next thing you know, we were partying like a rock star with, ahem, some actual rock stars.

Naughty List.

Back when I worked in the hotel industry, I went to Hawaii on vacation for a week. The day I was due to fly back (I was scheduled to work the next day), my flight out of Honolulu was cancelled. The helpful airline rep offered to book me on the next flight which was leaving in just three hours. I started to nod yes, but then suddenly thought to have her to book me for the next day instead. I called work and told them I was stuck in Hawaii for 24 hours.  It felt sneaky, illicit, and delicious.

Naughty List.

When I was a Denver-based flight attendant for Continental (briefly before United hired me), the airline closed my base. My supervisor informed me that I could either transfer to New Jersey or be laid off. For several weeks, I commuted back and forth and slept on the crew lounge floor in between assignments, and then one day I had had enough. I heard my name being paged in the Newark Airport (“Flight Attendant MOV please report to Gate 88 for your flight to Detroit!”) but I kept on walking, wrote myself an employee flight pass, and hopped on a flight to Los Angeles as a passenger. I changed out of my polyester uniform in the lavatory, sipped on my glass of Champagne as I settled into seat 1A, then phoned my dad and told him I quit and could he please pick me up at the airport?

Naughty List.

I recently celebrated my four year anniversary of working for the high-end kitchen store.  Last week, a crazy customer was complaining and then started yelling at me about some defective product or other and ended her tirade with Why don't you know more about the items you sell?  To which I replied with a straight face Today is my first day here.

Naughty List. 

A PTA member of my children’s school called me the other day and asked if I could help out with an upcoming fundraiser which I had initially considered being involved with.  I thought about it for all of two seconds and then heard myself reply, No—I am just way too busy right now.

Naughty List.

So, Merry Christmas and may you find your Inner Naughty. It’s wildly liberating.

P.S.  And thanks to HW for her fun comment on my last essay, which gave me the inspiration for this post

Friday, December 23, 2011

606. The Great Cookie Debacle of 2011

So The Husband brings home this giant tin of homemade specialty cookies from his co-worker, Pamela. She had a health scare earlier this year and had surgery, so she is on a temporary leave. The Husband was very instrumental in helping her get her disability pay started while she was in the hospital and in covering her job while she was gone for months. These cookies were not so much “Merry Christmas” as a gesture of goodwill and thanks.

Within a half day of the cookies being brought home, a small child who lives in our house ate them all. Every. Last. One.

How does a person even begin to punish this blatant disregard for others? How greedy to eat all the cookies.

Of course, The Husband was quite upset (more on this later), as deathbed Pamela had gone to great effort to make these stunning cookies, complete with “Santas” iced in red and white, “reindeers” with silver sparkly bell and red frosted noses, multi-colored presents with delicately swirled icing, and sleigh bells that looked much too good to eat. The central ingredients were not flour, vanilla, and sugar, but instead love and kindness.  The cookies were exquisitely beautiful and it was flat out rude, selfish, and thoughtless for one individual to inhale them all without even so much as offering to share one with The Husband, who they were originally meant for.

Now, substitute the name “MOV” for the words “small child who lives in our house” and you can see the dilemma. I was actually the one who ate the cookies, like a naughty first-grader with zero impulse control.

They were SO good. They were like the potato chips of the cookie world, impossible to eat just one. And I was so hungry. I had skipped breakfast and run out of time for lunch.  Did I mention how good they were?

I looked down in horror at the empty tin, much like a murderer must survey the scene right after he just killed five people. What was I possibly going to say when The Husband found out the tin was empty? “I’m sorry”? Was I really sorry, or would I do it again given the chance? I was mostly sorry that I had not at least saved one for The Husband, but ohmygod they were so delicious.

I had the brilliant idea to rush out to my local bakery and replace them all. The professional bakery cookies looked perfect, painfully perfect. At this point, I was not trying to fool The Husband into thinking they were the same cookies (it was beyond obvious that they weren’t), I just wanted to make amends and not appear quite so gluttonous.

