Driving in LA

This past weekend, I helped a friend move into her apartment in LA. I was mentally unprepared for the concentration and sheer determination it took to complete this task. When we loaded up my (Dad’s) truck, I played a dangerous game of furniture Tetris but managed to stuff four chairs, a desk, and two mattresses in the bed of the pick-up. Then I did some magical knots with bungee cords and secured everything down to a reasonable level of stability.

After the road trips to and from Philly, I felt pretty confident in my packing and bungee-ing ability. And, as far as I know, I didn’t kill anybody with errant, flying furniture so mission accomplished on that front.

However, there were various problems with this driving situation despite the successes.

My two other pals each filled her car with what wouldn’t fit in the truck. We planned a route with the lowest amount of ominous red chunks of traffic and since I could not really see to either side of me or out the back window, we decided on a caravan formation where I would be in the middle.

I don’t know if you’ve tried to keep three cars together on the 405, but it is nigh impossible. And futile. And frustrating. And anxiety-inducing.


Seriously though, even going at disgustingly slow speed, it was hard to annoy other drivers enough to leave our little line of cars. I’m pretty sure most drivers didn’t want to drive behind me anyway because I probably looked like a traffic accident waiting to happen but people loved to cut me off in the front. Which is their right as an American citizen. As an American, it is your right – nay – your duty to annoy and harass other drivers as you feel fit.

I think the most terrifying aspect of the entire ordeal was merging because I was relying on other people’s instincts to move out of the way and sheer luck. I basically kept a pleading look on my face the entire time I was on the road and hoped people understood that I couldn’t see anything. I also put my blinker on and looked to the sides for a full thirty seconds before I took the dive into another lane.

But, let’s be real, nobody cares or cared. They were just trying to go on their merry way and far away from what probably looked to them like a roving furniture store.

 

Alas, I did make it to the apartment in one piece. But not before panicking multiple times and having to give myself a pep talk. You can do this. You’re amazing. You’re in a truck, people respect you. Look how high you are compared to everyone else. You are elevated to the status of Queen and nobody – NOBODY – will take your throne. You will guide your people with a gentle hand but a harsh word. You are the Supreme Ruler of All the Land. 

Unrelated: all of LA hates me.

- Daughter

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Sassy Customers

Here are a few choice interactions I’ve had with customers this last week:

Customer: “How much is this? There’s no price.”

Me: “Let me check for you.”

Customer: “THERE’S NO PRICE THAT MEANS IT’S FREE HAHAHA!!!!”

Me: “… hahahahahahahahahahahahhahahaha no.”

Me to Customer: “Is there anything I can help you find today?”

Customer: “I’m actually looking for my husband.”

Me: “Oh, yeah, well we don’t sell those here.”

*Customer walks away without responding because she is three-hundred years old and didn’t hear my joke*

Me, internally: “Hahahahahaha, good one.”

*Customer buying alcohol*

Me: “Can I please see your ID?”

Customer: “Yes, of course.”

*Pulls out an ID that shows a birth year of NINETEEN TWENTY-THREE*

Me, internally: “M’am, I cannot legally sell you alcohol because Prohibition still applies to you. I apologize for the inconvenience. You can try the speakeasy down the road.”

Customer: “This is the wrong price.”

Me: “Nope, it’s not.”

*Takes out calculator to show customer step by step how I got to the end transaction price*

Customer: “Hmm, it’s wrong though.”

Me: “It’s not though.”

*smiles passive aggressively*

Me, internally: “JUST LIKE THAT HIP YOU GOT REPLACED, THESE NUMBERS DON’T LIE.”

Customer: “Do you work here?”

Me: “Yep.”

Me, internally: “No, I’m just playing pretend.”

Customer: “Here’s a coupon.”

*I take coupon and see that there is no barcode or numbers or anything resembling a usable coupon*

Me: “Unfortunately, this coupon is not usable. There are no numbers to type in and there’s no barcode.”

