You Think You Know Someone

Do we really know this little lizard? I think not.

Miles completed today: 4.5

Times I got strep throat as a kid: at least 21

Times we kicked my good friend’s parents out of her living room so we could watch movies during my high school era: 213

I tried to give away a copy of People the other day. No one on my street wanted it.

These are my neighbors, the ones who I’ve shared a drink (or two) with over the years. This is very vexing: who doesn’t want to know that Michelle has moved on after Heath’s death and that Matilda may one day have a loving step-father? Are these the same people who, if asked to fill out a personality test, would bubble in “Agree Strongly” to “I find filling out complex tax forms exciting and satisfying” or “I do not care for Cadbury’s Mini-Eggs; they are the scourge of our society?”

I am not sure I know these people.

Other eye-opening moments have occurred over the years. See if you recognize these people in your own lives:

1. Pooh-poohing hundreds of years of medical advancements. My parents are Intellectuals. They enjoy reading things like Smithsonian and Archaeology Today. My mom was a chemist for a brief, shining few years, until every single project she worked on kept running out of grant money and her boss went through a sex change operation and called his/her own kids his sister’s kids and things got very confusing. That’s when my mom threw up her hands and became a piano teacher.

But I digress. My point is, these are people who read about science and smart things and would probably, yes, turn down a free issue of People. (I know. Weird, right?)

One day in early spring a few years ago, I was visiting them with my young children. My kids wanted to go out and play in the backyard. Might I remind you that kids feel hot all the time? That when you are sitting in the wind, shivering, collecting icicles on your eyebrows, they are in tank tops and feel hunky-dory?

My dad: Get some coats on those kids!

Me: It’s 65 degrees, Dad.

Dad: They’re going to get sick.

Me: Look at how fast they’re running. Sick can’t catch them.

Dad: They’re going to get a cold.

Me: Dad, you do know you can’t just get a cold from walking outside on a cold day, right? There are these things called germs.

Dad: (air expelled in a disparaging way) Germ theory. Whatever.

Vexing, I tell  you. It was as if my dad had told me the world was not actually spherical.

My friend’s dad also gave us something vexing hilarious to think about:

2. Returning to the Middle Ages. Let me give you some background on my good friend’s dad. My friend and I have known each other since middle school, and her dad is just about the most mild-mannered, friendly, low-key dad I’ve ever met. He was not at all an ex-military-type guy. He took pleasure in setting out Christmas vignettes across their wall-to-wall bookcases, and he bought her a cool, black Mustang with red interior that she was so terrified to drive that he had take it back and let her drive the poky family Buick. But still. He tried.

When she was living by herself in an apartment in Chicago, he had a talk with her about personal safety and how a woman living alone should have some sort of protection. (My dad had the same talk with me and took me to the shooting range, then handed me a gun when he was content that I understood where the barrel was and could aim in the general direction of a target.)

My friend’s dad suggested a crossbow.

Sometimes when I am alone in my car, I start laughing to myself like a deranged lunatic when I picture her wielding a crossbow in that tiny apartment. Deranged. Lunatic.

3. Deleting key years of one’s life. When we were visiting my mother-in-law in England a few years back, she told us that my husband’s half-sister, who is much younger, would soon be applying to colleges. (Note to non-English people: college is generally two years, then they go on to University. My husband lived at home and attended a local college before leaving for University.) Here is the conversation that followed:

My husband: Cool! Where is she applying?

His mom: I think she wants to go to Barton Peveril.

My husband: That’s where I went! Great!

His mom: You did?

Please note: My husband lived in her house for those two years it took to complete Barton Peveril. Two years that apparently were forgettable ones for some members of the family.

4. House cleaning victory. My BFF is a Super Cleaner. Her house is so clean that if you wanted to run your tongue along the baseboards, they would probably taste really good. Her floors qualify as a sterile environment for all surgical supplies. (At least before they are licked.)

My floors are used as the “Before” picture on commercials. My husband is very proud.

Guess what, though? She didn’t know that you’re supposed to vacuum under the refrigerator. Yeah. I knew that. She didn’t.

I’m not saying that I vacuum under our refrigerator, but I definitely know you’re supposed to.

I thought she was a Super Cleaner. But I’ve demoted her to Grand Cleaner Extraordinaire. I’ll inspect her fridge next time we visit when I pull out the ol’ pinot grigio.

