Good Things During a Hard Time

I seem to have taken something of an inadvertent blogging haitus, first for a lovely reason (a much-needed vacation), followed by the much-less-lovely reason of spending the last week caring for our cat Oliver, who got very sick on the last night of our afore-mentioned lovely vacation.

Bill and I went to bed early on that last night, knowing that we had to catch a morning flight home and wanting to get as much sleep as possible. Around 11pm in Chicago I woke up and checked my phone, which I normally do not do, but I think I wanted to just be very sure that my alarm clock was in fact set. What I saw made my stomach lurch: I had three missed calls from M, my friend and cat-sitter, who had texted me to let me know that something was wrong with Oliver and that she suspected he’d had a stroke.

There’s not a lot that can be done when you’re two thousand miles away from your sick pet, but I did what I could. Trying not to panic, I reached out to my friend and the love of Oliver’s life (seriously, the crush this cat has on her is adorable) Jill, who is our vet tech. She tried to comfort me and also recommended an emergency vet for M to take Oliver to. I talked to M and relayed the recommendation, and she bundled Oliver up and took him in. I called the airline and switched Bill and I to an earlier flight and then had nothing left to do but to try and sleep for an hour before we had to leave for the airport.

It was a long, long morning. In the cab on the way to the airport, I kept the window rolled down so that the air was hitting me in the face the whole way there. Normally I hate that sensation but for whatever reason it felt good then. On the plane I was too jittery to sleep, too anxious to eat, and too unfocused to read or pay much attention to anything. Ultimately I opted to close my eyes and listen to music, just hoping that time would pass quickly and I could get to Oliver.

As far as the time it takes to get from plane to baggage claim to airport shuttle to car, that Monday morning was actually one of the quickest experiences I’ve ever had. We had landed a little before 9am which put us on the freeway right at the tail end of morning rush hour, and luckily traffic wasn’t terrible and it didn’t take us all that long to get to the emergency vet. When we were led back to the kennel where Oliver was, I had never felt so relieved to see him.

He wasn’t pleased – on an IV, wearing a recovery cone, and clearly not feeling very well at all. His head was tilted, his eyes were darting to the left, and he was shaky and couldn’t stand. But he recognized us and started meowing as soon as he saw us.

We now know that Oliver developed what’s called vestibular disease, a condition that caused him to lose coordination and to become very dizzy. Basically, it was like having really bad vertigo. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know what caused it, and there’s not much we can do to help him feel better other than give him medicine to treat motion sickness. During the first few days that we brought him home, we literally never left him alone. He struggled to stand and walk on his own, so we had to help him when he wanted to eat or when he needed to use the litter box. At night I dozed on on our couch with him by my side, so that I would hear him if he needed to get up in the night. Bill and I took turns working from home so that one of us could be with him all day.

It’s been a week and a half now, and Oliver is doing better. He’s still wobbly and his head is still slightly tilted, and we don’t know if those things will ever go away or if this is his new normal. We’re relieved to see his personality coming back though, and he’s able to walk around without our help. At night after he eats his dinner he comes into the living room and meows at me to put him on the couch, just as he always used to before he got sick. Bill bought a dog playpen that we’ve converted into a little house for Oliver by filling it with blankets, pillows, a litter box and a bowl of water, and for now that is where he sleeps at night. We positioned it right next to my side of the bed, so that he can see me and meow for me if he needs me. He seems to like it and settles right in at bedtime without complaint. Eventually I’m hoping that he can be out at night with our other cats, but for right now knowing that he’s in a soft, cozy place where he can’t accidentally hurt himself helps me sleep a lot better.

I could have a poor attitude about what happened and complain about how much the situation sucked, and it totally DID suck, but I’ve tried really hard to find the positive in all of this. Looking for the good in things really helps with the anxiety that I’ve been feeling since I saw that text message that something had happened to Oliver. I’m so, so thankful for M, who is not only an amazing friend but the best pet sitter I could ask for and who stayed calm and took care of my boy even when he scared the crap out of her. I’m also incredibly thankful for Jill and Dr. Chris at Fifth Avenue Animal Hospital, who love Oliver as much as we do and treat us like family, not like clients.