I set the new box of cookies on the counter. Don’t worry, I did not eat these too if that’s what you’re thinking.

But then the phone rang and it was one of my girlfriends calling to set up an impromptu happy hour/ playdate for Tall and Short. I am not usually as spontaneous as I should be, so I embraced the chance to just show up at her house in 20 minutes and not have to spend two weeks planning it and emailing back and forth.

Her parting words were “Don’t bring wine, Mike just bought a case last time he was in France.”

France?!? When did Mike go to France?

I scanned the cupboard for something, anything, to bring. Ha, I would ignore her and bring wine even though she told me not to.  The Trader Joe’s discount wine winced at me. It said, “Don’t even think about bringing me unless you want to appear cheap. And stupid.” That Trader Joe’s wine, even though reasonably priced and actually quite yummy, seemed to have an attitude.

I had a half bag of pretzels that I decided against. There was one yogurt in the fridge, expired. A lone unopened jar of peanut butter blinked up at me.

That’s when I remembered the bakery box of cookies, humming holidays tunes on the counter top: “We wish you a Merry Christmas, and take us with you!”

What else could I do?

My friend was delighted. The happy hour/ playdate was a success and I didn’t look like a cheapskate to her.

I did, however, look like a piggy to The Husband that evening.

“All?” he asked in utter disbelief. “You actually ate all of them? You didn’t even save me any crumbs? What are you, a human vacuum?”

I have this incredibly annoying habit of giggling when I'm nervous. I started to giggle.

“Yes,” giggle-giggle-giggle, “I guess I ate all of them.”

“You guess? You guess? Did someone force you to?”

Geesh, he was acting as if I’d spent the mortgage money on new shoes. Again. Were a few cookies really such a big deal?

Apparently yes.

“Pamela made those for me! Her husband is out of a job and she is totally stressed that she’s going to lose her job from these medical absences. I assured her that everything is okay and that HR wants to help her. She made these cookies out of the goodness of her heart, and I know it took her all weekend and then you have the audacity to gobble them all up in one fell swoop?”

Giggle giggle giggle. “I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry.” Giggle.

“You’re not a bit sorry. Why would you be laughing if you’re sorry?”

He stormed out of the room.

I followed him. “Sweetie, I bought you new cookies! From the bakery! To replace the other ones.” I smiled. The giggling finally stopped.

“Fine. Where are they?”

“Uh …”

“You ate those, too? Unbelievable.”

It is utterly unbelievable, as I told the bakery lady my sad, sad story today when I bought the second batch of replacement cookies for The Husband. She shook her head, as if to say, I totally get it, or maybe to say, You are a complete piggy.

I got home, put the new cookies in the tin. And walked away.

Good impulse control? Nah. The bakery lady gave me a free piece of cake.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

605. I Found A Job I Like

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know my trials and tribulations on the career front. I was a flight attendant for a decade and then quit to be a stay-at-home mommy. That lasted all of four years (the stay-at-home part, I am still very much a mommy) because I grew very antsy and needed adult stimulation. I ended up getting a job at a high-end kitchen store as a “Holiday Helper” meaning that I would work there for a month over Christmas.

That month morphed into 48 months. I’ve loved every second of it, but I finally need a change. I’ve been floating around since September, trying to figure out what color my parachute is (remember that career planning book?) or if I even have it strapped on right. I have determined it is sparkly-color, but I am still not sure which job this corresponds to.

As you probably remember, I started a Top Secret Job. I ended up being bored out of my mind there. Next, I got a New Better-Paying Top Secret Job. But it’s an “on-call” position so I never know if I will work or not.