Customer: “Does that mean I can’t use it?”

Me: “Yeah, unfortunately.”

Me, internally: “Are you dumb?”

Customer: “I would like to buy this table.”

Me: “Unfortunately, there are three holds on that table currently.”

Customer: “Oh, I would like to buy it now though.”

Me: “Yes, I understand but we have to honor the holds placed on the product by customers who requested them. If they do not come in by the end of their holding period, it is yours to take.”

Customer: “But I would pay for it now. Not like these other people.”

Me: “That’s not how it works, unfortunately.”

Customer: “Okay, I buy nothing.”

Me: “Have a GREAT day.”

Me: “Can I see your ID for the alcohol, please?”

Customer: “Oh, you think I’m young!!! That’s so nice. You’re such a sweetheart.”

Me, internally: “I’m not hitting on you. It’s store policy, pal.”

- Daughter

 

Packing Sucks

Nothing creates an existential crisis faster than having to pack. All of a sudden, my life has to packed away into boxes and I am forced to choose what is worthy to keep and what to toss. These are the stages of packing I go through:

1) Optimism. “This is going to be great! It will take, what, tops an hour?”

2) Denial. “I CAN TOTALLY FIT EVERYTHING IN THREE BOXES. I’M SO GOOD AT TETRIS.”

3) Misery. “I have eighteen pairs of black tights… I don’t even remember why I have this many. When did I last wear black tights?? Do people even wear these any more? I HATE TIGHTS. WAIT, NO, I HATE EVERYTHING.”

4) Buddhist Enlightenment. “I shall resist attachment and throw everything away.”*

5) Regret. “Dear God, those leopard print leggings… I miss them. I miss them so much. WHY DID I HAVE TO BE BUDDHIST AND THROW THEM AWAY??”

6) Hoarding. “To make up for all of the things I threw away that I shouldn’t have, I’m going to pack everything else up regardless if it’s necessary or not. Hmmm, used dryer sheets? More like… something I can maybe use later!!!” *packs away*

7) Deception. “My whole life is a lie.”

8) Confusion. “What… is this? Is this a Furby???”

9) Resignation. “Well. I guess I will keep all my needlework from the 5th grade.”

10) Death.

You know those Space Bag commercials? There’s a reason those infomercial people are so happy. Because they’re amazing! They are the only thing keeping me sane. There is something so satisfying about putting half of my closet into a bag and watching it scrunch up into a tinier bag. I don’t know what that says about me, but there you have it.

Regardless, packing sucks.

- Daughter

*I’m sorry for bastardizing the Buddhist tradition for the sake of my blog post.

 

I Have Instincts

Or, rather, my body does. I swear, every time my body senses I am going to have fun or something like it, it shuts that sh stuff down so fast.

I was bouncing around yesterday, happily doing my laundry (“happily” = I had no clean clothes left so I had to) and, while I was folding my underwear, I realized I didn’t have that much to do on my thesis before the deadline next week. Therefore, I could definitely fit in time to go hang out with a friend at a bar that night. And then horror struck. My body, sensing that fun was imminent, immediately – and I mean, within the hour of deciding to have fun – shriveled up and receded into itself… like some sort of sick hermit crab.

I developed some sort of chest cold (although, I said “infection” to other people because it sounded worse and more worthy of pity) and was coughing all over the place. I cursed my lungs and the virus infecting them (?) (/I’m not a pathologist) and begrudgingly texted said friend and said I couldn’t go. I was very displeased.

So displeased, in fact, that I tunneled into my bed covers and sat there for a while, thinking dark thoughts about my lungs and their various treacheries.

Harry Potter gets me.

My new plan to have fun is to focus on achieving a surprise attack. I am only going to have unplanned fun so as to not tip off my body that fun is in the near future. I’m hoping that when I walk down the street I will randomly be pulled into a bar where I will proceed to fun.  (Yeah, it’s a verb now.) Or, maybe while I’m writing my thesis a llama and a mariachi band will pop in and again, unplanned funning will happen!! I’m really looking forward to surprise funning.

