Friday, December 30, 2005

You look so cute when you're frustrated, dear.

The El has been horrific of late. Yesterday, I thought I'd gotten a prime seat: it was one of the inward-facing ones near the door, the kind where there's no danger of your knees accidentally touching those of the person perpendicular to you because you're wedged up against a faux-wood panelled partition and there's a whole body between you and the knees of the person perpendicular to you. What I didn't account for was the attack on the side I mistakenly thought was guarded by the faux-wood partition.

My camel-coated seatmate-to-the-left (solving her Sudoku puzzle in pen, a bad move) took up 100% of her seat and approximately 8% of mine, so I executed the preliminary touch-avoidance maneuvers: hunch shoulders, cross arms (ball hands into fists), squeeze knees together, lean slightly forward, sheild upper body with strategically placed messenger bag.

But the train was crowded that day, my friends, and no preliminary touch-avoidance maneuvers were going to protect me completely. I had progressed to Phase 2: sink chin into turtleneck, press right flank firmly against partition... when I saw the hand.

Do you remember that Vaseline Intensive Care commercial from the '90s where the spokesmodel scratches the word "DRY" into her flaky skin with her fingernail? This was worse. The hand was the kind of dry where you could see the white channels of chafing, the kind of dry that made it look like it was crafted from papier maché or birchbark.

At first the hand (attached to a standing passenger whose face I never looked at) was holding onto the appropriate pole. But then it slipped— rather casually, I think — to the six-inch gap between the top of the faux-wood partition and the partition glass that extends nearly to the top of the train. With each lurch of the train, the hand inched back along the top of the faux-wood, until the crackly fingers were mere millimeters from my cheek.

I was faced with a conundrum: lean back and risk shoulder contact with seatmate-to-the-left, or wait with baited breath, hoping the fingers wouldn't actually touch my face (I could feel them there, even when I shut my eyes, I could feel them about to touch me.) In the end, I went with a third and much more desperate option: I leaned all the way forward, forehead to knees, and squeezed my eyes shut and blew out frantically in short, hyperventilate-y breaths for five stops (five!) until the hand disembarked the train.


Today was more typical and less terrifying, although Purple Puffy Coat to my right had this rhythmic schlurrrrg thing going on with her nose. It was schlurrrrg, two, three, four, schlurrrrg, two, three, four from Grand to Sheridan (when the oppotunity to move to a new seat handily presented itself). I thought of offering her a tissue, but I didn't have one; and when she finally withdrew a limp, greenish one from her own beaten handbag, I was glad I'd been able to ride so far in relative peace. She broke her rhythm temporarily with one big schlurrrrglrrrrrrgll (at which point I think I audibly gagged) and, taking no notice of my disdain, proceeded to crack open a can of A&W rootbeer and slurp and schlurrrrg on alternating beats.


These incidents, perhaps only because of their rapid succession, have made me consider, for the first time in a long time, restarting my affair with Paxil. I don't know that one little pink pill would eliminate entirely my ghoulish visions (sometimes, while riding the train, I imagine myself at once inside and outside the car; from the inside, I can hear the chorus of sneezes and snarfles and croaks and coughs, and from the outside I can see, as if I'm wearing special goggles, green clouds hanging stagnantly over the unassuming passengers, pushing against the doors and grimy windows, wisking up nasal passages and into mouths agape) but it may work its numbing magic in other areas that will indirectly affect my commute.

You see, I think I'm beginning to have feelings again. This is atypical; I don't generally have feelings; I'm kind of a robot that way. But there are some things (OK, I'll name them: feelings) that I've been wrestling with lately (as it is the turn of the year, and I'd like to start aught-six with a clean slate). I haven't really made this a place to talk about my feelings, so I'm not sure this is the appropriate forum, but there are things that need to be gotten off my chest post-haste.

