Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shrewd Receptionist, That's Me.

In the last year or so, my workspace has moved from a cubicle in the back to the lobby in the front of the building, where in addition to my normal job, I answer phones and sign for incoming packages.

We're located in an industrial area of the community, so we get a lot of lost stragglers. When you enter our workplace, you will initially encounter no one. Make a left-hand turn towards the room with the light, (you know, where someone might be sitting) and you'll find me.

I usually hear delivery trucks pull up, or recognize the boss's signature slam, and have a general idea of who is coming or going. If an unexpected slam occurs, I'm out of my chair to see who's here. There's sort of a loop through the building, and I can end up following someone in circles if they buzz out of my sight before I get to the door. Right or left, which way did they go, George, which way did they go?

What amazes me is the number of people that have absolutely no qualms about entering the building and, instead of peeking their head through a doorway to look for a body, they just commence to yelling. "HELLO! HELLO IS ANYONE IN HERE? YOO HOOOOOOO!!! I'll be busy trying to track them down in circles, while alarmed folks from our second building come running to see what the commotion's about.
I'll catch up to said strangers to have them ask me: Is this "Acme Dynamite Company at 123 Main Street?" There's a giant mailbox in the driveway that reads Zenith Anvil Company, 456 Main Street. There is also a large sign on the door that you just waltzed into, that informs you that this is the Zenith Anvil Company. Does this freakin' look like a dynamite company to you? And stop that screaming right now.*

I direct them down the street to the dynamite company, whereupon many will ask me where they should park and which door they should go in. How the hell should I know? Seriously, if you can't figure that much out on your own, chances are your application is going to end up in a circular file, and you might as well head back home.

Ok, I'm really not that rude, I just practice keeping my guard up to deal with the telesales folks. I was pretty lousy at weeding them out when I first started phones. I don't like grilling people.

Turns out I don't like the evil eye from my boss even more, so I've developed a few personal rules of thumb:

1. If you cannot pronounce my boss's name, "BZZZZZzzt!"  you're not getting through. It's a "foreign" name, but it's an easy foreign name. If you can't sound out 2 little syllables without completely butchering them, my telephone starts sizzling and popping, and sirens go off, which, I'm sorry, means I have to hang up on you now.

2. Asking "Can I talk to the person in charge of ________?" will get you nowhere. If you don't know who you want to talk to, then you don't get to talk to them. I have thus far resisted asking, "and who might that be?"

3. If you do manage to get someone's name right, you have to pass another test: The "Can I Tell Him/Her Who's Calling?" Test. If you respond "daaauhhh, this is Bob."

     3.A. We're still not done, Bob. I didn't catch your last name? "Smith."

     3.B. And which company are you with, Bob Smith? "Coyote, Inc."

     3.C. Ok, Bob, one minute please.

          3.c.i. Place Bob on Hold.

           3.c.ii Go get a glass of water.

          3.c.iii. Return to phone, and choose Bob's line. "Bob, I'm sorry, but Jane isn't in her office right now; can I take your number and have her call you back?" Click. Bob hung up on me. How rude.

4. There are times when I'm not quite sure; I'll answer the phone oh-so-politely, "Zenith Anvil Company," and a friendly voice will rise up: "Hey, is [Boss's name, spot-on] around?" Hm. Sounds casual; this could be legit. Or is he too casual? It could be a trap! What do I do?

I lie like a rug. "Oh, he just stepped out; can I have him call you back in a few minutes?" A "no thank you, I'll call back another time" means I just thwarted a sneaky saleperson, and thus did not irritate any bosses or coworkers. Yay me.

If the callers hands over their first and last name, along with phone number, a Christmas miracle occurs: "Oh, you're in luck; he just walked in! I'll let him know you're on the line." Yay me again.

