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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Girl's a Super Freak

I am beyond busy.  Please enjoy a repost from 2012.  :-)

I’ve only been fired once.

It was actually quite unfair, coming as it did during my performance review.

I had been unaware, until it was presented to me, that the one woman in a company of 48 who did not care for me was my boss’s best friend.

And she had made it a point to express her displeasure.

I listened in stunned disbelief as, one week before Christmas, I was let go.

“We could put you on a performance plan,” Nancy said, smiling, “but you’d just burn anyway.”

And that, my friends, was a direct quote.

They had security walk me out, a hiccuping woman clutching both her dignity and a cardboard box stuffed with a year’s worth of work-related detritus.

Karen was already home when I got there. Two single women with their two boys. I sat at the kitchen table with my head in my hands.

Karen poured.

“Here,” she said, handing me a shot of vodka. I held the shot dully, staring inwardly. She fished a pickle out of the jar, handed it to me.

“Nostrovya,” she said.

We downed our vodka, ate our pickles.

And in the morning, my pillow was wet with tears.

A couple months later, Karen moved out, moved in with the man who would become her husband, moved out to the country where she gained acres of land, a four-bedroom house, Rottweilers and chickens and mosquitoes and a commute that made your eyes cross.

I worked odd jobs until the next full-time opportunity came along; and Karen remained at the place from which I had just been fired.

She would call me, from time to time, to share the gossip. So and so had a baby. So and so got a divorce.  And someone had been tampering with Nancy’s office.

Karen laughed gleefully. “Someone’s been doing things to her phone,” she whispers.

I switch ears. “Yeah? What things?”

“Yikes!” she hisses. “I gotta go.”

She called back a day later. “Did I tell you what happened to Nancy?”

Nancy. I may never like another person named “Nancy”.


“Someone came in and smeared dog poop all over her phone!”


Karen’s laughing, and from experience I know she’s going to have to wipe her eyes soon. “Her phone! Hee hee hee! Someone smeared what appears to be DOG poop on her phone and now they’re talking about setting up surveillance video! Oops. Shoot. I gotta go.”

She hangs up.

That afternoon, I flip through my mail: bills, circulars – and a newsletter from my old place of employment: Sales are up, costs are down, a recipe from someone in Marketing.

And a short article, written by Karen, about her Rottweilers.

Karen’s dogs.


I run to the phone.

“Good afternoon, Free Market Slave Trade.”

“May I speak with Karen, please?”

“Hold, please.”

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking, and when she passes – 
“Good afternoon. This is Karen.”

I utter a string of excitable curse words, and Karen starts laughing. “What’s going on with you?”

“I know who smeared the dog poop on Nancy’s phone!”

The line goes absolutely silent.

“Karen, did you just write an article for your company’s newsletter?”

Continued silence.

“More to the point, did you write about your dogs?”

The silence, if possible, becomes even more silent.

“!@#$!@*!! They’re going to fire me,” she says, finally.

“Nah,” I said. “They got nothin'. You look like an angel, and everyone loves you.”

She sighs. “I gotta go,” she says.

“Hey, Karen?”



“She just made me so damn mad,” she says.

“I love you,” I say.

“I love you, too.”

And we laugh.

The surveillance camera never went up, Nancy was fired less than a year later, and the mystery of who smeared the dog poop on her phone remained, officially, unsolved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bus Lessons: Despite What You May Have Been Told, You're Not All That Special

The woman in front of me is becoming more irritated by the moment, the very pitch of her head giving off cartoon stink-lines of frustration.

You see, the elderly man sharing a seat with me is tapping his hand on the back of her seat.

It’s not even the back of her seat, per se, that he is patting, but the seat that will eventually be occupied by whoever sits next to her.

Tap. Tap. Tap. His hands are freckled, big-knuckled, and deliberate. He’s not wearing an iPod; but his head is nodding in time, his hand lightly patting the seat.

He hears music.

She turns to glare at him, her shiny, smooth hair swirling prettily with the movement. She is fashionable but anxious, her immaturity lending a thoughtlessness I'll bet she's unaware of to the outfit. She has been inconvenienced. She pulls out her phone and texts in short, staccato bursts.

The world should know how bothered she is.

From the old man’s side, there is no indication that he has seen her expression. Perhaps he’s grown used to it, the frustrated annoyance of a world that goes faster every day. He smiles vaguely at her, a brief acknowledgement of her presence, his thoughts with whatever music is playing in his head.

I want to tap her on the shoulder, tell her to relax, that it’s beyond her control, that someday she, too, will be old and on the bus.

That the light-handed tapping of an old man is nothing to fret about.

But she would never believe me.

And so I do what the bus has taught me: I go back to my iPod, to my own music, leaning back and being appreciative, again, of no longer being young.

Because it looks as exhausting as I remember it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The View from the Bus

It is 6:47 on a Tuesday morning. 

You can imagine my excitement. 

It’s true I made it through Monday with minimal trauma, but when you wake up on a Tuesday morning wondering if it’s Friday yet, you’re in trouble.

