Friday, December 16, 2011

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night...

So yesterday I was talking about my tire problems. I said, “it’s December and I’m having tire issues ‘again.’” I’m sure you were sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what other tire issues I’ve had in December, weren’t you? No? Well, too bad because I have a doozy to tell you.

It was a dark and stormy night…

No, seriously, it was. And it was also Christmas Eve. I was on my way home from work and looking forward to spending my first Christmas with Vince. As soon as I arrived home, we were going to pack up the car with gifts and head to his dad’s house for a family celebration.

So I was racing home and was nearly there. The windshield wipers were thumping across the glass trying in vain to keep the water off my windshield so I could see the road in front of me.

And then I heard a loud pop.

Not knowing what it was, but knowing that my car doesn’t normally make that sort of sound, I pulled off the road. So even though I knew I was going to get pummeled by the rain, I stepped out of my car and walked around to see what might have caused that sound. And there, on the passenger side, was a flat rear tire.

So I did what any normal woman does in this sort of situation. I called my boyfriend.

Vince asked me if I thought I could get it up the street to the gas station where I could fill the tire with air enough to get home. And he would take it from there.

Yeah, right.

I did manage to make it to the gas station. Air, as I complained about yesterday, cost 75 cents. And I had to scrounge around in my car to find three quarters. So out into the cold deluge I went with the three quarters clutched in my shaking fingers. So I slid the first quarter into the slot, and then the second…but the third quarter fell out of my icy fingers and rolled under my car. Seriously?

Rather than kneel on the wet and muddy pavement to search for it, I trudged back around my car into the driver’s seat to see if I could scare up another quarter. Fortunately, I found one and managed to insert it into the slot without dropping it. And the air machine whirred to life.

Since my tire was flat as a pancake, I decided not to bother finding out what the air pressure was – I knew it was going to take a lot of air to get it reasonably full enough to drive. So I crouched there squeezing the handle of the air pump. By this point, my hair was dripping wet and it looked as if I’d just gotten out of the shower. I was freezing cold and getting, well, just a tad stressed out. But I kept trying to fill the tire.

After three minutes the air machine shut off, but my tire was still flat as a pancake. And I had no more quarters.

So I did what any normal woman would do in this sort of a situation.

I got back into my car and cried. And then I called my boyfriend.

By the time Vince answered the phone, I was sobbing into the phone – so his first thought might have been that I’d gotten hit by a Mack truck in the gas station parking lot or something. But, no. I just couldn’t get the tire to fill with air. He may have decided that I just didn’t know how to fill a tire with air – but he (fortunately) didn’t suggest any such thing.

So he did what any normal boyfriend would do in this sort of situation.

He drove over to the gas station to rescue me. I think he was a little shocked to see the soggy pitiful state I was in with dripping hair and eyes and running mascara – but he hugged me and told me he would take care of it. Then he steered me over to his car and told me to go home and take a hot shower and get ready to go to his dad’s house.

Which we were late for, incidentally.

So I called his dad’s wife and – still sniffling – told her what had happened. She reassuringly told me it was going to be fine and to just get there when we could. And to bring an extra large bottle of wine.

Turned out that the tire had actually exploded and there was no inner wall – so that tire was never going to fill with air no matter how many quarters we put into the air filler machine. Vince took the wheel off and put the little donut on the car and drove home – pretty drippy and freezing himself. But rather than complain about anything, he just held me close and told me how lucky I was that nothing worse had happened when the tire blew.

Probably if I’d known that was what was happening, I would’ve panicked and rolled the car or something.

Nevertheless, the tire was replaced a couple days later and all was right with the world again. Especially after I drank that extra large bottle of wine all by myself at his dad's house on Christmas Eve.

I kid. (Sort of.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tire Troubles and Louie DePalma

Well, it’s December and you know what that means, don’t you? No, not Christmas or Hanukkah or any of that other holiday and mistletoe-kinda stuff.

What it really means is that I am having tire troubles. (You do realize that the world revolves around me, no? Heyyy. Whaddya mean, “No!”?)

All right, so I concede that the world doesn’t really revolve around me, but I AM having tire troubles.

