Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another Day, Another Psychotic Break

At my little hospital, which is the second largest employer in the region, I work with a bunch of people I like, a few I'm ambivalent about one batshit crazy woman. She's the kind of person that you pass with your eyes averted like you would a vicious dog, in case your eye contact looks like a challenge and she has to kill you. Luckily, I think she's finally had one of her psychotic breakdowns in front of enough witnesses to be offered an opportunity to seek employment elsewhere.

A couple of days ago she got lit up about something. She's the kind of person who doesn't have a little outburst and get over it, she has a little outburst and it opens a floodgate to let the madness out. So...she got pissed. Then more pissed. Finally, she was standing in the middle of the lab screaming, "FUCKING BITCH!" and throwing things. The phlebotomists ran for cover, all except one. That one got dragged around the lab by the elbow to witness the source of Batshit's insanity. Finally, after flinging the phones around, chasing the phlebots, storming out of the lab, storming back in for another round, crying hysterically, and threatening suicide...she left. And apparently clocked out so she could come back to the lab, pitch one more fit, and hit someone. That someone happened to be me.

And then she left. For real. And silence descended. And we all looked around at each other and said, "Jesus! What started that?"

So now she's gone, under suspension pending a disciplinary hearing which, please God, ought to result in termination. Although termination with a side of institutionalization is probably a better solution.

So last night was hectic, since we were short a tech, but it was a lot more relaxing, even with the extra work, than is usually is. It's easier to plan your night around extra work than a potential psychotic break.

However, we're sort of halfway expecting her to come back and kill us, so if I were you I'd plan on getting into the class-action lawsuit with the other families. There's no reason not to profit of the suffering of your friends after they're dead, is there?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Evie's Week

I'm halfway through my nine day in a row stretch at work. Everyone in Southern Illinois has chosen this week to drop by the E.R. with sore bellies because they've all eaten so much rich food and washed it down with a river of booze.

We have three dead guys in our morgue that's designed to hold two dead guys, so one is laying on the table waiting for the funeral home to pick him up (Lab is responsible for the morgue after the pathology staff goes home at 3pm.). The one that's cooked to a crisp is, fortunately, tucked away in the cooler. He died in a fiery car crash and he's so badly burned that chunks fall off when you have to move him. There's charred dead-guy ash on the floor. I hope his family doesn't come by to look at him.

And I have a sinus infection and no possibility of taking a day off to indulge it. Oh...and it's raining. And there's still 11 more weeks of winter.

I'm a little burned out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

'Twas the night after Christmas
and all through the house
the gifts were all given
(the cat brought a mouse).

Ev in her labcoat
and I in my jammies
Have now settled down
from our pre-Christmas whammies.

'The stockings,
once hung by the chimney with care
now litter the floor
spilling loot everywhere:

Candy and crayons
and movies to thrill,
Posters to paint on
and scarves for the chill.

The roast beast is devoured,
the wine bottle's dry.
The dishes are washed,
and I wish I'd baked pie.

Now Carrie, now Katie,
Now Grant and the dogs,
Now Rob and the cats
are somewhere sawing logs.

The fire is blazing
and the house has grown still,
so I'm taking a moment
to share some good will.

Fom us here in Nowhere
to you in Wherevever
Here's hoping you all had a day
you can treasure.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Peace and Joy and Work

I'm working tonight, on Christmas Eve. Well, okay..."working" isn't exactly the right term for it. I'm AT work, reading Gore Vidal's 1876 and watching the clock creep towards 10:30, when I can go home. We've got all the kids together except for Robbie, unfortunately. He's working at his own hospital, 2000 miles away.

Which brings me to my main point....

On my way to work today I heard a little teaser on NPR's Talk of the Nation for tomorrow's show. It'll be about which kinds of people are at work doing what kinds of jobs on Christmas. He was inviting people to call in and tell their stories. The host also said he wouldn't be at work tomorrow, but Ari Shapiro would be substituting for him since, presumably, he's not an observer of Christmas.

Unfortunately, I'll be at work on Christmas, as will my only misbegotten son. I work a three year rotation that has me work one of the "big three" winter holidays each year; Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's. I did Thanksgiving last year, Christmas this year, and next year 'll work New Year's.

That's my favorite. I don't celebrate on New Year's Eve (there's a surprise, eh?), so I don't mind working it. If I had a choice I'd gladly work every New Year's if I could get one of the other days off.

But I don't, so tonight I'm cleaning my analyzers, reading a book, and worrying gently about Lori on her long drive to St. Louis and back to pick up her son at the airport. We all have a date to meet at home at 11 tonight for the ceremonial Throwing Out of the First Gift, which we'd done all the kid's lives to settle them down enough to sleep. All the rest of the giftage happens in the morning, per my own mother's rule: you have to stay in bed until the sun comes up. At the very weakest hint of gray sky, my brothers and I would be standing in the hallway outside my parent's bedroom asking, "Mom! Is it light enough yet? Mom?"

Merry Christmas to all of you. If you have a car wreck in Southern Illinois tomorrow tell the nurses in the ER that you have a pal in the lab, and I'll stop in to see you. Otherwise, have a nice Christmas, and save up all the good stories for the blogs on Wednesday, okay?

I'll Try Again...

Either I'm not clear or none of my commenters are listening, so I'm going to try again:

The Santa myth...the story where a jolly fat man lives at the North Pole with elves and makes toys for children all over the world and distributes them in one night on a flying sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer. Remember that one?

