QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Don't do Mornings




I have never been, am not, and will never be a morning person. I would love to be a morning person; when I imagine how much I could accomplish by rising earlier in the day, I beam just from the prospect. I could get up before the sun rises, have a peaceful run before the rest of the world is conscious, and then shower, thereby actually spending the bulk of my day clean.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate mornings. On the occasions when I’ve had extraordinary self control and actually risen very early to run (or been absolutely forced to do so due to training requirements and schedule restraints), I love it once I’m up and going. The “and going” part can take quite some time, but the faster I get into my running shoes and out the door the faster I wake up whether I like it or not. There’s something magical about being out and about while the rest of humanity (and the animal kingdom) is still sleeping; nothing and no one could possibly have irritated you yet. Of course most of the animal kingdom is already up by, say, 5 am, anyway, notwithstanding my previous sentence; it is awesome to cross paths with a deer or great heron on early morning runs, even though on occasion they’ve scared the heck out of me.

So no, no – it’s not that I don’t like mornings. I just don’t do mornings. I am always craving more sleep when I wake up. I have to be one with my coffee for quite some time before I feel any energy start flowing.

This morning was typical. The husband’s alarm is always first to go off. Preferring to wake to pop songs from the radio at a deafening volume (as he’s also not a morning person), the husband always sets the alarm an hour before he actually wishes to emerge from bed (argh), thus exercising the snooze button repeatedly. This isn’t a problem for him, as he promptly relapses into a deep, comfortable, sleep after each thunderous roar of the current pop song emerging from the alarm clock. I, however, wake from the first blaring song, practically hitting the ceiling from having jumped at the sudden, scary noise; I then lie in fear, half awake, of the next earsplitting, outburst from the alarm clock. It’s even more harrowing when, by chance, the current broadcast emanating from the clock radio is not a song, but rather the morning disc jockeys laughing. (My alarm clock is not much better; before I had laser eye surgery, I bought the clock displaying the most obnoxiously large digital numerals so that I would be able to see it (I still couldn’t see it). It did not occur to me to test what sort of sound would greet me every morning of my life. Alas, to make shameless use of a very bad pun, the sound is, indeed, quite alarming (see my entry describing the Myrtle Beach marathon for more about alarm sounds) ).

Recently, though, God smiled upon me by killing off the radio alarm clock he’s had since college. The husband was quite upset, having grown understandably attached to the clock that had failed to wake him for those undergraduate 8 o’clock classes… “Awww,” I sympathized. “Bummer.”

I promptly went out to get a new one, and Target had ZERO stock of clock radios. These days, it seems, it’s either a basic alarm clock for $9.99 or a “wake to your iPod” alarm clock for $100+. I looked up, said thank you, and toted home a basic alarm clock.

The next day, the husband promptly returned the basic alarm clock and was overjoyed to discover that Target now had clock radios in stock. He brought home his new Sony Dream machine.

I have still done something good, though, because it turns out that the radio reception on the new Dream machine leaves something to be desired, and so the husband has settled for the regular alarm rather than the radio. Folks, run out and buy yourselves a Sony Dream machine, because the sound of the alarm is so beautiful, so subtle, so peaceful. It gently nudges you awake in a soft tone: “hey there, sleepyhead… time to start waking up, you…” rather than: “GET UP, YOU MISERABLE LAZY SLOTH!!! GET UP NOW !!!!”

This morning, then, began with the Dream machine. Once, twice, three times, even more… The husband said: “don’t you think you should get up now?”

“No,” I mumbled.

“Whaddya mean?” he asked, confusedly.

“How is ‘no’ ambiguous?” I questioned.

Hearing the familiar grinding of the coffee machine downstairs, though, at last coerced me out of bed, after which I sleepily pulled on a pair of sweats and a turtleneck and sweatshirt. As I drove home in my socks after having dropped the kids off at school, I once again wished I could be the sort of person who had already risen, run, and showered. It does feel rather sloth-like to be sitting at my desk in my PJs until noon or 1 pm when I go out for my run. Then I had another thought, though: maybe I should just invest in nicer PJs?

Nazi Postman


I realize, first off, that with a title like that I risk alienating or offending my nazi readers. I’m okay with that. lol. Anyway…

Yesterday as my friend and I hiked through the woods with our dogs, the levels of digression in our conversation spun out of control. Somehow, in one conversation thread, the discussion flowed from how our children are doing in school to postal carriers. Eventually the trail of the conversation led to her new mail carrier from hell, and while I may have been only half listening up until this point (as admittedly I am prone to do), I immediately perked up when I heard the words postman, mace, and dog in one phrase.

Huh?” I interrupted.

“Yeah,” she was saying… “I wouldn’t put it past him to have sprayed her with mace.”

“What?” I repeated.

Apparently she had recently been to the vet to treat what was diagnosed as pink eye in her labradoodle, and the vet had asked if it were possible that she had been exposed to mace (the dog not the friend).

“So I thought about it,” she was continuing, “and I think he could have done it.”

So get this… They have a new nazi, anal retentive, rule-following, mail carrier whom we should all rejoice does not service our addresses… listen to his transgressions and judge for yourself:

- My friend went around her neighborhood two weeks before Christmas and joyfully inserted Christmas cards in her neighbors’ mailboxes, spreading the cheer of the season. On Christmas eve, my friend opened her own mailbox and frowned to find that all of the cards had been bundled together with a rubber band together with a note: “insufficient postage.” (There went his Christmas tip, huh?)

- Her neighbor received a notice in her mailbox one day that there was a letter being held for her at the post office branch because of insufficient postage. Concerned, she packed her kids in the car, parked at the post office, got all three children out of their car seats (which I know from experience takes at least 15 painstaking minutes, full of “I can do it myself” sort of mutterings), schlepped them inside the post office, and waited in the long line for the next available postal worker (during which I’m sure all three children behaved perfectly, and her son didn’t push her younger son, and her daughter didn’t screech: “stop looking at me” and her younger son didn’t keep repeating every word that the older son said…). She received the “letter” that was being held for her; it was a handwritten note written from a 6 year old to a 5 year old stuffed shyly into the mailbox.

- Another neighbor hung a decorative holiday flag from her mailbox. The next day when she looked outside, the flag was on the ground. She returned the flag to its festive place on the mailbox only to find it on the ground once again later the following day. After two more days with the same mysterious outcome, she decided to keep an eye on the mailbox throughout the day whenever she could. As she watched the mail carrier drive from mailbox to mailbox, he arrived at her mailbox. He took the flag (apparently it intervened with his placing the mail into the mailbox in the most efficient manner possible) and threw it onto the ground. What’s with this guy?


It would have been fun indulging in petty female gossip about this wretched nazi postal carrier had the transgressions not been so offensive…

So – don’t you think he could have sprayed mace on the innocent, cute labradoodle?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Could Have Been...


