Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scrambled or Fried

I started drinking coffee occasionally a couple of years ago, and the habit has been picking up steam ever since. Until recently, though, I managed to stay firmly in denial about the chemical dependency aspect of regular caffeine consumption.

A few months ago we hired a new morning receptionist, and I was excited to train her on the desk and get back to my regular morning job in another part of the office. She arrived early the first day—having already drunk her own coffee—and I didn’t want to abandon her up front while I prepared my usual cup. It’s not as if it mattered. I could always pour some later in the day if I still wanted it.

About an hour into Sadie’s training, my headache started. Along with it came a cloud of foggy exhaustion that muddled my ability to explain the more involved office procedures.

I blamed Monday morning for my mental malfunctions, but the confusion only worsened as time went on.

By a quarter to one, I only had fifteen more minutes to hold it together before training was over for the day and I could address the pressing caffeine situation. I was babbling unnecessarily about some obvious reception process…

…while another part of my brain fantasized about breakfast foods.

Meanwhile, a woman headed toward the lobby doors from outside. I couldn’t tell at first if she was a new visitor or someone who had already checked in, and this dilemma was enough to overload the circuitry. Instead of offering Sadie advice for either situation, I pointed toward the entrance and shrieked the first thing that came out.

By the time the woman reached the desk, I was desperately feigning normalcy.

I was impressed that Sadie showed up the next morning for another day of working in a confined space with me. She did take precautions to avoid a repeat performance, though.

P.S. To anyone looking for the story of how I got a sewing pin lodged in my leg: It’s coming. I have to sharpen it up a little—improve a few points, sew up the gaps, take another stab at one or two things.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gimme Five

High fives work best if you focus on the other person’s elbow.

I learned this bit of wisdom a couple of years ago, and just a few weeks later it proved to be spectacularly true. A friend and I achieved, thanks to elbow sighting, a perfectly formed forearm arc culminating in a flawless thwack that rang out around us.

I stood back for a moment to reflect on the beautiful thing we had created.

Just then, someone else bounded across the room to congratulate us on our technique, which had impressed him from twenty feet away.

The Elbow Trick: It can’t lose!

Of course, solid fives also require situational awareness.

A few weeks ago, a client called my office with a problem that eventually took me, a department manager, two off-site staff, and half a dozen phone calls across three cities to solve. Later in the day, I was upstairs delivering mail when that manager spotted me.

Then she extended her hand at an angle right between “handshake” and “low five.”

I assessed the interpersonal factors involved as quickly as possible…

…and opted for the five. We made contact with a satisfying, elbow-targeted smack.

Then the person standing behind me placed the cell phone that the manager had been waiting for into her still-outstretched hand.

The Elbow Trick: It can still lose.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

For the Faint of Heart

You know what is really a good move? Pumping enough blood to your brain. I recommend doing it as often as possible. If you can’t manage that, though, the next best option is failing at this activity as dramatically as possible.

The first plan fell through for me last month, but I made good progress on the second one by passing out backstage during a performance of Pride & Prejudice. Conveniently for the show but less so for achieving maximum attention, I didn’t have any more lines or appearances for the night.

Instead, I woke up to the ministrations of Mr. Darcy’s housekeeper from the great Pemberley estate, who also happened to be a retired nurse. We were shortly joined by a collection of extremely quiet paramedics, while the other actors balanced between concern and not missing their entrances for the last half hour of the play. The ambulance team seemed a little disappointed that they didn’t get to remove me directly from the stage, so there’s room to improve for next time.

Shortly after we arrived at the hospital I remembered that no one knew I had come straight from Regency England without a chance to change, so I began introducing myself to every approaching staff member.

One of the techs had already taken it all in stride.

The wardrobe situation also resulted in a sheepish call from the stage manager to my parents, who arrived at the hospital shortly after I did.

In the end they diagnosed me with “high vagal tone,” which basically means that various situations can set off an involuntary nervous response that slows down my heart rate and limits blood flow to my brain. Several of the triggers are related to neglectful self-care, leading back to the whole “stop doing dumb things and you’ll be fine” principle that gives me so much trouble.

It turns out that my central nervous system is a lot like one of those kids who hold their breath when they throw tantrums. Its motivations don’t match the average toddler’s, though.

Now I have a list of potential triggers to watch for, including overexertion, dehydration, emotional stress, and my favorite item as explained by one of the ER personnel, “prolonged standing, sitting, or lying down.”

Thanks to this experience, I can begin giving more credence to my body’s signals and the advice of medical professionals and make the healthy choices of a responsible adult. Or there’s emotional manipulation.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Painted Lady

Until very recently, all of the makeup I owned was purchased for my high school prom, Class of 2004. I take that back—there was one set of eye shadow that my grandmother gave me after cleaning out her bathroom drawers.