This experience also made me grateful for Bill and our marriage. When we said our wedding vows we of course included the vow to love each other “for better or for worse”, and the last couple of weeks have shown us both. Our vacation together was a high point; having fun together when we were each relaxed and able to be our best selves. And in the worst of times, when we weren’t sure our kitty was going to make it, we made a great team and supported each other and Oliver every step of the way. I truly think I might have lost my mind if I hadn’t had Bill by my side.

Our family and friends came together to show us lots of love and support, too. I didn’t tell many people what was happening while we were unsure if Oliver was going to get better, but those I did confide in offered me so much love and comfort. To those of you who texted and called, it meant everything to me. Seriously, it helped keep me going when I felt exhausted and low and scared. Last weekend both of Oliver’s “aunties” came to visit him (and brought presents for me, which made me feel spoiled). Those visits gave me something to look forward to while things seemed bleak.

I’m also so thankful for my job and that both Bill and I were offered so much compassion by our bosses. We were allowed to work from home to be with Oliver, which is a huge luxury. I’ve had jobs in my life where I had to be in the office every day, for very specific hours (including mandatory overtime). If I had still been in those jobs I would’ve had to take time off without pay to stay home with my sick kitty, knowing that I was going to be written up for doing so when I did go back to work because you can’t file for FMLA to stay home with your cat. I’m so relieved that we were able to just focus on Oliver and not have to stress about money.

Even though I would have much preferred for none of this to happen to my kitty, I tried to make the best of a tough situation and now I’m just so relieved that he’s improving. I wish I knew for certain that he’s going to be completely fine and that nothing else bad is going to happen, but life doesn’t work that way so I’m focusing on the good moments now and enjoying them. Right now every day I get with him is one I was afraid I wouldn’t have, and for now that’s enough.

 

 

 

 

My Guest Post on A Childfree Happily Ever After

I’m so excited to share that I was invited by childfree advocate and best-selling author Tanya Williams to write a guest post for her site, A Childfree Happily Ever After! I love Tanya’s positive approach to the topic of living a childfree lifestyle and I am so excited to be working with her!

My first guest post can be found here: https://childfreehappilyeverafter.com.au/news/im-childfree-but-i-dont-hate-your-kids/

Be sure to check it out!

The Wings of the Fried-Dough Pastry Stealing Seabird

I’m not especially fond of birds.

When I reveal this sentiment to people, more often than not it’s met with some degree of disbelief, as if I’d just said that I hate rainbows or kittens or chocolate. Which, really, is a strange reaction, because it’s not like anyone especially loves pigeons, or gushes about the redeeming qualities of crows. Who gets excited when they discover a woodpecker has moved into their neighborhood? Nobody, that’s who, because they’re distructive little bastards. The movie ‘The Birds’ was hardly a lighthearted adventure story, amirite?

So now you’re thinking, But those are abstract examples. What has a bird ever done to you? 

Well, I’m glad you asked, because as a child I was irrepairably damaged by the actions of a bird. Gather ’round, and I’ll tell you the tale.

The scene: a beautiful, sunny afternoon in San Diego. A smiling, pigtailed me walks happily down the path at Sea World with my family, taking teeny bites of the still-warm churro clutched in my tiny fist to make it last as long as possible. Sea World churros were a delicacy. If you got lucky enough to walk by the little food stand that sold them when it was open, the aroma of warm cinnamon and sugar and fried dough would catch you and pull you in. What small child can resist that scent and NOT beg their parents for a churro? Certainly not me, that’s for sure.

The peace of that idealic afternoon was shattered when, completely out of the blue, a seagull swooped down and snatched the churro from my hand. I stopped dead in my tracks in utter shock and horror, unable to fully process the transgression that had just been committed against me. My baby sister was quicker to react and chased after the filthy bird, which dropped my churro onto the lawn and flew away, but when she retrieved it the once-tantalizing treat was covered in grass and seagull spit and was ruined forever.

I have eaten many delightful churros since that fateful day, but my hatred of seagulls and general dislike of most birds was forever cemented.

