Thursday, February 21, 2013

Back When a Thin Mint was a Thin Mint

It is that time of year again and while I have already taken delivery of my annual order of Girl-Scout cookies, the troops remain parked outside the market in an effort to move more merchandise.

“Ma'am, would you like to buy some Girl-Scout cookies?”  They look at me with their sweet faces and hopeful eyes.

“No, thank you.  I already bought some.”

I try not to meet eyes with the troop leader perched on her fold out chair behind the table.

“You know you can buy some to stock a local food pantry?”

“Yeah, I know.” I call back to her as I hurriedly push my cart through the sliding doors.

Don’t glare at me, you freakin’ CRAZY.  What the hell ever happened to getting off your ass and going door to door? 

In recent years, I have purchased my cookies from one scout in particular: my friend Leila, first daughter of our dear friends from way back.  They actually birthed two girls, both of which now live by the Girl-Scout law, but I luckily have yet to get stuck placing two orders in one season.  For example, this year my Nick shelled out $8 from his own wallet, without batting an eye, to place his own order for two boxes from little sister Maddie.  He even let her pick which kind.  I have to say that my favorites are still the Thin Mints, pulled right out of the freezer. 

But times have changed.  In addition to changes in sales techniques, e.g.: a spam-email sales solicitation to all non-diabetic friends and family members, the product itself isn’t what it used to be.  The cookies taste roughly the same but the wafer shape is slightly different and dare I say slightly less.  And what passes as a sleeve of Thin Mints today amounts to about a third less cookies, in my estimation, than it used to.  And believe me, I know my Thin Mint sleeves.  We’ve had a love-hate relationship since the mid 90’s.  Back when I was fresh out of college and took my first job issuing returns for a videogame publisher.  Back when I shared an office with both my boss and the company’s giant network servers because business was booming and there wasn’t enough room for all the new hires.  Back when coming back from lunch and opening a box of freshly delivered Girl Scout Cookies to get you through an afternoon of data entry seemed like a good idea.

“Are you sure you should eat all of those?”  My boss Betsi who was equal parts friend looked over at me from across our “office”.

My eyes left my monitor momentarily and I looked down at the now half-eaten sleeve of Thin Mints in the clear, cellophane wrapper next to my key board.

“I don’t know.  How many are in a sleeve?”

“They’re on your desk.  Count them.”  She left the “you, moron” off but it was totally implied so we both started giggling.  That’s what girls in their early twenties who issue returns for a living did in the mid 90’s.  Mocked one another and laughed harder and harder until they were under their desks and had tears running down their faces.  Then the quittin’ bell rang.

I pulled out the uneaten sleeve and counted.

“20.  Is that a lot?”

“Are you listening to yourself?”  She asked.

“Dude, they’re good and they’re small.” 

I have always been a skinny-fat-person.  Admittedly, in my early twenties, I was a slightly less skinny fat person thanks to my commitment to regularly making it to closing time but I was still quite thin.  In fact, we actually had a woman in our department who was the object of several “chubby chaser” men at the time.  She responded to their ads.  Anyway, I remember she used to walk into our office on Monday mornings to recap her weekend romps with my boss and she’d occasionally look over at me like she felt sorry for me.  Like my lack of weight surely handicapped my "game".  I didn’t let it bother me, though.  Especially during Girl Scout cookie season.

“Whatever,” was all my 23 year-old boss-friend could say to her 22 year old subordinate-friend.  I had put her in a difficult spot.  As my boss, she wasn't paying me for stunt-eating; but as my friend, I know she wanted to be supportive and non-judgmental.

We both resumed our duties issuing returns.  I continued to chase mine with Thin Mints and in an instant, the entire sleeve was gone.

“Should I go for the second sleeve?” I asked Betsi across the office.  Reader’s note: you know when you are asking to be dared to eat something as a 22 year-old woman who considers herself reasonably attractive by most standards, you have hit some kind of all-time low.

Betsi looked away from her monitor and at me for just a moment.  “Dude, I don’t know what you’re trying to do.”

“I’m not trying to ‘do’ anything.  They’re good.”  I was getting defensive.

“Do what you gotta do.”  She went back to her monitor.

As I wrestled with the cellophane on the second sleeve, I was given the opportunity to reflect for a moment on appropriate cookie servings.  Growing up, my extremely conservative parents allowed me no more than three Oreos at any time.  I had already blown through that number more than six-fold.  I decided I was satisfied with my act of mid-afternoon rebellion.

I put down the Thin Mints and turned my attention to the real task at hand but soon felt the first wave of consequences in my upper-intestines.

Oh hell.

I looked at the clock.  2 o’clock.

I can make it three more hours.