It’s been kind of a busy day so I haven’t entered an entry for the blog today. Having little self-esteem, I figured no one would notice anyway. Was I wrong! I got a phone call around 5 this evening from a disappointed reader… (okay; it was my brother, but hey – a fan is a fan, right?) “Where’s the blog entry?” he complained.

After working all day and retrieving my children from school, I am now sitting here (avoiding the making of dinner) trying to think of something about which I have time to write. I have lots of ideas, but so little time; I know, I’m preaching to the choir.

Think think think

I could start to write about how my ten-year-old lost his cool this morning, just fell to pieces, over not being able to send an email efficiently… but that would take WAY too much time…

I could write about how my dog chewed up a library book and I went to the library and wholeheartedly confessed and earnestly opened my wallet to pay for it even before the book was due which has me so upset I’m writing this run-on sentence…. But that, too, would take me a bit of time.

I could write about how I can’t write with someone looking over my shoulder…lol. Nah.

I could write about the phenomenon I encountered while doing a 10-mile run with my sister in law (which is that we were running against the wind down a straight path for 5 miles and looking forward to turning around and having the wind against our backs. We turned around, and the wind shifted and was in our faces again. How WRONG is that? ooph.)

I could write about the parking ticket I received today. I paid the meter for an hour, received the ticket 6 minutes after the meter expired, and returned to my car 3 minutes after I had received the ticket. I calculated that I paid $3.82 per minute after the meter expired. Sheesh. I cannot, however, think upon that event too humorously yet. I’d rather growl about that. (by the way, hon – I got a parking ticket today).

I could write about having had lunch with an old college roommate today (well, she’s not old and I’m not old) and she told me about this great blog called http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/ . Apparently he started a blog kinda like this (check it out; it’s hysterical) and now has a book deal. Hellloooo? Anyone out there wanna give me a book deal yet? I’d settle for a newspaper column? Anyone? Anyone?

So… I guess today’s blog is just about what I could have written about… but didn’t. Sorry!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Honey-Do


Sigh. I'm not sure whether the weekend is more relaxing or more stressful.

As a stay-at-home mom who works full-time from home, I drop off the boys at school, do a little dance, and enjoy the peace and quiet working in my home office while the husband is at work and the boys are at school. I like everything in its place, which is easy to maintain while there's no one around to take items out of their places.

With all four of us at home on the weekend, however, things are out of their places at disconcerting, lightning speed. Take one person who can relocate several items from their rightful places and multiply it by three (I exclude myself from moving items from their places, of course), and you have an anxious, OCD woman in what she perceives as a chaotic situation for as long as said people are home. lol. Okay - I'm not that bad. (?)

Recently, though, I came up with the notion that I should imitate the myriad other wives out there who author the cliched "honey do" list. One of my friends in Chicago has a very handy husband who (this is absolutely true, I swear) made (not purchased) a blackboard to function as his wife's honey do list. The first thing on the list (and this is also absolutely true) was for him to create a larger blackboard to function as the honey-do list, the first one having been too small to accommodate the list.

Not having as handy a husband and not as handy myself, I created my new honey do list on the computer. I used a nice, big, friendly font. I pondered for a few minutes before adding each item, wanting to ensure I didn't forget anything that I had been wanting him to do around the house- and not wanting to start too "big" with this new concept. The list only amounted to 3 items, because 1) this was a new concept, and I didn't want to overwhelm him and 2) he actually already does a lot around the house, so there isn't that much to go on the list (insert footnote: remember - he reads this blog). I kept the level of difficulty low as well, being realistic. The first two items on the list, for example, were: 1) take the tv that doesn't work anymore and the loveseat with the springs sticking out of the cushions from the basement to the dump and 2) Clean out the kitchen desk baskets (which consist almost wholly of old receipts, golf tees, buttons, and weird odds and ends, like the lost and found for unidentifiable mechanical parts mysteriously separated from their mechanical devices).

Proudly printing off my newly created honey do list with a flourish (creating a honey do list has been on my list for awhile), I casually handed it to him on a Saturday morning, smiling broadly, careful that he understood this was part joke (aren't the subtleties of communication brilliant?). He gazed at it for a moment and then irreverently tossed it aside and resumed his reading of the newspaper. Hmmm. Not wanting to be a nagging type of wife, I merely described the toss to him as irreverent indeed and let it go, content to bide my time for my next subtle pounce.

Of course, there are things around the house which I consider to be my responsibility, and these, I've considered lately, can be readily done by the boys. Slowly but surely I've been training them to pitch in to do the chores I loathe, such as emptying the dishwasher, making their school lunches, and doing the laundry. I rationalize that it makes me not so much an inept, irresponsible mother and more of a mom who is not enabling her sons to become useless husbands (okay - or bachelors) someday. It's a great idea in theory, but unfortunately my requests of them to do something to help around the house are usually met with great, recalcitrant resistance. See if some of these phrases sound at all familiar, fellow parents:



- Aww mom, why can't [my brother] do it? I always have to do that!

- It's not my turn!

- But I haven't had any time to play today!

- I don't waaannntt to...

- Can't I do it later?

- How much are you going to pay me for that?

- But my room is clean...

- But I didn't make the mess!



and so forth and so on.


For crying out loud; if I don't get some cooperation and help around the house, how are all of these bon bons going to get eaten?

Friday, February 20, 2009


Okay, folks. Not much time to write between yesterday and today, so hmmm. How about some polls to get to know my readers better?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's wrong with this Picture?

Our cat, Katie, is deathly afraid of our dog, Sophie. She does, however, muster prodigious courage in facing Sophie when she wants to pilfer Sophie's dinner. Watch the tactics of our ferocious, food-aggressive German Shepherd as she staunchly defends her meal...



video



"um, excuse me.... uh... um. Could I have my dinner back, pretty
please?"


Short, but Nonetheless Humiliating, Anecdote


Recently we were watching a movie with my boys in which a person is having a conversation on a telephone in a phone booth.


"You see, boys?" we explained. "That's how we used to have to make phone calls away from home before there were cell phones."


"Huh..." my 12-year-old mused. "Did you have to wait in a line sometimes?"


"Well, yeah," I recollected.


"Did you ever use a phone booth, Mom?"


"Uh-huh," I answered.


"You're that old?" he marveled.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Chronicles of the Myrtle Beach Marathon






Plans to run my 7th marathon began innocently enough; my thinking was that I should start doing more than one marathon per year if I am ever going to shave off those 7 pesky minutes holding me back from a Boston Marathon qualification. I offhandedly presented the information to my husband in the middle of a different conversation: “uh… um… hey… oh… I signed up for the Myrtle Beach marathon on February 14th.”

“Why?”