I've done Internet research, trying to find a shooting range within traveling distance of Chicago. There are none. If there were, this whole writing about feelings thing would be moot point. But moot it is not, so unless anyone wants to drive me and my feelings out to Aurora, you may just have to bear with me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hissy Fit

So I'm casually reading the paper on the train this morning, and I come across this:

"Cat Fancy magazine just named the 'Top 20 Felines on Screen.'"

I pause momentarily, almost absentmindedly and think, Huh, I wonder which "screen feline" is at the top of that list. Probably that cat from Breakfast at Tiffany's.

I return to my reading: "File that under conversation starters guaranteed to keep your virginity intact."

Oh. Right.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Reach out and touch someone

One of my (hundreds of) public transportation pet peeves is people blabbing on their cell phones and interrupting my peaceful commute. Most days I crank up my iPod and bury myself behind a RedEye and, when I'm finished reading the interesting things (namely, the back page and "Nine Lines," which is a direct rip-off of Entertainment Weekly's Hit List written — poorly — by a Medill alum), I snuggle up under my scarf and attempt to block out the sounds of sniffles and coughs.

Lately, though, I've been forgoing my iPod and my reading and my head-burying altogether. It's the holidays, after all, so to get into the spirit (and in an attempt to strengthen my torrid relationship with public transportation) I've begun casually eavesdropping on peoples' spirited Christmastime phone calls. It's an anthropological study, really, and I've found the semi-public interactions of commuters with their relatives to be much more entertaining than anything I could download for 99 cents on iTunes. Or, you know, steal from Limewire.

And so, in the spirit of Christmas, a sampling:

"... No, I don't think it's a coincidence, Marissa. I don't think it's a coincidence that Mom and Dad got you and April iPods and me a candle... I don't care if you bought your present yourself. You couldn't have picked one up for me, too? That candle had a cat on it, Marissa... Yeah, I don't know. Mom always wants to buy me jewelery. Everytime I do something it's like, 'Let me buy you pearls!' Where am I gonna wear pearls?... Yeah, I guess we could all go in and get them something together, but I'm not chipping in as much as... I don't know. What do they need? Sanity?..."

"...doing Christmas Eve at our place and spending Christmas morning with his parents... Oh, God no! Judy still doesn't get that we're vegetarians. We have reservations..."

"...Yes, Mom... Yes, I think he's going to bring her. They're married... Yes, I saw what she wore to Thanksgiving... Well she is a trophy wi-... No, you can't ask him not to bring her... Because!... Well, get it out of your system now. You can say it to me, but don't say anything in front of her... Why not? Because you mean it. You're going to get yourself into trouble... I'm serious. Just... well just get it out of your system now..."

"... He's so cute! You're sure he's gay?... Well, you should work on that... You 'don't think so'?... Well, fine. I guess there's nothing better than a gay friend... You could just tell everyone he's your boyfriend. He's so cute!... Why not? You know your Aunt Jill is going to ask. She always asks. She doesn't have to know he's gay... Well, I still say you should work on it...It's not like Mr. Jerkface is ever going to call..."

Happy holidays everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Back in the Saddle

Today was a normal enough day at the Factory. Around three, I was doing whatever it is I normally do around three (i.e. surfin' the 'Net) and feeling rather smug — but also all warm and fuzzy inside — because the Home Alone viewing I'd been attempting to instigate since the day after Thanksgiving had finally come to fruition.

And then it started.

My first thought was, "Little Quiet Kari usually listens to oldies; she certainly doesn't strike me as the type to make the sudden switch to rage metal." But then I realized it wasn't Little Quiet Kari or her little quiet oldies-playing radio. It was an actual person, actually outside our office, actually having the loudest and most heated cell phone conversation I've ever eavesdropped on.

Those of us without window access hustled to the north side of the office, where those with window access were already splayed out over their desks or craning their necks to "see what was the matter" (or so the Christmas tie-in goes). The disappointment at not being able to see anything was only temporary, as the one-sided and oh-so-piercing conversation alone was enough to keep us entertained.