Obviously, I want to focus on promoting my new book. I decided to take the entire month of January off for this purpose (“Marketing”/ catching up on TiVo’d episodes of House Hunters and Top Chef). Yesterday, on a whim, I asked one of my favorite bloggers of the universe (come back and click here when you are done with my story, and you should totally follow her I mean it she is hilarious) for her address so I could send her a gratis copy of my book. I laugh a lot when I read her stuff, so I thought I would try and return the favor. Good karma and all that.

She sent me a chatty little email with her mailing address. I kept reading the email, marveling at how she can instantaneously think of witty things to say when I got to this line in her email:

“I just had a bottle of wine dropped off by FED EX for a review.”

That sentence was not meant to be bragging (although of course now I might possibly interpret it as a teensy bit bragging), she just was mentioning it because in the context it was necessary.

But I really didn’t need to read anymore. I had an epiphany: I need to be a Wine Reviewer Blogger! Of course! This is what I was born to do!

I am going to email her right away and ask her how she got that fabulous job.

Once I secure my new job (I think I will revise my title to “Chief Wine Reviewer Blogger Extraordinaire”), these are some of the types of reviews you can expect from me:
  • Campa Rialta Bella Chardonnay from Central California: Very dry. Very fruity. Light, but complex. Giving, but forgiving. Pleasant after taste of, uh, grapes. Highly recommend, but might need one more test bottle to make sure.
  • Red Jumping Grasshopper Riesling from Germany: Fresh. Abundant. Abundantly fresh. Happily grape-y with undercurrents of honey and almond, but not soapy. Would drink again. Please send extra bottle for this purpose.
  • Mossy Neptune Pinot Grigio from New Zealand: Produces a great buzz after just two glasses. Makes you feel happy. Would feel happier if someone sent me another bottle.
I just know this is the job I was meant to have! Thank you, Mrs. Tuna!  I can’t wait to start!

(“Mixing Our Vinos”)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

603. Sexy Money

Christmas is all about Sexy Money. Sexy Money is money spent on diamonds and smiles. Sexy Money likes to show off by making children giddy and best friends say “You shouldn’t have,” when they don’t really mean it. Sexy Money never has regrets.

Sexy Money shops at art galleries, Italian shoe boutiques, Pottery Barn, and over-priced electronics stores. Sexy Money loves museum gift shops, leather, suede, handblown glass, and anything considered “impractical.”  Sexy Money sleeps with the latest Neiman Marcus catalog under the pillow. 

Sexy Money despises words like replace furnace, new roof, or needs braces for three years.  Additionally, mold in the basement and broken septic pipe are against Sexy Money's religion and any mention of them make Sexy Money instantly envision lunging for the phone to call that sleek Art Deco hotel in Miami, the one right on the beach near that trendy coffee house, to book a weekend getaway.               

Sexy Money does not waltz into Home Depot to look at refrigerators. No. That makes Sexy Money cringe. Refrigerators are part of contract negotiations inside a marriage, they are never even in the same zip code as Sexy Money.

Once, a husband might (ruefully) utter a phrase like, “So this Kenmore fridge can be our Christmas gift to each other,” but a wife will immediately (if not sooner) wilt him with a look, a look that says Tiffany’s is down the street and that is where we are headed next, you fool.

A husband might (sadly) still not get it and continue on with “In that case, let’s just get the $700 one, I think a fridge that costs any more than that is just a waste,” to which a wife will rub her ears and wish at that moment that she was partially deaf, like her dad. Instead, she will ignore the comment, march over to the sales manager and declare, “We want the floor model. Knock 25% off the price.”

The sales manager will flinch, just a little, and then follow up with some mumbo jumbo about how they never sell floor models, blah blah blah.

A wife will look the sales manager right in the eye, not just the eye but the deep center of the pupil, the only person who ever looked in his eyes that deeply was his fifth grade teacher when he was reprimanded for cheating off his friend’s homework, and a wife will say, “Sir, I refuse to spend a penny more. I know it’s December and all, but this is not Sexy Money.”

