Saturday, December 29, 2012

Many Happy Returns

Technically, I’m thirty years old today, but it’s possible I’m not thirty until next month, unless I’ve actually been thirty since September. It’s kind of a long story.


“I hope your daddy told you it would be on the 29th,” grandma said while we were discussing the upcoming family Christmas party.

“He did not,” I said.

“Shame on him! I assigned him that over Thanksgiving!”

“No problem,” I said. “I had no plans.”


It was only later I got sad about it.

It’s my birthday!

My 30th birthday!

It’s supposed to be a milestone! It’s supposed to be special!

And I’m spending it at a Christmas party?

“I suggest you quickly make awesome birthday plans,” Sarah told me, playing the part of my shoulder devil. “And then tell them, ‘Sorry, can’t come. Awesome birthday plans.’”

“Actually, maybe I could come to town early and meet you for lunch beforehand. Just so I can have a separate birthday celebration on my actual birthday.”

“You could do that,” she said. “Or you could just be like, ‘Sorry, I have plans that day, since it’s MY BIRTHDAY and all.’”


But family Christmas was scheduled for lunch time. So much for birthday lunch plans, I thought. “Any chance we can move it to five or six?” I asked grandma on the phone.

“Honey,” she said with genuine concern, “do you have other plans that day?”

“Well, it’s… just…” and I stumbled over the words, not wanting to spell it out. “It’s my birthday.”

“I know that, but did you have other plans?”

I sighed. “No, not especially.”


I moped. I complained to anyone who would listen.

Christmas ate my birthday!

It had come down to choosing between Christmas and my birthday and it wasn’t fair! Other people don’t have to make this decision. Other people get to have two separate celebrations each year: one for Christmas, and one just for them.

I’m getting the short end of the peppermint stick here and I don’t have to take it!

“I’m thinking of moving my birthday,” I told Charlotte at work.

“That seems very sensible of you. What date did you have in mind?”

“I’m not rightly sure,” I said. “I was leaning toward October, since it’s my favorite month. I went to an October birthday party once and it was fantastic.”

“Lots of fun decorations in October,” Charlotte said, nodding.

“But, well, the only problem with my current birthday,” I said, glossing over the fact that it’s my only birthday, “is that it’s too close to a major holiday and I don’t want to make the mistake of just swapping out one holiday for another.”

“That is a conundrum,” said Charlotte.

“So I’m leaning toward September. There are no major holidays in September. Possibly on the seventeenth. I think I’d like to have it on a day with a seven in it.”

“I can see you’ve given this a lot of thought.”

“More than you’ll ever know.”


There were complications with this plan, of course. If my birthday was going to be September 17th from now on, did that mean I was already thirty, or that I wouldn’t be thirty until next year? Would this make me older than my husband?

But Sarah thought it was a great idea. “Maybe I could change mine to the same day and we could be twins,” she said. “Have you looked at June? No major holidays in June either. We could have pool parties.”

“That’s it!” I said. “I’ll have a floating birthday! This year, I’ll just move it to January 29th. In 2014, I’ll move it to February 28th, then March, then April. In 2017, we can be twins on your birthday. In six years, I’ll have a pool party, and then in ten years I can have the Halloween birthday I’ve always wanted!”

“That’s awesome!”

And my Facebook status that afternoon read: “This is just a heads up, everybody: My birthday has moved. If you have any songs or gifts or cards or cakes or well-wishes, please hang on to those until January 29.”


“What’s this?” Matt said when he saw the Facebook post that night.

“Oh, that! I’m moving my birthday.”

“Moving it?”

“It’s my new floating birthday plan.” I briefly laid it out for him. “And in twelve years, when I’m 42, it will be in December again! Unless I’m 43… I’m not entirely clear on how the math works out.”

“Stop,” he said, holding a hand up. “Why are you doing this again?”

“Because I don’t want Christmas for my birthday!”

“And have you adequately explained this to your family?”

“They should know by now!” I said.

“Have you told them, specifically, that you would like to keep Christmas separate from your birthday?”

“Aside from hanging out with loved ones, what else would I be doing for my birthday? How am I supposed to tell them that getting together for food and fellowship isn’t what I want? That’s crazy!”

“Dear, moving your birthday sounds crazy. You have to call your grandmother and talk to her.”

“It’s just easier to change my birthday,” I said.

He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed deeply. "For the love of God, don't say that when you call her. There are like four different ways you can inflect that statement and all of them are sarcastic."


And the phone call started out a little like this: “Matt said I had to call you because I sound crazy but I assure you I’m not crazy.”

And it ended with, “I understand completely! Why don’t we move the Christmas party to dinner so you can have lunch with your friends?”


Yesterday, my coworkers threw me a thirtieth birthday party. Today, I had another party with my friends. Then I had family Christmas but with plenty of “Happy Birthdays” thrown in for good measure.

When all was said and done at the end of the day, I got on Facebook to tell everyone thanks for making my birthday special.

Only Facebook still thought my birthday was January 29th.

“Oops… Let me just…  there. Fixed it.”

Maybe it is a little crazy, but it is startlingly easy to change your birthday.

I changed mine into something wonderful, with a little help from all of you.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Discontent of Our Winters

“I’ve heard of that,” a coworker said, “but that’s not a real thing, is it?”

It is.

I have it.

Let me try to describe it for you.


Winter Depression.

Sheesh, that’s depressing.

Can we call it something else?

There’s a technical name for it: “Seasonal Affective Disorder.”

Or SAD for short.

Are you kidding me? Really?

Like I’m supposed to buck up and be happy when the scientific name for what’s wrong with me is that I’m sad?

I’m not going to call it that. I’m giving it a new, more apt name.

Winter Malaise, perhaps.

Winter Hibernation, like with bears.

Winter Lethargy.

Or we can skip the negative connotations altogether and call it Spring Anticipation.


I suspect I’m a lesser child of Krypton, on account of I draw my powers from Earth’s yellow sun. While the days are long and bright, I’m a normal human being. I love my husband, my friends, my job, my house, my hobbies. Every summer, I feel like I’m living the highest high life ever: I’m warm and happy.
Every summer, I think I’ve cured myself of this thing, that it won’t happen again.
By God, I’ve got it too good to let a little weather get me down.

But somewhere around October, a switch flips.

The shorter, darker days become a fog, a layer of cotton batting between my body and my brain, dulling all sensations. I live in that muffled feeling you have when you know it’s snowed outside even before you look out the window. There’s a disconnect between me and everything not me.
It’s not depression.

It’s straight up laziness.


In the winter, when the sun rises later, waking up in the morning is akin to emerging from anesthesia after surgery. There’s a bone-deep fatigue no caffeine could touch. If I had a bathtub full of coffee, I’d fall asleep in it and drown. Any day I don’t have to get up and go places, this is not a problem.

