Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Grocery Store Obstacle Course
I've noticed an annoying phenomenon in groceries stores lately. Old people take a really, really long time to shop for groceries. And when I say 'old people', no one reading my blog falls into this category, regardless of how old you are.

The other day I went for my big 'grocery shopping trip of the month'. I hate grocery shopping, so I try to do as much in one trip as possible, then not go back until I completely run out of food and my friends quit answering the phone when I call to invite myself over for dinner. While I was shopping the other day, I kept noticing the old people in the store.

First, they park their carts in a cock-eyed fashion, so that it is impossible to get around them. They block most of the aisle. Granted they park their cars this way, too. But that's what the extra-wide handicap parking spaces are for. Cock-eyed parking. In the grocery aisle, not so much room.

So, then you're stuck waiting for them to move out of the way, because if you ask them to move the cart you have potentially opened a can of worms. They have bad hips, and they are generally unsteady on their feet. Disturbing their shopping stance could potentially risk an old person spill onto the floor, all because you are too impatient to wait for them to move their cart in their own, sweet, old time. Knocking over an old person is probably punishable by death in most states. It's best to just wait until they get good and ready to move of their own free will and volition.

But if you get stuck behind an old person blocking the aisle, you are going to be there for a very, very long time. Why? Because old people take an excruciatingly long time to decide what they want to put in their cart. This is what I don't understand.

I'm not quite thirty years old, yet, and I am already pretty set on what I do and don't like to eat. I know where my favorite foods are in the store, and I generally go directly to where these foods are when I shop. Sometimes I discover new things that I like, and sometimes I stop buying things that I don't like anymore. But for the most part, I pretty much know what I want at the store when I go. I make a list, I get the stuff, I'm on my way. There's not a whole lot of decision-making in the process. It's pretty streamlined by now.

So it would certainly make sense to me that by the time you are an old person, say 70 years old, you should definitely know what foods you like and don't like. You've had 70 years to eat, so by now it should be pretty simple to walk into a grocery store and find the products you know and love. You've had 70 years to cook and test things out, so you should pretty much know which food is crap, and which food is good stuff.

Not to mention, after 70 years you should pretty much know how much you spend on food, and how to budget your money. You should also know about how much food you can hold in between shopping trips. So, you should be able to choose between the Heinz Ketsup, or the Great Value Wal-Mart brand Catchup without having to stare at the two catchups/katsups for ten minutes before deciding which one you can afford, or if you should get the personal size Katsup, or the value sized Catchup. You're going to end up with the same catchup you always get, anyway, because you've bought it every two weeks since catchup was invented.

Not to mention, old people probably remember the day the great controversy over the correct spelling (catsup vs. ketchup vs. catchup vs. ketsup) was written in stone and lost in history forever.

Why, then, do so many old people stop in the aisle and proceed to examine every food product on the shelf before deciding whether to buy it or not? It's not like old people are likely to try that new fangled Doritos Zesty Pepper Cheesy Oniony Crunchy Ridgy kind of chips, so why do they have to pick up a bag and ogle it for half an hour before putting it back and reaching for the tried and true saltine crackers? They know they will end up with the saltines. We know they will end up with the saltines. So why the suspense of perusing something new? It's painful to watch, which is the only thing you can do when trapped behind an old person in the aisle.

Don't get me wrong, I love old people. Shopping with my grandmas is actually quite fun because we do it together.

But for the ones I don't know and who get in my way, I almost want to shop for these old people. As I see them come in the door, I want to usher them to a waiting area, grab a cart and their shopping list, then make the rounds through the store and return the cart to them full of food. Ten minutes, tops, start to finish. They can pay for it and be on their way, after having enjoyed a snack of graham crackers and Ensure while watching Wheel of Fortune in the lounge.

Then I can do my shopping without the obstacle course of old people in the aisles. If grocery stores can invent the Self-Checkout Lane under the guise of 'efficiency', surely they can do something about this old people problem.


Hmmmmmm. . .
Yesterday I bought a 20 oz. bottle of Coke at a gas station. It cost 75 cents. Today I bought the same Coke at the sandwich shop around the corner. It cost $1.40. Same Coke, almost twice as much. Yet I don't feel like I've enjoyed it twice as much as I enjoyed the cheaper Coke yesterday.

Today I went to the post office. Behind me, a woman in an older model BMW was very intently tailgate-ing me. She swerved around me as though the rear of her car was on fire and she was hurredly trying to escape it by driving fast and swerving in and out of cars to get to her destination. After all of her swerving and running people over, it turns out she was headed to the post office, too. She parked in a special BMW-away-from-other-cars spot, while I parked in the first spot I came to. I calmly walked into the post office, ahead of her, as she rushed out of her car and walked the long distance from her car to the post office. I stood in line a couple of people ahead of her, yet close enough to hear her ask the guy behind me to take a key off of her key ring so that she wouldn't break a nail doing it herself. I made it through the line and back out to my Jeep before she came out of the post office. I started my Jeep as she got back in her BMW, and I headed out of the parking lot, not rushing, but easily able to get right in front of her as she drove up behind me. All that hurrying in her BMW-esque uppity-ness, yet my Jeep and I had her beat the whole time.

What's the moral of the story? I don't know.

But I do know that I don't need to buy an expensive Coke, or to hurry around in an expensive car to enjoy my caffeine fix of the day or to get where I'm going.


Monday, September 29, 2003

My Addiction
The first step to finding the solution to a problem is to first admit that you have one.

I have a problem. An addiction. It's very serious.

I'm addicted to cargo pants.

But not the ones from the annoying Old Navy commercials.

Whoever invented cargo pants is a magnificent genius. This person is my hero. Comfortable pants that look great AND have lots of pockets for stuff, sometimes even with a compartment the perfect size for a tube of lipstick. It's brilliant.

I have several pairs of cargo pants, the cute ones that fit my hips nicely, sit low on my waist, flare at the bottom, and look fabulous when I wear flip-flops with my toenails painted. They are so comfortable. If I could wear them all the time, I would. Even to sleep.

This weekend I had a very specific shopping mission. I had to find something to wear to a wedding. Just a nice blouse to go with a skirt, or perhaps a cute dress. Something appropriate for an afternoon wedding, not being sure if something I already had in my closet would work.

I only went shopping because one of my favorite shopping places was having a major sale, so I decided to take the opportunity to see if I could find wedding appropriate attire on sale. If I find something, great. If not, I'd probably be able to make something else work. It's one of those places that is only good for shopping when they have sales because everything in the store is otherwise way overpriced. But when you can get something there on sale, you've scored big time. I only shop sales, as a rule anyway.

So I went, and I shopped. One store, and one store only. Before I went into the store I gave myself a lecture on the purpose of this trip: wedding. Nothing else. No superfluous shirts, shoes, jeans, or cargo pants. Especially no cargo pants. If it can't be worn to a wedding, run away from it.

I wandered the store and found a few wedding-esque possibilities to try on. Then, I discovered the sale rack of cargo pants . . . (insert Homer Simpson drooling gurgle here)

Fortunately there were only a few pairs of cargo pants on the rack, so I figured it would be harmless to take a quick look. Usually in the midst of a sale anything my size has already been long gone. I was pretty sure I would come up empty handed, and I could move on without having to wonder at the possibility of cargo pants.

But, the first pair of cargo pants that I grabbed was, yep, my size. Uh-oh.

Well, I might as well try them on. I have wedding-ish stuff to try on, anyway, so what's the harm in checking out the cargo pants, too? Just for fun. I'm so not buying them.

Of course, these pants were the pants I'd been waiting to see on sale all season. Although I'd totally forgotten about them until I saw them again on the sale rack. WAY over-priced until now, but definitely very cute. Admitedly, I only half-hoped they didn't fit.

I headed to the fitting room and began trying on the clothes. Everything was thumbs down, not going to work, shouldn't buy it.

Except the on-sale, waited all season, look what a find I stumbled upon, cargo pants.


As I stood admiring myself in the pants in the mirror, I tried to talk myself out of it. But it really was quite a good deal. They were 50% off! And I looked good . . . .

Emphasizing to myself how much money I was saving on the pants since I wasn't paying full price for them, I congratulated myself on such a good find, and for the patience to wait all summer before purchasing the pants. I mean, it was almost like the store was paying me half the price of the pants to take the pants away for them, right?

Discarding the wedding attire hopefuls that weren't acceptable, I quickly ignored the fact that I had given myself strict instructions not to buy cargo pants, and that my mission for the day was wedding attire.

Alas, it seemed I ended my shopping trip without satisfying my wedding fashion need, and I had somehow completely unintentionally, absolutely accidentally purchased another pair of cargo pants.


Albeit, in a different color than any of my other ones.

Are we sure I can't wear cargo pants to an afternoon wedding???


Where do weeds come from?
They were there when I got here, so maybe they have existed since the beginning of time.

I pull them and toss them, yet they return, uninvited.

I spray stuff on them to ward them away, yet they spring up anew, oblivious to my efforts to kill them.

Grass dies around them, yet they thrive, undeterred, unafraid.

Clawing through dirt and mulch, they stand proudly, straight and tall, right where they don't belong.

Weeds, where do they come from?

Why can't they go back there?


Friday, September 26, 2003

Laughing Like You Mean It
I am a funny, funny person. I make people laugh all the time. I find humor in many, many things. But I can't say that I actually all-out, full-body laugh like I mean it very often.

Sure, I chuckle and giggle. I do laugh at things often. Sometimes I even laugh when I shouldn't. But the times that I have really, truly, laughed with all of my being, rolling on the floor, not able to breathe, red in the face, tears streaming down my cheeks, pee in your pants, in serious pain, stand out as not very many.

Despite all of the differences my sister and I had throughout our years together on the planet, one thing we could always do is make each other laugh. Hard. Punch in the gut, rip-roaringly, my head is going to explode, hard. And I mean in the dumbest, stupid-est, most silly and ridiculous ways. Stuff that was only funny to us, and likely embarrassing to others. We were such dorks.

Well, I still am, I guess. Proudly.

