Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dire Consequences

I draw informative pictures for my office sometimes—stuff like “How to Replace the Toilet Paper” or “This Is Why We’re out of Paper Towels.”

Last week I was asked to branch out from toiletry-based signage and illustrate the importance of our sign-out process for company vehicles. I love a legitimate excuse to draw stuff at work, so I obliged with the strip you see below.

Shortly, Human Resources reminded me that it’s not appropriate to advocate workplace violence. In fact, I seem to have signed a Violence-Free Workplace Agreement that explicitly disapproves of “statements or gestures which in any way suggest that the employee may engage in violent conduct.”

So we just kept the first panel in the office. But I spent a lot of time on the others, so now you get to enjoy the uncut version.

Also, since my HR representative reads this blog (Hi!), I’d like to point out that neither character is wearing a green shirt, so they clearly are not me. I definitely would not commit, threaten, or imply acts of violence in the workplace, even over a matter as emotionally charged as proper vehicle reservation procedures. Honest.

EDIT: Apparently fighting causes the orange girl's sleeves to extend temporarily all the way to her wrists. Go figure.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Blind Date

I am accustomed to being taken for several years younger than my actual age. For one thing, I didn’t make it past about 4’8” until the 7th grade (the same year I finally stopped wearing stirrup pants), so I got used to people resting their elbows on my head.

Even though I eventually reached a towering 5’4”, the age-to-image disparity still crops up. A couple of years ago, my family was at a farmer’s market buying goat cheese from a lady who gushed, “It’s wonderful that your teenagers will come to these things with you!”

My dad, flanked by his then-18-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter, said, “Well, one teenager.”

The goat lady looked at my six-foot, bearded brother, looked at me, and replied, “And one not quite yet?”

Then again, it seems that I project a somewhat different image at work.

At my office, we work with a number of contractors who teach safety classes and drop by occasionally to pick up materials. One of these instructors, Delia, approached my desk a couple of months ago and said, “Clara, I have a question for you.”

I foolishly anticipated a question about work, but instead I heard, “I didn’t know how open you would be to blind dates.”

“I met this guy in a class I was teaching,” she said, “and I think you two would get along.”

I reflected that Delia frequently taught classes to lifeguards, EMTs, and similarly intriguing groups of people. Even better, she promised to eliminate the uncomfortable one-on-one component: “Ron and I go eat dinner on Fridays a lot, and you should come with us next week.”

So the next Friday I met Delia outside a local Mexican restaurant that offers free hot wings and queso during happy hour, because it’s nice to have a really classy dinner.

“I told Ronald that if he’s not dead, in the hospital, or in prison, he’d better be in this restaurant,” Delia told me. She led the search for Ron while I wondered just how probable those options were.

When Delia stopped to talk with someone at one of the tables, I thought at first that she had run into another friend by coincidence. This turned out to be the right table, though, featuring the first plate of hot wings, a pitcher of margaritas, and my date—a polite-looking, largely bald man at least 45 years old.

To his great credit, Ron clearly had not been warned that he was being set up with someone half his age. We introduced ourselves and began doggedly pretending to forget that this evening was intended as a date, but Delia kept awkwarding it up every few minutes by reminding us. “I just realized,” she’d say, “his last name is Barton. If you two get together, you’ll be Clara Barton!”

“Ha ha ha ha ha,” said Ron. “Who needs more salsa?”

We all sat there for an hour eating cheese dip while I made sure that every story I told featured my parents or high school or both. “We used to have another guy who would come eat with us,” said Delia. “He’s about 22. But then he got a car, and I guess he didn’t want to hang out with us old folks anymore.”

“Kids today, huh?” I said.

Finally, Delia announced that she had to leave. “I’m teaching a class early in the morning. You two stick around and talk.”

“You could stay!” offered Ron enthusiastically.

“Oh, no! This is a blind date! You’re supposed to get to know each other without me hanging over your shoulders. Good night!”

Ron and I made it through the last four hot wings and went our separate ways. “I have to help my roommate with a project,” I lied. He didn’t actually say “Oh good” out loud.

Delia was in the office again on Monday, and she wanted to know how Ron and I got along.

“You know,” I said, “Ron seems like a really nice guyyyI’m 23.”

“Oh,” said Delia. “So he’s a little too old for you, then, 'cause he’s 49. I guess that’s the last time I play matchmaker.”

It is also the last time I accept a date without inquiring whether he is 213% of my age.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Brain Is Fighting Against Me and Winning

I heard about some research indicating that humans aren’t very good at anticipating or remembering what it’s like to feel other ways besides how we’re feeling now. Like how when it’s 120 degrees in your car because you forgot to park in the shade in July and the AC stopped working in 1997, you drive home with your sweaty hands slipping off the wheel and can’t seriously believe that it will ever be January again because “too cold” is clearly not a state that exists in the world.

This idea makes sense to me because it’s usually how I feel about food. When I’m stranded in the half-mile line at Chick-Fil-A, likely to waste away at any moment, all I can think about is the last time I had access to a veritable smorgasbord and how foolish I was not to eat more of it to protect against this cruel starvation.

On the other hand, when I am suffering under the weight of my “one of everything” approach to potlucks, I become convinced that no food will ever appeal to me for the rest of my life and I might as well spend my ice cream budget on posters of Han Solo.

