Sunday, November 14, 2010

Triumphant Return to Blogging and Day 2: Titus County Pie Adventure

Hey there. Remember this blog thing I have? It's ok if you don't, I almost forgot myself. Oh well, we're all back now. Thanks for coming back, by the way. It's pretty awesome of you.

Anyway, a lot has happened since I posted last. I am all settled in on the island and applying for jobs. I've been informed that my marriage is over for real, so that's settled. Being settled, even on something unpleasant, is still marginally better than being unsure. I am moving on mentally even if physical movement is not happening because it would require a job. I am positively addicted to yoga. Seriously, it's amazing. I love it even when I suck at it or fall down or realize that headstands are scary and give me flashbacks to unpleasant and unsuccessful movement classes... Someday, I will do a damn headstand... Just not, like, tomorrow or even this week probably.

So, yeah, I figured I should keep telling the exciting story of my mom and I crossing the country. When last we left off, the pair were in Tennessee. Now onto:

Day 2: The Titus County Pie Adventure

We began the day in Lebanon, Tennessee and got on the road bright and early after raiding the hotel's free breakfast and making coffee. Just like most of Tennessee, this last bit had lots and lots of porn and all the porn warehouses liked to argue over whose selection was the largest. There were slightly fewer fireworks emporiums, but they still made their roadside appearance occasionally.

The border between Tennessee and Arkansas is determined by the Mississippi River. I was excited to see the Mississippi, since it's freaking huge. Honestly, it was muddy and not all that exciting once you got past it being big. Still, I can say I crossed it now. Unfortunately, I crossed it right into Arkansas, the nation's trailer park. I never expected Arkansas to be gorgeous. In fact, I expected a trailer park feel, but I didn't expect it to be sudden. The Tennessee side of the river was a beautiful forest of bright green heading into Fall's red and brown. The Arkansas side was flat, brown, dusty, and seemed to mandate that people kept non-functional machinery in front of their double-wides. The only thing these states had in common was deep and all consuming love of XXX Adult Superstores. Needless to say, we drove through Arkansas as quickly as possible.

The Texas border was a welcome sight. Northwest Texas is much prettier than I expected and certainly prettier than Arkansas. We decided to stay in Mount Pleasant, TX that night, which is about an hour from the border. As we drove, I saw a sign saying we'd entered Titus County. As most of you know, I costumed a production of Titus Andronicus that my friend Brett directed last Spring. Therefore, I had to text him about the awesomeness of my location. He responded that I needed to eat pie there. If you don't know the significance of pie in Titus Andronicus, here's a facebook style summary courtesy of the American Shakespeare Center and the Wikipedia entry for the play. I really wanted to eat pie in Titus county, but I was on the road and figured that a pie stop was probably a bad idea.

However, I was in luck and super happy to find out that Mount Pleasant was located in Titus county. I would eat pie in Titus county, dammit! But first, mom and I would find a liquor store and a decent restaurant, in that order. We have priorities. We ditched our bags and got in the car to quest for booze. The town wasn't huge, but it sprawled. Things in Texas are one story and large, assumedly because land is cheap. We drove near the highway exit, we found the downtown, but we found no liquor stores. None. I kept my eyes open, scanning the storefronts. Still nothing. Suddenly, I saw it. Not a liquor store, but the best building in all of Titus County: the Titus County Justice Center. OMFG. Brilliant. My mind filled with visions of rows of little rooms with hand guillotines, industrial ovens, and grates in the floor... Yeah, if you know the plot of the play, that's funny. If not, I'm sorry. Read the wikipedia synopsis.

I got stupid excited about the building as we kept driving and knew that, when I got pie, I was eating it in front of the justice center and there would be pictures. Luckily, my mom is as crazy as I am and thought this was a great idea... You know, after booze and food. We gave up on the liquor store quest a few minutes later and stopped at a Mexican restaurant. Get used to reading "stopped at a Mexican restaurant." My mom and I pretty much took a tour of Mexican food from this point of the trip on, eating it in Northeast Texas, West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California... regional differences in Mexican food practically deserve their own post.

Anyway, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant, ordered sangria margaritas, and the waitress asked if we had Texas drivers licenses. It turns out that we couldn't find a liquor store because Titus county is dry. Not completely dry, since you can order booze at a restaurant, but you can't buy any to take home. However, if you're not from Texas, you have to fill out a special form to drink in the dry counties. The card you get for filling out the form became my mom's new favorite thing. It's like a business card sized permission slip for drinking. She immediately put it in her wallet, where I think it still is after two months. Neither of us had any idea that Texas had dry counties. Texas of all states... random. We found it incredibly entertaining, and the waitress was clearly amused by the novelty of us being "not from around here."

After dinner, we were off to find pie. There was an IHOP next to the hotel... No pie. Ok, let's find a diner. No diners. Let's go downtown. Nothing. We drove and drove looking for pie. Quickly, we became very silly and our jokes got lamer and lamer. After giving up on Mount Pleasant's pie, we set out on a country road, looking for pie elsewhere. That road had no pie but many cows. We began to realize that a cow, while not pie, would make a great souvenir. One farm even had a sign stating that their cows were for sale. Here's a paraphrased and condensed version of our cow conversation:
Awesome! Let's get a cow.
Wait, it won't fit in the car... I wonder how fast that cow can run.
Well, let's just tell the farmer that we're very interested in his cows, but only the ones that can run at 70 mph while tethered to a car.
Come on, Bessie! Faster! California's still a long jog away!
*delirious giggling that makes talking impossible*

Once we composed ourselves, we realized we were coming up on a gas station that claimed to also have food. Maybe, they'd have pie. I went inside, looked around, and found this:

Ordinarily, I call these things an abomination unto real pie, but I was desperate. 50 cents later, I owned this bad boy and was ready for the Justice Center. We took the country roads back without getting lost and found our destination with surprisingly little confusion. I handed my mom my cell phone, taught her how to take pictures with it, and took a giant bite of pie.

