Saturday, November 30, 2013

My taxes pay your salary.

He wasn’t the rudest patron I’d ever encountered, but he was certainly the rudest one that day. After he left, I sighed heavily and leaned against the library counter where my coworker Kathy congratulated me. “I thought you handled that very well,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said, “but someday someone is going to come in acting like that and I’m NOT going to handle it well. I’m going to lose my shit. And when I do, that person is going to demand to see my supervisor. And when that happens, I’m going to tell them I AM the supervisor, and you guys are going to back me up. Deal?”

“Sounds fair,” said Kathy.

“Oh, yeah, sure. You’re the supervisor,” said Karyn, who is technically my supervisor. “I hate dealing with them when they’re like that. I think the rudest patron I’ve ever had was a lady who demanded to see the supervisor, which was me, and after she yelled at me for ten minutes over a book we were charging her for, she came out with ‘My taxes pay your salary,’ and I just said, ‘You know what, ma’am? You’re right,’ and I took the charges off her account.”

“So she got away with it?” I said.

“I just didn’t know what to say to that. I mean, it’s technically true.”

Okay, yes, fair point. But if a rude patron ever tries that on me while I’m pretending to be the supervisor, I’m prepared. Here are my top ten responses to the statement, “My taxes pay your salary.”

10. “You should contact the IRS about a refund: Mentally unstable individuals such as yourself qualify for all sorts of tax breaks.”

9. “Unless you're secretly one of the 1%, your taxes don’t trickle down this far.”

8. “Actually, I'm a full time volunteer. Nice try, though.”

7. “Let's pretend that's the bit of my salary I use to pay MY taxes, and call it even.”

6. “An evil overlord, are you? So will the beheadings be now or later?”

5. “No, ma'am. We used your taxes to fix our leaky toilets last month.”

4. “Maybe you should take this issue up with your accountant, then?”

3. “And pointing out how little you pay me is a crappy way to get better customer service.”

2. “So do mine, and we're neither of us paying me enough to be treated this way.”

1. “If I pay it back to you, will you go away?”

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Last Thanksgiving

We sat around the table, my husband and I on one side, across from my mother and brother, with Dad at the head. As we partook of Mom’s chicken and dressing, my brother Josh, the college rugby star, went on and on about a player he likes on the U.S. rugby team. I smiled, politely feigning interest, though I didn’t understand most of it. “And he’s ridiculously quick. Like, no one can catch this guy. I could watch him all day.”

Matt chuckled like a middle schooler. “You could watch him all day?”

Josh nodded, oblivious to Matt’s tone. “Especially when he scores!”

Now my dad chuckled as well. Matt waggled his eyebrows, then said to Josh, “You like to watch this guy score with the balls?”

Josh’s mouth became a thin line. “Really? You just went there?” but then he laughed. “Oh, that’s nothing. Rugby’s got all kinds of bad-sounding words. Like after he scores, he might scrum all over the field. And I like to see guys rucking all day. Later, we might have to pull out of the hookers.”

“Wow…” I said, eyes wide. “I had no idea rugby was so… explicit…”

Our mom only sighed, apparently having heard it all before, but she glared sternly at Josh as she passed the potatoes.

“You always know how to add a certain amount of class to any situation,” said Matt.

“Why, thank you, sir.”

“I didn’t say which kind of class,” Matt muttered.

“Tell me more about this girl you mentioned. How did it go again?” Dad said.

“Oh, right!” Josh said, continuing a conversation they must have started earlier. “She said to me, ‘I don’t like your boots,’ so I said, ‘I don’t like your personality.’”

“Joshua David!” Mom said, breaking out the middle name. “You shouldn’t talk to ladies that way!”

 “Trust me, mother. This was no lady.”

“Then what were you doing in her company?” Mom said accusingly.

Josh smiled winningly and raised his glass to our mother. “Oh, Momma! You know I’m always saying my goal in life is to drink enough vodka that I could pee on a cat and light it on fire.”

Mom wasn’t having it and swatted his shoulder. “Didn’t you read 1984?”

A line of concentration appeared between his brows. “Yeah, in high school.”

“And remember they had the lottery where they could win the women?”

Josh looked to me for guidance, but I shook my head. “I don’t think we read the same book,” he said.

“Where they all wore uniforms and the men were in charge?” said Mom.

Everyone turned to the librarian. I thought about it and said, “It’s possible you’re thinking of the Handmaid’s Tale, but I don’t recall a lottery.”

“Oh, yes,” said Mom, “and Charlton Heston ate the green crackers?”

Soylent Green?” said Dad.

I giggled and did my best impression: “‘The Green Cracker is people!’ No, that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

“Maybe the recipe came from that cookbook in the Twilight Zone,” said Matt, rubbing elbows with me.

