Long time ago, in a life long gone, a coworker told me his definition of work in IT in a mission critical environment. He compared it to being on the front line. What he meant by it was, in critical situations, everybody's true character comes out and it's not always a good thing.
I nodded and agreed. It took me a few years to see the what the difference is between front line and work. Well, other than the fact that you can get killed for real in the first case. What sucks about the office, as opposed to the front line, is that, even when someone takes a shot at your back today, you're supposed to smile at them tomorrow like they're your bestest buddy.
This is called professional conduct.
And, damn, it's hard.
Musical hump day will continue tonight as planned. I'm just not in the mood for music right now.
In case anyone's been wondering, I was out of town, camping with friends. We just got back. It was good, but I'm pooped. Before I crash in front of a Two And A Half Men rerun, though, here are some quick stories from this week. Wouldn't you know, they are all about men in my life. Interested? Read on.
1. The Catch.
At the campground today, I was walking down the road to our site when I saw the cutest little puppy dog standing by the side. The doggy whimpered when he saw me; clearly he wanted to play. The dog was attached to a scrawny, pale, ordinary-looking, middle-aged guy.
"Is that a puppy?" I asked the guy.
Out of nowhere, he replies, "It's my wife's dog."
It took me a full ten minutes before it hit me. Unsuspectingly, I knelt down, petted the doggy, talked to it, scratched it under the chin, and went on walking when I suddenly realized what the dude had been trying to say: "Get your lusty hands off me, bitch! I'm taken."
It's not you I was interested in.
It's your dog. I have a dog at home, and I miss him. Your dog reminds me of my dog. That's all there is to it.
How many guys are like that, I wonder. How many absolutely ordinary men go through life thinking, for no apparent reason, that they're God's gift to women? Does it help a person in life, or vice versa? Should I teach my sons to be like that, or not? This could be one of the few questions where the answer really is, "42". Rock on midlife crisis.
2. The Hot Bully.
Once back home, I logged onto the Russian classmates site, odnoklassniki.ru. It is a social networking site that many people have been using lately to reconnect with their school friends, college friends, coworkers from jobs long gone. Personally I lost track of so many people in the olden days because none of us had phones or email, and snail mail was just too much work. So these sites have been a lot of help. This afternoon, though, I saw I'd just had a new visitor. I followed the link to a blank page with five pictures on it, and wouldn't you know, it was a guy I went to school with.
Back in the early 80s, in high school, when I was a flaming nerd, this guy used to be my number one bully.
I mean, a lot of people did things like snicker behind my back or ask me if I had a boyfriend (when it was quite clear from my nerdy looks that I didn't), that type of thing. But this guy - this guy was the only one who actually spit in my face. Who actually kicked me and tried to push me down the stairs. Who once changed out of his gym shirts and into his school pants in front of me, like I was an animal and not a female. Who told people I was so ugly, I didn't deserve to even be called a girl. My heart stopped for a moment as he stared at me from his pictures.
Well, wouldn't you want me to give you the classic, textbook, Romy and Michele version of what happened to this guy over the last 25 years? Something like, he's fat and bald and single and he's living under the bridge, while I am all successful and gorgeous. Guess what. The second part is still true. The first one, however, isn't.
The guy is a knockout.
Granted, he's five feet tall, but you can be a five-feet-tall knockout apparently. His face has not changed at all. He looks like a much cuter version of Marty McFly. He has a killer body. I actually saw a six-pack. On three pictures out of five, he's wearing speedos and he manages to look good in them. He still has all of his hair, for God's sakes! He has a gorgeous wife and an incredibly pretty daughter. I should've felt good for the guy.
But that wasn't what I felt.
What I felt was scared.
I totally felt like, any minute now, he would leap out of the picture and deliver a swift kick to my ass, or a well-aimed spit to my face. Damn. It's been twenty-five years and I'm still afraid of that guy. For a second I considered deleting my profile from the site.
On second thought, I realized, not only could Mr. Goldie kick his ass, any of my two sons probably would, too. Heck, LilProgrammer is a full foot taller and works out every day.
I also have a vicious dog. Granted, he'll run away and hide from any intruder, but he's one hell of a barker.
All that said, I'm feeling safe again.
3. My son CB, my hero.
ChinchillaBoy doesn't want to be called that on my blog anymore, so from now on he's CB. What I want to tell you is, about a month ago, just for shits and giggles I took a free online admission test to something called Long Ridge Writers Group. Two weeks later, they sent me a letter of acceptance. Dear Goldie, you have what it takes to be a writer, we only accept 30% of all applicants, blah blah blah.
