Tuesday, July 31, 2012

823. So Funny (and Written By Someone Else)

I love to write.  But some days, well, some days are lazy days.  Some days, Muse has packed her bags and taken off for somewhere remote, somewhere with no cell reception.  On those days, maybe I don't write anything. 


I found a really really really really funny blog, and so I am going to link her HERE.   She wrote a fabulous post about the Momolympics, and I could not stop laughing. 

So today you get a little treat, reading Robyn at Hollow Tree Ventures, while I take the day off.  Sounds like a winning plan to me. 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

821. Self-Check-Out and Self-Loathing

I am not good at electronical things.  When my alarm clock dies, I have to ask The Husband to put the new battery in for me.  When it’s time to TiVo the debut of a show I’ve heard about, I call Tall into the room to program it.  When my dad gives me an expensive camera for Christmas, I stare very hard at the packaging, willing it to open and explain itself to me. 

So it should come as no surprise that I do not like grocery stores with self-check-out. 
Self-check-out is a test, a test we are all set up to fail.  I know people who have gotten (paying) jobs at the grocery store and guess what:  they go through a week of training!  Yes!  A whole week, and one of the most important things they learn is “register.” 

I myself have not had any formal training.  I have not learned “register.”  How can I be expected to expertly scan my items and ring myself up with no training? 
The answer is:  I can’t. 

For this reason, the grocery store I normally choose to go to has no self-check-out.  It is a further drive and is more expensive than that other grocery store, but worth it.  However, my favorite grocery store does not open until 9 AM, and it was 6 AM when I realized that we were out of toothpaste* (*that is a lie.  I realized three days ago, but kept using the kids’ bubblegum flavor toothpaste and could not take it for one more day.  Yuck.).  I hopped in the car and drove to FoodFun. 
The second I walked in, I was spying for checkers.  There were none.  I knew I was going to have to scan my own stuff.  I broke into a cold sweat, and briefly considered calling The Husband at home for moral support and advice, if only his number was programmed into my phone and I knew how to use it. 

I quickly located the toothpaste, then suddenly remembered we were also out of People magazine with Katie Holmes on the cover, so I grabbed one of those, too. 
As I walked up to the check-out lane, I gave one last attempt at finding a (paid) worker who could help me.

“Hello?” I called out, my voice echoing in the cavernous expansiveness that is FoodFun.  “Hello?” 
Thank God, just at this precise moment, a clerk walked up to me. 

“Did you need some help, ma’am?”
“Yes, please.  I would like to buy these two essentials.” 

The checker glanced at my items and smiled, most likely because she knew that the toothpaste was not actually an essential. 
“Ma’am, you will have to use self-check-out.  No checkers are scheduled on until 8 AM.”  She shrugged, as if she had just said We are out of mint chocolate chip ice-cream so you will have to try chocolate chip mint instead.  Same thing, no big deal. 

Obviously, she does not know me, because self-check-out is a big deal. 
“Miss,” I implored, as she began to walk away, “I cannot do self-check-out.  I can do checker check out where I stand here and make small talk with you about the weather and about whether Daryl Hannah had plastic surgery (she has).  I am highly trained as a customer.  I have money, credit cards, and checks, and can pay for what I want to buy.  However, I have zero training on register and how to check people out, or how to check myself out.  And I am not familiar with how to approve a check if I decide to write a check.” 

She sighed.  I could tell this was not the first time she had heard this, even though it might be the first time today. 
“Honestly, ma’am, it is not that hard.  Here, I have a video that you can watch that explains it.”  She turned to go find the video. 

“Excuse me, miss!  I do not have time for a video!”
“Fine.  Just read the sign above the check-out and it will walk you through the steps.” 

“Miss,” I tried hard to bite my tongue but failed, “I am only buying two things.  By the time you argued with me so much about me checking myself out, you could have done it already.” 
She rolled her eyes, utterly exasperated at 6:10 AM .  “I am not allowed to do check out until 8.  I am supposed to be unloading those boxes.”  She pointed to a pile of boxes that looked slightly smaller than the Pyramids of Giza.  Then, without so much as a halfhearted Good luck, she walked away. 