It was awful. Like cardboard filled with old jelly and maraschino cherries and lightly glazed with sugary paste. Still, I had eaten pie in Titus County. My quest was complete!!! I swallowed the bite with difficulty, got back in the car, and drove to a trashcan. I tossed the pie, missed the can and watched it hit the ground... and not break. It didn't even chip. I got out, threw it away properly, and vowed to never eat gas station "pie" again. Still, I was triumphant! I was awesome! We could finally go back to the hotel and sleep.

Come back for Day 3 and 4: The long drive across Texas to Midland and going to a County Fair in Oil Country.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 1: Staunton, VA to Lebanon, TN

Now that I'm settled on Catalina Island, I think it's about time that I tell you my travel stories. Some days will have longer entries than others, but there will be an entry for each day.

Day 1
Wednesday the 8th.
484 miles from Staunton, VA to Lebanon, TN.

I didn't sleep well the night before. I wasn't really sure when my mom would get into town, and I felt like there were a thousand things I was still forgetting. Consequently, I started the day tired and understandbly emo about driving away. Jer and I had breakfast, packed up the last of my things, and loaded the car before Mom got in at 9 am-ish. Since she took a red-eye, she napped while Jer and I got gas, checked tire pressure, etc.

11 am rolled around and Mom wanted to get out of town. I will save you all the scene that got me out of my apartment and on the road, both because I don't want to kill any chance of this post being funny and because I've no desire to retell it. At any rate, Mom and I were in the car and, after brief stops at Split Banana and MugShots for gelato and coffee, on the road by noon.

I had already driven south on I-81 before, so the scenery wasn't exactly interesting to me until a few hours into the drive. Instead, I distracted myself with music (7 days of music on my iPod put on shuffle) and asking my mom questions out of the Would You Rather? books. They are excellent methods of in-car distraction, btw. About the time that the scenery got interesting, I realized that my giant goodbye latte had a metric fuckton of caffeine and that the caffeine was taking over my bloodstream. Caffeine is an even better in-car distraction than music or Would You Rather? books.

Suddenly, every topic of conversation was awesome and most jokes were taken too far. This led to a discussion about Catholic communion wafer. I'm not Catholic. My mom used to be, though, so she knew what it tasted like. This led to a bunch of jokes about the "melt in your mouth, not in your hand" nature of the body of Christ which were made far more hilarious by the caffeine and my desperation for a good laugh. Yeah, I'm going to Hell if it exists, and to those of you that are Christian, I promise there are no more Jesus jokes in this post. You can keep reading.

Either the Welcome to Tennessee sign is really small or it doesn't exist. Either way, we had no clue we had crossed the border into a new state until at least 30 miles into Tennessee. It's a pretty state with leaves that are already changing color for Fall. The only drawback to the forest is that it's getting totally swallowed by Kudzu, which is pretty much evil in plant form. Not that Kudzu isn't kind of pretty, it just destroys natural plant life underneath the pretty. Seriously, do an image search. That stuff is crazy. Actually, you don't need to search. Here's a picture of what used to be a house (not taken by me).

Seriously, that was a house! A frakking house!

Knoxville was the only big city we went through on day 1. Things I learned: Knoxville is really dirty, they love strip clubs, they love 24-hour "adult superstores," and they love fireworks. Next to the freeway, we saw 3 strip club signs and at least that many adult stores, one of which claimed to be the "Largest Adult Superstore in the South." By far my favorite roadside Knoxville sight was a neon sign shared by two businesses: Romano's Macaroni Grill and a "gentleman's club." I was amazed. I mean, Macaroni Grill is a national, family-oriented chain. I guess franchises can do whatever they please with their signage.

As we left Knoxville, the adult superstores decreased and the firework emporiums increased. Apparently, explosions are better than nudity in West Tennessee. This part of the state is very pretty, except for the giant freaking nuclear plant that kind of distracts from the pretty and adds an ominous feel to a chunk of the state. Maybe that's why they like fireworks. All the little explosions are a preparation for the nuclear holocaust they're expecting.

We put some distance between us and the nuclear plant, stopping for the night in Lebanon at a Hampton Inn and Suites. By then, I was exhausted emotionally and physically and was very happy to see an Outback Steakhouse next to the hotel. Hunk of beef + vodka = happy Kitty. When we got back to the hotel, they had really good chocolate chip cookies which made a great before bed snack.

So, that was pretty much Day 1. Day 2 gets us to Texas and a story about Titus county, super fast cows, and stupid alcohol laws. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Leaving Staunton

I leave Staunton, Virginia in roughly 24 hours. This is surreal. It shouldn't be. I'm 90% packed. I closed my bank account. Theoretically, the surreal phase should be gone, but nope. Still feels like tomorrow isn't leaving day.

In honor of leaving this town, I thought I'd just write a quick post listing things I will and will not miss about it.

I will not miss:
1) Rednecks.
2) Evangelical Christians who blindly ignore Matthew 7.1 and think Halloween is Satan's holiday. (Satan is a Christian construct. Pagans made All Hallow's Eve. Candy companies took it over. If you want to hate Halloween, you need to start blaming Pagans or boycotting Mars and Nestle.)
3) Humidity.
4) Bugs that apparently find me delicious.
5) One-way streets.
6) Going to the ABC store for liquor.
7) Finding parking on Sunday mornings. (There are 4 churches within 2 blocks of my apartment.)
8) The undergrad upstairs who can't do laundry without a threat from the landlord.
9) Virginia labor laws.
10) Young, Republican women who try to convince me that Sarah Palin is good for womankind.
11) People who say the word Obama in the same tone I would use if I had to describe falling into a gushing sewer and having to claw my way out.