I always wanted to take a writing class. I enjoy writing. The process gives me a natural high. I do, however, feel my limitations in that English is my second language and I have no formal English lit education, not even at a high-school level. I have always wanted to try and overcome that factor by taking a class. I am, however, also paranoid. So, as soon as I got the letter, I started freaking out.
"Oh what if it's a scam? Oh what if they send these letters to just anyone with a bank account?!"
Now my son CB is a real writer in the making, a turn-on for any language arts teacher. They all love him and praise him to the skies. As he was listening to my whining, here's what he said:
"Don't worry, Mom. I'm going to submit a crap application, and, if it passes, then it's a scam. If it fails, then it's the real deal."
So my son, CB, goes online and fills out the form, including, I remember, a story from his life that had to be 250 words long. CB's consisted of one sentence:
"Then, like, stuff happened."
And he hit Submit.
Last week, at work, my phone rings and it's an ecstatic CB.
"Mom, guess what!!! I failed!! They're legit, Mom!"
I was humbled.
CB is a much better writer than I will ever be, and he put himself on the line so I could enroll in a writing class. Which, by the way, I did. After what he'd done for me, how could I not?!
Moral of these stories, if you're looking for a perfect man, look no further than the Goldie household. We may have the only two decent, available guys left on the face of the Earth.
I credit, of course, my exceptional parenting skills.
Last weekend, I copied some songs from my son's Ipod and this was one of them. I listened to it on my MP3 at work this morning and it's been stuck in my head all day, so I just have to pass it on; now it'll be stuck in yours too. After reading the lyrics, I decided to dedicate this incredibly romantic song to all unsung victims of midlife crisis out there. Gen X rules! We may be wrinkled, we may be losing our hair or trading in our vans for red convertibles, but we still kick ass.
Here ya go. "Stronger", by Kanye West. Oh, almost forgot - this version is edited. I hate it when they edit songs, but I'm too pooped to look for an unedited one. I put in 33 hours at work in the last three days and I can barely see straight. On the bright side, this one has "high quality video", or so they told me on YouTube.
Power games, covert intrigues and other Machiavelli crap have puzzled me each time I ran into them in the office. I could never understand why people needed to do these things. Now that I think of it, I probably never got it because, even though I am not in love with my job and this profession wasn't my first choice, on some level I have always enjoyed what I do for a living. It has always felt more like a videogame than labor to me. Yes, I had to work long hours sometimes, but what gamer hasn't stayed up all night trying to get to the last level? And yes, I've been in production crises, situations so scary they made my hair stand up on end, but who hasn't faced violent death as a video game character? I could always count on my old boring job to get my adrenaline running. I never needed any additional excitement in form of plotting against a coworker. Work was excitement enough. Also, looking back, I've been good at what I did. I never needed fucked-up head games to get ahead. So it's always been hard for me to get through my head that someone else might. Don't get me wrong; I've always been aware of that stuff going on. I hated it. But I learned to live with it. You just had to smile and be your usual nice self; more than your usual nice self with the SOB that tried to stab you in the back. That guy, you had to fucking woo. You had to keep doing what you were paid to be doing, and do it well. Oh, and document everything. Somehow this approach has always made my problems go away, often together with the people who created them. My honest conviction is that, if you plot long enough and hard enough, you will eventually plot yourself right out of your job. The Hindus do speak of karma; who knows, that could be it. Or, more likely, when you keep messing with people, eventually you are bound to mess with the wrong person.
It hurts the most when office politics comes from friends. I knew this guy in my old job. We were close. We were soul mates. We spent a lot of time together. I uncomfortably remember going out to dinner with him once on Mr. Goldie's birthday, because it was the only day my friend was in town that week. I freakin admired that man. One day, he stopped by my desk with a random request. I told him that, at the moment, I was working on a critical project and couldn't drop it to do what he asked; but that I'd take his request next. I also asked him to let my supervisor know, just so he'd be in the loop. My friend walked away. Ten minutes later, I get a forward email from my supervisor. The guy had emailed him about our conversation, completely misinterpreting its contents and making me look like an idiot. That was the day our friendship ended. I just couldn't take the guy anymore. To have another lunch with him would have been like sharing a restaurant table with a cockroach. I don't know what possesses people to send nasty emails about others behind their back. I've never seen this shit not come around. It always gets back to the very person you were gossiping about. Never fails. The up side is that, in every office, there are one or two people who never sink to the office politics level, even when things are tough and playing dirty seems inevitable. I have always made notice of these people. I try to remain friends with them; to keep in touch. Most of them can be found in my LinkedIn connections. If you're one of them and you are reading this, email me, we'll have dinner sometime. We need to stick together; we're a dying breed.