One day last week I noticed that the front tire on the driver’s side was pretty low, so I took it to the gas station where I had to pay the exorbitant amount of 75 cents for air. Sure, sure, I suppose the gas station owners have to maintain that air dispensing machine and all, but there’s just something galling about having to pay for air.

Anyway, I thought that took care of the problem. But I thought wrong. The tire was really low again a few days later, so I took it to the tire place close to my office. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall tire shop owned by a man who looks to be at least 200 years old.

And he’s mean. I mean, one time I took my car there to have a new tire put on the car and started to write a check to pay the bill. He came hustling out of his little cage, à la Louie DePalma from that old Taxi sitcom. And he snatched my checkbook out of my hands! I was flabbergasted and asked him what the heck he thought he was doing. He responded that customers had written way too many checks that had bounced and he wanted to make sure my balance was enough to cover his bill.

Since I towered over the man, I was able to grab my checkbook back out of his hands and stopped just short of thunking him on top of his little head with it. But I was sorely tempted, let me tell you. I wrote him a check – that didn’t bounce, thank you very much – and vowed never to darken his doorway again.

But, um, the location is really convenient while I’m at work and I’ve been back a couple times since. I usually pay with a credit card, however, to avoid repeating the whole checkbook snatching scenario. I’m a little afraid I’d give in to my urge to thunk him on the head with my checkbook as payback for that first incident.

So I sat in a grimy chair in the waiting room anxiously awaiting word on how much the problem was going to cost me. Working in German Village, a quaint little part of town with many streets paved with bricks, wreaks havoc on motor vehicles. I’m not so sure how well horses did back in the “olden days” either. Suspensions go and nails and other sharp, pointy objects get embedded in tires.

After a few minutes I was summoned to the operating room and Louie pointed at a sad specimen of a tire with a severely bent rim and a tire so flat that I couldn’t believe it had come off my car. And then he started berating me and asking me what I’d hit. I told him I hadn’t hit anything. He looked at me in disbelief and then told me he couldn’t put that tire back on my car; that he’d have to “send out” for another rim and it would take two days for it to come in.

Meanwhile, I’m standing there wondering how I’m going to get back to the office and then how I’m going to get all the way back home after 5 o’clock. I couldn’t imagine sitting in my office for three to four hours waiting for Vince to drive downtown to collect me after he finished with his job for the day.

So while my thoughts were racing and my blood pressure was skyrocketing, one of Louie’s underlings walked in and said, “That not her wheel, boss.” I heard the guy…but Louie was still shaking his head and carrying on about how I had to hit something pretty substantial to incur that kind of damage.

After the young man repeated for the third time that it wasn’t my wheel, Louie finally heard him. And then he grudgingly apologized to me.

So I went back to the waiting room a total wreck. For some reason, car issues really stress me out. And, even though Vince is great at dealing with car issues, he wasn’t there to take Louie on for me.

Turns out my rim WAS bent, but just barely, and air was slowly leaking out around it. (The high curbs in German Village are pretty formidable, too, and I do admit to hitting the curb a time or two. But that was a long time ago. Since then, I do everything in my power to avoid parallel parking in GV.)

So Louie glued something or other on the wheel and said if it didn’t hold, I’d have to have the rim replaced and he handed me back my keys. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to pull out either my checkbook or credit card since he didn’t charge me anything. Probably he was feeling guilty for yelling at me about the other wheel.

But this time when I left, I promised myself I wouldn’t be back. I really don’t need a mean Louie DePalma character in my life. I guess when you get to be that old, you get seriously cranky.

So I’m really looking forward to taking my car to some anonymous tire repair chain that has a bajillion tires and rims in stock. I’ll willingly pay a little extra to ensure that nobody snatches my checkbook out of my hands or berates me for the condition of a wheel that doesn’t even belong to me.

Or…maybe I’ll just leave the car repair stuff to Vince. Problem solved and no head thunking required.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

The other day someone asked me to name my favorite Christmas gift of all time. It made me pause because, while I’ve received many wonderful gifts over the years, I’m not sure which gift I’d consider my absolute favorite.