I wish now, in retrospect, that I'd found within me a miraculous knowledge of shorthand so I could have transcribed the goings-down in their accurate entirety, but alas, I will have to paraphrase: "FUCK FUCK FUCK! This is the worst day of my life! FUCK FUCK FUCK! All over some stupid machine. FUCK FUCK FUCK! Don't talk to me like that! Don't you know what my IQ is?! FUCK FUCK FUCK! I'm going to kill myself."

We put our spyfest on temporary hold as The Boss walked down the hall, peeking into all the north-facing offices and giving us the old "are you sure you should be up to whatever you're up to?" eyebrows. As soon as he'd made the obligatory rounds, though, our cheeks were pressed right back up against those windows. There was a little more "FUCK FUCK FUCK!" and a few "You fucking stupid bitch"-es thrown in for good measure. All in all, it was Thursday afternoon entertainment at its finest.

And then the rumor circulated that it was our new receptionist, Colorful Leeser, who was having the midafternoon meltdown. Someone in a north-facing office down the hall MacGuyvered a compact mirror, some Scotch tape and a pencil into a periscope and confirmed the rumor moments later. The Boss then went down, "smoothed things over" (sotto voce so we window-watchers couldn't hear the denoument of our little afternoon theater), came back up and did the rounds, laughing the incident off as a minor breakdown and nothing to concern ourselves with. As if!

I thought nothing could ever top Strong Mayor?-gate 2005, a scary-exhilarating workplace incident that I'm still afraid to write about, but that ended with one major player screaming at another even more major player: "Fuck you! Fuck you and the horse you rode in on!"

After that debacle, we all of us banded together. We formed a united front, made verbal declarations of intent to turn in our resignations, en masse, the next day, first thing; waved our fists in the air until we were too drunk to continue; dissolved into fits of remember whens! and down with the mans! and this is just the beginnings!; exchanged sloppy kisses in a haze of jangled nerves and professed allegiances and gin-and-tonics.

Today was different. There were no declarations, no waving fists, no intense-situation-driven make-outs. Today I went home — alone — not knowing exactly what happened, but possessing an acute awareness of the fact that, no matter where I am, what I'm doing, or how laid-back I think things are, I am consistently plagued by elaborate workplace drama. Workplace drama and equine references...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Rockin' Around the [Perfectly Appointed] Christmas Tree

Saturday night, Robyn and I ventured out to West Loop to attend a holiday party thrown by one of her co-workers. We knew almost nothing, just that we were supposed to "dress up a little" and arrive at the host couple's "gated community" around 7:30. It wasn't until we got there and surveyed the situation that we realized it: we were at a Grown Up Party hosted by Actual Adults.

There was a four-story condo. It had a deck with a skyline view; a guest bathroom with little soaps that smelled like lavender and weren't to be touched; framed diplomas and photos of toothy neices and nephews. There were things, just shapes really, made of crystal and ceramic and glass, things that people would only own after a wedding, and would only display after a recent wedding. (At one point in the evening, I saw Robyn looking at me strangely across the white-chocolate-covered pretzel display we were busy dismantling; I turned to see what monstrosity was behind me, only to find a giant framed cross-stitch of an old-fashioned bride and groom, along with the couples' wedding date and a Bible verse. Somehow, I didn't feel right sitting under that "artwork.")

There was a dog. It was small and well-behaved and beige. It matched the beige carpet, the beige living room set, its own beige Burberry collar. It had a stocking, shaped like a paw, hanging between the husband's and the wife's on the mantle over an actually-working fireplace. It didn't bark once. It had a nickname: Maddie, short for Madison.