I laughed hard this week at something, although not gut-wrenchingly hard. But it was enough to make me think about the times I've laughed mind-blowingly hard. And then I laughed some more.

The last time I remember laughing as though I wouldn't survive was several years ago during one of my last good, meaningful times with my sister. She came up from college to visit my parents. She and I weren't exactly on the best of terms, but we decided she would come stay with me at my apartment one night before she went back to school. I wasn't real excited about it, but I went with it. My parents wanted us to get along.

It turned out that we had a really nice time, and it was actually the only time she was ever able to stay with me, for which I am now beyond belief grateful that I was forced into it. I'd decided to be a gracious host, so I made out the sofa bed for her, and we just hung out. Nothing planned, just chillin'. In the morning I made her an egg sandwich for breakfast, one of the two things I knew how to cook at the time, and something I didn't think she would like. But she ate it up like there was no food left on earth except for my poor little egg sandwich concoction.

During the evening before we went to sleep, she was exploring my apartment and my things. We were both kind of checking each other out again, getting used to whatever our relationship was at the time. She looked through my videos and tapes and cd's. And my 8-tracks. The last time I'd been at my Grandma's house, she had a garage sale. I rescued her 8-track player and all of her 8-tracks from the garage sale pile, and brought it all back to life in my apartment. I couldn't believe she was thinking of selling this treasure! My sister and I had a great time playing Willie Nelson and other old tunes on the player. Good times.

Then we got to a cd I had tucked away because it was so horrible I couldn't bear to listen to it. It was a poor quality version of a movie soundtrack that I thought was a true find, but actually turned out to be a crappy keyboard version of a familiar tune that was just really, really bad. So bad, it was absolutely hysterical.

My sister pulled out the cd and we listened to some of it, and from then on we just simply howled with laughter. We laughed so hard that neither of us could see straight enough to turn off the cd player so we could catch our breath in the silence. We were flat on our backs, completely incapacitated, unable to speak, utterly uselessly laughing as though we had stumbled onto the funniest thing in the world.

I can't go into all the details of what was so funny because describing it would likely not be funny to anyone else. But it was the hardest and longest I had laughed in a long time, especially with my sister. And I haven't laughed that hard since. I miss those times with her. Through all that laughter, everything seemed okay, at least at that moment.

I'm laughing now thinking about it. Not hard, but like I mean it.


Thursday, September 25, 2003

What I Love Most . . .
What I love most about my office is that sometimes the power goes out for no good reason at all. And it's always right in the middle of working on ten different things on the computer at one time. I'm suddenly engulfed in pitch black darkness because I don't have windows anywhere near my office. And I can't do a thing about anything.

Yet, the phone still rings.

What I love even more is when it happens once, then it happens again at the very second that I've just gotten my computer back up and running, and I've just managed to figure out where I left off with everything.

I love that.


The Bachelor is Back
It's time now for my first reality TV review of the new season. I was very excited to watch the new season of The Bachelor last night. And the show did not disappoint. I highly recommend that you get involved this time around. Based on the promo for the rest of the season, it promises to be high drama fun that you won't want to miss.

Bob is the new Bachelor, returning from being a bachelor in pursuit of a Bachelorette a season or so ago. Consequently, the women on the show this season already know who Bob is, and they seem to have started stalking him in a psycho fashion way before they hit the cameras. Now, we all love Bob. Bob is great. But ABC did a great job of choosing 25 of the most hyper, whiney, aggressive, and of course, psycho women for our dear Bachelor Bob. Lucky for him.

Some standouts early on in the season include Leeann, who tracked down Bob's mom at the party to plead with her to help her get Bob. In her "I'm just not aggressive" whining, she proved to us that she is, in fact, highly aggressive, stopping at nothing short of coercing Bob's mom to get to Bob. Based on her showing in the promo for the rest of the season, Leigh Ann seems to have a viscious side, masked by her 'innocent, sweet' display last night. We will definitely have to keep an eye on her.

Kelly Jo, the ultra hyper, drunk early on, uber-aggressive girl pounced from the get-go. She literally stalked Bob all night, and when he wasn't available, she stalked his mom. Her favorite phrase seems to be, "Oh my God!", while throwing her hands up in the air and flipping her hair around. Bob's future wife? Let's hope not.

I give props to Christine for the whole 'saving herself for marriage thing'. But she probably shouldn't have opened with that. Or talked about it with such a strange, distant look in her eye. And she probably shouldn't have gone on in her camera interview segment about how as Bob's wife, she will be a servant to him, making sure dinner is ready when he gets home from a long day at work, complete with a foot rub. I fear she may be a Stepford Bachelorette. There was definitely a psycho vibe about her. Before the rose ceremony, she told the camera that she definitely felt a connection with Bob, and she knew she was just what he was looking for. She felt certain she would get a rose. Right after she was denied a rose and sent packing, she told the camera that she just must not actually be what Bob was looking for. How could that be??? She as so sure!


I'm sensing a knock-down, drag-out brawl at some point in the season between the afore mentioned Kelly Jo and Kristi, the other top contender for Most Aggressive Female. They took turns throughout the night trying to steal Bob away from the other girls during his 'one on one' time with each of them. Kristi then went so far as to tell the camera that she would definitely be worried if she didn't get one on one time with Bob, but she made sure she did get time with him, so she wasn't worried. Of course, she ruined that for most of the other girls by interrupting their time with him, but at least she's up front about her devious intentions, right?

Somehow Lanah managed to get a rose. All of her camera interviews showed her with this creepy gleam in her eye, discussing how she is ready to be married. To Bob. Ready to commit. To Bob. Not just to anyone. To Bob. She even said that to Bob's mom. I'm going to put her in the 'psycho' category, and hope she's brought her medication to the Bachelorette pad with her.

Ok, and what was with the twins? Sure, that could add an interesting twist to the show. But why couldn't the producers have chosen pretty, non-strange twins? These girls were odd. And not good looking. And they stuck together the entire time, like they come as package deal? Hello, Bob gets to pick one girl to marry. He can't be marrying twins. Not legally, anyway. Obviously Bob knows that, and he did not give them a rose. See ya, Doublemint Duds.

At the conclusion of the party last night, these girls have known Bob for all of maybe two hours, and each girl has spoken with Bob for all of maybe five minutes. Understandably we can see that each girl is madly in love with Bob through these circumstances. So naturally, it will be devastating for the ten girls who did not get a rose last night, who will not be marrying Bob, and who must go home now. Clearly, it is the end of the world for the ousted Bob Stalkers.

But the prize for Most Dramatic Exit by a Psycho Bob Stalker goes to Heather. I could see it coming. As more roses were passed out, but not to her, she was visibly becoming more and more unhappy every time the camera flashed her on screen. As the final rose went to someone else, the tears began to form in her eyes. She didn't seem to quite know what to do, but she jetted over to Bob during the 'say your goodbyes' time, and proceeded to mumble something to him, and hug him. But that was only the beginning.

Then she stood by the door waiting for the other girls to finish 'goodbye-ing'. She looked ticked. Then she had her camera interview, and proceeded to ask 'Why???' at least 108 times, and proclaimed repeatedly that she just couldn't understand how this could happen to her. By this time she was crying so hard she could barely speak, until she finally let loose, leaned over, and sobbed uncontrollably at the loss of Bob. I really think Bob made a good choice on that one.

What I've learned so far in this new season of The Bachelor is that when being spoken to, it's very important for every girl to scrunch up her face, smile too big, and squeal, while bending at the knees and shaking raised fists in a triumphant, cute-sy fashion. I do not do this enough, which is obviously why I do not have a bachelor of my own. I truly think it is the girl who can do this the most, and the most often, with the best delivery, who will win Bob.

I am looking forward to more of the story of Bob.


What not to do when you don't know what to do.
I saw a link today to an entertainment article about how Gwenyth Paltrow is still grieving for her dad. Her father died suddenly less than a year ago.

Seeing this link mad me a little mad. Why is it news that she's still grieving? And why shouldn't she still be grieving? If she weren't still grieving about it, that would be more cause for a story than the fact that she still is. It's only been a year.

I think it's the word 'still'. I'm still grieving the loss of my sister, and she died over four years ago. I grieve her everyday. But to say 'still' almost implies that it should have been over. "Has she shut up, yet? No, she's still talking."

Has she gotten over it, yet? No, she's still grieving. (insert eye roll here)

I had a great conversation the other night with a friend I haven't really 'talked' much with about the deeper things in life. My sister came up and through the course of the conversation we talked about how people respond to me when they find out I lost my sister. Some people know what to do or say, most people don't. My friend asked me what I wished people would do in response, like what would be a good way to respond. I've been thinking about that ever since.

I've had mixed responses from people throughout the time I've been without my sister. Some people take off in another direction because they don't know what to do with me. They leave completely. Some people jump in and feel like they have to save me. Others try for awhile, then get frustrated with me and leave. Some people say all the canned phrases we always hear: "She's in a better place now." Or, "Time will heal this." Some poeple just keep being my friend. There's a lot of variety in the way people react to a friend experiencing a loss. Some of it good, some of it not so good. I can tell most of the ways people have responded to me have come from a good place in their hearts. In many instances, just the efforts people make to try mean more than what they actually say or do.

But, I honestly can't say there is anything I wish people would do. Or say. I don't think I've ever laid a request on anyone to do anything for me, or expected anything from anyone that they weren't already offering. I generally had my needs met in the 'how people can help' department. Quite honestly, nothing anyone can do or say is what I need. And to expect of people something they can't furnish is not the way to go about getting through a tough situation. Absolutely it helps for people to be there to listen, and talk, and to show compassion, to lighten the mood, and to even do material, routine things like bring a meal over, or help make phone calls, or any number of other things that suddenly become hard to do when your brain is consumed with heartache.

But more than a list of things I wish people would do, from my own experience I keep thinking of things I wish people wouldn't do in response to my grief. Or grief in general. I wish people wouldn't treat me differently, like I'm not still me just because I cry now, or because I get emotional about things that don't make sense to others. I wish people wouldn't treat me as a project that they need to take on, to fix, to carry through until they deem me 'okay'. I wish people wouldn't place expectations on me to respond to them in ways that make them feel they are doing the right things for me. I wish people wouldn't give of themselves to me with the expectation that I can reciprocate that any time soon. I wish people wouldn't be disappointed in me when I'm not who they need me to be right now.