Not the spirit of love and joy that comes with the season. Not family togetherness, midnight mass or quiet reflection. The actual Santa myth about the guy in the red suit. When does it end in your minds?

The love of family, obviously continues into adulthood and beyond. The gifts, the food, the decorating, etc. My question is when do you think it's appropriate to stop telling your children that a guy will be delivering presents down the chimneys of all good children in the world.

The Santa myth, like the shopping, has nothing to do with the purported reason for Christmas - to celebrate the birth of Christ. The Santa myth was incorporated into the Christmas story to make it more palatable to European pagans long ago. We still have the food and the gifts and the love and all that crap after the myth goes away.

My original point was this:

When your children start to become aware of the fact that the Santa story doesn't hold guy, the whole earth, one night, flying sleigh, you tell them yeah, it's a myth about love and giving and stuff like that, or do you hunker down and deny, deny, deny.

And if so...when DO you 'fess up? When they're 15? 20? 50?

When is the right time to tell kids it's a myth?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Who You callin' 'Ho'?

Today's holiday humbuggery:

Since I'm not much of a Christmas person, I'm also not much of a Santa person. I never liked trying to maintain that charade for my kids, because eventually they were bound to find out and I worried that they'd wonder what else I'd been lying about. So pretty much by the time they were kindergarten age and they started questioning the Santa myth, I was telling them the truth. They still get one "Santa" present a year, but that's for the sake of tradition more than anything.

Lori and I were talking about the Santa myth. It makes me uncomfortable, like all institutionalized chicanery makes me uncomfortable. She likes it; to her it's a fun holiday tradition, with a meaningless little deception that makes the holiday more fun.

So we decided to put the question out there to you, our friends, family and the strangers who've arrived here by searching for "hot girl-on-girl action"....

How do you feel about the Santa myth? Do you think it's a good thing or a bad thing to delude your children about Santa? And for how long? If you could continue to sell them the lie into their 30's and 40's would you feel justified in doing it?

Don't you think I'd make an excellent pollster? I've managed to purge my question list from anything hinting at my own personal biases and have created a completely objective measurement of who's a bad parent and who isn't.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Hardrock, Coco and Joe ... A Story So Queer!

Ray Raynor, Garfield Goose, Suzy Snowflake ... any of that sound familiar? Anyone? Feral Mom?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Plan

Yesterday we bought a Christmas tree, which means that today I'll have to shop for something to put under that tree. I hate to shop, so I drag my feet right up until the last minute. And now it's the last minute.

But! On the bright side (and you know...I'm all about the bright side), I have a system. I gather the information, consider it, form a strategy, and go! With any luck I can be in and out of the shopping part of town in a couple of hours and be back in my chair, with my cats, books, and red blankie before the trauma has time to fully register.

Which brings me to the question of life strategies in general. Lori and I spent several hours in discussion over the last few days about our approaches to change in our lives. I am notoriously resistant to change. I put together a system that works for me, and then I stick to it. I like to eat chicken with rice for lunch pretty much every day. I like rice, I like chicken...why eat anything else?

Lori would kill herself if she had to eat the same thing day after day.

She asked me last night what I do when confronted with something new, like a gift that I didn't expect.

Pay attention. This can change your life.

First, I leave it out on the counter or on the floor...somewhere that I can look at it and get a sense of it's potential value in my life. If it passes that level of scrutiny, I touch it. If not, it goes into the shed or the closet, where it disappears from my mind forever.

If I touch it and handle it and try it out and it shows potential, I try to use it for a while. If it doesn't work the way I want it to work, once again...the shed or the closet. Finally, if it's not better than the one I already have, then you know...shed or closet.

And through this very careful winnowing strategy I end up surrounded by the optimum things. And once I have the optimum things, there's no reason to get new things...the things I have are, by definition, better than other things.

To me, that strategy makes perfect sense. Why fill up your house and life with things you feel ambivalent about? And why have three or four things you feel ambivalent about? And finally, why give the gift of ambivalence?

We got started down this road because Lori went shopping and came home with a special reading light bulb and a new lampshade for my reading lamp. I'm not denying that I needed a new lampshade (the cats knocked over my lamp and tore the shade, and it was looking like something a homeless person picked out of a dumpster to decorate his cardboard box), but just to be on the safe side, I freaked out anyway. I didn't need a new light bulb, my old light bulb was fine. And yes, I probably needed a new lampshade, but I wanted a chance to think about that for a while before a new lampshade was thrust upon me.

Hello? Doesn't that make sense?

Lori kept telling me, "You know how weird you are, don't you? No one else in the world would be upset by replacing a broken lampshade with a new one."

But it's not the lampshade that bothered me, it's the act of spontaneously replacing something with something else without taking time to consider that change for a while first.

So I think I've managed to convince Lori that I'm not kidding...I want my things to stay the same. I don't want a "new and improved" thing, I don't want to experiment, I just want to eat chicken and rice for lunch, sit in the reading chair under my lamp with my cats, and putter around in my yard. Forever. Everyday. Until I die.

Doesn't that make sense??

What do you do with changes in your life?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We Should Never Be Confronted With These Issues In The Midwest

Last night my Nigerian coworker Thomas brought in Christmas cookies...sort of.