Things I will miss:
1) Jer.
2) Friends. (Seriously guys, you know who you are. You rock. I hope I keep running into you forever.)
3) My gerbil.
4) The Split Banana. (Greatest gelato ever.)
5) Blackfriars Playhouse. (How can you not love that space?)
6) All of Professor Cline's stuff down in Lexington.
7) Pufferbellies. (Greatest toy store ever)
8) Biscuits. (Only the South makes them right, and they're the only Southern food I like.)
9) The Easy Shop handsets at Martin's grocery store. (Set your phasers to buy.)
10) The Dragon's Hoard. (I get some serious geek points for this, Shaun. I know.)
11) Awesome stage combat classes with seriously skilled instructors.

Overall, I'm happy to be leaving the South. I don't get this region of the country, and it doesn't get me. That said, the good parts of Staunton are frakking amazing, and I will miss them. Mostly, I'll miss the people.

Ok, I drive out tomorrow. I will blog as much as possible on the road. Send me good avoiding accidents and police juju. We all know I drive too fast.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Joy of Insurance

As we all rationally know, moving and separation generate a metric fuckton of busywork. I rationally knew that too, but I am still surprised by its sheer magnitude in one particular area: phone calls to companies. In the last two months, I have called the gas company, electric company, Verizon (which warranted its own post and has since necessitated further phone calls), Toyota Financial Services, Chase bank, and a few others. I have heard a year's worth of bad hold music and talked to countless cheery women with generic phone voices. Most of them have been very nice; all of them have been incredibly accommodating as soon as I drop the "separation" bomb. Most of the phone calls don't deserve posts, but this morning, I feel like passing on my experience with the USAA insurance people.

USAA is for military people and their families. I am an actor who would never even dream of joining the armed forces, so I really shouldn't have access to the cheap insurance they offer. However, my grandpa was in the Navy, so he had it. My grandpa had it, so my mom had it. My mom had it, so I have it. Anyway, my car and renter's insurance are through them, which put them on my long list of companies to call.

I tried to do what I needed online when I was uncaffeinated and barely awake. Clearly, that was doomed to fail for multiple reasons, including the fact that it is impossible to do what I needed to do on the website (make myself the only the person on the auto policy). So, I called the 800 number at 9-ish and jumped through their automated hoops only to be told that the office is closed. Ok, that's confusing. It's 9 am on a Friday. Why would they be closed? The little automated message didn't explain, so it was back to the website for investigation time.

Turns out, the office is open 7am-7pm based on the area code of the phone from which you're dialing. I've had the same cell phone number since I was 18 and lived in the 310 area code of California. Therefore, it didn't matter that it was 9 here in Virginia because it was 6 to my phone. Great. Now, I've got an hour to kill...

Enter a cup of coffee, lemon poppyseed muffin, and reruns of NewsRadio on Netflix instant. Ok, hour killed. I called back at 9:58, figuring the automated hoops would take 2 minutes. They took a minute and a half, and I was told the office was closed again. Really? I murmured at the phone about how 30 seconds was hardly worth making me call again and redialed. This time, I actually got through to someone, told them the whole issue, and was transferred to a "specialist". Here's the thing I love about USAA: when an operator transfers you to someone else, they actually tell the next person what your situation is so that the customer doesn't have to launch into the same story over and over. That right there is customer service.

The "specialist" told me that she'd do all the insurance stuff with me and then transfer me to a financial adviser who would discuss my "life change" with me and make sure I'd thought of everything. I'm kind of a detail-oriented person, so I wasn't sure that was needed but I figured I'd go with it. The actual insurance policy stuff was pretty simple. The "specialist" was friendly and made some jokes. Then, we got to the stupid part: the premium change. I know that Southern California has more weird driving situations and more car theft than rural Virginia. I know I've only been driving for a year, and Jer's been driving way longer. I know there are multiple reasons that my premium was going to go up. I did not expect my premium to double.

Really? Double? Not cool man. Not freakin' cool, but whatever, I'm not in a position to do much about it. I just have to deal. I restrained myself from saying any obscenities aloud to the nice lady, reminded myself that it wasn't her fault, and let myself get transferred to the financial adviser. This part was the most entertaining. I knew that I had my ducks in a row as much as I could. I have a small savings, no student loans, a place to live, and a job that should pay the bills even if it doesn't let me save. Bring it, Lady. Ask me your questions. I'm all over this.

This woman was also nice and clearly expected to have to help me through my "life change" which she understood was a "difficult time." This is the great thing about all these phone calls. Everyone thinks I'm all super delicate and bends over backwards to help me. It's like they think I make these phone calls at the precise moments when I am least stable. I don't know about how most people do it, but I only engage with strangers when I'm doing pretty all right. She asked me a series of questions about moving, work, housing, debt, legal paperwork, what my plans are for the next year, etc and was surprised when I had the "right" answer for pretty much everything. It only took about 2 minutes for her to realize that she could do nothing for me.

So, there I was 25 minutes later and finally off the phone. I think (and don't quote me on this) that I may be done with these phone calls. Of course, I might need to call Verizon again. I think they may be charging my credit card for internet still even though we changed it to Jer's card over a month ago. Oh man, I totally hate Verizon. Also not a fan of the metric fuckton of busywork. In other news, the packing is nearly done... 5 days. So surreal.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Post wherein our Heroine Requests Feedback

Hey Readers!

