Exit… Stage Left

So. According to my daughter, my writing has never been a paragon of dignity. Okay, I’ll give her that one. After all, she’s not wrong.

With that said, thanks to my children (yes, I’m blaming my kids), my ability to hold back my…  ummm… oh, who cares, I’ll just say it. My ability to hold back my pee is nearly nonexistent. When I have to go, I have to go. And my body, being the asshole that it is, when it senses I’m near a bathroom, it upgrades the urinary crisis to a breaking point. Why is that? Does anyone else experience that? The closer you get to a bathroom, the more urgent the need becomes, to the point of … hey, I’m right here, but I still might not make it?

Sometimes, I tempt fate and wait almost too long to start the trek to the restroom. Who has time for constant bathroom breaks? I don’t. I’ve got better things to do. I’d put an end to bodily functions altogether, if it were up to me. And why do they call it a restroom, anyway? It’s not like we take a nap in there. I mean, I wish!

Anyway, I was at work today and threw caution to the wind in order to finish the marketing project I was working on. Oh, I made it, but barely.

And as I headed back to my office, once again unencumbered, however so briefly, by a needful bladder, I got to thinking.  What happens if that fateful day should arrive when I don’t make it in time?  Well, I’ll tell you, and this I know for certain.

I will go to my office, grab my coat, and without a backward glance or a word to anyone, I will simply walk out, never to return.  I will head East (or North, or West, or South… I don’t know, I’m geographically challenged, people!) until I can go no further. I will take a new name, put down roots in a new town, with a new job, and new people who will never, ever know of “the incident” that plagues my past.

They might speak of me around my “old” office, after I’m gone. But in the context of “that crazy woman in marketing who just up and walked out one day,” and NOT “the woman in the corner office who peed herself last Wednesday.”

I’m good with crazy. Oh yes. Definitely, crazy.

Kiosk Hawkers vs Zombie Apocalypse

I’ve discovered this past week that the “after-holiday shopping and returns” is almost as bad as the original holiday shopping. On an ordinary day, the mall is a place where an introvert like me can go to blend in. There are people, yeah, but not mobs of people… just enough that no one stands out.  I can shop in peace, unnoticed, buy a soft pretzel, and slip back into the trickle of shopping traffic without drawing any attention. But this past week, whew!  There were gads of people. More than there were pre-holiday, I think. Forget about going unnoticed… that will just get you run over as you try to jump back into the rush of shoppers surging through the corridor while leaving a store.

Even if I’m not squashed by fellow mallgoers, there are bigger problems afoot at times like these: unexpected social interaction. Usually caused by… wait for it… Kiosk Hawkers.

I think I’m safe in saying that we all try to avoid them. I mean, we know they’re out there, with their “magic” lotions and creams, and their eyebrow threading stations, but if we’re careful, we can avoid being targeted. The strong and resolute can make it through the gauntlet without being harassed – I don’t know how, by virtue of their aura alone, I suppose. Some of us have strategies, like pretending we’re on the phone (that one’s my favorite). Or walking closely behind the group of people in front of us so that solicitors won’t see us. You know, strength in numbers. Or we just avoid eye contact altogether and with our heads down and ears closed, desperately keep moving along.

I know that the Kiosk Hawkers are just doing their job, but I’ll be honest. I loathe them.  I could recount numerous encounters to validate my point of view. Like the time the perfume lady sprayed me without asking first and, being sensitive to many smells, including, apparently, the one she sprayed me with, my throat started to close-up and it required a quick trip to the ER. That was fun.

Oh, but here’s a better story. One unfortunate day, too distracted by my soft pretzel and lemonade, my guard was down, my defenses were weak. I looked up. There he was. I inadvertently locked eyes with the shoeshine guy. Oh yeah, my mall has a shoeshine guy, who will, I’m convinced, stop at nothing to snag any innocent shopper and convince them to get their shoes shined. He even shines sneakers! I mean, when was the last time you put on your tennis shoes and said, “Man, these babies could use a nice glow”? Maybe people like their sneakers with a mirror glaze. I wouldn’t know about that. Back in my day, the more dirt and scuffs you had on your Vans #95, the cooler you were! It meant you probably owned a skateboard, rode a sweet scooter, and jumped fences.

