Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snow and Snow and Snow

If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part.

But as I am I will give Him, give Him my heart.

If you're reading this blog, chances are I heart you. I heart you big time. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

No Answers.

"Madam! Madam! Please" She runs up to me, her little dress might have been green once. Her bare, bandaged feet, dirty black from the streets, must have been small pink baby feet once. Her worn, anxious face, thin and emaciated, must have been young once. Maybe, long ago. Not anymore. She is five years old. And you know? She's one of the lucky ones. She begs for money, but she is not sold for it. Not yet.

There are things I saw in India that I never wrote here. Desperate and starving and living on the brink of hopelessness. I did not write them here, because I can't. I cannot write those stories. Not even I, who play "more black keys than white", can find the notes for that.

But I remember them. They are like debts I have promised to pay yet cannot find a way to make it right. How could I? I am just one girl. They are so much bigger than I am.

I have no answers. In the face of such black hopelessness, I would stand small and insignificant, fighting desperately against monsters that swallow grown men whole. And I would not win. I could not.

But I would fight anyway.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Retri-frigging-bution baby!

So profanity just isn't my thing. I'm not good at it, and it doesn't look good on me. Luckily, though, I have come up with an adequate substitute for swearing when I'm angry. At first I didn't even realize I did it, but one day a dear friend and roommate of mine heard me leaving a very distressed (to put it mildly) phone message. She laughed a little, and when I hung up she said "I love that when you get angry you start using really big words. It's like you become this high-powered lawyer/professor/Queen of England. Most people just say *#$@!, but not Cathlin. She busts out the four syllables." And I was all, Woah, I totally do that. Weird. This, of course, after I had calmed down and my vocabulary had shriveled down to my usual valley-girl-meets-nerd variety. Anyway, the point of this is, it totally works for me. And here is why:

You may remember a post or two ago I complained about some caterers who had contributed to what I now refer to as "Snot Rag Day" (again, the big words really only surface in the heat of the moment. Stop judging me.) I think now is a good time to give you the full story there, especially now that it has come to a much happier conclusion.

Ever heard of HoneyBaked Ham? Yeah, awesome. Me too. Did you know they do catering? Well, more specifically, they have an online ordering form for catering and a system to confirm your order by phone. That doesn't mean they actually deliver your food, though. I mean, come on, online ordering and a phone call from somebody so lazy/tired/high you can barely understand her really is enough. Why would you need actual food delivered too?

But yeah, I made that assumption too. I used the online order form, printed a receipt for my records, and did my darndest to understand and communicate clearly with whoever called me and murmured/slurred my order back to me to confirm it. Since I did this the Friday before the Tuesday meeting I figured it would all be just fine. So it was that I found myself blissfully daydreaming about honeybaked goodness during the first half of our five hour staff meeting, content in the illusion that it would arrive precisely at 11:30 to fill that conference room with something other than the stench of three hour old coffee. Ah, the innocence of youth! Oh, the pain of utter disillusionment.

11:45, no caterers. Cathlin is starting to get a little worried. I pull out my receipt and dial the number for the branch making our order. And so begins a fifteen minute game of bounce the call around. Plus they go ahead and make it extra interesting by giving me false information and then contradicting themselves about it. "Yeah the delivery company picked it up at 10:30, it should be there." Oh, ok. Thanks. None of my five senses are registering the presence of the deliverers or the food, but if you say it's here it must be here. Whew, so glad you cleared that up. "Oh, we have no record of your order." Dang. My eye sight sucks, cuz this sure looks like an official receipt in my hand. Also, I must be hearing voices because YOU JUST TOLD ME IT WAS PICKED UP FOR DELIVER AN HOUR AGO! "I'll call and find out where it is, I'm sure it's on it's way" Oh good, the imaginary food that you have no record of is on it's way! I'm so relieved by your competence that a bunny just farted a rainbow in my brain. "Ok, so we don't have your order. But if you'll tell me what you want we can have it there in about two hours." Awesome. Can you also jab me in the leg with a fork, because at this point that would be equally helpful. "Ok then, have a nice day" Is that idiot-speak for "I'm sorry I suck at life, how can I make it up to you?" cuz if I don't get an apology, something's gonna get broken.

Luckily there is an Au Bon Pain in our building, and three of us were able to grab enough ready-made sandwiches and soup bowls to stave of a herd or hungry, tired non-profit staff. It wasn't what we had expected to eat that day, but at least we got food. Also, Au Bon Pain gave us an unsolicited discount even though we totally cleaned them out of ready made sandwiches right before their busy lunch time. I love you Au Bon Pain. Let's get married.

