Real Job

I've been with the company for weeks now and I'm still not sure what we do.  I must finally have a real job now, because I do less and get paid more.

That's not the only nonsense here. Each month we pay $200 for a parking pass that gets filed in a cabinet. I couldn't find the folder it goes in, so I figured it would be all right to file it on my dashboard in the meantime.



Do you ever try to get excited about going on an elevator? Sometimes I try to psych myself up for the elevator, like it's a carnival ride. I've been temping at this office in the second tallest building in the city, on the 22nd floor, so I have a lot of opportunity. I pretend I'm a time-traveller from the 13th century and I've never experienced such speedy vertical transit before. Riding the elevator is the highlight of my day. It's amazing!

Or how about cars? Imagine the thrill of zipping down the freeway if you were from the Middle Ages. It would be like a roller coaster. And phones would be a real trip, being able to instantly communicate with someone miles away instead of waiting for months to receive a letter by horse-mail. The whole world is Disneyworld for a time-traveller. The whole earth is The Happiest Place on Earth.

But I'm from now; driving during rush-hour is irritating, my phone continually reports that they've hired someone else, and it's entirely possible for me to ride an elevator and cry myself to sleep on the same day.


Eligible Men

Ever since she began craving grandbabies, my mother has been taking annual inventory of the eligible men in my life. I tolerate this fruitless exercise only because some part of me appreciates the reminder that there are, in fact, eligible men in my life. Unfortunately, my mother hasn't accepted that I'm not yet desperate enough to settle for any of them. When I say settle, I'm not implying that they're not good enough for me. I consider myself quite blessed by the high caliber friendtele in my life, male or otherwise. But you can't force the heart. (Believe me, I've tried.)

"I know Tom likes you," my mother insists about my long-time best friend.

"Mother, please. That's practically illegal."

"What about what's-his-name, that worked with you...?"

"You mean Andre? The ex-drug dealer?" I try to convince her on the basis of his grammatically incorrect tattoo alone that we are not a good match. She is more concerned about his criminal resume.

"Who else do you know?"

"Let's see, there's Grant, the heathen; Brian, Tom's east coast counterpart; Jason-- oh, he has a girlfriend now..." I offer, thoroughly enjoying the futility of this exchange.

"Well, what about Mario?"

They say a picture is a thousand words. I'm no mathicist, but I figure a 3-D sentient talking picture is worth at least ten thousand. My mother knows Mario very well, so if she doesn't get it, there is no point in me even attempting to explain this one to her.

I met Mario when I worked at the warehouse. The next time I saw him was a couple weeks later during break. He walked right over to where I was napping, woke me up, and confidently asked in his Salvadoran accent, "Would you like to go on a date wit me?"

I was still kind of asleep, so I don't remember exactly what I responded, but I think it was along the lines of "NO." I could be wrong, though, because later he showed up at my house for dinner.

When Mario's car pulled up to my house, I caught him spraying cologne on a huge white teddy bear. He then presented this bear to me. I was a little embarrassed that I had nothing to give him in return; how could I have forgotten that it was National Inappropriate Gifts Day? I named the bear Luigi and gave him to my mom along with some baby clothes, to tide her over.

We've remained friends for years, Mario and I, but every few months I have to remind him that it's never going to happen. Last Valentine's Day was the last such opportunity for "the talk." He tried to give me a heart necklace and a Valentine card with a pre-written message including the line, "all the movies with all the lovers that say they're going to meet in Paris are not as romantic as just holding your hand." He claimed it was out of friendship. If I didn't know better, I would have thought he just didn't read it.

Mario was extreme all right, but he was not nearly as funny as Berto, the lead in my department. Mario at least had the nerve to straight up ask me on a date. Berto's version was as follows:

"So, I was thinking to maybe ask you to dinner."

"Oh, really?"

And that's as far as that went. Poor Berto.

Sometimes Berto would consult me about proper English. "Is it, 'one eye, two eyes,' or 'one eyes, two eyeses?'" he asked.

"It's, 'one eye, two eyes,' Berto."

"Oh. Your eyes is like stars."

Berto played drums in a salsa band. I must have shown too much interest in this, because one day he brought in a tape recorder, mumbling something about how he was practicing the night before and "accidentally" hit the record button. I suppose it was also on accident that he placed it in his bag, and similarly happenstance when he set it next to me, pushed play, and walked away. Boppity-bop-bop-boppity-bop-badubop-badubadubop... I just sat there in bewilderment at what just happened, wondering when the soundtrack of my life became all rhythm and no melody.

At least Mom and Luigi are living happily ever after.


