a curious hole

A couple weeks ago I was out in the back yard tending to the bird feeders when I saw A Curious Hole dug in between the roots of a giant maple tree.

 

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NOTE: The peanuts weren’t there when I found the Hole. Pretend you can’t see those yet.

 

I got all excited because I was fairly certain it was a Steve-hole (all chipmunks are Steve), and thus Steve-Watch 2017 officially kicked off.

Steve-Watch activities include, but are not limited to:

  • obsessively watching the suspected Steve-hole from the kitchen and bedroom windows at every opportunity,
  • getting overly excited whenever something moves in the leaf litter around the suspected Steve-hole and adjacent environs,
  • crushing disappointment and cursing of sparrows that have the nerve to look vaguely Steve-like in the leaf litter,
  • leaving handfuls of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and dried berries near the Steve-hole as tribute / Steve bait, while simultaneously making a specific clicking noise with my mouth so that any Steves in the area begin to associate said noise with me and also a bountiful supply of delicious snacks (this is rooted in science, people. I don’t just make this shit up. Well, not ALL of it, anyway),

…you get the picture.

It should be noted, by the way, that these are not whole-household activities. Mark will happily watch Steves out the window with me, but he participates in none of the pacing, muttering, or HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC baiting / grooming activities that I engage in. It’s fine. He has hobbies I don’t share. They’re hobbies that don’t include making friends with painfully adorable woodland creatures so clearly they’re INFERIOR hobbies, but that’s cool. Whatever floats his boat.

ANYWAY.

Yesterday afternoon I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing a frying pan to make dinner in, and I saw a scuttle in the leaf litter outside. Muttering about useless fucking sparrows, I leaned closer to the window and squinted (note to self: buy binoculars, and maybe also stronger glasses), trying to confirm my suspicions.

Except it wasn’t a sparrow at all.

“Steve!” I yelped, and then I went full Hodor: “Steve! Steve! STEVE! STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVE!”

As I watched one adorable Steve scuttle up the maple tree and perch on the edge of the abandoned bird house, more scuffling at the base of the trunk caught my eye.

Another Steve poked his / her head directly out of the Steve-hole. I jumped up and down.

“ohmigod, two! TWO STEVES! DOUBLE STEVE-AGE, OH MY GERDDDDD!”

Mark had gone upstairs a few minutes before to…I don’t know, something. Maybe he was in the bathroom? (Sorry if I interrupted your post-work poop, babe). He came thundering down the stairs to see what all the commotion was about and found me stuck in front of the kitchen window, pointing and doing my excited dance with a frying pan in my hand.

“Did I hear something about a Steve?” he asked.

“Two. TWO STEVES.”  I gestured toward the window with the frying pan. The Steve that had been in the Steve-hole ducked back down out of sight.

“Two? I only see one, up there on the bird house.”  Mark side-eyed me.

“THERE WERE TWO, I SAW THEM. The one in the hole just popped back down but it was totally there a second ago.”

He smirked.

“Are you sure you didn’t just get so excited that you started seeing Steves everywhere?”

“Absolutely not. You cannot gaslight me about Steves. There were DEFINITELY two. Look, look! There goes the second one off into the brush!”  I flailed at the window and then realized I should really put down the frying pan.

“Ok, if you say so.”

He patted me on the shoulder and then wandered back into the living room to do whatever whack-ass inferior non-Steve-related things he does.

I had been almost ready to start dinner when this whole thing started, by the way. Steak, salad fixings, potatoes, were all sitting on the counter waiting for me to do something with them. I looked at them, looked back out the window at the frolicking Steves, then turned to the other end of the counter and grabbed a handful of peanuts from the bag sitting there.

“I gotta go make friends, I’ll be back!” I said over my shoulder on my way out the door.

Out around the back corner of the building, I started making my very scientific clicking noise, alternating with talking in soothing, Steve-friendly, sing-songy tones.

“Steeeeves? St-EEEE-eeeves. I have delicious peanuts, Steeeeeves. I just want to be your friend, Steeeeves.”

It sounds creepy as fuck when it’s typed out, but I assure you, it was soothing. SCIENCE.