Thomas is a funny guy. He's a handsome middle-aged man with a thick accent and impeccable manners. He's my go-to guy, not only for teching problems, but for etiquette issues. He's also a major clothes horse. He's got more shoes than Imelda Marcos, and I don't think I've ever seen him in the same shirt twice in the two years we've worked together. Chemene tells me that the only time she ever bumps into Thomas outside of the lab, he's at Macy's or Dillard's buying more clothes.

So...Thomas' cookies. They came in a big red tin. After the day shift had all left yesterday, Thomas called me over and said, "I brought cookies!" He was incredibly pleased with himself, and he led me to break room with a big grin on his face. Thomas pulled a chair over to the area where we hang up our coats and reached up high onto the shelf, behind the place where old unclaimed Tupperware goes to die, and pulled out a Dillard's bag. Inside the Dillard's bag was a bright red tin with writing in, I think, Chinese, Arabic, something that looked like maybe Russian, and English. The tin said Biscuits on it and Thomas set it on the table and said, "I hid them so day shift would not eat them. Have as much as you want, just leave me the tin."

So I unwrapped the plastic around it and lifted the lid. The inside of the can had the most peculiar smell. Not bad, just completely unfamiliar. The first cookie I pulled out turned out to be a sandwich cookie of two Ritz crackers with lemon cream between them. Odd, but tasty. The rest, however, were an assortment of sweetened vegetable pastes baked into various permutations with unsweetened wafery things. Even I, a dedicated cookie hound, couldn't eat them.

After my supper break Thomas asked me if I ate some of his cookies, and I said I had. He told me they were his favorites and he was lucky to have found them in Southern Illinois, and asked me if I like them. "Uhhhh...", I said. "Some of them. Some were too exotic for me."

I felt sort of guilty about that. You never know how deeply entrenched your cultural norms are until someone varied them a little. Everyone knows that Christmas cookies should be cinnamon and chocolate and powdered sugar, right?

Well, but...why?

Maybe they should be cardamom and vegetable paste and unsweetened wafers. Maybe Thomas goes home to his Nigerian wife at night and says, "I had the oddest biscuit at work today..."

Every night Thomas eats from the salad bar. I suspect deep-fried okra, deep-fried mushrooms, deep-fried country fried steak with milk gravy and the infamous three-pork Cuban Sandwich, with it's horrid hot pickles...are not his cup of tea. Well, okay...they're not my cup of tea either, but at least they're familiar. It's the hearty Midwestern food that's been feeding farmers for generations, and is now used primarily to accelerate our deaths, thus opening up the job market for the next generation. It's a much more socially palatable eugenics program than lining us up against the wall and shooting us in the head, but not much less effective.

It just occurred to me that every night Thomas eats his salad and longs for...something. Something Nigerian. Something that isn't breaded and deep-fried and served with either ketchup or gravy, or maybe both.

So...once again, my life has been turned upside-down. I was forced to confront my cookie xenophobia head on. Now for the rest of the Christmas season, every time I eat a sugar cookie shaped like a tree or a chocolate-covered pretzel, I'll have to wonder about all the Africans and Chinese and Arabs choking down peanut butter cookies with Hershey Kisses smooshed down into the middle, wishing for a vegetable-paste wafer, and I'll feel some "We Are The World" guilt for our crap-ass desserts.

Does anyone appreciate how exhausting it is to be a liberal?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snow Day

Since this is more snow than Southern Illinois had all last winter, I was excited enough about it to take its picture this morning. It's a good thing I did, because now that the sun is out it's melting fast. By tomorrow it will be mud again. Looks like I'm not going to be able to use this as an excuse to avoid going grocery shopping ... sigh.

This is the view from our front door this morning, since I wasn't willing to actually throw on clothes and shoes and walk outside to take pictures.

Above is the view down our hill at the pretty blue house across the road, and that little lump of stuff next to the tree is our woodpile, buried in snow. There really is wood there, but you can't see it. We had the same problem last night when we needed to bring some in to replenish the fire.
You can't tell from the picture, but this is our raised wooden deck out back. Buried on the deck is another pile of wood and Mrs. Underfoot's cat house. We made her stay inside last night until her screaming and clawing at the door finally drove us crazy at 3:30am and we let her back out. Her theme song really ought to be "Don't Fence Me In."

This is where Cuppy spends her time, rotating like a pig on a spit. She stays in bed until she hears the fireplace screen open and then she makes a beeline for the hearth.

As you can see, if it weren't for the fireplace screen Miss Cup would be IN the fireplace. She'll sit there with her face mushed up against the screen for hours.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm shocked! SHOCKED!

As part of my lukewarm effort to gay up our blog I thought I'd comment on Jodie Foster's shocking news that she's a lesbian. Jodie Foster, lusted after by by a generation of dykes, has avoided the topic like the plague for decades, no doubt to protect...what?

What difference would it have made? I know it's not her job to be a Lesbian Pioneer (although the uniform is sort of jaunty), but I can't ever figure out what keeps women in the closet like that. It's a gay-friendly world, Mike Huckabee notwithstanding...wouldn't the last 15 years have been more pleasant for her and her partner if they hadn't spent it denying one of the most basic parts of their identities?

Anyway...Jodie is out. And all of us who have suspected all along can shout a resounding, "Well, duh!" and get back to the business of living our own out gay lives until the next earth-shattering gay revelation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On the Road Again

It's alive!