“I figured I needed to do more than one marathon yearly to get my body used to the distance if I’m ever going to qualify for Boston.”

“Oh. Hmm.”

“Anyway; so what’d y’all think of my chicken noodle soup? Hey, hon – did Maryland win?”

About 2 weeks before the marathon, my gentle reminder to the husband took the form of a Myrtle Beach, SC hotel confirmation emailed to his work email address: one room with 2 double beds for the four of us. As the Saturday race approached, however, the husband’s workload was too pressing; he ended up at home with the boys.

Thus it was that I found myself driving 8 ½ hours south solo. I also travel alone internationally a good bit, so I was not unaccustomed to a long trip by myself. People often lament to me how awful it would be to travel alone for long periods of time. Ha! Those people have never had small children – or even medium-sized ones! It is, indeed, pure bliss to be alone for 8 ½ + hours without the incessant noises of my beloved boys. My older son is constantly humming; I am not exaggerating (he is humming as I write this, for crying out loud). Day and night, night and day, my almost-thirteen-year-old offspring hums. It’s not that he doesn’t have a pleasant voice – actually he does; it’s just that its unceasing nature tends to render one insane after awhile (say, 5 minutes). His humming coupled with my younger son’s habitual singing, notwithstanding the inevitable cacophony, make me nervously regard my watch, wondering if it’s 5 o’clock yet.

So there I was, without the typical cacophonic background noise, peace and quiet reigning as I drove south, farther and farther removed from any humming or singing other than my own. I could listen to my iPod without interruption or complaint: “Mom, would you please stop singing?” (wonder where they get it). As an added bonus, I had 500+ driving miles during which to perform my beneficial Kegel exercises.

As I neared Myrtle Beach I encountered heavy traffic, which ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem without two fighting boys who had contained themselves as best they could during a long road trip and could no longer stand it. “Stop looking at me!!”

I’m not looking at you; you’re looking at me!!”

No; again, I was blissfully alone. The only issue with the traffic was that it was past time for a potty break. I nonetheless persevered and followed the directions I had printed, getting closer and closer to the Expo where I would retrieve my race “bib” and free technical t-shirt. The directions were quite good; however, I quickly discovered as I neared my target that Myrtle Beach doesn’t believe in road signs, thus stymying significantly the out-of-towner’s ability actually to identify the streets. Whether the city council considers street signs too expensive or perhaps whether they feel that it’s just no fun to know exactly where you are, to say there was a paucity of readily identifiable street signs would be euphemistic. Using my handy blackberry’s “Google maps for blackberry,” I estimated where I was and miraculously made the correct turn onto 21st street.

Without much fanfare I successfully entered the Expo and acquired my race number/bib; I made my way to the free t-shirt counter, negotiating my way through the plethora of merchandisers (and proudly passing through without opening my wallet). The volunteer behind the stand beheld me wearily as I handed him my bib to redeem my free t-shirt. It was a rather large “medium,” so I queried whether I could trade it for a small? He looked around, and surreptitiously took the medium and exchanged it for a small, telling me: “I’m not supposed to do this; they could disallow me from volunteering again.”

The rest of the evening went smoothly. I faithfully ate my pasta dinner, found my hotel, collected the necessary data regarding the shuttle bus to the start the next morning, set out my running clothes, and obtained a fairly decent night’s sleep.

I awoke the next morning to the pleasant sounding alarm from my blackberry; recently I had switched the alarm sound and I was quite pleased with the result as I lay half awake, half asleep at 4:45 a.m. Whereas the previous sound connoted: “HEY! WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING STILL SLEEPING? GET UP NOW, FOR PETE’S SAKE !!” By beautiful contrast, my newly chosen alarm sound gently prodded: “psst. hey – you awake? hellloooo? yoohoo? no hurry or anything, but, um… it’s time for you to get up soon, ok? No rush… any time you’re ready. It’s gonna be a great day…”

I got dressed and ready (I’m guessing the reader is fine with skipping the details thereof) and headed downstairs for coffee, the fresh version of which the front desk clerk told me was available 24 hours a day. Harboring great anticipation, with which every coffee lover can identify, I lowered the lever on the coffee decanter: “phlllbbbbffllbb,” it coughed… ! Panic struck me – no more coffee! Frantically I looked around for a hotel employee to remedy the catastrophe. It wasn’t long before I identified a middle-aged man with a nametag affixed to his shirt: “Excuse me, sir; would you be able to make more coffee, please?” I stifled, hiding my anxiety pretty well if I do say so myself.

“Sure,” he said. “Decaf?”

LOL. “uh… no. That was funny, though.”

Coffee problem solved, (and here an apology to the employee is perhaps in order for the manner in which I stalked him until the coffee was fully brewed), I began to look for the race shuttle. I actually found myself quite relaxed (barring the coffee incident) since I wasn’t planning on running this one for time (or maybe it was the pleasant awakening I had experienced from the new blackberry alarm). In any case, the shuttle wasn’t materializing, so a distressed fellow runner very chivalrously offered me a ride. Being a fellow runner and chivalrous, however, did not necessarily render him socially adept. His shyly abbreviated, nervous way of speaking did not, though, enervate my gratefulness for the ride. I thanked him as we arrived and we parted ways.

After having found a significantly shorter porta-pot line in the middle of the porta-pot area (whose secret was closely guarded by my fellow runners in line, with audible whispers of “ha ha! No one else knows about this area!” and “The secret isn’t getting out, is it?”), I relaxedly made my way to the start and began without a hitch.

As is typical, there were plenty of happy and energetic conversations surrounding me as we began the first of 26.2 miles, and for awhile I was content merely to listen, chiming in briefly here and there good-naturedly.

Around mile 5 or 6, I found myself keeping pace pretty evenly with a guy in a green shirt; I joked with myself that I was “drafting” behind him, drawing advantage from his blocking the wind. Ha. Eventually we struck up a conversation and ran together, really nicely evenly paced, until unfortunately he had to stop with shin pain at mile 20.

At one point as we ran together, a middle-aged guy pulled up evenly with us, huffing and puffing and breathing laboriously and noisily. “I’ve been trying to keep up with you guys,” he huffed. As we ran together I learned this was his 10th Myrtle Beach marathon, among many other facts he shared with us, some welcome, some not so much.

The three of us next encountered a lady whom I can most readily describe as perky. A bit too happy, she high-fived every spectator possible, yelled out “thanks so very much for your support” in a thick southern accent to everyone on the sidelines, chatted with every runner whom she passed and who passed her, and joked pretty consistently that she was ready for a toasted bagel smothered in peanut butter.

The group then consisted of me and my green-shirted-same-pace-as-I-new-running-buddy, the perky lady, and the huffer and puffer. We caught up with a guy who was just taking off a long-sleeved white shirt as he ran. “I was just about to say you must be hot,” I intelligently remarked. No answer. Alrighty then. Perky lady pounced on the new blood and arduously extracted from him that this was his 45th marathon. “Whoo hoo!” she less intelligently remarked, “you should just keep your shirt off, then!” I didn’t understand either.