I wish people wouldn't feel like it's a burden to reach out to me when I need it, when I'm not able to reach out to them when I need them. I wish people wouldn't mistake my sadness, or fear, or difficulty in knowing how to react to the loss I'm experiencing as a personal attack on them. I wish people wouldn't watch me grieve with a critical eye, like they know a better way to go through what I'm going through, or like they wouldn't be freaking out just as much as I have. I wish people wouldn't tell me what they've done for me, or how much they've sacrificed to be there for me, like I don't realize it, and expect that I owe them something in return for them being my friend in a tough time. Or expect that I can automatically understand why they leave when they decide they've had enough.

I wish people wouldn't give me a time limit on how long I can require patience and compassion from them. Or on how long I'm allowed to grieve. Or on when I should be 'okay' and back to normal so that they aren't burdened with me anymore. I wish people wouldn't listen to me when I share my pain with the intent to take my words and save my world when I finish sharing my pain. I wish people wouldn't take my pain, and not understand what they have when they have it. I wish people wouldn't assume I'm not okay, or assume I am okay. I wish people wouldn't be afraid of me, of being around me now.

I wish people wouldn't expect that I have major expectations of them to take care of me when I can't take care of myself. I wish people wouldn't assume I need something from them, avoiding me to keep themselves off the hook. I wish people wouldn't take advantage of me, confusing situations and issues that aren't related, and attributing it all to being my fault that I may not be thinking clearly. I wish people wouldn't help me out of selfish reasons. I wish people wouldn't underestimate me, or my strength, or my weakness. I wish people wouldn't write me off when I'm not at my best for awhile. I wish people wouldn't let grief be their complete picture of me.

I guess there is one thing I wish people would do. I wish people would think, before they say anything or do anything in an effort to be a friend when I need it. Or when any grieving person needs it. The details of what you should and shouldn't do will work itself out, if your heart is in the right place. Just be who you are, and let them be who they are.

I realize grief doesn't give a grieving person a 'Get ouf of Jail Free' card. It doesn't give us the okay to act however we want, and blame it on grief. But, grief is a big deal. It does affect more about a person than just the line between sadness and happiness. Sometimes it's hard to balance that and be okay without some extra patience and understanding from those around us. But we do get better. I'm not 'grieving' around all the time these days. You probably wouldn't notice to look at me or being around me, if you didn't already know. It's not because I hide it. I'm just learning how to live with it.

When tragedy strikes, no one reacts or responds perfectly, and that's okay. The most important thing isn't even about how people respond, or what they do or don't do. I just got to thinking, and this 'list' is what I thought about. I've heard people say that it's how you handle a situation like a loss that is a true testimony of who you are. But I don't agree with that. I think that puts pressure on us to handle things the 'right' or 'Christian' or 'proper' way. I believe the true testimony is what we learn through it and how we start to get our footing back.

Truly, I believe grief doesn't end. I think twenty years from now, I'll still be grieving the loss of my sister. I'm not going to get over it, although hopefully I'll be more at peace with it. That may be disappointing to some, but I don't look at that as a bad thing. Or unhealthy. Quite the opposite, actually. Grief keeps me in touch with her, and reminds me that I miss someone who was very special to me.

But I'll hope if I'm still grieving years from now, it's not newsworthy material then.


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

I've developed a deep love for my backyard. The front yard, I have a good, solid liking for. But the backyard, well, that is true love.

It's not a spectacular yard, by any means. It's larger than small, but not huge. Takes less than an hour to trim and mow.

I don't have a lot of plants or bushes back there, but the ones I do have decided they like me enough to turn green and bloom in a variety of colors over the past few weeks.

I have one giant oak/pecan/maple/something tree, almost exactly in the middle of the yard. It provides a blanket of shade all over the yard for most of the day.

I also have a giant fig tree in the back corner, home to birds and figs alike.

It's quite peaceful in the yard. I live in a quiet neighborhood, so I can sit outside on my patio, engulfed in the sounds of nature. Relaxing, being one with said nature. I've even caught myself sitting out there smiling. For no good reason at all.

I come home every evening that I can get home while it's still daylight, and I take a walking tour of the backyard. One, to check for critter activity. But I wander around mostly just to enjoy my yard. I've never had land before. I've never had trees and bushes and plants that aren't dead. I've never had green grass soft enough so that I can walk through it barefoot.

The weather is now cool enough, and the days still just long enough so that I can get in some quality backyard time before heading inside for the night most days. I look forward to this time everyday. I'm anxious to get home, to my yard, just to enjoy it.

Now, if I could just figure out how to remove each and every bug that buzzes and bites me despite my wall of Citronella flame, it would be a complete haven of rest and solace.


A Tale of Two Critters
I'm fairly certain now that the critter frolicking in secret at my homestead is actually two separate critters.

The first critter is the hole-digging critter. I am almost sure this is a squirrel on a nut hunting mission, determined to dig up my entire yard and all of my flower beds to locate nuts buried long ago. Every evening when I get home from work I take a tour of my yard to check the hole status. Sure enough, I find new holes, about the size and depth of a large nut.

My mom suggested I retaliate with chili powder. So I bought an industrial size container of chili powder, and everywhere I find a hole, I fill it with chili powder. I also sprinkle some around the hole. I fully expect to be awaken one night during the wee hours of the morning by the blood-curtling howl of a wild beast who has just experienced a mouthful of chili powder.

However, this particular critter/squirrel seems to enjoy the zesty flavor of chili powder on the nuts for which he is searching. The chili powder experiment has not deterred his hole-digging efforts in the least. It must be one of those Texas/South of the Border/Cajun critters who enjoys spicy foods.

The other critter is the poo depositing critter. I don't believe it is a squirrel, since the piles of poo are about the size of a small squirrel. I've found three piles of poo. In my backyard. All in the same general area on one side of the house. I have yet to find a hole where a critter could enter through the wood fence surrounding my fortress of a yard. So I can only hope the critter is nothing more than a cat, able to scale the fence in search of my yard as a bathroom. And hopefully just a domestic cat at that.

Now, I find it very rude for whatever poo-depositing critter this may be to be so bold as to deposit poo in my backyard. If I had a dog, of course I would understand that poo comes with that whole dog owning thing, and I would proceed to pick up after the dog. However, picking up poo from an animal that I've never seen before and is not a welcome guest on my land highly offends me.

So, this is the tale of my two critters. One, a chili powder loving hole digger. The other, a poo-depositing night prowler.

To be continued.


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Checking Out: A Boycott
I want to go on record as taking a firm stance against Self-Checkout lanes at the grocery store. Do you realize what this is? It's not a convenience, or a speedy way to pay for your groceries. It is a ploy to con people into working at the store, while we pay the store to be in there. What is up with that??

I know this is work because one of my very first jobs in highschool was as a cashier at a local grocery store. It was very hard work. This was the worst job ever. 8-10 hours a day, standing in one place, touching food and dealing with people. Usually angry people, nonetheless. By the time people have spent an hour in a grocery store, often with small children and two carts full of groceries and at least 108 coupons, when they get to the cashier they are ready to give someone an earful about their experience of not being able to find the pickles. And it is always the cashier's fault.

I had to learn produce codes. These are the three-digit numbers assigned to every fruit or vegetable in the produce department, used to ring up these items as they cross the scanner. We didn't get a cheat sheet to use in the heat of a produce ring-up moment. We actually had to take tests on these numbers. There were easily over a hundred numbers I had to learn. And not just for things like 'apple', or 'banana', or 'lettuce'. No, there is a wide variety of apples and bananas and lettuce, each with its own individual number. I spent hours in the produce department learning the difference between Romaine and Iceberg lettuce, Granny Smith and Fuji apples. And what the heck is a qumquat, or a leak, or a jicama? I have no idea. But I do know that people buy them and expect the cashier to know what they are.

When I couldn't handle the grocery store environment anymore, I took my cashier-ing career to Wal-Mart. Here there were no codes to learn. But it was an entirely different level of hell.

At Wal-Mart, we have Back to School days. Aisles and aisles of school supplies, packed with frantic parents chasing their children up and down these aisles, and freaking out because they can't find the right kind of water color paints for their first grader. It's impossible to find anything on these aisles. Within about five minutes of the store opening, everything is littered all over the floor, and the shelves are literally bare. The Back to School 'aisles' become Back to School 'piles' covered with anxious parents scavenging for the last few items on the crumpled list they hold in one hand. I'll never understand why people pick things up from the shelves, decide they don't want it, then toss it conveniently to the middle of the floor.

Back to School shopping is a scary phenomenon. These parents are determined to get as many school supplies as possible for as little money as possible. My favorite Back to School Hell story is the woman who purchased a stack of folders that were marked '5 for $1.00'. As I rang them up, each folder displayed on the screen as .20 each. When she saw this, she literally freaked out and made me void out every single folder, then ring them up again as the 5 for $1.00 price. She wasn't about to let me cheat her out of such a good deal.

In my experience, five folders at twenty cents each adds up to exactly one dollar. But at Wal-Mart, the insane parent customers are always right.

With my cashier-ing career now several years behind me, I have long since enjoyed leaving the cashier-ing to other people when I go shopping. I hated being a cashier. I never want to do it again.

So imagine my disappointment and confusion one day several months ago when I get to the checkout counters at my grocery store and I see four new checkout places with no cashier-type person anywhere to be found. I see signs proudly proclaiming that they now offer Self-Checkout, where the customer can process and pay for groceries without the help of a cashier. And I notice that the store seems to think this is a good thing that customers will enjoy.

For awhile I fought these Self-Checkout registers. I refused to use them. I only cashier for people who pay me to do so. But one day the regular lines were too long, and the Self Lanes were wide open, so I ventured over to see what there was to see. It's a computer that walks you through the whole process, complete with a money changer, . . . and a list of those produce codes I once had to memorize many years ago. You have got to be kidding me! Those lists are printed and public knowledge now??? I suddenly wished I had back all those wasted hours of learning three digit numbers for exotic varieties of peppers.