There were men in sport coats, women in what is apparently (and unbeknownst to me) the Trixie uniform: black skirt, red turtleneck sweater, knee-high leather boots (in good taste, naturally), and some subtle but distinguishing piece of flare. Everyone brought wine in those satiny wine-bottle gift bags adorned with feathers or paillettes or sequins. The neighbors came. The hosts know their neighbors: they have poker nights and cookie exchanges; they walk their beige dogs together. One of the neighbor-couples brought their baby monitor. Another couple watched through the window as their dogs romped in their kitchen across the way.*

There was a Christmas tree. It was perfect. The lights that twinkled evenly from every square inch could have been applied by a professional, but, upon meeting the couple, I'm fairly certain they "made a day of it," decking the tree and the condo out all by themselves. There were built-in bookcases from which all taste-identifying art had been removed and replaced with a collection of glossy, glittery Department 56 pieces. There were costumes: Maddie hovered near the door in a Santa hat-and-cape set, and the hostess buzzed around the kitchen, refreshing trays of hors d'oeuvres made with Filo dough, in a matching Santa apron.

Seeing as how we couldn't find "gated" parking, and as how we most certainly weren't within-walking-distance neighbors, we were forced to park about a quarter mile away. We had to trudge through still-fresh snow (and maybe over a 90/94 overpass — I've blocked it) to get to the condo, and, as is apropos at a Grown Up Party hosted by Actual Adults, we removed our shoes in the foyer. So well the rest of the ladies in the set marched around in perfect and perfectly dry boots, I padded around in my holiday socks.

My holiday Cat Socks.

*Incidentally, the only contact we've had with our neighbors involves (in the case of our second-floor neighbors) their coming upstairs to check on us after we screamed about a cockroack that wouldn't die, and (in the case of our first-floor neighbors) us watching from our front-room window as they make out with their lesbian girlfriends on our front porch. Lovely.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Beating a dead horse metaphor

Alright, let's do this.

(My new “friend” over at Got Back Together With My Ex The Same Day We Were Supposed to Go Out Depot* is the one in itals.):

1: Erin, thanks for not putting my name on your post. That would have been a bit over the top. I mean, blogs are a great forum, but no one wants to date or consider dating someone who would muckrake them publicly. I am fine with the anonymous muckraking, though. The comments about my email are really funny.

1: At least I can say I’m living up to my education. The first thing they teach you at Medill: “Muckraking is the most honorable form of journalism there is. The only way to make it even more honorable is to use anonymous sources.”

Just kidding. The first thing they teach you at Medill is spelling.

2: Yeah, the wording of that message I sent you was just terrible. No doubt about it. Sorry for using simmer — I don't even think of it as a cooking metaphor, just a way of saying let's put this on hold. Like I would tell one of my guy friends who was bitching about something: "Yo! Simmer down now!"

2: Of course you don’t realize you’re using cooking metaphors. What fun would it be for us girls who are fed (heh) said metaphors on a pretty consistent basis if we couldn’t search for the pattern and giggle when it actually holds up. I have a pretty sizable accumulation of “I don’t know how to tell you I don’t want to date you, so I’m just going to use a cooking metaphor” cooking metaphors, and it’s always kind of fun and exciting to add a new gem to the collection.

Also? “Yo?”

3: No I don't think I am hung like a horse. Or maybe I do think that. Totally irrelevant to the email, and I agree the horse metaphor was pretty lame (ha) in hindsight.

3: Pity. Or… maybe not a pity? I can’t tell. All I know is this: Confidence is key, my little champion steed.

4: It's spelled "Skittish"? Really? I am such a terrible speller. Thank God I live in a world where most forms of writing involve a spell check.

4: Terrible speller, eh? You should have told me that up front; could’ve saved us both a lot of trouble. We never would’ve made it, even if we had gone on a date. (See above re: Medill.)

5: Now let's get to the serious issues. Erin and I met on an online dating site. I thought her picture was breath-taking, so i messaged her.

OK, I know this is mid-point, but A: Thanks for outing me on the dating site business. That’s right kids, even in cyberspace I can’t find a guy who isn’t threepointfive seconds away from reuniting with a long-lost love, or who hasn’t already met the “love of his life”, or who doesn’t own a Confederate flag belt buckle. And B: Does anyone remember that episode of Seinfeld where the Hamptons doctor calls Elaine “breathtaking,” but then proceeds to apply the term to a supposedly hideous baby? Just saying…

A few months before I messaged Erin, I had been broken-up with my x-girlfriend over a couple specific issues. Erin knew I had an x-girlfriend, and I tried to be very upfront about the fact I had gotten out of a serious relationship not long before. My X let me know that she was willing to work out those issues, and I knew I would not be able to give a new relationship my all while I was still wondering about the old one, who I really love.