We rounded a corner and, out of nowhere, a pale man approached no-shirted-no-personality-man and provided him with a new short-sleeved t-shirt. Pale man jaunted along beside him for awhile, exchanging indiscernible items and ascertaining what else previously-no-shirted-man might need. “Wow,” I said. “May I have a personal assistant, too?” Again, no answer. We weren’t going to be friends, it was clear. “Hey can you get me a toasted bagel smeared with peanut butter?” perky lady inquired of the personal assistant. The three of us eventually outpaced now-short-sleeved-no-personality-man, surely as a result of not having the distraction of a personal assistant.

Huffer and puffer ran with us for awhile until he fell back unobtrusively, and I remarked to my new friend: “huh. We lost that guy.”

“Yeah; I’m kinda glad, to be honest,” he admitted. “His breathing was kind of getting to me.” Lol. I had been thinking similar thoughts but convinced myself that hearing the heavy breathing made my soft breaths a very good sign by comparison.

As we ran on, perky lady dropped back to interact with someone on the sidelines; she jogged along and was given a bagel smeared with peanut butter by someone I presume was a friend. “Huh. She was actually serious about that bagel with peanut butter,” I said. “yup,” said green-shirted friend.

Such were the characters of my 7th marathon, and saddened was I when green shirt had to stop because of shin pain. It’s what I love about marathoning, though. The camaraderie of the runners and spectators, all working together to help the runners achieve the ridiculous goal of making it 26.2 miles, is really quite heartening. As I was feeling pretty strong on the final “.2” of the marathon, I passed a guy walking. I tapped him on the shoulder and urged: “c’mon – you can make it to the end. Don’t stop now.”

“You’re right,” he conceded as he broke into a jog toward the finish.

Yes, it’s the people that you meet along the way that make it so incredibly fulfilling.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Perpetrator


I adore my trusty running partner and faithful canine friend… she trods along beside me for up to 8 miles, totally in the zone, focused on the purpose. Her job is to stay with me. I imagine her little doggie mind is zooming along at record pace, thinking: “stay on the left side of mommy at ALL times. Don’t stop to sniff the millions of wonderful smells that waft my way… ooh…no, no.. put it out of your mind. When Mommy stops, I stop. Don’t go near cars. Cars are bad. I can’t play with other doggies on the run, no matter how badly they want to rough-house or how cute the boys are.” She’s a fabulous partner, indeed; just when I think I’ve worn her out a bit, she takes off after a squirrel and leaves me in the dust, and I know she’s been sandbagging.

She’s an awesome dog; even my husband, who didn’t want a dog (and when I wore him down didn’t want a German Shepherd), admits she’s the best dog he’s ever had.

Every so often, though, she messes up. I came home one morning and she didn’t come greet me. This is a bad sign. When she doesn’t come greet me, she knows she’s in trouble and she stays on her bed with her chin tucked between her front paws, emoting the most pitiful I-didn’t-mean-to-do-it expression in her eyes possible.

“Aww, Soph… what’d you do,” I worried.

Then I saw it. 10 feet to my left was a prodigious mess: banana peels, coffee grounds, meat packaging, Q-tips (bleah), cans the kids were supposed to have recycled, broken pencils (no lead, don’t worry), broccoli stems (I only care for the florets), empty plastic (non-recyclable) containers, and myriad other disgusting items… all at the foot of a tipped over kitchen garbage can.

I couldn’t help it; I lost it.

“FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, SOPHIE !!!!” I ranted… “what the heck did ya do that for?” [here I actually paused for an answer, if you can believe it. I mean… not only did I end a sentence with a preposition, I expected the dog to answer me. Okay – and I didn’t say heck, either].

Sophie tucked her head farther under her paws, so I continued:

“Do you think I need this? Huh? Do I need to come home after an already-stressful morning to find this MESS? Don’t you get it!? You’re NOT supposed to go through the garbage!! What were you thinking, Soph? This is so wrong…I suppose you don’t think about who’s going to clean it up as you slosh happily through the garbage? ‘oh, the maid’ll get it.’ ”

I sat on the stairs and stared her down. I can’t believe I’m lecturing my dog. She didn’t meet my gaze, but I could read her thoughts well enough:

“well, golly, Mommy. You left… and I wasn’t sure you were ever coming back again… and the smell of that delicious garbage can came wafting toward me… ooh. I’m telling you, ma, it smelled sooo good. I resisted for awhile, really I did. I tried hard. But I’m a dog, Mommy… and my gut instincts just took over! I couldn’t control myself! MUST PILFER GARBAGE CAN… it was crazy! I don’t know what came over me…”

Well, the pitiful look wore me down and I forgave her eventually; next time perhaps I’ll give her a more rational lecture.
Today's "Engrish Brog" entry is pretty funny. Check out a new book in Japan called How to Goodbye Depression. Here's the link:

http://brog.engrish.com/

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Brush with Insanity

A true story from summer of 2007, which prompted me to write the letter which follows to management:


Dear Misters Y*** and G***:

I am a dissatisfied customer, to say the least.

Three weeks ago I contacted [bleep}, via a tedious, touchtone customer response process, to make an appointment for servicing our 3-year-old [Bleep] refrigerator at our vacation home at the beach. We had purchased, because of [Bleep]'s excellent reputation, our refrigerator, dishwasher, and oven/range from [bleep] when we renovated our house 3 summers ago. While I was quite surprised that the refrigerator should, at its young age, be in need of repair already, I nonetheless counted on [bleep]’s fine reputation for service and repair.

After having made the appointment for a time we would be at our vacation home, we received a call from [bleep] the day before informing us we would need to reschedule. Already down at the vacation home, I phoned [bleep] (again through the laborious touch tone system) to reschedule the maintenance call, which happily I was able to schedule for the next day, Tuesday, 22 July. The technician was scheduled to arrive between 8 am and 5 pm. If I were to say what ensued were unsatisfactory, I would be greatly euphemistic! Please endeavor to place yourself in my proverbial shoes as I relate my experience with your service department as objectively as possible:

I was informed by the mono-toned customer service representative that, were I to call Tuesday morning, I would be able to obtain a more specific time at which the technician might arrive. I did indeed call Tuesday morning (again through the 3-minute touch tone process) and was told the technician would be here between 1 and 3. The agent took my cell phone number and told me that I would be phoned with yet a more specific time. My cell phone rang around 12:24 pm while I was outside for a moment; I could not grab the call quickly enough. The identification of the call was the 800 number I laboriously had used to set up the appointment. I returned the call to the 800 number, again clumsily jumping through the touchtone hoops. When I reached a human voice (hallelujah), I was told that, because I was not at home when the technician phoned, I had been "taken off of the technician's route." I was, therefore, dropped from the service schedule without the technician's ever having knocked at my door or spoken with me! Sensing an incredulity at the manner in which the system functioned (or not, rather), I asked to speak to a manager, at which time I was transferred to a mono-toned manager named "[bleep]." [Bleep] listened to my story and then, without due apology or comment, asked me again for my phone number and to confirm my name and address. She then, without asking or warning me, put me on hold; when she returned to the call she informed me that I would have to reschedule. I asked to speak to her supervisor, at which point she hung up the phone. [I am not making this up].