I can, however, tell you the first Christmas present I ever remember receiving. It was a “Chatty Cathy” doll and when you pulled a string on her back, she spoke one of several phrases. Now, you have to remember this was back in the dark ages when having a doll that sported realistic-looking eyes was a major development in the world of doll making. So having one speak was high tech for its time.

And I loved my Chatty Cathy doll. I was the only girl in the family since my younger sister hadn’t yet been born and I only had brothers to play with. I loved all things girly – something they didn’t understand – so I pretended that Cathy and I were sisters.

But then it happened. My older brother absconded with Chatty Cathy one day shortly after Christmas and yanked the “chatty ring” on her back too hard and one too many times. And Chatty Cathy ceased chatting. It broke my little 4-year-old heart.

To this point I hadn’t quite learned the art of retribution. But now that I’m thinking about it and getting mad all over again, I’m wondering if it’s too late to get back at my brother. Hmm. I wonder if he still has some of those little green plastic army men? I could melt them down into a big ol’ pile of green goo.

On the other hand, they’d probably release all sorts of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. So…better not. Besides, I’m pretty sure that even if he did have some of those little green plastic army men stored in a box somewhere, he surely no longer plays with them. Yeah, he’d probably look at me like I’m the crazy one if I whipped out a Zippo lighter.

Apparently I’m not very good at the whole retribution thing.

But I digress. I was talking about favorite Christmas gifts. I’m guessing that talking about Soprano-style retribution defeats the feel-good aspects of “Favorite Christmas Gifts,” eh?

So let’s move on, shall we?

My mom tells me that the year prior to the whole Cathygate incident, I asked Santa for balloons for Christmas. Balloons – really? This is a gift I neither remember asking for nor receiving, although apparently both happened. But since I still get all giddy when I receive a handful of helium-filled balloons, I’m sure this one was true. Santa must have been ecstatic that year. This is great, kid, he probably thought. I can pick up a cheap pack of balloons and the elves won't even have to break into a sweat on this one.

But, Santa, it’s never about the price of the gift. Right?!

As I said earlier, I loved all things girly – still do – so the year I received a little heart-shaped birthstone set with a ring, stretchy bracelet and necklace from Woolworths that I coveted, I thought I’d hit the jackpot. Never mind that the bracelet turned my wrist green and the ring broke within a week or two. I loved those little heart-shaped sapphire “jewels”!

I remember as a young adult asking my parents for specific gifts to furnish my apartment. One year, I asked for a dresser for my bedroom. Another year, I asked for a rocking chair. A third year, I asked for a cheval mirror.

But my favorite gift I received as a young adult was a hammer. Yes, a hammer! I’d decided that I really shouldn’t use my high heels to pound nails into the wall anymore, so I asked my dad for a hammer. This was a gift he could get behind, so off he headed to Lowe’s. And under the tree on Christmas morning was a colorfully wrapped gift – in the exact shape of a hammer. I laughed as I picked it up and said, “I couldn’t possibly guess what this might be!”

When I use that hammer today, it always makes me think about my dad – and I always smile.

As we get older, I think the thrill of receiving gifts lessens a bit since we can most likely afford to buy the gift in question ourselves. What makes it special, really, is the person giving us the gift. That someone we care about thought about what we might like – and chose a gift especially for us.

So I’m just happy whenever I receive a gift. But please don’t go searching through eBay for an old Chatty Cathy doll. I couldn’t bear it if she stopped chatting and it broke my little 50-something year old heart!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Jingle Bell Rockin' it in Tap Shoes

On my commute home from work the other night I finally gave in and tuned to the station playing Christmas music 24 hours a day. They started on Black Friday, but I couldn’t bring myself to listen to any rendition of “Frosty the Snowman” that early – even if I do think that Burl Ives made a really cute snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with his little plaid vest and umbrella.

I haven’t joined the whole Sirius radio revolution, so I’m still listening to only about three local radio stations in my car. So trust me, it’s not easy to avoid the 24-hour a day Christmas music radio station. I mean, even when I listened to the morning show for a few minutes to hear their “Celebrity Dirt” or “I Didn’t Know That Fun Fact of the Day” segments, I immediately switched to one of the other two stations right after they finished.
But, since the Christmas season seems to be truly upon us, I decided to test the waters and see if Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” was enjoyable or got on my nerves.

