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.

Like a Rolling Stone

So, last week I went to the doctor and to paint you a picture, I’m standing there at this open-air front desk with absolutely no privacy in a waiting room as crowded as a 1980s U2 concert when the receptionist boisterously (read, loudly) asks me, “Why are you here?”

“What, like existentially you mean? Let me just whip out my copy of Jean-Paul Sartre for a moment: um … Nausea? Um … well, you see, I’m feeling the nausea of existence, of existing, I’m feeling an unbearable lightness of being in my upper abdomen … No, that’s not right. I remember now, even if you, dear receptionist, do not. I have a kidney stone. Yes. A kidney stone. Happy now, all you people listening in from the waiting room?”

At this point, I feel like turning around to them and with outstretched arms, boldly asking, “Are you not entertained?” Because you just know they’re listening. And now, someone’s nodding to their partner and saying, yep, guessed it!

You see, there’s not much to do in a waiting room, and yes, everyone plays that same game you play. The game of ‘keep yourself from falling asleep while waiting 500 hours for a doctor to show up,’ officially titled “What are they in for?” It works like this: observe people in the doctor’s waiting room and ask yourself, “What are they in for?”

Simple, right?

That tired looking young man with the hand in a kerchief who just walked in? Lost a fight with a rabid raccoon, no doubt. The young child playing with the toy tractor on the carpet? That’s an easy, and boring, one. He obviously has the plague with accompanying free-flowing mucous… which he’s now so generously sharing with everyone in the room because he doesn’t cover his mouth when he coughs (instead, choosing to aim it quite purposefully toward his waiting room neighbors) and the same hand he uses to wipe at his nose also touches every surface within a 10 foot radius. The elderly woman clutching her right knee while staring stoically at the opposite wall? Well, you’d think arthritis, but no, trampoline injury. Oh, you thought you were the only one who plays this game? Nope.

Sadly, in most medical offices, the staff take the fun out of this harmless entertainment by announcing to all and sundry exactly why a patient is there in the first place before the peanut gallery even has a chance to guess. Or else, they force the patient to divulge such information with little empathy for any embarrassment such an admission might cause.

What was that? Can you repeat that, sir?”

“I SAID, I CAN’T PEE STANDING ON MY HEAD ANYMORE!” 

I’d like to offer this open letter to medical receptionists everywhere.

Dear Receptionists: please, in future, understand that I’m a very private person by nature, and no, even in this day and age when everyone seems hellbent on informing everyone else of the exact flavor of icing adorning their morning cupcake, I do not want a crowd of people to know I have a kidney stone. Or a cold. Or a case of raging foot rash. Shouldn’t you already have that information written down somewhere? In the system? I mean, you’d think that the 20-question pop quiz I was given when I made the appointment over the phone would’ve sufficed. Not to mention, we’ve had the benefit of computers for a good forty years now. We’re not living in the age of Pong anymore. We’re living in the golden age of computers and databases and cloud-synced note-taking software and I would have thought it’s pretty easy, when I tell a receptionist over the phone that I want to see the doctor about my kidney stones, to therefore just make a note of “kidney stone.”  Or forget that, if that’s too hard, just write “kidney.”  That’s six letters for God’s sake. And when I get to the waiting room counter, I can just sing the chorus of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone and you can put the puzzle pieces together.

But no, they want me to announce my exact condition to the world, as if I’ve suddenly been thrust into an intervention, and admitting my problem to a circle of total strangers is the first step. Hello, my name is Wendy. I have a kidney stone. Yes, it is a problem, Yes, I admit it. But I don’t want to tell others about it. Please. Is that so hard???

If the receptionist is doing triage to see if you take precedence over the next person in line, I have to ask why? You have a set appointment. Receptionists shouldn’t be doing triage. That should be done over the phone as well. It’s called streamlining the process, people. It’s called efficiency. It’s called organization. Not the world-famous best-selling author of a dozen minimalism and organization books, Marie Kondo, organization but … no, wait, hang on. Marie Kondo would be a marvelous help here.

Does this kidney stone give you joy?” she would ask.

And I would reply, “Why, no. No. It. Does. Not.

And she would say, “Then it’s high time you remove it from your life.”

Either way, that’s a vital conversation. But it can be done over the phone. Not in the waiting room. I’m not Bono. I’m not a dancing monkey. I have a medical problem. And I want it fixed without the eyes of the world watching.

If you do decide to forego any sense of privacy and give the receptionist all the gory details of your predicament, be prepared to say it all again, verbatim, to the nurse who takes you back. Because, guess what? They didn’t take notes either.

Finally, you get to the doctor, a man who looks suspiciously like U2’s The Edge and he asks, while looking at nonexistent notes, “What can I help you with today?”

And having repeated the story of your ailment 200 times by now, you explain, “I’m on the edge of insanity, doctor. Even Jean-Paul Sartre could not explain my existential nausea.”

And the doctor kindly admits you to the hospital where you get locked up in a nice padded cell, feeling more nauseous than ever, with Marie Kondo shaking her head at you because you still haven’t gotten rid of your kidney stone.