- Daughter

Public Speaking

Dear God. Is there anything more heinous than getting up in front of your peers and talking about some subject that you have vague knowledge of but are definitely not an expert on? That’s what I did today. I presented on my thesis. Most of the presentation went swimmingly but then, there were a few times where I started a sentence and the end just never happened. Poor Sentence, he had a tough upbringing and the odds were against him from the start. All he wanted to do was finish what he started, alas, it was not to be.

It was also embarrassing because, well, my thesis largely centers on images of Lindsay Lohan. So, I had to explain who she was to my class as per my thesis advisor’s request, which is in itself, very depressing. I do like to think my subject is entertaining. And it is! But I am never ever ever ever ever ever ever going to write about something that I truly despise in a lengthy academic paper ever again. I thought it’d give me some fire if I didn’t like the artist I’m working on or the model in the photographs, but instead, I just want to rip out my hair.

I think I basically blacked out the rest of my presentation because I don’t remember what exactly happened. I sounded half-way coherent, which, in my book, is good. I also didn’t throw up during it or cry or accidentally swear. Success!! Okay!!

A part of me does wish I had come in a red wig while smoking and crying while also re-enacting through interpretative dance the stages of Lindsay Lohan’s downfall, but that is something I will have to save for later.

Ah, well. I have my whole life to get better at presentations. Until then, I will haphazardly stumble through my thought process and hope that somebody, ANYBODY, will understand me.

- Daughter

Things That You Shouldn’t Say to Me in Bars

Nobody can say no to this. Nobody.

Nobody can say no to this. Nobody.

“I’m not actually that smart.”

I went out Saturday night and that was perhaps the quote of the night.

Before that quote was uttered, however, I had dinner with friends at a Thai restaurant. I ate enough for three people and a horse and a malnourished cow. It was one of the best meals I have had in my life. Unfortunately, the experience was marred a bit by a really mean waitress. She had a thick Thai accent and judging by the way she spoke to one of my friends, it was as if she had only learned English in order to insult people.

I, of course, initiated this interaction with the waitress by telling her one of our friends was “trouble.” To which she replied to said friend, “Why do you make trouble for your friends? This is why you won’t have any friends.” And I laughed. So did the friend. But then, it kept going. “You will have no friends, they don’t like you.” “I would give you a fortune cookie but it’s pointless because I know what it will say, ‘You have no friends.'” “You look like my great grandmother… she’s been dead for fifty years.”*It started to make everyone uncomfortable as the waitress went from being funny to being a bully. Thankfully, we left soon after and headed to the bar.

I was tired before we even got to the bar. I half-heartedly two-stepped to Ke$ha and reluctantly fox-trotted to Rihanna. I wasn’t feeling very social and I would have been perfectly happy sitting at the bar, observing the antics from afar. But I ended up being right in the middle of the throng. I got shoved a lot, which is par for the course, I suppose. I know it’s loud and crowded but there has to be another way to get around me other than pretending I am a bowling pin and you, the bowling bowl.

After a few pushes and shoves, I ran into a guy who looked like a Jersey Shore reject. Promising! But, he wasn’t nice so we chatted for a while. He was a local preschool teacher and in the world of small talk, I thought I had struck gold. Ah, clearly, he will be intelligent and articulate and I’ll have a normal conversation with someone in a bar for the first time ever!!!  However, this was the end of my enthusiasm. He proceeded to list his grievances like the Martin Luther of the Bar Scene. He complained about the kids he taught, girls who weren’t skinny, and then avoided answering my question, “What classic literature have you read?” (never a good sign).