Fortunately, the first song I heard was “Jingle Bell Rock.” Not the Home Alone version by Brenda Lee, but the one by the man. (Okay, I have a computer and I can look stuff up. Yeah…hold on… Okay, I’m talking about the one by Bobby Helms.)

Anyway, when I heard that song, I was instantly transported back to the third grade.

I know – weird, right?

But in the third grade, I – along with several other third grade girls – did a little tap dance to Jingle Bell Rock for what I assume was a Christmas show the school staged for parents and other adoring family members. As I recall, our tap dance sort of morphed into a Rockettes kind of thing with all of us linking arms and high kicking as Bobby sang “…dance the night awayyyy!”

Since I went to Catholic grade school, I can’t imagine how they managed to coordinate our annual recreation of the whole Baby Jesus being born in Bethlehem with angels and wise men and the whole nine yards scene with a bunch of little girls high kicking to “Jingle Bell Rock.”

It’s weird the things you can remember, isn’t it? I mean, I have no other memory of that evening other than the snippet where I was tap dancing and kicking.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Because my tap-dancer teacher was a nun. Her name was Sr. Lucy. And this – mind you – was back in the day when nuns wore the long black habits with three foot long rosary beads attached to their waist and wimples on their heads so that they rather resembled penguins.

I sort of remember taking tap dance classes in the janitor’s room because it was the only place in the school with cement floors and evidently we really needed to hear the taps on our shoes as we fumbled along learning the difference between a brush and a shuffle.

I remember being most shocked when Sr. Lucy lifted up her habit so we could watch her feet as she showed us the steps. Seeing a nun’s ankles was a big shock to an 8-year-old, who was a little naïve and didn’t think nuns had the same parts as the rest of us. I mean, we’d only ever seen a small portion of their faces and their hands.

Of course, it wasn’t like seeing anything, really. I mean, nuns wore heavy woolen stockings and clunky black shoes.

And, while I don’t really remember what Sr. Lucy’s tap dance shoes looked like, she was one of my favorites and I’d like to think they were shiny black patent with wide grosgrain ribbon ties.

Ah well. Since I can’t remember how to tap dance anymore, I assume that my lessons were short-lived. But hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” on the radio sure brought back some fond memories.

So I guess maybe it is time for the 24-hour Christmas music station.

Except that I reserve the right to change the station the very first time I hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It’s ONE Space After a Period. Apparently.

I’ve been reading about the “new” rules of writing. The big one lately is that you’re supposed to put only one space after a period instead of two spaces.

If you’re my age and you grew up back when actual typewriters roamed the earth, you probably find it nearly impossible to comply with this rule. Putting two spaces after a period is permanently ingrained in the same part of my brain as the sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

As a matter of fact, I notice that even though I’m talking about it, I keep entering two spaces after the stinkin’ period. And I’m really trying to enter only one space. Argghh!

Why do the rules keep changing? Sure, I understand the argument about outmoded methods of printing and typesetting and monospaced fonts, blahbedy, blah, blah. What they’re telling us is it’s not only unnecessary to hit the space bar twice, but it's also a serious writing infraction.

Okay. But what does that extra space really hurt? It’s not like I’m using up so much extra space that I’m killing any additional trees, especially since my words are merely floating around in cyberspace rather than printed on actual paper.

Sure, there are times when I’m composing a real letter and there will be one little word all by its lonesome on a line, so I’ll delete some of the extraneous spaces to try to move it up with its friends. If absolutely necessary, I might even delete a word or two, but it’s pretty obvious that I like using a LOT of words and I don’t like getting rid of any of ‘em. But for the most part that extra space doesn’t really hurt anybody.

I read an article the other day wherein the writer was pretty adamant about the one space after a period rule. He even seemed to think it was a jarring experience for readers to come across that extra space – like they were so traumatized whenever they saw it that they simply couldn’t continue reading until they stopped and composed themselves.