I don't always win. I don't catch a last name and slink into boss' office asking "Do you want to talk to John Flibberdy-Flabberdy of JingleHeimerSchmidt? He sounds like he knows you." I've hung up on a Rabbi, asked one woman, "Oh, is this Jane's Mother?" [it was not], and gotten snapped at by irritated callers that don't want to have to put up with me.

Only once has a salesperson ever called me back and called me to the carpet for hanging up on him. I put him through and the boss hung up on him. No yay me.

See, tele-sales people, don't get your panties in a wad. I know you're doing your job, but I am also doing mine. Here's how you have to look at it. Remember the Warner Bros. cartoon with Ralph and Sam? Ralph is the coyote, and Sam is the sheepdog, and they're both punching in to work in the morning? And then Ralph commences to trying to steal the sheep, while Sam spends the day thwarting him, until it's quittin' time. They cordially clock out and bid one another adieu at the end of the night.

It's just like that, see? I'm Sam, and you're Ralph.

See ya tomorrow, Ralph.

*The names of all companies have been changed to protect the innocent, and, generally, CMA for blogging about the workplace. If anyone asks, this particular blog was written by a guest blogger. That's the ticket.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vision Decision

After wearing a pair of contacts meant to be disposed after a months' wear since last September, I finally went to see a new eye doctor yesterday. Man, those guys do NOT like to hear that you've been putting things 7-months expired into your eyes.

Also, speaking from experience, mums the word that you periodically put your contact lens case in the dishwasher. That little detail almost gave my last eye doctor a full-body seizure. What is the big deal—if I can eat out of it, why can't I put it in my eye?

Never mind that. Here's my situation: I wear contact lenses, coupled with generic reading glasses for (duh) reading. Without corrective lenses, my vision is almost nonexistent. For instance, while you might see this:

Without glasses or contacts, this is my view:

I'll drive! Hey! Want me to drive?
You guys can drink all night, I'll be the driver!

Throw in this wonderful thing we call aging, and correcting my vision is a challenge for every doctor. I had a great experience yesterday, but I still had to walk away with these contact lens options:

1) Distance vision will be great, but reading glasses absolutely imperative.

2) Distance good, but a little fuzzy, some reading possible without further correction, but reading glasses necessary for flat-out reading, a book, computer use, etc.

My eyes were previously corrected to the #2 choice. 

I chose, however, a trial run on Option #1. When I look out the window or down the road, it's as if I have binoculars for eyes! I am the bionic woman, scanning street signs and tree buds. I can read the rolling credits! I can see a bird's toenails when it flies overhead! It's amazing!

However. What I thought I could live without seeing yesterday afternoon has become apparent immediately. Needed to call the doctor back. Cannot read his business card. Order dinner. Cannot see menu. Phone is ringing. Cannot read caller ID. Need to make phone call. Cannot see numbers. Read magazine while drying hair? Fuhgeddabout it. Blog? Can't see monitor.

It looks like I will be carrying reading glasses with me everywhere now, and wearing them a lot more often. I've got a couple of weeks to figure out which is the lesser of my 2 evil choices.*

What would you do?

*I do also have a pair of "real" glasses for wearing all the time, but that's definitely not my full-time choice right now. Fogging up in cold or humid weather, switching to Rx sun glasses and back, I've done it before, and I'll do it again someday. When I have to.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Minute in the Life, again

I've been working on a few other posts, but just hit a wall when I went to upload video to Blogger. Does anyone know what happened to the little "filmstrip" button? Or, at least, what happened to mine? It's gone, no matter how much the Help menu tells me it's right there. It's not! That means uploading to YouTube first, and my carriage will be turning into a pumpkin soon, so I'll have to finish that up later.

In the meantime, Saturday's photos from around the world are really shaping up at A Minute in the Life. We had so much fun, once again, waiting for that one minute to roll around. I e-mailed Brian when I woke up reminding him to grab a 9:00 photo if he could. I was at lunch with Mom and Tim, and Clint was at work. We were buzzing all morning with reminder texts.

Here's a sneak peek at my photos. I was standing in a doorway between the restaurant and the kitchen.