I asked him if he was smart – mostly in a joking manner to which he replied, “Yeah, I’m smart…. Nah, actually I’m not that smart.” He could have just been being humble but as he said this, he allowed a bit of drool to escape his mouth and his eyes glazed over – something told me he was telling the truth.  He wasn’t the sharpest stiletto in the closet as no one says they say. I got up to leave after some more unsatisfactory conversation. He was confused as to why I was leaving and said, “…Wow, I put a lot of effort into this…”

I didn’t have anything to say to that. I was literally dumbfounded that he said that to my face, he could have at least pretended to think of me as a human being. He said I wasted his time with my presence. Ah, yes, clearly someone I want to see again. If there was ever a time for a hashtag in this blog, it’s now: #sorrynotsorry that I wasted your time, friend!

No, I’m not even sorry that I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry that I’m not sorry.

- Daughter

*The last two comments I made up. Because I can’t remember what she actually said. #sorrynotsorry

That Moment When Your Academic Advisor Tells You Your Writing Sucks and You Want to Curl Up and Die

Oh, how the great have fallen.

I am currently in the process of writing a thesis. It will end up being around 30-40 pages of writing about a subject in art history. I was not concerned about it really until today, when my advisor told me that she couldn’t follow the logic of my paper. I mean, I did turn in a horribly rough draft of my thesis but I had good ideas. Just because of most of it is in Spanish and Mandarin doesn’t mean it isn’t good. And just because I let a four-year-old come up with most of the ideas in the paper doesn’t mean it’s illogical.

The problem is, I am one of those “creative” people who works in a haphazard, irrational and slightly schizophrenic way. I feel and hear and smell (?) all of these  ideas in my head and get wrapped up in trying to do justice to all of them.

This is how the paper-writing process goes: I write a bit, dance to Beyonce, and then sit down. And write more. And then make coffee. And then sit down on the floor. And then make a poster with a flow chart of key terms in my paper. And then I get up to dance more. And then I eat a brownie. And then I lay on the hardwood floor and slide my body around it pretending to be a human mop. Of course, all of this activity only happens intermittently. Inevitably, there’s a few weeks after the initial buzz of ideas where I stare blankly at a very empty Microsoft Word document. I’m at that point.

I haven’t cried yet over my thesis but I am getting there.

My advisor said she was “concerned” and said in no uncertain terms that I needed a writing tutor. It’s not like I’m too good for a writing tutor – okay, I totally am too good for a writing tutor. OH, THE INJUSTICE.

Perhaps my thesis is taking up so much time and energy because it revolves around Lindsay Lohan. It’s soul-draining work. But somebody has to do it.

Well, not really. Nobody has to do it. Except for me because it’s a major requirement.

- Daughter

I Bought Fancy Toys for the Kittens but They Only Play with Their Poop

"Are you hiding poop in there?"

“Are you hiding poop in there?”

I don’t really understand why the kittens find poop preferable to the six jingley play balls and the pricey carpeted scratching post with feathers. They have ignored all of my efforts to impress them with material things. Maybe because they have self-sustaining entertainment: their own poop. I wish I had known this before I dropped a pretty penny trying to create a fun environment for them. I would have gotten bigger litter boxes or just filled my entire room with litter – oh wait, that’s already happened – had I known that they would enjoy what happens in the litter box so very much.

Every time I go into the room, the kittens are doing their darnedest to turn my room into a raw sewage dumping ground. Their toys sit sadly in dark corners, untouched save for some half-hearted pawing all the while the kittens thinking to themselves: I wish this was poop. 

This is what happens: they paw around balls of poo in the litter box until they successfully get a piece of it out. Then, they proceed to play table hockey amongst themselves using the poop as the puck.  I’m lucky if the poop is covered in cat litter. God forbid if it’s not and they step in it… they sprint away from me and track their feces to places unreachable by humans thus forever leaving their excrement as eternal monuments. The only positive aspect of this poop-flinging is that it forces me to constantly vacuum and clean. My room alternates between being a toxic waste site and being spotless.

