Monday, June 30, 2008

Spring chicken

I was standing at the sink doing dishes last night when Brett snuck up behind me, put his arms around my waist and laid his head on my back. We stood there for a moment, enjoying the closeness. Eventually, he picked his head up, but didn't let go of my waist.

All of a sudden, I felt a sting on my scalp, like a bug bite. Then another. And another.

"Ow. OW!" I cried. "What's going on? What are you doing back there?"

"I thought you'd want me to get this out of your hair..."

"Get what out? Is it a spider? I think it bit me! Get it out! Get it out!"

Brett reaches his arm around and dangles something in my face, too close for me to see. "Look how long it is!" he says admiringly.

I crane my neck backward and the object between his fingertips comes into focus.

It's a gray hair. Very long. Very gray. Very unwelcome.

It has friends, too. There's a party going on and all the gray hairs are invited.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Second Law of Thermodynamics

Our new car seems to have a target on it. It's been hit twice (while parked) since we bought it a year ago. My dad summed up the situation thusly:

"Yup. You just can't keep anything nice."

I was discussing this with my boss, who was a physicist in a former life, and he informed me that my dad's pithy statement was actually a simplification of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. "The universe, as a whole, tends toward disorder," he told me, with the glee of a professor expounding the laws of the physics to a dewy-eyed freshman. "You're always going to have to expend energy to keep that particular structure of molecules perfectly ordered."

Apparently, my shiny new car is offending the universe by being so pristine. Bummer.

Then I got to thinking. Maybe the disorder that's being inflicted on my vehicle is due to too much organization elsewhere in the universe. Maybe there are places and things in the universe that are organized so rigidly and precisely that the universe has no choice but to continually put dents in my car, just to compensate.

So, please... join the fight to keep my car in one piece. Stop cleaning your houses. Leave your dirty dishes in the sink. Let your kids scatter their toys about. Forget about vacuuming. Accumulate piles of bills on your desk. Stop doing so much dang laundry.

Many of you have already donated nobly and generously to this worthy cause, but there is still more to be done! I hereby pledge to not make my bed for a least a week and leave my clothes in a crumpled heap on the floor at night in order to spare my car another humiliating trip to the body shop!

Who is with me?!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stuck in the dragon's toilet bowl

Brett and I took my excellent niece and nephew to Raging Waters at Cal Expo on Saturday. Brett's mom also came with us, which was awesome because the kids aren't even her grandkids and she could have spent the day hanging out by her own pool for free. My six-year-old niece was just tall enough to go on all the waterslides. And she did. All of them. There was nothing too scary for this little girl. After each slide, I kept expecting her to emerge at the bottom, spluttering and coughing and crying and demanding to go back to the wave pool with her brother.

She never did though. She'd shoot out the end of the slide breathless and exhilarated and ready for more. It kind of made the rest of us look bad, actually. (And by the rest of us, I just mean me.)

Toward the end of the day, the lines were short even for the most popular slides so we thought we'd hit a few more of her favorites before the park closed. Brett had been squiring her around to the super scary slides but he insisted I take her back to the Dragon's Den so I could ride it with her.

Dragon's Den is the newest slide at Raging Waters and I'd seen the ads for it online. It's a waterslide with a unique twist. After an initial plunge into a dark and twisty tube, the riders (on a two-person innertube) are shot out into a large basin. Jets of water coming from the bottom and sides propel the innertube around and around the basin and eventually into another slide which leads to the splashdown pool.

Looks like fun. Not too scary. No freefalling. No airtime. Plus, I get to ride with my niece. All systems are go.

We load onto the innertube, Jess in front, me in back. We go hurtling down the slide. There's speed and screaming and splashing. Suddenly, we are in the Dragon's Den, shooting around and around the sides of the basin. Mist sprays. The Dragon growls. Jess giggles.

The basin is ingeniously designed so that the flow of the water and the angle of the sides will push the riders toward the opening to the second half of the slide as the initial momentum decreases. We pass this opening two, three, four times as we swirl around in the Dragon's Giant Toilet Bowl.

On our next pass around, it is clear that it is our final lap. We are now going slow enough to get caught in the raging torrent at the opening of the second slide. Actually, it almost seems like we are going a little too slow. Actually, we are loosing speed rapidly. Actually, we are grinding to a stop. Actually, we are stuck now on the exact opposite side of the basin from where we need to be. Even with all the water and slippery fiberglass, we're not moving. At all.

