Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Amazing Part of It.

There are, to be sure, many amazing things to be found and felt in this world. They run the gamut of the internet, instant mashed potatoes, the changing of the seasons, Trader Joe's, public libraries, childbirth, Randy Jackson's America's Best Dance Crew, modern medicine and the all-knowing, omnipotent Perez Hilton, to name a few. But perhaps one of the most amazing things that can happen is when one realizes the truth of the adage "You learn something new everyday." In my own recent experience, I have found that this "something new" actually relates back to myself, making my realized adage "You learn something new about yourself everyday."

It is true that it bothers me when the kitchen floor sticks and crunches like that of a fraternity house. And never have I been a fan of the rain when it soaks my pant legs up to the knee and makes my socks wet, squishy and cold inside my shoes. Stop and go traffic unsettles my stomach. But never would I have imagined the way my skin would crawl every time my housemate makes a seemingly so innocent comment about my dinner choices.

From Monday to Thursday night, it is a great race to get through the week efficiently and quickly with as little harm as can be managed. It can be tough squeezing in all the things one needs to do, wants to do, talk about, hang out with, see, enjoy and partake in. One solution I have found to help in this balancing act that is known as the work week is my perfection of "quick fix" meals. Although they are quick and easy and ready in the wink of an eye, they are by all means true meals offering great nutritional value, achieving the right balance of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, you name it. At least this is what is promised to me on the sides of information-delivering packaging.

A meal in the heart of India? Instantly transport yourself with Naan and bengal lentils in 10 minutes! Looking for more variety? Spice things up with near-instant pad thai with veggies and peanut sauce over the stove. With such a wide offering of such tremendous, flavorful, nutritious cuisines, Trader Joe's ready-t0-eat and easy-to-prepare foods can hardly be considered your run of the mill frozen TV dinners.

My housemate disagrees. Every night there is hovering. And every night, as he hovers while I cook, he asks questions, too many questions -- "What's that? Is that that bread thing you made the other day? What's that white stuff? I've never seen that before. Whatcha making? Whatcha having? You eat weird things." And always, always, his barrage ends with some variation of "You really like frozen foods don't you?"

As happy and grateful as I am for the research and development team at Trader Joe's, this one question has the ability to ruin it all for me. But it's OK because at least I now know this about myself, that this nightly question is a trigger for ruining a night's meal.

I see no other way around this problem than the solution I have come up with -- I will just have to have a t-shirt made. It will come in a neutral color and will match the rest of my wardrobe. I will simply point down at my shirt and will no longer need to brace myself in preparing to answer calmly. I will just point down to the front which will say "Yes, I am making naan again. That white thing is tofu. And p.s. the answer from last night is still the same -- yes, I like "frozen foods (if you can even call it that).""

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An Unusual Wednesday

Most Wednesday's go like this: they start with maybe the smallest of sighs (have we only really gotten to Wednesday?) which might then turn into a slightly bigger, although still minimal, sigh -- does today require me now to leave this warm, soft place that so cradles my body, my head hugged so lovingly by this pillow, the sheets, the comforter all wrapped so perfectly around me?

After having settled in at our desks, the rest of the day is filled with getting things done that are due on Friday by Thursday so that Friday can be devoted to things that are done expressly on Fridays. (see previous post "On Fridays")

But today was unlike any ordinary Wednesday. I knew this from the beginning, when I walked out of my house and on my way to my car, saw this:
"'Scuse me, just passin' through."

Then, instead of sitting at my desk and staring out the window, I did this:
Posed as a human sign for accurate future sign placement and sizing.

And instead of talking to clients over the phone or in stuffy conference rooms across wide, empty tables, I was talking to people outside of country clubs, behind the kitchen, where management was busy creating special Easter decorations like this one:
"Is it hard being the Easter brunch centerpiece? I'd say so. Everyone always expects me to be so cool."

Who knew wild animal sightings and ice sculptures could break up hump day so well? Now if only I could get a job as a human sign full time...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Fridays

On Friday mornings, we wake up and we feel lighter. When we walk into our offices we feel the air from the door closing behind us -- whoosh! -- and we smile at those we pass, at those who are in their offices early (those damn go-getters!), (but we don't think of this, because it is Friday). Because it is Friday we log into gchat and feel that our casual clothing for the day allows us extra time to sip our coffee, to wake up properly and we IM people on our buddy list with the simple but buoyant "TGIF!"

By 10:00 AM the coffee's not working quickly enough and we start to wonder if we should throw caution to the wind and find a way to inject the caffeine directly into our blood streams.