Birdhouse Steve eyed me from its perch. Steve-hole Steve was back at that point. It sniffed in my direction but didn’t move. I crept closer, crouching down as much as my fatness and bad knees would allow, continuing the (scientifically proven, patent pending) clicking noises. A rustle off to the right broke my concentration. I turned to look, just in time to see a third Steve poke its precious snoot out from under some leaves.

THREE STEVES, PEOPLE.

Troix Stéphanes.

Tres Estebans.

I about lost my god. damned. mind.

My stifled squeal of excitement sent Birdhouse Steve bolting down the tree and over the bank, but Steve-hole Steve and Leaf Steve both stood their ground. Leaf Steve was clearly a juvenile – not a BABY-baby (because holy shit, you’d have heard THAT screech around the fucking globe), but one young enough to not be hyper-vigilant yet. It skittered around under my lilies with very little concern, stopping to eye me now and then as it munched sunflower seeds. I crouched down more and offered an un-shelled peanut in Leaf Steve’s direction. It sniffed toward the peanut a few times and even came within about eight inches of me, but in the end wouldn’t take the peanut from my hand.

And that’s fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

My dream of a personal cadre of tiny chipmunk ninjas can wait.

World domination is worth being patient for.

insert awkward title here

The other day I had to pick up a prescription. When I got to the pharmacy, I opted for the drive-through prescription pick-up window, because why the hell would you get out of the car if you don’t have to, am I right? MURICA!

Anyway.

I pulled around the corner of the building toward the pick-up window and chortled with glee because there was no one waiting in line. What luck! I reached into my bag to grab my wallet while I waited for the friendly face of the drug-dispensing angel to appear in the big plate-glass window. Something felt a little off about the car as I was rooting through my bag, so I glanced up and realized that the ‘off’ feeling was, in fact, the car continuing to move after I had come to a stop.

“OH SHIT. I guess I’m not in Park”, I yelped as I hit the brakes.  I put the car in reverse and backed up until I was even with the window again, just in time to see the tech behind the window losing her shit laughing at me. Apparently I had been loud enough to hear over the little speaker that lets them talk to the outside world.

With a cheerful smile, I commenced to explain to her how I had pulled up and forgotten to put the car in park while I was looking for my wallet. You know, despite the fact that she clearly saw the entire performance, heard me yell, etc.

Because I am THAT woman. The one that is not only impossibly awkward to begin with, but that also then feels she needs to explain the awkwardness (awkwardly, no doubt) to the observing parties. Then, to marinate a little longer in the extra awkward sauce, I write about these experiences on the Internet. Awkwardly.  And I’m OK with that nowadays. Well, more OK with it than I was as a kid, at least. Being awkward used to feel like the worst, most unbearable, most embarrassing thing ever. Now it’s a lot easier to take it in stride, to tell myself: “you could be a LOT worse things than weird. Like, you could be a serial killer. Or a puppy kicker. Or, OMG, a flat-Earth-er. An evolution denier! OK, stop, you’re getting yourself all wound up. Think of otters…”.

In the eternal words of Maurice Moss:

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Preach, Brother Moss.

I miss Adderall, and other things I want you to know

Did you like how I posted a week ago and didn’t mention anything about where I’d been for like the six or seven or whatever number of previous weeks? I thought that was pretty well done, myself. That’s some advanced-level avoidance strategy shit right there. Learn from the master, friends. I’ll have you perfecting your own existential crises in no time!

ANYWAY.

Time has passed. Shit has gone down.