I stood there with my toothpaste and magazine, staring at the screen.  Focus, MOV, focus.  How hard could it be?  I located the bar code on the toothpaste and swiped it against the glass counter.  I could see the red laser light blinking up at me. 
“Before swiping first item, please enter and verify your FoodFun bonus rewards card number.  If you do not have a FoodFun card, press the purple key,” announced the self-check-out tape recording voice at maximum volume so anyone around could verify that I was, in fact, an idiot. 

I frantically searched for the purple key while the recording kept reprimanding me:  “Press the purple key NOW.  Press the purple key NOW.” 
Then the recording told me to swipe my first item, the toothpaste.  I swiped it, and the recording instructed me to “Put item in the bag.”  Since it was only toothpaste and a magazine, I was not really going to need a bag.  So, I made the mistake of merely holding the toothpaste. 

“Put item in the bag NOW,” demanded the recording, who was making my friend Christine’s bossy car GPS seem infinitely warm and fuzzy by comparison.  “NOW.  NOW.” 
I really did not want a bag.  I gawked at the self-check-out keyboard, seeking a “no bag” option. 

Right then, the clerk returned.  “Is there a problem?  The self-check-out wants you to put your item in the bag.”  She put her hands on her hips, like a third grade teacher.  I had seen this look before, mostly from my own third-grader. 
“I don’t need a bag,” I responded, trying to hide my frustration, “I just need the toothpaste.” 

“The computer senses if the item is in the bag or not,” the checker explained to me slowly, as if she were repeating some well-known universal truth like The sun comes up in the day, then the moon comes up in the night, dummy.  “If you do not put the item in the bag, it will wait for you.  If you really do not want a bag, you can trick the self-check-out by taking the items out of the bag at the end.” 
I was not up for tricking the computer, I just wanted to buy my damn toothpaste.  At this point, my kids’ bubblegum flavor toothpaste at home was not looking so bad after all.  Besides, minty fresh breath is seriously overrated. 

As the clerk walked away yet again, I put the toothpaste in the bag, then tried to swipe the bar code of the magazine.  It read the code twice by accident.  Beep!  Beep! 
Now I was really distraught.  I did not want to pay for two magazines.  But there was no key that said “Remove last item.”  Maybe that was the first thing they went over in the video:  how to fix mistakes when you do self-check-out.  I desperately did not want to call the store employee over again to further embarrass myself and ask for her help, yet I did not want to pay for something twice.  I was having an internal moral angsty dilemma, and I had not even brushed my teeth yet.      

I did the only thing I could:  I found another magazine for the same price and put it in the bag.  It was about tattoo artists, but at least it was the same price. 
I swiped my credit card. 

“Credit or debit?” bellowed the self-check-out recording. 
I pressed the credit button, and the machine ignored me.

“Cash?  Cash?  CASH?” 

I swiped my card again.
“Card not recognized.  Please remove card and try again.  Please.  Try.  Again.  Por favor prima el numéro dos si habla español.     
This machine was giving me an inferiority complex in multiple languages.  I tried swiping my card yet again, then waited patiently while it finally spit out my receipt (which I expected to jam the machine, but thankfully did not).  I looked at my watch and realized that the whole toothpaste-buying extravaganza had taken 22 minutes. 
As I walked to the door with my (unwanted) bag with my three items, the same clerk reappeared, blocking my exit.
“Ma’am, I need to double-check your receipt to make sure you did it right and did not steal anything.” 
I handed her the receipt while she looked in my bag, making me feel like a criminal.  Then she had to go and say one more thing: 
“Can you please fill out this survey online when you get home and give our service here at FoodFun a 10, which is the highest rating?” 

I told her I did not have time for any surveys.  I was going to spend my valuable time doing important things, like getting tattoos. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

820. Let’s Wave in The Parking Lot and Pretend We Know Each Other

I have been blessed with one of “those” faces.  It is the type of face that looks exactly like everyone else.  When I was younger, I would often get mistaken for Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, or Gwyneth Paltrow (not really, but please just play along).  Now I am no longer confused for a Hollywood starlet, but I am genericly and interchangeably assumed to be your next-door neighbor or sister’s hairdresser or that lady who works at the bank.  I am none of those things, but everyone thinks I am.

So it should come as no surprise that I have started waving to people I do not know. 