Frankly, every time someone says something derogatory about Monday, Tuesday laughs silently, its bright eyes crinkling in amusement.

I’ve foregone my usual iPod diversion on this day.  It is too cold to pull it out of my purse, the mercury reaching an anemic 9 degrees Fahrenheit; and even if I wanted to take off my gloves to work the touch screen, somehow, at this temperature, the earbuds will just fall out of my ears anyway.

Tuesday. Tuesday in the winter. 

The bus is warm, though; and after coughing asthmatically into my elbow for a bit, I close my eyes. 

And when I open them, a couple stops later, I look out the window.  There is a man there.  Hatless, gloveless, an unzipped, thin cotton jacket his only protection against the wind that Canada insists we share in. 

Hey.  The man spreads his arms wide, grinning.  You lookin’ good.  What you doin’ later?

Well that’s different.  I don’t think I’ve ever been hit on through a bus window.


I turn my head, look around the bus.

Yep.  He’s talking to me. 

I turn back to the window, spread my hands, mouth my response.  Dude, where’s your coat?

The bus pulls away.

I close my eyes, smiling.

I still got it. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning: or My Bus is Bigger Than Your Bus

Six-thirty-something a.m.  Minneapolis is a cold, dark place, a place where, 150 years or so ago, a band of dour Norwegian bachelor farmers stopped their oxen, looked around, and muttered, “Oh, vell.  Vhy not.”

And lo these many years gone by, we continue, both the Norwegian and your standard Wegian, to look around, shrug, and mutter “Oh, well....”

These are the thoughts I have on this, a Monday, the 17th of November.

The bus arrives, as the bus is wont to do, and I step, gratefully, into its warm, utilitarian embrace. I wave my bus pass in front of the doohickey until it beeps, then proceed to my favorite seat, the seat I will always take if it is available, the seat up those last two steps at the back of the bus, next to the back door and the dark, domed lens of the video camera.

Rest assured, people, that should anything felonious/interesting happen to me on the bus, it is my fondest wish that it be videotaped.

Seated, I leave the rest of the commute to the bus driver.  O, how I love him/her.  Their chosen occupation leaves me free to file my nails, place random texts to friends I suspect are also up at this hour, stare out the window at other buses…

The light turns red, and we come to a stop as another bus pulls up, also stops.

I find myself staring out the window at the passengers on this other bus.

I turn back to my bus.  We have 20 people, not including the bus driver.

I turn back to their bus.  I count 18 people.

And just like that, I am wondering if we can take them in a fight.  That one guy up front, the one with the cane and the shaky walk, I’m willing to bet he can swing that thing when called upon to do so.  The black pony-tailed Hispanic gals – how much Spanish do I know, anyway?  We’ll have to pantomime the whole “I’ll go high, you go low” bit, but they look sturdy.

I look over at the other bus.  Pffft.  Three of their guys are sleeping, heads against the glass!

I smile, nod to myself as the light turns green.

Yep.  We could totally take that bus in a fight.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hold On. I'll Just Need to Take my Shoes Off for a Moment...

The last year or so has been a challenge at work that I have not only sullenly risen to meet but one in whose eye I have regularly spit.

How’s that for awkward?

It is, of course, no more awkward than the many reports I’ve been asked to pull and manipulate. Ask anyone at work and they’ll tell you: Pearl enjoys a good swift numerical beating. I am continually surrounded by aggressive, uncooperative numbers. Some of them black and haughty, others red and thumbing their negative noses in my direction, they swirl around my head, tangle in my earrings and cause me to say things like “Have you checked the date parameters?” and “Q2 is dead! Long live Q3!”

Don’t get the wrong idea. Some of my best friends are numbers. I once dated a number! But I’m a verbal kinda gal. I’m comfortable with the printed word, with speech. For example, when people start talking in circles? I’m quite good at getting to the heart of something, verbally. I’m not one for the ol’ “for the purposes of this argument, we’ll use this word to mean this.” No, sorry. We won’t. Any time someone wants to amend the meaning of a word, it’s because they want that word’s dignity to be associated with what they’re about to sell you.

Pay no attention to the poop on the sidewalk! We prefer to call it “urban mousse”.
Hmmm. I don’t know where that came from.

Ah, yes. Numbers.

While I may have a good solid grasp on the English language and can understand other languages what are close to it, I’m afraid I might be one of those people who can be duped out of money through numerical chicanery.

“Do you have change for a twenty?”

No. No, I don’t; and even if I did, I would tell you that I didn’t, because within a couple exchanges, I will have given you a twenty, there would be some fast-talking, perhaps some flirtation, and I’d walk away with a ten-dollar bill, red-faced and wondering what the hell just happened.

It hasn’t happened yet, but it could.

I don’t know. I don’t know where I went wrong. One day I knew exactly what I was doing, the next day I was being asked to pull together a monthly forecast by region and would I drill down to the office level and include columns speaking to the percentage of change from one week to the next.


I said, “Of course,” but I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Claudia tells me I’m just that much more a valued employee, that I’m “knowledge-based”, which I think is sneaky-number-talk for “fast 10-keyer”. I’m on to her.

