Thursday, March 29, 2007

When I Wake Up in the Morning and it's Quarter to Seven

A couple weeks back, following a string of drinking events in which friends' Flickr accounts are more likely to be categorized as "evidence" than "nostalgia," I decided to take a night for laundry and self-improvement , which for girls means painting your toenails. As an added bonus, I also decided to floss my teeth, which is something I don't do very often, and of course, should. To make the world's most mundane story short, I did, my gums spat in my face , spun around on one heel, then spread vicious rumors about my performance in bed, and now I'm left with a toothache on one side. Having been without dental or medical insurance for the first 25 years of my life (though in possession of it now), and being a ridiculously healthy individual, I've been following the "Wait and See" track of treatment, in the hopes that if I ignore it, it will go away, but unfortunately, it's a no go. My one bout of dental responsibility unleashed some sort of beast, and I suspect I'm going to have to do something about it. It's not that I'm particularly squeamish, and a high tolerance for both pain and drugs means that unless my dentist is the Marathon Man, it won’t hurt that much. It's that I have no doubt that if I were to go to a dentist, my mother, ten hours upstate, would somehow, some way, find out.

I make no secret of the fact that my mother is both a dental hygienist and certifiably insane. Having my married my dad, who, thanks to an unfortunate birthing incident involving two things that should never be used in conjunction, one of which you typically use on salads, has what are medically referred to as "fucked up teeth", well, she knew a lost cause when she saw one, and so was able to channel her full oral neuroses onto me. I am certain that when I sprang forth from her womb, it was Down's-be-damned, the first thing she had the doctor count was teeth. Anyway, amongst the other dental crimes committed against me--Mentadent users, be grateful that for every minty mouthful you spit into the sink, there was a 12-year-old guinea pig out there who, upon trying the prototype formula, was somehow able to make her searing, abraded lips formulate the words "IT BURNS SO BAD"--I was also subjected to harsher than normal standards for oral hygiene, including but not limited to random plaque-stains, flossing under duress not by my own hands, rejection of romantic others on the basis of "bad teeth", and several occasions in which I was pulled out of a group of friends, handed a toothbrush from the secret flap of skin that my mother had installed for just such a storage purpose, and told to "go brush".

"It was inspiring."--My mother

My mother was also responsible for cleaning the teeth of a large portion of the village and town in which I grew up; a naturally chatty woman, I would dread my friends going in for cleanings, as they would inevitably come back with some personal information that she had spilled in the interest of full disclosure of her teenage daughter’s most secret shames. When the guy that I had a crush on for three years came back all pearly white and informed me that my mother had let loose that I both drooled in my sleep and liked the taste of communion wafers—two points that to this day, I cannot possibly connect in any sort of logical, linear conversation—I had to lay down the law about what was and was not OK to talk about to other people, which was Nothing and Everything, respectively.

Well, you know, with peanut butter on them.

When I return home for Christmas, my mother still checks my toothbrush at night to see if it is wet so that she will know if I have brushed, and if I have forgotten to brush/wet my toothbrush, I will be pulled out of bed and made to do so. Once I reached college age, I was able to assert myself enough in the bathroom to refuse to brush in front of my mother, who keeps a running color commentary on stroke methods and the latest research in brushing technology. The only thing more disappointing to my mother than when I got my first of many cavities is when I finally came out and admitted that I prefer manual toothbrushes to the myriad state-of-the-art electric toothbrushes she had been providing me with over the years, and that I had even been using a regular old Oral-B under her roof.

Nature did not intend me to stick that in my mouth.

I have sealants on teeth that were not meant to be sealed, and probably are not sealed on any other human in existence; if mine is the body they find encased in ice 150,000 years from now, it will seriously fuck up anthropology. These came during visits in which my mother would keep me in the chair for multiple hours under the guise of “just trying something”. I still go through the “treasure chest” in her office to take my prize when I get my teeth cleaned, not because I’m not stocked on Super Balls and fake tattoos, but out of spite for those children that get to sit in her chair and not get sworn at/have facial imperfections pointed out. I used to open my Christmas stocking and find the latest high-tech flossers and toothbrushes; I once received a care package at college that contained a giant, Goldbergian device with a post-it note that read “The Rolls Royce of tongue scrapers! Let me know if your friends want one.” I did not have braces as a child, due to lack of funds and the geographical reaches to which one must travel in order to find an orthodontist office in Northern NY; instead, I was given a tongue depressor and weekly checkups at the LaZBoy, then told which teeth to “pull” and which to “push” as they came in. Despite losing my final two canines at the not-in-the-least-bit awkward age of 16, they’re actually almost perfectly straight, and when I look back on old pictures, I’m able to cringe myself in half for dozens of reasons other than a metal mouth.