I am getting older now. In my line of work, it is the kiss of death. Younger people are more up to date on new technologies and can learn faster. Very soon I will probably go from very good to decent to average to blah as a professional. What I wonder about is, when I'm no longer as good and doing my job is no longer as easy, will I have to resort to playing office politics, backstabbing, intriguing, trying to squeeze the next guy out of his job before he can squeeze me out of mine?
Honestly, I'd much rather spend my old age bagging groceries.
We have another crisis at work, so don't expect profound posts from me in the next two weeks or so. I am still, however, capable of blabbering and spilling random stories from my old days.
This post was inspired by Ms. Cornelius, so props to her. It is about how speeding tickets saved me a lot of money and headache once. See, when I was younger, I used to drive fast. Really fast. And get speeding tickets. A lot. I had to go to court once because I got too many over too short a period. By the time I'm going to tell you about, I was comfortably sitting on eight or ten points, I don't remember exactly. That was when my Dad bought a car for himself in my name (don't ask). He happily went to insure his purchase at his Mom&Pop Insurance Company. Fifteen minutes later, Dad's insurance agent called me at work.
Thing is, the agent had somehow convinced Dad that, since the car was in my name, I had to transfer my insurance to Mom&Pop's also. I really liked my insurance company at the time, partly because they overlooked all the traffic violations I'd racked up after I got insurance with them. Not only did they never increase my premium, they also gave me a superior driver discount. In hindsight, this policy was probably the reason why the company went bankrupt a few years later. Anyway, I didn't want to go to Mom&Pop, but the agent pushed, Dad pleaded, and I didn't have enough information to call the agent's bluff. (We found out later I didn't need to be on the same insurance with Dad after all.) My coworkers were starting to stare, and I finally caved in.
"All right," I said. "Give me a quote and we'll see."
"Excellent! I will call you right back," said Dad's agent and never did.
Later that evening, Dad told me how the agent pulled up my driving record and almost fell out of his chair when all my points came up. He told Dad that Mom&Pop did not insure drivers like me. Sorry, he said, company policy.
Since then, I have learned to drive slower and to say no to my own parents. But it was sure nice having those points around back then.
I have noticed that a lot of my readers (okay, that was an oxymoron, so let's try again)... the majority of my readers come here via a google search for "flash your boobs". Let me make a disclaimer right now - I will not flash my boobs, nor do you want me to flash my boobs. I celebrated my 40th birthday last year and I have two kids whom I breastfed for 5 and 21 months, respectively. So I don't really know what you're looking for, people. Sheesh. Perverts.
Another popular search is "K9 love". Don't do it with my dog; don't consider doing it with my dog; don't fantasize about doing it with my dog; you have been warned.
Crap, it seems that I'm going to have to find myself a new hero as my current one is on her way out. If you think you'd qualify, leave a link to your site in the comments and I'll take a look. Unless you're into K9 love, in which case, don't bother. Also, if you do buy from her, how bout a decent-sized finder's fee?
In other news, the number of my visitors is now consistently over ten per day (dang, it's hard starting your site over again), so I decided to do something nice for you guys, like starting a weekly feature. The name I chose for it is Musical Hump Day and I'm going to post YouTube links to random old songs that you've probably never heard about. Here's the first one. Believe it or not, it dominated the dance clubs in my home town when I was fifteen. We had no idea what the lyrics were about. We thought the song was about a draftsman-designer. Here ya go - Designer Music by Lipps Inc. Happy Hump Day to all ten of you!
It was 1990. I lived in a small Russian town in our company quarters in a room with two other girls. Ann was three years younger than me, cute, easy-going and friendly. Helen was my age, drop-dead gorgeous, and high maintenance. Helen was friends with Ann, and so was I; it was hard not to be. But as for Helen and myself, we barely talked to each other. The good thing about Helen was that she used to often visit her friends in Moscow and spend the night there.
The day I'm talking about, Helen had just returned from one of her Moscow trips, and in an unusually charitable mood at that.
"I had to help my friends out," she explained. "They're all leaving on winter break, and they have just got this cat, and they have no one to leave her with. So of course, I offered to take it for two weeks. Here."
Out of nowhere, a small black kitten emerged. The kitten looked intimidated.
"Her name is..." - but the name Helen's friends had given the cat would be difficult to an American reader's ear. Let's just call the cat Muffy. She deserved it, as you will soon see.
The three of us had dinner; Muffy feasted on table scraps. It was time for bed, as we all had to get up early the next morning. All three of us had strict hours at work. Come through the door at 8:01 and you will be written up and reprimanded. So we needed a good night's sleep to be able to get to work on time.