But every workday is an uphill struggle. If I can just get myself out of bed, if I can just get myself through my shower, if I can just get myself to work, if I can make it to my lunch break, if I can make it through the afternoon, if I can make it through my errands, if I can make it home, then I can go straight to bed and everything will be fine.

On evenings and weekends, I have a lockdown procedure in place: my home is a carefully maintained environment. I have tea, microwavable pillows, a fireplace. I can wear fluffy scarves and fluffy hats and hide under fluffy blankets. If I turn on all the lights, I can pretend it’s not winter.

Like, maybe it’s actually summer. Maybe it’s all in my head. Yeah, guys. I’m fine! No problems here! A-Okay!

I’m like Schrodinger’s Agoraphobic Neighbor: until you open my door, I could go either way.


It’s not that I don’t want to go places and do things. It may cross my mind that going out for Mexican food would be a super fun dinner plan, for example. It’s just that it’s cold outside. I will raid my pantry and eat plain black beans straight out of a can rather than roust myself from this super comfy couch, or change out of these pajamas which I’ve only just warmed up. Body heat aint cheap, you know; wouldn’t want to waste any.

I will make no plans. Planning not to have plans becomes the order of the day. I morph into the great anti-socialite and plan to do nothing.

And this would be fine if there weren’t five hundred holidays sandwiched between Halloween and Easter.

“I’d love to!” I say when cheerful people call me, and I say it with a smile, in case they can hear my facial expressions, but I don’t want to go.

The day of the party, I still won’t want to go. I practice my plastered smile on the car ride over, so I don’t look like the saddest party guest in the whole history of human festivities.

Once I get there, I’ll have fun.

But the funnest part will be when I get to go home afterwards.


The world is not ending just because it’s dark outside.

I say it over and over again.

I remind myself that it will not be cold forever.

I remind myself that there are plenty of good things in life. I have books and movies and video games and yoga and my guitar, and I don’t have to leave the house for any of those. It’s warm in here and I’m fine. Thick socks are cheap. Scarves are stylish. There will always be more tea. The engine runs on tea.

But I’m not depressed. I’m too busy keeping warm to be depressed. I’m too tired to be depressed. It takes every ounce of energy I have to focus on being present in this room right now, rather than thinking about my bed and the twelve hour nap I’m not letting myself take. Who has time to be depressed?

It’s just that I’ll be happier when winter’s over.

Spring Anticipation.

It’s a real thing.

I have it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Picture of Torian Gray

“Let’s play a game,” said Don. “Let’s go around the table and everyone tell something we don’t know about you.”

Matt’s club had decided to have their Christmas party at the hibachi place. The waitresses had only just finished gathering dishes and handing out to-go boxes, but the party goers weren’t going anywhere for a little while yet.

I laughed along with everyone else as the other guests told tales of celebrity encounters or drunken antics, and at least one case of both at the same time, until the game circled its way around the table to me.

“How about it?” said another party guest. “Any wild tequila parties at the library?”

“Nothing like that,” I said. “But I was a nude model for an artist once.”

The table erupted.


The story isn’t actually as interesting as it sounds.

When we were poor newlyweds just starting college, there was a sign outside one of the art buildings: “Nude models wanted for figure drawing class.” They paid by the hour for people to stand there naked.

Did I mention we were poor?

But on the day of the interview, the interviewer was built: a perfect specimen of humanity.

And I was not.

So I turned around and walked out without saying a word.

That’s not the story.


The story starts ten years after that. Or about six months ago. I was yelling at my computer.

“How is it right for anyone to have that much talent?” I demanded. Lonnie’s facebook page was full of art. Again.

My friend was working on his art degree, and I routinely drooled over the pictures he posted of his paintings in progress, such as this one of his wife Randi wearing one of her ren fair outfits. I clicked on the picture for a closer look. Pretty, I thought.

Then I saw the rather long status update: “I’m planning to do series of paintings,” Lonnie said. “I will need at least six models. I’ll be taking pictures,” I read, and at the bottom, “Message me if you are interested.”

Ooh! I want to be in a painting! I thought. “Sounds fun. I’d do it,” I posted in reply. Maybe my painting will look as nice as Randi’s does…

I was a little confused when Lonnie sent me a private message later saying, “I assume you meant clothed, but were you willing to do any kind of nude?”

I read the message again.

One more time.

I went back to the original status update. No, there it was: between “need six models” and “message me” was the phrase, “Need a few willing to do nude poses.”

I must have missed that part.

And then I experienced an epiphany: hadn’t I thought about posing nude once before and chickened out?

Am I a chicken who is ashamed of her body?

Or am I an adventurer?

What would Curious F-ing George do?

I replied to Lonnie’s message with, “Draw me like one of your French girls!”


“Just promise not to kill him, alright?” I added, after discussing the details of the upcoming photo-shoot with Matt. I had engineered the conversation to take place during his shower so he couldn’t run away.

“I… I just… Can I…?” Matt stuttered. “Doesn’t it feel weird that you’re going to be naked in front of one of your friends? Who is also a guy?”

“Not really,” I said, striving to keep it casual as I combed my hair. “Sarah and Randi will be nearby.”

“But isn’t that weird?” Matt asked, sincerely.

“Sarah’s seen me naked hundreds of times and with Randi it would have happened eventually.”

From the shower, there was silence except for the running water. Then, “I can honestly say I’ve never seen any of our friends naked, and they’ve never seen me.”

“What a dull little life you lead!” I said, applying my deodorant. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“I left it in my other pants!” Matt declared.

“That’s your problem! You shouldn’t keep your adventure in your pants.”

“Where would you keep it then?”

“Hang on!” I said. “I’ve just remembered! I’m fairly sure Randi saw me naked while we were changing in the bathroom after that pool party!”



“That was so cool of you to agree to be a nude model for Lonnie,” Randi said the weekend before the shoot while we were in town for ren fair.

“It’s basically the best diet ever,” I said, as Randi, Sarah, and I browsed the fair shops in front of the castle. “Every time I pass a donut, I think, ‘nude model, nude model, nude model,’ and I find previously untapped reserves of self control.” That got a laugh.

“Are you nervous?” Sarah asked

“No way!” I said, with fragile bravado. “I’m in the best shape of my life, imperfect though that shape may be. I need a permanent record of this hotness before it all goes downhill. I’ll call it the Picture of Torian Gray.” We exited a corset shop and found ourselves facing a vendor selling chocolate fudge. “Did he say ‘rum butter’?” I mused.

“Nude model,” Sarah said.



It was a bit like a party at first. Sarah and Randi were indeed nearby. Lonnie had planned to artistically photograph me doing yoga, so Randi did a yoga routine with me to warm up while Lonnie and Sarah fiddled with the lighting. Sandy chatted at us in the background. Matt and Alex, Sarah’s husband, discussed the movie they were going to see during the photo shoot.

But then it was time to get naked and all of my other friends evaporated, leaving me alone in the room with Lonnie, who is my friend.

And also a guy.