The black truck is back from the shop with it's fusible link replaced. "What the hell is a fusible link??" I hear you muttering. We didn't know either, but I have the Internets (sic) at my disposal.

According to Car Care, a fusible link is "a short section of wire that has a smaller diameter than the rest of the circuit. When current flow in the circuit exceeds that of the fusible link, the wire melts and interrupts the circuit." This would account for the puff of smoke coming out from under the hood.

Fusible links are not easy to change like standard fuses. Unlike standard fuses that come in pretty pastel colors and can all be found in a tidy little plastic box, fusible links are hidden in some wiring harness somewhere near the main wiring harness -- or maybe not -- and they may or may not be tagged. So first you have to know you have a fusible link. (This won't be a problem for most of you, since they are now obsolete, but we have an affinity for engines that pre-date onboard computers.) Then you have to find and fuck around with the wiring harness, hunting for a little melted length of small diameter wire which you may or may not be able to differentiate from all the other little wires in there. Then, if you're pretty sure you've found it and you aren't afraid to start hacking away at your electrical system, you can replace it. Speaking only for myself, there's already so much wiring in a car engine that looks suspiciously like someone stuck it on as a quick fix while praying that the electrical tape would hold till they got home that I'm not at all sure I could pick out a melted wire from your standard jury-rigged wire. Car engines are, to me, a confusing mass of greasy things, wires going nowhere and everywhere, nuts and bolts that human beings can't budge and stuff that will rip your hand off if you reach in there.

But I digress. Larry, our favorite mechanic (and champion smart-ass), does know about fusible links and where to find them, so he replaced the offending wire and told us we should never drive the truck to St. Louis. Actually, he said we should never GO to St. Louis -- in any vehicle -- under any circumstances. He says it's a dangerous place and there are people who will rape and rob us. He's right, of course, but at least they give you free coffee and soda while they do it.

So the good news is that we learned another new thing about car engines, and the next time this happens we'll know to hunt around for a little melted wire. The bad news is that fusible links melt because there's a short somewhere else in your electrical system, so if it happens again we've got bigger problems than can be fixed with a pocket knife and some electrical tape.

It's still a damn good truck, and well worth the $308 we paid for it, and if you can't love the vehicle you drive then what's the point? I'm just happy Ev's got her truck back.

And now, back to our previously interrupted Christmas plans. I'm knitting scarves. Who wants one?


Urban Pedestrian? Where the hell are you? Has Ottawa fallen into the sea? Is it even near the sea?

Uh...sorry, all you Canadians. I've got my own states firmly in my head, but I can't remember yours. I think I recall that you call your states something different and carve them up into inappropriately large chunks for your children so they don't have to memorize as many capital cities and that you tend to play hockey more and baseball less. Oh...and talk funny. And wear hats. That's pretty much it though.

So, unless you're floating around in the sea on a hunk of wood singing the Titanic theme song (but please God, don't...even though, if I recall correctly, it was originally sung by an actual Canadian) I can't think of a good reason that your blog would go missing.

Phone home, U.P.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I guess things are better now...the evidence of the weekend's debacle has been swept away, and life is pretty much back to normal. Now I'm pissy about my job and not my screwed up weekend anymore.

My coworker's sister died Friday night. The coworker's wife called the lab and told him, and he pretty much fell apart, as you can imagine. He spun his wheels for a little while, trying to get back on track and concentrate on his work, but he couldn't do it. Eventually he took off his lab coat and said, "I have to go home."

I felt so bad for him. He'd been trying to get vacation time to go see her for the last week and we have a "no vacation between Thanksgiving and New Year" policy, so our boss wouldn't let him go. The irony is he couldn't gt time off to see her when she was alive, but that now that she's dead he can get bereavement leave to visit her body. Small consolation.

So anyway...he was working blood bank and I was in hematology. He finally got up and left, but he was too upset to tell me where he was at, and so I tried to wade in and make sense of the mountain of half-finished work on his bench. I sorted through his notes while I struggled to stay on top of my own stuff. Some of it I successfully dealt with. Some, not so successfully. I failed miserably at some parts, but at least not at the parts that were life or death. But I still got the "you're a moron" e-mail from my boss last night.

I replied with an e-mail telling him I may indeed be a moron, but at least I'm the kind of moron who tries to work two departments when her coworker has a family emergency and walks out in the middle of his shift.

I'll be curious to see his reply.

But really, it just drives home the point that no good deed goes unpunished. Had I left the coworker's mess stacked up in blood bank until the night shift blood banker arrived and/or the E.R. and O.R. docs started freaking out, I would have been off the hook.

I'm pretty sure that's how people learn to hunker down at their jobs and cover their own asses.

Like they say:

There's no "I" in team, but there is an I in "I can't believe I got fucked over for trying to help the team."

It's been a rough couple of days.

Monday, December 10, 2007

If I May

Allow me to tie together the previous two posts. First, the continuation of our saga, or ...