Resting Busted Face

I feel like there are quite a few things that older people could tell younger people to save them lots of trouble in life, but that for some reason or another pearls of wisdom are hoarded from the youth who are forced to make these discoveries for themselves.  One of these such things that nobody warns you about (or at least that nobody warned ME about) is that you will face stormy waters ahead if you don’t sort your skincare regimen early on in life.

I was a lucky little lass in high school: my face remained fairly clear, in spite of the fact that my go-to makeup routine consisted of a Covergirl compact of pressed powder and eyeshadow that was usually either purple or white (ahh the 90s) combined with washing my face by swiping at it with a washcloth in the shower. I feel like instead of making me take PE from the cheerleading coach, which did not really enhance my existence in any way although it seemed to give her an opportunity to try out routines with the high school’s less-coordinated students, someone should have been educating me on actually caring for my skin properly so that I would have a jumpstart on things and my face would not end up looking like an elephant’s ankle by the time I hit my thirties.

I did learn mildly better habits in my twenties, such as occasionally remembering to take off my makeup at the end of the day and semi-frequently wearing a moisturizer with sunscreen, but this slightly higher attention paid to my skin did not save me from the hell that awaited me once I reached my thirties. Seemingly overnight, my once-oily skin dried out faster than Liza Minnelli after checking into the Betty Ford Center. Cosmetics that had at one time masked flaws now made me resemble a bridge troll and I had to get bangs to hide the fact that my forehead was perpetually peeling.

I took to the Internet to research remedies for my problems. After reading far too many articles online and wasting a ton of money on products that weren’t helping me at all, I called in the help of a professional and made an appointment for a facial. While shining a bright light over my face and gazing deep into my pores (sigh, how romantic), the esthetician asked questions about my normal skincare routine and what products I was using. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was working with a strong cocktail of moisturizer and makeup removal wipes from the Walgreens, so I just told her that I was looking for something new now that my face seemed to have completely flipped the script on me.

Fast forward a year, and I now have special day and evening moisturizers, a face wash that’s different from the face wash I use on the days that I use my Clarisonic, and recurring monthly appointments to visit the esthetician. It sounds like a lot, but I feel like the extra money and effort is worth it to be able to go out in public without wearing a bag on my head.

Youngsters, consider yourselves warned. Take care of your faces.

Summer Reading List

I accidentally took a month off from blogging; work got super busy and I don’t honestly know exactly what happened but June is over and now it is July and you guys it is summer which just happens to be my favorite season.

Summer in Seattle is so much different than summers in California. Before I moved to the Northwest, I definitely took nice weather for granted and honestly I don’t remember feeling much of a pull to get outside and enjoy a sunny day. Now, though, once the temperature hits 70 degrees I want to ditch all responsibilities and just be outdoors. I love the warm sun, the fresh air, the long lazy days.

Now that I’m done with school, I plan to spend many summer hours relaxing with good books. I already have some picked out that I’m looking forward to reading, but I would also love recommendations!

Here are the ones I have so far:

Summer of 69 by Elin Hildebrand (my online book club’s pick for July)

Before and Again by Barbara Delinksy

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager (this one comes out tomorrow!)

Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin

California Girls by Susan Mallery

And I’ll probably also re-read Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster because it’s one of my all-time favorites and I usually read it once a summer.

Okay, what books am I missing? Tell me what you’re reading so I can add to my list!

I Pity the Miracles

I actually feel a bit sorry for miracle babies.

Yeah yeah yeah, I get it, they’re called miracle babies in the first place because they are alive in spite of something that they shouldn’t have been able to overcome, doctors can’t explain it, minds are collectively blown. But once the miracle babies blow people’s minds, then there’s an added layer of expectancy about what the babies go on to do with their lives after they do the miraculous surviving, which is why I feel a bit sorry for them.

Still not following me? Let’s play this out.