It seems as though the combination of an innertube which was a little flat from the day's use along with my big butt in back and Jess's tiny butt in front was enough to create sufficient drag in an area which had very little water flowing across to act as a breaking mechanism. Right in the middle of the ride.

As much as I wished another rider would come shooting out into the basin and knock us loose, I knew that would not happen. There was no one else in line behind us. Also, due to an accident years ago which involved several high school students piling into a slide and causing it to collapse, Raging Waters now staffs the top and the bottom of each slide. The guy at the top will only let the next rider go when he receives the signal from the bottom that the first rider is clear.

We sat there for a moment, stunned. I realized I would have to dislodge us before the staff sent someone to look for us. Jess leaned forward and I lifted my soggy butt as high off the slide as possible. I pushed us forward with my fingertips. We moved a fraction of an inch. I gave another superhuman push with all my fingertip strength. We moved enough to get back into the water flow. A little more wriggling and butt-scooching and we were finally on our way again.

I told Brett about our unique experience and blamed it mostly on the fact that the innertube was slightly flat. "Well, when we went on it the first time, the guy told us we needed to try to keep our butts up the whole time."

Funny, he didn't mention that to us. Of course I can see why he might warn my tiny-butted niece and my average-butted husband when they rode, but I guess he felt a Rubenesque lady like myself would just know to not let her butt drag.

Maybe they should add that to their warning signs:

You should not ride this ride if you:

1. Have back trouble
2. Have heart trouble
3. Are pregnant

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Go hug someone you love

We got word last night that a friend was killed last week in an auto accident. His wife's sister is an old friend and we got to know the couple when Brett DJed their wedding. (The infamous Swearing Minister wedding.) They were married less than 2 months.

So, just for today, don't be irritated by your spouse's abensetmindedness and your children's whining. Just hug them and let them know how happy you are to have them around.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Karma comes back around

My excellent cousin Heather blogged about her little boy getting his widdle-biddy finger caught in a mousetrap.

I had a fleeting, "Oh no, I hope he is okay" thought which was suddenly and completely overridden with the urge to laugh. I dunno why but it just seemed really really funny. Little boys playing with mousetraps? Yeah, that's funny. Sign me up for parenting classes right now.

It wasn't so funny, though, when karma brought it full-circle in less than 24 hours. Brett called me yesterday while I was driving home.

"My parents are here. Can you stop by the grocery store and get some mushrooms? I'm making steak sandwiches for dinner."


"Oh yeah, and get another bell pepper, too."


"And pick up some mousetraps, as well."

"Huh? Very funny. You've been reading Heather's blog. I can't help it if I think it's funny that her boy got his finger caught in a mousetrap. I'm sure it hurt, but he's okay. No serious injury inflicted. That doesn't make me a bad person."

"I don't know what you are talking about."

"Then why on earth do you want me to get mousetraps?"

"My mom found a mouse. Duh. I want to make sure we get rid of any others that might still he hanging around."

"Your mom found a mouse? IN THE HOUSE? IN OUR HOUSE?"

"Yeah, he was in the oven."


"Well, I did. She ran into the bathroom and locked the door."

So, is it coincidence that I haven't thought about mice or mousetraps or any other kind of vermin since I was a kid and our house in Salinas had a mouse problem but all of a sudden there's a mouse in my house immediately after I laughed at a poor toddler getting his finger caught in a mousetrap? I doubt it. This is karma-in-action.

I just hope our dogs don't get their little noses snapped in the traps anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Conversation just now with a representative from a company we do business with regularly:

Me: I'm trying to reach Linda Brown in your department regarding a letter she sent me. I've been calling the number on the letter all day and it's not working. It just rings and rings--there's no voicemail or anything. Is there a better number to reach her at?

CSR: Linda Brown? I've never heard of her in this department.

Me: The title on her letter says "Asset Disposition Representative." Is this the Asset Disposition department?

CSR: Yes. But "Linda Brown" doesn't sound familiar.

Me: --

CSR: Hmmm... Linda.... Linda...

Me: --

CSR: Oh yeah. I got it. Linda. I work with her every day. Duh. It's Tuesday and I'm still acting like it's Monday. Sorry.

Me: That's fine. Can I talk to her?

CSR: She's gone home early today. I can transfer you to her voicemail, though.