When Good Plans Go Bad

We left our heroines in the frigid cab of a $300 e-Bay pickup truck, stuck in East St. Louis on a cold, drizzly Saturday night. After numerous attempts to start the truck, hoping against hope that the engine was flooded, it became apparent that the smell of gasoline wafting around us was coming from under the truck, nowhere near the engine, and we were going to need rescued. Our only possible rescuer was Ev's ex-husband, who lives a convenient half hour from St. Louis, so we dug around in the truck for a couple of handfuls of change and trudged back across the parking lot to find a pay phone. It was now 3:00am, and since we don't carry anyones phone number with us, we called directory assistance. After spelling his name and the name of his town several times, we were rewarded with a phone number ... and no place to write it ... so Ev jotted it on the back of her left hand. (By the end of the weekend the back of her hand held at least six important phone numbers, most of them belonging to U-Haul establishments, she'd had taken to calling it her Blackberry and Rob had declared his intention to buy her a stylus to poke it with for Christmas.)

We roused Rob from sleep and he offered to come right then and get us. In hindsight that would have been our best choice, but we chose to get a room instead, and told him to meet us in the hotel lobby at 8:00am to see about getting the truck running.

That's when we were confronted by the first in what was to be a long, long line of unhelpful people offering some of the worst customer service imaginable. The desk clerk said she'd be happy to accommodate us if we could wait an hour and a half until she'd finished her 5am room audit, then IF she discovered a vacant room it would only cost us $77 for the privilege of staying there for three hours. In the meantime, they had no coffee shop or restaurant, but she was kind enough to tell us there were vending machines, but only for the use of registered guests. That was helpful.

We figured it was going to cost us another hundred bucks either way, and they offer free coffee and sodas in the casino, so we slogged back through the rain to enjoy their hospitality for a few more hours. Unfortunately, Illinois casinos have a weird practice of closing for two hours to clean, so at 6am we were driven back out into the sleet to huddle in the truck wrapped in all the jackets, gloves and scarves we had and try to sleep.

You can't sleep in a freezing truck. You can doze a little, but your feet turn to blocks of ice and the pounding rain on the metal roof keeps waking you up. Eventually, the miracle of sunrise occurred, and we waded through the puddles to the hotel lobby to await our rescue. True to form, Rob arrived exactly on time, jovial and well rested with hugs all around, ready to take on whatever challenges would present themselves. The poor man had no idea what the next eight hours would hold.

After a perfunctory attempt to get the truck running, it was decided that the truck needed to be towed home. "Not a problem!" says the ever-optimistic Rob. He was planning to come to our house on Sunday anyway, to bring Carrie a table and chairs, so he called his girlfriend and changed the plans somewhat. Now he'd need to borrow her SUV, rent a car dolly, load the truck on it, and then head to Southern Illinois. We piled into his warm, comfy car to drive 30 minutes back to where he'd just come from, spent another half hour admiring his girlfriend's house remodeling (and lusting after her meticulous tidiness) and drove off in her brand new 2007 Ford Explorer to get the car dolly. Piece of cake.

The first U-Haul we stopped at was pleased to assure us that they did, indeed, have a car dolly. Yay! However, it was presently on a one-way rental to South Carolina. Excuse me, but if your car dolly is on it's way to South Carolina without plans to return, then YOU DON'T HAVE ONE.

Rob called the regional office of U-Haul and they told him there was one in Granite City, north of St. Louis. He called Granite City. They had no car dolly. That's okay, Rob knew there was another U-Haul in Belleville, so he headed there. On our second cirle around Belleville without seeing a U-Haul I suggested that we take the pussy way out and find a phone book.

There is no U-Haul franchise in Belleville. There are U-Haul franchises in St. Louis. Rob called several of them and found one that had a car dolly on the lot, not going to South Carolina. They'd hold it for us. Forty-five minutes later we pulled into Nosser U-Haul on Gravois just in time to watch Nosser finish the process of renting it to someone else. His excuse was that "corporate" told him he had to, and that reservations made through corporate supersede reservations made by the franchise. "That's odd," I said, "because the other two times we've had equipment rented out from under us our reservations were made through corporate, paid in advance, and superseded by the jack-offs in the franchise." I don't really believe Nosser got superseded by corporate. I could tell by looking at the unbelievable filthiness of his establishment that Nosser had about as much use for corporate policy as he did for cleaning supplies. I believe he's a "buck in the hand trumps a reservation" kind of guy, and we were five minutes too late. Still, Nosser wanted to be helpful since he'd just fucked us over, so he called several other franchises in St. Louis and found us an alternative. Not a car dolly, but a car HAULER, which would bump the price up from $69 to $129, but it was now going on noon and we were getting desperate.

The car hauler was across St. Louis, but Rob was still cheerful and we were still laughing, so Yay! We found the U-Haul place, paid the ransom, signed the contract, backed the Explorer up to the car hauler and that's when the shit hit the fan for real.

Enter: The Prick. The Prick is a tight-assed Missourian about 25 years old and full of Corporate Pride under his jaunty U-Haul knit hat and Store Manager badge. He sprints across the parking lot to inform us that we can't hook that car hauler, or any other piece of equipment owned by U-Haul, to a Ford Explorer under ANY circumstances. It's a "safety issue" because Explorers tend to roll over when pulling U-Haul equipment. Rob, a professional OTR truck driver, assures The Prick that he isn't going to roll his girlfriend's new SUV. The Prick refuses on the grounds that he'll lose his crap-ass job. Ev demands to see the policy in writing. The Prick goes back to the office and sanctimoniously pounds on his computer to pull up the policy that states his position. Except that it's not a safety issue. It's a liability issue, and the issue is that Ford and U-Haul have been suing and counter-suing the pants off each other for years trying valiantly to place the blame for Explorer/U-Haul roll-overs. So, despite the fact that EVERY SINGLE VEHICLE U-haul rents is made by Ford, the Explorer is auto-non-grata and its use will not be tolerated. At the bottom of the policy is a little script for U-Haul employees to use, which goes like this:

"What can I do to overcome this issue, accommodate your needs and make your move easier?"