Really? This is the problem? I don’t think so. I’d say that it’s pretty darn traumatizing to read some of the status updates on Facebook. Like…well, let me take a quick gander at ol’ Facebook to find you an example. Be right back…

Okay. Here’s one: Someone was wishing a group of people and their families a Merry Christmas, but the line was written “…there family’s...” Oh, happy day. For my dentist, anyway, as he will earn big bucks for fixing the teeth that I’m grinding down to pointy little stumps.

Or how about this one: “Life is to short to worry about thing’s u cant control. Everyone has there problems.”

How can two tiny sentences have so many errors? On the other hand, there was only one space between sentences, so I guess I should be happy about that.

Yeah, not really.

I would have been slightly mollified if the writer had at least spelled “their” correctly.

I think it’s interesting that despite the proliferation of cell phones, our communication has become much more written than verbal. We don’t call people to carry on a conversation; we text or IM or simply update our statuses on Facebook or Twitter.

Maybe our message reaches a bigger audience this way as it would be nearly impossible to call all 1,497 of your closest Facebook friends to tell them you’re next in line at Starbucks and can’t wait to get you’re too iced venti macchiato’s because you sooo need the buzz.

But, c’mon, people. Before we worry so much about the one versus two spaces after a period rule, why don’t we worry about the correct usage of to, too and two? (And a basic review of apostrophes and possessives also wouldn’t hurt.)

Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox now. But before I go, I’d better look this blog over one more time. I’m sure I have a lot of extra spaces to delete.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Great Office Beautification Plan

I walked into the office the other day to find all the pictures off the wall and furniture moved around in the “middle” rooms. This was my first clue that big changes were a comin’.

On and off for the past year we have been in the midst of an “office beautification” project that started with the copy room and eventually progressed to my office. And now, apparently, it’s the middle rooms’ turn.

This is not a bad thing since the carpet and wallpaper in the office have been around for about 30 years. And don’t tell anyone, but there may even still be shag carpeting upstairs. Maybe that explains why the new guy has been dressing like Austin Powers.

Thankfully, I was on vacation when my office was redone. Sure, I had to spend a couple days ahead of time packing up my files and desk paraphernalia. But it was oh so nice to come back to what looked like a brand new office. And I kind of like not staring at gold foil printed wallpaper every day. The only downside is that I can’t attach paper to the walls with thumbtacks anymore, so I have to search through folders on my desk to retrieve important information. Not fun for a visual person who can’t recite the office address without looking at a cheat sheet. Sigh.

So the plan for the next phase of the project was that someone would be in this week to remove the wallpaper in the two middle rooms as well as my bathroom. And then over the weekend, wall prep and painting would commence as well as carpet reinstallation.

But while my boss was standing there telling me his plans, he started picking at the wallpaper. He started pulling and a large section of paper came easily off the wall. So we looked at each other and then back at the wall – and then we both started pulling wallpaper off in a mad frenzy to see which of us could rip the bigger sheet of paper off in one pull.

We’re not competitive or anything, are we?

Eventually we tired of the “fun” so we washed our hands and went to our respective offices to get a little real work done.

But after spending some frustrating minutes on the phone with a vendor who didn’t seem to understand the importance of communicating the status of a project, I went into the bathroom, closed the door – and ripped a whole section of wallpaper off the wall. Hey, a new way to relieve stress. Who knew?

We continued to pull more paper off the wall throughout the day whenever boredom struck – or we didn’t feel like dealing with recalcitrant vendors – and managed to remove about 80% of the paper covering the walls.

I figured that the guy who was hired to work on this project lost a chunk of change. I imagined he intended to spend an entire day taking the paper off the walls before prepping them for the painters. Oh well. If he’s being paid hourly, I’m sure he’ll stretch it out. And if he’s being paid by the job, well, we did him a major favor, didn’t we?

This experience is far different from the first time I was asked to help remove wallpaper. I was 10 years old and we were visiting our cousins in Michigan. One cousin and her husband had recently purchased an old farm house and wanted to remove the wallpaper. What cheaper labor can you get than little kids? All you have to do is promise ‘em a burger. Throw in an overnight sleepover and make it sound like a big adventure and they’re all in. So we were handed some sort of scraping tools and were presented the wallpapered wall.

And suddenly that burger didn’t seem like all that big a deal.