I adjusted myself in my chair and tried to turn my attention back to my monitor but it was no use.  The cramping was getting worse and was quickly working its way through my lower intestines.

Oh, screw it.  I’m not curing cancer here.  I’m not even using my English degree.

“I don’t feel good.” I announced to the network servers and Betsi.   

“Well, that’s shocking.”  Betsi looked at me mockingly across our office.

“Seriously, I don’t feel good.”

“Seriously, I believe you.  You just ate a whole freakin’ sleeve of Thin Mints and it’s not like that pizza we had for lunch was light.”  The implied “you morons” ran throughout her response.  It was clear I would get no sympathy from her.

I sat there silent for a moment but it didn’t take long for her to continue.

“Look, if your dumb ass is telling me you need to go home three hours early because you ate too many cookies, that’s fine but you’re going to have to tell Cindy.”

Cindy was our collective boss.  Me, Betsi, chubby-chased, and a bunch of other accounts payable/receivable types all reported into her.  And she was pretty bad–ass.  When she wasn’t yelling at warehouse managers, she was sucking on "heaters" (read: cigarettes) outside in the courtyard.  But in that moment, I didn’t care.  Shit was literally about to go down.  I was out of my chair and standing in front of her office in a second.

Cindy motioned me in to have a seat and I waited for her to hang up the phone.

“So what’s going on?”  She smiled at me but she had her right hand on her pack of smokes so I knew she had about one toe in our conversation.

Fuck it.

“I ate too many Girl Scout cookies and I think I might puke.”  I blurted out.

If my parents knew I uttered these words to my boss’s boss five months into my first job after completing the degree that they paid for, I probably wouldn’t be alive these nearly twenty years later to reflect on it.

She shook her head and stood up at the same time.  “You dumb-ass.  Did Betsi say it was ok for you to go home?”

“Yes.  She said I had to check with you.”

“Go home.”

When I returned to our office to turn off my computer and grab my purse, Betsi just shook her head at me.

“See you tomorrow.” Her tone was that of complete annoyance.

“See ya!” I threw my purse over my shoulder, grabbed the second sleeve, and made a break for it.

And yes, after all of this: the recipe change, the prices going up and the quantity going down, the near overdose… yes, after all of this, you will still find me downstairs in my freezer roughly fifteen seconds after pressing “post” on this entry.

The heart wants what the heart wants.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Carpet Zamboni

Is this happening?

Is this really happening?

I looked over at my Nicky, bent and curled in the seat next to me on the plane, 5 years old at the time.  He was finally fast asleep.  I smiled down at him.

This is why I chose you to take this trip with me instead of your brother.

“Why not bring both boys?” My friends asked.

“Because I’m not clinically insane.” I told them.

Our spring break trip to New York was to visit with my brother and niece.  The trip was one part fun (we always laugh with my brother) and one part to help care for my niece because my sister-in-law was away for a long, work trip.  I decided to bring Nick instead of Vince for several reasons, one of which being that Vince wasn’t the most comfortable plane traveler at that tender age.  As soon as he began to feel the plane lift off the ground for take-off, and hear the mechanics of the landing gear folding back up inside the plane; his tearful, red-faced cries of:

“No, mommy!  No!  Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”

could be heard in the cockpit.    

At which point Nick would momentarily pull the headphones from his ears and say, “Mommy, what’s wrong with Vince?”

Therein lies data point #123 in support of nature’s dominance over nurture in this crazy little thing called parenting.  Oh, the lessons my focus group of two has brought to bear these past seven years…

And so Nick got the trip to NY with Mommy via jet way and Vince got the trip to the desert with Daddy via freeway.  Everyone’s a winner…sort of…

Our return trip to Los Angeles ended up being one for the record books.  Thanks to weather, a fuel shortage resulting from a protracted period of circling the airport awaiting jet way clearance, and a flight crew that needed to “get off the clock”; our scheduled, 90 minute, early-evening, lay-over at the vortex known as Chicago’s O’Hare airport somehow grew into a sleepover at Detroit Metro airport.

It is in these moments of exhaustion, frustration, and complete and utter discomfort that every traveler’s coping skills are tested.  Some pass with flying colors, like the middle-aged men traveling on business who helped me push a crying and exhausted Nick through the terminal in an airport-issued wheelchair to the ticket counter.  And some fail miserably, like the flight crew traveling as a profession who huffed and puffed their way out of the airport with nothing but dirty looks for their now stranded passengers.

