Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sacker Slacker

Today it snowed. It began in the morning, with lazy, floaty flakes that drifted in the air, sideways and downwards and loopy and swirly and criss-crossed the road in paisley patterns.

For most of the morning, I sat in my office in my pajamas, cropping images and working on some Christmas gifts. Usually, I would have slipped on my favorite sweat pants -- the gray ones with the white stripes down the sides and the drawstring in the waist, but this morning, they were in the laundry. It was a chance to practice sitting around in PJs for the roller derby team Christmas party, which has a jammies theme I've been reluctant to buy into. In fact, if you ever see me in WalMart wearing pajamas or anything that looks like pajamas, you can assume something has gone terribly, horribly wrong. Like maybe my house blew up and all that remains are my pajamas, most of which are a bazillion years old.

Sitting in my hideous and unflattering pink pajamas, I was chilled from the drafts from the two walls of windows. For one thing, I was wearing half the usual number of layers for December day wear. I drank coffee and multiple cups of fruit tea to stave off the chill and realized that unless the temperature at the jammie party is at least 80 degrees, I'll freeze my arse off. Nope, no jammies for me, unless I layer three or four pairs, which would be nuts because I don't even own that many.

I finally finished monkeying with photos, got them uploaded, and dressed with the intention of going to the skating rink for open skate, (aka in our derby circle as "Skate Church"). Skate church dress for me is jeans and a long sleeve tee shirt, and in the cold weather, like now, my team logo hooded sweatshirt. With my knit hat on, I finally raised my body temperature enough to stop shivering.

The snow was still blowing around and sticking to the ground. A herd of at least a dozen deer ran through my yard, high-tailing it from the direction of the houses and road and into the woods behind the house. I debated blowing off Skate Church, a reversal of my earlier resolve to actually get there right at 2:00 when it begins instead of my usual 2:30 or 3:00. I finally got off my butt and went.

At 4:00, the rink DJ announced it was still snowing and cautioned, kiddingly, that when we left the rink, our "skating experience might continue." At 5:00, it was blustery and blowing snow in every direction.

The roads were covered up and there was no indication any of our many salt and brine trucks had been out. The main roads were snow covered and the lane markings couldn't be seen. Several times I experienced the  sensation of the pumping action of my anti-lock brakes, and uttered "oh, oh, oh, crap!" While on the tough-to-navigate 101st Parkway, I debated stopping at Kroger for milk and baking supplies and Walgreens for the photo prints I ordered in the morning. I was already out, so what the heck? And stopping then meant avoiding the agggravation of a cat meowing angrily when his cries produced no refreshing milk. He'd already been on a two-day hunger strike/meow-fest that ended only when I got more Meow Mix to replace the food he didn't like.

Kroger was less packed with people and more full of bread and milk than I expected. At the checkout, I chose the lane with the mile of empty conveyor belt. It turned out the customer had forgotten her Kroger card and gone out the car to get it. Really? I thought it was a joke at first, that we were standing there doing nothing. My few items were all arranged on the belt, so there was no turning back. When my stuff was finally being checked out, the girl packing the groceries into my ecologically-friendly reusable bags was lecturing the cashier about laying the milk down on its side "so it doesn't fall over." She packed my two bags, then left me trapped in the checkout row by my empty cart and the cart she'd set my groceries in. As she stood there staring vacantly into space, I considered shoving the cart closest to me to bust my way out, but instead, cleared my throat while thinking, "Ah ... doofus, help me out here." She helped clear the logjam so I could leave.

In the vestibule, I decided to leave the cart in the store and carry my bags two to the car. I picked up one bag and nearly ripped my shoulder out.

When I was in high school, I worked in a grocery store. In the olden days of paper sacks, we were trained in bagging -- things like "keep the bag square -- no bulges" and "don't put all the heavy stuff in one bag." Apparently, these archaic basics are no longer taught at grocery store orientation and the rocket scientist who packed my bag had a different philosophy. I've noticed, usually as the handles to the plastic store bags are shredding in the parking lot, that many baggers operate under a different model than what I was taught.

The first bag removed from the cart, the one that nearly crippled me, held a quart of coffee creamer, a half gallon of milk, five pounds of flour, four pounds of sugar (the chic new size in sugar), a pound of butter and a can of pineapple chunks (1 lb., 4 oz.). The other bag held a loaf of bread and a backage of cookies. There's some balanced packing for you. I set the bags back in the cart and began to repack them. A thought stream was tearing though my brain, the gist of which was "What idiot puts ALL the heavy stuff on one bag?" but the tone was harsher and the words were richer and more colorful. The kind that might bar my entry into heaven.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What Luck

It’s holiday time. That means gift shopping. And stress. Traffic. And stress. Potluck holiday parties. The biggest stress of all.