But hey, in the spirit of that aforementioned intervention, at least something got admitted, and that’s the main thing.

I’d just prefer it wasn’t me.

 

P.S. I made the kidney stone thing up.

Bookaholics Anonymous

I love books. I think I’ve mentioned it before. There’s just something about the smell of dusty pages that takes me instantly to other worlds, other universes, fantasy realms. I’m not a book snob though, I’m just as happy with e-books, audiobooks, second-hand paperbacks; hell, I’d be happy to have someone else read to me as I sit back with a glass of wine. To say my house is filled with books is an understatement. I look at it as having a living, growing library rather than hoarding though. Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me! It helps me get through the day.

So yes, hello everyone, this is my first time at Bookaholics Anonymous and I am a book hoarder. No, I don’t have books cluttering up my hallways (well, maybe just a few), but I do have a lot of books. A LOT of books.

Also, just so we’re clear, I will never stop loving books. You know that guy that thought his wife was a hat and he fell in love with the hat?  I fell in love with books, a long, long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away). As Cat Stevens said, “The first cut is the deepest” and I’m ninety-nine percent sure he was talking about a paper cut.

Seriously though, I think everyone is secretly in love with books anyway. I mean, think about it: you go to your local nightclub, everyone’s talking about “picking up” getting “checked out.” Deep down inside, we all love books so much we want to be books. We use the same lingo in a place where we get shhhhed as the place where we say, “Shhhhhiiiit, I’m soooo wasted!” Coincidence? I think not.

Books are good people. No, no, no, wait, wait, wait … I meant, “books are good, people,” not “books are good citizens.” That would just be crazy talk. See the importance of commas, kids?

So, the other day.  I’m in the library, my temple, my place of refuge, my sanctuary where all my friends hang out. Yup, they’re all there. All my BFFs, sitting patiently on their shelves waiting to be picked up, Treasure Island, The Count of Monte Cristo, Great Expectations. And I pick up this book by Alex Kava called Before Evil.

If you haven’t read Alex Kava’s Maggie O’Dell series, just what the hell are you waiting for?? Needless to say, I checked it out.

So anyway, I’m reading this book, and I see that the editor or proof-reader or perhaps both didn’t do as good a job as they really should have. Let’s just say there were some mistakes.  Mistakes even Microsoft Word’s menacing paper clip would have jumped on.

The sad thing is, this is becoming more common, even with well-known authors who have decent publishing houses behind them. And you know what? It’s not such a big deal for me. When I come across a mistake, I simply correct it in my head and move on. I’ll repeat, in my head.

However, the previous reader of this Before Evil book didn’t settle for simply correcting the mistakes in their head and moving on. Oh no. They had taken it upon themselves to correct all the grammar and editorial mistakes with a pencil. In the book.

Now some book lovers might rejoice, and others would shake their head at the idea of writing in a book … a library book of all things. I know that textbooks bear the brunt of a student’s study habits, and that’s all good.  But there are serious moral questions to be asked here. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, making corrections in a book? Should we all be literary vigilantes? We have guerrilla gardening, guerrilla knitting, why not guerrilla editing?

How to play: walk into any library, pick up any book and start correcting. Done. Easy-peasy, right? Congratulations, you’re a guerrilla editor! Better than being a gorilla (I’m told they can’t read, but I think they can and they’re just faking).

Is it bad to write in a library book? It’s not your property after all. It belongs to everyone. Is this person doing a service or a disservice to the readers who come after them?

In this case it was in pencil. So, it could be erased should the librarians choose to do so. But still, maybe someone doesn’t want those editing marks? Maybe for some it will prove distracting? Maybe the mistakes were deliberate and intended as some kind of post-modernist subversive statement? I mean, really, who are we to say?

Maybe the editor was having a tough day when Before Evil came across their desk. Maybe this veteran book editor, normally perfection itself when it comes to editing, was having a flashback to their previous workplace where they were bullied for not knowing the difference between an Oxford comma and you know, that other one, and they see an editing mark and completely flip out… they start tearing up books left and right, jumping on tables, and shouting at the top of their lungs: “You can’t shhhh me, I’m the gingerbook lady!” All to say that maybe, just maybe, they were having an off day in the proofreading department.

More importantly, how much of a grammar nazi do you have to be to do something like this?

But it gets worse … there I was looking at these marks, when I saw that the self-appointed editor had made a contentious decision. In one paragraph, they had crossed out the word “shrubs” and scribbled in “scrubs.”  But here’s the thing … the original word choice from the author was arguably right as the character was in fact making their way through some trees at the time. A person doesn’t dive into some scrubs unless they’re in a hospital and desperately need to get suitably dressed in a hurry to get to their own surgery.

Now there’s a book idea. Forget Before Evil.

Before Surgery.

Anyway, there I was, thinking: do I change the change? Do I edit the edit?

But then, what is the literary world coming to? If people are allowed to make edits all willy-nilly, however they want, will all editing of future novels be outsourced to the readers? What is this anyway, I suddenly asked myself? Wikipedia?