My mom got sick with some heart problems back at the beginning of March and spent basically the whole month in the hospital. You ever notice how time just kind of…falls apart when you’re staying in / visiting a hospital? Airports have the same effect, I’ve found. But at least with airports, you’re usually going to get somewhere eventually. Hospitals are like limbo. You step into this weird in-between world where you can’t do anything except wait for someone to come along and tell you what the next thing you’re waiting for is. Anyway, my mom got to come home for a while and was doing relatively well, but that all kind of went to shit this past weekend, so back to hospital limbo she went. We’ve been orbiting the cardiac care unit so much the last eight weeks that many of the nurses now recognize us and greet us with familiarity. On the one hand I’m grateful that such caring people work there, but on the other hand…well. There are far more preferable places to be recognized and greeted as a regular.  The words “surgery” and “bypass” were finally eased into conversation yesterday, as the minimally-invasive things they’ve been trying just aren’t consistently helping. So…that’s a thing that’s apparently going to happen, though we don’t know when yet. It’s not a situation where she needs the surgery very immediately, and I’m extraordinarily grateful for that (as is she, I’m sure). The flip-side is that the longer she puts it off, the harder it’s going to be on her physically…and it’s already going to be a hell of a slog as it is. I tend to take the view that it’s better to rip the proverbial band-aid off all in one go than to slowly pick and peel at it, prolonging the pain and amplifying the mental stress…but this isn’t my band-aid to rip.

Which, I suppose, is as good a segue as any into the fact that I, TOO, had an episode of atrial fibrillation, right around the same time my mom went into the hospital for it. In fact, I was woken at 6am on a Tuesday by a text about my mom being taken to the ER, when I had just spent the previous evening in the ER myself. My atrial fibrillation was paroxysmal – a freak thing, basically. Except, it turns out that it maybe wasn’t so freakish after all, as we’ve learned through this process with my mom that there’s actually a pretty strong family history of a-fib and that there may well be a genetic component at play. Anyway – I self-regulated out of my episode (and there’s a joke about that being the only time I’ve ever successfully self-regulated anything, surely)., and was sent home with advice to stop taking Adderall to treat my ADD, at least until after I met with cardiology. ‘Sure, no problem’, I thought, ‘it’s not like it helps me all that much anyway”. A battery of tests with cardiology determined that I wasn’t having regular bouts of a-fib and didn’t really need any special treatment for it (YAY!), but then there was the bad news: my cardiologist thought it would be best if I stayed off stimulant meds from now on. Adderall, as you likely know, is a stimulant, as is basically every other effective ADD med.

I had been off meds for about six weeks at that point and had been really struggling with…everything, basically. My particular flavor of ADD involves some classic focus problems, but it also comes with a big ol’ steaming pile of anxiety as well. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you know that it’s often irrational, and always very difficult to shut off once you get into that mode. It starts out as this little dinky toy train chugging along a track, spewing out thoughts like ‘hmm, what was that weird pain I just had’, and ‘Boss just closed the office door, he must be talking about me’. Eventually it grows into this gigantic roaring high-speed passenger train full of brain weasels, hurtling toward me with gems like ‘I can’t seem to accomplish even the most simple tasks without screwing up 14 times and clearly everyone thinks I’m a loser and they only hang around with me because they feel sorry for me and once I lose my job due to being a fuck-up I’ll be homeless and I won’t be able to take care of my dog and I’ll have to give him up and my husband will leave me because he’s only hanging around for the dog anyway and it’s not even going to matter because that weird twinge in my leg is clearly a blood clot that’s going to travel to my brain and I just wish it would happen already and get it over with so I can finally get some fucking rest oh my god normal people don’t think shit like that what the fuck is my problem maybe I need to be committed’… you get the picture. Adderall certainly didn’t CURE me of that constant barrage of mental fuckery, but it usually turned the volume down on it. It allowed me to more easily get shit done, which in turn made me feel like less of a failure in general and kept the doom-train at a reasonable size. But I can’t have Adderall anymore. So you see the problem there.

My doctors are great and they’re definitely trying to help. I started a new, non-stimulant med (Intuniv – apparently it’s not used much for ADD in adults, more-so in children) on Friday and it will take a few weeks to titrate up to a therapeutic dose of that. It’s already helping a little bit in that it makes me sleepy (I take it at night) and it seems to be making me actually sleep THROUGH the night, which I haven’t done on a regular basis like, ever. And I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, before we had smartphones and tablets and all this other shit, so when I wasn’t sleeping through the night at 12 years old, it wasn’t like anyone could blame Faceblotch or Snapcrack or whatever devil music whippersnappers are into these days. *shakes cane thoroughly*