Sneakers aside, how does this man convince anyone to stand (yes, stand… not sit) – with their foot up on a crate – in the middle of the mall filled with hundreds of people so he can scrub their shoes? Does he threaten to destroy their family? Does he walk up to them and quietly whisper through his corny smile, “Come with me if you want to live?” It’s beyond me. I just don’t get it!

Anyway, on the fateful day in question, I made the worst mistake a shopper can make where Kiosk Hawkers are concerned. I made eye contact. To a Kiosk Hawker, eye contact is the equivalent of having a neon sign on your forehead that says, “Pick me!”  What was I thinking?! I wasn’t prepared for this! He called to me and began eagerly insisting that my shoes were dirty, and I needed a shoeshine. He started rambling on about how a person should always look their best. Then I understood! These were his weapons. This was his tactic: tell an unsuspecting shopper that their shoes are filthy, causing them to feel insecure, making them question why they left their house, and every other choice they’d made up to that point.

Refusing to be easy prey, a boldness rose from somewhere deep within my anxiety-riddled being. “Nice try,” I thought to myself. A fairly strong “No thank you!” bubbled out, and I picked up my pace putting some distance between us. Undeterred, he followed, continuing his spiel along the way. I’m telling you, I barely escaped. But I was in the clear!

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the most bizarre thing about this whole encounter: I was wearing flip-flops! He wanted to shine my flip-flops! Did the guy even look at my feet before throwing his sales pitch?  I didn’t even think flip-flops qualified as shoes, let alone need a shine. In my mind, I’m thinking, “Is there anything this guy won’t shine?” Would he have given me a discount considering that I had almost nothing on my feet? Or would there have been an additional fee since it would’ve been more like a pedicure? And just for the record… ewwww.

It’s moments like these where I think that a Zombie Apocalypse might not be so bad. Of course, there’s the whole potentially getting eaten by zombies thing, but that’s still better than getting trapped by a Kiosk Hawker.

Holidaze at the Office

Relationships with co-workers can be interesting. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t hang out with each other outside of work, but we spend more time with each other than we do with our friends. You’re not exactly friends, at least not in the outside world, yet you still find yourself engaged in distracting, pointless conversations in the break room and you still make jokes and talk about your weekend plans (that they — or you — aren’t invited to). Some of these coworkers are just email buddies or part of your phone conference cliques… you never actually meet in the office, let alone in real life. It’s a unique situation. These awkward connections are made all the more obvious during those universally loved mandatory office functions.

And as we all know, it’s that time of year. Yep. I got the email invite to the office holiday party this past week.  I have just one word to say about that… help!  I’ll be forced to meet the people I’ve been emailing from ten feet away. Ugh.

Oh, I forgot to mention.  We’re having a Secret Santa gift exchange this year instead of a cookie exchange. Really!? It’s like they’re adding insult to injury. Last year I got a myriad of sweet treats to take home (who am I kidding, they never made it out of my office)…  this year I could get any sort of awful thing.  And then I have to get someone else a gift, cause, you know, that’s how these things work. Good grief doesn’t even cover it. But it’s the holidays, so I’m trying to curb my cursing in hopes that Santa has short-term memory loss and won’t remember the rest of the year’s colorful sentence enhancers.

Isn’t it crazy how you can work with someone for years and still not know anything about them? I know what most of my coworkers had for breakfast and which kid got suspended last week, but gift ideas? No, not a clue. How do you shop for someone you don’t really know? There’s so-and-so who eats a half-dozen donuts every day, but I can’t get them a Krispy Kreme gift card, right? I’m thinking that would be rude. I can think of a few who could really use muzzles, but HR told me that would be frowned upon, and I’m really trying to avoid HR this year.

We’re drawing names out of a hat this coming week for the Secret Santa thing… I just hope I pick the person in the cubbyhole next to mine so that I can gift them with a set of pens that don’t click. It would save us both a lot of heartache – and bail money – in the end.

Speaking of holiday parties, ours is apparently having alcohol again this year. Alcohol makes every party at work 500 times more interesting. Trust me, that’s a fact. Just about everyone ends up imbibing (I mean, it’s a party with your coworkers… you do what you need to do to push through), but there are always those people who are somehow plastered a half hour into the party. How do they get so drunk so quickly? Personally, I think they start the celebration a little early with a nip in the office kitchen. These are usually the folks that are dancing with the hat rack, wearing the wreath from reception around their neck, and there isn’t even any music playing.