This morning, I was walking out of Starbucks and noticed a middle-aged businessman staring at me.  He was smiling and holding a bag of groceries.  The way he was looking at me was like, “Hey, you are good friends with my wife!  From carpool!  Are you going to completely ignore me now?”  So I did what I always do in a situation where I think I know one thing and am totally wrong:  I waved, said hello, then offered him a sip of my coffee. 

Upon opening my mouth, I could see that he was not looking at me after all, but actually at the sign behind me (“Try our new cinnamon latte!”).  I ducked my head down and pretended that I was not talking to him either, but instead to the person behind him (a homeless man with no teeth). 

Since homeless people with no teeth are usually crazy, my new best friend was more than happy to have a sip of my coffee as well as the rest of my bagel.


Monday, July 23, 2012

819. My Ultra-Helpful Computer

New Computer is very, very polite.  I requested a polite one this time around.  The last one I had was like a temperamental old coot from the grocery store—you know, the type who graciously lets you go ahead of him in line because you only have three things, but then accuses you of stealing his strawberries. 

Yeah, my last computer was like that. 
Old Computer did not know a spam filter from a can of Spam.  Old Computer lived for pop-up ads, thought they were “fun” and “informational.”  Old Computer was so slow that I frequently thought our pet gerbil might have gotten in the hard drive and had babies.  We do not own a pet gerbil. 

When Old Computer finally died last year, there was no pity party, no funeral, no wake.  Just pure joy and immense relief.  No more quirkiness of sometimes retrieving documents and sometimes speaking only in Cambodian.  No more forgetfulness when it came to where my photos were stored or how many emails I had sent this very morning.  Old Computer was dead, which meant we were forced to get an upgrade. 
New Computer arrived, and the first thing he said was, “I do not believe in pop-ups.”  Oh, it was love at first site (pun intended). 

But, even though New Computer promised to banish the pop-ups, he was searching for my constant approval.  In the middle of me looking up crucial things like whether or not Daryl Hannah has had plastic surgery (she has), New Computer would say,
“I blocked a pop-up for you!” 
It was like a little puppy that you had taught to do a simple trick like fetch the ball, and even when you did not want to play ball (like for example, if you were sleeping) the puppy would still fetch the ball, saying,
“Look at me!  I am a great puppy!  You did not even know you wanted the ball, but guess what—I brought it to you!” 
That is what New Computer does. 

“There was a pop-up!  I got it!  No worries!  You do not have to read it because I already blocked it!  I am ON IT.  Oh, did you want to see it?  It is about rhinoplasty.  There is also an ad about Botox, I can certainly let you see it if you are interested after all, because you are the boss.” 

Then New Computer sits there, waiting … waiting for me to affirm that he is a very good (very good!) computer, such a good computer, and no I do not need to see the pop-up that he blocked. 
I wasted more time being distracted by the band across the bottom of my screen (“Pop-up blocked!  Allow?  Allow once for this site?  Never allow for this site?”) just like that annoying ticker tape that runs along the bottom of the CNN screen (“Wall Street drops 50 points … Mets win playoffs … Radio bandit turns himself in …”).  So much time wasted.  I almost miss the pop-ups.  They were not nearly this distracting.   

I just want to surf the sites I am interested in and have New Computer do his job (block the pop-ups) and not have to tell me about it every 15 seconds.  Just do your damn job, New Computer.   

I think I will make sure my next computer is fluent in Karate.  That way, he can give a judo chop to the offending ads, and then step back into the shadows, Buddha-like, waiting for the next one.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

818. What Not To Say

Sometimes the tongue/ teeth/ voice box combo click on faster than the brain neurons controlling content.  I wish my brain would take a quick glance at the potential words first, like opening the oven to check on the cookies before taking them out and eating them when they are completely  undercooked.  Who wants raw mushy cookies, and really, who wants my raw thoughts before they have had a chance to be properly baked? 

Here is just a very small sampling of some things I may or may not have said that were (surprisingly) not well-received by the recipient: 
To my younger son about his art project:  “Oh, I’m sorry, Sweetie … did the teacher not give you enough time to finish?” 