So I take copious notes and ask a lot of questions, because when times are hard and you’re given the opportunity to add on to your skill set, you do it. I’m no dummy.

Now if I could just get the ringing, elfin laughter of the numbers out of my head...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Support the Left, Though I'm Leaning to the Right, with apologies to Cream*

If you’re coming downtown, bring a sharp stick with you.

The skyways, a second-floor Habitrail-like system linking buildings together and designed to keep Minneapolitans out of the snow and within walking distance of their desks (to make money) and fine retail shops (to spend money), are beginning to fill.

Let the seasonal clogging begin.

And let your notions of how things work fall by the wayside.

I don’t know what it is, this need for the Christmas shoppers to walk down the center of a skyway surely wide enough for everyone, but there you have it. Heavily weighed down by coats, boots, purses, and the odd toddler or two, the urge to run screaming, throwing elbows and coffee, sweeps over me, and I am left trembling in its wake.

I am not a violent person, no matter what you’ve read.

There are rules to the skyway, dagnabit! They are simple, easy-to-follow and rather intuitive, assuming you’ve brought your common sense with you.

But for those who know people who have turned their common sense in for, say, a 48-ounce Slurpee or the like, perhaps you could pass this along: in Minneapolis, like in so many other upstanding cities, we walk on the right. Ergo, if you are walking down a hall and it appears that if you continue on as you are that you will be hit head-on by a large crowd, odds are good that you are on the wrong side of said hall.

Move over!

It boggles the mind, how many people will continue to walk on the wrong side, pushing strollers, talking on phones, seemingly oblivious that people are stepping out of their way to avoid hitting them.

Perhaps they are all from other countries. Perhaps they all drive on the left and not the right. Rules are, after all, made by the people that use them. In Minneapolis, we stand to the right when riding the escalator to allow the chronically late and the terminally ambitious to pass us on the left. We allow the elderly and handicapped access to the seats at the front of the bus. We offer to buy drinks for the poor and writer-ly among us…

But wait! What if not everyone knew these things? What if, say, Monday was our day to hang our rugs out on the balcony and beat the dirt out of them? What if everyone knew it, absolutely everyone knew it, but suddenly a large influx of Aleutians move into our building and in their world Monday was the day to clean a week’s worth of fish out on the balcony? Before you know it, there are rugs covered with fish entrails! Fish covered with cat hair and boot droppings! Chaos ensues, words are exchanged, and dinner is ruined!

Holy Hannah! Run for the shelters!

Breathe in. Breathe out. That’s what I need: deep breaths, tolerance and understanding.

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll need a sharp stick.

* One line among many from the song “The Politician” by Cream

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Squeakers Will Cripple You Now

From 2009, whilst I prepare for a public reading tonight.  The venue holds five, I believe, and so I shall be forced to read while sitting sitting on someone's lap.  Cheers!

Dolly “Gee” Squeakers, formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers, embraces the changing of the seasons.

Have you met? Dolly Gee, aka Dali G, aka Kitty! Get Down! is a long-haired Siamese mix of some sort, a cross-eyed, blue-eyed cat with gum disease.

She came that way. “She appears to have a bit of gingivitis,” I believe the Humane Society’s statement was.

Ah, well, so she’s had some troubles. Could happen to anyone.

Of course, it’s not until Dolly fixes her crossed, bright-blue eyes on your face – one on your eye, one on your nose – and begins her monologue that you realize she’s got, like, a total of four teeth.

Apparently, gingivitis is not to be trifled with.

Dolly’s been through a lot in her short little life and telling you about it is one of her pleasures. Her shiny black lips part, join, and part again over tiny, sharp teeth. Dolly no doubt thinks her stories are fabulous; and when she’s going on and on about whatever it is she’s saying, I can’t look away.

The fact that she has only four teeth and still manages to be quite attractive? Not everyone can pull that look off.

You’d think there’d be more to say about Dolly Gee, but you’d be wrong. Aside from her penchant for laying flat on her back, staring at you whilst upside down, and her belief that one should snack, all day, every day, there’s not much else to her, unlike Liza Bean, who, last I heard, is working with David Gilmour on some experimental music due to be released around the holidays.

No. Dolly Gee’s a good cat, a neat cat, a cat with all four paws on the ground – and a cat now taking up a quarter of my half of the bed.

There’s been an invasion of sorts.

Liza “Bean” Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys), being the clever, tiny being that she is, is on the bed year-round, snugged into the space behind Willie’s knees.

But Dolly? Dolly Gee’s long-haired cat-ness does not allow for year-round coddling. She’ll keep her distance, thank you, and lays during the spring and summer months with her belly exposed to the electric fan. 

But ladies and gentlemen, the seasons done changed; and with that change has come the crowding of the bed.

Let’s put it this way: If the bed were a clock, I’d be sleeping between 9:00 and 12:00.

I have it coming, though, don’t I? This is what happens when you let cats into your house.

Rats. I’m going to need to have my legs removed below the knee. There simply isn’t room for them.