Now having used the Self-Checkout registers a few times, I've scientifically proven that it is an experiment that will not last. It's a horrible idea. For one, it is not any faster than a regular Express lane. In fact, often it is much slower. The computer is very picky, and often requires assistance from the grocery store person monitoring the activity of these 'self' lanes. Usually, there is one person monitoring four Self Lanes. If you get stuck behind someone who has never had cashier-ing experience (as I've had), you will certainly be in line a long time as they figure out bar codes and produce codes and how to work the whole contraption.

I don't know about you, but grocery shopping for me is hard enough work in itself. And what are we paying for, if not good service from our local grocery store, including good cashier service? This 'self-serve' fiasco started with stores that 'let' you bag your own groceries. It was supposed to be a money saving promotion, with the idea that if the store isn't paying people to bag your groceries for you, they are passing the savings on to you as you do it yourself. Now, by taking away cashiers and encouraging you to not only push your own cart around the store, put your own groceries in the cart, take them to the checkout lanes yourself, and then scan them and bag them yourself, I really feel I should be walking out of the grocery store with my stuff, but without paying anyone a dime. I'm actually doing them a service by doing the whole thing myself, if you ask me. Who else is going to remove those dated food items from the shelves? That stuff doesn't walk out on its own.

What's next? Will they offer Self-Stocking? Where customers can come in and unload the boxes of inventory onto the shelves themselves? Self-Meat Countering, where customers get behind the counter, pick out their own slab of meat, and cut it themselves? Self-Pharmacy Use, where you put on one of those white lab coats, step behind the counter, and fill your own prescriptions? Where does it end???

There are Self-Checkout lanes at Home Depot now. I saw them, and cried. The madness has spread. And we are slowly being brainwashed into thinking this is a good idea.

I hereby boycott Self-Checkout lanes at all stores. And you would be smart to boycott this travesty, too. Do not be fooled by these stores and the way they present Self-Checkout as the next quickest thing to getting you out of the store and on your way. It is work, people!

Unless you work at a grocery store, let the cashiers do the work.


Monday, September 22, 2003

Babies are not pets.
I'm learning a lot about babies these days. Not that I have any babies, or that I will have any of my own any time soon. But I'm at the age when many of my friends and relatives are entering into the Wide World of Babies, which means there are an increasing number of babies around for me to play with.

I used to be afraid of babies. They are so small and fragile and dependent on you for everything. I always felt like I would be the one responsible for breaking all of the babies I came in contact with, just because I didn't know what to do with them. Babies can smell fear, and when you hold one that knows you are afraid, they tend to choose that very moment to freak out and create a scene. Plus when you hold a baby, or play with a baby, lots of people are watching you. Babies by nature attract a lot of attention. They are often the focal point of a room full of people, even when they are not technically the star of the show. So for a long time I felt like I was on display, showing the world that I had no idea what to do with a baby when I had opportunity to be around one. Babies are scary.

But now I totally dig babies. I even dig small children that are slightly older than babies. I'm glad my friends and families are having so many babies for me to hang out with. The best part is that I get to play with them and buy them things and lavish much spoiling upon them, but I'm not responsible for taking care of any of the feeding or pooping issues, and there was no painful labor involved for me. It's a perfect situation. Play with them until they stink or need something to eat, then send them on their way with the people who can take care of those issues.

The thing I'm learning that amazes me most about babies is that they are little tiny people with their own personalities. The only thing I've ever taken care of is a dog. Well, also a hamster and a turtle, but neither of those ended up very well, so we'll focus on how well I took care of our family dogs throughout the years.

Dogs have individual personalities, but after awhile, you are pretty much familiar with their entire repertoire. Once you've had a dog for a bit, they really don't do anything new. You feed them, play with them, and teach them tricks. They are fun and sweet and great companions to have, sometimes even useful. But soon they reach the end of their capacity to impress you by developing new skills or doing things on their own. You won't come home one day and find that your dog has learned to read, or has cleaned your house for you. Dogs are great, but they are just not people.

Babies, on the other hand, are always doing new things that impress the heck out of us, even when it's stuff they have no control over, like growing a tooth. I recently read Operating Instructions by my favorite author, Anne Lamott. It's the story of her son's first year on the planet, which I'd bought for a friend while she was pregnant. I decided I should read it myself before I bought it again for my next pregnant friend, even though babies of my very own are not in my future any time soon.

Reading through this book of journal entries about the ups and downs and exciting little things that babies do and are about was remarkably like my near-daily updates from my friend about her almost year-old son. I love hearing about his daily endeavors amd milestones, even things like the status of drool production or how many times he woke his mama up last night just to say, "Bleshsesamier," which apparently in baby-aelic means, "Hello, I enjoy waking you in the middle of the night." Between the book and reports from new mothers I know, I've come to the conclusion that babies are quite an adventure. It's a great book if you want to know about what life is like for a mother with a newborn, in a medium where you can enjoy the fun parts of babies, but you can also put the book down and walk away when the baby stories gets too real without any actual babies being in the room.

What's funny to me is how we talk about babies like they are little people, and not pets. Obviously they are people, and not pets, but essentially they start out in a pet-like fashion. Feeding, pooping, and sleeping, all dependent on others to work with them in these areas. Then it's like one day they realize they are a little person, and not a pet, and they do something amazing, like smile. Or form sentences in unintelligible baby gibberish. Or grab your finger. Or clap their hands together. Soon they're scooting around the floor, and doing things with purpose and meaning. Like playing with toys, or looking at pictures in books, or eating foods with names. And that's just the beginning.

They keep going, developing likes and dislikes, and figuring out tactful ways to let us know. They recognize us and respond to the people they like, as well as the ones they don't like. They get involved in activities, like story times and swimming lessons and play dates. Not to mention other important things like attempting to stand, and eventually taking steps towards walking. They have a schedule and social responsibilities. When you're a baby, everyone wants a piece of you. It's really quite demanding to be a baby.

Babies seem to have quite an agenda and a tendency to move from one thing to the next as they conquer one thing or another. And we know they do everything with a dedicated sense of purpose. What is amazing and surprising to us when we see our babies roll over for the first time has truly been in the works for quite awhile, long before it was on the schedule to be debuted in public. Discovering you have toes, as well as fingers, does not just happen by accident, my friend. It takes skill and discipline found only in the babies that have the desire to explore and get to know the world out there.

I'm amazed by the simple things they do, just in being babies. It's all stuff I've done myself, as I was once a baby, too. I just didn't necessarily realize it was leaving such an impression on people when I did it the first time.


I can predict the future.
My opening line to this blog entry came true. Someone actually did a search for 'sinus booger snot' and found my blog.

In fact, my blog was the one and only thing listed when searching for 'sinus booger snot'.

I'm so proud.


Friday, September 19, 2003

'Braking' News
I've blogged too much today already, but why is this newsworthy? If this happened to three random, non-famous people, would it make it on CNN.com???

Wait, this just in. Britney Spears' tour bus hit a speed bump. No injuries have been reported. Publicists for Miss Spears are quoted as saying, "Yeah, the bus was driving along kinda fast, but not too fast. Slower than normal, actually. Then the bus slowed down some more and rolled over the speed bump. It was bumpy, but we all had our seatbelts on and we'd been warned by a big yellow sign that there might be a speedbump on this road. We pulled over later when we got to the Krispy Kreme. Everyone walked off the bus without assistance, and the bus appears to have sustained no damage except when Britney threw an empty donut container at me {the publicist} and demanded we stop at the next Krispy Kreme. I got a paper cut, and there's some donut residue on the window. But I'm fine. The bus will be cleaned and ready for departure in like, five minutes." Miss Spears still plans to lip-sync her next performance Saturday night at a karaoke bar in Dallas.



Thank you, Mrs. Pardue
I don't remember a lot of my teachers throughout the years. One downside of moving a lot is that later in life it's hard to keep up with who was where, and what happened in each place. Many of my memories are of houses and backyards and family stuff, since many people came and went without the opportunity to store as many details about them as the rooms I had, or the yards I played in, or the times with my family when there was no one else to play with.

But a few teachers do stand out, and today I share the story of my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Pardue. She was quite a character, and unfortunately for her, her class was the arena for my first steps into mischief and rebellion.

I was a quiet kid, keeping to myself and observing more than participating. I was very smart, and school was easy. I always made my parents proud with good grades and awards and teachers beaming about how good I was. It's the relationships that I found difficult. Every few years it seemed I was in a new school with all new people, so I was way too used to the 'trying to fit in where I wasn't sure I belonged' routine. I never quite connected with people, and then it was time to go again. It always took me awhile to warm up to people and come out of my shell, and by then we were off to a new place.

By the fifth grade, inklings of rebellion began to set in, and Mrs. Pardue's class was the perfect stage for my emergence as a troublemaker. I'd been in this school for a couple of years, so I'd developed a few friends that I could run with. I was beginning to feel more sure of myself. As the oldest kids in the school before heading off to the big junior highschool, I began to let 'fifth grade-itis' go to my head.

Mrs. Pardue was such an easy mark, she almost begged to be the butt of many jokes and pranks. And the more little things I did at her expense that received laughter and attention from my classmates, the more I was encouraged by that to play the role of class clown. Of course, I was discouraged in this role by Mrs. Pardue herself. But my peers loved my antics, and they usually won.

Looking back, I feel sorry for Mrs. Pardue. She was an odd character, and she may not have known how odd she was. Or maybe she didn't care. She drove a giant white four-door boat-of-a-car of some sort. It was a loud car. Everyday we would see her coming up the hill in the parking lot, heading for her parking spot in the morning before school started. For some reason she always drove with her head out the window, like she couldn't see through her perfectly clear, non-cracked windshield. With her head and her arm hanging out, the car-boat would heave itself up the hill, finally resting with a sigh in her spot.