To my boss:  (after convincing her to let me work from home over the summer) “You know, it is really hard to get anything done at home with the kids around.” 
To The Husband:  (after he made dinner) “Please don’t ever make this again.” 

To my best friend:  “You are lucky you have me in your life,” (when I meant to say the reverse).
To my mother-in-law:  “Oh, sorry, we are busy that day,” (before she had a chance to tell me the date). 

To the new dental hygienist:  (before she pokes me with sharp metal instruments) “Do you know what happened to Joannie who used to work here?  I really liked her.  I hope you are as good as her.  Does Joannie work close by now?”     
To my older son’s principal at the end of a meeting about unexcused absences:  “Did I mention we’ll be pulling Tall and Short out of school for a week in November to go to Disney?”    

So you see, I should just keep my mouth shut at times.  Some of the time.  Okay, most of the time. 
Maybe all of the time. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

817. Obsessive Compulsive Compulsive Compulsive

Last weekend, we threw a party.  Since it was a child’s birthday party, I thought the parents would drop the kids off and come back later.  (I myself have been known to relish a few glorious hours of child-free-ness, and even exploit those unplanned minutes for my own selfish shopping or napping benefit.)  Turns out, most of the parents planned to stay. 

Now, I am the type of person who gets panicky about my house right before people come over.  I obsess if it is clean enough, or even acceptable.  Will people judge me and think I am a horrible person because there are some items laying around that I have not had a chance to put away yet?  Will they mock me on Facebook later?    
The Husband kept saying, “No one will even stay; they’re just dropping off!  Plus it is a backyard water gun party.  Everyone will be outsideWhat are you stressing about?” 
But, being the Virgo that I am, I plan for twenty different scenarios:  
  • rain /no rain
  • sun /clouds
  • gnats /flying lizards
  • tornado /hurricane
  • parents stay /parents leave
My mantra has always been:  “Just in case you forgot to plan everything, plan a little bit more.” 
Sadly, ever since school let out and we were not on our normal routine, I had uncharacteristically let the cleanliness level of our house slide.  A bit.  Just a tiny bit. 

To say the house was messy was akin to saying that the ocean is wet.   

But never fear.  Being the Virgo that I am, I kicked it into high gear. 

I cleaned and straightened, then straightened some more.  I stumbled upon the overdue library books I had been looking for.  I located my lost earring.  And I finally found the cat, who had been missing since last Tuesday. 

It was a successful day. 

Thankfully, after a few short hours and a few gallons of Starbucks, I was able to get the house back up to my original pre-kid standards.

The tiny guests started to arrive, along with their doting parents.  The party began outside, but (due to the excessive heat) we eventually made our way in. 
Then, the comments started rolling, like a cardboard toilet paper roll knocked out of the recycle bin and pushed along by a strong gust of wind.   

“Your house is gorgeous!” 

“I love your house!” 
“Your house is so clean!”

“How do you get your house this clean?” 
“Do you have a cleaning lady?” 

“Wow!  I’m moving in!” 
I did what I always do when people pay me compliments:  offer them more cake. 

We had a great time oohing and ahhing over the clean appearance of my home.  After a solid hour of me basking in the awesome splendour that is complimentedness on this special day, my son's birthday, I was ultimately able to steer the conversation back to where it should have been all along:  celebrity gossip.  We got at least a half an hour out of the Tom Cruise/ Katie Holmes divorce, and then we were on to whether the Bachelorette was really a lesbian. 
Finally, it was time to go, and as I escorted the last parent and child to the door with their new beach ball and water gun party favors, The Husband gasped.  

“MOV!  Where’s all our stuff?!?”
“Don’t worry.  Nothing was thrown away,” I smiled, “But you might want to be careful opening the hall closet.” 


Sunday, July 15, 2012

816. How To Stress Over A Summer Party

As the woman who inconsiderately gave birth to him in July, thus relegating him forever to the corner of the classroom reserved for the “Summer Birthdays” (i.e. the ones not celebrated at school), I was determined to give Short a birthday to remember this year. 

I started researching my options in January.    

“Look,” I said to The Husband excitedly as I pointed to the computer screen one evening, “we can rent a small farm for only $8000!” 
He laughed, not at the idea of how much fun our very own farm would be, but at the fact that he would have to scoop up 12 kinds of poop at the end of the party.    