You'll have to go to the website to see everyone else's; I don't want to give them all away! It's been really fun to watch the photos go up. I know so many people that participated; I'm loving finding out who played, where they were, and what they submitted. I love pouring over any photos, and I think all of the submissions are fascinating. I imagine each photo, and each turn, determining the exact spots of each photographer.

Go check it out!

If you participated but haven't sent your photos in, there's still plenty of time. Mr. Locraft is uploading each days' submissions as they roll in, and hasn't closed up shop yet! 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Minute In The Life: Take 2

3 years ago Clint and I and several other friends participated in a project called A Minute In The Life, a project dreamed up by one Mr. Martin Locraft. He could tell it better, I'm sure, but he had this ingenius idea to see how many people he could get to submit a photo taken in the very same minute across the world. 2:00 Eastern Time, U.S.A.

One idea, lots of "spread the word," and he pulled it off, baby. The 2007 photos were compiled on a website, and eventually, with permission of anyone that submitted a photo, into a book. I ordered a copy for one of Clint's Christmas presents.

Play along with us for Volume II, won't you?

Wherever you are in the world
at 2:00 P.M.  Eastern time
Saturday, March 20, 2010

(1) Take a photo of where you are, what you're doing, what you see.
Don't set it up, just set your alarm and snap the shot.
(2) Turn completely around and take another photo of what's behind you.
(3) Send your photos to aminuteinthelife@gmail.com

Then check out the website, to see what the rest of the world was doing the very minute that you took yours.

I have a lot of friends placed around this country and around this world, and I'm already fascinated, wondering about the possible submissions: Hollywood, New York City, England, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Australia. Bring it, friends!

Keep in mind that this is the same MINUTE for everyone in the world, so 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, will be 1:00 for us midwesterners, and 11:00 a.m. for California folk. Brian & Co. in Iraq will have to take theirs at 9:00 p.m. There's a time zone converter here and at the AMITL website.

I hope you play along.

A sidenote on the last project: I didn't realize at the time how sentimental this one would turn out to be for me. It was a bit of fun, that's all.

Looking back, though...I'd just started communicating with Clint, and we were friends, but by no means yet an "item." I was, on that particular day, driving my Mom to St. Louis, to visit my sister at Barnes Hospital, after surgery. She had just found out that her cancer had returned, and this was the first surgical attempt to remove it.

I met Tim and the kids at their hotel, with a cooler full of lunch-type foods and snacks to hold them over during down-time. The photo of this hotel maid (right) was the one I ended up submitting:

While I ran outside for my shot, niece Brandi grabbed this one, on the left:

She's in the mirror; there's the cooler full of deli meats and salad we brought along.

And Clint, at home, on duty, and sending me text messages to look for a blond in a black car that might be his daughter that I had not yet met, played along also:

These photos, they are not spectacular. They are not creative, or poised. They are one minute in our lives, and one I most certainly wouldn't have remembered, if not for this project.

Game on, people. Who's with me?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sephora-moric Ramblings

Diane and I made a couple trips to the Chicago area last month, and had to make a Sephora pitstop during one of them. Acres and acres of makeup, a girly-girl's dream!

While I browsed, she approached a gorgeous employee and asked her about her eye-shadow technique. (I've named said employee "Jasmine," because I think she could play her in Disney's Aladdin.) Jasmine began explaining the technique, and Diane finally decided she needed a demonstration to fully understand. She dragged me over and put me in the chair. Of course! If her own eyes were closed for the demonstration, how could she see how to do it?

For Diane, I let Jasmine have her way with my eyelids. Here's Jasmine, and the effect we were after:

And here are my eyes, all done up, just like hers:

Uncanny, huh?  It's like we're twins.

Diane took her turn in the chair then, and I snuck off to find makeup remover; the near-black was a little too intense for a pasty-skinned midwestern girl like myself.