Baby Suzie’s mom was told that Suzie would never survive outside the womb because she never developed a brain, but then BAM! Three days before her due date, Suzie’s brain develops at warp-speed, defying all medical odds, and she’s born normal and healthy and with a reasonably high IQ. The crowd goes wild. People wax philosophical about how meaningful Suzie’s existence must be for her to overcome so much. She lived because she hasn’t served her purpose yet, she is destined for so much more. She wasn’t meant to leave this earth yet because she has so much to accomplish, they will say to each other in slightly hushed tones, rubbing their arms as they get goosebumps thinking about how Suzie is going to make the world such a better place. Maybe she’ll cure cancer, or be the first woman president of the United States. Perhaps she’ll finally find a way to bridge all of the religious and cultural gaps that keep the world at war and we will finally all know peace on earth. Maybe she’ll crack the code and reveal to the world whether or not a hot dog is just a type of sandwich. The possibilities are endless! They don’t know what she’s going to do, but it’s going to be big.

Now, cut to Suzie’s mom rage-sobbing in her worn and stained recliner because forty-year-old Suzie is a Pizza Hut delivery driver who lives with her boyfriend Snake in his mom’s basement. Or, okay, maybe its not quite that bad, maybe Suzie lives in a small but tidy studio apartment with Snake and works a desk job and eats her lunch in the park nearby on nice days. But, Suzie sure as hell isn’t curing cancer. And nobody stops to ask her whether she’s happy, because she was supposed to be destined for so much more.

Suzie is just an ordinary person living an ordinary life, because smart capable people often grow up to live ordinary lives, no matter their origin story. Suzie’s last-minute, life-saving brain development may have been a miracle because it defied modern science, but ultimately it doesn’t obligate her to do more for the world than those of us who were just born, with no miracles or fanfare. But because she was a miracle baby, all sorts of people expect way more from Suzie than they otherwise would have.

On the other hand, people watched 16 and Pregnant and fully expected the girls on that show to be poor and live their whole lives in trailers or vans by the river, so if they manage to land a desk job or even a gig delivering pizzas, then the whole world cheers. So I guess there’s that.

 

Don’t Be Gross at Work

It is Monday.

It’s safe to say that my feelings about Mondays pretty closely mirror Garfield the cat’s, although, why does Garfield hate Mondays so much anyways? It’s not like Monday is different than any other day for him. He has no responsibilities and no place to be, he isn’t facing a long commute or a boss who wears wrinkled ties and smells like apple cider vinegar. As far as I can tell that damn cat just lays in his bed every morning until someone forces him to wake up long enough to shove breakfast in his food hole, which would be a nice change from MY cat Saturday who does not lie in his bed until I see good and fit to feed him but instead wakes me up by rubbing his cold wet nose onto my nose and then howling in my face with his tuna breath. At 5am. Even on weekends. I do not think Saturday dreads Mondays at all; in fact, I think he looks forward to them because he knows I have no choice but to get up early and he appreciates the prompt serving of his breakfast on weekday mornings.

And yes, my cat’s name is Saturday. Long story short, he came from a litter of seven so each kitten was named after a day of the week.

Like many people, for my day job I sit in a cubicle and do my work on a computer. Life in a cubicle is not exactly known for being a thrill-a-minute experience, which is evidenced by the variety of articles online about how to make working in a cubicle suck less. To be fair, I’ve had far less ideal work spaces, like when I worked 411 and had to change desks every time I came back from a break, or when I worked in an office that was trying out an “open concept” layout and instead of cubicles we all had desks in a big open space with no privacy whatsoever. It was loud and chaotic and I learned way more about my office mates than I ever desired to know, such as that the woman two desks over from me liked to kick her shoes off and walk around her work area barefoot (yuck) and was also prone to singing songs from The Greatest Showman not quietly. I will never see the Greatest Showman. I refuse. I will not watch it, no matter how much fresh buttery popcorn you promise to plow me with during the showing, because now all I associate it with is bare feet and not-great singing an inappropriate setting.

No one at work wants to hear you sing. Also, no one in public bathrooms wants to hear you sing either, but that’s a rant for another day. Sing in the privacy of your own shower or in your car like a normal person. What is wrong with these people?? Inappropriate singers are the worst. If you disagree with me you can feel free to not bother telling me and if you do I will use your comments for future mockery.

Ahem. Anyway….