“Uh, no, MOV.  Try again.” 
And try I did. 
I looked into bounce houses, magicians, laser tag, pool parties, water parks ...

... miniature golf, and bowling. 

I considered reptiles-by-the-hour and unknown comedians. 

I called clowns, basketball coaches, professional flame throwers ...

... and circus-to-go.  In the end, I turned to the one person who mattered most in the decision-making process. 

“Thank you for calling Bank of America, how may I help you?” answered the ultra-cheery phone teller. 
“Yes, please, I need to find out my balance?” 

Strangely enough, professional flame-throwers happen to charge more than $17.44 (my current bank balance) to appear at a child’s party for two hours. 
Who knew? 
“I think we can get them some beach balls?” I suggested hopefully to The Husband.  “And I have a coupon for plastic water guns?” 

“Done.”  The Husband smiled, content that he had the foresight to remove his credit card number from my online PayPal account. 
When the day arrived (today) for the party, I began to panic.  Water guns!  What the hell was I thinking?  What kind of dumb party was this? 

We were not even feeding the guests anything other than ice-cream cake. 

“Welcome!” I blurted out to the first child arriving.  “Come on in, grab a water gun and a beach ball!” 

All my worries melted away, just like the ice-cream cake did in 92 degree heat.  The kids had a blast.  They ran, they squirted each other, they kicked the beach balls.  No one said, “Where is the bounce house?” or “Where is the magician?” 

When the party was over, each child took a beach ball and a water gun home with him.  There were no goody bags.  As they were walking out to their car, I overheard one little boy announce to his mother,
“I want a water-gun party for my birthday, too!” 

I might have an extra coupon for his mom.    

Friday, July 13, 2012

815. Camp McEnrichment

The Husband lives for sports.  I live for art and theater.  Ours is a marriage based on mutual respect, lust, and completely different interests.  Oh, yeah, and mint-chip ice-cream. 

But back to the sports thing.  During the school year, he signed up Tall and Short for soccer and basketball at our community center.  Then he introduced football.  He also likes to take the boys biking and hiking.  (Anything where you have to buy special shoes to do it is fair game.)  Then summer rolled around, and The Husband started perusing the brochures for local sports camps. 

“What about the first week of August for lacrosse?  Would the boys like to learn lacrosse?” he asked me.  “Oh, and I think we have enough money for one other week of something.  Hmm, how about volleyball starting on June 25th?”     
I shook my head no.  “Sweetie, the school year is yours.  Summer is … mine.” 

His grin turned to a frown, because he knew what that meant:  ART. 
Two summers ago, I became obsessed with taking the boys to visit every museum within an hour’s drive of our house.  We live near some of the best museums in the world so it was easy to do.  It was a hot summer, so the boys and I spent almost every waking moment hopping in the car or on the subway, going to air-conditioned museums.  I loved every second of it.

The Husband remembers that summer, because every evening we would show him the museum catalog and postcards we bought. 
Tall would say, “Look, Pop, look!  We saw another Picasso, this one was from his Blue Period.  I prefer the paintings of the Fauve artists though.”   

“Are you kidding?  When you could look at the masterpieces Van Gogh produced?” Short would interrupt.  “Or Paul Klee?  What about him?” 
The Husband looked me right in the eye.  “Are you planning a repeat of The Summer of The Museum?” he inquired with trepidation. 

“No no no no no no!  Don’t be silly!  I don’t have to take the kids back to those same museums again, because they already have all those art images locked in their brains!”  Here I pointed to my own brain, as if it was holding the back-up art files.  “I have something better planned:  classes.”
“Ugh, how much is that going to cost?”

“Sweetie, no more than your two weeks of sports.  Chill.  I’ll pay for it.  And they will learn a lot.” 
Apparently, I’d said the magic words (“I’ll pay for it”) because he agreed.  Before he had a chance to change his mind, I had signed up Tall for a week of “Art Around the World” and a week of “Comic Book Drawing.”   Short was enrolled in a week of “Bug Crazy!” and a week of “Ceramics for First-Graders.”   

On the final day of “Comic Book Drawing,” Tall was ecstatic. 

“Now I know how to make my own comics,” he said proudly over dinner. 

