The Story of Us

It was October. The weather was just starting to cool off, and I was a month into my new job as a 411 operator with Verizon. I was on my break, and when I walked into the lunch room, it was empty except for one guy. He had light hair, an earring in his left ear, and was wearing a leather jacket. He was sitting at a table, staring at the TV, which had the movie “Interview with the Vampire” playing on it. I didn’t want to interrupt while he was watching the movie, but he was so cute, I couldn’t resist the urge to talk to him. So I said something about liking the movie, he agreed, I said the book was even better, he nodded in agreement (I would later find out that he’d never read the book at all and was just going along with what I was saying). Cute guy had to leave, he was new and in training, so I smiled and said goodbye to him.

I found out that cute guy’s name was Paul and he had recently come to California from the Seattle area. We’d run into each other from time to time on the floor of the call center while we looked for workstations, or in the break room. Then one chilly night, Paul and I got off work at the same time and walked out to the parking lot together. He’d just gotten a new car and offered to show it to me. It turned out to be a really great luxury sedan, with more features than I’d known a car could have. It was late so he had me climb in and drove me across the large parking lot to my own car. We sat there for awhile, getting warm and talking. I really, really liked him. I felt so comfortable with him, like I could tell him anything.  When I climbed out of his warm car and into my own cold one, I wondered if there was more to that than just a nice guy showing off his new car.

Time passed. One beautiful, warm spring day, I left the office after the first half of my split shift (back then I worked four hours in the morning, had a several-hours-long break, then went back for the last four hours of my shift). Paul was leaving at the same time as I was, and we walked to the parking lot together, talking. He was so smart, so funny, so interesting to talk to. Before I knew it I was due back at work. I’d stood in the parking lot talking with Paul for the entire break in my split shift. Later, when I saw him in the office, I could tell that the sunburn he’d acquired while standing in the parking lot matched my own. A few people raised their eyebrows at us, since it was apparent we’d been together that afternoon.

Spring moved into summer, and the weather went from warm to scorching hot. One day when I was off but Paul had to work, I dropped by the office to give him a bag of chocolate (Hershey’s Treasures, the caramel ones). Another night, I was bored at home so I dropped by work to see if I could catch him on break. He teased me a little for voluntarily being at work, but he ended up asking me out to dinner. I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Our first date was on August 20, 2004. Paul was off that day but I had to work. I wore a black and white wrap shirt, black slacks, and black sandals.  I spent time that morning getting ready and was bouncing off the walls with excitement all day.

Finally work was over and I went out to the parking lot, where Paul was waiting in his car.  He wore an orange button-down shirt and looked amazing. He took me to the Roadhouse for steaks, which was far nicer than anyplace I’d been taken on a date before. Maybe I was easily impressed, but he accomplished impressing me nicely. Dinner was great and I had a blast with him. After we ate, I invited him back to my apartment to meet Angel, my spoiled Siamese cat. He played with her and petted her, which delighted her. I watched them play, grinning, knowing that this guy was someone very special.

It’s been eight years since that first date. Paul and I have since been through some of the best and worst times of our lives together, and at times I wondered whether we’d make it together. Always, we found our way back to one another, and today our relationship is fantastic and I love him to pieces. I can’t imagine my life without him.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

My parents spent the last week visiting Paul and I. It was a vacation for everyone – them to a cooler climate, Paul and I from work. August is a great time to visit Washington. The weather’s warm and the sun is shining, we get a break from our trademark rain and everyone can get outside.

I picked Mom and Dad up from the airport on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We drove north, passing through Seattle and ending up in Everett for a lunch of fish and chips at Ivar’s (side note, Ivar’s has the most fabulous fish and chips that I believe exist in the entire world. Delicious!). Then we made our way back to my house so they could unpack. Paul got home from work and grilled hamburgers for everyone, which we ate along with chips and watermelon slices in the backyard. As the sun set, Paul built a fire in our fire pit and we roasted marshmallows for s’mores.

Sunday we decided to spend downtown in Seattle. Our first stop was Agua Verde Paddle Club for a light Mexican lunch. Paul and I like Agua Verde both for its food and the kayak rentals offered there. After lunch we went over to the Ballard locks (officially known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks). The locks were built as a way to link Puget Sound with Lake Washington. Boats from the lake enter into the locks and are lowered as much as twenty-six feet to be even with the Sound, and boats from the sound rise up to the lake. The grounds are beautiful, too. Leading up to the locks is the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden, which was beautiful with all the blooming flowers as we walked through. 