After that experience, I was more than happy to return to a traditional cubicle with nice tall walls that I can hang things on and that afforded me privacy and sheltered me from the weirder habits of my coworkers. And as far as cubicles go, I’ve got a pretty decent setup. On the other side of the aisle from my cubicle are rows of shelves, not another cubicle, so there’s no one directly across from me. My coworkers that sit to the left and right of me are quiet and when they eat their lunches at their desks they do not chew loudly, which is very much appreciated because chewing loudly is something that will make me throw things at you and then we’re going to be in a fight when you slurp so loudly that they can hear you in China and then my paper clip lands in your bowl of soup after I sail it at your head and miss.

I’ve been fortunate enough to never really have to deal with loud chewers in the office, although I know others who have not been as lucky as I have. The only real problem child I’ve experienced was a man who sat on the next aisle from me, who shared one cubicle wall with me. I don’t actually know his real name but in my head it’s Phlegmy Fred, because that dude hacked and snuffled and shout-sneezed all day long. To be clear, shout-sneezing is different than regular sneezing; regular sneezing is just a sneeze and you say “excuse me” after you do it and you move on, but shout-sneezing is when you feel a sneeze coming on and you full-on scream “ACHOO!!” as you sneeze. It got so bad, two other people started complaining to me about the sounds Phlegmy Fred was making on multiple occasions. He was grossing everyone out. I am told it actually would get worse as the afternoon moved into evening, so people who worked later and were still in the office around 5:30 really got the final act in the Snuffle Symphony.

Self-awareness is important when you work in close proximity to other people, friends. I recognize that I am both impatient and ill-tempered, but even the kindest and sweetest of coworkers will get annoyed with you if they are trying to work but you are constantly making disgusting noises, or walking around in your gross bare feet on carpet that hasn’t been shampooed since the seventies, or singing songs out loud. Even if no one confronts you about doing these things, your peers are still annoyed with you and there is a good chance that one of them is snarky and will write about you in a blog post to entertain the Internets. You’ve been warned.

Press 3 to Go Straight to Hell

Yesterday while I was driving home, I got a call from a phone number I didn’t recognize. Caller ID told me that the number, 425-448-5215, was from Kirkland WA, so there was a chance it was a call I wanted and I answered. I was greeted by this recording:

Hello, this is the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry, calling today to see if you need urgent prayer. If you would like to have someone from our center pray for you please press one. If you would like to no longer hear from this place, press 3. 

Hmmm, I thought to myself. Do I need urgent prayer? A quick glance around the car made me doubt that I did. I had apple slices and a half-full venti iced tea from Starbucks, so my nutritional needs were met. It was a sunny beautiful evening so I was able to have the window down as I poked along in traffic, and my car has heated seats so my back felt nice. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t have minded being able to part the traffic the way Moses parted the Red Sea (totally had to check Google to make sure I was right about it being Moses who did that) so that I could drive straight home instead of being tailgated by some angry soccer mom in a Toyota Sienna. That would’ve been cool. But, is that a misuse of an offer of urgent prayers? I suspected that indeed it was.

I am far from a religious person. I don’t care if other people want to pray or believe in that kind of stuff, but it’s just not for me. Over the years,expressing this view has led to people I don’t particularly like anyway informing me that they will pray for me to have a change of heart so that I will think like them, even though I’m perfectly fine with thinking the way I already do. I supposed that maybe the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry would think I need urgent prayers to soften my cold godless heart so that I can accept their lord and savior before I meet an untimely death, especially since there was every possibility that the car in front of me could check up and I could then be run over by the soccer mom in the Sienna when she didn’t have time to stop due to being about six millimeters from my rear bumper. But, because it was an automated call instead of a live person, I could not ask them if they sensed that I was both a heathen and in mortal danger and if that was what prompted them to call me for a last-ditch effort to save my soul.

Then I began to wonder if the call was even really from the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry, because if it truly was, why would their opt-out message say “If you no longer want to hear from this place, press 3” instead of something like “To decline this offer of urgent prayers and instead go straight to hell, press 3”? Like, at least drive home what the consequences will be if I don’t press 1!