“Cooked by Sweeney Todd!” Josh added, gesturing with his fork for emphasis.

“It’s priest!” I sang. “Try a little priest!” (It’s my favorite song from that musical.)

“Now, really!” Mom said with a sharp tsk. “I was going to make a point but now I don’t remember what it was!”

“Do let us know if it comes to you later. This, I would love to hear,” I said.

 “If you two keep treating your poor mother this way, Karma’s going to get you both,” Mom said, shaking her finger at my brother and at me in turn.

Josh laughed. “Who’s Karma and why is he coming to get us?”

Mom tried to be stern, but although she took a drink to hide it from us I could see the edges of a smile behind her glass. “Because you’re so sexy,” she said.

We all laughed.

Then, “Is there cranberry sauce?” I asked. “The kind that looks like a can?”

Mom smiled. “I got it just for you, baby.”

And so the meal went.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Women are from Mars

I try not to look at the library books. 

I’m too easily distracted, you see. If I look at them, I’ll wonder what they’re about and I’ll take them home and I’ll feel obligated to read them. I’ll end up with seventeen of them on my bedside table, a precariously-balanced safety hazard resulting in my untimely demise. “Suffocation,” the death certificate will say, or, “Blunt force trauma, by books. Very tragic.” And it would be, so I don’t look at them.

When the new books arrive, I process them mechanically. I do not read the titles, or the dustjacket summaries, or the reviews on the back. Robotically, I stamp them with the library’s address, pencil the date of arrival discreetly inside, and flip through the pages until I find the barcode, which I then peel from its slick backing and stick to the front cover.

It takes something special for a book to catch my attention, the perfect storm of colorful cover art, catchy title, and clever keywords displayed in just the right font size.

Or it takes something like this:

I saw it out of the corner of my eye as I searched for the barcode. “Hang on…” I thought. “That’s not right…” 

“What are you looking for?” Tiffany asked, as I flipped through the pages again.

“Thought I saw something weird…” I said, finding it again. “Yup, I wasn’t imagining it. Here it is.” I held the book out to her.

Her eyes widened as she looked where I pointed. “What?!” she said, pulling the book from my hands. “What is this?”

“That’s what I thought too.”

“But… How?” she spluttered. “And how have I not heard of this before? It says it’s normal! Have you heard of this before?”

“No, but I have several friends with kids who are going to have to answer some uncomfortable questions.”

We sat side by side, staring at the book, reading the offending paragraph over and over. Eventually, Tiffany said, “Where would you even put it?”

“There’s a ‘Total Recall’ joke in here somewhere.”

“I’m serious! Is this even real?”

“I’m not about to Google it,” I said, having learned long ago never to do an internet search with anatomical keywords. 

So, ladies, is there something any of you want to tell me?

Saturday, November 9, 2013


“And I'll see you tomorrow,” I told my coworker friends on the evening shift, at the close of the all-too-brief hour at the end of my day when our schedules overlap.

“What were we doing tomorrow?” said Kristina. “Oh, I remember: For Fro-Yo.” She dragged out the syllables, imitating a snooty accent.

I laughed. “You know, I had never heard it called that before we hired Tiffany. She always says it just like that, like she’s making fun of the name.”

“I'd heard it on Gilmore Girls,” Kristina said. “They had ‘Fro-Yo socials’ at their school.”

“Well, we never had those at my school,” I lamented. Not that I would have gone, as I was a social outcast at that age.

Kristina sighed. “Mine either. Probably because there wasn't any Fro-Yo for miles around back then.”

I nodded, thinking of the popularity of frozen yogurt bars in the area over the past few years. “It must be one of those trendy things that started on the coasts and has worked its way toward the middle.”

“That makes sense. Gilmore Girls is on the East coast.”

Benjamin scoffed. “I'm sure it could just go away.”

We looked daggers at him: foolish boy, coming between a girl and her Fro-Yo! “What do you have against frozen yogurt?” I said, as Kristina hissed, “It can never go away!”

Benjamin held his hands up defensively. “No, no! I meant people who call it Fro-Yo can go away. Imagine if we didn't have any frozen yogurt! That would be awful!”

I considered this. “Well, we wouldn't know what we were missing if we never had it...” Nor would I constantly crave it, I thought.

“True, yes, but what if it was taken away?” Benjamin said.

Kristina and I exchanged glances. “Who would take away frozen yogurt?” she asked.

“The Fro-Yo Nazis?” I suggested.

“And it would be outlawed!” Kristina said, with a romantic gleam in her eye. “Secretly traded on the black market!”

“A whole criminal underground will emerge based on the acquisition and sale of frozen yogurt…” Benjamin said, obviously calculating how he might come out on top of this new economy. I instantly pictured him in a dapper suit, running a Fro-Yo speakeasy with a dozen thuggish underlings.