The sales manager will laugh, of course he will laugh. He is not familiar with this new term, but he is already figuring out how to work the phrase into his next conversation. He will be in the back stockroom about five minutes after this couple leaves, regaling his co-workers with the story of The Refrigerator Purchase Not Being Sexy Money.

A wife and a husband leave, without a resolution and without any new kitchen appliance. They return home to their lovely Colonial and its rebellious refrigerator that refuses to keep things cold anymore and instead actually warms things. The couple has been eating a lot of protein bars lately.

After a few more days and a few high-pitched conversations and some late-night Internet trolling for appliance deals, there is a phone call confirming the delivery of a new refrigerator, one that keeps things cold as it was designed to do.

There is also a distinctive robin’s egg blue box with a white satin ribbon under the tree. Sexy Money, indeed.   


*with infinite thanks to Stephanie S. for sharing her story and also to Peggy for my new favorite term!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

600. Santa Shops At The High-End Kitchen Store!

There I was, training the new girl Chantal on the registers, practicing how to input UPS charges for send sales and how to print out gift receipts.  We were interrupted by an older gentleman waiting to pay for a lemon juicer.

“Do you want to try to ring it up?” I asked Chantal.

“Umm, sure, okay,” she hesitated.

“Just scan the bar code here, and then ask him if he needs anything else.”

“Sir, do you need anything else?”

Chantal and I looked at the man for the first time. He was average height, older, overweight, and he had long white hair in ringlets, and a thick snowy beard. He was wearing a blue flannel shirt, jeans, wire-frame glasses, and a NASA baseball hat (I never knew they had baseball in outer space, but NASA is making new advancements all the time that are not always reported in the media).

Chantal pinched my elbow.

“Look who it is!” she whispered, as if the customer was waaaaaaaay across the store and couldn’t hear us instead of one foot away and looking right at us.

“Santa!” we both squealed in unison, as if he was Bruce Springsteen and we were Courtney Cox and he was pulling us onstage to rock “Dancing In The Dark” with him.

“Santa!” I cried, “You shop!”

All this time, I thought he made everything, you know—like God—but it turns out he has to squeeze lemons just like the rest of us, and maybe that was the secret ingredient in Rudolph’s pre-flight energy drink that helped him get around the globe in one night.

Chantal and I smiled at each other. We smiled at Santa. Santa smiled back at us. We were like a Christmas toothpaste commercial.  The other sales associates and a few random customers began to gather ‘round. We all wanted to be in the glow that was Santa, but away from his red suit and cameras and lines of children wanting to sit on his lap. This was the real deal.

“I’ll give Santa a discount!” I declared eagerly, as if Santa needed a discount and as if I couldn’t be fired on the spot for arbitrarily giving out discounts to whomever I wanted. “How about military discount, Santa? You are wearing a NASA hat.”

Santa beamed. “That is very nice of you.”

I totaled out the transaction, all but shoving Chantal out of the way. I kept thinking, Wait ‘til I tell Tall and Short! They will be so excited!

Chantal bagged up the lemon juicer, she somehow had edged herself back in when I was gawking at Santa. We both waited for him to sign the electronic signature pad. He signed “Santa Claus” with a big flourish and we both swooned.

“This is the greatest thing ever,” I said to no one in particular.

Chantal and I handed Santa his bag with the lemon juicer all wrapped in tissue paper as if it was fragile. I thought Chantal might tie a ribbon on the bag, what with her being French and all. Those French people like to show off how stylish they are, and what better opportunity then in front of Santa.

“Bye, Santa, bye!” I waved. Then I added hastily, “We love you!”

I wanted to go around the counter and follow Santa, to see exactly how he got in here (he couldn’t possibly have just walked, could he?) but right then another customer came up and started asking about holiday chocolates. Her timing could not have been worse.

“Do you have any idea who that just was?” I said to the woman.

“No?” she said like a question.