To our amazement, Helen stood up and put her coat on.
"I'm going to Moscow, you guys," she said. "I took tomorrow off. See you then."
"Wait, what about Muffy?" we asked her.
"What about her? Muffy stays here."
And she left. We climbed into our beds and dozed off happily. Almost instantly, both of us woke up to the sound of something falling.
The damn cat had managed to climb on top of our wardrobe and jump down on Ann's bed. We told the kitty to be quiet and fell asleep again. Again, the falling cat, this time from the top of our bookshelf and on my bed.
We didn't get much sleep that night. It was amazing how an animal that had been so quiet a few hours ago now had to crash-land on top of one of us every ten minutes. The cat reminded me of werewolves - sleepy by day, hyperactive by night. As soon as we closed our eyes, one of us woke up with a scream. It was the closest thing to living with a baby I had experienced that far.
About three in the morning, I got up and went to the bathroom. It was at the end of the hallway. Walking back in my half-asleep daze, I saw the door of our room open and Muffy fly out in a graceful arc. She landed on her feet and ran off.
I must had realized that my roommate, the sweet Ann, had just tossed the cat out of our room, but I was so sleepy by then, it didn't seem like a big deal. Besides, I said to myself, the cat would still be here in the morning. We'd bring her back in and Helen would be none the wiser. I fell into my bed and didn't register another thing till my alarm went off four hours later.
Ann and I got up and went looking for the cat.
The cat was nowhere to be found.
We couldn't understand it. All the doors in our building had been closed and locked for the night. Where could she go? And what would we say to Helen? And what the hell had happened to Muffy?? For the first time, I felt a weak pang of guilt. By the time my work day was over, I was crazy with worry. Visions of a tortured, murdered cat were filling my mind.
After work, we spent all evening running around the building, worried sick, looking for Muffy. Eventually we gave up and went into the kitchen to make dinner. Our neighbor Inna was there.
Inna, by our building's standards, was stinking rich. She worked in a clothing store; her husband worked at a meatpacking plant. That meant she had access to clothes and he had access to meat. In the 1990 Russia, with its shortage of just about everything, it was a gold mine. When Inna cooked dinner, the rest of us tried not to look; she used ingredients that none of us could either afford or find in a store. But she was a kind, well-meaning woman, and we were willing to overlook her in-our-faces wealth. We said hi to Inna and went on making our dinner.
"Can you guys believe we found a cat today?" she asked us excitedly.
We jumped. "What!?"
"Yes, a cat! My son wanted a cat for so long, and this morning, I walked out of my room, and there was one just sitting there! A small black kitty, very cute. It's a girl. I'm going to keep her. Just gave her sour cream for dinner."
Ann and I hadn't eaten sour cream in weeks, but we nodded happily.
"Good for you, Inna! Nice cat, huh?"
"Yes! We called her Fuzzy!"
Hey, definitely better than Muffy.
Helen seemed to take the news quite well when we broke it to her the next day. She never tried to claim Muffy/Fuzzy back. Eventually Inna and her husband built a house and moved into it with their son and, hopefully, Fuzzy.
Since I now try to add a moral to every story I tell, here is what we can learn from this one - everything happens for a reason; and, more often than not, whatever happens, happens for the better. Muffy was much better off with Inna, who cared about her and fed her gourmet food, than she would have ever been with her original owners, a random group of college guys with a tendency to leave town for weeks and dump their cat on the first person that came along.
Which in turn proves that there must be a higher power taking care of us. At least as far as cats are concerned.
That said, don't ever throw cats out of your residence. That stunt was performed by a trained professional, and you should never, ever try it at home.
ChinchillaBoy took me to see Get Smart, to make up for last week's Hancock viewing. (It was good, by the way.) I used the opportunity to do some people-watching - especially since some of the people were quite anxious to be watched by all! As a result, I've been able to divide the movie-going population into these categories. I'll admit right away that, at certain times in our lives, ChinchillaBoy and I have fallen into a few of these. Mea culpa.
So, I proudly present...
1) The bubbly. The bubbly moviegoer has been blessed with the amazing, catching laugh that he or she will bestow upon the public at top volume. Extra bubbly points for laughing in sad or irrelevant places.
2) The social. This moviegoer has a witty comment for just about any episode of the picture and will eagerly share it with the crowd. The crowd, predictably, does not appreciate it and tells the social to shut up. Yet another example of a genius misunderstood by his contemporaries. Tonight, incidentally, we had a new breed of the social - the singing-along kind. I blame American Idol.