The car was a great source of curiosity for many of us. We'd wait for her to go inside the building, then we'd sneak over to the car to peer inside the windows. It became an on-going source of entertainment for us to see what was in the backseat of Mrs. Pardue's car every morning. Once we discovered a giant flotation device, fully inflated, crammed in the backseat. It was like one of those flat things you float around on in a pool. Another time we found a sleeping bag rolled up on the floor. After we made these discoveries, we were hooked, and came back to the car as often as we could to get a peak. We could only imagine what crazy things she had hidden in her trunk.

Once we made it inside for class early in the morning, Mrs. Pardue had the same routine. She would go to her Teacher's Closet, and rummage around in it for awhile. Every classroom had a closet for the teachers to keep their personal belongings locked away from curious students, such as we were. Mrs. Pardue would go to the closet, take off her coat, intensely clean her glasses with a cloth, and fervently brush her hair to calm it down. She had wildly curly hair, made even more wild by the breezy drive up the hill with her head stuck out the window.

She also kept a suitcase in the classroom, but not in the closet. She kept that under her desk. It was blue. We could all see it, but no one ever tried to sneek a peek. Until I got it in my head that would be a good idea, that is. One day Mrs. Pardue was called down to the office for a few minutes, and when these few minutes would occur on occassion, the class took that as opportunity to go crazy for awhile. Even with our appointed 'classroom monitor', we'd laugh in the face of a fellow student's authority, and get down to the mischievous business at hand.

So on this particular day I ventured over to the suitcase to check it out. She'd left it out on the counter today, for some reason. Like she'd just been in it, but hadn't put it away before the morning bell rang. It was closed, but still inviting me over for a look. I opened it and found . . . clothes. Including underwear. I didn't quite know what to make of it, but I felt certain it would be funny to see her underwear swinging around the room on the ceiling fan.

I wasn't actually brave enough to do this, so I closed the suitcase, reported my findings to the class, and made it back to my seat as Mrs. Pardue returned. I kept the information in mind, in case I needed it one day in the future.

Throughout my time in Mrs. Pardue's class, I thoroughly exasperated her on more than one occassion, holding up class regularly. I was often caught talking to my neighbor, and was moved quite literally to every desk in the room by the end of my year sentence in that class. She always thought moving me to a new seat would solve the problem of my talking during class, but I would manage to strike up conversations wherever I was sent. I developed the knack for making funny comments during teaching time, which were always rewarded with giggles from classmates close by. Thoroughly disruptive almost every time.

The problem was that I would always finish my work in record time. While other students were still suffering through worksheets, I was finished and looking for something else to do. Trouble was what I ususally found. Mrs. Pardue eventually solved this problem by putting me in the least popular seat in the classroom- the seat right by her desk. And she assigned me some extra work. That would usually shut me up.

She discovered that more time with her seemed to quelch my desire to misbehave. For some reason I didn't find it quite so funny anymore when I had to hang out with my teacher. So soon she and I were spending every moment of the day together. When it was her turn for recess duty, she assigned me to jump rope duty, which meant she and I had to stand outside and monitor the jump rope use, together, so she could keep an eye on me. If it was too icy outside for jump rope, I spent some quality time behind the line, against the wall, where the kids in trouble were sentenced, and where the recess duty teacher stood to survey the playground area. I would notice her lurking about while I joined in a game of four square or tetherball. I soon noticed that she was participating in these activities, too. Not just watching me, but joining in with the kids. She definitely looked silly trying to jump rope, but she was having a great time.

When we had a book to read as a class, but there weren't enough copies for every student to have their own book, Mrs. Pardue assigned partners to share a book. Lucky for me, we had an odd number of students in that class, and she always volunteered me to share with her. Maybe this is why I read through The Westing Game so quickly, and figured out the ending before everyone else. The sooner we finished the book, the less time I had to spend with the teacher. Plus, she made a big deal about my accomplishment of solving the mystery of such a grown-up book. My name looked good in chalk on the blackboard for all to see, especially for an occassion other than the usual having my name on the board with a series of checks beside it proclaiming how much trouble I was in.

The rumor around the fifth grade was that Mrs. Pardue would cry if the class stared directly at her, without talking, and without shifting our gaze. Of course, we tried that as a class on many occassions, usually organized by me, but we never got anything more than nervous chatter from her, and more worksheet assignments. There was something very sad about Mrs. Pardue, and her quirkiness didn't help her situation much with us.

I remember the day we watched the Color Filmstrip, a filmstrip about all the colors. Boring beyond boring. But the class was entertained when Mrs. Pardue stopped the filmstrip at the color 'brown' and went off on a lovely tangent about how her favorite color was brown. She absolutely lit up as she talked about her favorite things regarding the color brown. It was obvious 'brown' was a source of great joy for her. We knew we had an oddball teacher at this point, because no one's favorite color was brown. It was after this that I noticed Mrs. Pardue always wore variations of brown- skirts, pants, shirts, and those SAS 'teacher' shoes, always in a shade of brown. Brown, with accents of handprint-shaped chalk dust from her fingers after writing on the chalkboard all day.

Her favorite saying was, "Well, put that in your pipe and smoke it," after which she would immediately catch herself and tell us not to smoke anything, and then she'd ask us to forget she said that. She'd ramble on for a minute about how we could put stuff in a pipe, but not smoke it, but really we shouldn't have a pipe so we should not do anything with a pipe, or smoking. Always with a giggle of embarrassment, and a twinkle of humor in her eye, tickled with herself for making the comment and forgetting not to say it every single time. She said that phrase often, and always went through the same retraction afterwards. Fortunately, most of us managed to graduate the fifth grade without a major smoking addiction.

Spending a year with Mrs. Pardue, we never heard much, if anything about a Mr. Pardue. Thinking about many of her quirks, like the sleeping bag in her car, or the suitcase in her classroom, I wonder now if there wasn't something sad going on there with her home life. Leave it to an attention-starved kid to see these things as quirks, and rally fellow students around opportunities to point them out and laugh. But if Mrs. Pardue knew of her status as a major joke in the classroom, she never let on that she knew.

I moved on to junior highschool, but a couple of years after I left Mrs. Pardue's classroom, my sister was lucky enough to get Mrs. Pardue as her fifth grade teacher. Lucky because as soon as Mrs. Pardue recognized the last name, she already had a very special seat picked for my sister, thanks to her troublemaking big sister.

I don't think that as a fifth grader I would have ever been thoughtful enough, or mature enough to recognize what I saw as weird were maybe potential hardships that Mrs. Pardue may have been going through. Or that maybe Mrs. Pardue was the way she was because she enjoyed the things that made her a little different or a little odd. I definitely didn't see her 'punishments' for me as anything good at the time.

But now being a little older and wiser, I have to say Mrs. Pardue is the first teacher that comes to mind when I think back over teachers throughout my school career. She definitely left an impression. And I have to be thankful for the time she took with me, recognizing my 'need' for extra work, or my 'ability' to share a book with the adult in the classroom, rather than with the other kids. She celebrated my victories, like when I solved The Westing Game first, even though I drove her crazy complaining about having to share the book with her because my friends made fun of both of us throughout the time spent with that book. She trusted me with jump rope duty. She recognized my strengths, and she encouraged me to channel my behavior into something useful, all without me realizing it. I don't think it was coincidence that she encouraged me to tryout for several of the fifth grade school plays. When I won several lead roles I discovered another thing that I did well and enjoyed, and the results of paying attention to direction and performing well also happened to come with positive attention as a reward.

She never once sent me to the principal's office, or called my parents, even though the threat was always looming. Even after Parent-Teacher nights, my parents came home with positive comments from Mrs. Pardue, as though she kept the bumps I created in the classroom as just our little secret. It became a relationship of me knowing how far to push before I got into real trouble, her recognizing that I needed a bit more creative 'attention', and knowing how to handle me to somehow pull me through the fifth grade with good grades, good report cards, new creative outlets, and with the beginnings of one of my now finer qualities, a sense of humor.

I laughed a lot in that class, but I don't think it was so much at Mrs. Pardue, as it was because of her.

Thank you, Mrs. Pardue. Every time I wear brown, I smile at what a great color it is.


Toilet Paper Wars
I'm growing fond of these more frequent strolls down memory lane. Maybe my childhood wasn't so bad after all . . .

My sister and I had a never-ending war over the toilet paper roll in the bathroom we shared. No matter which house in whatever city was our current home, we had a war about the toilet paper.

It was a silent war. A war without words, without beginning or end in sight. I don't know who started it or how it even became a war, because we never spoke of it, or told on each other to our parents. But you can bet neither one of us ever intended to back down and relinquish control of our firm stance on refusing to ever change the empty roll in the holder. It was a major opposition, worth fighting for until one of us controlled the warzone and claimed it in the name of peace.

I developed a hatred for changing out the used-up roll to a new roll. Not because it was a painful or difficult process, but because it meant defeat. I became tired of running into the bathroom, needing to go, only to look over and see a bare, brown toilet paper roll with no paper attached to it, hanging there, taunting me. I would then have to postpone my need to go, and hunt down some toilet paper, all the while fuming that I'd once again been left with an empty roll, void of all useful paper.

My sister was much worse about it than I was, neglecting to change out the roll if she was the last one to use up all the paper on it. She was very free-spirited, not really interested in taking precious time to change out the roll for the next person, when she could be playing or reading or talking to her friends on the phone. She was easily distracted, as well as stubborn. She was known to squash a bug on the carpet and wander off, leaving it there for someone else to discover later. Maintenance issues should be my domain, apparently. In her world, that is.

In my world, however, the last one who uses all of the toilet paper should be the one to get a new roll. And I am very stubborn, too. Done and done.

I began to rebel. I would rig the roll as it neared the end of its life, by using all but the very last particle of that last square clinging to the roll. I would leave barely more than the shredded stuff glued to the cardboard, technically leaving paper on the roll so that it was not officially used up, but not leaving nearly enough for a good use for the next person. My plan was that my sister would be stuck with not enough toilet paper, and she would then be forced to get the new roll. I would then have a new roll for my next visit to the loo. A perfect plan, especially for a kid.

