Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Help Desk

Back in the day when I worked at a big company, we had actual departments filled with people who fixed things like our computers. For some reason, we called that whole department the “Help Desk.” (Hey, don’t blame me; I wasn’t in charge of naming departments.) But I loved the Help Desk. They were my favorite people in the whole company. Well, right after the Paycheck Lady who came around every Friday and handed me money.

But whenever our computers messed up, we’d blame little gremlins. The Help Desk would tell us to do a basic analysis, which meant we were supposed to turn off the computer and then turn it back on.

If that didn’t work and the gremlins were still at work preventing our computers from functioning, we simply called the Help Desk back and they’d come to our rescue and would solve the problem. Those guys could fix anything. On the rare occasion when the gremlins got the best of them, the Help Desk guys would take our computer away and then bring us a new one that worked perfectly.

Did I mention that I loved the Help Desk?

Nowadays I work at a small company and we don’t have “departments” let alone a department called the Help Desk. We don’t even have a Help Person. Instead, we have a graphics guy. He’s our resident computer expert and that is only because he can go at least one step beyond turning-the-computer-off-and-back-on.

I miss the Help Desk.

So our Internet was down at work the other morning. Crack computer expert that I am, I knew that it wasn’t a problem with my computer specifically because nobody else in our office could access the Internet either.

But that was as far as I got. Eventually, I learned that the German Village area was having slow or no Internet connectivity.

So that meant that all morning I was at a loss. I’d start to check to see the last time a customer ordered – but then realized I couldn’t access the program since it’s online. Or I’d remember I needed to send an email to my coworkers about something – only I couldn’t send emails. Telling four people individually the news I wanted to share seemed monumentally tedious and repetitious.

Oh how we have changed in our communication delivery methods. Communicating face-to-face? Pshaw. Who does that anymore? (Thanks, Steve Jobs.)

Not only was the Internet down at work, but the night before we were again having computer problems at home. Darn gremlins. I had a photo I wanted to print, but couldn’t access my email to download it. I went upstairs to my computer and it was somehow connected to the Internet, but I don’t have a printer upstairs and I’m not connected to the printer downstairs. And, no, I don’t have any idea how to connect to the printer downstairs – don’t even get me started on that!

I’m really starting to re-think my degree in marketing communications and PR. Probably I should’ve gotten a degree in Help Desk. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so frustrated whenever we have Internet and/or computer problems at home. Because my first inclination is to assume the hardware is broken and needs to be replaced. Usually I’m wrong. (Wait. Did I just say that?!)

Nevertheless, it was a lesson in frustration the other night. Vince kept running upstairs to fiddle with the little black boxes and getting more and more frazzled when he couldn’t get the Internet up and running on his computer. Meanwhile, I stayed out of his way and didn’t voice a single complaint. But not being able to check Facebook before heading to bed was a real hardship. What can I say? I’m addicted. (Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg.)

Vince wondered if somehow the cats were playing with the computer wires. Or possibly they heard the word “mouse” and became intrigued and curious? Who knows? But When Vince came downstairs the next morning, he said his mouse and keyboard were on the floor. Twinklebelle was curled up on the couch looking all guileless and innocent. And Jinx was squeaking and standing at attention by her food bowl. Both cats looked at Vince as if they couldn’t imagine how that mouse and keyboard ended up on the floor.

Gremlins, indeed. I think our gremlins might also be known as Twinks and Jinx. And our problems might be solved once we figure out how to keep our computer-related paraphernalia out of reach of little paws. But still. I sure wish I could call the Help Desk.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Middle Age Woman's Handbook

I’d been thinking of lopping off some length on my hair for a while now. I felt like I needed a change and my hair had been getting pretty long. So Saturday I had an appointment with the fantabulous Rhaya from Q Salon (you should so make an appointment with her!), and told her I was ready. So she did it – cut off about 5”. She did a great job, and I really liked how she styled my hair.

I felt so much “lighter” without all that extra hair and I kept tossing my head around, which was probably annoying to anyone standing in close proximity to me, but whatever.

But Vince’s response when he saw my hair? “Well, it probably won’t take as long to fix now, will it?” I think this is Vince-speak for “I am trying to find something positive to say.” Oh well. He likes my hair long. At least until he vacuums and then has to deal with all the long blonde hairs that fall off my head and onto the carpet, which then clogs up the vacuum cleaner.