Me: Okay. But can I also have the number in case I need to call her back?

CSR: It's xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Me: That's the number I've been calling. The one that doesn't work.

CSR: Huh. Well, I'll transfer you now so you can leave a message.

Me: Wait! That's the number I've been calling and it just rings. There's no way to leave a message.

CSR: Well, maybe her voicemail just isn't set up. I'll transfer you over there.

Me: No! Wait! I need to be able to leave a message or talk to someone. How am I going to leave a message if her voicemail isn't set up?

CSR: I don't know. I've never really had to leave a message for her before.

Me: How about Linda's supervisor then?

CSR: Please hold...I"ll transfer you...

*ring* *ring* *ring* *ring*..... ad nauseum

What she meant by "I'll transfer you" was "I'll transfer you again to Linda's non-existent voicemail since I know that's what you want, what you really really want even though you have indicated you don't want that, I know better and it will be far better for me to transfer you to the extension of a person I know is not here and has no voicemail than to transfer you to an actual working extension where you might be able to talk to someone, ANYONE, who is clear on the concept of 'leaving a message.'"

Monday, June 9, 2008

So, you're getting married?

Let me be the first to offer congratulations! Your wedding day is going to be one of the most memorable days of your life. It's a day to look your finest, revel in romance, and enjoy the undivided adoration of your family and friends.

As you probably are aware, planning the perfect wedding will not be easy. Many things that you feel are earth-shatteringly important will be out of your control. My best advice: find wedding professionals you can trust and let them do their job. You will be surprised how well they can bring your vision to life while managing the many, many inevitable crises which will occur on your special day.

You will draw inspiration from many sources. Your perfect color scheme might be inspired by the season and local flowers. Your gown may be plucked from the pages of the most fashionable bridal magazine. Your choice of caterer could be decided by sampling from a variety of restaurants. The wide world beckons with the seeds of ideas to make your own.

Go! Reap the bounty the world offers! Plan your heart out! Be the most phenomenal bridezilla ever!

I offer this single, solitary nugget of advice:

Having an outdoor wedding in the middle of the day is stupid.

If your inspiration for the perfect wedding comes from a movie and said movie features beautiful people laughing and dancing and having a great time at an outdoor reception in the middle of the day, be assured that said movie is lying to you. This does not happen.

Brides the world over consult almanacs to pick the best days for outdoor receptions. "Why, it hasn't rained in Sacramento on June 9th for over 80 years! The weather will be perfect!" It won't. It will, will 99% certainty, be unseasonably rainy, windy, hot, cold, snowy on your special day.

But let's say you are the Chosen One. The weather is indeed movie-location perfect. There's not a cloud in the sky and a gentle breeze carries the perfume of a thousand flowers to your reception site. The guests are not too hot or too cold. Even your 90-year-old gramma is comfortable sitting outside for six hours. Your reception will still suck.

Do you know why?

Regardless of the weather, no one likes to dance when the sun is out.

It's a simple concept. If you are planning on having three hours of dancing at your perfect middle-of-the-day outdoor reception, plan on ending early. You will dance your first dance with your new husband. You may dance with your father. You may be able to force your bridal party to dance in an effort to get the party started. It won't work. The party won't start. Your guests will clap politely and then begin to leave. There's not enough alcohol in the world to convince people to dance outside in the middle of the day at a wedding.

So, plan accordingly. Move the dancing indoors, turn out the lights, and go to town. Or, alternatively, do not attempt to have dancing at your outdoor in-the-middle-of-the-day reception. Have a luncheon, cut the cake, toss the bouquet, and call it a day.

And by all means, if you should ignore your trusted DJ's expert professional opinion and choose to have your blasted wedding outside in the middle of the blasted day on the blasted most unseasonably hot blasted day in 80 years, please refrain from saying, "DJ! All my guests are leaving! Do something!"

At that point, it will be beyond his poor power to add or detract.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Take the stairs instead

I often take the stairs.

Well, I often take the stairs down. Rarely up, if I can help it. It's mostly habit. When I lived in the dorms during college, the elevators were slow and crowded. My friends and I felt it wasn't worth waiting 10 minutes for an elevator ride when it took almost no effort or time to run down the stairs. Especially when we were running down to the cafeteria for the Annual Chocolate Day luncheon.