On my third phone call into the touch tone labyrinth-o’-frustration, I asked to speak directly to a supervisor so that I might expedite my call's purpose; after all, ostensibly the technician was close to my home. After I was put on hold for 7 minutes in complete silence, the call disconnected. [It really did]. On my 4th call (now 12:54 pm), after plodding again through the touch tone “response” system, I again told my sad story. The slightly more helpful representative put me on hold and then disconnected me. I was in a really good mood now.

It was at this point, I believe, that I saw an actual [bleep] repair truck driving down my street. I ran downstairs as quickly as humanly possible and tried in vain to catch the truck, which took a right hand turn onto the highway and kept going. Alas.

My 5th call entailed the representative's phoning her manager for advice and calling the routing center (duh?). I was subsequently informed that a couple of messages had been sent to the technician who, in this modern day and age, cannot call customer directly; no, rather, the routing center contacts the driver/technician through some sort of "beep" system. ok. I took a deep breath, said thank you, and hung up. On my 6th call, at 1:06 pm, I again made my way through the maze to a manager: a friendly, fantastic, manager with excellent people skills and who apologized and validated my frustration (the secret of customer service!). His name was Steve and his employer id is P-1713 and I would like heartily to commend him to you. Steve listened patiently to my situation (which, in retrospect, I should have recorded to make my life easier) and apologized! He was probably rolling his eyes, but that’s the beauty of the telephone! This was an up! He sent a SUPERVISOR'S message (a notch up from a regular message) to the technician (through the technologically advanced "beep" system at the routing center) and assured me that the technician or routing center would be calling me - that it was their job to ensure communication among the drivers, customers, and routing center. I joked with my new buddy Steve, telling him, hopefully inoffensively, that I didn't have much faith that the [bleep] service folks were terribly good at their jobs and that, though I had been promised a phone call since 12:00, none had come. Steve again assured me someone would, indeed, call. I asked Steve whether I could be in direct contact with him since he was the only one so far who seemed compassionate to my situation and tried to help me; however, he laughed at the silly idea that I could do so. I waited until 4:30 for my 7th call to the 800 touchtone h*ll. Perhaps I'm not being so euphemistic now... The representative with whom I spoke this time put me on hold a few times, creating false hope for me; she then got back on the line and hemmed and hawed a bit, only to confess that: "um, I think you're going to need to reschedule." "May I please speak to a supervisor?" I queried weakly. "You realize that he's just going to give you the same answer," she unaffectionately informed me. "I do, indeed," I responded; "still, I would very much like to speak with a manager, please." The phone was then disconnected. [Really; I am not making this up].

Almost defeated, yet spurred on relentlessly by a cursed tenacious personality, I sighed and called again, at this point knowing I could shrewdly cut off the friendly customer response touch tone voice’s questions with my answers, which I already knew by heart from vast unfortunate recent experience:

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "Welcome to [Bleep], blah, blah..."

me: "Repair."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "To make the process more efficient [insert belly laugh], please type in or say your home phone number."

me: ***-***-****

customer service sardonically friendly voice: Thank you. Our records show that you already have an appointment today. Are you calling to verify the time of the appointment?"

me: "no."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "Thank you. How can we help you? Would you like to: make an appointment,”.... etc.

me: "Make."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: " You said make an appointment. Is that correct?"

me: "yes."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "For what kind appliance are you calling?... For example..."

me: Refrigerator."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "Did you say … refrigerator?"

me: "Yes."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "Thank you. Please hold for the next representative..."


During the last phone conversation I was connected with "Applet," who was friendly enough but informed me I would have to make a new appointment. Again, I asked to talk to a manager. I was connected then to another fabulous person with wonderful social skills. He tried calling the technician, leaving another message, etc.; alas, the call was disconnected even after I asked him please not to disconnect me.

Needless to say, I am out of energy to call that 800 number again. I will be biting the bullet about the warranty, calling a local repair technician, and hoping to solve the problem that way.

I have, at times, exhibited a playful tone throughout my telling of my [Bleep] Service Saga; however, I am very much serious when I tell you that I will NEVER, EVER again purchase a [bleep] appliance or anything else from [Bleep], in order that my own sanity may be preserved (if it is still, indeed, intact).

Sincerely,


[my signature]

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In defense of homemade mashed potatoes...


Two of my so-called friends have protested my rantings with regard to the time it takes to prepare homemade mashed potatoes. Savor the articulate artistry in this defense of mashed potatoes by one friend:

"Just for the record, I have never touched a box of potato buds. I am 'Queen Potato Peeler' and believe me it is much easier than 'paring' a run-on sentence. There is just something grounding about working with the humble potato in its natural state than bringing it to irresistable in a pot of hot salty water. You should try it again-don't skimp on the salt. (Plus the type of potato matters, Russets tend to be grainer when boiled, so try the whites or the Yukon Golds) Yum."

As if that weren't enough, when I asked permission to publish her opinion she emotionally added to her soliloquy, initially completely disregarding my query:

"I'm telling you: you're not giving mashed potatoes a fair review! They are really easy for an every day dinner. ( I don't make them often because the gravy is too fattening and my kids don't like them much). Another important consideration is how 'wholesome' they are as we try to feed our families less processed food. Yes, publish my comments. I'm proud for the world to see 'I heart potatoes!' (but you do have to watch your serving size if you are watching your weight and not getting much exercise). "

Spoken like a true pediatrician.

There you have it, folks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quick update...




For those of you who were concerned, I've gone grocery shopping now. Since I hadn't been in awhile, a widely known fact by now, it was one of those doozy trips where items are awkwardly overflowing from the grocery cart and the cart itself becomes physically unwieldy and quite challenging to maneuver... BUT I was reminded of a KEY strategy in grocery store shopping. Have you ever been all finished with your shopping, cart full, and making your way toward the check out aisles? Every once in awhile (more often than I'd like), it is inevitable that someone, also with a full cart, is heading towards the check out aisles SIMULTANEOUSLY. !!!!! What do you do?! Anxiety increases. Tension builds. You and someone else are both looking for the shortest line and this is now a dog-eat-dog, take no prisoners quest to be the first one to find the shortest line and GET IN IT BEFORE the hapless other person! BUT you're in a grocery store, presumably among your own community, with neighbors... you really need to act with some degree of reasonable decorum. What do you do?

