July 24, 2013

Speed Bumps

One fateful Monday I drove into the parking garage at work and was met by an unsightly surprise.  Speed bumps.  There is nothing that can enrage an employee more than the addition of speed bumps to a once carefree, uninhibited parking garage.

But these weren't just any speed bumps.  These were evil, soul sucking speed bumps.  They were narrow and tall and might as well have had nails sticking right out of them.  There was a speed bump at EVERY turn.  And two speed bumps in every aisle.  To get to the next level of parking I had to go over ten speed bumps.  And I usually park on the fifth floor.  That's fifty speed bumps.  FIFTY SPEED BUMPS.  Is that really necessary?? 

Instead of forcing me to drive more safely, by the fiftieth speed bump I was contemplating all sorts of dangerous methods to avoid the speed bumps.  Like driving around them if no one was parked in the area.  This requires skill and maneuvering that no one in this office was trained for, but we will all do it.  Because we'd rather take twice as long driving in an S formation around the speed bumps than going over the speed bumps directly.  I also contemplated taking a bus to work.  Or parachuting in.  Or moving to a small island where speed bumps don't exist.

Every day I had to go over all of those speed bumps, I started to go a little bit crazy.  At first I would joke to myself and do dance moves as my car rocked back and forth.   I'd commiserate with my co-workers.  We'd all talk about how the "powers that be" were going to remove the speed bumps as soon as they realized they were too much for anyone to deal with.  Then we remembered that the "powers that be" all park on the first floor.

Soon after this realization, I started to dread facing the speed bumps.  They were a sign that we had all done something wrong.  What did we do to deserve this?  Was it crazy Larry driving recklessly in his giant pick up truck with tires so large that when he ran over my foot I didn't feel a thing?  What did it all mean?  

Was this a metaphor for my LIFE??

Soon each speed bump felt like every failure I'd ever had.  Taunting me.  Oh you want to move forward hmmmm?  First you must be jostled and jolted and prodded FIFTY TIMES before you get where you want to be.  And even then you'll get the WORST parking space.

I saw others trudge from their cars into work after having faced the same demons.  No one spoke about the speed bumps anymore.  It was too painful.

After facing my failures for many days, I got angry.  I decided I was just going to plow through them.   I talked to my car and told her we were in this together.  I cackled manically as I tried to run over the speed bumps as quickly as possible.  Which, due to the extreme effectiveness of the speed bumps, got me nowhere any faster.  I started to look for signs of weakness in the speed bumps.  I would kick every one I walked by.  Just in case.  I hurt my foot.  They had no weaknesses.  No one could destroy them.

Finally, I gave up.  I resigned myself to the fact that these speed bumps were going to be here whether I liked it or not, so I was just going to have to deal with them as best I could in order to move forward.

So, every day before I enter the parking garage, I turn up Club Can't Even Handle Me by Flo Rida and bump that shit over every speed bump like a freaking bad ass and enjoy the ride.

July 23, 2013

The Screen Jumper

At my office there is no privacy.  The building was designed to foster a creative community, with low walled cubicles and fish bowls for offices.  Thus, all of our computer screens are facing out to the room at large, in all their glory.

Now, I am no stranger to logging onto Facebook at work.  And anyone who says they don't log onto Facebook at work is not to be trusted.

However, one must not be too blatant when one logs onto Facebook at work.  One must respect the code. Yes, we see each other slyly liking photos and posting comments on other people's pages in the News Feed on the down low, BUT WE MUST NEVER ACTUALLY SEE IT ON ANOTHER CO-WORKER'S COMPUTER SCREEN.

At first, I tried to be discreet when I would check Facebook in our new creative arrangement at work.  (And to be clear, I don't check it THAT often, guys.  I swear.)  I would politely check behind me to make sure I wasn't inadvertently breaking the code by letting someone see that I was on Facebook.  Once you see Facebook on another person's screen in the office, then you start to judge that person, like that person doesn't have enough work, even though you know you yourself get on Facebook even when you're really busy.  And then the whole carefully constructed ecosystem is broken.

For that matter, since everyone's screens are out on display I make it a point to not look at any screens at all when I walk by, as a matter of respect, so as not to see anyone on Facebook, or even worse, TMZ.  Then I will really judge them.

After a while I began to trust that everyone would follow the "no screen gazing rule."  So I threw all caution to the wind and would check Facebook (again, only during my allotted break time, guys, I mean come on) with complete abandon.