Ev stepped back around to the customer side of the desk and said, "I'm going to give you an opportunity to overcome this issue and accommodate my needs. What are you going to do?" The Prick was taken aback and reiterated what he couldn't do, which was rent us the frigging car hauler. I told him we couldn't sleep in the truck and we had to get it, and ourselves, home, and asked him how he would suggest we do that. He suggested a tow truck. We explained that we live 150 miles from St. Louis. The Prick came up with an accommodating offer to rent us a moving van AND a car hauler at the discounted price of $190 plus tax. I lost it. I asked him if he seriously believed that it was "safer" to put a sleep-deprived driver behind the wheel of a notoriously crappy U-Haul truck towing a car hauler 150 miles through sleet than it was to put the car hauler behind a brand new non-crappy Ford Explorer driven by a well-rested professional driver. He chose not to take the opportunity to demonstrate anything resembling common sense, and clung to the corporate policy with Prickish tenacity. We agreed to pay the increased ransom and while we were waiting for The Prick to dot all his "i's" and cross all his "t's" Ev said to me, "My real hope is that all the Ford executives pile into an Explorer and drive it as fast as they can through the front window of the U-Haul corporate office -- and everyone dies."

The Prick was offended. He told Ev she was "upsetting" him by "dissing his company" right in front of him, and that was no way to act when he was trying to help us out and giving us that spiffy discounted price. I muttered that if they didn't have a corporate-wide bad habit of giving away reserved equipment, and/or we'd been five minutes faster, we wouldn't need his god-damned discount or his crappy truck because we'd be halfway back to Southern Illinois dragging Nosser's $69 car dolly behind the Explorer. Nosser wouldn't have cared if we'd hitched the fucker to a blind three-legged mule if we got there first and had money.

The Prick was dangerously close to invoking the right to refuse service to anyone, so we shut up and signed his paperwork. A mere half hour, and three wiring harnesses later, we drove out of The Prick's lot in a 24-foot moving van that ran like shit, dragging a two-ton car hauler, and followed our now spare driver and vehicle through the narrow streets of St. Louis, across the river and back to the dead e-Bay truck. Our next problem was one of physics. It's impossible for two people to push a ton of dead pickup truck across a parking lot and then apply the amount of force necessary to overcome inertia and shove it up two narrow ramps onto a car hauler while the third one steers, especially when they're cold, wet and hungry and two of them haven't slept in 36 hours. If you add two young, beefy, well-rested casino security guards, however, you can get it done.

We drove BACK to Rob's girlfriend's house, gave her back her vehicle and regaled her with the story. Since it was already 4:00 and we had a U-Haul we decided to load it up with Carrie's table and chairs and let Rob and his girlfriend salvage what was left of their day. At this point we felt like we'd survived the ordeal, so we had a good long laugh and agreed that if we were going to have a disaster, these were exactly the people we'd want to have one with. Ev makes light of the situation and keeps going. I keep putting one foot in front of the other. Rob keeps a cool head, makes jokes and acts like there's nothing in the world he'd rather be doing. We all make suggestions and we all listen to each other. No one has to be in charge. It's like a companionable scavenger hunt and we remind each other what a great story this is going to be. Disasters just reinforce all the reasons we love the stuffing out of each other.

After we loaded up the furniture and the beer, made a few jokes about Rob being hung like a yeast, hugged everyone and got on the highway, the full impact of the past 24 hours hit us like a ton of bricks. We were starving. We were so dead dog tired we couldn't keep our eyes open. We tried to keep talking to each other to stay awake but we sounded like drunks, slurring our words and not making much sense. As hard as I tried, I caught myself over and over again, snapping awake and realizing I'd stopped answering Ev and she'd stopped talking, and looking over just in time to tell her to wake up and open her eyes. We were deadly and had no business doing this, but there was no choice but to keep going. By now it was pitch dark, still pouring rain, and it must have been at least 10:00pm. I looked at my watch and it was 5:30.

We stopped about an hour from home, desperate to wake up and get something to eat, but when our food arrived we both took a few bites, felt queasy, and pushed it around our plates too tired to eat it. Back into the truck with our take-out box.

When we got within a half hour of home we got an exhilarated second wind and spent the rest of the drive congratulating ourselves on still being alive, being such hardy and intrepid problem solvers and having such excellent taste in partners. We parked the truck at the bottom of the hill on the least mushy part of our water-logged acreage, carried the two cases of beer into Carrie's house so they wouldn't freeze and dragged our sore, cold, wet, hungry, exhausted, sorry middle-aged asses up the hill to our fireplace, our worried kids, our cats, our bathtub and our warm, comfortable bed.

And that's how it all would have ended if the whole mother-fucking assembly hadn't sunk up to its axles in the mud overnight. Which brings us to:

Fuckity Fuckety Fuck Fuck Fuck

After Ev wrote her last post this morning she called me at work to tell me she'd hit the wall. I sent her to work, finished up what I needed to get done and came home early. I called U-Haul's roadside assistance hotline and told them our tale of woe. They told me that once we pulled it into our driveway we became responsible for it, and roadside assistance wouldn't assist us. We'd have to tow it or pay to keep it until the ground dried enough to drive it out. I asked where they were located and they said, "Arizona."