Fret no more... employ one of the integral grocery store shopping survival strategies as you approach the cashiers' aisles. Calmly but assertively stride toward the open aisle with the shortest line and wholly AVERT your eyes from your fellow shopper. DO NOT, under any circumstances whatsoever, make eye contact with the competition. Quietly, with your eyes slightly downward, yet fixed on the sure target, make your way confidently (don't run, for crying out loud) towards the aisle of your choice. It's all yours. DON'T turn around to see who you left in the dust. Inwardly savor your victory.

By the way – my whole family loved the boxed mashed potatoes I made for dinner to complement the pot roast and sautéed broccoli.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Down with homemade mashed potatoes


Okay. I’d just like to start out with one edict: death to all people who make homemade mashed potatoes. Unless it’s Thanksgiving, in which case you should make someone else bring homemade mashed potatoes to your soiree. Seriously. Who has time painstakingly to peel 3 pounds of potatoes, wait for a vat of water to boil, tap your foot 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft, and then mash them? If YOU have time to do that, shouldn’t you be using your time more wisely? Helping the homeless, perhaps? Working for money? Volunteering at your kids’ school? Don’t you have laundry to do? I mean – it doesn’t even take as much time to eat mashed potatoes as other foods. There’s no chewing necessary, for crying out loud. C’mon – have you ever looked at the ingredients on Potato Buds? Potatoes. That’s it. Add water and milk. Ta da! And, beautifully, you haven’t made anyone feel unworthy or guilty.

Now that we have clearly established how utterly and totally wrong it is to make mashed potatoes by actually mashing potatoes, we can discuss the serious point of this article, which is: “grocery shopping can be fun!!”

Or surreal, depending on your experience. Folks, grocery shopping is what you make of it. For starters, it can be good physical exercise. We all know we should park in the back of the lot to increase the number of steps each day; however, if you go at the right time, there are terrific obstacles to navigate in the grocery store. Employees stocking food, for example, occupy, in general, approximately 4/5 of the aisle. To help you during this inconvenience, they typically wear headphones to block out the noise which may mire their concentration while restocking.

Once around the re-stockers, your next challenge is to circumvent small children wandering aimlessly and/or small to mid-size children hanging like appendages from the sides of grocery carts. We’ll not make any judgments about the aimless, wandering children. We are all perfect parents and our children behave angelically in grocery stores, particularly when their sibling is antagonizing them mercilessly. But I digress…

You have to be on your toes going around corners of the aisles at busy times. Why don’t grocery stores have stop and yield signs? Or those little concave (convex?) mirrors they have to help you see what’s (or who’s) coming around the corner. Then we wouldn’t always be saying: “oops. sorry!” and “excuse me…” While we’re on the subject of “excuse me,” what goes on in the minds of the people who leave their cart in the middle of the aisle and then focus ALL of their attention on the elusive item for which they are perusing on the shelf while standing in the space NOT occupied by the cart, thereby making the aisle impassable?

Finally, because the aisles are not small enough, we have corporate America’s marketers to thank for the difficulties encountered in trying to walk a straight line through a grocery store. STOP! Look at me! I’m a new product on a specially designed display case designed to take up most of the space here in the middle of the walkway so you have to slow down and look at me. Take one! Spend!

Our final bit of grocery store exercise is obvious, isn’t it? You have everything on the list except that one little thing you forgot at the opposite end of the grocery store. Just a little hint from above reminding you that you need those extra steps.

So hearty congratulations! You’ve conquered the re-stockers, the small and mid-sized children, the clueless adults, the advertisers, and your own disorganization. Find the smallest line. Go ahead; try it. Weigh and measure carefully now; don’t rush into it. It could make a difference of a couple of minutes, after all. Get in the shortest line. If you don’t seem to be in the shortest line, move. Here you can utilize your mid-sized children as holders. Pay no attention to anyone who laments that that’s not fair. Using small-sized children may be frowned upon, however (excuse ending the sentence in a preposition. Mea culpa). Once you are completely sure that you have searched and found the shortest line, guaranteed to get you out of there as quickly as possible, you have two choices. You can either glance surreptitiously at the Enquirer’s headlines, or you can start a conversation with the friendly person in front of or behind you who also loves to grocery shop. The Enquirer will quickly update you on all the latest important news, but do your best to avoid being seen reading it; don’t actually pick it up, for example. (note: Do NOT text message; you will fall woefully behind on your unloading of the cart with disastrous results!) Today, for example, I couldn’t help but comment on the abundance of loaves of multi-grain bread the lady in front of me was purchasing. Just minutes later I was a complete expert on the parrots she raises who are the benefactors of the bread. Yup, this woman, buoyed by my slight enthusiasm for her parrots, told me everything I wanted to know and more (did I say and more?). It’s amazing what people will tell you in the grocery store line. Stuff you just never wanted to know… just kidding! (not really).

Another important point about choosing your proper and most expeditious grocery store line: get to know the cashiers. Some are fast; some are slow. It’s a fact of life. Some are too loquacious to make good grocery store cashiers – friendly but inefficient. If you’re not 5 minutes late from picking up the kids from school, but rather headed home afterwards to watch your Tivo’d Oprah, by all means talk with the friendly and talkative cashier. If, however, you have 3 million things to do with not enough time in which to do it, go for the speedy check out lady or guy. They also have different bagging styles. Some really analyze the best configuration for your bagged groceries, thereby wasting valuable time. Go through the speed demon’s line – you know the one.

There’s really nothing funny about exiting the store with your cart and loading your trunk (unless something embarrassing rolls out of the bag onto the ground while you’re unloading it… but that’s another story), so go home and enjoy putting all of those groceries away. And if you bought potatoes… don’t you dare mash them.