But mostly my friend, and it wasn’t weird at all. We talked about work, and the ren fair, and books we’ve read, and music we liked, and it all would have been perfectly normal except that I was naked and he was holding a camera.

And every now and then we both laughed uncontrollably at the situation, but otherwise, perfectly normal.


“So I did some yoga poses and he took pictures to paint later.”

The party goers stared in stunned silence, minus a few murmured comments. Finally Don said, “Okay, Tori wins. That calls for applause.”

I didn’t need the applause, of course, but it was nice.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How to Clean the Popcorn Popper

Dear library employee or volunteer,

If you have taken over this responsibility from me, I am either dead or now outrank you - in either event, you have been promoted. Congratulations!
Ooh, popcorn! We love popcorn, right?

Now that you are in charge of family movie night, part of your job is to pop the popcorn. Unfortunately, you are also the cleaner of the popcorn popper. How sad for you.

As I have endured this procedure one too many times (ie ever), I have this process down to a science that minimizes discomfort. I share this knowledge with you from the goodness of my heart.

Step 1: Make peace with the popcorn.
This is what the "Authentic Butter Flavor" looks like before you cook it.
If you love popcorn, I’m sorry. (Read this in the voice of David Tenant as the tenth Doctor: I am so so sorry.) The knowledge of what is in your popcorn is a killing knowledge. You will die a little inside every time that “authentic butter flavor” residue touches your skin. After your cleaning experience today, you will never be able to enjoy popcorn again. If any is leftover from the movie earlier, have a seat and eat it. The popper can wait.

Step 2: Prepare yourself, your supplies, and your soul.
Break out your ipod and play something catchy, like “Eye of the Tiger” or “The Touch”. You will need
a. an empty sink
b. a full bottle of dish soap
c. a full roll of paper towels
d. a hazmat suit.
If you do not have a hazmat suit, that’s okay: you will not actually contract a horrible oily plague from touching the “authentic butter flavor” residue; you'll just feel like you have. Pray if you must. Doubtless some deity will listen, but none will offer aid.

Step 3: Scald yourself.
Fill the sink with hot water and about half the bottle of dish soap. The water will never be hot enough, as the “authentic butter flavor” residue can only be destroyed in the fires of Mordor from which it was forged, but do what you can, keeping in mind that after you have scalded all life and feeling from your hands, you will no longer be able to feel the “authentic butter flavor” residue.  

Step 4: Put on the hazmat suit.
Gather all the loose equipment except the kettle, such as the popcorn scooper, the catch tray, and the popper doors, and – without touching any of it – put it in the water to soak. Do not soak the kettle. The kettle is equipped with an electrical box and getting electrocuted isn’t fun for anyone. Put the kettle in the EMPTY half of the sink and fill it with hot soapy water. Let everything soak.

Step 5: Get used to yellow.
Now you can wipe down the insides of the box. Start with a generous handful of paper towels. (If you’re cheap or environmentally conscious, you may use a real cloth instead, provided you never want to use that cloth ever again.) Dip the paper towels in the hot soapy water and proceed to wipe down the glass walls of the popper’s box. These towels will come away yellow. Throw them away.
Next use a handful of wet paper towels, without soap. These will also come away yellow. Throw them away.
Now wipe the box with some dry paper towels – they’re still going to come away yellow.
End by spraying the box with glass cleaner and wiping down with fresh paper towels. You’ll begin to notice that the glass is looking nice and clean, although the paper towels are still coming away yellow. It’s best not to think about this.
However, if you did eat some of that popcorn in step 1, think about your arteries. Maybe consider some more time at the gym later.

Step 6: Confront the cauldron.
While you were cleaning the popper box, the sink full of soapy water was losing the battle against the “authentic butter flavor” residue. Your sink full of soapy water has become a cauldron full of thin, runny, “authentic butter flavor” residue, with soap bubbles in it.
You will have to put your hands in there.
I can’t talk about this. Figure it out for yourself.

Step 7: Cry.
By this time, the “authentic butter flavor” residue has corrupted your cells, like an inoperable cancer. Someday you will get used to the nasty “authentic butter flavor” residue: this is a sign that your soul has died and you are a hollow husk of your former self, but until that day, wash your hands as many times as you like.
It won’t work.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

He Blinded Me with Science

The first time we watched Big Bang Theory, we laughed at the nerds and their awkward social skills. Finally, some TV characters we could relate to! Sure, they’re supposed to be geniuses, but we like the same shows, play the same games, and laugh at the same jokes!

But then, during one episode, Matt, breathless with laughter, gasped out, “The equation! The math on the board behind them! It actually goes with what they’re talking about!”

“Really?” I said. “That’s cute.”

“This show is hilarious,” he said.

“You know, babe,” I said. “I don’t think other people are laughing at the same thing you’re laughing at.”

Equations aren’t the least bit funny. I used to proofread his science papers in college, skipping the mathematical bits. “Is this really what you mean here?” I asked once.

“Yeah, because look at these variables,” he replied, pointing to an equation where N equaled a squiggle unless X was blue.

I stared. “It’s like a horrid massacre of numbers and letters!”

“Mostly letters,” he said. “Few numbers were inconvenienced in its making.” He spent the next several minutes explaining it to me.

I shook my head, sadly. “The guts of language!” I said. “Strewn across the page as a sacrifice to some dead Greek mathematician! Strewn! Like chicken entrails!”

He really wants me to understand, which would be cute if it wasn’t so much like homework. Because I love my scientist, I smile and listen, asking clarifying questions when he pauses for breath or dramatic effect.

“So you’re saying the particles can move through walls?” I asked in our dark bedroom one cold December night, snuggled under a mound of rumpled blankets.

“They call it quantum tunneling,” he said.

I couldn’t read his expression in the dark. “You’re just making that up, right?” I said.

“No, it’s a real thing!”

I socked him with a pillow. “You just put the word ‘quantum’ in front of something and you expect me to fall for it?”

“I’m serious!” he said, socking me back. “They move through walls!”

In case you’re wondering, it is a real thing, and he’ll never let me live that down.

“I don’t even hear it anymore,” said Sandy, whose husband is also a scientist.

“Did we tell you about the elevator music theory?” asked Sarah.

“No,” I said. “What’s that?”

“When you put them in a room together and they start talking, eventually everything they say transforms into elevator music in the background.”

I looked across the room where our husbands were deep in a discussion about the feasibility of the siege weapons at the Battle of Pelennor Fields in Return of the King. The melodic cadence of their voices was only occasionally marred by words like “stone”, “momentum”, and “trebuchet”.

“You’re right,” I said. “I don’t hear it anymore either.”

He must have known I wasn’t hearing his lecture on the state of the national debt because he stopped to ask, “Don’t these numbers fascinate you?”

“No,” I said. “To be honest, they confuse and terrify me.”

“An octillion would be bigger than Avogadro’s number.”

I vaguely remembered that from high school chemistry. “I knew what that was once,” I said.