I have taken to sleeping on the couch because I found it hard to sleep with kittens running across my face at 3am. Aw, cute little kittens with their cute little paws running across you! No, you are mistaken. I know where those paws have been: in and around their own poop. Mostly IN.

As for the mama cat, Ginger Rogers, I had the misfortune of catching her out of her favorite hidey-hole under my bed. She looked at me with murder in her eyes and hissed her meanest hiss. She’s missing a few teeth so the effect is sort of a lisp-y hiss and is slightly less intimidating than a regular hiss. I think she might be hating me less because instead of hissing for thirty seconds while spitting, she only hissed for fifteen seconds while slowly retreating under the bed. I’ll take it!!!

- Daughter

Little Coffee Shop of Horrors

This is a self-portrait of me drinking coffee. Just kidding, it's some guy.

This is a self-portrait of me drinking coffee. Just kidding, it’s some guy.

Sunday was designated as a “homework day” but really, everyday is a homework day. Especially when you have to stand up in front of the department chair and other intimidating faculty and orally defend your thesis at the end of the term… it’s a good motivator to get things done. Fear, anxiety, and stress are the healthiest ways to go from “to do” list to “DONE AND DEAD” list. It is better to be feared than loved, after all. I don’t know how that applies to anything I just said but it felt right. That Machiavelli, what a guy.

But I digress.

I am a huge fan of going to coffee shops to do homework during the weekend because libraries stress me out. It’s hard to focus when there are so many books leering at you, like they own the place. Anyway, getting out of the library means I can explore Philadelphia and do things like rub Benjamin Franklin’s belly for good luck. Or run around pretending to be Paul Revere and screaming, “THE VEGANS ARE COMING!! THE VEGANS ARE COMING!!”

This weekend, my friends and I found a coffee shop that met our standards for homework-doing. It was edgy and cool and I obviously didn’t belong.

Unfortunately, it was also a suffocating 1000-degrees Fahrenheit and crowded. A stormy sea of Apple products, beards, and glasses met our arrival. We were the conquistadors of this coffee-drenched land and scavenged for seats, listened to the stories from the indigenous people, and claimed the end of a long bar-table for the Spanish Empire. It was uncomfortable and awkward but you know what, I was at a cool coffee shop and I had a chair – things were looking good in spite of being forced into an advanced yoga position to get into my chair.

After doing some table-vulturing, (where you stalk people who look as if they are leaving their coveted tables with a wider work-space than the three inches we were given) we landed a table. It was a triumph. Not just for us, but for Spain. My friend enthusiastically slid into her seat, an antique wooden bench, and then started making loud noises indicating discomfort. That vintage bench, it turned out, was not conducive to human butts. It splintered off straight into said-friend’s backside. I had to force her into the bathroom and perform minor surgery by pulling out wood chips embedded in various areas of her body. It was a true bonding experience.

Finally, after all of the tree remnants were removed from my friend’s epidermis, we settled into our work. Of course, this was not the end of our trials and tribulations.

The coffee shop was loud and I was already having trouble concentrating but on top of that pre-existing loudness, a folk band started playing. This was randomly punctuated by the sound of coffee grinding and the existential sighs of so many failed writers and actresses. I enjoy a good folk tune and I’m especially partial to the sound of acoustic guitar so that part was nice. But then, there was an hour-long banjo solo. And the banjo player was really into his music which I can appreciate but not when I’m analyzing literature. Homer, Hesse, and Hemingway don’t go with Hoedown.

You can only get hit by the elbow of an over-enthusiastic, bearded fiddler so many times before you give up and call it a day. And that’s just what we did.

And then we immediately went to another coffee shop across the street decidedly banjo free. Success.

- Daughter

Things I Say in Bars: Part Deux

Dont tread on me

I made the mistake of going to a bar again. My experience there made me realize I have not provided enough bar survival tips for emergency-type situations like yesterday night.