3) The tech-savvy. Halfway through the movie, a cell phone rings. "Hey, how's it going?... Good, good... I'm in the movies.... No, I can talk..." and so it goes. Bonus points for trying to record the movie on your phone camera.
4) The beautiful. Naturally, beautiful people possess beautiful feet. Normally, an ordinary person would never get access to a beautiful person's foot, as they are in different leagues miles apart, looks-wise. A movie theater is your unique opportunity to witness a pair of beautiful feet, sans shoes, propped up on the back of a seat next to you, two inches away from your face. Enjoy. Inhale. Don't forget to offer your thanks. Tips are optional.
5) The tall&proud. No slinking into their seat for the tall&proud. They will sit down perfectly straight right in front of you, because we all know - the movie will still be around on DVD for years to come, but the tall&proud person's new haircut is something you may never get to see again. Screw the movie; observe the hair.
6) The amazing new parents. What does your infant or toddler prefer - horror, action, or maybe some sexual scenes and explicit language? All of these will work, according to the amazing new parents. Haven't those guys ever heard of Netflix?
7) The hungry. Munch, munch, munch, slurp, slurp, slurp. Play with the candy wrapper. Munch, munch, munch. Go get a free refill on your soda. Continue as shown above. Ahhh, the smelly, overpriced movie theater food.
I'm going to take a break from the movie theaters for a while. I'll stick to my DVDs until I start seriously missing the above seven groups.
I am all out of good ideas for a post tonight, so I asked LilProgrammer to give me some suggestions. He did, but it wasn't my cup of tea (I will share his idea with you in the end). So how 'bout this one.
Among my friends and through my work I meet a lot of people who were born, raised, and lived for their entire lives in the exact same area. I'm even friends with a group of people who went to high school together and, twenty-odd years later, still live in the same city. What I don't understand is, doesn't it ever get boring - and, more importantly, does it take away from your life experiences? Maybe I have it all wrong and it doesn't.
I'm not too fond of the city I live in. I tell my kids to move out as soon as they can. I tell them that living in the same spot for decades will eventually shrink their minds, while moving around will expand them.
I always tell people, We're all right. We're okay. We're not the hicks that everyone portrays us to be. In our University quarter, cultural life is booming. Our Free Times newspaper would be considered too liberal in California. We have one of the best symphonic orchestras in the country. But I do not always believe myself what I say.
We are the swing state. We have the dubious honor of being the state that led George Bush to presidency in 2004. It's decent in the suburbs close to the center, but, if you drive far enough out to the north, south, east or west, you can run into people that have never seen a furriner in their lives. One day when I was working at ole BigPaper, on my way to lunch, I saw a tiny strip mall on the corner, and, in it, a small tobacco store. I hadn't seen any of those in a while, so I decided to pay a visit. The store owner was nice and friendly. When he smiled, you could see that his only tooth was showing signs of decay. Right away, he inquired about my accent.
"Oh, I'm from Russia," I told him. "Really? How'd you come here?" "My parents brought me in." "Really? How'd they get here?" "They came through the HIAS. You know - the Jewish organization." "So you guys are Jewish?" - he was surprised. Right away he had a new idea. "You guys need to accept Jesus into your lives. Go to church." "Thanks, I already do go." "You do? Really? Good for you! You are a good, good person. Tell your parents to do the same. It is very important, for you guys."
That was an odd conversation, even more so because we were both standing in a tobacco shop. One-toothed man, surrounded by tobacco of all kinds, was proselytizing me. Our conversation had an unreal air to it, like I had traveled back in time or as if we both were in a movie - the kind of movie I'd never pay money to see, but in a movie nonetheless. I remember feeling amused and also the feeling that I had just learned something new - like after visiting a museum exhibit. But that's because the city that I live in is really still new to me. How would it feel living here for forty years, fifty years and never knowing anything else?
I was born in a small town. As a small kid, I loved the narrow streets, the medieval buildings, the vast cold Baltic sea. As a teenager, I hated it. I hated it that I knew everyone and everyone knew me. I hated it that, if red cords were in fashion, then every cool kid in town wore identical red cords. (1982.) I hated it that there was nothing to do, no way to exercise your brain. I wanted out.
I went to college in a major city and loved it. Granted, our campus was an hour's train ride from the city, but I used to escape every chance I got. My great-aunt, who lived in the city, gave me a key to her place and let me stay anytime. To this day I have a recurring dream. I'm getting off the subway and walking down the street to her apartment building. It is a scenic walk, with nineteen-century buildings on both sides of me. I stop by a cafe where I used to have lunch. Then I wake up and remember that I'm not going to Russia anytime soon; that my great-aunt's grandkid (my cousin four times removed??) lives in her apartment now, and I won't ever visit him, as I don't know him and he has done jail time and we probably have nothing to talk about and he won't be too happy to see me anyway; and that the cafe is most likely long gone.