“Six point oh-two times ten to the twenty-third,” he supplied helpfully.

“Yup, that’s the one,” I said.

He shook his head at me. “How does your brain not work that way?”

“You’ve got the numbers, I’ve got the…” I trailed off. What did I have? Oh, yes. I pointed at the notebook in my lap where I was journaling. “Words and things.”

He raised an eyebrow at me. “Word things?”

“Yes, you’ve got the numbers. I’ve got the word things.”

Sometimes, it’s like we’re speaking different languages. Even when we’re watching a movie together, we’re not watching the same movie.

“That bridge is structurally unsound,” he said during Van Helsing. “Especially with that chunk missing out of the middle like that. Those supports on the end wouldn’t be enough. The whole thing should have buckled by now.”

“The movie is about vampires and werewolves and you’re complaining about that?”

“It bugs me!” he said, defensively.

“It’s a fantasy movie!” I said. “Suspend disbelief!”

I still can’t get him to suspend disbelief. “I’ve done the math,” he said during Avengers. “The most successful heli-vehicles weigh no more than 6 tons. The smallest aircraft carriers weigh 12 tons. The heli-carrier would need at least 600 of those rotar-blades. It’s just not possible.”

I rolled my eyes at him, “Asgard isn’t real either. Just saying.”

Sometimes he really wants these things to be real. I once thought he would sink into a depression over what he thought was an error in the new Star Trek movie. "I noticed that they have transporter pads on the shuttles, so why didn't they just transport Kirk Sr. off the bridge at the last second?"

"Because then there wouldn’t be a movie," I said, like someone trained in literary theory. "How did you notice there were transporter bays in the shuttles?"

"In that scene on the ice planet where Spock beams Scotty and Kirk onto the Enterprise, he was using a transporter inside a shuttle."

"Well, that scene is supposed to be 25 years later, right? Maybe the older models didn't have transporters?"

"No," he said. "I went back and watched both scenes several times. Not only can you see the handrails for the transporter bay in the first scene, you can also tell that the shuttles in the two scenes are the same model."
"That's very thorough of you," I said.

After an hour and a lengthy discussion, we came up with an agreeable explanation: They couldn't beam Kirk Sr. off the bridge because the ship and the shuttles were both moving. They mention the difficulty of transporting moving targets at least three other times in the film, showing that it’s a dangerous procedure and takes great skill.

His face beamed. You would have thought we had cracked the Da Vinci Code there in our living room.

Unsolvable puzzles turn up in our living room all the time. 

“I bought this mirror,” I said, pointing to the giant frame he couldn’t possibly have missed.

“How the heck did you get that thing home?” he asked.

“Grandma helped.”

“Oh, good grief,” he said.

“I need to hang it above the couch,” I said, pointing, “right there.”

He knelt beside the mirror, testing its weight. I could almost hear gears turning. “We might have to rig up a pulley system. If I start with a board, and attach hooks here and here-”

“Don’t tell me about it,” I said. “Just tell me what to do.”

“Let’s go to the hardware store.”

Just Yesterday
We wouldn’t be going anywhere all weekend, not with his sprained ankle. “I’m sorry I ruined your plans!” he said as we crawled into bed.

“It’s okay,” I lied. “They weren’t elaborate plans.”

“We could go anyway?” he said, but in a way that implied he hoped I’d say no.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Maybe we’ll order a pizza, watch some Big Bang Theory. We can still have fun.”

“Okay,” he said.

Then after several minutes of quiet in the dark, he said, “Will you sing ‘Soft Kitty’ to me?”

I laughed, but remembered the appropriate response. “You’re not sick. You’re injured.”

Right on cue, he said, “Injured is a kind of sick.”

So I sang “Soft Kitty” to my ailing scientist and kissed him goodnight.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday, Every Day

“If we skipped Thanksgiving dinner to wait in line,” Matt’s dad said, leafing through circulars before the big meal, “we can get a free door prize worth up to $100, like a grill or some camping equipment.”

This was not a thing I wanted to do, but I tried to keep an open mind. “Do you want any of those door prizes so badly that you’d pay full price for them?” I said.

“No,” he said quickly, his tone implying otherwise would be the height of stupidity.

“Then why take it for free? If you don’t want it enough to buy it, you obviously don’t really want it.”

“Because I could get it for free then sell it for half price on ebay,” he said, sipping his Starbucks.

I nodded. “I could just pay you $50 to stand in line all day and miss Thanksgiving dinner…”

“You’re right,” he laughed. “It’s not worth it.”


I have nightmares about it.
The crowds overwhelm me.
So many people, so many of them angry.
I stand no chance against them and have no right to be there.

And that’s just going to the grocery store on an idle Wednesday in July.

Obviously, I don’t shop the Black Friday sales.

In fact, I avoid the mall and the big box stores throughout the Christmas shopping season.
I continue to avoid them in January, when the stores are filled with people returning the things other people painstakingly bought for them in December.

I may not set foot in a store again until February. Or maybe March. Or maybe never.


I don't understand Black Friday because I have a bit of a spending problem.

Not the kind of spending problem where I buy things on credit and swim in a mire of debt.

I literally have a problem putting myself in situations where money will be spent.

When I was a child we didn’t have a lot of money. The rest of my family enjoyed window shopping: they could spend hours at the mall without buying anything. For me, it was torture. I developed this philosophy that if I never go to the store, I’ll never see anything new. If I never see it, I’ll never want it. It was the perfect defense against feelings of poverty and lack.

I built up defenses against spending so thick that even now, years later, I have trouble convincing myself to go to the grocery store for life-sustaining food. Unnecessary expenses like clothes and electronics require a heavenly chorus and a sign from God before they even rate consideration.

Besides, stores are busy, scary places, full of overwhelming choices that make me feel tiny and alone in a vast and infinite universe.

So I don’t go shopping.

Laziness? Perhaps.
Paranoia? Maybe.
Or is it a budgeting system brilliant in its simplicity?


It’s not that I don’t have wants. It’s just that I can never justify them if I’m being totally honest with myself.

Say I decide I want new yoga pants.
I won’t go to the store just for yoga pants; I’ll wait until I have a list of multiple wants.

But by the time I think of something else I want, perhaps a movie I like that I want to get on DVD, well, by then, the yoga pants thing is soooo two months ago! Why, I’ve been making do with one pair all this time and we’re quite happy together. I’ve only just washed it to the desired level of softness, you know! Why get another pair?

So forget the yoga pants. But I won’t go to the store just for that DVD, so then I have to wait until I want something else.

Except I could just get the DVD from the library, so maybe I don’t need anything from the store after all.

By the time I actually make it to the store, for anything, it’s not about the money anymore. Whatever it is that I want will have been wanted for so long, price is no longer an issue. There will be research beforehand. Circulars will be consulted. Reviews will be read. The yoga pants I eventually pick up may be expensive and they may not be on sale, but I will be so focused on finding the perfect pair of yoga pants that I won’t see anything else in the store.