This backfired. I would go in there and still see the blank carboard in the holder, and no new roll. The shreds were gone, yet I couldn't understand how she'd managed the trick of using the loo without sufficient toilet paper. I soon discovered the box of tissues was close enough to the toilet that she could reach it, and she had been substituting tissues for toilet paper. Ooohhhh, she was sneaky.

The next phase of my plan resorted to relocating the tissues, out of arms length from the toilet. I would then discover a brand new roll of toilet paper in the bathroom after my sister had been in there. Hooray! Except for the fact that she left it hovering above the holder, resting on it, but not actually fastened into it. The old used-up bare cardboard roll was still there, to taunt me, with a brand new roll gloating above it. She was playing hardball . . . .

That sort of thing went on for as long as we shared space in a house. Now that I live alone, it's never a problem. I use up the toilet paper, I get another roll. Simple enough. It functions like a well-oiled machine.

Then, I come to work. And here, of all the strange places, I am involved in another toilet paper war. Again, no words are spoken, but we definitely have a battle of wills here over refusal to change out the toilet paper. I don't understand it on a level with adults at a place of business. We don't have a janitor to regularly clean and stock the bathroom, so it's pretty much up to us to make sure we've got the right equipment in there. That alone annoys me thoroughly, but dealing with co-workers who leave that responsibility up to everyone else just about sends me over the edge.

Not to mention, I am the only non-mom, non-married, person below the age of thirty in the building. So by default, I am the most irresponsible person out of all my co-workers. I'm the youngster in a world full of moms, yet I am the one with the issue of replacing the toilet paper if you are the last one to use it. If it weren't for me, toilet paper would rarely make it into the bathroom, or near enough to the toilet to be of good use.

Time after time I go in there and see no toilet paper hanging in the holder, and none in the cabinet. Which means I have to take a detour from my trip to the bathroom, to go the supply closet upstairs and locate more toilet paper or paper towels or whatever else is needed. Let me tell you, I only head to the bathroom when it is the last possible moment that I would safely be able to make it there without disastrous events occuring from waiting too long. Our bathroom is not the nicest place on earth, so I do not relish the thought of going in there. Ever. When I actually get in there, it's because it's time. When I have to take additional time to hunt down toilet paper, well, let's just say the clock is ticking.

It's the same power struggle that went on with my sister, down to the detail of people leaving the new roll hovering above the old roll. Really, if you have the time to get the new roll, you probably have the extra four seconds it takes to put it in the holder. It's like I work with a bunch of children. Old, married, parental children.

Sheesh, I'm going to have to start taking away some privileges around here.


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Tyrant. Can. Read.
I've recently re-discovered my love for reading. I'd lost it. But I'm enjoying it again.

When I was a kid I read all the time. I loved it. My family moved around so much, I learned at an early age to entertain myself. I often found myself without any friends around to play with, and my little sister was, well, you just aren't supposed to like playing with your little sister. It's just not cool. So I found a friend in books filled with stories about people in many adventures. When it's hard to connect with real people that aren't around, sometimes make believe people will have to do.

I'm an extremely brilliant person, and I say that backing it up with the fact that I read well at an early age. My sister and I spent many summers participating in the local library summer reading programs in whatever city we lived in at the time. My mom would take us to the library every week to pick out the books we wanted to read that week. We'd mark them off on a sheet displayed proudly on the refrigerator, until the sheet was filled and we'd read the required number of books to win the prize. I don't remember now what any of the prizes were. Probably more books.

Going to the library was always a big, fun event for me. I was like a kid in a toy store, only my toys were books. I'd go straight to the 'Young Reader' section and look for any books I hadn't read, yet. I was reading 'big kid' books before I should have been able to understand them, and I felt very grown up to be reading books with less pictures and more words. I loved mysteries, so I quickly made my way through Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys books. I read lots of other books, but these are the books I can remember reading every week, a different book in the series, always looking forward to the next trip to the library so I could get the next book.

In fifth grade, my brilliance reached new heights. My claim to fame that year was that I was the first kid in fifth grade to figure out The Westing Game. I recently saw this book again at the bookstore, and memories of the event came rushing back to me, even though right now I have absolutely no idea what the book is about or the significance of figuring it out.

But in fifth grade, I read through the book quickly, and soon earned my name in chalk on the blackboard as the first, and one of the very few to figure out the twist in the story before my teacher explained it to the rest of the class. I was the envy of everyone for about a day, until some other kid won a record number of games of Four Square. Then my name in chalk soon lost all its significance to anyone other than me. My mom was proud, of course. She always knew I was brilliant, even before The Westing Game.

Highschool was the beginning of the end of my love for books and reading. Textbooks became required reading. I began to rue the day I longed for more words and less pictures. I was forced to spend my time reading about subjects like molecular whatnot, calculus formulas, historic battles of who-knows-where, and endless Canterbury Tales in an odd form of english that made no sense to me at all. Then came the great literary works, like Tom Sawyer, Moby Dick, and countless Shakespeare plays, all of which made reading a huge, tedious effort just to understand the basic story. Once you got the story, then there was analyzing and dissecting and memorizing and tests. Tests on a book!

This took all the fun out of reading for me. I'd always liked to read because I chose things I liked to read, and I read on my own time. Now my time was consumed by these things I didn't want to read, and they made me feel much less brilliant than The Westing Game of yore.

Just when I thought the required reading would come to an end, as did highschool, college struck. With that came bigger textbooks about dirt and rocks and earthquakes in Geology, government and the economy in Economics and Political Science, rabbits and flora and fauna in Biology, and even textbooks on television and movies in my Film and Communications classes towards my major. None of this was of interest to me, except the TV and Film, and I prefered to handle that by watching TV and Films.

So, I stopped reading for fun, because it wasn't fun anymore. None of my professors ever put my name on the blackboard in chalk for finishing a chapter on the geography, topography, and economy of Zaire. Reading lost all of its luster.

But since I've been writing so much lately, I've also picked up reading for fun again. I'm not required to read anything for anything anymore, and now that I feel free to read what I want, when I want, I'm enjoying it again.

I like books. I love walking through a bookstore and seeing them all lined up on the shelves with their pretty covers. The smell of a bookstore is one of the best smells ever. I may like the look of books more than I like reading the books, but it does feel good to pick up a nice looking book and at least hold it for awhile, as though reading it.

I now have a stack of books that I'm looking forward to reading. It's a pretty stack of pretty books. And when that stack is gone, I'll make a new stack.

Maybe one day I'll have my own pretty book to add to the stack. I would love to read that, for sure.


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The Secret of Love
Some people may wonder why the Tyrant isn't often seen with a beau. You may think I'm not in the mood to date, or that I just don't have any available options to date. Perhaps your mind may wander to the possibility that the Tyrant is not dateable, which is pure rubbish, I assure you. The truth has nothing to do with how fabulous, funny, hot, and desireable I am to men far and wide. Or that I am too picky when it comes to dating, and have therefore given up on the whole thing alltogether. No, the truth is that I just prefer to keep my celebrity romance under wraps.

I'm sure you've all seen this by now. I was shocked and disheartened to see this article, because now the cat is out of the bag about celebrity romances and their deep secrecy. It seems the fall trend in Hollywood is the secret romance, as opposed to the previous trend of in-your-face romance. But if everyone is doing it, how secret can it really be? Leave it to Beyonce and Jay-Z to ruin it for the rest of us.

One of the most important rules of being a celebrity is to keep who you are dating a secret, until it is good for publicity. It's on page 7 of How to Be a Successful High-Profile Celebrity, right after the section on How to Dress to Make Either the Best or Worst Dressed List. Once you have your secret relationship for awhile, then you make it a big, smothery fanfare, finally ending with a huge break-up, throwing all of your jewelry off the side of a boat (in front of the cameras, of course), and talking about the whole ordeal during a tell-all interview with Barbara Walters. But if the secret itself is a massive publicity stunt, well then the whole thing just blows up in your face. Ask Ben and J.Lo if you don't believe me.

But to come clean about my stance on the issue, I just wanted to put everyone's mind at ease that as a celebrity, I am dating in secrecy. So secret, in fact, that the celebrity guy I'm dating doesn't even know it, yet.

This is why you don't see me at awards shows, or in magazine interviews, or in paparazzi photographs smootching a handsome star in the shadows where we thought we couldn't be seen by people with eyes that are open. If we are out flaunting our love in the public eye, that makes it much harder to keep it a secret. And I've learned that you just can't trust the media to keep a secret, so it's best to keep everything a complete mystery to everyone.

Therefore, my boyfriend and my love life is a complete, total, universal, worldwide secret.

Even to me.


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Fall TV 101 with The Tyrant
It's time now for The Tyrant's overview of the Fall Television season, beginning before we know it. Get comfy. You're in for more than you probably want to know about what I think of Fall TV.

I've been a long time fan of television, even going so far as to major in it in college. Aaah, the days of writing papers on episodes of Seinfeld and Friends. Man, college was hard. Needless to say, I was sad to see Seinfeld go, as I will be for this last season of Friends to take place. It may not be quite as funny or original as it once was, but year after year, the Friends gang has held a special place in my heart. I'm looking forward to this last season, with the hope that the last will be the best, leaving on a high note. Although hopefully not a note played by Ross on his bagpipes.

I don't take easily to new shows. I'm wary of everything new each season, because truthfully very few shows are shows I consider to be 'good', and I just don't have the time to waste on bad TV. But, two seasons ago I was introduced to Alias, and have been in love with this show ever since. If you are not a fan of this show, you should not be watching TV. In my next life I hope to come back as Sydney Bristow. And since my faith does not believe in reincarnation after death, I will have to live with attempting to be her with what's left of the life I currently have. She kicks butt, she dresses to kill, and she gets to hang out with Vaughn and Will, two dudes I would gladly take a punch for anyday. I've been waiting all summer to see what happened to Sydney during the past two years while she was missing, where last season's cliffhanger left off. My VCR is already set to tape the show each week, so that I never miss a thing on what is probably my favorite show on television right now. Alias, bring it on.