What I remember about the experience was that it was not fun. Well, other than the fun I had whenever I got to hang out with my cousins. We scraped and scraped, but only managed to free little slivers of paper from the wall at any one time. And underneath the part that we cleared? Another layer of wallpaper. And underneath that? Newspaper! Someone glued newspaper to the wall!

I had my first lesson in futility that night. I just so didn’t want to continue because it seemed too gargantuan a task to a mere 10-year-old. I wondered what they used to put that stuff up in the first place – cement?

I clearly recall vowing right then and there never to put up (or take down) wallpaper again. Ever. Yep, my little 10-year-old brain decided at that very moment that wallpapering was bad and painting was good.

But I have to admit, it was kind of fun yanking the wallpaper off the walls in the office the other day. I’m guessing they didn’t use cement to affix the paper to the walls 30 years ago. No, I’d say it was more like Elmer’s Glue Stick.

So I’ve amended the vow I made when I was 10 and my new plan is to only remove wallpaper from walls if Elmer’s Glue Stick has been used to put the paper up. After all, it’s a great stress reliever.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Tis the Season

It’s the first of December already and I am, surprisingly, just about ready for Christmas. How did that happen? Oh yeah, I’ve been spending all my free time making lists, checking them twice and shopping like a crazy person. I’ve ignored my family, various friends, the laundry and the cats. Come to think of it, Vince’s face has become a little fuzzy in my mind, too, which tells me I’m probably not spending enough time with my husband.

And I’ve ignored my blog writing. Big time. Been way too long since I’ve written anything.

But my loving husband, who is my biggest blog-writing supporter, has been very helpful this year in the holiday prep department, so I really don’t have much of an excuse. Last weekend he and his son even moved the furniture around in the living room and put up the Christmas tree with very little prompting by yours truly. It was the first time in years – no…make that ever – that I didn’t have to free the Christmas tree from its dusty plastic bin in the garage and put it up and decorate it entirely on my own. (And, okay, so let’s not quibble too much about the fact that for many, many years I was single and there wasn’t anyone else around to handle the chore…)

Nevertheless, their efforts were greatly appreciated. It was a wonderful break for me given that I was elbow deep in other plastic bins hauling out a variety of glitter-covered holiday decorations that were put up with time and energy to spare.

And all our plotting and planning and shopping efforts have resulted in a fully decorated abode and a box full of gifts. Now all I need to do is wrap them and stow them safely under the tree. Unless Twinks, who is the “chewer” in the family, decides that the gaily wrapped gifts are her personal chew toys and rips off all the paper and bows covering said gifts.

If I have to re-wrap anything, they’re likely to end up in plastic shopping bags, so let’s hope that the cat keeps her gnawing to a minimum. That pair of slippers for Mom would look a whole lot less classy and appealing were they to be stuffed in a brown plastic Kroger bag.

Another task still to be checked off is the whole Christmas card sending business. I’m not sure why we bother with this one, except it’s a tradition I still like. Yet I fear that it’s a tradition that is fading into obscurity since we receive fewer and fewer cards each year.

But we have all manner of boxes of Christmas or Holiday cards (depending on the receiver’s religious beliefs) as well as a bundle of stamps and return address labels. And I’ve been working out my writing hand so that writer’s cramp doesn’t hinder my card signing plans.

What I haven’t done is write the annual letter to enclose in our cards. Since neither of us scaled Mt. Everest or backpacked across Europe or brokered any million-dollar deals this year, I fear we won’t be able to compete with our more accomplished relatives and friends who write about such achievements in their annual letter.

Oh well. We’re still here. We’re healthy. We’re gainfully employed. And we haven’t committed kitty-cide (as of this writing, anyway. Depends on how Twinks behaves around those wrapped presents…).

But I’m sure I’ll figure out something worthwhile to share. And, at the very least, we haven’t resorted to taking goofy photos of ourselves wearing ugly Christmas sweaters or sporting cheap Santa hats on our heads to send to everyone on our card list.

Small favors, eh? (On the other hand, you can get a good laugh out of some of those photos. If you can take a break in all of the holiday hustle and bustle, take a look at this link. It’s both horrifying and hilarious. Oh, and you’re welcome.)

‘Tis the season.