After the locks we went up to Kerry Park, which looks back on Seattle and also gives a great view of the ferry boats leaving and coming into Seattle from Bainbridge Island and Bremerton. We sat awhile in the late afternoon sun, then decided it was time to pick up things for dinner and head home. We stopped first at Pinkabella Cupcakes at the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood to pick up some cupcakes for our dessert, then went on to Central Market in Mill Creek for steaks. Paul makes the best espresso-rubbed filets that I’ve ever eaten, and they’re a huge treat for us. He made them for my parents last year when they visited and my mom confided that she had wished for steaks again. Back at home, Paul prepared the dinners, along with mojitos to drink. The meal was the perfect end to a wonderful day.

On Monday, we all piled into Paul’s Chrysler Aspen (it’s huge!) for a trip around the Olympic Peninsula. We took the ferry boat from Edmonds to Kingston, then had lunch at a very crowded Subway in Port Angeles and drove over to Lake Crescent for a hike to Marymere Falls. The hike back to the falls is beautiful. The trail is shaded by the tall trees all around it and the ground is covered with gigantic ferns and other plants growing free. We came to a clearing where a stream ran by, and Mom, Dad, and Paul gathered stones to skip rocks along the stream. 

                                                 Mom, Dad, and I at the stream

We continued on up to the falls, and it was beautiful! We stood for a long time, admiring the water cascading down, feeling the spray on our faces. 

We got back to the car and continued on our drive around the peninsula. We went through the Twilight-made-famous Forks, WA (none of us had read the books, so we weren’t all that excited) and then stumbled upon Ruby Beach. The name sounded familiar and I was pretty sure I’d been there before. As we walked down the cliff to the sand we confirmed it: Paul and I had been to Ruby Beach back in 2009, when we came to the peninsula on vacation. Back then it had been gray out, threatening rain, but this time it was sunny, clear, and beautiful. We walked across the sand, admiring the beach. Paul snapped photos as we went along. 

Ruby Beach was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Already I can’t wait to go back. 

Tuesday, everyone was a little tired from our adventures on the peninsula, so we packed a picnic lunch and drove to Lake Padden near Bellingham. It’s a great place to relax with a book, take a walk (we walked around the entire lake), or swim. The weather was fantastic again, sunny and warm. We set out chairs and towels on the grassy shore, under a tree for shade, and read into the afternoon. After our walk, we decided ice cream sounded good, so we gathered our things and drove into town for some Dairy Queen. 

We were so close to the Canadian border, Paul and I couldn’t resist driving up to the Peace Arch to show my parents the pretty gardens around the border crossing. We wandered around, Dad snapping photos of the Peace Arch and Mom pointing out to me the names of the different flowers. I’ve been to Canada, but I’d never actually taken that much time to explore the park. Now I realize how beautiful it is. 

On Wednesday, we saw history.

I’d gotten tickets for us to
go to the Mariners game with my cousins, so that my dad could see some of his extended family. I adore my cousins, and we all love baseball, so it was a perfect activity to share. Paul and I like to park at Pacific Place and walk to the stadium, which worked out great this time because we got into Seattle early and walked with Mom and Dad down to Pike Place Market. The market is famous for its fish throwers, and it also has great fresh locally grown produce and other things. I love wandering through the market and discovering all the different things at each stall. Paul bought a bag of freshly made mini donuts, still warm. We ate those along with fresh fruit as we looked out over the water. 

From the market we walked through the city to Safeco Field, where we met up with my cousins. We found our seats, got our hot dogs and sodas, and relaxed for a game in the afternoon sun. Since it was a Wednesday, the seats around us stayed fairly empty for the whole game, and it was warm with just enough breeze to keep us from getting too hot. 

Anyone who follows baseball knows the rest: Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez pitched the first perfect game in Mariners history, the 23rd perfect game in baseball history. And we were there. We got to see it. Around the eighth inning, the energy in the stands hit an all-time high in my experience. Everyone was on their feet, clapping, cheering. And when the final pitch was thrown, the final out was called, there was an eruption of cheers and excited noise. I was grinning from ear to ear. Getting to witness the moment, surrounded by people I loved, was beyond anything I’d expected for the day.

Thursday promised to be the hottest day of the year on record in the Seattle area…well, until Friday, that is. Paul had to go back to work, so Mom, Dad, and I headed down to have lunch and get away from the heat at the Kirkland waterfront. We discovered this great place called George’s, that I will definitely be back to. Our food was delicious and the portions were more than generous. We ate and then sat on a bench looking out over Lake Washington until it got too hot to be in the sun, then we headed back to the car. I stopped at Lighthouse Park, which is in Mukilteo by the ferry terminal. We stood by the seawall for awhile, watching the ferry boats load and unload (and enjoying the sight of a seal frolicking in the waters!) and then Mom found us a bench in the shade. It was too perfect. We sat there, nice and cool, occasionally seeing the seal, watching some divers get suited up, and laughing at a couple that kept trying to get their reluctant dog into the water.