Erin and I exchanged some wonderful emails and some wonderful IMs. But we never met or talked on the phone. So it's not like either of us really knew what we were missing — we might not have even been attracted to each other. So, to that extent, I think I am less of a jerk, and certainly I did not try to use Erin for some booty or anything. Anyway, Erin's emails and IMs, like her blog posts, were insightful, witty, personable, and just generally a pleasure to read. I thought it would not be too hard to be friends, because we had never been on a date, and we could have gotten off to the right start.

5: Alright. Now we’re getting somewhere. This Pre-Dating Breakup In The Name of Fate thing is my absolute most favorite ploy of all time, and as soon as I get a chance, I am going to use it on some poor unsuspecting guy and it is going to be awesome. He is going to ask me out. I will accept. There will be dinner, drinks, maybe even a movie, none of which I will pay for. At the end of the night, I’m going to say: “I had a great time, but since there’s a pretty good chance we’ll both end up wasting our time on a dead-end relationship, let’s just break up right now. What? We’re not actually dating yet? Well, all the better, sir, because I don’t want to deal with any of that broken heart bullshit later on down the line. So this is it. We’re FINISHED!”

As far as “I’m in love with someone else, but whatta ya say to being friends? Eh? Eh?”: As I said before, it’s a nice idea.
But I’ve agreed to a few of these “friends” deals before and have been sorely shortchanged. So… it’s back to the preemptive strike against time-wasting and hurt feelings for this Just Friends girl.

Oh, hey, but thanks for all that “insightful, witty, personable” yada yada yada… (FYI: In actuality, I’m probably only those things online, and even then only sometimes. At least you can say you caught me on a good day.)

6: If my letter was cheesy, and consequently Erin does think I am a cheese-dick for how lame that "I can't go out on a date right now" email was, then all the better right? I mean, at least this way she won't think I am some great guy she is missing out on.

Ok, if anyone is still reading this thread, I'd be happy to hear how bad I suck, as long as you'll give me the opportunity to defend myself!

— In anonymity, Mr. Ed

6: There you have it folks. Have at ‘im.

But just remember: in my mind it’s all fodder for the book (or extraordinarily long post, as it were). And really, I was simply trying to make the point, the last time I dragged this actually-pretty-decent-seeming young man over the virtual coals, that it’s me who has the issues. The timing issues, the Just Friends Syndrome, that special little twinkle that attracts great guys who have great reasons for not being able to date me.

In the end, it’s not about the poor schmucks who find themselves players in this weird game that I made up, but don’t know the rules or object of. In the end, it’s all about me.

* Might I recommend a gift certificate to this fine establishment to anyone looking for the perfect Christmas gift to give me? I seem to spend a lot of time there and at its more cost-friendly counterpart, Yesterday I Wanted To Break Up With Her, But Today She’s The Love Of My Life Warehouse.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fish Out of Water

I know you're all waiting for the big rebuttal, but I've been lacking in motivation lately, and a lot has happened since Friday, when I was all worked up about that post.

On the agenda, once I finally get over this little bout of "write a New York Times bestseller or don't write anything at all!":

• The made-for-TV Christmas movie so bad it actually made Robyn vomit. (Such a disappointment, Greg!)

• Robyn's and my Good Old Fashioned Family Christmas, which was nearly the perfect urban twentysomething reinactment of Christmas Vacation.

• My thwarted attempt at becoming a knife-wielding murderess.

• The company Christmas party that did not result in me drunkenly dancing on a bartop somewhere (woo!), but most definitely did result in a bruised uterus and me doubting my future child-bearing capabilities.

• My tribute to The Joey, the greatest cat ever to swat my face with his cute little claws.