“It. Was. Santa.”

My customer, Meryl Streep, and I walked over to the door, hoping to get one last glimpse of him.

(“Merrily On Vacation”)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

597. Please Do Not Bleed On My New Chair

One of the nice things about working for the high-end kitchen store is our connection with the well-known furniture retailer. Both stores are owned by our parent company, and both stores give all employees a 40% discount.

When I initially got the job four years ago, I had grand plans to replace all our furniture pieces, one by one. First, the stained leather couch would have to go. Next, the pair of living room chairs (a gift from my dad) that had long ago been scratched to shreds by the crazy cat would need to be replaced (to clarify: the chairs would need to be replaced, not the cat. The original owner of the cat told us in no uncertain terms that she would not take her back.). The dining room table, pilfered from a neighbor's trash pile (because it was deemed “not acceptable” by the Goodwill), could stand to be swapped out as well.

You get the idea.

We saved up our American Express points and cashed them in for the dining room table at the well-known furniture retailer’s outlet. The table was priced at $2500 and then marked down as a floor-model sample to $1000 and again to $700, and finally with my discount ended up being $420. I had $500 worth of Amex points, so we had enough left over to buy new sheets for the guest room.

Then our home improvements came to an abrupt halt. My car (this is over two years ago) was diagnosed with a rare disease known us Engine Dead. I had only heard about Engine Dead in horror movies and urban legends (plus my hairdresser told me his cousin’s next-door neighbor was afflicted once), I had never realized it could happen to me and my 10-year-old Highlander.

Turns out, Engine Dead is a very expensive ailment, and they do not accept discounts to the well-known furniture retailer as payment (believe me, I tried). Bottom line: we spent all our extra money that would have been allocated for furniture as well as money that wasn’t even ours (I’m talking to you, Visa!) to replace the car motor, because Engine Dead is of course terminal.

Now every time I turn the keys in the ignition to my car and hear the replacement engine start, I get wistful that I could have had a new sectional sofa. Granted, it wouldn’t take me anywhere, like to work or the grocery store, but at least I could have a quality nap or two on down-stuffed cushions on the weekend.

In a recent act that could best be described as rash, I decided to quit my job at the high-end kitchen store. I told them my last day would be December 24th. All my co-workers and even The Boss said the right things to my face (“Oh, but you are such a valuable employee! Please don’t go!”) even as they were high-fiving each other in the back room. I didn’t think much about any of this, until one of my co-workers had to go and say,

“Won’t you miss your discount?”

I had not thought of that. I mean, I’d thought of it a little, but I have signed over many paychecks over the years right back to the high-end kitchen store, so my own personal kitchen is actually pretty well equipped. Right as I went to open my mouth and inform her that I had enough crystal wine glasses in my possession to host a small nation’s political independence party, it occurred to me that she meant the discount at the well-known furniture retailer.

I did what I always do when I find out unsettling news: I panicked. Then I went home, went online, and tried to order a new living room couch.

Turns out, employees cannot order from their home computer. They must place their order at their own store they work at. Which was a good thing, because there is no way we could afford the couch. I settled on a chair instead.

The very next day, I walked into work armed with my American Express card and a SKU number. I ordered the most beautiful living room chair on the face of the planet.

The chair was available in about 50 different fabrics. Practical Queen Virgo whispered something about navy blue velvet not showing stains. Her noises were quickly muffled by Designer Virgo shrieking with joy at the look of the pure white linen coupled with the fact that it was on sale.

Click, click, done!

My chair was delivered yesterday, along with a small box of buyer’s remorse. I set the box in the closet and told myself I would wait to open it later. The chair was not so much white as Albino Ghost Snowy Blizzard Chalky Milk Cloud at the North Pole.

Removing the protective plastic on the new chair only made things worse. I seared a retina with the chair’s glowing whiteness.

About this time, the boys came home from school, a tornado of mud and grime and sticky granola bar wrappers.