A fondness for fabric paint being one of them.

The point is, if she finds out, and she will, oh yes she will, it won’t be pretty. I'm sure it'll go away.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Items in the Office Vending Machine and the People Who Buy Them OR Phoning It In

DO-Hershey’s Special Dark. My grandfather, your grandfather, Belgians with low standards.
D1-M&M’s (regular). Mothers looking to occupy their children. When I look back on the amount of time I spent categorizing, defining, and dividing M&Ms into different color groups, I question whether my parents even existed, or whether I just imagined them.
D2-Butterfinger. Aging frat boys, members of corporate softball teams.
D3-Three Musketeers. D’Artagnan, me. I’m a big fan of these, and usually I bite off the chocolate coating in sheaths, then eat the sticky inner part all by its lonesome. I always assumed that this was the norm, like just eating only the middles of Oreos or cheating on your taxes, but when I was first witnessed performing this ritual, my friend looked at me like I was methodically deboning a live bat.
D4-Peanut Chews. 1940s schoolgirls. As a general rule, I don’t think any food product name should include the bodily function required to digest it.
D5-Peanut Butter stuffed cheese crackers. Costco-shopping mothers needing to send their kids to snacktime with something other than leftovers. Am I wrong, or didn’t these used to be two separate snacks? Peanut butter crackers, and then cheese crackers. I don’t know if I applaud the manufacturer for efficiency, or blame them for all that’s wrong with America. I think the former.
D6- Zagnut. Beetlejuice, me. This is my favorite candy bar, and the one most likely to flake off into your hair, neither of which is much of a selling point.
D7- Hot tamales. Latina firecrackers who tell themselves things like “You’re fabulous”, people wronged by men named either “Mike” or “Ike”.
D8, D9- Peanut M&Ms. Mothers looking to occupy and choke their children. These weren’t as fun to categorize and define, probably because they rolled off the table so easily, and because when one of these mutated in the candy-coating process, it made them look downright carcinogenic.
EO- Nature Valley Peanut Butter granola bar. HR Women who applaud themselves for “snacking healthy”.
E1-Snickers. Everybody. These are my favorite ingredient with which to make my beloved Dairy Queen Blizzards, as there’s always a very real possibility that they will break the machine, adding an element of danger to my gluttony.
E2- Nutrigrain bar (apple). No one. No one buys these. That same bar has been sitting in slot E2 longer than your mother*. I once saw a guy accidentally hit the wrong button, get one of these, and just leave it there. The unwanted orphan baby of the vending machine.
E3- Almond Joy. Mounds lovers who feel like throwing caution to the wind. Though delicious, no one has ever eaten an Almond Joy and felt in any way sated.
E4- Nature Valley Oats-n-Honey granola bar. Horses, HR Women who applaud themselves for “snacking healthy” and look disdainfully upon colleagues buying the peanut butter version.
E5-Nutrigrain bar (strawberry). Still no one. I’m not saying that vending machine restock guys need a background in statistical analysis, but surely someone up the line has noticed that this product has failed to move a single unit in the history of its existence.
E6- Starbust. Midlevel execs who are trying to quit smoking, surfers. When are they going to just make an all-pink Starburst pack, already? Those green ones are the grenades of the sleeve.
E7- Lorna Doone shortbread cookies. Though typing the phrase “My opinions on shortbread are already well-documented” has singlehandedly caused me re-evaluate my life and the choices that have brought me to the point at which I’m able to make such a statement, I just want to reiterate- who the hell picks shortbread as a snack?
E8- Snackwells cookies. Fat chicks. Disturbingly familiar with Snackwells brand products thanks to a childhood spent under the dietary tutelage of an overweight parent, I can tell you how the process works: Lower fat=ability to eat more of the product with less of the guilt. The full box should read “Serving Size- You’re holding it in your grubby, sausagey hands”.
E9-Kit Kat Crispy. Average people of average weight with average intellect who tell you stories about their kids. Aren’t all Kit Kats crispy? Isn’t that the selling point? It’s kind of hard to make a wafer-based product not crispy, though I’d buy it in the name of science.
FO-Joey’s Pound Cake. Girls in accounting who have just been dumped by their boyfriends. This is the start of Obesity Row. Fitting.
F2-Newtons Minis. Props to Nabisco for managing to turn a dime from figs, especially after that whole Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-dead monkey PR nightmare, but this is just greedy. I’ve never seen anyone turn down a Newton on the grounds that it was “just too gigantic.”
F4-Entenmann’s Carrot Cake. My grandmother, Grandmothers of the World, Rabbit Grandmothers.
F6-Devil Dogs. No data available. Though they sell surprisingly well considering they’re named for two things I don’t want to put in my mouth.
F8-Joey’s Marble Cake. Girls in accounting who were dumped by their boyfriends a day or two after their colleagues
HO-H4- Lifesavers and Carefree gum. I’m pretty sure these are just cardboard cutouts standard with every vending machine.