Hell on Earth – Redux

Mandatory training has been ongoing at my office this week. Its only Wednesday, and with Thursday and Friday left on the horizon, I’m ready to flee the country and move to Belize. I don’t care what my bank account has to say about it.

While thinking of a way to accurately articulate the absolute pleasure to be had in a company training room (and not like that, trust me), I remembered that this subject has cropped up before, which brought me to the realization that we had a similarly joyful round of training about this time last year.  I guess I blocked it out … you know, the trauma fun and all.

So anyway, I thought I would remind you of the joy that is workplace training.

(Originally posted on November 9, 2018)

After a recent week’s worth of company training, I thought I would take a moment and give some feedback. Quite frankly, other than the bagels and donuts that so often accompany these events, work place training sessions are a complete waste of time.  I’m sorry, but it’s true. Games, role-playing, team answers to ridiculous questions, and worst of all … participation is expected.  As a raging introvert, I can think of few other anxiety-inducing events that top a rousing “role playing” or “group participation” session.

Seriously though, I’m hard pressed to say which type of training is the least annoying.

Death by PowerPoint:  This involves a computer and a screen. After the inevitable ten minutes of fumbling, the computer operator will have to go find someone to come “fix” the presentation, so the training can proceed.  All PowerPoint presentations follow the same path: the first slide is supposed to be amusing, but seldom is.  Then, the “class” starts where one person stands robotically reading each slide, point by painful point, sometimes with the help of a laser pointer.  When a break is called, people run to the smoking area even though they weren’t smokers when the class started.

The Professional Speaker:  Sometimes, you get the privilege of having a guest speaker.  This person usually brings their own computer presentation, fumbles with the computer for ten minutes, then goes to find someone to come fix the presentation.  The first slide is supposed to be funny… you get the idea.

New Age Co-Op:  These training sessions bring emotions into the classroom.  You start with trust exercises that involve throwing out your back when your trustworthy coworker gets a text at the same moment they’re supposed to catch you, and end with hugging your coworkers and telling them just what it is about them that is so gosh darned special.  Apparently, “You’re special because you’re sleeping with the boss” is not an acceptable comment; I got sent back to my office (which is where I wanted to be in the first place) and banned from participating next year.

Role-Playing:  This is an offshoot of the New Age Co-Op training.  When you role-play, you may have to play the part of a customer, or maybe a manager if you’re lucky.  You are placed in several unrealistic situations and expected to respond appropriately while your coworkers critique your performance.  Again, I am banned from participation for a year when, as a “customer,” I overturned three tables and dumped water on Joe from accounting after being told by the “waitress” that they didn’t have unsweetened ice-tea.  The people role-playing the police department were very talented… had uniforms, i.d., and everything. The car ride was unexpected, but fun.

Team Groups:  In this training process, you are split into groups and given tough questions to figure out, most often in a “Jeopardy” or “Family Feud” format, because nothing says “team building” quite like pitting coworkers against each other – especially when a $5.00 gas card is involved.  Your answers are presented by the “team leader” to the rest of the class.  I was in the restroom and came back to find I had been elected team leader in my absence.  My aforementioned ban was solidified when I stood up and told my best joke instead. No-one laughed. And I’m freakin’ hilarious.

Don’t get me wrong; training is a very important part of keeping workers up to date on changes and evolving processes within the company.  The bad part is that these training sessions could be accomplished in an email thereby saving money, time, and reputations.

Every worker in the world follows the exact same pattern when they have a workplace training session.

  • Try to call out sick.
  • Charge the phone for Facebook browsing and Words with Friends.
  • Pretend to be in the middle of a project and look very busy in the hopes you will be excused.
  • Show up as late as you can and take the seat all the way in the back or position yourself nearest the snacks.
  • Notify your friends to call you frequently so you can excuse yourself because “This is about that big client.”
  • Appear to be taking extensive notes when in reality you are drawing cartoons (my personal favorite).
  • Nod deeply and agree occasionally so the presenter thinks you are actively engaged.

There are, however, a few things that will get you thrown out of work place training.  I have compiled a list of my the most effective ones:

  • Stand up and yell “hallelujah,” “preach,” and “amen” randomly throughout the session.
  • Raise your hand and ask questions about things completely unrelated to your job or the company, such as, is the color orange called orange because it’s the color of oranges or are oranges called oranges because they’re orange, OR how do geese know which goose goes first when migrating.
  • Sneeze and cough repeatedly; more effective if you bring some type of slime from your kid’s collection and launch it across the room while coughing.
  • Write your boss’ name on your name tag and be disruptive.
  • Lean back in your chair and toss spitballs at the screen like the moody antagonist in an ’80s John Hughes flick.
  • Lick the donuts in front of everyone and then slowly put them back.
  • Answer your phone loudly and declare, “I don’t care how much money you have invested in this company, I can’t help you! I’m in training!”

In all honesty, work training can be a valuable tool if it is approached correctly.  Unfortunately, most companies don’t approach it correctly and the entire process is one that is universally hated.  Can I get an Amen?