But it’s not like I can glue the hair back on, so we’ll just have to deal with shorter hair for a while. And it's not like it's super short either. It's more shoulder length. So I'll live with it until I get bored and decide to grow it out again. This has been happening my entire life, with longer hairstyles winning out far more than shorter hairstyles.

Probably the biggest reason I’ve kept long hair all these years is that I’ve been defying my mother. When I was still in my 30s, my mom said that women over 40 shouldn’t wear their hair long. This was apparently some archaic law that no one bothered to enter into the Middle Age Woman’s Handbook. I still had long straight hair, but the closer I got to my 40th birthday, the more I dreaded the deadline. And it wasn’t just that fact that I was turning 40 and would be immediately branded Over The Hill, either.

I wondered if there was some secret ceremony where black-hooded hairstylists wielding sharp scissors converge upon your head on the eve of your 40th birthday and cut all your hair off and style it in that short, poodle curl old-lady hairstyle that I’ve always hated.

So I went into hiding (in Steubenville, Ohio) and had fake IDs made that subtracted 6-7 years off my age just so I could keep my hair long for a few more years.

But, eventually, you have to come out of hiding and attend family functions. Like Mother’s Day. And Thanksgiving. And since mothers always know how old their children are, there was no fooling Mom. So she’d make those veiled comments that are Mom-speak for “You look ridiculous with long hair!” But she never came right out and said anything, mostly because she knew I was being defiant and we were doing the classic mother-daughter passive-aggressive dance.

So probably I have caused my mother stress for over 10 years now just because of the length of my hair. What a bad daughter I am.

Well, she should be happy now. I’m still about 5” shy of that poodle curl old lady hairstyle that I hate, but it’s only a matter of time. Maybe Rhaya will save me and will refuse to give me that hairstyle when I give in and request it.

Now, I’d love to say that Mom was right and that I feel more “age appropriate” (whatever that is), but I’m not so sure. I’d also love to say that Vince was right and that styling my shorter hair is a breeze.

But I can’t. I can state unequivocally that it takes far more time to take care of shorter hair. Sure, it takes a little less shampoo and a little less conditioner, but it adds at least 20 more minutes to my morning routine. And have I adjusted my schedule and gotten up 20 minutes earlier? No, of course not.

So Vince is sitting at the table downstairs waiting for me to show up while my eggs congeal and my coffee grows cold. Meanwhile I’m upstairs wrestling with my curling iron in an attempt to achieve that tousled look. I then spritz and spray my curls into some semblance of a sassy style – only to have the curls droop and fall out by the time I hit the door to head to work.


I need Rhaya to come over every morning and fix my hair because I clearly cannot do it myself.

And I can’t throw it back in a ponytail anymore because it would look ridiculous. I’d look like one of those show horses that have only a little stub left of their tail. And my little stub of a hair tail would be sticking straight out the back of my head. Not a good look for anyone, let alone someone my age.

So I’m resisting the idea of getting a perm to give my hair a little body and maintain the curl. Because you know what the next step is, don’t you? You have your stylist lop off that last 5” and just go with the poodle curl look.

Fortunately, I think the Middle Age Woman’s Handbook states that you can wait until you’re 60 before you are forced into that style. But maybe I should check with Mom. I’m guessing she’d have an opinion.

Meanwhile, I’ll figure out how to deal with my new hairstyle. I’ll get up 20 minutes earlier. I’ll practice with the hair styling implements. And I’ll get the hang of it. But probably not before my hair grows out, oh, about 5”.

Hey, I never said I played by the rules. And the Middle Age Woman’s Handbook? It has an entire chapter on “hot flashes.” I want no part of that!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Holiday Frenzy Season is Here

So Halloween is over and November has begun. And so has the Christmas music, and the holiday television and radio ads. It’s like they’re telling us, Hurry up, people, you’re running behind. GO. SHOPPING. NOW!


I didn’t want Halloween to end because I knew the holiday frenzy would begin immediately thereafter. I’m surprised I’m not feeling pressured to put up our Christmas tree already.

Over the years I have been known to shop for Christmas gifts throughout the year so as not to become immersed too heavily in the holiday shopping madness, but this year has been different. I haven’t purchased that first gift, card, bow or stamp, although my little mind has been churning through ideas and possibilities. Of course, until I start an actual list, the “process” cannot truly begin.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the whole holiday season. I do. It’s just that there’s way too much hype about it.