The next day, feeling somewhat removed from the stress and after writing that cathartic blog post, I called the store again to find out exactly what happened. I explained my story no less than four times, in detail. Each time after I finished I was asked to hold. Then without telling me I would be transferred or even to whom I was talking, a new voice would pick up the line and say "Honeybaked Ham, how can I help you?" At this point, all the fuzzy warm thoughts of being nice to the poor incompetent people had withered away and my vocabulary was expanding like a maternity pants elastic on crack. (Where the fa-shizzle did that analogy come from, by the way?) Anywho, Cathlin had run out of patience by the time some unnamed woman admitted that they had my order on record but someone had forgotten to post it on the cork board so it never got put together. Just smacks of competence, doesn't it? You're totally on your way to order food from them online right now, aren't you? Plus, the cherry on this crap-cake? They didn't even offer an apology. Not one of the four people I spoke with even uttered the word "sorry". Customer service at its finest.

This, my friends, is why internet comment boards and review sites were created. And you know the best part? While rants containing four letter words and feces-analogies generally get you deleted or ignored, rants full of corporate lawyer/professor/Queen of England speak? They get you a call from HoneyBaked Ham corporate offices and 20 lbs of free Ham, some turkey, three loaves of artisan breads, two kinds of spread, three bricks of various cheeses, dijon mustard, a wooden cutting board, and a shiny new knife. Or in other words:

Reti-frigging-bution, baby!

Postscript: I do feel I should mention that while working with this particular branch was like poking myself in the eye with a cactus, HoneyBaked Ham corporate was incredibly nice and easy to work with. I've only ever dealt with them once, and I'm not in anyway advocating some sort of boycott mania of HoneyBaked. Actually, the free cutting board was kinda nice, so if anything I'd say go ahead and eat at their deli. Just maybe be wary of the catering option if you live in DC. Or, more specifically, don't use the Chevy Chase branch. That is all. Carry on.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Running for It

I don't know why I run to the bus stop everyday. I give myself plenty of time to get there at a normal walking pace, and it's not easy to run in heels. It's cold now too, the kind of frigged cold that frosts your breath and numbs your lungs. But I find myself running down the hill every morning anyway. I guess there is something joyful about running in the early morning, even when I'm tired and it's freezing outside. I'm not sure. But I run anyway, down the hill, through the spongy, wet leaves gathered along the sidewalk. I only pause once, at the busy road, to wait for a break in traffic so I can sprint across the street.

Sometimes he is at the bus stop before me, and sometimes he doesn't come at all. Most of the time he wears army fatigues and a snazzy beret. Sometimes he wears a suit. Once, he brought a bike. We don't talk much, but we always say good morning or at least acknowledge each other. He seems nice. Organized. Grown up.

The bus driver wears a stud in one ear, maybe in both but I never see the other ear. I'm not sure how he manages to stop the bus exactly in front of me every time so that all I have to do is step up and I'm on the bus. My metro card makes a little ping sound to let me know it's been charged the $1.25, and I pause my iPod to be sure I hear that little ping. That's the only time I ever pause the music that gets me from home to work and back everyday. It lasts about one and a half seconds.

Another face I see everyday. Without fail. He sits in the same seat everyday too. The one reserved for handicapped passengers right up front. He sits there for the leg-room, I think, knowing that no one with a real disability rides this bus with us. I never acknowledge him, though I know his face well enough now that I could easily recognize him in a crowd. I sit at the very back of the bus. I need more leg room too, but I'm not gutsy enough to sit in the handicapped spots like he does.

They hand out free papers at the metro stop. I walk by them everyday, those two, but I never take a paper. Once, one of them whacked me in the stomach with one trying to force it on me. I didn't even bother to scowl. I couldn't spare the mental energy. The hardest part of my commute was right in front of me.

Three escalators. My niece's dream come true, but much more akin to a nightmare for me. Heights, heels, and crowds all mixed together and multiplied by three. I try not to think about it too much. Three escalators from the ground level to the train level, and then I'm on the train. It smells like DC. A little sour, some international spices underneath, not terribly clean, but for all that not wholly unpleasant. I rarely get a seat. When offered one, I rarely take it.

Only two escalators to get back to street level from Foggy Bottom station. I love that name. It's so cartoonish, like I should expect to run into a fraggle while there.

There are no fraggles today, but there is a man in a banana suit. "Happy Thursday! Happy Thursday!" I'm not sure what he's about with the shouting and, well, the banana suit. But he's right, it is Thursday and I'm pretty happy. More men handing out free papers. They don't pressure me, though, the crowds are bigger here.

I pass him setting up shop, scurrying about in the chill light of early morning to get his snack stall up and running for the early morning commuters. I pass it twice a day, but I haven't stopped yet.

Five minutes or less and I'm walking into the doors of a shopping center. CVS, Expressions, Au Bon Pain, a news and magazine outlet. Through the fancy glass doors, smile at the security guard who knows me well by now. Elevators are still stressful, but nothing compared to the escalators. Fifth floor. Key badge. "NCEE and NISL, how may I help you?"

In about eight hours I'll repeat the journey in reverse. And there he'll be, sitting in the handicapped seats again. Somehow we always catch the same bus in for work and the same bus back.