Friday was just as hot as promised, so we decided it was a good day to do some shopping. We had lunch at Bellevue Square and browsed the stores, then made our way back north to Marysville. We cooled off further with Blizzards from Dairy Queen, then ventured over to Tulalip Casino. We are used to the casinos in Vegas, so Tulalip was a bit smoky for us, but we stuck around to play for awhile. Dad gave me a twenty-dollar bill to play with, and I had pretty good luck on a penny machine and cashed out at fifty dollars. I gave Dad back his twenty, put five more dollars into the slot machine (which I promptly lost) and kept the remaining twenty-five. After gambling, we went home to clean up and get ready for dinner at Anthony’s. As soon as Paul got home from work, we were off. Anthony’s is my favorite seafood restaurant in the Northwest and probably my favorite restaurant in the Northwest of any kind. It was peach season at Anthony’s. I got a peach Cosmo and a peach salad to start, Mom and Dad sipped peach iced tea, and Paul had a peachy drop (like a lemon drop, only with peaches). For dinner we had halibut, which was perfection. Even though everyone was full, we ordered and managed to eat our entire desserts (key lime pie for Mom and me, Bailey’s chocolate mousse for Dad, and peach ice cream for Paul). We went home and I’m not sure if I slept or lapsed into a food coma.

Saturday came all too soon and it was time for Mom and Dad to go home. We all went to Starbucks, where we sipped coffee and talked until Paul had to leave for work. Then Mom, Dad, and I loaded up and drove to Tacoma for one last visit with my cousins, as well as my aunt. We all met at BJ’s Brewery for lunch and catching up, then we headed to the airport. I dropped off Mom and Dad, and after many hugs, thank-yous, and love-yous, I pulled into traffic and made my way north.

I got to revisit the airport much sooner than I anticipated: when I was just about into Seattle, I noticed Dad’s sunglasses sitting in my cupholder. Luckily I was able to reach him by cell as I got turned around, and I swung back into the airport so he wouldn’t have to leave without his glasses. We hugged again, and this time I merged into traffic and drove home.

I had a fantastic week with my parents and I love it when they come to visit me. They treated Paul and I to many meals, snacks, and activities, and I really appreciate that. We had a week full of fun and I have tons of great memories now. I love living in the Northwest, and I like showing my parents some of what makes this place so special to me.