I've had to reluctantly admit that ER may be past its prime. It may have worn out its welcome. With the only original cast member of Noah Wylie left, the show just doesn't have the appeal that it once had. It's still a good show, as far as my show standards go, but it just hasn't held my attention over the last season as it once did. It will be an uphill battle for ER to win me over again, especially since during the summer reruns I discovered CSI and Without a Trace, unfortunately airing at the same time as ER, but on a different channel.

CSI has been on the air for several seasons already, and now I understand why this is such a great show. With the exception of Sarah, the former lesbian doctor from ER, I love all of the cast members. Sarah is no longer a lesbian, but she is still as annoying as ever on CSI. The other characters are each unique and engaging in their own way. Not to mention, 'Marg Helgenberger' is just really fun to say. Aside from the characters and funny actors' names, the show is great. If you can get past the blood and gore at times, be sure you are watching this show. It's cool. And its sister show, CSI: Miami, is pretty good, too. Once you get past the not liking David Caruso issue.

Without a Trace is a show I stumbled upon by accident this summer. I don't particularly like Anthony LaPaglia as an actor, but having watched the show several times now, I've decided I do really like him in his role of Jack, the stern but secretly softie FBI guy. Once I got past the stupid name for the show, I've discovered another good drama that I'd recommend for your viewing pleasure. Plus, more hot guys in suits. Not LaPaglia. The other two studly cast members.

As far as my beloved reality TV shows, I'm torn at this point in the year. There seems to be a lacking of new reality seasons this fall, but as I think about it I can't think of many reality shows that I would like to see return, with the exception of a few key shows that I dub spectacular. I really developed a liking for Cupid, which ends tonight. This show was great, funny, mean, and heart-warming all at once. I can only hope it will return for another round of finding love on national television.

Survivor begins this week, but this show also may have worn out its welcome with me. I'll watch initially, and hope that it intrigues me enough to keep watching. I did enjoy the first few seasons of the show, and while I will continue to want to be on the show, I may not be interested enough to watch it if I'm not on it.

The Bachelor premieres next week, and for this I am excited. Since my chance encounter with a former Bachelor, I've had a special loyalty to The Bachelor series, although the last Bachelor, Andrew, bored me to the point of not watching the show. But, the new Bachelor Bob is a favorite of mine from a previous season, so I will tune in and hope to fall in love with another Bachelor.

I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment of American Idol, whenever that is scheduled to begin. I'm not sure what it is about the show exactly, but I'm highly entertained by the whole thing. For those of you who share in the enjoyment of this show with me, you can anticipate more reviews of the upcoming season as it unfolds, week by week. Stay tuned. Til then, check out some information about the fates of last season's finalists.

Most shows that were cancelled after last season, I will not miss. But one show I will seriously and whole-heartedly miss is Buffy. No, I am not making a joke. If you did not get into Buffy, you really missed out on a smart, funny, deep, frought with meaning show. It has had a profound impact on me. I know that will be surprising to many, even more so than the fact that I am strongly attached to the show, knowing that I am not, in fact, a silly teenager. I only discovered Buffy last year, and have since been in the process of catching up on the previous six years of episodes. I hated to see it end this year, but fortunately we still have Angel. I'm even newer to Angel than to Buffy, so I look forward to checking it out this season.

Shows cancelled that I will not miss: Dawson's Creek, and well, I can't remember any more of them. They were that bad and/or insignificant to me.

Shows that came back that I wish were cancelled: Joe Millionare, Yes, Dear, Extreme Makeover, almost everything on the WB and UPN.

Phenomenon that I thought was dead, but still came back: ABC's TGIF. Fortunately without Urkel.

Shows that should have been cancelled because they got rid of all the good cast members so it will likely suck now anyway: The Practice

Shows I'm bored with but don't necessarily want to see them go away, yet: NYPD Blue, Law & Order (all of them)

Shows I don't watch and could literally care less about, yet I wonder why they are still around: Charmed, 7th Heaven, Boston Public, The Guardian

New shows that don't even sound like they could possibly be good, and will surely be gone by mid-season: Jake 2.0, I'm With Her, Happy Family, Arrested Development, Miss Match, Married to the Kellys, Tarzan, Luis, and pretty much all of the rest of the new shows.

In fact, I can't think of a single new show that I'm interested in checking out, with the exception of Tru Calling, based solely on the Eliza Dushku, formerly Faith from Buffy, factor. I fear this show on FOX was a bad decision for Faith/Eliza, as it doesn't sound like a particularly winning idea of a show. Plus it airs at the same time as Friends so I probably won't watch it until re-run season, if it lasts that long. But I have a slight interest in seeing Eliza not be Faith, much like I would have an interest in seeing Xander not be Xander, or Spike not be Spike, although they will always be Faith, Xander and Spike to me. Good thing Spike will now be on Angel.

See? You have no idea what I'm talking about. Go find some Buffy reruns.

Thus concludes Fall TV 101 with The Tyrant. Good luck and happy Fall Premier month!


Mmmm. . . Sandwich . . .
There is a sub shop around the corner where I go to get a sandwich on days when the food served here at the shelter is not something I can stomach. It's a Mom and Pop type place, although I don't think there is a Pop. And I'm not sure the lady who owns it is actually a Mom. Plus she is from China, so I don't know if the true essence of the term 'Mom and Pop' really applies here, or if it is a term actually used in China. Basically it's not Subway, and it's owned by a very nice lady who makes good sandwiches.

I don't go there very often, but when I do it is a big treat. I am rewarded with a wonderful sandwich, and it's cheap. It's a highlight of my week when I get to go there, but I only allow myself to go there when it is absolutely necessary. I can only have a sandwich when the option for lunch downstairs is really not an option. Otherwise I would be in the sub shop all the time, buying sandwiches left and right, defeating the purpose of having free lunches here at the shelter.

I always get the same sandwich. Every time. When I first discovered the beauty of the sub shop, I focused my attention on the chef salad. It was good, but only when I discovered the sandwich did I realize what I'd been missing. A truly great sandwich.

It's not a spectacular sandwich, or anything fancy. And that is why I like it. It sticks to the basics. I get the Ham and Cheese sub, Italian style, hold the onion and peppers, on that cool sub sandwich bread. Just thinking about it, I can almost taste it. Mmmmmm. . . . sandwich . . .

As a regular sub shop customer, I've been working very hard to fill up the Frequent Sandwich Card. Every time I buy a sandwich, I get a mark on the card. And after I buy enough sandwiches, I get a free sandwich. Seriously, the free sandwich is a huge perk for me. I have been anticipating its arrival ever since my first sandwich purchase earned the very first mark on the card.

So the last time I went to the sub shop for my usual sandwich, I pulled out my card and noticed that this was the last sandwich to fill in the card. The Final Sandwich. I had done it. I had purchased enough sandwiches to earn a free one the next time I am in need of a sandwich.

I was so excited. I felt like I needed to make a speech, thanking the Academy, and the sub shop lady, and the shelter for having enough bad lunches that I was able to venture out and discover the Sandwich. I'd also like to thank my parents for teaching me the value of a dollar, good money saving tips, and to always look for ways to get free stuff. I've built my life around how to get more for less.

The sub shop lady marked the last spot on the card and handed it back to me.

"So, the next one is free?" I asked, barely able to contain my excitement, yet trying to sound casual and cool.

"Yes," she said, and turned to the next customer. My dream had come true. All the hardwork had paid off.

A free sandwich.

So this week I am very excited about the possibility of obtaining my free sandwich. But the dilemma now is which day to venture out for my prize. If I waste a decent shelter lunch day on the free sandwich, I do get the great sandwich, but I may then have to suffer through a bad lunch here at the shelter later in the week.

But then again, I've waited this long. Today may be the day.

Mmmmm. . . . sandwich . . .


Monday, September 15, 2003

Ok, perusing the list of recent search topics leading people here to my blog, I have stumbled onto the phrase that has creeped me out the most.

It's creepier than "britney spears fred durst shave private parts", which recently directed someone here. Eeeyeeew. And, wha-huh???

Definitely creepier than "Cher's farewell concert was awful she thinks she all that". We all know Cher is not all that, but why must we come here looking for it?

Absolutely creepier than "joshua gracin nude", although that one's a close second.

And creepier than the following phrase, "clothes that tia mowry where's", because if you do not know the difference between "wears" and "where's", I am scared by you.

So what is the creepiest search? Apparently in the last few days people have made their way to my blog by searching for my actual name, (Cynical Tyrant surprisingly is not my actual name). And they've spelled my name correctly.

Either I have another stalker, or my parents have finally found my blog.



The Picture of Peculiar
So, what to write about after not being able to blog for a few days? Myself, of course.

I watch people a lot. I love to do that, to notice things, characteristics. Consequently, I watch myself a lot. Incidentally, mostly. But I catch myself checking myself out at times, to notice things.

I walk weird. I definitely have a strange gait. Sure, it gets me where I'm going. But is it attractive in any way? I wonder. I droop my shoulders down often, but when I catch myself and straighten up, I wonder if I've gone too far the other way, forcing my shoulders back to overcompensate, therefore looking weirder than before. I try to walk with authority, like I mean it. But I'm just not sure that I do.

Aside from the shoulder droop, I feel like I just kind of stumble around. Of course, sometimes that's because I am clumsy by nature, and I tend to often actually stumble around, over, and into things. Years of marching band still has the residual effect of sometimes rolling my feet heel to toe in excess, so that usually looks weird enough by itself. At the least, I have an interesting walk. It changes as I pay attention to it, and as long as I'm standing more than falling down, I guess it works for me.

My face is odd. As is most of me. I often dream of being a movie or TV star, but then I remember what I look like. I'm not ugly, by any means. I'm definitely hot. But in that quirky best friend sort of way. I'd be the funny, yet strangely attractive side-kick, in the film/tv world. The Jeanine Garafolo, or Molly Shannon, or Tina Fey, or whoever. Pretty, but not the prettiest, and with a slightly peculiar look that you can't quite put your finger on. But the funny makes up for it, and presents an overall attractive package loved by most.