“Oh, yay, Mom, your new chair is here!” cried Short. “Can I sit on it?”

I took one look at his grungy hands stained from some sort of art project at school and said emphatically,

“Sure! When you’re 18!”

Honestly, my kids are used to my eccentricities by now. If anyone is going to ruin my new chair, it’s going to be me. Later that evening after the kids were tucked safely in bed, I sat down for the first time to enjoy my new chair. I made sure my pajamas were clean. I made sure my cup of hot chocolate was far far away on the coffee table. Then I distractedly started picking at a hangnail.

This is one of my favorite things to do, one of those icky closet habits that I don’t normally share with the world: I bite my cuticles. (Not the nails themselves, my nails look great. Just anything within a one inch range of the nails.) Not surprisingly, the edges of my fingers started to bleed profusely. I jumped up from the new chair just in time to not get a drop of blood on the white linen.

The chair is safe.

For now.

(not quite as white in photographs as in real life, yet sure to be a stain magnet nonetheless)


Thursday, December 8, 2011

596. Another Phone Call From Alec Baldwin

“MOV, we need to talk. Call me back.”

How many times had I hoped he’d call me? And yet, there he was, irritating flight attendants across America and getting kicked off planes again… now he calls? A little bit late for that.

I hit the return call button. Then I hung up. What did he want me to say?

I thought back to all the times I had kicked passengers off in my 10-year career at United Airlines. Thousands. Dozens. Well, just twice I guess. I had a woman removed from a flight after she threw her suitcase at me and told me she didn't have to listen to me (about stowing her bag in the overhead bin).  I was not going to be trapped with her for four hours at 35,000 feet with no bodyguard. Nope. Off you go.

The other one was a drunk guy in Phoenix. I felt bad for him, he was returning home from a bachelor party, yet he could barely walk on board let alone speak a coherent sentence. The pilot took one look at him and backed my decision to have him removed until he could sober up for another flight.

So, based on those two isolated incidents, obviously Alec thought I was qualified to give my invaluable opinion of American Airlines kicking him off.

I hit re-dial. I knew exactly what I would say; I rehearsed it in my head over and over:

“Alec, listen up. The FAA has strict rules in place regarding the use of electronic devices such as i-Pads during taxi and take-off. These devices can interfere with cockpit communications.  Furthermore, it is not okay to go hide out in the lavatory and scream obscenities at the flight attendants through the bathroom door while the seatbelt sign is on. Seriously, what did you expect might happen with actions like that? You are gonna get kicked off. Face facts. You cannot pull that Hollywood Diva behavior and think you’ll get away with it. Honestly, you are just lucky no one called the cops on you for disrupting or interfering with an airline employee’s duties. You think flight attendants are so star-stuck that we would just bow down and let you get away with murder?”

His voicemail clicked on right about the time I perfected my little speech.

“Hello, this is Alec. I can’t get to the phone, so please leave a message.” BEEP!

“Hey, uh, Mr. Baldwin! It’s me, MOV, you called me? Uh, I just wanted to let you know that situation never would’ve happened on United. And by the way, can you please send me another autographed glossy 8 x 11 headshot of you? The sun has really faded out the last one you sent.”


Saturday, December 3, 2011

591. A Stranger Buys My Book!

So I worked at the high-end kitchen store today. At the end of my shift, I drove over to The Awesome Book Store to chat with the owner about my book. I had already met the book buyer a few weeks ago, and she had given me a fantastic review of my book (“You have a typo on page 85”) and offered me the chance to have a book signing party (“I guess nothing else is going on the evening of January 21 … tell you what, if you pay for all the wine, we’ll do it.”). I was super-excited to finally meet the owner and to leave a few copies for the staff (with the ulterior motive that they might recommend my book to customers).

That was my plan.

Things don’t always work out the way you planned.