Why I Hate Waste Management

So over the past few days I’ve been at war with Waste Management, my trash company. Never before in my life have I been so frustrated with a company that I do business with, and the worst part of it all is that I have no choice but to pay for their service and use it when they actually decide they feel like providing it to me, because there’s no other company available to use.
Waste Management has irked me from the moment I started service with them, because they provide teeny tiny little trash cans and charge a freaking arm and a leg for them. The recycle can is a normal-sized can but it’s only picked up biweekly, which disturbs me greatly because don’t they WANT people to recycle? I’m pretty diligent about making sure the right stuff goes in the right cans but come on, most people out there won’t hesitate to stick recycle in the trash can if their recycle bin is full. But overall these were minor annoyances, not life-affecting problems, and since it’s only Paul and I in our household I don’t really have problems with overflowing cans most weeks.
The week of our scheduled trash/recycle day, our cans were not emptied due to Waste Management’s employees being on strike. I wasn’t bothered by that one bit. I’m union myself, I support union workers and I was irked at Waste Management for trying to screw over its drivers. But by the end of the week, the labor dispute was settled and the employees returned to work. We customers were assured that our services would resume the following week.
This week, Monday night, Paul and I (or, more specifically, Paul) put the trash and recycle cans out so that they would be emptied. It wasn’t our regularly scheduled recycle pickup week, but I was more than confident that Waste Management would recognize that they had missed our regular week and would do the right thing, the customer-friendly thing, and pick up everything. After all, it wasn’t our fault as consumers that our service wasn’t picked up the prior week, it was Waste Management’s fault for trying to dick over their employees.
Tuesday morning, the trash was picked up but the recycle can remained untouched and stuffed to the brim. I still wasn’t mad. Okay, it was an off week, and they were probably scrambling to get caught up. I figured I could easily call and have a courtesy pickup arranged. So first thing Wednesday, I called and asked to have the recycle can emptied.
“Okay, I can send a truck out Thursday morning,” the rep told me.
“Great!” I replied, thinking how nice and easy that was.
Never think that. Never, ever think that.
“Ma’am let me FINISH,” the rep chided me. Were you still talking? I thought to myself. “It’ll be $110 to send the truck tomorrow. Per hour,” she added triumphantly.
Even though inwardly I was thinking, One hundred and ten dollars an HOUR? To empty one recycle can? Are you SMOKING SOMETHING?? I kept my cool and replied nonchalantly, “That’s really not going to work for me. What I was actually asking for was a courtesy pickup, since it’s the company’s fault and not mine that my can wasn’t emptied last week like it should’ve been.”
“I’m not waiving that fee for you,” the rep informed me.
I decided she was utterly useless and I was done talking to her. “Okay. Could I please speak to your supervisor?” I asked politely, seething inside at the ridiculousness of it all.
“Sure, I can get you a supervisor to tell you what I just told you,” she said condescendingly.
All right, I’d had enough of this chick. “Save the attitude, just get me the supervisor,” I muttered through my teeth.
I was on hold for around twenty minutes, which wasn’t fantastic but not altogether unexpected either. I was sure she wasn’t in all that much of a hurry to put me on the phone with the supervisor who planned to tell me what she’d just told me. And once I did speak to someone else, it was an even bitchier chick named Tina, who made the first rep seem like the shining star of the customer service industry. Tina’s main theme throughout the conversation was that there was nothing she could do for me. It went a little something like this:
Me: *explains situation again*
Tina: Ma’am, your recycle will be picked up on your next scheduled service date. There’s nothing I can do before then.
Me: But the last girl said you could have a truck come to my house tomorrow. I just want you to waive the fee.
Tina: I can’t do that.
Me: This isn’t acceptable.
Tina: Ma’am, your recycle will be picked up on your next scheduled service date. There’s nothing I can do before then.
Me: You know, telling a customer who’s already escalated that there’s nothing you can do is really just about the worst way to handle an issue.
Tina: Your recycle will be picked up on your next scheduled service da –
Me: Okay then, I’ll just put the recycling in the yard waste can.
Tina: Ma’am! You absolutely cannot do that. We will not pick it up.
Me: Oh don’t worry, I’ll put lots of grass on top so you don’t know there’s recycling in there.
Tina: Ma’am, your recycle will be picked up on your next scheduled service date.
Me: (turning serious) The way I see this situation playing out, it can go two ways. You can roll a truck and pick up my recycling for free this week or I can file a complaint with every government agency I can think of.
Tina: Your recycle will be picked up on your next scheduled service date.
Me: Yeah, got that. That’s not going to work for me. I need to have a call back from your boss. What’s your last name?
Tina: I don’t give that out for security purposes.
Me: I can see why you might need to take that precaution. *crickets* Well have your boss call me by end of business today.
Tina: Well I’ll give them your information but I’m not going to guarantee anyone else’s schedule. Anything else I can assist you with?
Me: You’re going to start assisting me now??
So, Round One went to Tina. 
I wasn’t done though. I went online and filled out complaint forms with the city hall, the Better Business Bureau, and the Attorney General’s office. Then I took to Facebook and Twitter, finding Waste Management and calling them out for their astonishing amount of sucking. Twitter did the trick; the Social Media Manager sent me an email address to gripe to. I did just that and left the issue alone for the rest of the day, because quite frankly I was irritated and done dealing with stupid Waste Management.

Round Two began this morning when I got a call from Stephanie, who I am assuming is Tina the Twat’s boss. I explained the whole situation to her, right down to how I’d been treated by the two prior representatives. Stephanie had no comments, no empathy, and no apology, but did reiterate that my recycle can would be picked up on my next scheduled service day (who would’ve guessed??). At this point I figured the recycle can was not getting emptied, so I sighed resignedly and asked for bill credits for the week of the labor dispute since I wasn’t provided with service. Stephanie  shot that request down and said that Waste Management wasn’t going to be giving any service credits because my next pickup would count as a “double pickup.”
“How does it count as double if you’re picking up what you have to pick up anyway?” I asked.
“There will be no bill credits,” s
he replied.
By that point I was beyond over their lousy customer service and had better things to do with my time than talk to this girl, so I simply replied, “I’ve already filed complaints with the city as well as other government agencies, and if you’re unwilling to provide service or compensation for lack of service I’ll be pursuing those complaints.” Stephanie had nothing to say to that other than to wish me a nice day. I went back to Twitter and Facebook and posted even more complaints about how awful the customer service is at Waste Management.  
I did get a call around ten-thirty from a really nice employee named Heidi, who was just calling to confirm that my can had been emptied. Sure enough, she’d had a truck at my house by 9:55am and my recycle was hauled away.