Of course, there’s the requisite mistletoe melodrama… the coworkers who use it as an excuse to get chummy and try their best to make it seem spontaneous when, in fact, they’ve been practicing all week. You see, we don’t have mistletoe in the office. I know, right!? That’s part of the whole plot… it’s discovered in one of the coworkers’ pockets as part of an elaborate mise-en-scène. Frankly, the rest of us are getting bored with the whole show, because it’s been the gal from finance and the guy from the warehouse two years running now. Come on, people! We need a couple of fresh faces to step up in the office affair department to make things a little more interesting this time next year.

What it all comes down to is this; basically, there are two groups of people at these events: the people acting like they’re at a college party rather than sharing eggnog with their boss and their boss’ boss who flew in from Toledo just for the event, and the rest of us who just want to go home. Can you guess which group I’m in?

Cause you just know that at some point someone is busting out a karaoke machine. It’s just a matter of time. You only hope that you get an emergency call from home before then… or somehow tranquilized. What is it about booze and karaoke machines that make people who don’t get it think that they’ve got it? Is there a volume lower than mute? Where’s that button on the karaoke machine is what I’d like to know.

I always find a buddy to drink with – misery loves company after all. We all have that one work buddy. Our Office BFF.  We laugh at everyone else, talk about how much we want to leave and generally contemplate the repercussions of the evening.

I guess it’s better than that corporate group retreat where we did trust training. I’m still scarred from my trust fall with Bart from accounting. Yikes.

** This post was brought to you by holiday drinking.  Thank you for making us all, in the words of the great Clark Griswold, “the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse” this holiday season.

Water, Water Everywhere nor any Funnel Cake to Eat

Dearest Journal,

Do you remember the day I went to the waterpark? It was … interesting. As you know (because you’re my Journal and I’ve written in you before, so you know all my secrets of course) I’m a raging introvert with the patience of a gnat. That’s just who I am. Needless to say, the waterpark has always been the ultimate test of my resolve.

The place was so busy! But then, it always is. Therein lies my problem. Packs of people everywhere! I don’t like people, as a general rule. But then, I don’t have to tell you, do I Journal? I felt like I spent more time wading through people than wading through water. And to make it worse, there seemed to be so many wayward children with sticky hands roaming through the throngs of people like bored jackals because, guess what Journal?  Their parents weren’t watching them properly and were instead, sailing down the “lazy river,” and having unleashed their hell spawn upon the world, were casually sipping their strawberry smoothies while floating along on their blow-up flamingos, not a care in the world. Certainly no cares were had for their grubby-handed offspring.

As I was waiting to go down the main slide, I suddenly found myself asking: “Where the hell did this GOO on my leg come from!?” I searched the gang of jackals children milling about, but could not pinpoint the perpetrator. Oh, not to worry, I’m about to go down a waterslide, I thought. That’ll surely get this blackberry jelly (my sincere hope) off my leg, I told myself.

Nope. After going down the slide and getting back out of the water, it was still there.

Superglue jelly. What a novel concept.

What is this stuff anyway, I asked, some kind of resin? What kind of parent lets their gooey kid walk around unleashed with clumps of resin in their hands? I don’t need no myrrh and frankincense stuck to my leg! I went to the waterpark for a good time, not to have random who-knows-what stuck to my appendages. If I wanted that, I’d go swim at the beach and get a jellyfish stuck to my ankle. Or I’d swim in a leech-infested lake. I want to have fun and all, but, at least for me personally, that doesn’t involve having miscellaneous things involuntarily glued to my skin by children who aren’t even mine.

Going down the waterslide is an experience in itself. You walk all the way up these rickety little stairs to get to the top of the ride, all the time high on the scent of heavy-duty chlorine. And people are constantly packing in, waiting impatiently for the chance to spend a few seconds whizzing down a plastic tube.

Sometimes people whizz literally. No, really Journal, they do.

I got back to the food area after visiting the ladies’ room where I had finally chipped the jelly resin off my leg and was feeling a bit peckish after the extreme yoga moves required to pee without needing a subsequent round of heavy-duty antibiotics. Aha, funnel cake! My old friend! The very thing that makes coming to an amusement park worthwhile. I bought a piece and found a quiet spot to just sit down and relax for a moment, away from the throbbing maelstrom that was the rest of the park. Like I said, I’m an introvert. I have the patience of a gnat. And like a gnat, I need time to rest. All that flapping up and down the stairs and flailing down the waterslides — while trying to keep all of the important bits inside of a swimsuit, can exhaust an irritable shy little thing like me! But funnel cake would sustain me, revive me even. I mean, you know me and funnel cake, dear Journal.