I walked into The Awesome Book Store with five books tucked neatly inside my purple and gold paper bag with the bumble bee logo. I approached the counter, where a cheerful woman who appeared to be in her early 30’s was reading a book.

“May I help you?” she asked, looking up from her book.

“Yes, please. May I speak to the owner?”

“That’s me. I’m Elena. What can I do for you?”

“Uh, hi! I’m MOV, and I spoke to—”

“Oh, sure! She said you’d stop by. So nice to finally meet you!” She shook my hand firmly, but for a moment I thought she might walk around and give me a hug instead.

“Great! Uh, great!” I was not used to people being so happy to see me. Just this morning, The Boss had greeted me with, “Oh—you. I forgot I had you on the schedule.” Then she had mumbled something that sounded like “Dammit.”

I struggled with my bag, then unwittingly dropped all five books on the floor. I hastily scooped them up and set them on the counter.

“I, er, I wanted to leave your staff some copies of the book. My book. Mom’s Had A Crappy Week.”

“You mean Mom’s Had A Rough Day?” she pointed to the cover.

“Yes! That’s what I meant.”

“Did she mention that we can’t technically sell the book here at our store for you until after your event? We promote the event in the weeks leading up to it, then they are available that night. Not before. That’s our policy.”

This was one of those times that Queen Virgo would ask to speak to a manager or the owner. But, Elena had already told me she was the owner, so instead I said,

“Sure! I know, she already told me. That’s totally fine. I don’t want you to sell any of my books! I mean, uh, I want you to sell all of them, but not until the launch party. These are only samples, I mean, preview copies. For the staff.”

“Oh, okay. Well that’s really sweet of you. I cannot reimburse you for them, though. They don’t count toward your sales.”

“Right! They’re gifts!”

“Thank you.” She ran her hand along the cover of the top book in the stack.  “And I like your cover design.” 

My heart was pounding.  This woman could sell all of my books or none of them.  She could talk my book up to every single person who walked through the door, or use my book as a coaster and spill coffee all over it.  I desperately wanted to impress her, to have her know that I was a talented writer, and to feel happy with her decision to carry my book in her store.

I backed up from the counter. “Can I browse around? Is that okay? I know how to read, I mean, I like to read, and maybe I might find something to buy?”

“Of course. Browse around.  You don’t get a discount though …”

“No problem. If I buy something, I can pay full price.” I was regretting saying this as the words tumbled out. I knew my Amex bill was past due, and if I bought a book, it might be declined. Maybe I could pay cash for a greeting card.

Right then, a really handsome guy walked in. He glanced my way, but then headed toward the biography section.

“Sir, can I help you?” asked Elena.

“Yes, actually. Where’s your humor section?”

Elena walked over to the opposite end of the store and showed him a few titles. I could hear them talking, but not the exact words. I stood staring at a wall of cookbooks. I felt like I never left the high-end kitchen store. Suddenly, I heard great peals of laughter.

Elena walked back to the register, wiping away tears of laughter. She was shaking her head. She had a book in her hand, which she set it down. I was too far from the counter to see the title.

Handsome Guy called out to Elena, “Excuse me, do you have that new book by Mindy Kaling? You know, the girl from that show? The Office?” 

“Yes, it’s on that display right there.” She pointed toward it.

“My wife said it got good reviews,” Handsome Guy remarked.

“Shall I add it to your collection?”

Wow, Elena was good. Those were pretty much the same words I said a dozen times a day at the high-end kitchen store if someone so much as checked the price of an espresso machine—shall I add it to your collection?

He shrugged. “Sure, why not?” And then … “What else do you have that’s really funny?”

I turned to Handsome Guy for the first time. I smiled wide, and then I took a deep breath.

“Sir, if you like funny, you should read this!” I was holding up my book, which I'd picked up off the counter.

He walked closer, and then took the book out of my hands. I could feel my face flushing a deeper shade of crimson. Was he going to throw down my book in disgust, and then call me out for being an impostor writer?