Round Two victory goes to me. Suck it, Tina and Stephanie. 

Here’s the thing, Waste Management: If your first rep had apologized, explained that you are super behind after the strike and that you just couldn’t get out to pick up my recycle any sooner, but you definitely understood my frustration, we wouldn’t have had this fight. If your reps weren’t assholes and had talked to me nicely, I would’ve gotten off the phone happy even if you hadn’t done a damn thing to help me. Instead, I was treated poorly and as a result I’ve made a huge fuss. And, in the end, I got exactly what I wanted the first time I called, proving that it WAS possible and there was no reason to go through all this. So, yes, you did succeed in making me hate you and you did waste some of my time. You had a golden opportunity to do something right and instead you made yourself an enemy. Wouldn’t it have been much, much easier to just acquiesce to my request the first time I called?

Parents Who Bring Toddlers to PG13 Movies

On Sunday, Paul and I finally went to see The Dark Knight Rises. I am a fan of pretty much all things Batman and had been looking forward to going to the movie, but we’d had other things to do and just hadn’t gotten to the movies yet. But Sunday was scorching hot (at least by Pacific NW standards) and temperatures soared into the mid-90s, so we sought refuge from the heat at the theater.

The thing about going to the movies is, it isn’t cheap. By the time you buy tickets and popcorn and a Diet Coke, you’ve spent a small fortune on the cinema experience (Well, except for that one time that my friend Kristy and I sneaked in boxes of candy we’d gotten from Fred Meyer and chicken sandwiches off the Jack in the Box value menu. That time wasn’t all that expensive). If I’m paying good money to watch a movie, I want it to be in a nice, quiet theater with no interruptions from fellow audience members.

The previews were finishing up and the lights were dimming for the beginning of the movie when a man walked into the theater, wheeling a stroller. “Oh, no,” I muttered to Paul. A stroller-sized child was NOT old enough for this sort of movie. The man parked the stroller by a handicap chair and walked back out of the theater.

“It’s ok,” Paul whispered back sarcastically. “He was just leaving the kid here.”

I wondered at this for a moment, and then the man returned, leading a little girl by the hand. She was probably three or four. AWESOME. I was already getting cranky. I don’t hate kids, but I do hate adults who don’t know what venues and situations are and are not appropriate for their small children. Kids that age were not going to appreciate the movie. They weren’t going to understand anything beyond that there was Batman, and bad guys. The plot and goings on were going to sail right over their heads.

Just when I thought I couldn’t get any more horrified, Parent of the Year plunked the older of his two small children in the seat next to me and took the seat at the end of our aisle, holding the smaller child on his lap. I was not about to spend thirty bucks to be irritated for two hours and forty-four minutes. Knowing I was being rude, I leaned over and said to the man, “Could you please not sit there?”

“Why?” he asked, clearly surprised

I should’ve lied and said I was saving the seats. That our friends had those seats and would be right back, or not, or whatever. But instead I was honest and gestured to his children and said, “Because your kids will be loud.” I’m sure I offended him, but I didn’t care. He faced the screen, not bothering to reply to my request to sit somewhere else. I kicked myself for not lying about my reasons. Damn truth gets you nowhere.

The movie started, and I sat back in my chair and munched some popcorn. I’d been upsold to the gigantic tub size for a few cents more, so we had plenty and I decided that for every sound those kids made, I was throwing a piece at Parent of the Year.

I needn’t have worried, though. Within five minutes, the older kid was asking questions and making little squealing noises, and Parent of the Year grudgingly gathered up his children and headed out of the theater. Victory! I was a little surprised he gave up that easily though, and began wondering if he’d even bought tickets for this movie or if he’d just ducked into the theater. Either way, I was glad to see him go, both for my own benefit and for the benefit of the little girls that were now spared Bane nightmares. The rest of the movie was excellent and I was able to view it sans distractions.

Parents, come on. Little kids don’t belong at violent PG-13 movies. They belong in the next theater over watching Ice Age. I’m fine with the interruptions that come with being in a place where children are expected to be, like fast food restaurants, parks, these types of places. But when I go to see a movie that is not meant for kids, I expect that there will not be kids. I am childless for good reasons, one of which is that I like being able to decide on a whim to go see a movie on a Sunday afternoon without having to arrange a babysitter or pick something child-appropriate. To those who made a decision to be a parent, BE ONE. Accept that by choosing to have children, you’re going to have to sacrifice some things for awhile. I urge you to make these sacrifices. If you can’t do it for your kids, do it because if you don’t, the childless people in movie theaters are going to throw food at you.