I will wait at the door for the store to open in the morning and I will run directly toward my prize, trampling any hapless shoppers who get in my way.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

So I was working the circulation desk...

For a librarian, the phrase, “So I was working the circulation desk…” is the equivalent of “This one time, at band camp…”

Seriously, every work-related story starts that way. We never run out of tales that begin with this scheme.

Sometimes patrons come in one right after the other. Bam! Bam! Bam! We don’t have time to think between crazy patrons and their bizarre demands, and we can tell you such stories about them later. “You’ll never believe the patron I had today,” we’ll say.

Other times, there are no patrons to entertain us. There’s no story time, it’s a school day, and it’s raining. The library is absolutely dead.

Still very much alive, the circulation librarians wait at the desk for something interesting to happen. We process DVDs or put spine labels on new books, working half-heartedly so we won’t finish too soon and run out of things to do.

At times like these, we chat about whatever.


I was working the circulation desk…

Library Shark vs. Crocobeast
“What’s wrong with this chair?” Cathy said, swiveling toward me so I could see the chunk of plastic missing from the armrest. “It looks like someone took a bite out of it,” she said.

“It’s the height,” said Benjamin, getting technical. “If you sit at a certain angle and get up, it catches under the edge of the desk and-”

“Sharks,” I said, cutting him off. “Library sharks.”

Cathy laughed, but Benjamin raised an eyebrow at me. “How do they survive out of water?” Benjamin said.

“They don’t need water,” I said. “They’re library sharks. They survive in the library.”

“So they’re amphibious?” he asked.

“Amphibious library sharks,” I confirmed.

Cathy, running with it, said, “So if someone says a chewed up book was like that when they checked it out, you can blame the amphibious library sharks.”

“They eat books,” I said.

“What eats them?” said Cathy.

Perhaps, someday, we’ll find out.

(To Be Continued?)

The Wrath of Zombie Santa
“No, it’s totally legit! I saw it on a science show,” said Benjamin, telling me about the recipe for napalm he’d heard about. “It's just gasoline and petroleum jelly, but I don't know the ratios.”

“It may call for experimentation,” I said, glancing over at Stephanie and catching her subtle head shake. “Or, maybe not.”

“I should get a flame thrower!” said Benjamin.

“No,” Stephanie and I said together.

Seemingly deflated, Benjamin emptied the return bin, scanned a few books, then said, “Don't you think that would be an awesome weapon to have in the zombie apocalypse?”

“Hrm,” I said, considering, because that’s exactly the sort of direction my imagination goes.

Stephanie, whose imagination runs rather a different direction, said, “What if they were flame retardant?”

Benjamin and I looked at each other, then back at Stephanie. “How many flame retardant zombies do you know?” said Benjamin.

“I don't know any zombies,” she said, looking at us like we were children.

“Zombies are made of people,” I said, patting her shoulder. “Do you know any flame retardant people?”

“Santa,” said Stephanie, imagination running in an altogether different dimension.

“What?” said Benjamin.

“It was in one of those movies! He has a flame retardant suit!” said Stephanie.

“No, it makes sense,” I said. “Because he has to go down chimneys and some of them might be lit.”

“Zombie Santa!” said Stephanie.

“It would be awful!” said Benjamin, but his eyes lit up as he said it. “He'd be able to fly all around the world in the blink of an eye with his zombie reindeer!”

Stephanie and I both looked at him. “What?” I said. “Nobody said anything about zombie reindeer.”

“Yeah,” said Stephanie, “What are you smoking?”

My Blind Doppelganger
The three of us were clustered around a single computer, viewing the headlines with disgust. It was tragic and horrible and a serious matter not to be made fun of.

“What makes somebody do that?” I said, genuinely disturbed.

“He's crazy,” said Carla.

“Well, sure but lots of people are crazy,” such as myself, I thought, “and they're not all like that.”

“Statistically, there must be lots of people like that,” said Carla. “Isn’t that awful?”

“Like I always say,” said Benjamin (who doesn’t always say this, by the way), “If you're one in a million, that means there are seven thousand other people in this world JUST LIKE YOU.”

We let that sink in a moment.

“Wow,” I said.

“Well, that's something to think about,” said Carla.

“They do say everyone has a doppelganger out there. I've never met mine, though,” I said.

“Can you imagine?” said Carla. “That moment when you recognize each other and realize what you're looking at?”

And, of course, because I’m a pessimist, I immediately imagined that when I met my doppelganger she would be blind, so I wouldn't get any reaction from her at all, ruining the whole experience. Maybe if I over-reacted, she could share my excitement? I thought. But what’s to stop me from acting that way in front of any blind person?

“Hey, guys!” I said. “Wouldn't that be the best joke to play on a blind person? To pretend they're your doppelganger? Just walk up to them and be all 'OMG! I look JUST LIKE you! We're doppelgangers! This is amazing! Can we just take a picture together so I can post it on my facebook? No one's ever going to believe this?'”

“It’s brilliant!” said Benjamin.

“It’s terrible!” said Carla. “How do you think of these things? What possesses you to think of these things?”

“Something bad,” I said. “Possession isn't like that Exorcist movie. This, me: that's what it’s like.”

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Canned Goods

It was gorgeous outside – or at least it looked that way from my decidedly indoor job. Imprisoned at the circulation desk, quivering with longing like a dog ordered to stay, I gazed forlornly at the city park just outside the library’s glass double doors. Every patron greeted me with some variation of “Have you been out in this perfect weather?”

I would be. Oh, yes, I would be.

The clock rolled over to my lunch break like a starting pistol. I was off, just me and my purple lunch box against the world. On the far side of a small pond replete with ducks, empty picnic tables waited for me under a little-used pavilion in a quiet clearing, a full fifteen minute walk from the library. I set off down the tree-lined path.

It was sunny, but not too hot, with a light breeze rippling the water. Squirrels chased each other through the greenery. I identified what I thought was a red-winged blackbird’s call, then visually confirmed my guess, congratulating myself on my ornithological skills. I belonged in this verdant world. I was mother freaking nature.

At the pavilion, I swiped the dust off a picnic table, slung down my lunch box, and artfully arrayed my little feast on a floral-patterned paper towel: turkey sandwich, pickles, and one foil-wrapped dark chocolate square. “I shall eat you last,” I said to the chocolate, popping the tab on a can of Dr. Pepper and tossing the empty sandwich baggie in a nearby trash can...

Which growled at me.

Hang on, I thought. I know lots of stuff about birds and nature and things; therefore, I know that is not the trash can’s natural call.

I stood listening for a moment. It happened again.

“What the-” I said, peeking inside. (As much as I would like to believe I have more sense than horror movie victims, it’s just not so.) A flurry of claws and teeth flew toward me.

I screamed, clambering on top of the picnic table and spilling my soda. The trash can vibrated, chattering wildly, then rattled to a stop.

