The Dirt Box

Back when I first moved to Washington, I landed a really cool temporary assignment on a special project at work. Up until then I had always worked in call centers, and this was the first job in seven years with that company that I actually enjoyed. Within the project, there were five of us from the call center, selected because we had worked with the order and billing systems and were pretty savvy with them. The rest of our project team sat on the third floor of the office building, while we were sequestered on the fifth floor with the rest of the call center, so we didn’t have ultimate freedom but we still had a lot more than we did when we were tethered to our desks with headsets. The work itself was fast-paced and interesting, and I learned to do a lot of cool things that no one would ever have taught me when I was on the phone with customers all day long.

We five all got along pretty well, but one of the guys was training for a body-building competition and was really moody most of the time (I like to think that the lack of carbs was just getting to him and that hopefully he’s since eaten some bread and mellowed out), plus his insane diet consisted of a fair amount of dishes that smelled absolutely terrible, which I know because he took his meals at his desk and we were all subjected to the stench of microwaved fish and the like. His name was Patrick, and the rest of us took to calling him Patrick the Starfish (from the show Spongebob Squarepants, in case you live under a rock as opposed to in a pineapple under the sea and do not recognize the reference).

I would like to pause for a moment to note that the Starfish now lives in Hawaii with his extremely hot wife, so he is doing just fine and the story I’m about to tell neither significantly scarred him or ruined his life.

The Starfish had a rather intense personality, which made him a good person to talk to if something wasn’t going right but also made him difficult to joke around with. Any sort of good-natured teasing was out: he was easily offended and each of the other four of us had a row with him at some point during the months we were on the project. The nice thing was that no matter how heated we got, usually by the next day he’d be back in good enough spirits and all would be calm again, and over time we learned what things would make him mad and (for the most part) tried not to do those things.

One day in early fall, the Starfish brought in a tiny box filled with sand and placed it on his desk. Intrigued, I said something along the lines of “What’s up with the dirt box?” to which he rolled his eyes at my clearly uncivilized self and explained to me that it was a Zen garden. He showed me that it came with a little rake, and he could rake the sand just so and apparently when all those grains were perfectly organized then his mind also felt decluttered.

Several of us on the project team were intrigued by the Zen garden. For the most part we’d just ask him questions and have him indulge us by raking it while we watched, but one day my friend Maggie came upstairs from her desk and, upon seeing the sand, was curious about the texture and poked her finger into it. This action unhinged the Starfish, who had such an epic tantrum that the rest of our project team downstairs heard about it and asked me later on what had caused his meltdown. “Oh, Maggie touched his dirt box,” I replied with a dismissive shrug. My explanation amused the others, not just because of the ridiculousness of freaking out at work because someone poked your Zen Garden, but also because I kept calling it a dirt box and apparently that made them think of a cat’s litter box.

Not long after the poking incident, the Starfish came to work in a worse funk than usual (even for him) and in his mood he got on the bad side of a couple of the IT guys on our team. They decided to take their revenge on him and waited until one Saturday afternoon to carry out their plan. Only a few of us from each group in the project team worked Saturdays, including the Starfish and me. The IT guys popped up under the guise of visiting me while the Starfish at lunch, and then, inspired by my referring to the Zen Garden as a dirt box, placed a mini Tootsie roll into the middle of it to make it look like a dirty litter box.

I knew the Starfish was going to lose his mind when he saw what had been done so I made sure that I was in the bathroom before he came back from his lunch break. When I returned, he glowered in my direction and demanded I tell him what I knew about the defiling of his dirt box (I will give him some credit for never accusing me of being the one who messed with it). I walked over, took a look at it, burst out laughing, and told him between giggles that I had been in the bathroom and had no idea who was responsible. He flounced off to go downstairs and tattle to the boss about what had happened, and since there were only a handful of us around the suspect list was rather short. My boss totally could’ve pushed us to fess up to who had played the prank, but he was a super laid-back guy and just told the Starfish to take his Zen Garden home if having it on his desk was causing problems.

And so, that was the end of the Zen Garden at work and the Starfish was a lot more Zen himself with his dirt box safely at home in its raked perfection.

 

 

Celery Juice Will Probably Not Make You a Wizard

One of my favorite things about the Internet is that it is the place where many pictures of cute cats and puppies are, and also funny memes with lots of sarcasm and just the right amount of swear words to give me a good chuckle when I’m feeling like I might actually say out loud “NOT bless you!” to the guy over the cubicle wall from me who scream-sneezes on the regular (I’m sorry, but at a certain point the volume of a sneeze becomes a choice and it is not one I support). One of my least favorite things about the Internet is that it gives a platform for stupid people and their nonsense and while being stupid is probably not a choice like scream-sneezing is, it can be very harmful when allowed to run rampant.