Admittedly, I forgot about the call pretty quickly once it ended and I resumed listening to podcasts for the remainder of my drive, but I remembered today when I checked my phone’s call log after noticing that I had a missed call (it was not from anyone else who wanted to pray for me). I googled 425-448-5215 and found that the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry is actually a big ol’ scam (gasp!! God, how could you allow this??) and if you press 1, you then start getting subsequent calls asking for donations to the prayer center. There are even pending lawsuits against the leader of the organization, a dude named Prophet Manasseh Jordan. I looked him up on Facebook and found that he has a nice little flock of sheep that seems to be comprised of Trump supporters who love Jesus and can’t spell. The comments on his posts are a mix of people who love his messages and people who are pissed off that they keep getting phone calls and emails hitting them up for money, and I actually think those people are the dumbest of all for actually thinking to themselves, Yes sirree, I do need me some urgent prayers! and pressing 1 and then being shocked when the whole thing is just a way to then hit them up for money. I would really love to know if they are the same people who stuff that collection basket full of crisp bills every Sunday, or tithe 10% of their income to their churches, because I’m betting they are and I find it hilarious that they see no difference between hitting people up for money in a building and hitting them up for it on the phone. It all buys you into heaven the same, doesn’t it?

I did press 3 so I wouldn’t hear from “this place” again, and I blocked the phone number for good measure to ward off any subsequent offers for the finest prayers money can buy. And if my views on organized religion have pissed you off just know that you can call the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry and they’ll pray for me for the low introductory price of $147.

 

 

The 411 on 411

Lots of people who don’t go straight to college after high school, or who drop out of college like I did, end up working some sort of soul-sucking job. There are plenty of horror stories out there from those who cut their teeth professionally by waiting tables, or delivering pizzas, or manning fast food drive-thrus. I personally never had any of those kinds of jobs, but my first “real” job was its own kind of crazy – I worked in a call center.

Side note: my first job ever was working as a cashier at a Grocery Outlet when I was in high school and I only have good things to say about that job, it was actually a lot of fun.

Unless you were born after the mid-nineties, you probably remember when calling 411 was a thing. In the transition period between phone books and the Internet, 411 was a service offered by the local phone company that allowed callers to obtain the addresses and phone numbers of people in the phone directory. You could call and ask for the same sort of information that was in the phone book, and the operator would look it up for you and transfer you to an automated service that would read out what you had requested and give you the option to be directly connected to the phone number you’d just gotten. You could ask for up to three phone numbers per call, so if you were just looking for a general service like taxis in your area, they’d give you three different choices. If you had a cell phone, you could ask the operator for additional services like movie showtimes or horoscopes.

I was hired into the 411 call center in September 2003, when having a cell phone was just starting to become a normal thing and people who were out and about needed information and didn’t have access to a phone book. I went through two weeks of training to learn how to quickly search the directory database we would use to find the listings that customers asked for. There was no need for a formal greeting because that was done by an automated system before the caller was connected to me, so all I had to say was “City and state, please?” so I’d know where in the country I’d be searching. I think that question might throw a caller now, but back then people knew the drill and they’d give you the town they wanted. The next question was, “And the listing please?” to which they’d respond with what information they wanted. More than once I accidentally answered my personal phone, “City and state please?” instead of “Hello?” out of habit. Asking the same question a million times in a row will do that to you.

The work was easy and I caught on fast, except for a few things that really threw me for a loop until I learned about them. In training, they taught us the spelling of some of the stranger cities we’d get requests for (Sequim, Washington, I’m looking at you), and tried to generally prepare us for some of the things we would be encountering that we might otherwise struggle with. They couldn’t prepare us for everything though, so there were some listings I had a hard time finding initially. One example was this burger chain in Texas called Whataburger, which I could not find for the life of me until someone finally spelled it for me because everyone in freaking Texas pronounces it “Waterburger” and they would get super annoyed when I’d tell them there was no directory listing for a Waterburger because I had no damn clue what they were actually saying and when I would repeat it back to them they wouldn’t correct me and instead would just say, “Yeah, Waterburger, there’s like twenty of them in this town, y’all really have no phone number for Waterburger?”. Texas, this is one of the reasons I hate you.

The call center I worked in was a 24-hour office, so there were lots of different schedules available for employees to work, except all the good ones were taken by people who had been there longer than me and so at first I got stuck working a lot of split shifts. I’d start around 8am, work for four hours, have roughly a four-hour break in the middle of my shift, and then have to go back and work the last half. Having the long break in the middle sounds like it might be nice, but I lived about a half hour’s drive away from my office so if I decided to go home in the middle I lost an hour of that break just to drive time alone, and I was never really able to relax during the break because I knew I had to keep an eye on the time so I wasn’t late for the second half of my shift.