Anyway – the point of word-barfing all this at you was just mostly to make myself feel a little better, I guess. Having focus problems makes me kind of a quitter (I even said it at the very beginning), or even worse, it makes me someone who just lets things peter out because I’ve lost interest / hit a road block / feel like I’m not good enough at it…and I fucking hate that. Every time I catch myself being like ‘meh, maybe I’ll just abandon the blog’, I get pissed off at myself and vow to MAKE myself post. Except, then I sometimes see a butterfly or some shiny tinfoil or a donut and get distracted, but I do get back here eventually…

…if only to make myself feel like less of a big quitting quitter McQuitface with Quits Disease and a massive deficiency of Vitamin Do The Thing.

Did I mention I miss Adderall? That’s where this whole thing was meant to be going.

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Also, we took a trip to Wales at the beginning of April. One of the fun things about Wales is that all the signs are bilingual. The word for ‘moron’ in Welsh is ‘carrots’!                                                I am easily amused.

 

one of these things is not like the others

Every once in a while I click over to the spam folder in my email to scan for non-spam emails, because computers are imperfect, etc.  Normally the subject lines are pretty predictable – lots of “OMG TEH WORLD IS ENDING” stuff from various political organizations I’ve been silly enough to give my address to, some promotions from various websites I’ve purchased things from, and the occasional offer for black-market Canadian boner pills or plea from a Nigerian prince to launder $2 million.

Today, however, there was something just a little bit different. See if you can spot it:

 

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I…have questions. Chief among them being, ‘is this a list that anyone in the real world actually requires in 2017?’.

If the answer to that is yes, then I have more questions, which I’ll be asking once I have constructed and stocked my panic room.

the new neighbors

We live in what I think of as the rural equivalent of an apartment complex. Instead of one big building with lots of units stacked on top of each other, there are several smaller buildings with two units each, plus one single unit in a stand-alone house with a garage (which, those people are clearly just showing off). The way our building is set up, there’s an apartment in each end and a maybe ten foot wide covered entryway in between that we share.

Over the two years we’ve been here, we’ve seen a few neighbors come and go in the unit we share the entryway with. There was the suspected tweaker, there was my boss from my high school job at the local general store (that was…awkward. Especially during his poker nights when a giant cloud of weed smoke would come rolling out his front door every time it was opened. Not that I have the slightest problem with people smoking weed…it just seems odd when it’s someone who was an authority figure in your young adult life, you know? It’s kind of like if you happened upon your high school principle or soccer coach packing a fat bowl. Part of your brain is like ‘coooool’ while the other part is like ‘wait, WHAT?’), and there was the last guy who just moved out at the end of February. We’ll call him D.

D was basically the perfect neighbor (at least, for us): he was a trucker so he was often gone for a week or more at a time. He was also quite hard of hearing, so even when he WAS home, he wasn’t bothered by our yappy dog, my husband’s propensity to sing along to music while he walks said yappy dog, or my propensity to talk to the neighborhood wildlife. He happened to also be a very nice guy, what little we knew of him, so we were sad to see him go.

The new neighbors moved in last weekend. Aside from a mysterious pile of cat vomit that materialized next to our welcome mat (which I strategically ignored until it disappeared about 24 hours later.WIN!) the day they moved in, and the fact that the female inhabitant smokes in our shared entryway, they’ve given me nothing to complain about.

Except…and I know how batshit crazy this is going to sound, but that’s never stopped me before…

…they leave their outside light on. Like, ALL the time. 24 hours a day.

I didn’t think much of it at first because they were in the process of moving and that’s stressful, you know? Half your shit is at one place, half is somewhere else, everything’s in boxes and all you want is to cook a grilled cheese but you have no cheese and you can’t find the right pan and the cat hates the new apartment so he’s spite-vomiting in inopportune places. I totally get it.

After three days, though…it seems like you should have probably bought some cheese. You should have probably put the pans away and found a place for all your shoes and gotten the cable hooked up and hung the curtains. You should probably be better acquainted with the location of light switches. You can probably remember to shut the outside light off, if not when you go to bed at night, then certainly when you get up in the morning and the sun is shining.