I loved the city and everything about it. I liked the anonymity, the width and breadth, the majestic beauty of it, the cultural life. I loved it that you could pursue any hobby, hang out with any group of people, and you still would never stand out as odd. In a big city, everyone fits in. I loved it that at no point in time did all the cool kids dress the same. Then I graduated and had to move again.
My third stop was another small town, in the Moscow region this time. It had started out as a research center; then a manufacturing plant was built and people moved into the town from all surrounding villages to work at the plant. This was my first time seeing the Moscow region inhabitants. They were different from the slow-moving citizens of my home town or the refined inhabitants of St-Petersburg. They spoke in a different dialect that I found hard to understand. They were street-smart and didn't read much. I was horrified.
But, again, Moscow was an hour away, and I'd sneak off every weekend. I went to exhibits and art shows and indie movie shows. I met people. I walked around the city, marveling at its golden-domed beauty. It wasn't St-Petersburg, but it was okay. Then I got married, had a baby, then another, and never ventured out of my small town again, until we left for America.
What I am saying here is: I believe it is essential for anyone in their late teens and early twenties to move around. It is essential to see different places and meet people from different walks of life. It is essential to be exposed to a large, major city. This will culture you and refine you and open your mind, so that, when you're in your forties and fifties and you have a family and a dog and aging parents and bills to pay and it is easier to move an ocean to a new spot than it is to relocate you, your mind won't be stuck in a small-town rut and you will still be open to diverse things, people, and ideas.
As I read other people's blogs, I do notice that many of them (shall I mention my new hero V again?) have lived in the same small-town setting all their lives. They can still walk into a store and run into someone they went to grade school with. (Me? Not bloody likely.) And I do notice that they're still interesting bloggers and they still have some pretty amazing ideas. One thing about it, though - they never doubt that their ideas, and only theirs, are right; that they are the only right way to do things. They don't throw an idea out to see if it would stick - they proclaim it from the rooftops. Does it have anything to do with living in the same small town all your life, I wonder? You know, the red cords phenomena. If every cool kid in my town is wearing red cords this summer, then it must be the right way to dress.
Am I right?
Should I kick my children out into the big world or will they still be the independent thinkers I want them to be if they keep on living in my basement till they retire? Share with me, my American friends. I could be miles off here.
By the way, this is what LilProgrammer wanted me to write about. Think it would've turned out better?
A story about a man made out of rocks, who was killing people to harvest their organs so he could become a living person again. Then in the end he realizes that, once they've been dead long enough, he cannot harvest their organs anymore, so he accepts who he is and becomes a janitor in some random school. He passes the background check because he studied very hard for it.
Today is Sunday, therefore I am forcing you to sit down and listen to this religious rant.
Every morning, like most of us here, I drive to work. I have to go pretty fast, as we have staff meetings every morning (please don't ask) and I can't be late. What surprises me, though, is that every morning, on the road, I see a sizable number of people who behave like they don't know where they are, what's going on and which way they're headed. There is your inevitable slow driving in the fast lane. There are the ones who get halfway up the "on" ramp, then slow down to ten miles per hour for no good reason. Then you have the ones who drive in two lanes at once, veer in all directions, change lanes without using their blinker and then immediately change them back, or they might go for the opposite and drive all the way to work with their blinker on. There is the general lack of sense of direction. They more or less know they're on the road, but it looks like they have no idea why or how it happened, or what to do next. Most of these people are, incidentally, on their cell phones, so possibly the phone conversation they're having seems more important to them than paying attention to the road.
I can get around them with no problems; it just raises questions of philosophical nature. Hasn't it ever occurred to you that millions of people go through life without the slightest idea about how they got there, where they're headed and what the end goal of their journey, if any, is? Now none of us have all the answers to that; what bothers me is that the majority of us don't even try. They just cruise along, preoccupied in the current moment.
I don't understand it. To me, the question of "the life, the universe, and everything", the meaning of life if you will, if the most important question a person will ever face. Whatever answer you give to that question is going to determine the rest of your life and the influence you'll have in the lives of others; it will, consciously or not, be the driving force behind every decision you make. And yet a lot of people don't seem to ever try looking for that answer. Basically they fall into two groups, each being my pet peeve.
Pet peeve #1: people accepting their childhood faith as a given.