"Well, let me tell you about Southern Illinois," I said. "There are no paved driveways here. There are dirt roads, and it's been raining steadily for a week, 24 hours a day, so those dirt roads are mud. We didn't need this much truck, we didn't want this much truck and we had no place to put this much truck BUT in the mud. Would you rather we'd left it on the two-lane highway in front of our house??" I gave up on the roadside assistance people and called the local U-Haul franchise, thinking that fellow Southern Illinoisans would understand the problem the Arizonans couldn't. Boy, was I wrong. The Prick in Training parroted back the corporate policy that it was our responsibility and if we chose to wait until the ground dried they'd charge us for the extra time we kept it.

Larry, our favorite mechanic, sent a tow truck to pull the U-Haul and car hauler out of the mud for free. The friendly tow truck driver had the whole mess pulled out in about 15 minutes, I drove it to Larry's shop and dropped off the Ranger, then had Katie follow me in my car to return the U-Haul to the Carbondale franchise. I wasn't on the contract and I didn't take it with me, which inconvenienced the young man behind the counter. I gave him the contract number, which I had on the note in my pocket with their roadside assistance number, and at the first hint of assholery I told him to pretend he'd found the god-damned truck in the parking lot and the key in the drop-box, and I left. On the way home I narrowly missed hitting a deer.

For boring middle-aged women who live in quiet, uneventful rural Southern Illinois we have entirely too much excitement in our lives.

Fuckety Fuckety Fuck Fuck Fuck.

I think it carries a degree of urgency if you call someone and threaten to kill yourself. I wonder if it loses it's impact if you do it on your blog? I more fucking thing and I'll do it.

I'm tired. I'm cold, I'm angry, I'm hungry, I'm muddy, the cats have escaped out the back door for the second time today and I'm fighting the impulse to shoot them on the porch. If it weren't so fucking cold out there, I'd put the goddamned U-Haul in gear and stick my head under the goddamned tire. Goddamn it.

However, it would be a dramatic gesture but not a deadly one, since the fucking thing is mired in mud up to it's fucking axles.

Go ahead. Anyone. I dare you. Say one fucking thing to piss me off.

We used to have a cat that, when she got pissed off, would run around the house looking for the dog so she could beat the holy hell out of it. She wasn't necessarily mad at the dog but it felt so good to hit it and watch it scream and cower that the dog was where she'd go to resolve her anger. She was a dog-seeking missile under pressure.

U-Haul...I'm coming after you.

By the way...I'm almost positive that I now hold the record for saying "fucking bastards" the most time in a single hour. Fucking U-haul bastards and their fucking tight-assed Missouri employees. If I decide to live through this day, I'm going to to rent one of their hideously overpriced fucking trucks and drive it through the front door of the U-Fucking-Haul corporate-fucking-headquarters.

Fucking bastards.

The Plan, and How Plans Can Go Awry

The Plan:

To go to St Louis Saturday for some Christmas shopping, bulk beer buying, and eating, and then spend Sunday picking out a Christmas tree and decorating it with family, friends and newly acquired beer.

The reality: 48 hours without sleep, an overnighter on the streets of East St. Louis, and an endless drive through the backroads of rural Illinoios in a driving thunderstorm, behind the wheel of a U-haul truck.

Remember us? Lori and I are 53 and 44, respectively. We're medical professionals, we're moms, we're well-educated, sedentary, not prone to impulsive behavior. So...I can't figure out why our lives are so odd and frequently look like Hunter S. Thompon Meets The Blues Brothers.

Friday night I went out drankin' with my friend Tracy. It was the first time I'd been in a bar since Lori and I were first dating, and the first time I'd been in a bar without Lori in probably 12 years or so. I had fun (Traci's a riot, even when she's mired in girlfriend troubles), but I was somewhat less than gifted and still a little drunk when Lori woke me up for our St. Louis trip Saturday morning.

It was pouring rain, freezing cold, dark, foggy, know. Midwest. December. Christmas shopping isn't Christmas shopping without sleet. We drove the newly-repaired black truck to St Louis to better accommodate any large-ish gifts Lori might be inclined to buy me at the Woodcrafter's store. Like, say...maybe a lathe. Or some other surprise gift that I might happen to be picking out with her that we'd still take home and wrap anyway and look at longingly under the tree. Something like that, for instance.

We flawlessly navigated St. Louis for the first time ever; first to Maryland Heights, then back into the downtown part of the city for beer buying and eating at the Schlafly's brewpub. Lori had mussels, mostly so she could hold open their fishy labias, point them towards me, and exclaim about their labia-ness. I tried to distract her with big science-y conversation about convergent evolution and shellfish, but every 30 or so seconds she'd hold up another mollusk vagina for me to admire with her.

On the wall in our booth there was a framed article from a scientific journal about beer brewing, written in the 1870's. The article stated that beer's beery goodness comes from yeast excreting alcohol from it's bowels and "pissing carbon dioxide from it's enormous genitals."

Yeast genitals? Really? And someone said this in front of other people BEFORE the tenth beer of the morning?

We ate, we drank, we headed back towards Illinois, and away from Missouri, which didn't earn it's nicknames as the Tight-Ass State for nothing. Still navigating brilliantly, we found a bridge heading across the Mississippi and crossed it, then got off the highway in East St. Louis for a self-congratulatory detour to the new riverboat casino.