By the time Nick and I arrived to meet the lone ticket agent charged with the task of re-directing an entire Boeing 727 full of people, it was well past 2 a.m.  We were issued new tickets for our new flight home from Detroit to LAX at 7 a.m.  I made the executive decision to reject the free hotel voucher, thereby not gathering our bags up to try to chase down a shuttle to the airport hotel.  I guesstimated no more than 20 minutes of actual sleep in our hotel bed before waking a tearful Nick yet again to grab the shuttle back for our flight.     

“Is it really the middle of the night, mommy?”  Nick began to cheer up as I fumbled with our bags, attempting to wheel Nick away from the ticket counter.  My businessman entourage had deserted me, happily accepting their hotel vouchers.

“It really is.”  I answered, far less enthusiastically.

“Wait, what time is it?”  He asked.

“About 2:30 in the morning.”

“It’s morning.  Why is it dark outside?”  Nick was positively dumbfounded.

“It’s very early in the morning.  The sun hasn’t started to come up yet.”

“This is the latest I’ve ever been up.  Isn’t this the latest I’ve ever been up?”  He couldn’t believe his good fortune.

“It is.”  I confirmed.

“I can’t wait to tell Vincie!”  While his eyes were bloodshot, they were wide with excitement, and his grin ran from ear to ear as he looked around the dark, virtually empty ticketing area.

I stopped and turned back to the ticket agent. 

“Is there anywhere to eat in here at this hour?” I asked.

“Nope.  Everything is closed.”

What have I done?

“Not even a vending machine?”  I began to second guess my choice of staying sequestered inside Detroit Metro airport for the rest of the night.

“I think the vending machines are down by baggage claim.”

And so we ditched our wheel chair, gathered our bags, and made our way down to an eerily empty baggage claim area boasting both a snack and a beverage vending machine.

“What do you want, Nicky?”

“I can get whatever I want?”

I scanned the rows of sugary shit wrapped in cellophane for a granola bar.  Probably just as much sugar but at least nature was a key component in their brand strategy. 


Detroit is hard core.  Fuck it.

“How about a Pop Tart?” I offered.

At least it’s a breakfast item.  Better than Famous Amos.

“Yummy!  Can I have a Gatorade?”    

“Why not.”

I took a seat on a bench and laid our bags out around me.  It wasn’t long before the sugar kicked in and Nick was running wind sprints, back and forth, the length of the baggage claim.

“Honey, you need to stay closer to mommy.  If I can’t see you, you aren’t safe.”  If I had a nickel for every time I have uttered those words…

“There’s nobody here.”


It was kind of spooky down there all alone.  The airport after hours didn’t seem like the best place for criminal activity but you never know. 

“Can I take off my shoes?”

Nick remained un-phased by – no, he seemed to be growing increasingly enamored with the whole situation.

“Why not.” 

And Nick began again, running circle after circle around empty baggage carousels, throwing in the odd somersault or cart-wheel here and there.

What kind of airport carpet yuck is creeping through his socks and onto the skin of his feet, never mind what is now surely clinging to his hands from all the tumbling.  He is going to take the longest, hottest shower of his life when we get home.

I looked down at my own hands and the cracked vinyl bench I was sitting on, then thought about the plane, the chair, the ticket counter, the vending machine buttons, and every other public surface I may have come in brief contact with during the first part of this never ending journey.

I am taking the longest, hottest shower of MY life when I get home, then we’re climbing between the clean, crisp, white sheets of our bed for a nap.  Maybe Vince will join us, too.  Maybe Jeff will bring us all a late lunch in bed…I’ll just tie my hair in a wet ponytail and…

My fantasy was interrupted too quickly by the low hum of a motor.  I looked up and saw something I have never seen before, well, technically two things I have never seen before.

The airport Carpet Zamboni and her operator:

My first thought: What the fuck is that?

And my second: We are no longer alone.

“Nick, come here.”

Nick made his way over to me, stealing looks at our new friend over his shoulder.  Then we sat together. And stared.

“Mommy, what is that?” 

“Do you remember that thing the guy rode around on the ice during breaks at the man-made ice rink by our house back at Christmas time?”

“Yeah, but that was for the ice.”

“Yes, that was to smooth out the ice and this one seems to be to clean the carpets.”

“That’s cool.  Can we get one?”

“I don’t think we have enough carpet.”

It was then that the operator threw it into park about twenty feet from us, left the motor running, hopped off and headed outside through the automatic, sliding doors.  I saw that she was talking on her phone.

“Can I go look at it?”  Nick didn’t wait a beat.

“Sure.  Don’t get too close.”

I imagined the Carpet Zamboni popping out of gear and starting to move forward or backward, on its own. Copious amounts of sugar and airport super germs are one thing but explaining to Jeff how I somehow let our five year old get mowed down by a Carpet Zamboni during our extended layover was quite another.