As you may have gathered, I hardly ever wear makeup. It’s not that I have naturally radiant skin or a point to make about the true nature of beauty; I just really enjoy waking up about thirty minutes before I leave for work.

I’m also a little too unrefined for cosmetics, in the same way that my hands are not a safe place for nail polish for longer than an hour. Occasions for wearing makeup—weddings, graduations, etc.—typically start out as a lot of fun. The preparation is fun. Arriving and being pretty and excited is fun for about ten minutes. But then life continues to happen, and I remember that thanks to beauty I can’t scratch my chin or blink too much or eat or drink or cry or sweat or touch anything.

You can only run away for so long, though. Last month I was in a play, and live theater requires cosmetic enhancement unless your role is “very pale and somewhat flat person.” Small community theater also requires doing your own makeup, which is where the real problems start.

The other major factor in my cosmeticsless existence is a practically nonexistent understanding of how the stuff works. In a desperate attempt to learn what I missed in middle school, I threw myself on the mercy of the people at the Clinique counter in the mall.

I started by forgetting the common-sense rule of picking an associate whose look you would like to match. It’s like remembering to take cooking lessons only from people whose recipes you actually enjoy. This error made it difficult to explain what I wanted.

After using up my weekly allotment of the word “subtle,” I risked trying some other descriptions…

…but the terminology was too much for me.

In the end, though, Ms. Clinique did figure out some things to sell me that worked for the theater and also made me feel extremely fancy.

The best part is, with a few simple tools, I can recreate the look myself anytime I want.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Universally Acknowledged

I’m currently rehearsing for a play. On an entirely unrelated note, if you are in Albuquerque between September 14th and October 7th, you should go see a show at the Adobe Theater in the North Valley. I have it from scrupulously unbiased sources that their upcoming production of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is the single best thing to hit the stage in this millennium.

Since most of the setup in Jane Austen’s stories takes place at country balls at the turn of the 19th century, the cast is learning a few vaguely Regency-era dances for the party scenes. As a result, the women are asked to wear skirts at rehearsal so that we can practice moving correctly.

Several of the actresses possess varied collections of flattering sundresses; I, on the other hand, have been bringing the same ankle-length skirt to every rehearsal and adding it to whatever blouse I wore to work that day. It usually makes me look like a colorblind Puritan.

I’ve started doing my grocery shopping after rehearsal without changing. It’s fun watching the checkers try to decide from my purchases which fundamentalist sect I belong to.

It probably doesn’t help that the grocery store is my favorite place to talk to myself out loud.

There may also be some dancing around.

I even got stopped at my car last week by a sixteen-year-old Albertson’s parking lot monitor. Apparently they frown on exuberance after 10 p.m.

The poor guy seemed kind of disappointed when I started obediently pointing out the items on my receipt. Next time I’ll have to make more of an effort.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Three Times Fast

Repeat after me:


Cinnamon M&Ms

Cinnamon M&M anemone

Cinnamon M&M anemone enemy

Cinnamon M&M anemone enemy ended!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Goes Great with Circuses

Bread is pretty much the greatest thing. That’s why no human advancement is ever “the best thing since sliced turkey.”

I was reflecting on this starchy truth while making toast the other day, and I realized the proof was heating right in front of me. We have an entire, omnipresent appliance dedicated not even to making bread, but just to toasting it. This item has been produced and improved for nearly 120 years—not counting the pre-electric days—to do just one thing with bread, and it’s so fantastic that everybody everybody everybody has one.

I realize that today the Bed Bath & Beyonds of America are full of single-dish appliances for everything from cake pops to cornballs, but do any of those have their own screensaver-based merchandising empires?

(Here’s a video of that one, though. Anybody hungry?)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

I overheard one of the older ladies at my office taking down an email address over the phone a while ago. She did the best she could with her existing knowledge base.

It reminded me of many, many conversations in which my brother and I were operating in entirely separate universes of understanding.

In middle school, I considered myself to be exceptionally brilliant at interpreting these communication disconnects. As proof of my powers, I pointed to my own masterful understanding of an incident that unfolded in my 6th grade World History class.

Our textbook included little historical fiction introductions to each section as a way to bring students into the moment.

When we got to the chapter on European feudalism, the introduction detailed a ceremony in which a medieval landholder granted a fief to an underling:
“I will be faithful to you and defend you, the kneeling vassal declared. The lord then placed a clod of earth in the man’s hand. The earth symbolized the vassal’s right to use this land in exchange for his service to the lord.
This story did not help my classmate Annabelle dive into the 12th century. One word in particular tripped her up.

Our history teacher did not pick up on Annabelle’s concerns about the separation of church and state in our classroom. Instead, he gave her a helpful and informative explanation of the historical structures involved.

Personally, I couldn’t wait until we took geometry.

Extra Credit: Email address it would be really annoying to give out over the phone (from McSweeneys)