The eyeshadow was a bust, but she did help me pick out a good foundation. It's called Make Up Forever, and it's High Definition! Jasmine explained to me that this makeup would make my skin appear so flawless that any photos or videos that I should happen to appear in would not have to be professionally touched up. As if that would be of major concern to me. My personal "touch-up" system, when faced with a lousy photo of myself or anyone else is to delete that sucker off of the camera and pretend it never happened. Duh. That's just good manners

While the sales pitch didn't do much for me, the makeup itself did, and I bought it for one-hundred-million dollars. I do love it. I also bought an expensive foundation brush just because Diane bought one, and I had to copy. This after I've lectured for years that most "makeup" brushes can be purchased for a fraction of the price at any art store. Sephora is the devil, and Sephora made me do it.

Also, Sephora is coming to Champaign! After years of hitting up Chicago or St. Louis or resorting to online shopping, we'll finally have a great skin-care/cosmetic place in this burg!

Lord, I'm going to end up in the poorhouse.

Upside: Any photos take of me while I'm in said poorhouse will not have to be touched up.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On the tail of the last post...

Click to enlarge.

Diane took this picture of us while Brian was home. I love it not only because it's so lovey...but look at the TV in the left corner.

Isn't that funny?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

(1) Line in the Sand (2) Let the Yappin begin

I seem to be in a bit of a blogging funk lately. As is always, it's never for lack of fodder; I wander around composing blogs in my head all day long. I think what stops me in my tracks is that I feel a need to really "say" something when I sit down. Funny, I peek at posts from 4-5 years ago. They are full of carefree rambling and chicken suits, and I rarely felt compelled to make a point. What happened?

Life has just become seriouser and seriouser in the last couple of years. I think that sometimes when we steel ourselves to weather hard times, we become worriers, grievers, carriers of burden. When the light begins to shine again we are timid about shaking that yoke off of our shoulders. If we're lucky, it hits us sooner rather than later that we can set that fucker down, and skip down the road for awhile, with our piggytails flying.

There I go again.

Ok, I'm drawing a line in the sand:

I'm over here now, and I'm returning to my blogging roots: I'm going to get back to yappin at'cha, as if you'd pulled up a chair at my sidewalk cafe table.

I'm behind on my kid yappin! We had a great time when Brian was home on leave. It's always great when he's here, but I think it was extra good for all of us to have him home at this time. There have been some tough times for this one lately. There's been some petty internet mudslinging at him and this family that he can't defend from Iraq, and it was very very good for him to come home and see firsthand that everyone he cares about still supports and believes in him.

I was happy to have him home just so that he would know firsthand what I've been assuring him: Anyone that knows him and knows us, knows better.  Rise above it, end of story.

So, I'm proud of that kid. In his 15 days home, he made a lot of time for a lot of family when a lot of friends were tugging at his shirt to see him also.

This photo was taken at dinner the night before we took him back to O'Hare. It captures their relationship so honestly that it takes my breath away. In this one, she is showing him his baby picture—for approximately the 4th time, starting the story anew each time: "This is YOU!"

I've sat through plenty of young people rolling their eyes at Mom, and I'm always stupid-proud that Brian treats her with the respect that he does. He looks her in the eye and talks with her each time about the photo as if it's the first time he's seen it. He would never hurt her feelings. I guess it doesn't matter how old they get: when you witness them heeding values that you hoped to bring up in them, it always feels good.

Diane joined me to take him back to O'Hare. We were startled when we walked in to the airport and  a security guard whisked him to check his bag, opening up the line, while we stood in place. I am sure we had forlorn "this is it" looks on our faces, but the guard turned to us then, and said "are you with him? Get over there and get security passes."

They took our drivers' licenses and gave us VIP passes all the way to the gate!

There was one more line with about 100 people serpentining through it, before going through security. We followed Brian to the end, when we heard "SIR? Over here, sir." She held up the line and checked us through. It took a couple of minutes, and I stood behind him watching the responses of the people he was move in front of. I made eye contact with one lady almost to the front, and she smiled so knowingly to me that a tear rolled down my cheek before I had time to stop it.