Then the sliding doors opened again and she emerged, lit cigarette in one hand and mobile phone in the other.  She turned back, took a long drag on her cigarette, and casually flicked the "butt" outside.

Of course that’s how we do it.  I thought to myself.

She hopped back on the machine and threw it into drive.  She coasted along, scrubbing carousel area after carousel area, yapping away on her phone.  Soon she stopped again, threw it into park, and made her way back outside.  Then she was inside again, fresh blast of nicotine in her system, once again atop her cleaning machine. 

As I watched her, I imagined her life: the kids, the husband; maybe an unexpected grandchild or a rogue ex-husband; maybe an aging, ill parent of her own that she helped care for; perhaps a second job that she worked during the day.  She looked tough.  She looked like she could handle it: whatever choices she had made, whatever life had thrown at her, she looked like she could handle it.

By the time Nick and I headed up to our departure gate, she was long gone. I assume she headed to another baggage claim area after she left ours.  But she stayed with me and when I started this blog back in August, more than a year after our chance meeting at carousel 5, she became my cover girl.  And now, as I embark on “doing more with my writing”, I am told that I need to “create more of a visual identity for my blog”. 

And so, with this, I bid her a fond farewell:

This one’s for you, lady-who-works-nights-on-the-Carpet-Zamboni-at-Detroit-Metro-Airport.  May you never run out of Marlboro Reds and your cellphone battery never die before the end of your shift. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Best Self

Last week, I was in a rut.  Who am I kidding?  I’m still in it.  

Can I put my finger on why?  Not really.  There are things I want to do, things I’m concerned about, things that are boring me, things that are just wearing me out…and I am a hormonal creature and my back hurts.  

The bottom line for me is that when the internal dialogue in my head related to getting off my butt to get something done (the most mundane and doable of things like doing the dishes, running to the market, finally pulling the last load of laundry out of the dryer and folding it, packing lunches, washing my face before bed, etc.) lasts more than 15 seconds, I know I am in a rut.  

And unfortunately for my housemates (with the exception of Stitch), rut me = impatient, cranky me.

Last Tuesday morning, my crankiness was reaching a fever pitch.  I just felt nothing was right.  And I realize how completely galling it is for a healthy woman with a healthy family to even utter the words “nothing is right” but I was feeling it and thinking it.  

Crucify me. 

I returned to my desk after ripping Jeff for one of two things (doing something or leaving something undone) and was just disgusted with myself.  It has taken 40 years but I am self-actualized enough to know when I am completely out of line.

I got up, walked down the hall to his office, waited until he was off the phone and did something I remember encouraging my kids to do during their pre-school years.  I used my words.

“Honey, I’m sorry.  I’m just not my best self today.”

I don’t know where I first heard the expression “my best self” or “your best self”.  Probably from some psychologist on the Today Show.  But it resonated with me because some days we suck and some days we suck less and some days we suck not at all.

Jeff tilted his head to the side and looked at me with a kind smile of genuine sympathy.  “I’m sorry, baby.  Is there anything I can do?”

The words were all he needed.  They somehow completely undid the wrong that I had just done.

Today, eight days later, I am feeling slightly above my mediocre self...but I have my eye on the prize.

Of course I Google searched “my best self” and “your best self” in an attempt to satisfy my curiosity about the origin of the words and to maybe find an inspiring clip or quote to share.  All manner of self-help books and pink and purple blogs with diet tips popped up. 

Fuck that. 

Here’s a catchy little ditty, instead:

Just Because

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lucky 13

On this day, thirteen years ago:

 1. Two of the bridesmaids wore tuxes;

 2. The flower girl didn’t make it all the way down the aisle;

 3. The bride could barely say her vows and half the congregation thought she suddenly had cold feet;

 4. The best man forgot the ring, the bride laughed out loud on the pulpit, and the groom had to compose her;

 5.  The cheesy DJ got bitch-slapped by a bridesmaid;

 6. The other best man brought the house down with his speech;

 7. The bridesmaids reminisced about crank-calling, TP-ing, egging, and ding-dong ditching in their speeches;

 8. The groom sipped scotch from a wine glass on the dance floor;

 9. The bride clung to her father for dear life on the dance floor;

 10. The mother of the bride’s best friend fell on her ass, also on the dance floor;

 11. The maid of honor did the walk of shame through the hotel lobby (technically, it was the day after but she was still in her bridesmaid’s dress and her parents and all the out of town guests who were eating breakfast in the hotel saw her);

 12. The bride looked around the room and saw everyone she loved looking back at her;

 13. Then looked into her groom’s eyes and said “I do”.

 Man, I wish we could do it again!  

Thanks again for a great party, Mom and Dad!

And thanks for a great life, Dogger!