I am driving from Staunton, Virginia to Newport Beach, California beginning on September 8th. While on this rather epic trip of nearly-cross-country proportions, I will hopefully find Wi-Fi and be able to keep up my online presence. With any luck, my mom (who is my travel buddy on this madness) will help me find a connection rather than think I've become a crazy Internet addict.

Here are the relevant details you should know: I will be in a car with my mother. We will be driving 2,600 miles. On the way, we'll be seeing friends in two locations. This whole trip should take six days.

Now, we get to the part where I ask for feedback.

How should I handle blogging while on this trip or about this trip?

Should I blog about each day separately? Should I give you guys just the highlights at the end? How much do you really want to know? Do you want me to be polite about the locals? If I get emo on the trip, do you want to hear about it or should I just stick to the funny? If my mom and I end up resorting to animal sounds, do you want to know which animals?

Really, any feedback is helpful. After all, I'm here to please... Yeah, that sounded awkward. Oh well. Take it how you will and let me know how you want this journey blogged.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Office Supplies: The Only Reason I Miss School

The other day, I went to Staples to get business card paper. Since I'm moving away from Virginia in just under 3 weeks, the need has arisen to be able to give people my new contact info. Jotting it down is fine for a few people, but I need to pass this on a lot. Hence, business card paper.

As I walked into Staples, the super-bright advertisements reminded me that it's Back to School season. The impulse buy section was covered in backpacks, water bottles, binders, pens, paper clips, and notebooks in funky colors and patterns. Usually boring Staples was decked out in all its try-to-appeal-to-the-younger-market glory. I got terribly distracted by a fuchsia water bottle with a pop top that revealed a sport top. This was amazingly, shockingly pink and handy. Plus, it matched this awesome book bag and this pretty decent notebook and sweet pens. I totally should---

And it hit me. I am done with grad school. I don't want a PhD. I no longer get to celebrate Back to School with an orgy of coordinating office supplies.

With a small sigh, I pushed along and found the business card paper. I scanned the different types and sizes, trying to find the cheapest and most basic, and discovered that the fewest business cards I could buy is 200. 200? Really? I need like 50. Once again, I scanned the shelf, convinced I had overlooked the pack of 50 or even 100.... Nope. 200 or nothing. With a mumbled obscenity, I grabbed the pack four times bigger than my need and headed to the checkout.

In order to reach the register, I had to pass Back to School Land again. I looked at it all and chose to this time not look at the bright colors and shiny pens but to look at the price tags. Man, they totally gouge you for a freaking notebook, and those water bottles are crazy overpriced. Suddenly, I didn't feel so bad about missing the opportunity to hand over buckets of money for multi-color paper clips. I was saving at least $20 even with having to buy 200 business cards.

You know what that $20 could get me? Shipping a whole box of books across the country. I'm pretty sure a whole box of books beats that fuchsia water bottle. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Post That Isn't Funny

So, I try to make at least 75% of my posts about something funny or at least talk about normal things like they're funny. This one is destined to fail because it's a life announcement about something that's not cool.

My husband and I are separating for 6 months. We are likely divorcing. Yeah, I figure most of you already know this, but just in case a stranger reads my blog, it's easier to write a post like this than explain why all future posts referencing him are tagged with "Jer" instead of "Husband."

At any rate, I'm moving back home to Catalina Island, California in about a month. From there, I will be job searching for a big girl job in a real city.

Consolation Prize for Reading Unfunny Post

For making it through my short but sad post, you get a link to Hyperbole and a Half post. This blog is far funnier than mine, and this post should just be required reading for the internet.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ways to Stare at Shirtless Runners

I recently had a conversation with my best grad school friend, Brett, about summer in Madison, Wisconsin. Apparently living in a town that is super stupid cold most of the year makes the residents of Madison desperate to be outside and half-naked whenever it rises above freezing. Since Brett moved there just a few months ago, he does not yet have this desperate need. Conveniently for him, lots of attractive, male runners do.

This, of course, presents a problem: How to stare at the eye candy without looking like a Creeper. Fortunately, I can totally help Brett with this, and by extension, help others who deal with similar problems.

Currently, the subject gawks at hot, shirtless runners from his car. This is bad for many reasons.
1) Cars move faster than people, providing little time to gawk and/or fully appreciate the view.
2) Cars are heavy and make good weapons when operated by distracted people.
3) No really, I'm serious. He could kill someone over a nice chest. Not okay.

I will now propose a few solutions to this problem, in order of escalating creepiness.

Non-Creeper Way: Coffee shop near trail
It's so simple it's brilliant. Find a coffee shop with outdoor seating (or a big window if you're scared of sunburn) near a running route, bring a book, order a latte, and gawk away. If a hot, shirtless runner glances over and looks annoyed, pretend to read or glaze your eyes over like you're zoning out and clearly not staring at him. You might be a creeper, but he'll never know. If a hot, shirtless runner looks over and winks, wave him over for a closer view and buy him a drink.

Kinda-Creeper Way: Take up running (Health Bonus with this one)
Buy some running shoes and run with the hot, shirtless guys. Pretty soon, you could be a hot, shirtless guy too. They never need to know you started running just to ogle without seeming like a Creeper.

Definitely-A-Creeper Way: Take up "running"
Buy some running shoes, find a bush that looks out onto a running trail, watch the men run by. When hot, shirtless runner passes you, splash some water on yourself, start panting, catch up and pretend you've been running for a mile or so. Strike up conversation about your "mutual" running hobby.
Pointers: Remember the details of your story (Where did you start running today?), claim you usually run later or earlier so he can't wonder why he never sees you on the trail, try to splash the water on your shirt where you would have been sweating, make sure no pieces of the bush are stuck to you.