The ecosystem ran this way very smoothly.  Until today.  Today, I was walking back from the office kitchen and accidentally dropped my cell phone next to someone's cube.  I ran to pick it up and as I rose from the ground, my line of vision came directly in contact with a computer screen.  But before I could see what was on it, the owner gasped and threw her body onto the screen, ripping the power cord out.  We stared at each other for a long time.  She looking like a panicked animal, and I wondering WHAT THE HELL WAS ON THAT SCREEN.

I mean.  This was on a whole other level.  I mean....WHAT are you looking at at work that is so bad that you would rather have no screen at all than let someone see it?

In the end, if what's on your screen is in fact Facebook, and someone breaks the code and looks at your screen, god forbid, you just click out.  You do the sly ol' click out and then you move on and pretend like nothing happened.

But that computer screen body slam she pulled was something much more.  We continued to stare at each other.  I wanted so badly to ask.  But I knew I had already done too much.  The ecosystem was broken.  People all around were starting to turn shiftily as they worked, looking over their shoulders.  The trust was gone.  And it was all my fault.

But seriously,  WHAT THE HELL was that woman looking at on her screen.  I will never know.  I will never, never know.

July 22, 2013

The It

A few nights ago I was awoken in the middle of the night by a loud, continuous sound.  I could hear a clanking that vaguely resembled the sound of a door knob being turned. Over and over again.  But I couldn't tell what part of my apartment it was coming from as my bedroom door was closed.  

I sat up slowly in bed.  My bed made a creaking sound and the clanking noise stopped.   Shit.  It heard me.   For some reason in my mind whatever was making the sound was an “it," some monster like the Boogey Man in Ghostbusters, and not an actual human being.  

I reached for my glasses on my nightstand.  The noise started again.  I somehow managed to jump out of bed, catlike, landing like a frog in a squat with my arms in front of me.  I frog walked to the window and peered out to see if anyone was on my front porch trying the door knob.  Nothing.  Which means….it’s INSIDE.

I was going to need something to whack the crap out of it.  I scanned my bedroom.  My first thought was my television screen, but then I thought about the 80 cables going from the screen into the wall and how long it took me to set it up.  I also wasn't sure how this would affect my saved DVR programming.  Not worth the risk.

I finally settled on my lamp, cursing myself for buying an awkward lamp shaped like an S because I thought it was funny at the time.  I grabbed my phone in one hand and the S lamp in the other as best I could and frog-squat walked to my bedroom door.  The noise had not stopped.

I then took a brief moment to think about every horror movie I've ever watched where the stupid girl in the beginning goes TOWARD the danger.  Instead of away.  I always thought, if I were that girl, I would get the HELLLLLLLL out of there.  Yet, in this moment my instinct was still to go toward the danger.  To "check it out."  If I were watching myself in a movie, I'd be yelling at the television screen right now, "Turn around.  NO.  Don't go through that door! Are you an idiot?  Go out the window.  Do. NOT. Go through that door!" But I couldn't stop myself.  I WAS that idiot girl in the beginning of the horror movie.  Only I should have been wearing skimpy underwear instead of sweatpants and an Angry Birds t-shirt.

I slowly openned my bedroom door.  The noise continued so I peered out.  I could now tell that the noise was coming from my living room.  But now it sounded more like scratching than the clanking of a doorknob.  I would have preferred the doorknob.  

It was time to take action.  I burst out into my living room like a freaking warrior.  My warrior call sounded like a tiny, confused dinosaur.  I held my S lamp up, ready to whack the thing that was making the sound.  But the noise still continued.  

I realized the noise was not coming from inside my living room.  It was coming from above the ceiling.  The attic, more precisely.

After battling my imagination for a long time as my heart rate went down, I resigned myself to the logic that there was probably some sort of nocturnal animal scratching away in the attic.  YUCK.

I called my landlords immediately and left a message on the emergency line, lest the animal scratch all the way through the roof and fall on my face.

True to form, my landlords NEVER CALLED ME BACK.

Days later, I got a call from the pest control company - apparently my landlords had gotten my message and passed it along, they just forgot to tell me.  I described the situation to the pest guy.  There was silence.  And then: "RATS!! YOU'VE GOT A RAT IN YOUR ATTIC!!" the pest guy yelled, his volume unnecessarily loud on the phone.  We set up an appointment for him to check it out.  

Suddenly I felt very bad about what I did.  I had to warn the rat.  So that night when the scratching started I went into my living room and told the rat that it better get out of my attic.  That I wanted to give it a head start, out of respect.

And you know what?  I never heard that rat again.

July 21, 2013

On My Level

Recently I went to a house party, which I haven't done in a long time.  It was a cute house with mostly late 20s and early 30s hipsters (lots of flannel and skinny jeans.) Great people, very relaxed and fun.