Running down the stairs seemed like exercise to us, only without the sweating and discomfort. It because Our Thing. We'd seek out tall buildings, ride the elevator to the top floor, and run down the stairs, just to say we'd done it. Kind of a geeky way of working out every day or climbing Mt. Everest.

So, while I do not believe my cardiovascular system is in any better shape for all the downstairs running I've done in my lifetime, I still do it. It's sort of a sentimental journey and a nod to all my friends from school that I don't get to see any more.

I applied for a job in one of the few semi-tall office buildings in Sacramento. It was on the 9th floor and running down the stairs after the interview seemed like a good way to burn off a little nervous energy. I entered the stairwell and began my downward trek. At the first landing, between the 8th and 9th floors, I noticed a faded sign stenciled on the wall.


My years of downstairs running have taught me to pay attention to signs associated with exits and stairwells. Many doors which lead to stairwells are alarmed and I lived in constant fear that pushing a door open to get to the stairwell in an unfamiliar building would be accompanied by the obnoxious clang of a fire alarm and a shower of cold water from the overhead sprinklers. It never happened, mind you, and I attribute that good fortune to the fact that I pay attention to the signs.

Let me remind you, however, that this sign was not posted where I could see it before or upon immediately entering the stairwell. It was stenciled on the wall between two floors. I had to turn two corners and descend half-a-flight of stairs before it was visible.

I cocked an eyebrow at the message. Okay, so they would prefer that people not use the stairs unless there's an emergency. Well, it's obviously not that important, otherwise they would post it in a conspicuous place before they get into the stairwell, right? Some stuck-up power-hungry office manager had probably made a stink somewhere along the line about people in the stairwell making too much noise. Sure, if I was a building superintendent and had to deal with a whiner like that, I would definitely post a non-vital message between floors to appease her and thumb my nose at her at the same time.

Now I felt empowered and rebellious. I was using the stairs for non-emergency purposes and no one could stop me. Haha! I stomped my feet harder than usual and the sound of my job-interviewing high-heels echoed off the walls. Come and complain about it! See if I care!

The noise was deafening by the time I reached the ground floor. I expected shouts of dismay from above at any moment. (Note: this stairwell was on the opposite side of the building from the company at which I had just interviewed. Of course, I wouldn't want to disturb my prospective employer.) Preparing to make my escape, I pushed the handle of the exit door.

It was locked.

The for-use-only-in-case-of-emergency door which led to the parking lot outside was locked.

My heady rebelliousness faded. Some idiot had forgotten to unlock the ground floor exit door when he opened the building this morning. Now I would have to climb UP to the second floor and take the elevator down to the lobby. The fun was gone. Dejected, I dragged my sorry carcass upstairs and pushed the handle of the exit door on the second floor.

It was locked.

I began to think that maybe the sign had not been merely a suggestion. But I couldn't believe that a stairwell "for emergency use only" would provide no exit to the outside world. I mean, what if there actually was an emergency? They'd rather have all the burned or earthquake-mangled carcasses collected in a locked stairwell than scattered through the 15 floors of the building? That does make a morbid kind of sense, I guess.

There was no escaping the fact that this was going to be an embarrassing situation. Someone was going to have to come and let me out. But not before I tried every single door in that blasted stairwell.

All 15 doors were locked.

Now I knew I would have to get someone's attention. I chose a random door on a random floor and began to knock. My knuckles against the solid metal industrial door barely made a noise. I used the side of my fist, then my keys. I began to shout, "Hello? Hello?!" The sound echoed as before but no one came.

It was getting toward late afternoon. The stairwell was hot and I was sweaty from climbing up and down. I began to worry that people would be going home (taking the elevator, of course) and I would be stuck there overnight, over the weekend, or FOREVER! I did what any reasonable person would do.

I called my husband to come save me. Yes, that would mean he would have to drive all the way across town in rush hour traffic. Yes, that would mean that he would tease, harass, and generally annoy me about this incident for the rest of my life. Yes, that would mean I would have to tell him the silly reason I was in the stairwell to begin with.

But, he wasn't home. And his cell phone was off.

Now, I only had one option left. The worst and most undesirable option. I called the company at which I had just interviewed, sheepishly explained the situation, and asked someone to come and let me out.

A very annoyed office manager showed up moments later. "The stairs are for emergency use only," she hissed.

I thanked her politely and imagined the day she tried to use those stairs for an emergency only to find that the exit doors are locked from top to bottom.

Is it any wonder that I never heard from that company again? I think not.