This phenomenon is also to blame for my perpetual self-inflicted sleep deprivation. I can spend the entire day exhausted, doze off in my Cup O’ Noodles, bite through my lip trying to stay alert for a staff meeting, skip the gym on account of a potentially fatal lack of muscle control, and drag myself home willing to miss dinner in favor of an extra half-hour of sleep...but first I have to check my e-mail just for a second in case I have another Nigerian lottery prize waiting.

Now the internet has already won.

Google’s home page has Pac-Man on it, so I have to play that for a while. Then I’m not sure when Ms. Pac-Man was introduced, so I need to check Wikipedia. That article has a link to Atari, so now I have to look up that one game with the castles. I’m definitely awake now, so I might as well draw some pictures for my blog. Then I need to check four or five other blogs in case they have new posts, and I should watch that video my brother sent me again. That reminds me of the book I was reading, and I can fit in one more chapter before my reserve back-up emergency late bedtime. Or maybe two more chapters. Heck, I’m already up this late, so what’s another fifty pages? Besides, it’s not like I’ll be sleepy tomorrow—I’m awake now, and it’s the middle of the night, so how could I not be awake at 7 a.m.?

So the next day I arrive at work feeling slightly less alert than the furry take-out enchiladas in the breakroom fridge.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Do Not Get Between Me and the Cake

Office jobs have a lot of benefits, notably air conditioning, regular hours, little to no homework, and a very low risk that it will be your problem when a six-year-old wets her pants. Probably the best part, though, is the regular recognition of birthdays with free cake.

This week we celebrated one such birthday with an almost obscene quantity of chocolate frosting. I had just acquired my hunk of sugar rush ammunition and returned to my desk to devour it with glee….

…when a customer came in the front door and began piling boxes on my desk.

I did my duty as receptionist by finding the right person to assist this man, but the large quantity of stuff necessary for his errand precluded moving to any other location. As such, the customer proceeded to hover at my desk to conduct a bit of business that:
  • did not make him happy
  • had nothing at all to do with me, and
  • lasted half an hour.
During this time, in addition to some phone-answering, all I really wanted to do was eat my brick of chocolate-frosted, rose-topped, mousse-filled, diabetic-coma-inducing birthday cake before it finished the transition from recently refrigerated to wilty.

It turns out that even my elevated level of gusto for cake-eating can be dampened by an irritable, cakeless stranger standing eighteen inches away. Desserts are meant to be savored, not gobbled guiltily when the interloper turns to dig out his wallet.

I’m not sure what the moral of this story ought to be, so I’ve collected some contenders, and you can choose your favorite.
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it.
  • A cake in the kitchen is worth two in the lobby.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

E-Mail Alerts

This is just a housekeeping notice--I'll go back to being marginally amusing soon.

I've taken down the E-Mail Alerts gadget in the sidebar because, as far as I could tell, it wasn't working. I ran a few tests and did not receive a single post notification, and I didn't want anyone to think I wasn't posting due to the failings of BlogAlert.

If anyone signed up for this and it actually did function, please let me know. In the meantime, I'll just figure that the service I used was secretly part of a terrorist/extremist/Wal-Mart plot to redirect my negligible web traffic for the purposes of the robot shadow government.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Walk This Way!

Do you remember the Malt-O-Meal commercials with the man who crouched down in the cereal aisle and said “Walk this way!” when he showed you the cheaper brand in bags instead of boxes?

Thanks to the squatting man, I became devoted to bargain shopping in childhood. I could get four times as many Marshmallow Mateys as Lucky Charms, and the marshmallows tasted just as good when I fished them out of the cereal and sorted them by color for proper anal-retentive consumption. Also, it turned out that pretty much every product had a knockoff version that my mom was more likely to give in and buy, leading to my lingering taste for Dr. Thunder.

I mean, some foods clearly have superior and inferior varieties. I’ve eaten enough bargain ice cream to be familiar with that unsettling yellowish foam that won’t rinse out of my bowl. But with other products, it’s hard to imagine where they could go wrong.

Now that I buy my own groceries, I typically stand at the freezer case trying to guess what could possibly make the Ultra Premium broccoli worth an extra three dollars. Since the nutrition facts don’t mention sparkly unicorn magic flying dust, I usually grab the 99-cent store brand.

However, it turns out that not all vegetables are created equal.

For years I accepted these disappointments as a fact of life—perhaps part of the disillusionment that accompanies adulthood.

Eventually it occurred to me that some of the extra price tag pays for stuff like ingredients and flavor—and also that I have an actual job and can buy actual Oreos.

I’m still swayed by low prices, though, especially on products I don’t intend to ingest. It’s hard to spend $3.50 on Hand Soap With TV Ads when you can get the Compare-And-Save kind for eighty-seven cents, for example. Plus I’m susceptible to belief in advertising claims—the package uses the same colors as Dial, so they must be the same, right?

That’s how I ended up with a family-size bottle of hand soap in new, improved Poocumber Melon scent. My roommate was a good enough sport to help me fight through the whole bottle—we were getting our 87 cents worth, by golly—before replacing it with something that didn’t make our hands smell like we’d been searching for a missing retainer in last Thursday’s Wienerschnitzel dumpster.