At 11:00 AM we walk to the bathroom, partly because we need to empty our bladders full of coffee, creamer and Splenda, but mostly we use it as an excuse to get up and walk around and talk about how we can't wait for the day to be over or how happy we are for it to be Friday with our office-confidantes.

By 2:00 PM we decide this is the slowest day we have ever lived.

By 2:23 PM we double, triple check our computer clocks -- only 23 minutes have passed??? Is this right??

By the time 4:00 PM rolls around, the majority of people have ceased pretending to be working at maximum capacity. People might gather around desks and doorways, the conversation topic having nothing to do with the papers they clutch in their hands.

By 5:30 PM, I realize that I have actually spent too much time on all of the above activities and as people are running for the door, I am packing papers and notes into my purse to take home and think about/work on over the weekend. Except over the weekend the papers take up too much space in my purse and I can't be sure my wallet is in there when I leave to get yogurt and the paper-clutter makes it hard to find my pedometer. So nearly without fail, the papers get placed on the floor of my car, behind the driver's seat, and I find my Saturday mornings are instead consumed with catching up on my Us Weekly subscription.

Monday, March 3, 2008

31 Flavors

It was my craving for something rich, creamy and sweet, for something that had a name like "chunky jamoca coca" or "smore'gasbord," that led us to pull on our jackets and climb into the car. When we got there, I decided I wanted to see just what the 31 advertised flavors of the night were and so read the names of each kind of ice cream and its description and then looked up to see if the tub of ice cream matched the image the description had painted in my head.

Strawberry cheesecake or vanilla cream with a swirl of caramel ribbon? Ooh, tough choice. Finally, I settled upon a yogurt variety, promising 30% less fat, but all the flavor! So I ordered one scoop and laid down my $2 gift certificate and one quarter (for tax). The man behind the counter stuck a spoon in the side of the scoop, placed the cup of ice cream before me and said, "You can keep that."

I tore my eyes from the mound of creamy-goodness and looked at him. I can keep that? Of course I would keep it! Safe and sound in my belly where it rightly belonged! And now if he would just take my gift certificate and give me back my 7 cents change... and I pushed my crumpled, dog-eared certificate a centimeter closer. Again, he repeated the same thing, "You can keep that."

A moment passed before it finally registered with me that he meant to tell me that I could keep both the scoop and the gift certificate -- for a later time perhaps. I said "thanks" and retrieved my wrinkled certificate, but left my gleaming quarter sitting there. I gave this another 2 cm. nudge towards him.

"You can keep that, too," he said, wiping his hands on the front of his apron (was he wearing an apron? It seems right that he would be.) Quicker to learn what had happened this time, I thanked him again, dropped my quarter in the paper cup labeled with a Bic pen "tips," grabbed my ice cream scoop up off the counter and whisked around.

To Alan (who is waiting patiently behind me as he does not care for sweets) I do the nod-head thing, the thing that communicates clearly but succinctly, perhaps even discreetly, that a confusing transaction has just occurred and although I am not sure I entirely understand what just happened, it is good, for the current time being it is a good thing and we must make haste and take our exit of the store. ...but he does not understand this head gesture and stops me as I am nearly running out of the store. He wants to know what just happened, but eager to leave, to make away with my free scoop of lowfat Strawberry cheesecake yogurt with the bits of graham cracker crust, I do the quick head gesture once more, and without stopping to see if he is following me, I rush outside.

Outside, the air is calm and cold and seems to break the spell of the free scoop of ice cream, of the man and his "You can keep that's." We get back in the car and we speculate what the motive was behind this act. At first we are careful not to call it an act of kindness. We contemplate that he is flirting with me. I rule this out as Alan was standing right next to me. But then I put this possibility back on the table; perhaps he thought Alan was a friend, maybe a foreign exchange student who had been my pen pal and was now visiting in person. Next we think that maybe since we are still dressed in the clothes we wore hiking earlier that day, the man behind the counter thought we were poor and took pity on us. Alan added that since it was only me who got ice cream, with a gift certificate no less, that maybe it did make us look needy, as if we could afford only the one scoop. Maybe my eyes looked too wide and I took too much time carefully selecting the one scoop I could afford. I hypothesized that maybe he recognized some refugee-roots in me that he saw in himself and offered the free ice cream as a sort of refugee bond. Then we conjectured that maybe he was special and could see into people's futures. That maybe he knew our time of enjoying snacks and delightful treats was nearing an end and so was only doing his part to not change the future but to help us enjoy what time we had left...

Then we turned out of the parking lot and started talking about soup.
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