And yes, I know, I’m an asshole because I’m not considering that maybe one of them works odd hours or maybe they came from a place where shit would get stolen or vandalized if people thought you weren’t home or any number of other reasons why they might choose to leave the light on. Also, yes, it’s their electric bill not mine, so what the hell should I care whether they leave the light on or not.

You’re not wrong. Just for the record. I’m not saying you are.

But it still fucking bothers me. It makes my god damned teeth itch.

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Exhibit A, taken in broad daylight. Why wouldn’t you shut it off? JUST SHUT IT OFF. OMG, my teeth. I can’t even.

gifts from the cleaning lady

Most days at work I’ll have a cup of tea, or more rarely, coffee. Around mid-morning the perpetual cold in my office will start to seep into my bones and I’ll need to enact self-warming measures or risk going into torpor (I’m half pterodactyl, you know), so I’ll grab my coffee cup and head for the kitchen. I return a few minutes later with a nice, hot beverage to go along with my renewed dislike of mankind in general. I sit down. I return to the tasks at hand. I slurp the hot beverage and feel the threat of torpor lessen. When I finish my drink, I set the cup off to the side of my desk and promptly forget it exists until the next time I want a hot drink. Washing the cup out while I wait for the water to heat up is just part of the ritual.

Except on Mondays.

On Mondays, my cup is pristine. There’s no ring of dried tea. There’s no quarter-inch deep puddle of coffee that I’ve abandoned because it has become so thick with grounds that it’s undrinkable. The inside of my coffee cup gleams white like new-fallen snow, and it never fails to make me smile.

Now don’t be fooled into thinking that this small miracle of tidiness is in any way due to foresight on my part on Friday afternoon. Oh, no. That kind of planning ahead isn’t how my brain works. If it were solely up to me, the coffee cup would sit all weekend and the Monday hot drink ritual would be just like every other day.

No, the Monday Morning Clean Cup is a gift the cleaning ladies bestow upon me. On Saturdays they come in and whisk around changing bin liners and wiping down bathrooms. They vacuum the carpets, they dust behind our monitors, they haul out the trash. They have plenty to to keep them busy on Saturday mornings. And yet, one of them always takes a couple minutes to pick up my cup, carry it out to the bathroom on the landing outside my office, give it a wash and a dry, and set it back on my desk.

You could argue that it’s just part of her job. Or that she’s getting paid by the hour, so the time it takes her to collect, wash, dry, and return coffee cups is more money in her pocket at the end of the day. Those points are fair enough. But do they take any of the shine off my clean coffee cup? Do they cheapen the tiny joy I feel when I go to make my hot drink of a Monday morning?

Nope.

The clean cup is a gift because I decide to see it as such.

I’m by no means immune to cynicism, to assuming everyone has ulterior motives. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I have a dislike for mankind in general, and that’s not something I just throw out there for LOLs (the pterodactyl part is still up for debate until someone pays for me to have DNA testing done, though). I’m not refusing to believe that the cleaning lady is personally benefiting in some way from washing my coffee cup every Saturday. I choose to be thankful for it anyway. It’s not like my mug would be any cleaner if it had a final rinse of pure altruism. My tea wouldn’t taste any better if I knew that the person who cleaned my cup was doing so of their own volition with no monetary motivation or sense of duty. The gesture is no less meaningful because someone else is benefiting from it.

This unconditional thankfulness isn’t something I’m good at, but it’s something I think is worth trying to practice. I am reminded of this every Monday morning when I go to make my hot drink and find my cup sparkling clean.

So really, the cleaning lady has given me TWO gifts, one far deeper and more consequential than the other.

your Danzig is drooping…

Walking the dog is usually a business-like affair for me. I want to get it done and over with as quickly as possible so that I can get back to whatever it was I was doing (aka: sitting on the couch). Preparation is minimal: I put Junior’s harness on him, I step into whatever shoes require the least amount of effort to wear, and if it’s especially cold I’ll put a coat on. We probably average about 90 seconds between “come on, it’s walkies time” to stepping out the door, and a good 45 of that is trying to get Junie to hold still so that I can harness him up.