I totally get the concept of potluck. Everyone brings something, and everyone eats a bunch of stuff. The term “potluck” has origins in “the luck of the pot,” which suggests there is a factor of mystery, potential risk, you know … “luck.” With luck, the food items will be great and you’ll like at least one of them (probably the one you brought in).

What I don’t get is the sign-up sheet to list what we’re bringing – and not just “side dish” – the menu Nazis usually want details. What side dish? What’s in it? I don’t know. I’ll decide the night before and the end result will be completely dependent upon what time I actually arrive home and how much time is available for its preparation. It is highly likely that my contribution to the event will be whatever is available at Kroger on my way to the event. I am rarely home (awake) long enough to make myself a proper supper never mind whip up a potluck dish. Unlike some potluck participants I have known in the past, my dish is not an attempt to win a popularity contest.

In my mind, once the menu planning comes into play, there is no luck involved in the potluck. It’s now a catered event. Might as well just bring in Martha Stewart and have her start dishing out assignments. My friends who specialize in improvising and accuse me of over-planning everything will probably be surprised by this, but I hate the management and planning aspects of a potluck, which just feels like more of the logistics I have to deal with at work every day.

As if having to commit to a particular dish isn’t enough, there is the scrutiny of the list to deal with. Hearing someone whine for a week before the no-luck-involved potluck that “Nobody signed up for green bean casserole!” can really add a layer of poop icing to the crap cake. You know what? If the damned green bean casserole is that important to you, bring it yourself. I don’t know what it is, I don’t care if we have it, I don’t want to hear about it, and I will not be badgered into making it, whatever it is.

With three potlucks on my immediate horizon, I am stressing over them all, and haven’t signed up for anything yet. I expect the harassment to begin any minute now, and having to decide one to two weeks in advance what I am going to make and commit to it in writing on a sign-up sheet is stress I don’t need. Seriously, I can’t even decide a day in advance what to wear to work, or four hours in advance what to have for lunch. This is one big reason why I eat so much ramen – it’s fast. I can decide to eat, and in five minutes, be eating. If I could predict what I’d have time to fix (or feel like making) two full weeks from now, I could set myself up with a job in fortune telling.

Just trust people will bring something, and if you are lucky, they will. I like to live life on the edge. Or maybe I just have great luck.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Treasure Hunt

The Red River Sirens will be in the Clarksville Christmas Parade. We’ll be easy to spot – we’ll be the really cool looking ladies in the awesome black hoodies with the (NEW!) team logo on the front (in silver!), waving from our gorgeous and creative illuminated float and walking alongside it handing out candy.

What was NOT easy was finding the parade information for this year. Several weeks ago, I searched for it, because we needed an entry form and the parade theme for this year. Yes, they are themed – and not just “Christmas.” It seemed simple enough – search on “Clarksville Christmas Parade,” right? Any monkey could do it. Yeah, right….

The search on the keywords “Clarksville TN Christmas Parade” pulled up the entry forms for the 48th, 49th and 50th annual parades, which was nice, but this year’s is the 51st. There were stories of past parades and lists of winners. A visit to the City of Clarksville website (a co-sponsor) yielded nothing. The first time I searched, I somehow found it through an ad for the Downtown Association, which showed the date for the parade (which passes through downtown) and had a link to the entry form. Voila! Success! The form was retrieved and saved to the desktop of my lhome computer. Now I know how it felt to find one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets.

In the course of things and upon my return to the ‘Ville from Thanksgiving visiting in the land of the Pilgrims, I picked up the entry check and a printed version of the form from a teammate (thanks, Heartless!), and proceeded to fill it out so it could be submitted to the Parks and Recreation Department. While filling in the info by hand at my desk at work (damned non-editable PDF files!), of course I make a mistake, used the correction tape and made a mess of that, and decided to print off a new form when no bosses were harassing me. That led to the second ridiculous search for the form, because I had messed up the printed one someone else found, and the PDF was at home.