I never run home. Even though I'm much more awake. It's dark now, uphill, and lonely somehow. No soldiers standing at the next stop, no business men sitting in reserved seats, no one to force reading material on me.

Maybe that's why I run in the mornings.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Total Snot Rag of a Day

A few words of advice, from my life to yours.

Sometimes, people disappoint you. Often, these are people you know and love. Occasionally, these are people you don't know at all. In the former case, you forgive, you grow, you move on. In the latter case, you get really cranky and plot to steal their pets. Because when their ineptitude makes you look bad, cat-nabbing is really your only option. Or in other words, sometimes the caterers just don't show up.

Sometimes going thirsty is better than drinking the caffeine. Even though that meeting went on for five hours, and even though you got really really thirsty, and even though there was nothing else to drink that didn't directly violate your religious beliefs, a full can of fully loaded Coca Cola will not do you any favors. Or in other words, sitting still and acting like an adult after drinking a can of Coke is nearly impossible.

Sometimes, you should just stay home. Even though you really need to go to the mall, and this seems like a perfect opportunity to borrow your sister's car, you should just stay home. Because the two year old girl who will need to come with you will be a complete pickle, and there is nothing less flattering than hearing yourself repeat "Don't touch, sweetie" like a bazillion times in a single store. Or in other words, she may look cute in that matching coat and hat, but she will totally snot all over your shopping bags anyway.

Sometimes you have to cancel plans. And that stinks, because you were probably looking forward to them. And you kind of want to pout and whine about it, but you can't because that's what the afore mentioned two year old is doing and you are supposed to be the adult in this situation. Or in other words, *pout* *whine*.

Sometimes you will have bad days. Things will go wrong, you'll ingest too many stimulants, your niece will have a runny nose and flout your authority in public, and you won't get to see the international film you wanted to see. But maybe, if you're lucky, somebody will unexpectedly bring you chocolate and eggnog. Or in other words, boys are gross and totally have cooties but sometimes they can also be pretty awesome.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Because underneath all the sarcasm, I'm kind of a nerd.

The sun rises more slowly now, and there seems to be an abundance of hot chocolate flavored cheer in the air. Though there is not yet any snow in my life, yet the season of seasons has arrived. It's Christmas time. So go get me a present!

No, really. I want gifts. Lots of them. Need a list?

1. Put a quarter in four parking meters for me. I don't have a car, but I know that it would pretty much suck to get ticketed for letting the meter run out. The people who benefit will never know you did it, but the $1 you spend doing it for me will make my day.

2. Tell someone she looks pretty today. Well, let me be more specific about this one. Tell someone you know that she looks pretty today, and do not do it on the metro. I don't care who she is or what she looks like. She needs to hear it, so just spit it out already. I'll love you all the more for it, whether I find out you did it or not.

3. Let someone into that congested traffic lane today. And when they smile and wave back, or just blatantly ignore you, I'm sure I'll somehow feel the karmic waves of that kind act.

4. Listen to someone's story without formulating one of your own in response. Just listen, take in what they have to say. This really is a gift to me, because I love it when people listen to me. Even when I've got nothing very important to say, I love to be listened to. I heard this line on a movie yesterday "Every voice counts". And it's corny and weird and I don't care. Every voice counts, so listen. I'll be grateful, I promise.

5. Thank a former teacher. Because they probably helped make you who you are today, and you were probably a brat to them at some point, and they deserve to know that all that hard work and the will power it took not to smack you upside the head paid off. I know. I've left a long line of weary, annoyed, nearly-homicidal teachers in my wake, and I'm super grateful they didn't smack me as often as I deserved it.

6. Give up your seat to another passenger today. So you're tired and you've had a long day? Awesome, you can totally relate to every other person on the train. Also, try not to discriminate based on gender when giving up a seat. Men and women both have long days and tired feet. Be an equal opportunity hero, for me?

7. Tell your mother how awesome she is. Because it's true. She's awesome. I know it, you know it, so go make sure she knows it. No, your mom isn't as unstoppably phantasmagorically fantabulous as my mom is, but then my mom is a special case. That doesn't mean yours isn't totally lovely as well.

8. Be good to you. I'm glad you are alive. I'm super glad you are alive. And you are too, most of the time. So be good to you, as a gift to me. I'll pay you back in kind.

9. Say something nice about a politician. I don't care which one. Republican, democrat, whatever. The point is, these people get a lot of mean things said to/at/about them. There is a karmic debt to politicians the size of the Grand Canyon out there. Do your part to even the score, and just be nice for once. You can get back to your regularly scheduled heckling and complaining tomorrow.

10. Talk to God. He misses you. I know, because He told me so. That's right, I'm the crazy girl who talks to God on the metro. And He left a message for you:
Pick up the phone, you little punk. I'm calling.

With lots of cheesy, corny, mushy love from every fiber of my Christmas-ed out hippy self.