My husband, on the other hand, has a rather involved process which centers chiefly on picking what music he’s going to listen to. He’ll tell the dog it’s time to go out, then pick up his phone and spend five minutes scrolling through Pandora looking for inspiration. The funny part is that he almost invariably ends up picking one of like five songs. I know this because he always starts singing along as soon as the music starts. He walks around singing while he’s looking for his hat, gloves, coat, boots, harness. He then finds the dog, puts the harness on him and away they go, singing all the while.
Last night’s walkies selection happened to be ‘Mother’ by Danzig. Mark started out humming the opening guitar riff, then broke into the first verse:

     “Mother…Tell your children not to walk my way / Tell your children not to hear my words/ What they mean / What they say / Mother…”

I tend to sing along to whatever he’s singing, except that I sing along in my default silly voice, which is an exaggerated version of Droopy Dog. Junior happened to be on my lap when this whole thing started, so I grabbed his front legs and started waving them around, forcing him to do interpretive dance accompaniment to my Droopy Dog cover of Danzig. Mark was around the corner in the kitchen and couldn’t see or hear any of this, mind you. Junior eventually got fed up of my puppet-master act and broke free. He ran out to the kitchen to be harnessed and walked while I was reduced to a helpless giggle fit over the Droopy Dog version of “…and if you wanna find hell with me / I can show you what it’s like / til you’re bleeding”.
I’m pretty sure Glenn Danzig would NOT approve.
Also, side-note: I totally thought Glenn Danzig was dead until this morning when I Googled him. That is in fact WHY I Googled him. I was like “how long has he been dead, anyway?” TRICK QUESTION, apparently. Sorry, Glenn Danzig! For…well, everything really.
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how to life

Jill is 37 years old. She’s married, has two children, and works full time. She has hobbies. She likes to socialize with her friends, and she makes sure to get an hour of exercise three times a week. She feeds herself responsibly and stays informed on current affairs. And she handles all of this while still managing to get a solid eight hours of sleep a night.

How does she do all this and still stay sane?

Fucked if I know.

For me, there aren’t actually enough hours in the day to live that life. I’m lucky if I can maintain any three of the items listed above for any given period of time. I can work, have hobbies, and feed myself. Or, I can exercise, have a social life, and sleep. If my hobbies were exercising and staying informed on current affairs, then I could probably also work and feed myself.  If socializing entailed doing hobbies with people, and my hobbies were working and feeding myself, then I could have hobbies, work, feed myself, AND socialize…?

This makes life feel like algebra to me. You know how in algebra class the teacher would solve a problem on the board step by step and it made perfect sense, but then when you went to do the homework, you’d be staring at the problems like they were some alien language and you didn’t have the first clue how to even start solving them? No, just me? Well I failed algebra twice, and now you know why. ANYWAY, my point is, lately it feels like I’m watching other adults live their lives and thinking “see? It’s not so hard. It makes sense! Just follow the steps”, but when I go to apply the steps to my own life, they’re suddenly written in alien and Mrs. Smith is writing a big red F on the report card that is my life.

Part of the problem, I know, is the mindset that life is somehow pass / fail. It’s not like if you fail at life, you have to go through a summer-school version of life…and there’s no honor roll for passing life. My particular brain chemistry and upbringing have combined to make me tend toward seeing things in very binary, black and white, either-or ways. You either pass or you fail. You’re either happy or you’re depressed. You either like lima beans or you’re sane. You get the picture. It’s something that I wrestle with regularly. When I find myself having those black-and-white thought patterns, I have to remind myself that very few things are actually that simple, that we all exist in various spectra and on various planes.

Society is also partially to blame. Society has taught a few generations of us that there are certain boxes you must check off to be considered successful in life: get married, have kids, own a home, get promoted at work, be healthy, be an engaged citizen. This road-map is so deeply ingrained in many of us that we never even stop to consider that NOT following it could actually be a viable option. It’s certainly better now than it was 50 years ago, but still. If you pay attention, you begin to notice all the subtle ways that we as a society have found to reinforce the idea of this road-map, and the ways we’ve come up with to punish those who don’t conform (either by choice or by circumstance).