East St. Louis, as everyone knows, is a blighted city, most famous for declaring bankruptcy and having it's own city hall foreclosed on. It looks like Beirut after the bombings. At night, it's dark, squalid, and scary. But right on the river, in the heart of East St. Louis, sits the Casino Queen, a glowing glittery shrine to wealth and excess, lit up like a neon Christmas tree and patrolled endlessly by security guards.

We went in with our usual $100 and played the penny slots for a few hours. I think we went up as high as $160, then down to $3, then back up to $110 before we finally left at 2a.m. with about $20 in our pockets. The parking lot was freezing and sleety and we hurried to the truck. I started it up, it caught...then coughed once and died. It was, in fact, exactly the behavior that caused it to spend the last six months languishing under the maple tree in the yard before we had it's fuel pump repaired.

So now, at 2a.m., 100 miles from home, in a sleety 30 degree East St. Louis night...we were stuck.

To Be Continued...(I have to get moving on the chores before work.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sweeney Todd!

This is the first movie I've been excited about in years. Tim Burton directing Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" with Johnny Depp as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street!!??!? Can you hiss "perfect" under your breath maniacally?

In case you're as familiar with the music from the stage version as I am, and you're thinking, "The only real Mrs. Lovett is Angela Lansbury! And Johnny Depp?? He's too young! Can he even sing??" check out the film's website. (And yes, he can sing. My God, can he sing!)

We never, ever go to movie theaters, and especially not jam-packed ones, but this is one film I have to see on a real theater screen, with a real theater sound system. Lucky for Ev, my son will be here for Christmas, and he'll love this as much as I will.

"It's Priest! Have a little Priest!"

"Is it good?"

"Oh, it's too good, at least!"

"Awfully fat."

"Only where it sat."

"Haven't you got Poet or something like that?"

"No, you see the trouble with Poet is, how do you know it's deceased? Try a little Priest."

I'm cackling with glee and excitement here.

The Black Truck: A Love Story

Since the unfortunate demise of the blue truck last Thursday, I've been scrambling around trying to get my automotive legs back under me. About 6 months ago I was coming home from work at 3am after a 13 hour shift, and I didn't notice that someone had knocked the rip-rap that was holding the hillside in place into the road.

Rip-rap, for you non-Midwesterners, are (is?) large rocks that varies between fist size and bowling ball size that's used to slow down erosion on muddy hillsides. Normally it's not a traffic issue, but someone had missed the curve on that particular road on that particular day and had run up into the rip-rap and knocked it loose and into the road. So when I got to that curve in the road I ran over all the rock and it beat the crap out of the underside of my little black Ford Ranger.

A couple of days later my truck died on my way home from work at 11 o'clock at night. I couldn't restart it, and about 4 quarts of oil poured out of the engine and I thought I'd blown the head gasket or something equally horrendous. And IS there a funnier phrase in the automotive lexicon that "blown a head gasket"? maybe "blown a seal", but that's it.

Anyway, the black truck was toast. So Carrie towed it home with her little truck and there it sat for the next six months, like FDR at Warm Springs, sipping scotch under a shade tree with a blanket over it's withered hood, obsessing about it's own petty woe and not even thinking about my needs. Selfish bastard.

When I wrecked the blue truck by banging a deer carcass against it, suddenly it became time to revisit the black truck and it's woes. I hadn't even looked at it since we'd unhooked the tow chain and left it under it's tree. In fact, it had been sitting there for so long that we had a steady stream of men coming to the door asking to buy it, even though it wasn't in the internationally recognized "selling position"...facing the road at the end of the driveway with a chunk of cardboard taped to the windshield. It had it's back towards the road, clearly in the "fixing position", with weeds growing up around it and cats sleeping on it's hood. Sheesh. How clueless can guys be sometimes?

Friday morning it was finally time to deal with the black truck or start schmoozing the Moped Guy for rides into town. Maybe I could offer to blow his head gasket for a lift.

The Moped Guy, by the way, is my alarm clock. When I hear Moped Guy screaming down the highway at 30 miles per hour with his throttle wide open and a half-mile long parade of cars behind him, I know I'd better be out of the shower and ready to go to work. 15 minutes later I catch Moped Guy 5 miles up the road, valiantly pretending to be oblivious to all the drivers flipping him off as the pass him. I personally like Moped Guy. I like to think he's making a statement about protecting the environment and conserving gas. Lori thinks he lost his license for a DUI and the moped is his only way to get to work now. Lori's probably right, but a girl can dream.

So...the black truck. I called Larry the mechanic. Larry should have a sign in front of his shop that says "Saving Evie's Ass For Over 20 Years." I told Larry my tale of automotive woe and he came out and towed the black truck into his shop, fixed it in a day, and charged me $85.

I love that man. If he ever needs his head gasket blown, I'll totally do it.

So now the black truck is restored to it's former (dubious) glory, I'm back on the road, and life appears to be good again. Last night we celebrated the resurrection of the beloved black truck by taking Lori's lucky $100 Christmas bonus down to the casino. It worked; we won $260 on a couple of penny slot jackpots that we'll be gloating over for years.

So thanks, Internet pals, for all the cards and flowers during our recent bereavement over the blue truck, but would it have been too much trouble to bring a casserole too?