The Husband smiled.  “That’s great, Tall!  I'm proud of you.  After we finish our mint-chip ice-cream, will you show me what you made?” 
“Sure!  And you know the really neat thing?  During the school year, we only have time for a one-hour art class once per week.  So, since my comic class was two hours a day for five day which equals 10 hours, that means I learned as much in art camp as I would have in—”

“Five months!” blurted out Short. 
“A year!” I yelled. 

“Three weeks?” offered The Husband, whose day job is “Cost Analyst.”
Tall rolled his eyes.  “No, if you would’ve let me finish, what I was going to say is:  11 months.” 

I think next summer we might look into Math Camp. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

811. The Blog Police

It happened again today.  They stopped by, supposedly for a routine “check-in” visit. 

“You know, just to monitor your overall progress,” said the one who looked like a young Paul Newman but without the gourmet popcorn.  “Dispatch asked us to come by and take a look around.” 

“Chief!” called out the one with the drug-sniffing dog, “I think I found something over here!” 
I knew what he was talking about—heck, I’d had misgivings about it myself.  I tried to distract them. 

“Gentleman, I just made lemon Bundt cake with smiling sour cream!  Who wants a piece?” 
The Chief walked over to the officer with the dog.  “So, what’d you find, Lieutenant?” 

The Lieutenant hung his head, embarrassed for me.  He picked up a few hand-written sheets of paper, the ink not even dry.  “I found ‘Phone ringing off the hook’.  Sorry, sir.” 
All eyes were on me. 

“‘All eyes were on me’?  That is what you wrote next?!  Oh, come on!”  wailed the Newman clone. 
I could see the handwriting on the wall. 

“No!  Stop!  You are making my eyes bleed!  Stop!”
“I’m not doing it on purpose!  I could talk until I’m blue in the face, but it still wouldn’t convince you!” I wailed.     

“You just used that word:  wailed.  Too unusual to use twice in a row.  Ever heard of a proof-reader?  Or  I'll let you off with a warning for that one, but ...” 
He got out his notepad and wrote me a ticket. 
“Mrs. MOV:  Rampant Cliché Abuse.  Clichés make for lazy, unimaginative writing.”  He ripped the citation off and handed it to me with a flourish.  “Do you have anything to say for yourself?” 

“No.  I mean, yes!  Officer, you have to understand:  I was still editing!  Rome wasn’t built in a day, I was still working on it.”
The silence was deafening.  You could hear a pin drop.   

That.  That is exactly what I am talking about.  STOP IT.”  The Newman clone reached for his gun. 
“Wha— what are you doing?” I shrieked. 

“The clichés are not the only reason we stopped by.”  They all looked at each other and then stepped closer to me. 
“There are other forms of Blog Abuse.”

“Like … like what, exactly?” I murmured.   
“Blog Clutter,” said the policeman with the dog.  The dog barked in obvious agreement. 

“Ha!  Then you have the wrong gal.  I am a Virgo, and we don’t do clutter.”  I folded my arms across my chest, smug.  I could practically hear the Gods of Vacuuming applauding.  Well, if the vacuuming weren’t so loud.      
“She’s right, Chief,” said a different officer.  He was holding a very official-looking clipboard.  “These are the other blogs we need to get to,” he pointed to his list, “they’re the ones with all the random stuff crammed in all along the sides, bottom, top, everywhere so you can’t even read the content.” 

The Chief nodded solemnly. 
“Let me remind you, MOV, there are other offenses.  Some, you have been guilty of, others, well, you may have skipped our notice this time , but you should click those computer keys very cautiously in the future.  Really.  I mean it.” 

I knew what he was talking about, he didn’t have to say it.  The blogs with white words on a neon purple background, making migraines a certainty.  The blogs with no correct link back, ensuring you could never find their blog, even in a Google search.  The blogs that did not provide a "follow" option.  The blogs that still used word verification for comments.  The blogs with no apparent paragraph breaks.  No punctuation.  Excessive fragments.  Repetition.  Fragments. 
The list was endless. 

“What about the bloggers that go on and on and on and don’t really even have a point and then the end is just not funny?  What about those?” 
He got his ticket book back out and started scribbling again.  “You’re reading my mind, MOV.  That’s another $500.”