When you were a kid, you were brought into a church, a temple, a mosque, or, in my case, you weren't brought anywhere. You were given a list of facts that constituted your parents' faith, or, in my case again, you were told that there is no God, end of story. Mind you, those facts were watered down and dumbed down and made into a Sesame Street-type presentation specifically so a small child would understand them. Fast forward forty years, you're still holding on to your Sesame Street list. Some of my acquaintances and relatives are deeply religious people. Most of them are infinitely better people than I ever will be. And yet the slew of ignorant superstitions that sometimes comes out of their mouths, something that they heard from their grandparents way back in the last century and never thought to question, scares me. Scares me why? Because that's what they're passing down to their own children and Sunday school students. I may be sitting next to them in church every Sunday, yet their religion is completely different from mine and they have no idea what it is.
If you are reading that and you were born and raised atheist and still are, I suggest you wipe that shit-eating grin off your face. If your knowledge about how the world operates is still based on "we sent people into space and they didn't see any God", you're no better than the people I've described. You should have done your own research. You didn't. Instead you took at face value what your day care teachers told you back when you still had all of your hair. You need to do better than that.
This peeve of mine also applies to the entire religious right movement.
Pet peeve #2: people rejecting their childhood faith in adolescence as a knee-jerk reaction and never going back to review their decision.
It always struck me as hilarious the way people in the US refer to atheists as independent thinkers, or at least, nonconformists. If you take the vast army of American atheists and remove all those who became ones because Mommy and Daddy used to make them go to church and they hated it, you'll shrink your vast army by roughly sixty percent. If you then proceed to remove from the ranks all those who turned atheists because, when they were teenagers, suddenly nothing their parents said made any sense anymore - and their parents happened to go to church - there goes your other thirty percent. Only one atheist out of ten, in my estimation, is the real deal. Heck, I don't even think my son LilProgrammer is the real deal. Because, if you haven't done your research, then you don't know what the hell you really believe in. And no, teenage rebellion does not count.
Bottom line: one, this question is important, and two, you need to do your own research. If you haven't yet, go and do it now. You will join the ranks of countless thinkers, scientists, philosophers throughout the human history who analyzed the meaning of life to death, because they refused to take it from anyone at face value. You will be in good company.
The results of your research may vary - you may end up believing in Trinity, Krishna, Mother Nature, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or nothing. But, as long as you own those beliefs, we have a lot in common. Come over for a glass of wine and a game of pool, and I am sure we'll enjoy our conversation about the life, the universe, and everything.
Warning, spoilers ahead. Monday update: in a last-minute attempt to earn good karma, edited out the spoilers. More or less.
In 1998, my BFF George took me to see Titanic. I stoically suffered through three hours of sap and running water. The images haunted me for years.
In 2000, my children made me go see Pokemon Movie 2000. Not one brain cell was used in the production of that movie. It was unbearable. I held the grudge against my offspring for nearly eight years, and just recently started to forget.
Tonight, ChinchillaBoy and his friends had me take them to see Hancock. It was like Titanic and Pokemon Movie 2000 combined - sappy and dumb. Our local Free Times reviewer said it best when, in her review, she mentioned "random plot twists". This is exactly what the movie was all about. When you think it cannot get any worse, the main characters find out they're fated to be together - but, simultaneously, they're equally fated to be apart - for a number of reasons that are completely illogical, but, oh, so sentimental. OK, you say to yourself, now it's hit rock bottom. This is as bad as a movie can get. But just at that moment, you are presented with a Harry Potter-esque happy ending that makes you reach for a barf bag.
This movie makes Sex In The City look tough, yet it is geared towards a male audience. Speaking of, the theater was packed full with sweaty guys and smelled like a teenage boys' locker room, not that I've ever been in one. Also, in the audience, I heard a small child, like a toddler, WTF? Who brings a toddler to see an R rated movie full of explicit language and violence? Was it so good that the parents couldn't wait for the DVD? What am I missing?
In all fairness, I should take ChinchillaBoy to see Sex In The City or Mamma Mia: The Movie to make up for my pain and suffering. Since I am a pussy, though, we're going to see Get Smart instead.
On the bright side, no dogs were killed by Will Smith in this movie. Good job, Will!
Due to the nature of my old job at BigPaper Corp., I had to be reached anytime, anywhere. So when I first started, the company gave me a prehistoric pager and a cell phone that weighed two pounds. These were in time replaced by an alphanumeric pager and a newer cell phone, and so on, until, in my last year at BigPaper, they gave me a Blackberry.