Airport HE double hockey sticks


First...yes - that is, indeed, a bonafide photo of a Starbucks Coffee inside the Forbidden City in Beijing... Now on to my story:

While my friends and family in the U.S. slept, I was in the Beijing International Airport being tested by God (and failing). In the midst of a business trip to China, I had changed my intra China flight from Beijing to Shanghai from one evening to next morning, at the request of my colleague, through our fabulously efficient (note due sarcasm) corporate travel agent. The agent to whom I spoke on the phone told me no problem- get to the airport early, go to the US Air ticket counter, and they will issue me a paper ticket for a 12:00 noon flight on China Eastern airlines.
Delighted and naïve with the apparent ease of the situation, I checked out of the hotel and got a taxi to the airport. Being a bit short on Chinese Yuan, I paid in U.S. dollars after trying to bridge the communication gap as best as possible... i.e. – literally opening my purse and demonstrating the lack of sufficient yuan in my wallet. The taxi driver frowned, not happy with me and seemingly unaware of the power of the almighty dollar (ha).
The unhappy taxi driver had dropped me off in the China domestic flights area because I'm flying to Shanghai- he didn’t understand what I was talking about when I said “U.S. Air.” I get into the airport - schlep myself to the other side of the big terminal through masses of people with little or no idea of personal space - to find the U.S. Air counter. Guess what? No U.S. Air counter. Not in this terminal or any terminal in Beijing, China. All other airlines, check. U.S. Air... absent. Note to self... no more U.S. Air for Asia. United only.
Ok- so what to do now? I ponder for a moment, considering my options and summarizing the situation to myself. I need a paper ticket, I remind myself, from an airlines that has no desk at this airport. Hmmm. I decided to ask at the information counter, traditionally known for providing information (after making my way clumsily through a very loud, disorganized, chaotic line full of rude people who respect neither the concept of turn-taking nor personal space (both problems of my children, but understandable in their situations...). (Just a bit of an aside… it’s important to remember, at this point and throughout my little narrative, that I have, as a delightful accompaniment, my extremely large and heavy suitcase made necessary by my extremely long business trip). Sigh. I digress. I ask at info counter what to do? I try to explain my situation (which is that I have a reserved, paid seat on a flight but no way to get a ticket). They send me expeditiously (let’s get rid of these crazy lady who doesn’t speak our language) up to "airport offices". Explanation is made difficult by virtue of their not speaking English and my not speaking Chinese.
I proceed upstairs with my stuff. Up elevator. Follow signs to airport office.. arrive at "airport office," which is, in stark actuality, hundreds of offices tucked into a labyrinth of white-washed hospital-style hallways. Ah... a sign... a large sign with airline names on it accompanied by a handy numeric reference, which I assume to be an office number. Time to think... No U.S. Air on sign with hundreds of airlines... but I do see United/Lufthansa (which are part of the Star Alliance, which, from what I've learned during this experience, has a different connotation than I thought – alliance. I’ll get to that) and China Eastern Airlines. I decide to try the Star "alliance..." They're allied with U.S. Air, after all, yeah? I then find myself in an area in which two hallways cross.. 4 different hallways, no numbers above. I beseechingly look at a nearby janitorial lady who merely shakes her head at me. I can hear her thoughts, though: “for crying out loud. Another lost American trying to find U.S. Airways. When will these silly, helpless Americans learn?” Rocks, paper, scissors… I boldly strike down one hallway, then another... joy! I see a United Airlines sign with an arrow... I do my best to follow like a rat in a maze. Where is that cheese?!!
Now enter into my adventure a Chinese young man who discerns a "young" woman in a plight: indeed, a young woman with a large and heavy suitcase. He seems eager to help me... even though I don't want or need his help, as he is neither a United Employee nor a speaker of the English language. These are the two things I need. Alas. He is keen to carry my suitcase, though, which I decline for fear that I shall never see it again... At this point, let's call the young Chinese man who wants to help me "Frank" because he's now a part of my epic saga and I can't possibly continue to refer to him repeatedly as "the Chinese young man who seems eager to help me." Frank is now on my trail... panting to carry my suitcase while I try to negotiate the maze. He tirelessly pursues the damsel in distress and, despite the language barrier, his intent is quite clear. This guy wants to help me. Failing judgment at what I then foolishly thought was wit’s end, I finally give in and hand over the suitcase to Frank, being careful to stay with him. Quite comically, Frank has no clue where I'm going....but, with my help, "helps" me to the Star Alliance offices.
It's my lucky day, as there is only one lady in line ahead of me, and even luckier because she's waiting for the Lufthansa rep whereas I'm looking for a United gal. I walk over to the United counter and plead my case in English. Wow- the pretty Chinese woman behind the counter can say about five English words... I’m making big progress here.. feeling good…getting my hopes sky high. She does, though, have a perplexed look on her face. I show her the airline and flight number on which I am a reserved passenger and try to get across that I have a reservation (flash back to Seinfeld rent-a-car episode). She tells me to go to China Eastern. Star uh-lie-nce. Hmmm.. Okay.. It’s ineffective to plead my case without a common language, so I exit the "Star Alliance" office and pursue a route to the China Eastern Airlines offices, which I remember passing hot on the trail from Frank.
Speaking of Frank, there he is! Frank appears out of nowhere to "help" me. I already know where I'm going... have seen the offices.. but Frank, who has my suitcase, stops repeatedly to ask others where I'm going. I finally make it to China Eastern Airlines office: five people doing nothing. One who is sitting quietly behind the desk is identified as the one who perhaps speaks English. She has drawn the proverbial short straw. Very grumpy lassie if I did observe so myself. Again... I try to explain.. learning that simpler and simpler explanation is necessary. Point to my flight #, point to airline, word "reservation", words "no ticket", passport for my name. Long, pregnant pause. Looks of bewilderment. Frown from the quiet grumpy gal. "Downstairs" she points. Everyone wants me to go away. No; I try to explain that downstairs sent me upstairs. Bigger frown. "Downstairs," she insists. Ok. Downstairs. Not making progress.
Frank eagerly shows up out of thin air again, but this time I insist on schlepping my own suitcase. My new mission, should I choose to accept it (and I must if I ever want to get to Shanghai, which is getting more and more dubious)... is to locate the ticket counter downstairs for China Eastern Airlines so that they can hopefully find my name reserved on the flight and issue me a ticket and send me on my way. No problem! Frank is more than happy to show me where China Eastern Airlines is. Points downstairs. Thanks a lot, Frank. You’ve been invaluable. I start to walk toward the elevator, and Frank stops me. “Tweep,” he says. Huh? “Yuan.” No, I say... a few times. And really I want to flatten Frank. And honestly, Frank is really very lucky to still be alive. I walk away... Frank is pissed, but that's not my problem.
Okay... down the elevator to locate China Eastern Airlines. I find it... still trailing a heavy purse that I'm having difficulty closing, a briefcase, another carry-on, and my friend the large and heavy suitcase. Long lines... surprise! Chaotic lines. Every counter person has a "closed" sign in front of them, so people are undiplomatically jockeying to find the right place to queue up. I choose a line, which just happens to be behind six Greeks trying to ship something very unusually large and heavy. This process takes an inordinate amount of time, myriad brain cells by China Eastern Airlines employees, and effort by all. I am sooo happy I chose this excellent, multi-cultural line. Again, many people who never learned how to be nice in Kindergarten.