What was that? I wondered.

Standing on the table, I peeked over the rim of the can. The trapped creature made another growling leap, sending me nearly over the far edge of the table in my haste to back away. Cause of death: subject fell off a picnic table. Let’s not do that, I thought. On hands and knees, heart pounding, I leaned over the table’s edge, holding my phone up and out to snap a picture of the imprisoned beast.

On my phone’s tiny screen, a small and rather sad raccoon gazed soulfully out at me. I couldn’t believe my own cowardice. Who trembles in fear at a little raccoon? “Hang on, Ranger Rick!” I said, stepping to the ground. “I’ll get you out of there.”

The raccoon growled with renewed fervor, incensed at the sound of my voice. I scrambled onto the table once more as the trash can rocked back and forth in wide arcs, as though the raccoon was throwing himself at the walls.

There’s a 99% chance this is a perfectly ordinary woodland creature, I thought. If I knock that trash can over, he will flee from my human presence with nary a backward glance. The sweet strains of “Born Free” will accompany his furry exodus.

However, there is a 1% chance this is a rabid raccoon-demon with a burning hatred of all humankind. He’s seen my face and he knows my scent and if I release him, there is no sanctuary in this world or the next that can protect me from his fury.

Those were not good odds.

Cross-legged on the table-top, I dialed the library. “Aren’t you at lunch?” Karen said when I identified myself.

“I’m in the park,” I said, as the raccoon cussed me out.  “I need the number for animal control.”

“We don’t have animal control in Andover! We’re too small!” she said sweetly.

Trying to keep the desperate edge out of my voice, I said, “Who do you call when you’ve got a raccoon in a trash can?”

A long silence followed, broken only by the local wildlife’s displeasure with my company. Finally, Karen said, “Couldn’t you just tip it over?”

“He looks angry!”

I heard poorly muffled laughter. “Maybe you should try the fire department.”

After several failed attempts due to trembling fingers, I managed to dial the number. The fire department’s dispatcher apparently lost interest when I wasn’t on fire. Sounding bored, she said, “We don’t really rescue wild animals.”

“Forget the animal!” I said. “Come rescue me!”

“Maybe you could tip it over?”

“That’s not going to work!”

“Try the police station,” she suggested.

The raccoon was screaming by now, which didn’t make dialing any easier. Before the oblivious officer could finish saying “Andover Police Department,” I poured out the whole sorry tale in a single breath.

“-and-she-said-to-tip-it-over-but-the-raccoon-is-angry-so-I-can’t-tip-it-over!” I said, then “Hello?” when I received no response.

“So, you don’t want to tip the trash can over?” the bemused officer said.

“Are you hearing any of this?!” I shrieked. As if on cue, the raccoon chose this moment to voice his discontent.

“Okay!” said the officer. “No worries. We’ll send someone around to have a look.”

“Thank you!” I said, feeling better as I hung up. Then I realized I was still crouched on the picnic table in fear of the malevolent raccoon. Sighing, I reached to the far side of the table for my sandwich. “That went well, I think,” I told the raccoon. I tossed a chunk of sandwich in the trash can, then, as an afterthought, added a couple of pickles.

When I finished eating, I slid off the table as quietly as possible, stuffing my trash in my lunch box to throw away later, and started the walk back to the library. On my way, I passed a police car, circling the park to reach the picnic tables on the other side. I smiled, waved, and kept walking. I was ready to get back to my nice indoor job.

I am so tired of being outside, I thought.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

100 Word Increments: Parenting Advice from the Library

Imagine, if you will, that I don’t have friends with kids. Or coworkers with kids. Or relatives who talk to me constantly about kids (namely, the part where I don't have any kids). Imagine I have no access to books or blogs or magazines about parenting and I’ve never seen a family sitcom. Imagine that everything I know about parenting comes from close observation of the parents and children who pass through the library each day. Now, imagine that you have just asked me (the childless wonder) for parenting advice. Based on my extensive observations, this is what I'll say:

1. Other people can still hear your child screaming.
The twins would have been cute in their matching outfits if not for their identical gaping mouths, wailing like a pair of banshees at an Irish hospice. Their mother wandered the library with her double stroller, ignoring the noise, or possibly deafened by it, for half an hour.
Here’s a concept I’ve been toying with - just a thought, really:
How about - I know this is crazy, but when your kid is having a bad day and just wants to stand in the middle of the room and scream, how about we have that day NOT be library day?

2. Kids are sneaky.
Fetching a book from the bottom shelf in the children’s section, I found myself at eye level with a smiling boy.
“Hi!” he said, surprised, as if I had magically appeared before him.
“Hello,” I said.
“How did you get here at the library?” he asked.
“I drove here in my car,” I said. “How did you get here?”
“I drove here in my car too!”
“Really?” I said. “You look a bit young to be driving.”
“No, I’m not!” he said, holding out his mother’s keys.
“How did you get hold of those?” his mother said, taking them back.

3. When all else fails, resort to bribery.
“Rawr!” a pigtailed girl played in the floor with our plastic dinosaurs.
“Whatcha doin’?” her brother asked.
“I’m a dinosaur!” she said, flexing pretend claws. “Rawr!”
The boy shrugged and ignored her in favor of the blocks.
“Kids, it’s time to go,” said their mother.
“We can’t!” said the dinosaur. “I’m not done destroying yet!” She demonstrated by leveling the block city recently abandoned by her brother.
“Time’s up. We’re leaving.”
“That’s too bad. I was going to take us for ice cream, but dinosaurs don’t eat ice cream.”
“Ra…” The roar ended on a cough. “Let’s go, mommy.”

4. You have to watch your children.
The adorable little boy in overalls looked like he was on his way to the fishing hole: barefoot, blond duck-fluff hair sticking up, smiling as he walked the stumbling walk of children barely past crawling…
Gaily plucking book after book off the shelves and dropping them on the floor.
It looked like the shelves had exploded.
“Where is your mother?!” I cried aloud.
“Here!” she said from across the room, making no move to interfere.
I glared at her for as long as it took her to gather her child and leave, then spent an hour cleaning up the mess.

5. Teenage nannies are more interested in other teenage nannies than in their charges.
While shelving, I eavesdropped on three teenagers whose toddler siblings played nearby. Toddler Brother wouldn’t leave Teenage Boy alone to get his game on.
“Will you be my girlfriend?” Toddler Brother asked the girls.
“Go play. You can’t have a girlfriend,” said Teenage Boy.
“You have a girlfriend!” said Toddler Brother. “Why can’t I?”
“Because you’re five.”
“Oh,” said Toddler Brother, turning away sadly.
 “So,” snapped Teenage Girl 1, “you have a girlfriend?”
“What?” Teenage Boy backpedaled. “No! He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”
The girls traded knowing glances. “Uh-huh,” said Teenage Girl 2, collecting their sisters. “Let’s go.”