I eventually got tired of working splits and switched to night shifts. Nights were awesome because the shifts were six hours instead of eight, so I’d be scheduled to start at 9:30pm but I would be off at 4am. We also earned a night differential, so I got paid an extra $0.75/hour for those late nights. In the quietest part of the night, we’d only get a call every 20-30 minutes, and all people really wanted were phone numbers for pizza delivery and taxis. We weren’t supposed to do anything else at our desks, so even when it was slow we couldn’t read or play music or anything. Sometimes we’d all sit close to each other so that we could stand up and talk quietly between calls, but my favorite way to pass the time was by listening to a little MP3 player (this was before most people had iPods). Of course listening to such a device was strictly against the rules, so I would stash it in the front pocket of my jeans, making sure that I wore sweaters that were long enough that it was covered. Then I would run the cord for my headphones up the inside of my sweater, putting only one earbud in my ear while keeping the other one free so that I could hear callers who dropped in. I would wear my hair down so that it covered the little bit of cord that was visible between my shirt collar and my ear, and the earbud itself was covered by my phone headset. Tada!

Looking back, working in 411 was certainly a mindless gig but it was also probably the best customer-facing job ever, because I rarely had to speak more than a few sentences to each customer and the worst thing I ever had to deal with was people calling back because they got the wrong phone number last time, or being drunk and trying to hit on me when they called. That happened more on overnights than days and we operators had a great time with the drunk callers. When they’d slur at us, “You sound hot, what’s your phone number?” we’d reply innocently, “Why, it’s 411!” Another one we’d hear pretty frequently was, “Hey baby, where are you at right now?” to which we’d sweetly say “I’m at work!” We thought we were pretty genius and it was a lot easier to just give those sorts of replies than to demand that the drunk person stop the nonsense and just tell us which taxi service they wanted.

The night shifts were great for a few months, until most everyone else in my life started working regular day jobs and I didn’t want to be the only one on nights. By then I had enough seniority to pull a normal shift, so I changed to working 6:30am-3pm. Unlike nights, calls came in rapid-fire during the day and it was very abnormal to have any time at all between calls. The requirement was that our call handling time average around 23 seconds per call, but I usually hovered right around 18 seconds per call. I knew the system and I was efficient at finding listings; the only problem I ever had was with “clipping calls”, which was when you transferred the customer to the audio that would read them their phone number but you did it too fast and you cut yourself off as you told them to have a nice day or whatever. In the world of live directory assistance, this was something we were coached on, even though looking back now I would guess that not a single customer cared if we transferred them and all they heard was “Have a good d-“ instead of “Have a good day”. Every month when my supervisor would listen to my calls to give me feedback, he’d remind me to be careful of clipping calls.

On day shifts, I retired the MP3 player and instead my friend K and I would pass notes all day long. Of course such a thing was not allowed, so we had to be stealthy about it.  In the mornings, we’d get ourselves each a stack of little pieces of paper that were left out for operators to write their schedules on (schedules were put out two weeks in advance and came out every Friday; you had to find the binder that held schedules for the week and look up your name, then write down your start time, end time, and what time your breaks and lunches were each day). We’d make sure to get work stations next to each other, and would use the little papers to write our notes on. We would pass them to each other through the cubicle walls. I’m on the short side but K’s tall, so she could see over the wall and if a supervisor was walking around, she’d kick the wall so I’d know to hide the notes under my keyboard. It was a perfect system and we were never caught. K became one of my best friends. We even lived in the same apartment complex for a while, and when we weren’t at work I’d walk over to her place and she’d curl my hair or we’d play the karaoke game on her husband’s Xbox. If we got bored we’d go eat pie at Coco’s or go to Walmart at 2am, cruising along in her VW Rabbit and singing along to Kelly Clarkson at the top of our lungs.

K and I are still best friends, and even though it’s been years since we’ve lived in the same apartment complex or even in the same state we still talk nearly every day.