*doesn’t make any sense.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


My current job is somewhat uncommon, and yet not in the least bit exciting. I'm more than happy to tell people the company I work for, but I have a self-imposed gag order on giving anyone my actual title or going into any sort of detail about what it is I do, coworkers included. I've run through all of the different kinds of people that exist in the world (at least those found on the "Guess Who?" board), and there is not a single one that could possibly come away from an explanation of my job's duties a richer person.

While not at a particular loss for not being able to share my occupation with the world, I do sort of mourn the fact that I never grew up into one of the standard occupations rendered so lovingly in cartoons on the pages of my French workbook, like a butcher or a fisherman or aunt. There's something to be said for having a job of the ages, so that if you were to suddenly find yourself in another era past or future, Connecticut Yankee/Bill-Ted style, you wouldn't have to hastily make up some lie or risk some sort of grandfather paradox because you accidentally taught a civilization what a "database" was before its time. I kind of enjoy not having to explain my job to anyone for their own sanity, and though I have secretly always craved a unique job, I wouldn't relish having to give every new person I met a rundown of my life, like when you meet someone who's seven feet tall or from Alaska. I would make exceptions:

Furrier. I kind of like the idea of dealing in pelts, like a pilgrim or an owl. Plus, there's something very solid about coming home after work smelling like a bear or a wolf. It beats smelling like a spreadsheet. Downside: Omnipresent PETA members.

Mad scientist. This one's not that difficult to achieve, due to ever-expanding fields of science, and the rather general nature of the job title. All you have to do is become a scientist, then go batshit insane (I suppose it could work the other way around, as well, if one was up for the challenge). There are certain areas of science that would lend themselves more poetically to mental imbalance than others--a mad agricultural soil scientist doesn't have the same ring to it as say, a mad volanologist or a mad geneticist-- but on the whole, I think it's a pretty storied tradition. Downsides: Constant pressure to keep up with advances in the field and new technology, resulting in a stream of younger, hotshot mad scientists angling for your job.

Chess Grandmaster. There are two ways your day can end: One, you won. Two, you lost. There's a certain tranquility in the simplicity of it . Also, everyone would address you as "Grandmaster", mostly because you'd fucking insist upon it. Downsides: Birthday/Christmas gifts from coworkers and Secret Santas would always be novelty chess sets along the "Simpsons" or "Star Wars" line.

Funeral Director. Everyone you'd meet would be having a worse day than you. Assuming some sort of normal distribution, no matter how crappy your day is, within the scope of your universe, it's the best. Downsides: Constant realization of your own mortality; also, messy.

Q. From the James Bond series. The crux of his job is figuring out how to fit explosives into increasingly smaller objects, then basking in 007's appreciation; it's basically a Dremel tool, some C4, and a legion of devoted lab assistants rolling in hazard pay. There aren't a lot of opportunities for a science geek to save the world, but this is definitely the one that gets you most laid. Downsides: M seems kind of a bitch to work for.