And, heck, the poor Thanksgiving holiday gets lost in the process.

I suppose turkeys everywhere would rejoice at this news, except that somehow, some way turkeys still manages to get purchased at grocery stores everywhere by the fourth Thursday in November. Sure, we have to push aside the Christmas hams to search for the perfect turkey to feed 18 people and we are forced to listen to that incessant canned Christmas music piped through the loudspeakers while having an internal debate over serving yams or mashed potatoes or both this year. It’s distracting, I tell you.

Okay, that whole paragraph is a lie. For me, anyway. 1) I’ve never prepared a turkey for 18 people. I’ve never even prepared a turkey for two people. I’m not crazy about turkey. 2) We don’t have ham for Christmas. 3) Yams, while healthier than your standard mashed potato, are orange. And I don’t eat orange food. And, yes, that pretty much involves all orange food, including pumpkin pie. And orange Skittles. You have to throw away orange Skittles.

Uh oh. After careful review of the multitudes of orange-colored foods out there, it occurs to me that I DO eat carrots. Oops. Lied again.

The only thing about that paragraph that was true (for me, anyway), is that we DO have to listen to canned Christmas music over the loudspeakers at the grocery store before we’ve even experienced the happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Of course, what sort of music could they possibly play to celebrate Thanksgiving? I think we only have “Over the River and Through The Woods.” And wouldn’t that get old really fast? Horse-driven sleighs are, after all, a rather outdated mode of transportation these days. And nobody has written any new songs about heading to grandma’s in a Kia, for example. Even after all these years. Go figure, huh? Probably there isn’t a big market for hit Thanksgiving songs.

The other reason the Thanksgiving holiday gets the short shrift is that shoppers everywhere have to gear up for the craziness that is Black Friday. The cooks in the family have to arise at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving Day to prepare the meal that their family is required to eat at 10AM. And the shoppers in the family avoid turkey entirely at Thanksgiving dinner because it contains L-tryptophan and they don’t want to be sleepy and miss their 9PM alarm. (And by “shoppers,” of course, I mean “women.” Men spend Thanksgiving watching football and drinking beer and eating leftover turkey sandwiches. They think the shoppers in the family are crazy to go shopping at 1 o’clock in the morning.

I blame the retail industry. Over the years, stores have competed for our holiday dollars by opening earlier and earlier the day after Thanksgiving. It started out that stores opened at 6AM on Black Friday. Then other stores started opening at 5AM. And it continued on until now you see store managers, with napkins still tucked under their chins holding plates filled with turkey and stuffing and marshmallow-y yams in one hand while they unlock the store doors with the other.

Shoppers, meanwhile, have been congregating outside the store in the cold for hours. Eventually they start pushing and shoving each other to get the prime entry positions. You’d think the store was giving away pure gold bars or something.

The closer time gets to store opening, shoppers assume the typical bull stampede stance. This includes snorting to intimidate the other shoppers and stamping and pawing the ground in anticipation so as soon as the doors open, they can rush inside to buy Tattoo Barbie or the newest Wii game before the other shoppers can get their grubby hands on the goods.

And you know what happens as soon as the doors open, don’t you? The slower-moving store managers who can’t step aside fast enough don’t make it. All that is left after the crowd has surged inside is a little smear of yam on the floor. And the napkin. That’s it.

It’s very risky to be a store manager in charge of the keys to the door on Black Friday. I hope they get combat pay.

Thus far, I have avoided joining in on the Black Friday madness. I feel sorry for the dear departed store managers for one thing. And, for another, there is no toy, sweater or iPod worth getting up for in the middle of the night. Not even if they gave it to me free.

So I say, RELAX, PEOPLE! You’ve got plenty of time. But probably you should think about putting up your tree this weekend. Unless, of course, you never took it down after last Christmas. Then you’re good. Instead, you can spend the weekend picking the orange Skittles out of your kids’ stash of Halloween candy. And maybe think about writing a Thanksgiving song with the word "Kia" in it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween 2011: The Pink Year

Vince and I went to a Halloween party Saturday night and…well…party animals that we aren’t, we were home before 11PM. I guess we finally have to admit that we just can’t hang with the big boys like we used to.