Except for one, who stood out among the group.  We shall name her, Twenty-One Year Old.  Or Twenty for short.  Because I'm short, I think she immediately assumed I was the same age as her.  Which didn't seem like that much of a difference.  At first.

I was grateful for Twenty's presence as I didn't really know anyone at the party and her conversation provided for a little less awkwardness on my part.  Great.

I was sipping on a beer and noticed that Twenty was more "gulping" her beer than sipping.  Fair enough, it was a Saturday night after all.  And I am no stranger to gulping beers in my days past.

But the more Twenty gulped, the more I could tell she was on a mission.  A quest.  A quest to the land of drunkenness.  A gleam formed in her eyes.  And I felt a sense of knowing.  Oh yes,  I know where she's at right now.  There is no going back for her at this point.

We talked of pop culture and she said I looked very "LA."  Which made me simultaneously disgusted with and proud of myself.  I realized I had been in LA for 10 years and I felt wise.  She had only been here for a year.  Oh young one, the things you have yet to see and learn from this beautiful horrible wonderful place.

An hour or so later, as I was still sipping my first beer, she on another concoction of a drink all together, our conversation got significantly more difficult to follow.  At a certain point, I had no idea what we were talking about at all.  I merely uttered phrases like "RIGHT?!" and "SERIOUSLY.", which were always perfectly timed and made Twenty laugh.  I felt like her cool older sister.  Listening to her troubles with understanding and offering guidance when I could.

And then she made a choice that is not uncommon when you meet another girl at a party and there is no one else to talk to and drinks are had.  She crowned me her BFF.  It only comes at a certain point of drunkenness when you decide someone is your BFF for the night.  Usually you will never encounter these girls again.  You talk of going to the beach and starting a web series about dating, but these things will never happen.  These are just best friend pipe dreams that will disappear as the sun rises.  I recognized this right off.  But dear Twenty, dear sweet innocent Twenty,  whose real name I cannot for the life of me recall right now anyway, she believed in the BFF dream wholeheartedly.

And then she said it.  "Girl, you need to get on my level."

Oh no.  I was afraid of this.  Then Twenty started talking about shots and how I hadn't had enough shots and how she needed more shots.  There were a lot of things Twenty needed, and shots probably weren't one of them.  But in Twenty's mind, shots were the only thing to be had.  Ever.

I quickly deflected by changing the subject.  Which Twenty didn't notice.  But she also didn't forget that I wasn't on her level.  As if always a new thought, Twenty suggested I needed to get on her level numerous times.  No one else would take her up on it.  So as her older BFF sister for the night, I said finally "Okay, Twenty, one shot."

The shot went down like dragon flames and poison.  It was some sort of vodka.  It was terrible.  I wondered how I ever took shots of cheap liquor before this.  And how I ever did so with such reckless abandon as Twenty did.  When did I cease to have that ability?  I looked at Twenty and saw myself years ago.  I felt a little bit of nostalgia for my college days, my first years in LA.

Then Twenty went for another shot.  My nostalgia disappeared and my sensibility kicked in. She started to pour me one but I grabbed her arm and shook my head.

This was as far as I could go with her.  This was not my life anymore.  And I am okay with that.  I will go home remembering the evening.  I will be able to work tomorrow.  I will go home NOT looking like I got run over by a bus.  And even more simply, I will...go HOME.  I won't wake up on a couch spending 30 minutes frantically searching my phone for drunk dials and drunk texts.  I won't have to walk to my car in the morning as the bright sun burns my skin and blinds me, only to find out that my car has been towed.  I felt proud of how far I have come and how ten years in LA has brought me to this wisdom.  I felt like I had become Twenty something's BFF for the night for a reason.  I was her Gandalf.

So I said to her,  "Go forth into drunkenness young one.  For I cannot follow you further on your quest.  You must take this journey on your own.  It will be treacherous and you will be very alone.  You will fight many demons.  You will face regret.  You will probably vomit.  Twice.  Once on or near a toilet, and once on something or someone who did not want to be vomited on.  For no one else at this party is on your level.  And Twenty, I will never be on your level again.  I must leave you now."

I walked away from Twenty as she blinked in confusion, vodka bottle in hand.  I joined the rest of the party, among my new people, who were sipping beers and making jokes about current affairs and referencing NPR.  I never saw Twenty again.  But I know she's alright.  She'll be here one day years from now, in this same sea of flannel.  And maybe, just maybe, she'll find her Frodo, to guide down the path we all must walk.

But damn it all, I guarantee I was still more hung over than her the next day.