They say Crackberries are addictive; I wouldn't necessarily agree. Then again, it's hard to be addicted to a device that wakes you up at three in the morning and pulls you out of Saturday-night parties. But it certainly came in handy. It had email and a little Solitaire game that got me through many a town hall meeting, parent orientation, and the kids' awards ceremony. I mostly used it to chat with my friends. There was a group of about forty of us that had set up a mailing list and spent our days arguing about politics, talking about sports, or what have you. It was also immensely useful when working from home. Work was slow at BigPaper, with hardly any programming work to do. As long as you were answering your emails on time, for all intents and purposes you were working hard. Do I have to say more?
Meanwhile, our management realized that the on-call team was shortstaffed (it always was) and added another person to the rotation to ease our suffering. Stan didn't get a Crackberry, though, only a cell phone, probably because he was in training. Stan was an older guy, laid-back and generally nice, if it wasn't for the fact that he could not learn how to take support calls no matter how hard we all tried to teach him. We'd throw reams of documentation at poor Stan and hold daily training sessions - nothing worked. Probably to avoid humiliation, Stan quit answering his phone altogether. Many a call that I received during that year went like this:
"Hi Goldie, sorry, I know that you're not on call this week, sorry to wake you up, but this is high priority, and I called Stan three times and he's not answering. Can you help?"
Like all of us on call, I had recurring dreams of turning in the wretched device, whichever one it was I had on me at the time. My dream would start by turning in my resignation; I would then go around the office saying good-byes to everybody, and finally I would walk into the manager's office and hand over my pager or whatever. At this precise moment I always woke up. But as we know, all dreams come true in the end, and one summer day I found myself in my actual manager's office, handing over my Blackberry. The manager promptly gave it to Stan.
Next morning at my desk, I realized I had to tell my friends about my change of address. Since we were witty little fuckers, I had to make it entertaining, so my email went something like this:
"Hi guys, Just so you know, I'm changing jobs so don't email me at this address anymore. Also, they gave my cell phone to a guy in my office, so unless you want to talk to the guy, don't call my number anymore. I'll let you know when I have a new cell."
And I sent it out to forty people.
Soon enough a girl responded:
"What does the guy look like?"
Oh, you naughty little thing, you. Look at us, going on forty and still chatting up like it's high school. Aw, weren't we cute. But really, what did Stan look like? Well come to think of it, Stan looked like Abe Kenarban from Malcolm in the Middle.
I hit Reply to all and wrote to my forty-people audience:
"He looks like an IT guy. Which as we all know is the opposite of 'hot'".
And, in awe of my own humor, I hit the Send button. Immediately, replies started coming back, with my email text still in them. Something like "oh, that sucks" or similar.
Two minutes later, Stan walked into my office.
"Hey Goldie, your Blackberry is password-protected."
I had forgotten all about the crackberry.
"I'm getting emails," Stan went on, "but I cannot read them. Would you type in the password for me?"
I was so far out of it, I was about to enter the password when it hit me.
Oh shit. Oh shit. They didn't switch the accounts.
Stan was getting my emails.
Including the one I had just sent out describing his looks.
I turned all shades of red and white.
"Nonono Stan, trust me you don't want to read these emails. Let's go have you all set up," and I walked the surprised Stan across the building and over to my friend Ben's desk. Ben was in desktop support. Normally I'd have to put in a support call for something like this, but it was an emergency, damn it.
I turned on the cute.
"Oh hi Ben, how's it going? Yeah... me too. Yeah... I'll miss you too. Hey listen, they gave my blackberry to Stan here and Stan is still getting my emails, can you switch him to his own account? And, like, delete all my emails out of here? What, two days? Um, nooo, this one is a little bit of a rush. Hey (I lowered my voice) if you do this for me, I promise I'll show you why I need it done so fast and I guarantee you won't regret it."
People liked a good gossip at BigPaper - life was generally slow and boring. Plus Ben was my friend. Ten minutes later, the inbox on Stan's Blackberry was empty. Fifteen minutes later, I showed Ben my group email discussion and he left, chuckling. A happy ending for everyone around.
No story is without a moral, and this one has several.
1. Don't use work email for personal shit, duh. 2. If you're in your late thirties and still grade people on their looks, don't advertise it - keep it to yourself. The fact that you didn't grow out of it in fifth grade, like you were supposed to, is embarrassing and you don't want people to find out. 3. Don't make your coworkers pick up your slack, especially during off-work hours. If you don't at least make an effort, the coworkers will become grumpy and start seeking revenge. Who knows what they'll come up with. They don't know it themselves. And, finally, 4. Always have a good friend in desktop support. You don't know when you will need help hiding an electronic body.