My friends and I were enjoying ourselves and catching up at a bar, occasionally pausing to clean up errant wine spittle – the usual.  Of course, you cannot have a nice night without grumpy, arrogant persons bursting your happy bubble. That night, he came in the form of a tall brunette wearing a typical black-button up shirt that as some guys wear. He was with his friend who was wearing an arcade shirt… ace. Anyway, ArrogancePersonified* (A.I.) made a big show of offering his bar seat to my friends who were standing – a nice gesture on the surface, but really a practiced “Nice Guy” move that belied his true intentions: an opportunity to talk to insult us while his very nice, polite friend cringed in horror (rightly so, good man).  A.I. systematically offended each of us on every level: politically, personally, professionally, anything that started with a ‘p’ basically. Philosophically, patrilineally, patriotically, phonetically, paleogeographically, and pantheistically… I could go but I choose to spare you.

He started his tirade by insulting one of the girls for being Mormon. I’m all for equal-opportunity humor: no race, creed, sexual orientation or religion should be safe from humorous jabs, but it seemed a little over the top – and that’s ME saying something was over the top. I would have appreciated it more if he inserted some Hamlet in there but even Shakespeare wouldn’t want to be associated with his witless remarks.

Then, he attacked another friend because she is getting credentialed to be an elementary teacher, her lifelong goal. He went on to disparage her career like she was in charge of murdering the hopes and dreams of all Americans. (That’s probably his job, actually.) Seriously? Lawyers? Okay. Investment bankers? Okay. Teachers? Come on. Do you hate puppies too? Do you purposely step on sidewalk cracks? Do you like grape-flavored anything?

He generally passed over my friend who wore a sweatshirt to the bar. Not because she was in a sweatshirt (well… maybe) but because she didn’t say anything  worthy of his scorn. (BRO HIGH-FIVE!)

Then, when he got to me, he tried to tear down my major. It was the same unsolicited comments I’ve heard before: “liberal arts degrees are useless yadda, yadda, yadda”. He could have come up with something more original. I’ve found things in my bellybutton that were more interesting than what he had to say. My hackles had been raised. I engaged Phase III (which is really serious because it completely skips over Phase I and Phase II – and they don’t even exist). I interrupted him, ripped him down, called him out on his behavior, and then cursed him with black magic (he doesn’t know that part, unless he’s reading this, and in that case, “GO AWAY”.)

Moral of the story: don’t go to bars be ready for anything.

How to Deal with a Bar Patron as Mean as You Are

Occasionally, you will meet your nemesis at a bar like I did. When this happens, I want you to be prepared. Expect the worst, prepare for the worstest.

1) Defensive Maneuvering: Even if the person is of an attractive sort of creature, it doesn’t matter. Shut. Him. Down. If he is attractive, he probably knows it. Let him know that his pretty will not trick you; no, you will not be swayed. You are a bastion of strength and self-control. DO NOT GO TOWARD THE SHINY, PRETTY THING. IT’S A TRAP!

2) Out-Mean Him: A conversation with this person is a ticking time bomb – one of you will be reduced to a mess of tears, you must strike first to avoid this possibility. And when you strike, you must use snake-like proficiency. Only when blood is drawn do you know it’s over. Even then, there is a possibility this person is a Hydra and once beheaded (metaphorically), four heads will sprout in its place. But remember, you are the Hercules of insults, you will defeat the Hydra.

3) Interrupt Him: He doesn’t deserve to be talking to you, make sure he knows your time is money. If possible, interrupt him while talking and yell, “SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!” And then make a Tom Cruise face. (?)

4) Make Him Question Everything: If he asks for your name, just don’t answer. Stare quizzically at him. He will probably be weirded out. This is good. You are winning.

5) Mine Information: While he is blabbering, mine the information he freely provides. Look for a weakness in his armor. Once you find his vulnerability, leave him with a zinger: “You’re just like your father.” (Not that that’s a bad thing, Dad.)

* Names have been changed to reflect the truth.

- Daughter

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