Embrace-the-Creeper Way: Hold up score cards as they pass the coffee shop near the trail (CLEARLY THE BEST CHOICE)
Remember that coffee shop we found for the Non-Creeper way? Go there, but don't bring a book. Sit outside with score cards. As hot, shirtless runners pass, hold up their score.
Warning #1: Do not score the ones that would get below a 6.5, it's just cruel. There's a difference between Creeper and D-Bag.
Warning #2: Though this is a bluntly excellent way to meet hot, shirtless runners, most of them will be straight and some of them will be crazy, violent, and/or threatened by the compliment of a high score. For this reason, it is imperative that the subject wears running shoes to the coffee shop. If it looks like getting punched in the face (or any other location) is imminent, the subject should not hesitate to use evasive maneuvers and, if necessary, flee the scene.

I hope this guide has been helpful for more than just Brett. If any of you have questions on this subject or further advice on shirtless runner staring, please comment below. Your feedback is appreciated.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Verizon Perma-call of Doom

I haven't blogged in a week because:

A) I'm a horrible person who doesn't care about my 5 followers.
B) I just worked 6 days in a row.
C) I am dog sitting and being in a different house distracts me.
D) B and C.

The answer is D, but I could understand those of you that picked A. After all, how hard is it to pick from my list of posts to write and write one? Apparently with work, dogs, and my favorite coworker back in town for a week, my motivation gets consumed pretty quickly. I am going to make up for my absence. I have two days off and only one get together and some gym visits scheduled, so that leaves lots of time for blogging.

As the title of the post suggests, I'm not going to keep harping on my negligence for the rest of these paragraphs. I am going to talk about my recent experience with trying to talk to a Verizon representative on the phone. Let me start by saying that I actually like having a Verizon cell phone and that I enjoy not having to deal with Comcast for my internet. On a day to day basis, Verizon works for me... but then there are days when for some reason I need to talk to customer service. On those days, I frakking hate Verizon. (Notice I didn't just say Fuck. Those of you that know me irl know that I say Fuck a lot. I was going to avoid it. Then I thought "Fuck it" and put in this parenthetical with 3 uses of the word. Yeah, I'm awesome and easily amused.)

Last week, I had to try to make two changes to my Verizon account. We wanted to disconnect our land line and upgrade our internet. I figured that they would not be happy with the first one, since they'd have to charge us less per month, and that they might make trouble about it. I hoped that upgrading my internet at the same time might lull them into a false sense of long-term gain and allow them to make this a speedy process. I decided to give them the bad news first and then the good news. To prep for the call, I logged into My Verizon, checked what internet was available in my area and how much it cost, got some coffee, and found a comfy place on my couch. I knew this had the potential to be a long haul of hold time, but I figured that coffee and webcomics would get me through it.

After realizing that they wanted me to call two different numbers for phone and internet, I chose the number for residential phones and made the personal commitment to not dialing the other number. The customer service person either had software in front of them that could also change my internet or they could transfer me. I was oddly stubborn about this commitment as I dialed the number. I was going to get this done quickly and efficiently, damn it. I really wasn't asking for much. This would go well!

After dialing and speaking my way over a few automated hurdles, I was 90% sure I was on hold for the right operator. Now was the time for waiting. A few things struck me as I waited.

1) I really hate having to speak to an automated menu. If they can't give me a real person to talk to, why do I have to talk to their computer? I feel like I have to over-enunciate while I slowly almost shout. Can't I just press a number? The computer can't tell me, "Sorry, I didn't get that. Can you repeat your choice?" in it's creepily cheery voice if I just have to press a number. Everyone has touch-tone phones now. Let's use them.

2) I am on hold for a communication company, a company most known for phones. In light of this, why don't they invest more time and/or money in their holding audio? Seriously, the music cuts in and out randomly and is always quieter than the static that accompanies it. If I didn't already have the service, this hold "music" wouldn't make me confident that this is the company that will give me clear, consistent conversations between my loved ones and I. Hell, I know their cell phones work, but the longer I stay on hold, the more I wonder if other companies wouldn't work better. Eventually, the thought that 95% of my friends and family have Verizon and that in-network calls are free 24/7 reassures me that their crappy hold audio isn't enough to dump them. Still, they're a communications company... they should work on that. It's embarrassing.

3) I've been putting off this call forever. I felt a sense of dread about it like I was calling an ex-boyfriend to help me move the couch that we bought together and I knew he wasn't going to want to do it and I didn't want to ask but the couch needed to move and I couldn't do it by myself. Not that I didn't have a totally more justified reason for calling than some dumb couch. For months now, whenever the land line rang, we got kicked off the internet. Clearly, something was wrong with that, and even more annoying, the only calls our land line got were collection calls. Let me make clear that my husband and I have no past due bills. The collection agencies can apparently search for numbers by address, presumably to avoid losing contact with their victims when they change their numbers, and seemingly every previous occupant of my apartment owed money to somebody. Now, these somebodies kept calling for people who I've never met and haven't lived at this address for over two years. No amount of explaining these things got the calls to stop. Given that Jer's mom has Skype now and that I got really tired of explaining that I didn't know Jason and no we had no vendettas against each other as I didn't even know him in the first place, the phone line had to go. It was finally time to make the call despite the dread.