Knock Knock

One of my duties at the store is to check the four fitting rooms, every half hour. In doing this, I become aware of society's lack of an established greeting for fitting room interruptions. After knocking on the door, I get everything from "Hello?" (are we on the phone?) to "I'm in here!" (don't worry, help is on the way) to "Who's there?" (to which I am strongly tempted to reply, "Interrupting cow"). Somebody needs to figure this out.


Stripper Name

My first day on the new job, I take inventory of my coworkers (not to mention 500 pair youth baseball pants that are impossible to fit properly on the hangers). Being here is a little like being in prison. We all ask each other what we're in for: "So, what were you doing before this?" Some of these people were doing high school before this.

The next getting-to-know-you inquiry I receive is in regard to my hypothetical stripper name (more critical than my actual name, apparently). At the rate my career is going, I'm going to need one. I choose Barbie. Later I learn that the girl who asked is, in fact, a stripper. (Must remember not to tell people that I work with a stripper - what would that make me?!)

The rest of the conversation revolves around art ("my new tattoo is gonna be, like, so rad"), local happenings ("...that fool come out of the club and be all trippin, sayin he gonna kill my boyfriend..."), sports ("...an later on I-84 those crazy @#$% tried to run us off the road), and family values ("family is overrated - that's how come I don't let my kids have a dad!"). I begin to wonder whether it is possible to get stupider just by hearing people talk. Babies get smarter listening to Mozart, right? I believe my concern is legitimate. Worker's comp?

Yes, at age 26, I have finally proven myself worthy of putting anti-theft devices on overpriced golf shirts. One day, while steadfastly doing this task for nine dollars an hour, my mind drifts back to the old warehouse and it occurs to me: There are illegal immigrants making more money than me.

I mentally cross out my name on my college degree and write in Barbie.


The Library

Since I quit and/or got fired (it's hard to say with these things) from the factory, the library is practically my new home. It's all fair, though, because half their books are staying at my house now. Did you know you can renew your borrowed items indefinitely with just the click of a button?

It must be fun to work at the library. I suppose it's not unlike working the counter just about anyplace. I'll never forget cashiering at the thrift store... Used lipstick? Really? Then again, we were the ones selling it.

I have made good use of the library's new self-checkout technology, but one unfortunate day it is malfunctioning. So I bring my selections up to the librarian at the desk. I place them conveniently face-down, barcode up. This does not fool the librarian. Invariably, he turns them right-side up after scanning, while I scramble to sweep them from the counter into my bag as quickly as possible without looking more crazy than my erratic literary collection already suggests. How to Get Published, Jobs in Education, Starting Your Own Business, Top 50 International Careers, The Idiot's Guide to Stop Sucking at Life... it's humiliating!

When he finishes silently judging me, Mr. I-Have-A-Job Librarian looks me in the eye and sincerely requests that I "have a nice day." Clearly, one day is all he figures I can afford.

I mentally fashion my college degree into a book cover.



I recently returned from living in Korea. Shortly after returning home, I purchased a hammock. This was in March. Now, I have lived in Portland, Oregon long enough to know that you don't need a hammock in March, if ever. Needless to say, people thought I was a little nuts. Assuring them of my intention to keep the hammock inside the house did nothing to relieve their concerns about my sanity, however.

Living abroad had opened my mind to new ways of sleeping, see, and why should I be confined to a bed? After all, Koreans traditionally use sleeping mats on the floor, and some Brazilians still use hammocks for beds. And it's not like I didn't try to get a bed, but have you been to the mattress store?! It's freaky! All these ghostly white beds everywhere and no customers, and the place is completely silent -- except for the creepy salesman following me around asking semi-invasive questions. I can't work like this! I ran out of the store.

I have had an irrational obsession with the men nation of Brazil for some time now. I have never been to Brazil, or South America for that matter, but I am desperately determined to marry my way into the country. Or at least visit. As I am still recovering from my last overseas adventure and don't see another one happening in the near future, I impatiently opted to bring Brazil to me instead, in the form of a bright red, hand-woven tumble of cotton. With fringe.

In my extensive research, I learned more than I ever wanted to about hammocks. I came across one website that introduced me to the "Artisans," offering a picture of a half-naked, presumably Brazilian, man standing by a loom. An unforeseen benefit of my international business transaction: I could possibly be supporting my future husband! I was pleased to discover that hammocks are supposedly better for your health than beds, although I did not see how this could possibly be true. Also, I measured my room and realized that for the hammock to fit at all, it would have to cut the room in half diagonally and stick out the door a few inches.

Most would turn back at this point. But most are not as hopelessly devoted to Brazil as I am. Besides, I had been sleeping in a bed practically my whole life, and where had it gotten me?! Working in a factory. I bought the hammock.