I searched on “Clarksville Jaycees” (the other co-sponsor) which yielded listings of the organization in several directories and info about the Easter Egg Hunt (in 2008). Apparently hiding things is a special talent of this particular organization. The link titled “Christmas Parade Entry Form and Rules” (eureka!) near the top of the search results was, alas, for the 49th Annual Parade. You know, the one in 2008. And there was a list of the 2009 parade winners. It was all the more frustrating because I had already done this once. The form was right there on the desktop of my computer at home. But unless I could get Moose to unlatch his cage, fire up the computer and email it to me, it was of no use. And I didn’t have time in a 60 minute lunch hour to race across town (8 minutes each way in easy traffic), get the file, take it back to work to print it, (no ink in home printer) fill it out, and deliver it.

I have always had great research skills, but this was really putting them to the test. The search continued, using every combination of relevant keywords I could think of, including the name of the organization where I thought I saw the ad for the parade on the first go-round, and the most obvious – “Clarksville TN 51st Annual Christmas Parade,” which yielded a story in daily newspaper from December 1, which said, in its entirety, “There’s a parade Saturday. It’s downtown.” I finally found the blasted form through an online news source buried in an article about “Downtown for the Holidays.”

Man, it’s like this is the “Top Secret” themed parade, and it will be a surprise if there are any floats besides ours in it. I think the team deserves a prize just for the ridiculous level of nonsense it took to learn anything about it. In any event, it got done, and on time. The form turned in was clean and neat, with a separate sheet attached that describes the awesomeness of our “Tribute to Clarksville” themed float. Go to the parade if you want to see it. It’s Saturday, December 4 at 5:00. Wave to us.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Candy Sales

Now that carwash season is over for a few months, the derby girls of Red River Sirens needed some other methods of fundraising. Right now, it's candy sales. Those really good chocolate bars made by World's Finest, just like the schools sell.

I picked up my box of 50 candy bars on the weekend before Thanksgiving and took it into the office. I was smart enough to leave it there, knowing that if they were in the house, I'd eat them. All of them. Anyone who knows me and my history with chocolate will not be surprised by this. I can make a box of Valentine chocolates disappear in something approaching a world speed record. I used to smuggle my Halloween candy to bed with me and eat it all (except those nasty NECCO wafers, which should be banished from the candy kingdom). When I was about 9 or 10, I ate my multi-pound solid chocolate cross during that tiny window of time between Easter egg hunting and the morning's church service. This is my special superpower and I embrace it. Need to rid your home of some Godiva? You know who to call.

The first day I had the box in the office, I sent an email around the office saying there were candy bars for sale. One boss bought a couple for his wife (nice!). Later that day, when we were stuck in a meeting for several hours and I was glazing over, he suggested I bust out the candy bars. Ka-ching! Five candy bars sold to get us through the rest of the meeting. And sure enough, Monday night, I wanted a candy bar something fierce, but they were at work. Maybe that's why I wanted one so much.

Tuesday brought another marathon meeting on the same project. When the head of the historical research team came in, he was waving a dollar bill and asking for another candy bar. My first repeat customer! They are really good, which is why they can't be in the house. At least I know myself well enough to come up with the work around. Unfortunately, 'out of sight, out of mind' is not working on the candy front. It has become more of a case of 'absence makes the heart grow fonder.' Seriously, I just ate the rest of a jar of chunky peanut butter in desperation over having no chocolate at home, and knowing there is a half a box worth at work.

Upon returning to town yesterday, I realized that as much I would love a chocolate bar, they were all in my locker at work. I had to visit a teammate at her work to pick something up, and took money inside in case she had some for sale there. She did, and I bought the last one. It was the W.F. Crisp, which I realized only today stands for "World's Finest" Crisp and not the much cruder thing I kept seeing, knowing it wasn't that, and yet still giggling inside my head ... WTF Crisp?

Today was my first day back in the office after Thanksgiving vacation, and candy sales were brisk. Every time I returned to my desk, there were fewer candy bars and more money. Nice! I love a product that sells itself. Some mysterious benefactor in the office (I have no idea who) may have been anticipating a rough day and bought five candy bars when I was preparing a cup of coffee. I hope it wasn't my return that triggered the need ... but hey, if it sells candy.

I have limited myself to one candy bar a day. Ok, ok, some days there are two. And then there are the long nights of no candy. I tried taking one home one night, but ate it in the car. It was gone before I even reached the stop sign at the end of the street I work on. The one that is spitting distance from where I park.

I briefly considered including chocolate bars with Christmas gifts, but the self-knowledge is sufficient enough to be realistic. Christmas is still 24 days away, and I couldn't even make it through a ten minute ride home with a candy bar. I am surprised I have held out as well as I have with a box of candy bars on my desk at work. Luckily, I am so busy, I don't really have time to think about it. The meetings lasting three and four hours that keep me away from my desk help, too. Turns out those meetings are good for something after all.