After contemplating all of that for about 10 minutes and running out of webcomics, I finally got off of hold and talked to a real person. Unsurprisingly, she was required to ask why I wanted to ditch the land line. I explained the above, and though she didn't seem to think the reasons were as compelling as I did, she said the land line would be canceled today if that's what I really wanted. It took another 5 minutes of being on hold off and on for her to figure out how to actually turn the phone off. Finally, she told me that it would be off later today and that I wouldn't be able to dial 911 from it anymore, which sounded a bit like a threat. The tone in her voice seemed to say, "Just wait until you're on fire and swarmed by killer bees. You better hope your cell phone is charged enough to call 911 or you'll die from bee stings and 17th degree burns and it won't be my fault because you're the one that chose not to have a land line."

I pushed past her apparent desire to see my flaming corpse swarmed by bees and gave her the good news about wanting to upgrade my internet from "Power" to "Turbo." This did seem to make her happy, and she set to work on upgrading. This procedure must have been harder than turning off the phone line since this time I was on hold periodically for 15 minutes while she figured it out. I used this time to unload and reload my dishwasher, pace the length of my apartment and check how hot it was outside. Finally, she came back and said, "Ok, your land line has been cancelled and you will be upgraded to turbo today. You'll have an internet outage of 15 minutes to 4 hours for the upgrade, probably today. That will be $66.99 per month."

There are so many thing wrong with that. When will the outage be? No estimated time? My internet access is now a ticking time bomb just waiting to erase a role play post I might write? The crazy price eliminated all those questions.

"$66.99? The internet had a very different price," I said.

"Well, if you put the phone line back on it will be [some smaller number]," she responded... Oh, tricky. Not falling for it.

"I've been your customer for over three years and the Verizon website says Turbo is $39.99 without a phone line."

"I'll see what discounts I can get you, Ma'am," she said as I went back to scratchy, patchy hold 'music.' 10 minutes and 3 offers later, I've gotten a $35.99 price, rejected their DirectTV pitch, and thankfully hung up. I still had two hours until work. Sweet.

Mission accomplished...

Until I check my e-mail and see two new messages from Verizon thanking me for signing up for their Security Suite ($6.99/month) and Starz Unlimited Movies and Games ($27.99/month). WHAT? Damn it. I hate everyone. Rar. When we moved two years ago, they also signed me up for these two services without asking me. That time, there were no thank you e-mails so I had to call to get it taken off of the bill. This time, I'm nipping that shit in the bud and back on the phone with Verizon. More scratchy hold audio, more talking to automated menus, more hoping webcomics updated in the last hour, and then another customer service person.

I explained to him that not only did I not ask for these "services" but that nobody even mentioned them to me. They were just thrust upon me like stripper flyers in Vegas, and I wasn't in the market for security, movies, games, or even strippers. He apologized but didn't sound surprised like they regularly try to just slip these things onto a bill and hope you don't notice the $30-35 when it comes time to pay. He took them off, I got off the phone, looked at the clock, and realized that Verizon had just eaten almost 3 hours of my life that were never getting refunded. Plus, my internet was still a ticking time bomb of sudden failure that could come at any moment, which made the last hour before work really boring.

I guess the moral of the story is that my internet is faster now, so if we both want to play video games and watch Netflix, one of us could also be downloading videos of Vegas strippers or a person on fire swarmed with killer bees without lagging.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

4th Post. 4 Followers. I have to talk about 4's.

I have this almost OCD (but not OCD yet) thing about the number 4. It has been my favorite number since I was a little kid, and now I really like doing things in 4's and having 4's around me. I really, really like and almost need to have them... almost. See? Not quite OCD; just flirting with OCD. Since this is my fourth post and I just got my fourth follower, I decided to blog about my 4 thing.

It all started at the Costa Mesa Fish Fry, a Lions Club charity carnival that benefits "local schools, clubs, and other organizations in the community." When I was a kid, I just knew it was a carnival that was smaller than the Orange County Fair and really close to my house. Wow, I just looked it up, and it was super close. To illustrate its closeness, here is a google map that I've annotated:((The red annotations actually make my point. The green ones illustrate streets and places that just scream, "I am in a town in Southern California!!"))

Anyway, I went to the Fish Fry one day with my dad (I think. If it was you, Mom, sorry), and I was allowed to play some carnival games. I played the fourth game in the fourth row and won a prize, despite the fact that those games are almost always rigged to make you fail. I don't remember what the game was or what the prize was, but I know it hooked me on 4's at an early age.

With the backstory firmly in place, I thought it might be fun to list things that I do in 4's and the length to which I will go to make things 4's.

Things I did in 4's as a kid and have managed to stop:
-I used to chew in 4's. As I chewed, my internal monologue would count to 4 over and over again as I chewed. Sometimes, I still catch myself doing this when I'm bored.

-I walked in 4's. I would take smaller or bigger steps to ensure that my destination took a multiple of 4 steps.

-I really liked the game MASH, not for its divinitory capabilities, but because it had 4 categories each with 4 items and therefore exemplified my preferences... Also, it sometimes told me I would live in a Mansion, drive a convertible, and have one kid with Wil Wheaton, which was awesome!

-I got unnaturally, internally happy when something came to 16. What could be cooler than 4 4's?

Things I do in 4's now:
-If I am eating something that comes in pieces, I will always try to eat a multiple of 4. If there are 7 Skittles, I will bite one in half to make 8. If there are 6, I will bite two in half. Somehow, biting them in half makes them multiply to my satisfaction.

-If I am eating something I have to cut, I will cut it into multiples of 4. I have an amazing power to keep track of how many bites of steak I've had while maintaining polite dinner conversation. I can't tell you if it was 20 or 24 bites, but I can tell you it ended in a proper 4 and that's important.

-Licking your fingers or the utensils after food can be used to make it to 4 when it's the only option (especially handy with popcorn in a darkened movie theater).

-When kissing my husband, I try never to stop on three. I will kiss him again, even if it involves wrestling. If he kisses me five times, I will fight for three more. Sometimes, I think he knows that I'm aiming for 4 and will throw in the fifth to spite me.