This is the part where I testify how sleeping in a hammock has changed my life, given me more energy and better skin and an infinite stream of Brazilian suitors. But in reality, this hammocks-are-beds-too business was the falsest advertising of the year!! I slept diagonally, "the Brazilian way," just like the experts instructed, but could not make it through the night without waking up with a sore back and at least one of my limbs asleep. Every time I thought I had figured out how to sleep in the thing, I would wake up more uncomfortable than ever! There was nothing left to do but shove the awful thing into the back of the garage and pretend that $200 never happened.

What now? I can't go back to that mattress freakhouse. Maybe I should get a mat and sleep on the floor...


Baby Namer

As I bend tubes, tighten screws, and glue cables for 10 hours one day, I frantically brainstorm vocational possibilities that do not involve bending tubes, tightening screws, or gluing cables. Or 10-hour shifts. Or a pervasive cloud of despair, but I digress.

After a quick elimination of every career in existence, it becomes obvious that I need to start my own business. But what to sell? A product or a service? I know, I could... no, that won't work. Hey, I could sell... no, that's been done. What I need is a specialty, a niche... what's something that only I can do, that matches my skills and passions? This line of thinking amuses me for a good portion of overtime and brings about some interesting, albeit unfeasible, results. I visualize myself serving vegan cupcakes to immigrants enrolled in my backyard English school staffed by homeless people, while ballroom dancing in a homemade pirate costume... I mean, if my backyard were bigger than my bathroom, then maybe...

While I review my interests, my long-time obsession with names stands out to me as worth exploring. I remember owning a stuffed animal named something like Sparky Bainbridge Fred Henry Poindexter. And that was just his nickname. Maybe I could do name research, like study meanings and origins and all that. But why would anyone pay me for that? Because they're going to have a baby, of course! That's it -- I'll be a Professional Baby Namer!! By golly, I do believe I have just found my calling. I'm already writing the ad copy in my head...

Are you pregnant? Too stressed and busy to even think about baby names? Tired of the unsolicited advice from in-laws? Can't agree with your spouse? Leave it to the professionals. For just $50, we'll name your baby and for a limited time only, middle names are half off with purchase!* Our services are also available for:

- Pet Names
- English names for Foreigners**
- Witness Protection Program Participants

*Ask about our special rates for twins.
** Based on your professional goals and/or current hairstyle

Yes, this idea is almost too ridiculous to work, yet not entirely impossible! Just look at Wedding Planners -- now there's a silly profession. And baby naming is the exact same idea: something you could do yourself if you weren't so overwhelmed with all the possibilities. So there's got to be a market for that.

This is the moment when my new occupation swings right over the top of the swingset, as I like to say. I suddenly realize that Professional Baby Namers already exist. They must. When have I ever had a genius idea that someone else didn't think of first? As soon as 3:30 hits, freeing me from Japanese chemicals and the American work force, I'm off to research my suspicions and am proven correct. "Baby Naming Consultant," it's called. Now I'm right back where I started, which is... not far enough from a certain factory.

I mentally thank my college degree for nothing.


Daylight Savings

Don't ask why I'm working in a factory. I'm working in a factory. My collar is literally blue. Not only am I working in a factory, I am getting up at the godforsaken hour of 3:30 a.m. to commute 40 minutes to work in said factory. My roommate is still up when I force myself awake.

As far as factories go, it's actually not too bad. What makes it truly unbearable is the people. Don't get me wrong, I get along with everyone. My fellow assemblers are friendly, hygienic, generally non-lethal. The problem is that they only come in two categories. The first kind I can deal with...

"Ah was born in this town and ah'll die in this town, mah muther worked in this factory and mah daughter works in this factory and mah husband's a truck drahver only he got laid off, so ah looove workin overtahme, nothin to do in this town but go to bed before the sun goes down inyway." These ones are simply fulfilling their blue-collar destinies, and they're OK with that. Some of them are even chipper. They don't bother me too much.

The other kind is seriously making me depressed.

"Oh, I'm just working here temporarily for 12 years before I go back to school and start my own accounting business even though I'm 10 years away from retirement." What's depressing about this (besides all of it) is that I, too, went to college; I, too, am single and childless (and penniless and clueless); I, too, insist that this is temporary, and while I may be far from middle-aged, Daylight Savings is coming up only to remind me that my life is disappearing before my eyes. It doesn't matter that I'm still on the temp agency's payroll and have solemnly vowed to get out of here before the company hires me on. I see myself becoming Type 2 and from there, condemning my future offspring (who could only be the result of factory inbreeding -- dear God no) to Type 1. For the sake of my children's children, I must get out!!!