• The magic, the excitement, the all-day strategic extravaganza that is... GIFT WRAP WONDERLAND!!!

• The actualization of what I've come to realize is my greatest fear: domestic pet-type fish forced out of their habitats. I had a very alarming and realistic dream about it, then saw not one but two commercials where fish tanks were either destroyed or drained with the fish still in them! Oh, the humanity! I don't know what it means to be so disturbed by goldfish-murder, but I'm sure someone out there has some sort of Freudian dream analysis website to link to. Anyone...? Fish out of water...?

So that's that. You'll still get your post-response-refutation, but right now I'm not too keen to play the chick-lit heroine. Maybe after another Saturday night of trudging through shin-deep slush in my snow boots...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Just FYI

Because I put so much stock in these kinds of things, my horoscope from this morning's RedEye:

For the past few weeks you've despaired of a romantic future. "I'm destined to become the crazy old cat lady with 50 felines and no boyfriend." Mecury is entering your sign, changing your luck. Remember how fabulous you are, and others will too."

So there. I'm fabulous. Remember?

Also: Remember this guy? He's finally graced us all with his presence and replied — in a very thorough, six-point self-defense outline, I might add. He's also suggested that I respond to his response, since, apparently, I'm at my best when expounding on the indicative patterns that have led to my belief that, as we speak, I am becoming "the crazy old cat lady."

Never one to turn down reader requests, I'm currently working on my own thorough six-point self-defense-defense thingy, and will post as soon as it's ready. 'Til then, read up and review. You'll be tested.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Product Placement

Have you seen that commercial for Starbucks bottled Frappucino where the girl is walking through her office and stuff sticks to her? Like, someone yells out, "I need that presentation done!" and then a laptop comes flying out of nowhere and sticks to her arm. And someone else yells out, "Your dog bit the neighbor again," and then a growling dog slides across the parquet and sticks to her ankle. And someone else walks by with a mail cart and tosses an assortment of letters and packages at her, and that assortment sticks to her ass. And someone else else yells out, "Frank's freakin' out about something," and then we see our heroine with an actual dude stuck to her back, saying "This color coding system: it has color, but no code."

I hate that commercial.

First: This gal must be pretty low on the relative corporate ladder — she's devising color coding systems, and sucking at it, too, apparently. Does she really have a secretary to take "your dog bit your neighbor again" calls? And does anyone really call their neighbor's office — their neighbor's secretary — when they get bit by their neigbor's dog? Get a job! And quit hanging around your employed neighbor's dog during the workday. It already bit you once, dumbass!

Second: What the hell's up with the way "Frank" is posed? I mean, I know he's stuck to some chick's back (some chick who can only color, and not code... maybe he should think about finding new help) but does he really have to look like that? He's all squnched up like he was sitting in a chair until cruel cruel fate ripped him out of it and sent him sailing through the office, only to adhere magnetically to the spine of a subpar employee. Frank: you're stuck there, so relax. The commercial's only thirty seconds long, and Gal's about to get her Frap and then you'll be free, so put your legs down!

Third: I'm always super disappointed when Gal opens the fridge and there's only overpriced flavored coffee beverages in there. I'm expecting a nice frosty bottle of booze, or something tropicolored with an umbrella, or maybe even one of those clever commercial-portals to the beach (cue Seagulls and Waves Crashing). And it's not like I see the commercial and recognize it as a Starbucks commercial. No, every time I see it, I think, "wow there's gonna be something killer in that fridge!" And there never is.*

I don't even know if this commercial is on anymore. I was just thinking about it because I'm having one of those "Frank's freakin' out about something" days, where no matter how much warning I have, or how much caffeine I have to look forward to, I just can't seem to catch a break.

I'll have to fire that secretary of mine for not taking the total brunt of a crappy Friday in my stead.

* It's just like how I wake up once every few weeks thinking "Hey! Maybe Melrose Place finally came out on DVD, and I just didn't know about it!" and then I check, and then it's still not out on DVD. Highly disappointing.