Today’s case in point is my newest enemy who doesn’t know me, Anthony William, and all of his stupid celery-juicing. I was blissfully ignorant of all things celery, juices and otherwise, until I started seeing stuff on Instagram about how life-changing this stuff apparently was and learned that ol’ Tony over here is the one that is spearheading this new “wellness” trend. According to this dude, if you juice celery and drink it on an empty stomach you will get magical powers and be the wizardiest wizard that Hogwarts has ever seen, or something like that. I looked him up on Amazon and found out that he refers to himself as the Medical Medium, because I guess why the hell not, so he’s over here talking to the ancient spirits and apparently they’re super into the celery juice and want him to tell us mere mortals all about it. His ‘About’ section on Amazon informed me that he “was born with the unique ability to converse with a high-level spirit who provides him with extraordinarily accurate health information that’s often far ahead of its time”, which loosely translated means “figured out that he can capitalize on his conversations with his imaginary friend by telling people to put celery in their KitchenAid Blenders and then drink the sludge because healthy!”, if I’m reading my crazy-to-English dictionary right.

On the most basic level, I guess celery juicing isn’t the very stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of, because intake of vegetables isn’t a bad thing. Sure, by juicing the celery you’re pulverizing out all the parts of it that make it the healthiest and best for you, but people who don’t eat any vegetables at all who start drinking celery juice are still going to experience a net positive. It’s not the encouraging people to drink celery pulp that I have an issue with. What bothers me is that Anthony William, who has no medical expertise whatsoever, is parading around as someone who can give advice on curing things from strep throat to cancer, when in fact he’s just a dude with an Internet connection and possibly schizophrenia. And if people actually believe they’re going to get well by following his advice, potentially choosing his methods over traditional medical treatments from actual professionals, then he is causing real harm.

At best, Anthony William is insane, and at worst he’s a calculating con-man who is preying on the naïve, the desperate, and the sick. Although the end result is no less harmful, I so want him to be the former, because the latter is just so sinister and horrible. Either way, his nonsense is driving me to consult with MY spirit of choice….tequila.

 

The Ten-Year Challenge

On the social medias this month, the ten-year challenge is all the rage. The challenge consists of posting photos of oneself in 2009 alongside pictures taken more recently, and I think that the only people who are doing it are the ones who really don’t look any different or the ones who finally figured out the right haircut for their face shape and have stopped wearing eyeliner around their entire eyes and looking like the guys in Good Charlotte and as a result they actually look much better now than they did ten years ago. I have not taken part in this challenge for a few reasons, such as I don’t really have many photos of myself from 2009, and because 2009 was not a good year for me hairstyle-wise, and because I do not think I have any photos of myself from 2019 whatsoever. I don’t really like pictures of myself because my eyes always look tired and squinty like I either just smoked a bowl or haven’t slept for weeks, and because when I smile my left eye forgets how to eye and it will be half-closed and weird-looking and appears much smaller than my right one and then all I can see when I look at photos is my right eye which appears freakishly big but it isn’t, the left one is just being stupid and making the right one look bad. All I can really do to mitigate this is to not smile and hope for the best (and also later be subjected to “you need to smile more” comments from people who do not know the struggle of having an eye that does not know how to eye), or better yet, just not take pictures of myself.

My eye that cannot eye.

To me, the ten-year challenge is a reminder of just how quickly time passes, because in my mind 2009 doesn’t actually feel all that terribly long ago. For the first time in my life, this year I have found myself particularly preoccupied with my age. I think this is because I’m turning thirty-five in July, putting me much closer to mid-thirties than early-thirties, which means that all too soon I’m going to be in my LATE thirties and that shit is a little scary.

This whole worrying-about-being-old thing is new to me, because in my twenties I had an annoying coworker who would constantly remind me of how I looked so young and would exclaim not-helpful things like “How on earth did you convince them to let you work here when you’re only 12?!?” Other people in my life were more subtle about it, but enough people would tell me that I looked so much younger than I was that I felt pretty confident that by the time I was in my forties I would just look like what other people looked like in their twenties. Now though, I rarely see myself in a mirror when I don’t look sleep-deprived and squishy in places that used to be firm, and I would be lying if I said that part of my desire to lose weight this year has nothing to do with a faint hope of recapturing some of my youthful look. I had never thought that I would be using the word “haggard” to describe my appearance, and yet here we are. And this is in spite of the fact that I now a drink a ton of water every day and try to get enough sleep and wear moisturizer and sunscreen and actually take off my makeup every night before I go to bed.

Instead of posting photos of myself ten years ago and now, I would like to instead think about how much more awesome my life is now than it was in 2009. Back then, I still lived in California, I had the afore-mentioned not-great hairstyle, I was working a job I hated, I was in a relationship that didn’t make me feel safe or fulfilled, and I felt rather stuck in life. I threw myself into activities like volunteering so that I could do something to make me feel good and also to fill up my time so I did not have any free moments to contemplate the stuck feelings. If I had actually paused to think about it, I would have had to admit to myself that overall I was pretty unhappy. And so when I finally did pause, I began making major changes. I moved to Washington, got jobs at work that I liked much better, and surrounded myself with people who loved me and cheered me on and helped me feel comfortable just being me. I learned to end relationships that didn’t make me feel good, paving the way to the incredible marriage I now enjoy with my husband. My late twenties and early thirties have been all about figuring out what works for me. I may not look better than I did in 2009, but my life most certainly does.