Longshoreman. I don't really know exactly what a longshoreman does, but they seem to lead a pretty hedonistic lifestyle. You never hear about anyone frowning upon a longshoreman for swearing too much, getting too drunk, sleeping around. They get away with murder. Probably literally. Downsides: I don't know, but there's got to be some, otherwise I feel like I'd have met more longshoremen.

Jack-of-all-Trades. I dunno. Just seems handy. Would look good on a business card. Downsides: Union dues would really add up.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

One man's treasure

In gathering my belongings at work in preparation for my move to a new desk, one that actually sees visible rays of sunlight for a period of 11-12 minutes in the later afternoons, May-August, I'm finding that my residence for the past two years has come to resemble those dusty old closets in which wizened old Chinese men keep their mogwai and cursed monkey paws. Some oddities:

For my job, I communicate with a large number of institutions, and often am required to send them prepaid packages with which to return documents to me, for which I select the postage. These are the supremely gay Legends of Hollywood "Judy Garland" stamps, which I use for institutions that I loathe more than the usual (institutions that I like/have yet to incur my wrath get the venerable "Baseball Sluggers"). The idea of a tightass, Old BoyVice President bringing an envelope covered in Liza's mom to the mailroom not only keeps me from puncturing major arteries with office supplies, but sometimes even turns my frown into a blank, neutral expression on mornings when I'm still particularly drunk.

This is a small pot made for me by a coworker taking "Ceramics I" as her elective when getting her Master's so she could leave this very job. While touched by the gesture, I was immediately informed that this was her practice pot, and that the glaze is highly poisonous, so it's not really suitable for, you know, use. I use it to store the cough drops I offer to people who reheat fish in the microwave.

These are the pictures on my bulletin board. Since I'm unmarried, my family avoids the camera with a Jackal-like consistency, and I have no pictures of friends that do not involve beverages or obscene gestures, I've appropriated pictures from other sources so as to appear normal.
1. This is a photomagnet of a lanky, awkward teenage girl and her trusty basketball, left by the previous owner of the bulletin board. I tell people it's my daughter (I'm 27) and she's a star power forward, then watch their faces as they privately wonder if their own teenager is having sex.
2. This is a picture sent in by a young man trying to get something published, following the ever-important seventh step to succeeding in business-"Make sure to include a photo of yourself topless". I think he looks like a dickhead. When people ask if he's my boyfriend, I say "No, he's a dickhead."
3. This came as a placeholder in a coworker's wedding album, and I put it on my bulletin board so that people will assume that I came from the hard-knock, tuberculosis-ridden streets of Limerick, and that when I say "If you could, please get back to me at your earliest convenience", they know that I fucking mean it.

This is my collection of miniaturized items brought back to me by a coworker that actually gets sent places for work (it included an impossibly adorable mini-Tabasco bottle until this past weekend, when I made a batch of impossibly adorable Bloody Marys). I 've never thought to ask where he gets sent that he's given so many tiny foodstuffs. Perhaps our company does a lot of business in Lilliput.

This is my jar of forks, soy sauce, and a shower cap. I had assumed most cubicle-dwellers have one, but upon further inspection last week, I realized that it's just me, and that this jar makes me look like I'm batshit insane.

This is the collection of highly-processed food I keep at my desk for when I need to eat dinner before going out, which coworkers tell me looks like the contents of a freshman boy's dorm room. I laugh goodnaturedly, but if ever we're all forced to live in a fallout shelter following a nuclear war that unexpectedly occurs between the hours of 9-5 M-F, I am so fucking not sharing.

These are the pumpkin-flavored Godiva chocolates sent to me by my grandmother around the holidays. They are without a doubt the most vile, putrid thing I have ever put in my mouth, and it was only out of sheer inflexibility that I did not immediately lick the bottom of my shoe to get rid of the taste. I keep these around for two reasons; one, in the hopes that someone will actually take one of these when I casually offer it to them, and two, so that on especially rotten days, I can say to myself "Hey, at least I'm not in the midst of swallowing a pumpkin-flavored Godiva chocolate", which really helps me put things in perspective.