6. It’s never too early to think about their future careers.
As a haggard mom flipped through the books on the cart, her daughter pointed. “What’s that?”
Mom sighed as though she were tired of answering questions. “It’s a book about squirrels.”
The girl’s face scrunched in confusion. “Why?”
Mom, still flipping through books, shrugged. “Because that’s what the author wanted to write about.”
The girl waited for more.
Mom ignored her. Flip, flip…
Finally, the girl said, “That’s silly.”
Mom didn’t even look up. “What would you write about?”
The girl stared in thought, then said, “Dogs.”
“Well,” said mom, “someday you can be an author and write about dogs.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Halloween Conversation with Noah

At the 8th Annual Salamander Halloween Party At The Coles’s’s’s’s, there was candy. There were cookies. There was jello shaped like a brain. And there were about a dozen children singing the praises of all sugar plantation workers everywhere, in the traditional fashion – that is to say, at the top of their lungs and at high speeds.

The parents of those children, my friends, claiming they were all too tired to deal with the hassle of Halloween, had arrived at the party in their normal clothes, changed into costumes for fifteen minutes of photos, and then changed back.

What else has changed, I wondered, since we received the apostrophe-peppered invitation to the First Annual Salamander Halloween Party At The Coles’s’s’s’s all those years ago? I sat alone on the couch nearest the candy bowl, watching the activity around me. There was Sarah, changing a diaper. There were the other girls, discussing toddler discipline. Here and there, the men chased or chastised the children.

Are we old now? I asked. Have we stopped being fun?

My thoughts were interrupted by a red-headed child in skeleton pajamas, climbing onto the couch beside me and pressing me into a hug. “Hi, Tori!” he said.

“Hi, Noah,” I said, patting his back. “Are you having fun?”

“Yes!” he said, gesturing about the room. “Everyone is wearing costumes!”

Everyone except the old fogeys who have already changed out of them, I thought, but I said, “Yes, I noticed that.”

“Are they superheroes?” Noah asked.

“What?” I said.

“All superheroes wear costumes,” Noah said, matter-of-factly.

“Hmm,” I said, mulling it over. “You know what? You’re right.”

Noah seemed satisfied with this response. We watched as child I didn’t recognize tormented another. I felt no need to intervene. Eventually, Noah said, “I have a Captain America costume.”

“Do you?” I looked over at his skeleton costume, wondered why he wasn’t wearing that instead.

“Yup. Mom says I’ll outgrow it someday.”

I thought of a pair of boys who usually attend library storytime wearing Batman and Spiderman costumes because they never want to wear anything else and wondered if Noah’s mother faced a similar situation.

“Where do superheroes get their costumes?” Noah asked, obviously planning ahead for the day when he outgrows Cap.

“That’s a good question,” I said. “Maybe there’s a store in the mall. If we found it, we could be superheroes.” See, I thought. I’m discussing superheroes with a five-year-old. I’m still young. I still know how to have fun.

“I want to be Batman when I grow up,” Noah said, struggling to unwrap a Snickers from the bowl on the table.

“Oh yeah?” I said, reaching over to lend him a hand.

Noah pulled back and squinted at me suspiciously. I pulled my hands away, palms out to show I meant no harm, but he wasn’t concerned about the candy. “Tori…” he said, dragging out my name.

“Yes, Noah?”

“You’re already grown up,” he said, accusingly.

Oh, snap! The jig is up! “So I am.”

He held the Snickers out so that I could help him with it and asked, “What super hero are you going to be?”

False alarm. The immature conversation commences. I opened the wrapper and returned the candy to him. “I hadn’t thought about it, really.”

“You can’t be Batman,” he said.

“Of course not.”

“I’m Batman,” he said, the normal effect of the words dulled by his mouth full of chocolate.

“I remember you said so.” Elsewhere in the room, Ari or Ally or Ellie or some other child with an alliterative name was crying.

Noah chewed his candy, swallowed, dug in the bowl for another. Finally, he said, “You could be Captain America.”

“I bet I’d be good at it,” I said, taking the piece of candy he offered me.

We sat in silence a moment, as I chewed candy and he concentrated on opening his. “I got it!” he said, showing me the chocolate he had unwrapped on his own. Then, almost as an afterthought, he said, “You’d have to learn to use a shield.”

“You’re right,” I said. “What will I do if I can’t find a shield?”

“You could be Catwoman.” He held up his candy wrapper. “What do I do with this?”

I wadded the wrapper into my hand to throw away later. Which I then realized was a very adult thing for me to do. I sighed. “I suppose.”

I started to reach past him for the candy bowl, but stopped when I realized he was squinting at me again. “Tori?”

“Yes, Noah?” I said, feeling to see if I had candy on my face.

“Why don’t you have any kids?”

Speaking of avoiding adult conversations… “Charley!” I called across the room, getting Noah’s father’s attention. “Your son just asked me why I don’t have any kids.”

Charley winced, crossed the room in long strides, and, taking Noah’s hand, pulled him gently to his feet.  “Aaaaand we’re done here,” Charley said, leading his son toward a corner where other children were playing. “Time to give Tori a break.”

Alone on the couch again, I pulled the candy bowl into my lap, feeling a little older than I did before.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Locker Room Exchange

I’m a disgusting exerciser. I like to think of it as sweating out my impurities: I must forcefully exorcise my dietary demons from deep within my muscles where they have rotted in iniquity for years, or since I ate that donut last week. I imagine sweat is poison leaving my body, clinging to my clothes; anyone who crosses my path will smell me and know I am UNCLEAN.

One morning after my run, sopping with sin and sweat, I stumbled to the locker room, peeled away the sodden skunk pelts my clothes had become, and shoved them in my gym bag like a body I needed to hide in a hurry (…not that I know what that's like). It was when I turned from the locker toward my salvation – the shower – that I encountered the hateful woman.

"Excuse me!!!" she said, stretching the phrase into more syllables than the normal three, enunciating in a way that implied multiple exclamation points. 

Still disoriented from my workout, naked, armed only with a towel and a toiletry bag, I was caught off guard. A dozen questions fired through my soggy synapses at the speed of decaffeinated thought: Did I run into her? Am I in her way? Did I put my filthy clothes in her locker by mistake? It's still morning, after all: is this angry apparition a dream? Will I wake up soon? Can there be coffee? I cautiously said only, "Yes?"

The woman, who was built like an aging supermodel and might have been forty-five, scowled. "Put some clothes on!"

That can't be right, I thought. I've only just taken them all off. They were drenched and so am I. "I'm heading to the shower," I said, by way of explanation. Perhaps she was confused since I was already soaked. I was prepared to forgive her for the misunderstanding.

"Nudity is still uncalled for!" she shrieked.

If you had seen my workout clothes before I took them off, I thought, you would know that in this case nudity is absolutely and totally called for. What I said was, "I'm not naked because I'm trying to offend you. I'm naked because I'm heading to the shower." And because I may need to burn those clothes later.