It’s not like it was a boring party or anything. As a matter of fact, it was a lot of fun. The friends who host this annual party are notorious for going all out. They decorate both the front and back yards and decorate every room inside their house, including the bathroom, with lots of lights and scary motion-activated ghosts and goblins. Plus, it’s fun just seeing the costumes they come up with. This year they were Snookie and Lady Gaga. She was Snookie and he was Lady Gaga. Too funny!

Their food is even Halloween-themed. Well, except for maybe the hot dogs. Fortunately, they didn’t hack them into jagged pieces and squeeze ketchup liberally over the “stumps” – that would’ve just been a little too realistic and unappetizing. (Uh oh. I hope I haven’t given them any ideas for next year’s party!)

Vince’s costume was a simple one born out of the fact that he had to work Saturday and didn’t have time for anything elaborate. He wore a T-shirt that read: This IS my Halloween costume.” Simple. Easy to put on. And no makeup or wigs or masks required.

I, on the other hand, didn’t have to work on Saturday and thus had way too much time on my hands to create my costume. I went as “Pinky” the Save the Ta-Ta’s Fairy. I wore pink – from my pink wig to my hot pink socks and from my fuchsia fingernail polish to my electric pink shoes. And I sprayed pink “fairy dust” (aka glitter) all over my face. Clearly, if there is one color you can easily find in October, it is pink!

I carried a Save the Ta-Ta’s bag and handed out Save the Ta-Ta’s buttons and stickers. And I carried a “Fight Like A Girl” pink ribbon cup from which I drank my pink drink that also had pink flashing “ice” cubes in it. There might have even been a little vodka in a couple of those drinks, but don’t quote me on that. I mean, it wasn’t pink or even cranberry flavored. Oh, the shame.

The “Fairy” part might not have translated as well as intended since I wore a pink cape. I looked a bit more like Little Pink Riding Hood. But, hey, I wasn’t out to win a costume contest or anything. Probably I should’ve considered pink fairy wings, but I’m not into costumes that prevent one from sitting comfortably. Plus, I’m just not that creative anymore and the thought of trying to build fairy wings that would have to somehow be affixed to my back was way more work than I wanted to do.

I drove over to the party with Muammar Gaddafi, which is interesting because he’s supposed to be dead. But he looked pretty good and wasn’t riddled with bullet holes or anything. This was a good thing since he was driving. Also in the car was the guy from the Hangover 2 – the one with the glasses who ended up with a tattoo all over his face? He may even have had a hangover, too, because both he and the monkey with him were pretty quiet on the drive over to the party. Either that, or maybe it was the monkey who had a hangover and Tattoo Guy was trying to avoid agitating the primate.

But what do I know? I was wearing a pink mask that kept me from seeing or hearing anything clearly and I barely stumbled up the steps and into the house before I yanked that stupid mask off my face and tossed it into my Ta-Ta’s bag. I ask you, who has ever been able to wear a mask for an entire party?

After that, we ate, drank and enjoyed ourselves. We watched a little college football. And Vince was able to make it to the party by the second quarter. By the time the third quarter ended, however, I’d had enough of trying to keep an unattractive neon pink wig centered on my head and Vince was tired from working all day. So I gave him the “time to go home” signal. Actually, it wasn’t even a signal. I just basically said, “Wanna go home?” And he said, “Yes.”

Yeah, we’re subtle like that.

It was probably a good thing we took our leave because I heard later that they broke out the Jagermeister. And whenever Jagermeister appears, tequila shooters can’t be too far behind. That’s just plain dangerous if one plans to have a productive Sunday instead of lying on the couch bemoaning the fact that Jose Cuervo packs a punch and leaves a mean headache to remember him by. (Not that this has ever happened to me. Well, maybe once. In my 20s. Long time ago, barely remember it.)

So, anyway, we made it home in time to see OSU pull out a win over Wisconsin. For some reason, it was way more exciting cheering for the home team sans my full pink regalia. Maybe because I’m scarlet and gray through and through – and wearing pink while watching Ohio State football just didn’t feel right.

So that was our wildly exciting Halloween 2011 experience. Of course, it could have been worse. We could have ignored the whole event and stayed home wishing we were at a Halloween party. So I think we deserve some props for making the effort. And who knows? Maybe next year I’ll get all creative and work on those fairy wings. Yeah, you know what would happen – I’d end up being Little Red Riding Hood wearing fairy wings. Sheesh.

Maybe we should just set a more realistic goal – like staying at the party at least until midnight.

Party animals.