-If I run my thumb across my nails while I think, I will run make sure to do it twice each way to make 4 even if I finish thinking first.

-If I have five of something and don't need them all, I will frequently give the fifth away. I seem generous, but I mainly just want to have 4.

-If I hum or tap out a rhythm, it almost always has a 4 beat. If it doesn't in the beginning, it usually starts to.

-I didn't really have an eighth item, but it's important that my list is a multiple of 4.

The only reason the above lists don't convince me I have a disorder is that if I can't make a 4, I just accept it. It sucks, but sometimes I can't have a 4. If it made me freak out, I would have a problem. Instead, it just makes me think, "Well, damn." I'm not completely crazy, right?

Note: I am posting this at 24 after. That's a 4 right there. Rock!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Wal-mart trips breed Wal-mart trips"

One of my friends (and I'm sorry, friend, for not acknowledging you by name, but I forgot who said it first) once said that Wal-mart trips breed Wal-marts trips, and (s)he was completely right.

The first time I heard it, I didn't want to believe it. After all, Wal-mart is the corporate evil. Every time I enter Wal-mart, a sliver of my soul is left there, and I can never get it back. I don't know what they intend to do with the soul shards or even if they know they're amassing a mighty collection of them, but the thought of Wally World actually harnessing and using the power of these soul shards is completely terrifying. Just saying, it is.

Despite the soul-eating, morale-crushing nature of Wal-mart, I often end up there. Target is 15 minutes away, and when I need a $2 thing, it hardly seems worth the drive. Really, it's give up a shard of my soul or pay for extra gas. I know I'll want that shard of my soul later in life, but for now I want my money to stay in my account. I'm not always the best at thinking long-term. I'm sure I'll pay for it when/if I need to sell my soul and find out that a controlling share is already owned by Wal-mart and that the corporate evil is creating a zombie army and their controlling share turns me into a zombie, which makes the rest of my soul really not worth buying. The next thing I know, I'll be eating the innards of total strangers with the rest of the Undead, and the remainder of my brain will be wishing I'd driven to frakking Target at least half of the times that I caved and went to Wal-mart so that I could be, you know, not a zombie and maybe even a member of a band of survivors during the Zombocalypse instead of eventually getting a cricket bat to the head from one of the survivors.

If you kept track of that train of thought, you get a gold star and should probably reward yourself with a cookie.

Anyway, I thought I would tell you about my Wal-mart trips this past weekend. Jer (my husband) and I needed two things: a toilet paper roll plunger and a bathroom trashcan with a lid. Our old toilet paper roll plunger had lost its springiness and was prone to popping out of the holder at random, throwing the toilet paper roll to the floor, unrolling a few feet of t.p., and then rolling out of reach of the person on the toilet that needed it. Clearly, it had to go. As for the trashcan, we have a new roommate coming into our second bedroom, and I have reason to believe that he hasn't had a female roommate in the past (unless he has a sister. I don't know). I figured it would be nice of me to get a covered trashcan, so that I wouldn't be advertising my menstrual cycle to him. There's an extremely small chance that he would be like "Ew, ew, ew. Not ok, not ok. How do those things do all that bleeding and not die?!?!?! Burn the witch!"

Pst, new roommate, if you're reading this, I'm sure you wouldn't do that. I just got the trashcan in the off chance that you were super creeped out by the evidence of girlishness.

So, we went to Wal-mart, got a trashcan and a toilet paper roll plunger in exchange for a few bucks and shard of each of our souls. Good. Done. Right? Of course not. We got home, and I was like, "Jer, we should've gotten a new alarm clock... and I want my own bedside table cuz groping for a kleenex box on the floor at 3 AM is scary and I'm gonna fall some day and that will suck." In my head I thought, "Wal-mart, you sneaky bastard! You've made me need another Wal-mart trip... evil." Jer looked at me like I was a little crazy for not remembering these things before, but our alarm clock is missing the protective cover over the face from one too many encounters with the floor, and I think he doesn't want me to fall out of bed, so we went to Wal-mart again.

When we got the clock and the tables (2 matching tables. Yay, symmetry), I was determined to beat Wal-mart at its little game. I wracked my brain for anything else I might need. A tendon in my foot is angry. Pick up a support wrap. Our Wii controllers sometimes need batteries. Get a pack of AA's. Jer sees something for our old roomie's birthday. Great, get it. Haha, Wal-mart! We know your game, and we will beat you! We triumphantly took our items to the front, parted with $40 and two more soul shards, and left.

We won! We beat Wal-mart! Right? Nope. A bit later, Jer calls from the other room, "Your alarm clock needs AAA batteries."

My brain broke a little. DAMN YOU WAL-MART! I will NOT go back. Not 3 times in a weekend! You can't make me! I don't need a functional alarm clock that badly! Spitefully, I decided to get batteries at Kroger when I went out to get snacks, but the evil spirits of Wal-mart made me completely forget to pick them up. They were trying to force me to bend to their will, and they would fail! Jer was out, so I texted him that I was lame and forgot to buy batteries. He was awesome and brought some home like a knight in shining armor!

And before you ask, I have no idea if he got them at Wal-mart. I didn't ask. I'm kind of afraid to. The important thing is I didn't let Wal-mart make me go a third time. I broke the cycle and kept a piece of my soul! Hopefully, Jer did too. I don't want him to become a Wal-mart zombie without me because then I'd have to kill him and that would be really, really hard and not just emotionally. He knows martial arts.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My gerbil is more hardcore than me...

and probably more hardcore than you unless you are Batman. Batman, if you’re reading this, rest assured that you are slightly more hardcore than my gerbil.