I worked in the 411 call center for two and a half years. In May 2006, I transferred to the sales call center to make more money (the hell that was that job is a story for another time). Even though at the time I hated 411 and would moan to my supervisor frequently that I couldn’t wait to land a job in a different department, now I look back on those days very fondly. What started as a job I randomly applied for after seeing an ad in the newspaper became the start of an eleven-year career with the phone company and brought more good things into my life than I ever could have imagined.

Adultish

I am very happy to report that it appears Seattle’s 2019 Snowmaggedon is nearing its end. The snow has started to melt. By Wednesday, Bill and I were able to finally venture out and go to our offices to work instead of working from home, and I don’t think I’ve ever relished working in a cubicle quite so much as I did that day. I also took time to make my hair and outfit look nice, since I’d been living in my pajamas and forgetting to actually brush my hair most mornings since the snow began.

While we were housebound, one of the things we tackled was a thorough cleaning of our abode so that staying inside all the time would be more pleasant. In doing so, we used up a lot of our household cleaners, making a note along the way of each thing we would need to buy when we could again venture out. After our first day back in the office, we had enough daylight left to stop at Fred Meyer to restock.

Bill has a strategy for buying consumable products like toiletries and cleaning supplies: he buys multiple of each item, then typically buys more again when he opens the last new bottle/jar/tube of said thing. This way, he never finds himself in a position where he is totally out of something he needs. Maybe lots of people do this, I don’t know, but the idea of it was fairly foreign to me before I lived with him. It turns out that stocking up on things is one of my favorite adult things to do, which I think is likely because I’ve been so poor in my life that I couldn’t even afford to buy everything I need, much less to be able to buy multiples of any items so that I would have more for later. Now, being able to buy multiple sticks of deodorant at one time feels like the height of luxury, and I revel in it.

A few weeks ago comedian Bill Maher got flack for calling out people who refer to their grown-up activities as “adulting”, and for still liking the things from our childhoods like comic books and Lucky Charms (now, kids, I like Bill Maher even though I don’t always agree with everything he says, and I suppose he doesn’t do things like invent Eggos with chocolate shavings and powdered sugar on them when he has been snowed in at his house for over a week, which is something that I may have possibly done since the beginning of Snowmaggedon, so let’s not be too hard on him). The thing is, I agree with him on this but then again I don’t. I do adult things like pay my bills on time, and eat vegetables instead of Pop-Tarts for dinner, and hold down a steady job. I have a 401K and an IRA and more than the required $5 in my savings account. I can afford to buy more than one bottle of carpet cleaner at a time. So, I suppose I reasonably have my shit together.

The thing is though, that I don’t really feel like an adult, not a real one. Or, at least I don’t feel the way that I thought I would when I became an adult. When I was a kid, adults seemed so put-together and mature and confident and even though I’m in my thirties now I still feel like a kid playing house half the time. Maybe my parents’ generation wasn’t actually better at being grown-ups than mine is and maybe it’s all a big facade, but I somehow thought that when I got to this age I would have a different outlook on my own level of maturity. The truth is that all of the adulting things I do are because I have recognized that they contribute to my own comfort: I do laundry because I like having clean clothes (and clean sheets, there is not much in life that’s more wonderful than crawling into a bed that’s been freshly made up with sheets still warm from the dryer), I work because I like having money, and I buy things in bulk because the money I earn at my job allows me to and because I hate running out of shampoo and having to dig through the drawers and cabinets in my bathroom in hopes of finding a small hotel sample to hold me over until I can get to the store. I contribute to my retirement accounts because I know I want to retire before I’m a hundred years old and recognize that I need to be saving now for that.

I think we all have to find the things that make us feel fulfilled, and do them. Maybe for Bill Maher that’s putting on snappy suits and smoking lots of weed (not necessarily in that order). That’s the kind of adult he wants to be. I, on the other hand, want to be the kind of adult who can get shit done but who also still wears Vans as my go-to shoes and binge-listens to a podcast about the hit 90’s cartoon Gargoyles on my commute (it’s called Grotesques and it’s amazing).

But seriously, buy three bottles of Windex the next time you’re low on it. Trust me, it feels sooooo good.