“And a resistance led by the Fro-Yo Freedom Fighters...” I said, to much laughter from my compatriots. “Except ‘fighters’ would need to be spelled with a Y.”

“And the battle would later be immortalized by both an epic movie and a band,” Benjamin said.

We really need to lay off the young adult post-apocalyptic dystopian novels, I thought. But still, he’s right: It’s a brilliant name for a band.

Fro-Yo Freedom Fyters.

Punk. Rock.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Schrödinger’s Blog Post

“I’m just saying,” Cheri was just saying, “We should have a fashion show! A party! Just some sort of event where people get to wear the formals they have hanging in their closets from prom or whatever.”

I nodded along. It was a slow morning at the circulation desk. Listening to Cheri plan things we wouldn’t follow through with was a great way to pass the time.

“I still have all of mine,” I said.

Cheri narrowed her eyes at me. “Are they in boxes?”

“No, I still play dress up with them,” I said.

But Cheri carried on in a tangent as if she hadn’t heard me. “See, a lot of people still have their old formals and wedding dresses, and they keep them in little boxes in their closets that look like baby coffins, like they’re keeping a dead baby in their closet.” 

“Gosh,” I said.

“[My friend], for instance: I saw her wedding pictures once and I said she should get the dress out and show it off, and she said, ‘Oh, I just couldn’t take it out of the box.’ Can you believe that? Why not?”

I considered this. “Well, obviously, it’s because of moths.”


“Moths eat things like that, wedding dresses and such. Maybe they’ve already eaten the wedding dress and now they’re just feeding off the remains of older moths in a disgusting circle of life. Maybe you’ll open the box and find a wedding dress, or maybe you’ll find a self-sustaining moth nest,” I said.

Cheri pursed her lips in thought. “So it’s Schrödinger’s wedding dress?”

“Yes,” I said.

Perhaps you didn’t know Schrödinger wore dresses. It turns out Schrödinger was into a lot of things you probably aren’t aware of. Sometimes, it seems as if I live in Schrödinger’s house.

For example, when I wander downstairs in the morning, still sleepy with no plans for the day, I am greeted by Schrödinger’s guitar sitting on a stand in my living room, both in tune and horribly out of tune at the same time. I could play for awhile, but I won’t know which it is until I pick it up. Tuning is not my strong suit, and most days I’d just rather not know. 

I turn on the TV, anticipating Schrödinger’s DVR, which both has and does not have new episodes of my favorite shows waiting for me, until I look at my subscriptions and collapse the wave function. Reruns it is, I suppose.

Schrödinger’s tea fills the thermos I mindlessly grab off the end table. Either I really did bring a fresh cup with me or it’s been sitting here since yesterday. The cup’s design prevents me from knowing the temperature of its contents without sipping them. Perhaps I’m not in the mood for tea after all…

Rather than risk it, I head toward the kitchen. On the counter, Schrödinger’s mail is either a stack of bills or a stack of handwritten letters containing wondrous good news. Opening the mail would spoil the surprise. A shiny circular among the letters catches my eye: Schrödinger’s store may or may not have good deals today. I try to decide if I’m going shopping or not. I suppose I could check my (Schrödinger’s) bank account first, currently both flush and wanting. 

Scrounging for breakfast, I notice Schrödinger’s Tupperware sitting forgotten in the back of the fridge, the leftovers within simultaneously still good and swarming with black mold. I toss the entire unopened container into the trash, thinking “Lord, forgive my wasteful ways.” 

I turn at the sound of a crash, which is either, both, and neither my cats breaking something in another room and/or nothing at all. I do not bother to look. 

While tea steeps, I stand by the window but do not look out. On a Schrödinger’s day like today, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing – unless it’s dismal and the birds have already migrated south – why would anyone open the curtains and check? 

When the tea (definitely fresh this time) is finished, I place a Schrödinger’s snack on a plate without looking at the nutrition label, thereby allowing myself to continue imagining that it’s not entirely bad for me. I carry them downstairs, past Schrödinger’s library books with interesting-looking covers but whose contents are both wonderful and terrible until read, past Schrödinger’s Netflix recommendations and Schrödinger’s used video games picked up for a song at Gamestop. 

I carry the tea and snack into my office and turn on my computer. Ignoring Schrödinger’s news, both good and bad, I open a blank document and type up a few Schrödinger ideas, which persist in ambiguity inside my head but will be either brilliant or banal once I take them out. 

I think about cats and boxes and physics and tea, and I write about dresses and funny Austrian names and other things besides, and I wonder what happens to a life (which is many things at once, including impossible to measure) when it’s observed. 

As I wonder, time passes and the tea devolves into Schrödinger’s blend again.