“Why is Leo more hardcore than me?” you might ask if you knew my gerbil’s name is Leo, which you now do. It’s really simple, actually. Imagine that you had cancer. Go ahead. It sucks, huh? You definitely care that you have cancer, right? That right there is why Leo is more hardcore than everyone but Batman.

Leo has cancer, but he doesn’t care. Not even a little. He just keeps doing what he’s doing. Sometimes, I talk to him about this. I wonder aloud to him at what point he’s going to start caring about his cancer. The humans noticed his cancer in March or April and were all, “Omg, Leo has a tumor on his belly. Soon, we will have to put him down, and that will be super sad since we just put his brother, Sirius, down.” But Leo just kept conquering a toilet paper tube as if to say, “Be cool, humans. I don’t even care. I’m hardcore.”

So, we decided to be cool like Leo suggested and the tumor grew and grew and we were like, “Leo, that’s getting really big. Don’t you think you should care about that?” and Leo kept nomming on a sunflower seed as if to say, “What did I say about being cool, humans? I’m hardcore. Don’t even worry about it.” And we didn’t worry about it. But we kept waiting for him to care…

Then one time in late May, he noticed his tumor and scratched it. We saw that he had been messing with it and thought, “Well, this is the end. He’s going to get himself infected, and we’re going to have to put him down. It’s a good thing he’s old and lived a comfy life.” And Leo just kept running in his wheel as if to say, “You’re still not being cool, humans. Yeah, I scratched it; it hurt; I decided to leave it alone. I’m still hardcore; I’m so hardcore that I think with semi-colons.” And we decided to finally, officially be cool and let him tell us when he was going to care and stop being so bad-assedly hardcore.

It’s mid-July now, and Leo is still hardcore. More hardcore than me, you, and everyone… except Batman.

You may now be asking, “Kitty, wtf was that all about? Why did you tell us about Cancer Boy the Rodent Wonder?” Maybe it was my way of explaining the pitfalls of adopting middle-aged rodents that you know have only 1-2 years left of life. Maybe I was looking around my study today, jotting down blog ideas, and heard the click click click of Leo drinking from his water bottle. It was probably that I mentioned my cancerous gerbil in passing in my first entry and felt the need to explain that Leo is not a poor, dying gerbil but a bad-ass, hardcore, nearly-geriatric gerbil who could totally kick everyone’s butts in an optimism competition.

I leave you now with a picture of his hardcore-ness, Leo. Imagine, if you will, that he is telling every one of you, “Be cool, humans. Be cool.”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

First Post, wherein our heroine should explain herself, but doesn't.

As this is my first post, I'm sure I should introduce myself, explain why I started a blog, and maybe even introduce my cast of characters.

However, I think I'll instead talk about why I never put the toaster away. This is probably a better introduction to me than the mundane details would be.

I never put the toaster away for a variety of reasons. Mainly because it's hot, and the cupboard we put it into is made of wood and has cleaning products in it, which basically sounds to me like putting a hot thing into a flammable den of flammable things. My husband thinks this is silly. Every roommate I've ever had thinks this is silly, but are they just not seeing it? I mean, one uses a toaster to just barely burn bread into hot, crispy deliciousness. All toasters have at least some metal, and ours is almost entirely metal. Burning requires heat, therefore the toaster becomes a hot metal box that I'm not about to expose to wood because, you know, I like my apartment when it's not on fire.

My husband has just told me that he doesn't just shove the toaster right back into the cupboard either. He says he gives it "3-5 minutes to cool down." Apparently, I have more faith in the ability of our toaster to retain heat than he does.

Maybe an account of my typical toaster use will help get to the bottom of this. Usually, I use the toaster before work in the mornings. When I work in the morning, my shift starts at the ungodly hour of 7 am, meaning that I have to get up at 6:15. I stumble out of the bedroom, check stuff on the internet, and then get out the toaster. I shove Nutri-Grain Eggos or bread or Toaster Scramblers inside and eat some yogurt while it does the burning thing. Then I grab my now hot and crispy food from the toaster and take it back to my computer where I eat it while playing on the internet. At about 6:40, I realize I should probably stop dicking around on Facebook games and get dressed. At 6:45, I'm refilling water bottles and getting coffee together at the counter with the toaster on it. By now, the toaster is cool, but I am running almost late. I have two choices: put away the toaster like a responsible adult or use that minute to poke my sleeping husband, tell him I love him, and (if I can find his face around the sheets) give him a kiss.

I pretty much always choose the second choice, leaving the toaster on the counter for my husband to deal with when he wakes up for work. I could totally find time to put the toaster away. There are absolutely extra minutes in my morning, usually at the beginning, but at the beginning, the toaster is still a flaming box of radiant heat that wants to burn down my house.

My actual fear, which is so irrational that I usually just claim laziness and forgetfulness when questioned, is that I will put the toaster away 2 minutes too early, go to work, and come back to what used to be my house and all my stuff but is now charred and soaked remains scattered with firemen and being stared at by the people who lived upstairs and my husband who just barely got out in time but couldn't save our cancerous gerbil. And our computers, hi-def tv, wii, wedding photo album, immigration paperwork, and all our other stuff is no more and it's all my fault because I put the toaster away like a responsible adult instead of leaving it safely on the counter.

Clearly, leaving it on the counter is a much better option than burning the house to the ground. Everyone who lives with me should thank me for saving their lives rather than pointing out how irrational my fear is. I don't want to have to burn the house down to prove my point because I like my stuff and my gerbil, but sometimes I think that's the only way to prove how completely justified my fear is.

See? I told you that would be a much better introduction than some silly description of my life.