Finally it’s my turn to talk with the girl at the ticket counter who had to take care of the Greeks, and I must say I'm feeling some camaraderie with this poor girl, because we've both apparently had really lousy mornings. I say: "bad morning, huh?" But she doesn't understand English – perceptively, I’m starting to see a pattern here. Explanation # 4... reservation, no ticket, blah blah blah. She asks me if I have a suitcase to check and my heart leaps with joy… Good feeling's gone. Alas... apparently she doesn't see my name in the computer. She and a few other colleagues diligently and intensely discuss the situation. No one knows what to do. Into my life quite suddenly comes a nice girl who's also had a lousy day but speaks no English (let's call her Daisy, shall we? Since, again, might be tedious to refer to her repeatedly as "nice girl who's also had a lousy day but speaks no English). "Forrow me," says Daisy. There is some question as to whether I should leave my suitcase or schlep it along, mostly on my part. Daisy is waiting for me patiently. I follow Daisy, who takes off at lightning speed across the terminal, expertly negotiating the mass of humanity, while I clumsily struggle with my purse, 2 carry-ons, and large heavy suitcase. Weaving in and out of people as if she had NASCAR experience, Daisy on the autobahn. I'm doing my best to keep her in my sight... finally I catch up with her as she tries to explain my situation to the "no-baggage ticket counter" at China Eastern Airlines. Hmmm... sucks for me, seems to be the attitude. They take my paperwork showing my original itinerary, which I really want back because it's my way home.... look at my passport, and scratch their heads. Literally. Scratched their heads. Let me not mislead you... this process was time consuming. I stood with growing dread at the no-baggage ticket counter while employees scratched their heads for a good 20 minutes. I think I passed the part where I called the wonderful corporate travel agency to ask for help...They’re on the other side of the world, in the middle of the night, but at least they can understand the language in which I explain my situation. They will call me back in 5 minutes, they said. Hmmm. No return call. No name in the computer... no ticket.
I’m starting to wonder if I will ever see my friends and family again. Hmm.. the running is good in Beijing- nice and flat, and lots of friendly people, some of whom even wave and say: “herro!”; perhaps I could learn to like it here. Finally, the no-baggage ticket counter man (not necessary to create a name for him... small role) says to me: "you go upstairs to airport office." He discerns emotion on my face and frowns. Upstairs sent me downstairs, I say, but he doesn't understand what I'm saying. It may surprise you to learn that he didn't speak English. Sigh again. Maybe I can just go home from here? Change my flight and fly home to my own country where everyone speaks English except in New York? Why didn't I take Chinese in middle school instead of French? What was I thinking?
Okay. Time to think again (what I want to do is collapse in a puddle of tears in the middle of the floor and start wailing. It works for 3 year olds, doesn’t it?). At a loss, I call the corporate travel agency back... they're trying to get hold of China Eastern Air to get a reference number that corresponds to the US Air reference number. Hah hah. Even in my distraught state I can see the humor: a reference number for a reference number- this is kind of getting funny! But they've been working on cracking the reference number code there at the corporate travel agency and, in the meantime, my "flight" leaves in one hour. Okay, I say to Daisy... I'm just going to buy a new ticket. BUY ticket? “oh,”she says... She understands this word. Okay- leads me over to a different ticket counter which seems like a mile...(again on the autobahn), where there is a .... (guess...) chaotic line.. full of pleasant people.. .just kidding! Same kindergarten-deprived folks. Daisy waits with me patiently until I reach the front of the line... at which time the clerk promptly puts a "closed" sign in the window. Okay... that part was a lie, but it sounded good, didn't it? No – I reach the front of the line and trying to reach the corporate travel agency again... if there is a reference number yet? I hand my phone through the window to the clerk so that Expedia can talk to the clerk...but ... hmm. no English. (Wow- weird! ) The clerk tries to hand off my phone to a colleague, who pretty vehemently refuses. No one wants my phone :(. I try checking again to see whether they have my name in the computer showing that I have a reservation on the flight... but pigs aren't yet flying, and hell still seems to be nice and warm. So I tell the Expedia gal I'm going simply to buy a ticket. Okay, she concedes, and tries to figure out how she'll refund the other part of it and what would happen if they suddenly discovered my reservation? Hmmm... frank ly (pun intended), I’m not too concerned about that at this point. Daisy helps me convey that I'd like to buy a ticket and, God Bless her, Daisy is also aware now that time is becoming precious. Okay... 1240, the clerk writes down on a piece of paper. 12:40 flight? okay, I say. Pay, she says. Oh... ok. I put my American express card in the little slider that passes under the clerk's window. How much? I ask. “Cash,” she says. All sorts of words come to mind at this point, none of which do I utter, because what fun is swearing when nobody understands the French you're speaking? My heart sinks. Daisy to the rescue. Lightning speed on the autobahn over to another ticket counter. (Where there is a ... line!). But, good old Daisy, realizing we are short on time, politely (I think) explains to some of the folks in line that I need to catch a flight and can we please go in front of them? Atta girl, Daisy. Despite her best efforts, we are besieged by a rude man who butts in front of us and gets served first. I buy a ticket to the same flight with my credit card (Daisy, at this point, is helping me expedite the process quite valiantly). Daisy takes my ticket, mumbles something unintelligible to me, and takes off, faster than a jet plane, faster than I've ever seen her go, across the terminal at a dead sprint. Hmmmm. Back to the China Eastern check-in counter I go, wondering where she went and hoping that she said "go to the China Eastern check-in counter". Finally, after some uncomfortable minutes wondering whether Daisy took my flight herself, she re-appears (joy!). She hurries me to the check-in area, checks my bag (wonder whether I'll ever see it or its contents again? I've become so close to it here in the airport) and ushers me to gate 47-68. Not sure which one, she says. Tells me to hurry. I hug Daisy... (really, I did). She laughs. lol. Security is blissfully relatively easy. Wow. Am I back in God's good graces? Security only takes 20 minutes... and it is now 11:55. I am running through the airport trying to make the flight. The gates are not well marked (no numbers), but I do see a pile of folks waiting in a (say it with me) chaotic, disorganized line apparently trying to board. When I ask someone in the line whether this is flight #271 to Shanghai I get a nod. Wow. I'm really going to get on this flight. Note to self... resign from job when arrive home.
While waiting, I call my poor husband at midnight his time to vent. “Oh, man, hon; that sucks,” he says in a tired voice. “Oh it SO much more than sucks…” I start. But how could he possibly understand?
Now here I am on an Eastern China Airlines flight to Shanghai with the fondest memories of my time at the Beijing airport, my friends Frank and Daisy, and in need of a martini. Reminds me of the time I was alone in Disney for 2 straight days with my 5 and 7 year old boys; at the end of a very long second day I sat down at a pizza place in the Magic Kingdom, desperately in need of a relaxing drink. I promptly ordered a cold beer when the waiter appeared, my mouth watering at the prospect and my mind ready to be eased. “Oh, I’m sooo sorry,” the waiter said. “There’s no alcohol in the Magic Kingdom.” But that’s a story for another day…