“What’s it about?”

Elena and Handsome Guy both stared at me, wondering what I would say next. I was wondering myself. Finally, I spoke.

“It’s this book of short, funny essays, about life and about parenthood. Very funny. It’s supposed to be funny. I think it’s funny. Do you have kids? I have two sons, and they are really funny. They inspired me to write—”

“Wait—you wrote this book? You’re the author?”

He said the word author with a reverence normally reserved for Pope or President.

“Yes.” My face caught fire and the smoke detectors went off and the sprinkler system clicked on and doused us all with water and we stood there in a flood until the fire department came. That is what I thought might happen.  This is what happened instead:

“I’ll buy a copy. For my wife.”

I felt woozy. I was wishing I had eaten lunch, a sandwich or something, instead of just a chocolate milkshake. I could feel my brain flipping around inside my skull. This guy had just wandered in off the street, and I had spoken to him for all of 15 seconds, and he was already buying my book! For his wife. Who was most likely my exact target demographic.

The words tumbled out before I could stop them. “Only one copy? Don’t you have, maybe, a sister or someone to buy a gift for?”  I had not realized that I'd brought my other alter-ego, Queen Pushy Salesgirl. 

Elena started furiously keying something into her computer. She leaned over to me and whispered, “I don’t have your ISBN number entered in the system yet. Let me do that real quick. Then you can sell your book right now.” She winked at me.

Handsome Guy paused for a minute.  “You know, I do have a sister. I will buy more than one. And there are a lot of women who work at my office, and I need to buy a few gifts for them. I’ll take 20 books.”

Elena and I looked at each other.

“Twenty?!” I gasped. “Are you joking?”

“We only have five, sir, that’s all she brought,” offered Elena.

“Only five?”

I suddenly remembered that I'd brought two boxes full of books in my car in case Elena had wanted to sell the book sooner than January.

“I have a box of books in my car?” I said like a question. “Let me go get them.”

I walked calmly out the front door and then sprinted to my car. As I rushed back in, Handsome Guy held the door for me.

“Are you really buying 20?” I queried.

“That’s all I need for now. If the book is as good as you say it is, I can always buy more.” He smiled, his teeth like a thousand light bulbs.

As Elena started to ring him up, I turned to leave.

“Aren’t you going to sign them?” Handsome Guy asked me.

Sign them! He wanted me to sign them!

It was my turn to smile. Was this guy flirting with me?

“Can I borrow your pen?” I asked Elena, as I subconsciously reached for her pen jar.

“No problem.” She handed me a thin, black Sharpie.

“Who should I sign to? Do you have a list of names?” Queen Virgo would’ve brought a list.

“Just write ‘Best Wishes’ and then your autograph. That way I don’t have to keep track of who I give which one to.”

I got right to work. I was signing something fun for a change, instead of the check to the electric company or Verizon. My hand started to cramp up at about book number 17.

“Okay, there you go, sir! And thank you!”

“No, thank YOU. Well, I guess I’ll see you on Oprah then. I can tell everyone I met you and knew you before you were famous.”

He looked so genuinely kind, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Oprah didn’t have a talk show or a book club anymore. Why embarrass him when he was buying 20 of my books?

“Yep, Oprah. Me.” I stared at him too long. “Bye then!”

I walked out the front door, the bell hanging on the door handle clanking loudly. I walked down the street toward my car. I got in and started laughing. Twenty books! Ha! I wonder what Elena was thinking right now.

Handsome Guy appeared out of nowhere with his box of books. He tapped insistently on the passenger window.  I reached over and opened the door for him. 

“MOV? Should I set these in the back seat?”

“Geesh, Sweetie! Don’t let the owner see you! Get in!” I said curtly to The Husband. “All 20 books? Oprah? That was laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think?”

He set the books down and climbed in the car. He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.

Sometimes things work out exactly the way you planned.