Her face screwed up like the wadded shirt in the bottom of my gym bag. "Maybe you need to get up earlier so you have time to shower at home!"

“Get Up Earlier” is, of course, the most offensive phrase there is. If this prudish stranger had looked me in the face when I was either fully awake or fully clothed and suggested I "Get Up Earlier", I would have responded with inappropriate language and crude gestures. Instead, I merely said the first thing that came to mind, namely: "Lady, if naked people offend you, maybe you need to get up earlier so you don't have to use the locker room."

She gasped, gathered her things from a nearby bench, and stormed away, sparing me one last glance over her shoulder.

The synapses misfired a few more times: was she right? Are there social mores I'm unaware of, societal constructs around nudity in the locker room that my unathletic upbringing has left me unprepared for? Maybe the showers are just for swimmers to rinse the chlorine off their suits before they get dressed again, carefully covering each body part as they go? Are there changing rooms I've missed? Do I need to bring a bathrobe next time? If she was so offended by my nudity, why didn’t she avert her eyes?

Hearing a polite cough, I turned to see an elderly woman on the bench behind me, white hair disheveled and workout clothes darkened by sweat. "Can you believe that?" I said, and then realized, briefly, that she had a perfectly unobstructed view of my naked ass and wondered if I would have to repeat the entire exchange.

"Honey," she said, lifting her own shirt over her head and slipping off her shoes, "I didn't see a thing." Kicking her pants off, she ambled toward the shower without even a towel to shield herself.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Meeting Media: It's not always stories.

A friend recently asked me, "Do you end up with a story every time you leave a boring meeting?" Truthfully, no. Sometimes, very rarely, I end up with actual notes about the content of the meeting. A good deal of the time, I end up with a mass of scribbles tangentially related to the content of the meeting, something rather like the following. For those who doubt that these scribbles are in any way related to an actual meeting, I've added some notes to help better immerse the reader into my psyche from that day. 

Meeting Media are created during actual and very important meetings while I really was paying attention. Names or other identifying information, or inappropriate comments about my boss, have been blocked out to protect the illusion of innocence.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Instant Messenger

In an age long past, called 2006 by some, our heroes were trapped in tedious, low-wage desk jobs while they worked their way through grad school. They had only the tentative connections of Instant Messenger to save them from the soul crushing boredom of each repetitive day. These are their stories.  

Dramatis Personae:
Tori, a legal aide
Sarah, a real estate secretary
and Ryan, a writing tutor

Applecide 3/16/06

Tori: I didn't have time to slice my apple this morning, so I brought a knife. But now I'm cutting it at my desk and it is JUICY! It's like I'm cutting a lemon here! I'm getting spit on!
Sarah: haha
Tori: I mean it! It's all over me, the desk, the keyboard, and four strategically placed (albeit useless) napkins!
Sarah: The horror!
Tori: I'm sure I can hide the body, but I'll never be able to clean up THE JUICE! (dun dun dun!)
Sarah: No! Not THE JUICE!
Tori: CSI guys will be all up in here with black lights and say, "Just as I thought! It must have been Applecide!"
Sarah: (facepalm)
Tori: And in the interrogation room, under the harsh glaring lights, "But why did you do it? What did that apple ever do to you?" ...
Tori: "I couldn't stop myself! They're just so good with peanut butter!"
Tori: And the cop will turn away in disgust...
Sarah: "You make me sick"
Sarah: It's genius
Tori: Yeah, yeah. And I'll be in one of those orange jumpsuits, with manacles...
Tori: Ooh! And a Hannibal Lector muzzle mask!
Sarah: I can see it now.

Our Monastic Plans 4/25/06

Tori: Saving the world from technological ignorance, one question at a time.
Ryan: Like "How do I make a Header on my paper?"
Ryan: Probably the 7th most common question.
Tori: The few, the proud, the people who know stuff. That's us.
Ryan: No kidding.
Ryan: Including the answer to the MOST common question ever.
Ryan: "Can I use your stapler?"
Tori: I always wondered. It's a writing center. The stapler is facing them. Who do they think it's really for?
Ryan: It's a trap!
Ryan: Actually, I will admit to hiding the staplers once because I got sick of people asking to use them.
Ryan: Until I finally got sick of saying our staplers were missing.
Tori: We just have to get used to dealing with stupid people. I can't think of a job where they're not involved.
Ryan: How much does being a hermit pay these days?
Tori: Not enough to fund the gaming.
Tori: What we need to do is start a monastery where people would pay lots of money to try to reach Zen through gaming.
Ryan: It would be like scientology, only we'd be honest about the bullshit.
Tori: People who would pay money for that purpose are stupid, and we would have to deal with them, but we could "deal with them" in some other room.
Ryan: With the door closed.
Ryan: And the "No Whipping" sign off.
Tori: Yeah.
Tori: I've got it: charge people money to achieve Zen. They achieve Zen by being chained to a wall and only having bread and water for three days...
Tori: While they're around, we pretend that we live this way also. We dress in robes and speak pious speeches.
Ryan: If we charge money, it HAS to be good!
Tori: But while they're chained up or when we have no current clients, we play games in solitude all day.
Tori: We'll say we must lock ourselves in the dungeon to whip ourselves pure, then feed them some line about how work purifies the soul and send them out to do the heavy gardening.
Tori: That way we get fresh veggies *and* all their money.
Ryan: Two great tastes that tastes great together!
Tori: Now, where can we find an empty, gently used monastery on the cheap?
Ryan: We could convert (NAME WITHHELD) into one. A little fire to cleanse the stupidity away and no one will be the wiser.
Tori: Yes, because then we could chain them up on one end of the first floor, while we play games on the other end of the third floor.
Ryan: And you don't want to know what'll happen on the first floor.
Ryan: It will be a dirty, sinful place.
Tori: Only then can Zen be achieved.
Ryan: Brilliant!

Campaign Promises 5/26/06

Tori: So where are we eating dinner?
Sarah: Grand China
Tori: Ooh. Nice.
Sarah: Yeah
Tori: (happy dance) Noodles for me! Noodles for me!
Sarah: Noodles for everyone!
Tori: Vive la Revolucion!
Sarah: (fist pump)
Tori: And the great army marches by giving the sieg heil to a flag featuring a bowl of noodles over crossed forks.
Sarah: I can see it now!
Sarah: A bowl of noodles in every house!
Sarah: Everyone has the right to noodles!
Tori: "My people! Let us usher out those who would oppress our noodlic urges and make way for the year of the noodles!"
Tori: (cheering crowds)
Sarah: Noo-dles! Noo-dles!
Tori: (throwing roses)
Sarah: (the chant rises up)
Sarah: It's brilliant
Sarah: With this plan we can conquer the world!
Tori: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but where *you* can get your noodles!"
Sarah: "My people, we will conquer Italy and China and Japan and then we will control the world's noodle supply!"
Tori: "The only thing we have to fear is lack of noodles!"