All of this is to say, I’ve been down on myself about some of the ways I’ve been “failing at life” lately, but I need to remember that feeling like a failure is not requisite. Life is not black and white. I am not required to have a social life or to exercise if I don’t think I can handle that today. Not wanting children doesn’t make me a bad person, nor does eating take-out for dinner. Shutting off social media and not listening to the news for a few days will not result in my being punished. Letting one hobby languish while I pursue another one isn’t going to get me a big red F on the report card of life.

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“What? I wasn’t listening. Turns out I AM just a pretty face, Mahm. And I’m totally OK with that. Now give me a cookie.”

 

escape from FUCK NO Island

One of my coworkers is always coming up with ideas for company outings. Most of them don’t come to fruition because our boss has weird ideas about how we should be ‘in the office’ and ‘being productive’, but that doesn’t stop said coworker from dreaming.

Most of the suggestions are pretty innocuous and well-received. They usually involve going somewhere other than the office and eating / drinking, sometimes with the addition of low-key outdoor activities (like, kick-ball or Frisbee golf. We’re totes not a rock wall climbing crowd). And to be fair, I feel the commitment to the cause of getting paid to do fun stuff on company time is admirable.

Their latest suggestion, however, is enough to make me want to run screaming. They have suggested that we do an escape room.

Escape rooms are pretty much what they sound like: a group of people gets locked in a room and has to try to figure out how to escape via solving puzzles and/or riddles within the room, within a certain time limit. If time runs out, you fail.

You may recall that I did True Dungeon, which is a somewhat similar thing, with my friends back in the summer and a good time was had by all. The key word there is ‘friends’. Friends are people I choose to spend time with because I LIKE being around them. Coworkers…not so much. Don’t get me wrong, most of them are fine in small doses, but the idea of being  TRAPPED IN A ROOM with a bunch of them makes my throat feel like it’s starting to close up. Call it anxiety, call it anaphylaxis…either way, it gets filed under D for ‘Do Not Want’.

Also? The idea of this particular group of people trying to problem-solve their way out of anything is borderline absurd. Most of the people I work with are sales reps who work on a commission-only basis. They have literally no motivation to work as a team – in fact, up until a few years ago, they were actively encouraged to compete against each other. Plus, there are a lot of strong personalities at play. You don’t take a commission-only job in a competitive environment unless you’re pretty confident and most of my coworkers are no exception. So, imagine taking six people who are very used to trying to best each other and sticking them in a room with nothing but some vague clues to part of an even more vague larger puzzle, and leaving them for hours. It would be like a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Office.

No fucking thank you.

my garland is fucked

A couple years ago, before we moved into the place we live now, I had this garland I used as part of my extremely low-impact holiday decorating scheme (the entirety of the scheme is: decorate a tree, hang up any cards we get in the mail, hang the garland. That’s it. It can all be cleaned up and put away in less than an hour. Life is short and I don’t want to waste any more of it cleaning than I have to). The garland was kind of fake-pine looking and it was pre-lit with a string of twinkle lights. It looked nice draped (artfully, I liked to tell myself) across the tops of our bookcases, or hung up swag-like between some little hooks on the wall. Every year when I was done with it, I’d stuff it all back into the box it came in and chuck it in the hall closet. No muss, no fuss.

Until the mice got into it.

Our old apartment was a frigging mouse superhighway, and the hall closet was their on/off ramp. Over the course of the several years we lived there, I tried everything from snap-traps, to those sonic deterrent things, to attempting to train the dog to catch them (no dice. He made it clear very early on that Maltese are not a working breed. Unless you count barking at everything that moves as work. He’s got that shit on lock), to stuffing any holes I could find with steel wool (surprisingly effective, but only if you can locate every single hole ever. Otherwise those sneaky little fuckers will always find another way in). The only thing I didn’t try was poison, because while I apparently don’t have a problem with a spring-loaded metal bar snapping a mouse’s neck once they’ve been lured in by the smell of a delicious snack, I can’t stand the thought of them eating poison and then getting a bit of a poorly tum before dying.

Whatever. I contain multitudes.