What's odd about my face? Well for one, my eyes. I have beautiful blue eyes. Only problem is that one is lower than the other. Not, like, Van Gogh lower and weird and in the wrong place. But as a result of sinus surgery, one eye decided it was tired and needed to rest a little lower after the sinus pressure holding it up was removed. It doesn't hurt, and doesn't stand out much. Fortunately, it's not getting lower by the second. It's pretty much staying in one spot, rather than swimming around my face. In fact, most people say they don't notice it. But me, I see it. Well, once I can focus my lazy eye, I can see it.

I have a somewhat scratchy, nasal-y voice. My singing voice is actually pretty okay. Even good, if I do say so myself. But somehow most of the time when I talk, I have the scratchy voice. But only sometimes. Other times, it's an almost voice-over quality voice. I actually did radio work once upon a time. On-air, even. But being as peculiar as I am, my voice goes with the peculiarity and keeps me guessing. Sometimes a croak, sometimes a song. I just never know.

Then there's the rest of me. Skinnier than I should be, although not on purpose. Taller than most, but still shorter than some. Lanky and gangly, even though I technically should have passed that awkward teenage phase quite a few years ago. Freckly. Big feet. Knobby knees. Straighter than the curves a woman would hope for.

Aaah, quite the picture I've painted here. Come to think of it, Van Gogh would likely be proud.

Man, am I weird.

Ain't it cool?


Due to some technical difficulties, I've been blogless for several days now. But things should be back to blog normalcy, post haste.


Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Sinus Booger Snot
That title should attract some good hits from search engines.

I've mentioned before my aversion to change. I get used to things a certain way, and when things change, I have a tough time with it. Fortunately, no major changes were apart of my visit to the sinus doctor yesterday.

After some sinus troubles during the past couple of weeks, I'd decided a trip to my sinus doctor was probably a good idea, just to check on the funny business going on in my nose of late. I hate going to any doctor, and I especially hate going to my sinus doctor because trips to the sinus doctor have previously proven either physically painful (ie: allergy injections) or frought with bad news (ie: you need surgery). He is the one of the nicest doctors in the world, but he will forever be associated in my head as someone I'd prefer never, ever to see again as long as I live.

I went to this doctor's office every week, sometimes twice a week, for three years, to get my allergy injections or for check-ups. They knew me by name, even writing it out phonetically on my chart so as to pronounce it correctly, as I walked in the door every week. They'd smile when they'd see me come in, at my preferred time slot. I planned my appointments weeks ahead, to get the time I wanted. Everyone in the office knew it as my time.

The shuttle bus driver who took me from my car in the parking lot across the street to the front door of the building knew me, too. We were all in the same routine. Park, ride the shuttle, visit the receptionist, nurse, and/or doctor, check out with John the Check Out Guy, ride the shuttle back to my car, get on with my day.

I'd sign in at the desk in the office, greet whoever was sitting there, and take my usual seat on the wall nearest the door to the exam rooms, beside the window. In the three years I went to these appointments, I probably sat in the same one or two chairs every time. It was habit. The allergy nurse would come fetch me, knowing exactly where I'd be sitting, and we'd walk back to the injection room. Yes, they have a special room set up just for shooting people in the arm, and a special nurse just to do the shooting.

I knew my way around that place really well. I knew alternate routes to and from the injection room, in case one hallway was blocked with a lot of people. The whole process was streamlined. I got the VIP treatment, seeing as I was there so much. I was rarely ever in the office for more than 30 minutes, and often much shorter than that. As much as I hated the injections and making these weekly visits, after the routine was set and I became friendly with the people I saw there every week, it was a more pleasant experience than I'd anticipated it would be. Painful with injections, but even that was something I got used to after awhile.

After my final visit for my last injections, I was told I didn't have to come back unless I had a problem. No more weekly visits. I took that to heart, had a stern talk with my sinuses, and tried very hard to not need to go back there anytime soon.

Last year, about a year after my last visit to the sinus doctor, I was certain I had an ear infection, even though I tried to talk myself out of it. There was pain and swelling and itching, and this was definitely out of the ordinary. I eventually decided my ear and head hurt too much to pretend it didn't hurt any longer, so I made an appointment with another doctor in the same office. This doctor specialized in ears. Good for him.

On the day of my appointment I went back to the familiar parking lot, parking in one of my usual spots, but that was where the familiarity ended. There was a new shuttle driver who could care less who I was. But that was just the start of a jarring doctor experience.

I rode the elevator up to the seventh floor, as usual. I even remembered to take the elevator to the side, rather than the ones right in front as you walk into the building. The side elevator opens up right in front of my doctor's office, and is seldom used because people don't realize it's there. So I never have to wait to get on the side elevator. It's a trick I'd learned in my history of visits to that office.

I exited the elevator and turned to the right to enter the office door. As I opened the door and walked in, I suddenly thought I was in the wrong place. Nothing in the room looked as it had a year before, so I turned around and walked right back out the door.

Did I get off on the wrong floor? Sometimes I forget to look at the floor when the elevator stops, assuming it stops on the right floor. I've been known to get out on an earlier floor, thinking I was on the seventh floor. No, this is floor seven. Is this the right office? Yep, there's my sinus doc's name on the door. What the heck is going on here???

I opened the door again and went back inside, noticing that the people behind the desk were staring at me like I had no idea what I was doing. I also noticed that the desk was in an entirely different place than where I remembered it to always be, and the people behind the desk were not the same people who were there every week for three years. They did not greet me with the smile and recognition I was used to. I was starting to freak out.

I walked over to the desk and calmly asked if this was my doctor's office. They said yes, and looked at me like I was completely stupid if I couldn't read his name on the sign right there by the desk. Ok, I'm in the right place. But this is so not the right place! Everything was different.

Except the sign-in sheet. That looked the same, so I signed in and turned to find a place to sit in the waiting room. My usual place no longer existed, so I didn't quite know what to do. No one recognized me, and my chair was gone. What happened to my VIP treatment? Don't these people know who I am???

No, they don't.

Not only was my chair gone, but the whole room had been renovated. I couldn't get my bearings. I felt completely turned around. The window where I used to sit so I could see out to the parking lot was no longer there. It was gone. There was just a wall. The entire room was at a different angle, the desk was on the wrong side of the room. Chairs were set up in a completely different pattern. And none of this computed with my brain that had been used to the same thing every week for three years.

I found a chair that seemed harmless enough, and I waited. I tried to figure out where the nurse would appear to fetch me, desperately wanting to see someone or something familiar, but there were new doors in new places, and I had no idea what was behind any of these doors or how that related to me.

Finally a nurse, one that I had never seen before and who pronounced my name entirely wrong, appeared through the door which I least expected, and called my name. She took me through the door, and I was promptly even more lost than before. We paused for a moment in a holding room, then ventured further into the back of the office. Not only had the front reception area changed, but the entire maze of exam rooms had changed. What, were they waiting for me to quit coming here every week so they could completely remove everything that was here before, and replace it with new walls, rooms, chairs, everything? I was wigging.

I followed the nurse very closely. I didn't want to get lost. At this point I had absolutely no idea where I was, or how to escape in case something jumped out from behind one of these doors to get me. I felt like I was in a labyrinth, like on American Gladiators, where large men in spandex wielding giant padded Q-Tips would jump out from behind things and whack me on the head. Maybe I was on Candid Camera, and they had completely redesigned the office just to mess with me. Whatever was going on, it was all wrong.

The nurse stashed me in an exam room that I'd never seen before, and left me in there alone to wait for the doctor I'd never seen before. I took the time alone to try to get ahold of the situation. This room did have a window, so I looked out to see if I could figure out where I was in the building, and in relation to where the rooms used to be. But, I still had no idea where I was. So I sat and waited for the doctor to arrive, all the while cursing my ear for getting me here in the first place.

After a few minutes, a man walked in and I assumed he was the doctor I was supposed to see. I also silently cursed my sinus doctor for not knowing more about ears, so that I could have come here to at least see someone I knew, rather than this different person who was a complete stranger to me.

Ear Doctor was very nice. He looked in my ears, asked me a few questions, and decided I actually don't have an ear infection. Then what's the deal? Why is my ear swollen and doing the whole pain and itching thing? He said I have tight tendons in my jaw, which are inflamed, and that's probably causing the swelling. Do my jaws pop when I open them sometimes? Yes. Well, that's probably causing the pain in your ear. Um, right. As for the itching, it's probably an allergy. He prescribed a gel for the itching, and sent me on my way.

On my way to somewhere else in the office that was a complete mystery to me, that is. He directed me back towards the front, albeit down a different hallway, and left me to wander that way on my own. As I worked my way to the check-out desk, I finally saw something familiar. It was a framed photo of a little girl at the moment she heard her first sounds after receiving a cochlear implant. I always loved seeing that picture every week, as it showed both the joy and shock on the little girl's face as she heard a sound for the very first time. I was glad they had salvaged it and gave it a place on the wall of this new, weird office. I'm sure the joy and shock on my face at the moment I re-discovered the picture mirrored the little girl in the picture. Maybe I was in the right place after all.

John the Check-Out Guy was not the check-out person anymore, so Anonymous the Check-Out Person took my check and sent me on my way. I left the office, still not quite sure if I hadn't just been in The Twilight Zone. I almost turned around and opened the door again, hoping for a Matrix moment when opening and closing doors changes what's inside the rooms.

So, a year later, I visited my usual sinus doctor yesterday. I found the offices in much the same way they were last year, so I was relieved to not have to freak out again upon walking in the door. I still had basically no idea where I was, but at least I expected it. Without the need to wig out, I was able to focus on more important things. Like, wondering if my nose was clean and panicking because I couldn't find a Kleenex before the doctor came in. Even though he has seen some of the world's most disgusting things come out of my two little nostrils throughout the course of surgery and sinus goo galore, which strangely results in a more personal nose relationship than I will likely ever have with anyone else, I still find myself a bit self-conscious about making sure I don't have any superfluous boogers awaiting him in my nose on a regular, non-excessive goo visit.

Sinus Doctor gave me a clean bill of health, saying everything looked fine, and to keep up the good work. I do, after all, work really hard to keep my sinuses in good working order.

And I'm back to trying really hard to never go there again.