So I sat down, and for a brief moment I rejoiced in being able to hear myself think for the first time in a good many hours (without my ears being clogged with water, without the chlorine forever desperate to punch me in the medulla oblongata, without goo on my legs, without people playing “Who can I get away with elbowing” on the waterslide stairs).

And then lo and behold! A bird, from out of nowhere, I couldn’t tell you which one, swooped down and stole my funnel cake right out of my hand!

I’d like to say I watched as the feathered beast flew away into the distance till it was nothing more than a little speck and that I reflected upon that moment as it went, but there was no time. In seconds, a throng of jackals children swamped the food area and I looked down at my leg once more to see it covered in peanut butter. Now why did I get rid of that mysterious jelly from earlier, I thought to myself. I could have had a sandwich!

Online Shopping

About time she took a nap!

Okaaayyy, sooo, I have to position her finger just right on the phone screen… HA! Got it!  I. Am. In!

Pffft! Tell ME I’m on a diet, will she… who the hell does she think she’s dealing with, anyway!?

Alrighty then, what do we have here?  Do I order the 25-case assorted treats or the 100-case special on the freeze-dried chicken bites?  Hmmmm… decisions, decisions.

100-case special it is!

if oNly CATS hAd oPPosaBLe tHumbS… yeah, right. I’ll show you what I can do without opposable thumbs. Jerk.

Life in a Bubble

The best thing about my local mall is the bubble tea kiosk. I like to go there just for that.  Well, that and the movies. I love tea and I love movies. The bubble tea place has all different kinds, something for everyone. Obviously, you can find the usual like green, black, and white, but there are also exotic mixtures to choose from, like pomegranate and lime or marshmallow root and licorice, you name it. My fave is Rose of San Francisco. No idea what’s in it and maybe that’s for the best. But I’ll tell you this much… it is yuuummmmyy.

The mall itself? Meh. It’s humongous. I’ll give it that. Now, it’s not “Mall of the Americas” humongous, but it’s up there… the largest in our state, for whatever that’s worth. It’s a trek just to get to an entrance, of which there are many, from one of the parking lots — a veritable exercise in stamina. St. Petersburg has its Hermitage, for Paris it’s the Louvre, my city has a massive mall, oh, with an adjacent casino. Just like those famous European art galleries, you can walk this sprawling mecca of capitalism in an afternoon, but not if you try to look at everything. That’s a rookie’s mistake. Another mistake would be thinking you could afford anything in this place.

See that pair of mustard-colored chinos in that H&M store over there in Neighborhood Q (oh, yeah, this mall has neighborhoods)? That’s the equivalent of a commissioned Rembrandt. That chemical cocktail of avocado and raspberry and something you can only describe as “mossy” coming from Lush in Neighborhood A? That’s an M.C. Escher right there. And that fancy store selling Prada and Gucci handbags… the one that never seems to have any customers, but all they need is one sale per month and they make their cut anyway? The Mona Lisa, of course.

I’ll admit it, I’m the worst kind of patron. Oh sure, I’ll go to the movies and I always get bubble tea, but as for shopping-shopping, uh, no. Sometimes, I go and just meander around and check out random things in shop windows, just to have something to do. I may have mentioned this before, but it’s a LLLLOT of walking, with an obstacle course through aggressive kiosk hawkers thrown in. I have found that it’s almost worthwhile to don your hiking books and backpack – complete with snacks, a high-beam flashlight to make S.O.S signals, and an emergency whistle just in case of shopping mall fatigue… that state of utter exhaustion where you find yourself lying helplessly on the shiny tiled floor, one hand outstretched, in vain, toward the nearest escalator only ten miles away. “Can’t … go on … no … more … shopping!” And yet, here you are, clear on the opposite side of the mall from where you parked.  As despair hits you full in the face, you resolutely straighten your shoulders, throw back your head, take a fortifying swig of your bubble tea, and stumble off on aching feet … back from whence you came.

So why do I do it, I ask myself?

It’s all about that Rose of San Francisco.