ANYWAY.

So those little bastard mice got into my garland box, chewed all the wires, built a nest, and had a shit-and-piss-athon the likes of which I have never seen before (and hope to never see again). Needless to say, that garland ended up in the dumpster when we packed up to move to our current, blessedly mouse-free abode. Last year I meant to buy a replacement garland but I got distracted with…who fucking knows, probably BREATHING, knowing me…and never got around to it.

This year when I pulled out the holiday decorations I remembered the garland again, and I wrote it down on a LIST. If something makes it onto a list, I have about a 40% higher chance of actually remembering it. That still only bumps the total chance up to about 47%, but still. So it was on the list and when we went to Walmart on Monday night (which is another story in and of itself, oh my fucking word), we found a replacement garland. Happy happy, joy joy! I set it off to the side in the living room when we got home, intending to hang it up the next day. Which didn’t happen of course, because “hang up garland” wasn’t written on a list anywhere and I fucking forgot. WELCOME TO MY WORLD.

Wednesday afternoon I finally remembered I had bought the garland and decided to hang it up. The plan was to string it around the opening between our living room and kitchen. I call it an opening rather than a doorway because a) there are no doors and b) if there WERE doors, it would take like 3 doors to fill the opening. Tangent: is there an actual word for that? When there’s a hole in the wall that is clearly a transition from one room to the next but isn’t a doorway? It’s not a hallway or a passage because it’s not, like, its own space…it’s just a much-wider-than-a-door-shaped hole in the wall. Jesus, I’m making it sound like it has sheetrock and wires hanging out of it and shit, which it totally doesn’t. It’s finished and painted and whatever.

Sorry, back to the story.

So, Wednesday afternoon I went to hang up the garland. Now, before I go on, I want you to look very closely at this picture and come up with a good solid  mental picture of what you would expect to come out of this box:

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Spoiler: this box is full of lies.

You would expect an 18 foot length of fake pine garland with a string of  clear twinkle lights incorporated into it, just like the picture shows, would you not? Granted, the picture only shows a couple feet of garland, but you would expect there to be roughly 18 continuous feet of fake greenery with lights in / on it. And probably a cord hanging off one or even both ends. That would be a completely reasonable expectation for this product.

Unfortunately, it would also be completely wrong.

The garland definitely did have lights incorporated. I’ll give it that. And it WAS green. And the lights WERE clear. But, as I unwound the garland from the cardboard it came wrapped around, something was amiss. Instead of 18 continuous feet of garland, what I ended up with was about three feet of cord with a plug at the end (reasonable), maaaaybe six feet of lighted garland, four more feet of bare green cord with a plug and socket (like the normal two-sided kind that comes on twinkle lights) in the middle, then another maaaaybe six feet of lighted garland, and three more feet of cord with another plug (which is the only other reasonable part of the whole bloody thing).

So I thought I was buying an 18 foot garland but REALLY what I got was two six foot garlands strung together with a GIANT FRIGGING BLANK SPOT IN THE MIDDLE. If the blank spot had been at either end, I could have just ucked the extra bare cord in behind something and been ok with it…but in the MIDDLE? Come the fuck on. I ended up kind of half-assed doubling the garland over on itself so that it would stretch across the top of the opening (seriously, tell me if there’s a real word for that, it’s really bothering me) and hang down a little on each side while disguising the NEAR ENTIRE THIRD of it that’s just bare green cord.

It looks exactly as weird as you’re imagining. Possibly worse. It was embarrassing enough that I didn’t take a picture of it, so that should tell you something.

The morale of this story, I think we can all agree, is to not buy garland at Walmart.

Or, if you’re going to buy garland at Walmart, open the box and check that it is what it says it is.

Or, just eschew garland of any kind.

And don’t let stupid incontinent mice get into your stuff because they’ll ruin everything. EVERYTHING.

AND…there should be a word for a doorway that contains no doors. The doorway, I mean. Not the word. The word can have door in it, but I don’t really see how that could work unless it was like…non-doorway…and that’s really not any better of a word for what I’m trying to explain.

Ok, I gave myself a headache. I gotta go.