Monday, April 20, 2009

The Other Shoe

Layoffs began at my job today.

The possibility of layoffs was announced a short 6 weeks ago and today they're happening. Last month's announcement sparked a rare and somber morning conversation on the van.

Neo-Pompadour was driving, I was riding shotgun, and Dora squeezed her torso between the two front seats. In hushed tones we all shared the bits of gossip we'd heard, speculated on who would be the first to go, and criticized management for letting it come to this.

"What do you think is going to happen?" Dora asked.

When no one answered, she lifted her coffee and sank back into her seat.

"I know one thing," said Neo-Pompadour, "I'm going to enjoy sleeping in!"

Cue the polite, strained laughter.

"Well, if it does happen, we'll all meet for coffee and donuts while we go through the want ads." Then it was quiet and Neo-Pompadour stared straight ahead.

And I wondered, looking at the amber glow of the instrument panel reflect on his face, how long it will be before we're wiping powdered sugar off the classifieds.

For all the poor bastards going home with pink slips in their pockets - may I never join your ranks - an anthem for these times:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Daylight Sav...zzzzz

I respect you Mr. Franklin, I just don't have to like you right now. Your Daylight Saving scheme can be a bitter pill to swallow. It caused this morning's driver to veer moodily from lane to lane and narrowly avoid two rear end collisions.

It caused me to lie awake in bed 45 minutes before my alarm went off because I was paranoid about being late for work.

As my mind drifted from thought to thought, I recalled an old friend. Our long friendship ended abruptly and poorly. I remembered the Dear Jane letter he sent me years ago, a litany of petty grievances that was to be the last I heard from him.

I wondered if I still had the letter. It didn't seem like something I would throw away. It's good to hang on to some of the signposts from your life: not just the birthday cards and well wishes, but some cringe-inducing memorabilia that reminds you that you can be a real bastard.

After less looking than I anticipated, I found the letter. It hadn't packed the emotional sting I remembered. But it was, curiously, dated exactly 5 years to the day.

What bizarre confluence of events lead me to rediscover this letter exactly 5 years after it was written, I can't say. It probably has less to do with the twisted inner workings of my psyche and more to do losing out on a few hours of sleep.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Left Behind

Early on in in my vanpooling, my biggest fear was being left in the city with no way home. So far, it hasn't happened. To me, that is.

Last Thursday, Minh was at the wheel. Minh, whose obsession with finding shortcuts means that I'm never quite sure from which direction she will appear when she picks me up.

She barely rolls to a stop as I jump in. We sit through three cycles of a traffic light and Minh's right eye twitches along with each click of the van's turn signal.

When she finally clears the intersection, she veers away from our normal route.

"What about Neo Pompadour?" I ask mildly.

"Ooh, I never see this bridge before!" gushed Minh. And that was that.

She made the rest of her pick ups and pointed the van homeward. I was stretched out on the rear bench with earbuds tightly in place thumbing through a library book when my phone rang.

It was a number I didn't recognize so, of course, I didn't answer it.
A minute or so ticked by before I became vaguely aware of some excitement at the front of the van.

I popped out my headphones in time to hear, "...forgot Neo Pompadour!"

After the initial shock, the vannies started to laugh. "Poor Neo Pompadour," someone jeered. There was a chorus of questions and blame before Minh accused me: "vAnnie! How could you let me forget him???"

To which I responded, "I asked you about him. And you said 'Ooh, I'll take this short cut!'"

More laughter.

"What kind of unit are you running, Minh?" I asked, "We don't leave a man behind."

More laughter.

The laughter subsided as we u-turned back into traffic, but it stopped completely when everyone mentally calculated the additional commute time this oversight would cause.

I've always thought the expression about cutting tension with a knife was dumb. That is until I felt the dread welling up inside me, my lungs straining to breathe air as thick as Velveeta watching Neo Pompadour approach the van.

He looked sweaty. Sweaty and pissed. No one dared look at him, except me: "H-h-h-hey Neo Pompadour," I stuttered.

With eyes full of rage, yet tinged with disappointment he said, "I tried calling you vAnnie."

Great. So now I feel guilty and partially responsible for The Incident. It's my fault that Minh is easily distracted and can't take a decent head count.

I settled back into my seat, turned the pages of my book as quietly as I could and thought about how one day he'll see the humor in all this.

The rest of us do.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


It's been brought to my attention that I am not making the best start to the new year.

I blame my brother for regifting a copy of Twilight, which I held away from my person, between index finger and thumb until finally succumbing to my angsty inner 'tween/curious librarian and read the whole series.

And then admitted to people that I read it.

I blame my better half for giving me 8 gigs worth of memory for my phone which has caused me to lower the bar content-wise and include "Material Girl" on my playlist.*

I blame the looming spectre of my thirtieth year for sending me out to purchase bright yellow Wayfarers since my days of trend hopping are, sadly, numbered.

I blame myself for letting my brains waste away to mush during my vacation.

I blame my job for forcing me out of the pop culture gutter I've been merrily wallowing in for the past two weeks. But, now it's time to get back to work.

*Doubleplusungood for engaging in head nodding whilst song was playing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Advertising, Schmadvertising

Of late I have noticed billboard-style advertisements on the sides of school buses.

Silly me, I assumed the ads were flogging tickets for school sporting events or were about the school's purported intellectual superiority (evidenced by overuse of the word 'excellence').

No. The ad I saw this morning was advertising a local day care. I'm sure the ads for Henessey and McDonald's are forthcoming.

This reminds me of the charmingly titled Simpsons episode, Grift of the Magi, wherein a bankrupt Springfield Elementary is purchased by a toy company. Said toy company omits traditional book learning and instead uses students for marketing research.

A horrifying example of corporate greed and consumerism, or simply an idea ahead of its time?

But just when I'm ready to wag my finger and consider this another nail in the coffin of Western civilization, the Universe balances out.

Behold the following Humanist holiday ad that will be plastered on the side of D.C. buses through December:

God I love Christmas.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hail to the Chief

My feelings of exuberance incarnate:

I tried to stay awake, to remain alert for this monumental event that will be forever seared on the consciousness of my generation.

I entertained notions of popping champagne bottles when the election was called, crafting a meal consisting of only Democrat blue food, calling my father-in-law to say, "Ha!"

But I just couldn't do it, shotgunning 3 cans of Diet Coke only bought me about 20 minutes and I was fast asleep long before the last polls closed.

I arose the next morning to a new America. An America that pulled it's head out of it's collective arse and elected Barack Hussein Obama the 44th president of these United States. I hope for great things.

Pack your shit, George.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My People

Today my employer hosted an information session featuring the good people from Houston Metro, the goal of which was to get more citizens to drink the mass transit Kool-Aid.

The modest turnout was comprised of mostly late middle aged folks with a disproportionately high number of bald spots, including women.

I describe them thusly: whiny and dim.

For example, "My vanpool captain [editorial aside: Yes, 'vanpool captain'] is always changing the rates on me, I never know how much to pay."

Following a lengthy discussion (and slide show) about creating a commuter account to pay metro fees on a pre-tax basis, "Is this account pre-tax?"

And my personal favorite:

"My metro card's busted."

All this while a woman in the second row gave a play-by-play of the events to someone over the phone.

After spending an hour with other people's vannies, I have a new found gratitude for my own relatively low-key group, even if they do irk me from time to time.