Moving back to the boarding area, this gentlemen rushed his 2 sons over, and thanked Brian for his service. His 2 boys stepped up then and shook his hand and thanked him also. It's another hold-your-breath moment, from a parent's viewpoint. Whew.

We were blessed with a couple of extra hours with Brian before he flew off to Atlanta for the night. Putting your kid on a plane back to school or back to, say, his job at an army base in the United States is just different than putting your kid back on a plane to Iraq. It suuuuuucks.

Di and I took off and drowned our sorrows in the streets of Chicago before going home, and Brian...well...Brian went to Atlanta for one night, and took off traveling around the world the next day, landing in Kuwait, trying to get a flight out of Baghdad. He checked his bags and waited...for 7 DAYS for a plane. Sand storms in Kuwait, then in Baghdad kept them grounded, while more soldiers managed to arrive and fill the place up, and somehow grab seats on the next plane while he sat. Apparently they call your name...or not. And there's no complaining to the management.

He filled his time by moving from tent to tent sleeping where he knew people would stir and wake him up so as not to miss the next roll call, and by renting internet time at $5/hr, and hoping there would be someone online to chat with. I talked to him almost as much during his Kuwait time as I did while he was home.

This concludes today's yapping, but there will be plenty more. I have photos, videos, and stories aplenty to tell you.

Rest assured, it will all be pointless.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Impromptu Family Haiku: Soldier v. Mother

***This post is Rated R, and will earn my blog an adult rating, because there are some bad words in it.***

Brian is back in Iraq. Blessedly quiet for a soldier's mother, Brian's facebook updates reflect a bit of boredom. I am nothing, if not a problem solver, yes? He popped in on chat today, and I gave him an assignment: A Haiku. Subject of my choosing, he could assign one to me, and we'd get back to one another.

I underestimated our Haiku Prowess; we each returned in a matter of minutes, and re-assigned new topics. Here, for your reading pleasure, is our 30-minute Haiku Standoff

Topic to Lori: "Kitchen"

Beautiful kitchen
Although Clint did all the work
It's really all mine.

(heh heh, just kidding, baby)

Topic to Brian: Southern Comfort

What happened last night?
Southern comfort is my crutch.
I remember zip.

Topic to Lori: ["Interesting" neighbor from the past]

Threads of saliva
Connect top lip to bottom
My crazy neighbor

Topic to Brian: Blisters

My feet, so fucked up
These goddamn tan army boots
Blisters. Fuck my life.

Topic to Lori: [Female with boorish personality; it's not you]

You may not notice
There are others in the room
Shut the hell up, bitch

(Mean, but oh how we laughed.)

Topic to Brian: Kyle's puppies

2 tiny lions
Kyle's one and only true love
Bella and Butter

Topic to Lori: Painting

Put it off too long
Canvas, brush, paint, and my heart
Dreams must be fulfilled.

Topic to Brian: The stinkbug that recently crawled out of his Caesar salad at chow hall

What is this creature
Here, not to make me happy
No longer want lunch

Topic to Lori: Deer

Bambi and mama
Strolling by kitchen window
Yum yum! Venison!

Topic to Brian: Sand

This crunch in my mouth
This burning in my eyeballs
Wait up guys, can't see

I hope you've enjoyed this prolific installment of Impromptu Family Haiku. Brian and I took our leave with assignments for one another: my assigned topic is "wine," and  his is "commando."

Feel free to submit a haiku on either topic, or to support our troops by suggesting a topic.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Polar Plungers

Team TFT: Sue, Diane, Lori, Sarah, Dustin, Lizzy, Yvonne

We did it! Last Saturday, we joined about 400 other fun-loving individuals for the Polar Plunge fundraiser for Special Olympics. We ended up with 7 people on our team, and raised over $1000 for the cause, bringing along cash and checks to add to your online contributions. Thanks to everyone that sponsored us for the event.