You never know the secrets that might be lurking underneath someone’s educated exterior. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


The Secret Lives of Office Workers

Team Building

Days of the week interviewees are responsive: 4

Hours on Friday afternoon when it is impossible to reach anyone: 4

Minutes I spend pondering where everyone has gone: 32

Fridays at work must be amazing. I’ve been a freelancer for too many years to count (admit) now, but back when I had an office, I don’t remember Friday afternoons being much to write home about.

Now, though. Now. The office must be Party Central. Here is why: when I try to call anyone on a Friday afternoon, no one is there. Like, until Monday. It’s not just one profession, like software developers (and we all know how much fun they must be having). Or accountants. I call roller coaster critics, fiber artists, teachers and bankers. I’m pretty sure that while I’m sitting in my home office, blogging working hard, there is a lot of fun going on.

Where is everyone?

1. They have been abducted by aliens, X-Files style. Now, I’m not sure this would be fun, exactly, but I picture a Friday afternoon at one of those fancy, minimalistic workplaces where everyone works “cafeteria style.” This means that when someone gets laid off gets abducted by aliens is in the bathroom, reading InStyle for two hours, no one notices. Maybe this Friday afternoon, at a pharmaceutical company, a meeting begins at 2 p.m.

Manager pulled up to Apple Store-type table with fancy laptop: “Who was covering the roll-out?”

One of seven workers with equally flashy tech-y gear: “Oh, that was Chantal. She was sitting…”

And everyone turns. There are no assigned seats. There are no offices. No one has seen Chantal since Thursday. But her super-cool, leopard-print laptop is open at the table.

Manager: “Chantal? Chantal? Well, I guess we can tell Rohan he can come in to the office on every fourth Wednesday now. And on Monday, he can call that freelancer who’s been hassling Chantal about an interview.”

2. There is a secret, office-workers-only hangout. Like a speak-easy. My husband gets home on Fridays and is worn out. Are jobs really that exhausting? Pshaw.

Office worker, checking his low-profile phone for the text of the latest password to enter the speak-easy: “Shoot. That freelancer called me for an interview again. Do you think she’s onto us?”

Co-worker, in disguise, a furry hat with the ear coverings that are so in this year: “Dude, you’re getting paranoid. Put on your party hat and loosen up.”

Office worker, pulling out his hat and scrolling: “This can’t be coincidence. The password is [whispering] ‘newspaper.'”

“You’re gonna have to call her back before we get wasted. Stay out here in the alley and get it done, man. I’ll order you a beer.”

3. Team building meetings now consist of MASH and making fortune-tellers to examine what kind of employee you really are. When I was still in an office situation, they pretended like they really cared what kind of employee you were. Extroverted? Judging? They wanted to know. And heck, you did, too. It was like going back in time and taking that “Personality” class in Psychology, where we talked about our dreams and watched movies like “Harold and Maude.”

But now, things have been pared down. Personality tests and consultants cost a lot. And they might have to lay off any number of the existing employees, maybe on Monday.

MASH and notebook paper fortune tellers are the wave of the future. I’m betting savvy managers are using these while I wait for callbacks. When I was in elementary school, MASH was used to determine whether you would live in a Mansion, Apartment, Shack or House, and I was actually quite worried when Shack would come up. The list of boys was somewhat interchangeable, so I wasn’t too concerned with that part. I was going to marry Bo Duke, so I had that covered. And I knew nothing about cars. My friends told me to pick Camaro, so I did. And I often hoped for Corvette. But as long as I got the Mansion, I figured I’d probably have a driver anyway.

Those office workers… they get to have all the fun. Me playing MASH by myself is like trying to drink an entire bottle of wine alone. You could do it, but it’s not advisable.

4. Office workers in all industries now must spend Friday afternoons targeting creepy coupons to innocent citizens. Sometimes, I get a free Pampers diaper sample in the mail. I don’t know why. We haven’t had a baby in the house for close to 9 years. Do they know something I don’t know?

Target and Walmart apparently use our debit card and purchasing decisions to send us creepy coupons in the mail. I suspect there are bored office workers behind the direct mail campaigns. Do they sit at computers and click on products like Depends and denture adhesive to make us question our mortality?

5. The Caribbean is actually closer than I’ve been led to believe. In the summer, a lot of people in our area head to the beach after lunch on Fridays. The highways are a sea of cars. But this weekend is supposed to be pretty icky. The winter at our beaches won’t be the wave-jumping, boogie-boarding kind. Did someone forget to tell me that The Islands are closer than I think? Should I be abandoning my keyboard and teleporting heading to some sandy beach within a short drive?

O, Office Workers of the World, take me along to whatever fun place you go every Friday! Send me the secret password, and I’ll keep it on the DL. We’ll just say it’s off the record.