It was a balmy 30 degrees on Saturday, and, unfortunately for us, especially those of us at the end of the jumping queue, breeeeezy. See all of these people? Yeah, we were so behind them in line that we could wander around and take their photos.

In all, we wandered around in shorts and tights for about 90  minutes before we were called to jump. Plenty of time to watch the freezing jumpers before us, to heighten our anxiety and fear, and to lose any shred of body heat we'd stored up for the occasion.

We were finally put "on deck" to jump before a team named "Ice, Ice Baby." We stood holding hands and shaking and giggling, and then I just remember us moving toward the water, and then we were screaming.
And screaming.

And screaming. I have to note here that jumping into ice water isn't really like jumping into cold water. You know, that "gahhhhh!" feeling when you jump into a cool pool on a hot day? You're freezing and then you acclimate and think the water's lovely! Come on in!

Yeah, it's nothing like that.

It's more like you're moving forward on dry land, and then you have a sudden sensation that you are made of concrete, and then you just lose your mind. Seriously. Sarah, upon seeing the photo above, asked me "what we were doing with our hands in the air?" I had no idea; when we got out, someone us complimented on the little dance we did. We did? We must have. And I haven't cleared with everyone on the team, but several of us don't remember getting out of the water at all. Hm. We must have.

Other than that? Well your feet are so cold that you can't bend your toes to walk, so you tromp up to the changing rooms like Frankenstein. You get into the changing room, which is just one big open room, and you strip down with all of the other naked stripper-downers. Everyone is in shock, and yet so delirious for any dry article of clothing that no one thinks anything about all of this nakedness with strangers. Were we just nude with 60 other nude women? We must have been.

(The changing rooms were gender assigned, people. Don't go signing up for next year just for the changing room experience.)

Anyway, on to your dry clothing that I hope you remembered to bring. You are so cold that a thin dry t-shirt feels like heaven. Once you manage to get the rest covered up, you declare yourself "not even cold!" Wow, That wasn't so bad! I'm not even cold! What a surprise! I thought this would be much worse! Let's do it again next year!

You hug your teammates goodbye, jump in the car, and drive back into town.

Well, that's how it happened with us. Di and I rode together, so we elatedly decided to celebrate the day with a nice bowl of hot soup, even though we were not even cold.

We arrived back in Champaign in 15 minutes, got out of the car....and discovered immediately that our core body temperatures had dropped enough that there was just nothing to warm us once we were back in the wind. Shivering commenced immediately, and I actually ran back to the car for a blanket, and we shared it under the table.

We ordered pho, which consists of a lot of hot, hot broth. It was just what the doctor ordered on the "heat you up" phase of the after-plunge. However, halfway through the soup, Diane and I both suddenly felt like this:

Exhauuuuusted. Team concensus was that everyone was either sleeping or very wishful for a nap Saturday afternoon. (Except for Dustin. He's 18. Enough said.)

Despite a bit of mild hypothermia, and a sleepy Saturday, WE HAD A BLAST at the Polar Plunge, and it was all for such a great cause. I was giddy and laughing all weekend remembering costumes and antics, and, quite honestly, feeling a bit of smug self-righteousness. Ha! I jumped into ice water! So there! (Who's jealous?)

We're already establishing next year's team, and have a few new jumpers. I can hardly wait; I want to compare the experience without the anxiety factor: I wonder if I'll remember more, or be more focused in the next jump, or if I'll just freeze my gourd again, and not remember a thing.

If you want to join our team next year, hit me up. If the idea of hypothermia isn't cranking you, consider this: You'll get a rockin' sweatshirt just for participating. A sweatshirt, people, a badge of crazy honor!

Special thanks to Di's Granddaughter, Kaylin, who at my request, painted up a costume for me, when I was too busy to.

Sign up sheet for next year...well, leave a comment, and I'll add your name to the team!