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.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


David Sedaris on undecided voters:

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.


I'm having too many brushes lately with the Death's half-cousin thorough marriage, the Angel of Maim.

A short two days ago, I was sideswiped not only by a teen with a newly minted driver's license in his Camaro but also by the cliché of getting hit by a teen driving a Camaro.

For those of you keeping score, that means that both of the adults in my household have been in a car accident in the past three weeks.

The only modes of transportation we have left are a lawnmower and a treadmill but I am too fearful to use either.

I spent the next day looking up my available vacation time and happened upon my Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance. This threw me into a tailspin: Is my coverage sufficient? How would I look missing a few digits or a whole arm? Would I get one of those cool robot appendages and take up competitive arm wrestling?

The cherry on this cake of mortality came today when my Best Gay left a message to say that he and his beloved are planning their wills and, "In the event we should die tomorrow in a fiery car crash, will you and [vAnnie's spouse] take care of our dog? Ugh, it's pledge week on NPR. God I hate pledge week. Call me."

In times like these all you can do is get (and by 'get' I mean 'sing') Laid. I believe that it is good for the soul to air drum until your rotator cuff smarts and your throat is parched from all the falsetto.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's Raining Men

A significant portion of the vanpool population is female, male riders are definitely in the minority. My vanpool has recently upped the testosterone level with the return of Generic White Guy and the addition of Rider to be Named Later.

Generic White Guy had been missing for at least three months now (granted, it took me about a month to notice his absence). I desperately tried to overhear the hushed tones the other ladies used when talking about him, but all I could gather is that he had surgery and was facing a long recovery.

This was his first week back and it was good to see him. He looks somewhat worse for the wear, a little fragile and extra pale, but in high spirits. I thought my heart would literally rip in two when we picked him up at the end of his first day back and I watched him stumble and nearly fall while trying to hoist himself into the van.

Someone tried to make a joke out of it, something along the lines of, "We all know you're ready to get home, but pace yourself! Har-Har!" But I think everyone in the van just wanted to give him a hug.

The other fellow is a vanpool first: Young. Younger than me. Young. On all of my vanpools, I have been at least a decade or two younger than the other vannies. I've caught the new guy looking at me the way I know I look at him, a look that says, "What are you doing here?"

It's kind of like getting caught enjoying something you know is lame. You feel a little ashamed and a little self conscious and feel a little hate for the person who discovered you.

Unfortunately, the whippersnapper has yet to reveal himself. He's quiet and unobtrusive, cloaked in the rumpled anti-style of the heterosexual man in his early twenties. The only catty thing I have on him is that he needs a haircut.

I know Generic White Guy won't let me down, as soon as he gets to feeling better he'll be reading aloud what's on sale at the grocery store and commenting on weather patters and gas mileage, but the new guy is still a mystery.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Morning Fatalism

A petite middle aged Asian woman recently joined the vanpool. She is relentlessly cheerful and with her heavy accent, sounds exactly like the Laotian neighbor Minh on King of the Hill.

So, Minh it is.

A few weeks after joining the van, Minh started asking questions about becoming a driver. She wanted to know about the route, where to park the van, and qualifications for becoming a driver.

As it turns out, a pulse and a valid driver's license are the only requirements.

Two days after submitting her paperwork, it was Minh's turn to take the wheel. She told everyone that she was going to practice driving the van around the parking lot over the weekend to "get the feeling of things" but admitted as she was backing out of the parking space that she never got around to it.

She successfully reversed about two feet before stomping on the brakes and asking how much more room she had to back up. Gap Lady rode shotgun to provide moral support and directional assistance. After a twelve-point three-point turn, we coasted toward an intersection.

The light at the intersection was red. It was red as we approached it. It was red as Minh kept a steady foot on the gas. It was red when the van filled with the sound of about seven people gasping. It was red as Minh sailed through it. It was red as horns honked and oncoming drivers swerved. And it was still red while my fellow vannies hustled into their seat belts.

For a woman who got a little cagey about backing out of a parking space, Minh's devil-may-care attitude for intersections was surprising.

"We're going to have to have a talk about what the colors mean," said Gap Lady with a strained voice.

"What? Oh. Yeah," smiled Minh knowingly.

For the duration of the trip she puttered along at 45 mph, hugging the right edge of the far right lane. But when a cement truck in front of her began kicking up road debris, Minh made the only lane change of the drive.

As soon as she was safely ensconced in the center lane, a triumphant Minh pumped her fist in the air.

"Congratulations!" beamed Gap Lady.

This is woman I entrusted with my safe passage to work.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Hits Keep Coming

An open letter to the woman who rear ended my husband at a stop light this morning.

Dear Fleshwaste,

I can certainly appreciate that the intricacies of piloting a motor vehicle are difficult. What will all the staying awake and occasionally looking at the road, it is indeed a taxing activity.

I also suspect there are additional challenges associated with driving a vehicle the size of a Stegosaurus.

After living in Houston these past five years, I have become largely inured to the antics of my fellow drivers - I have minimal expectations of you.

You have every right to drive your behemoth vehicle, take up multiple parking spaces, bully small car drivers, and behave as a general menace.

But please, for sweet Christ's sake, keep your goddamned foot on the brake.



You see gentle readers, when my spouse got out of his car to assess the damage, the woman who hit him meekly said, "I didn't have my foot on the pedal."

She didn't have her foot on the pedal of a vehicle that, according to the manufacturer's website, weighs in at 5,928 pounds.

The best part? We purchased our brand new car 6 days ago.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Worst. Song. Ever.

I've been a vannie for some time now and during my tenure I have overheard a lot of truly awful music.

Despite my Texas residency, I am not a fan of country music. Twangy nasal crooning is not my idea of music. I prefer my music loud, angry, and unintelligible.

All of the van drivers prefer country music. The single notable exception is Neo Pompadour who listens to sports coverage on the AM dial. Lately, there has been some pressure for me to assume some driving responsibilities and while I shudder at the prospect of holding the lives of fifteen people in my hands, I am intrigued by the possibility of total radio control.

Most country music is easy enough to ignore: tunes about women wronged due to a cheatin', fightin', or boozin' man, ditties about cowpokes in love, and song after song about pick up trucks. But when a song called Watching You by Randy Atkins came on the radio, I considered throwing myself through the van window and into oncoming traffic.

This song is beyond awful, a mash of all the hokey crap that is this genre's stock and trade:


Precocious towhead?

Shout out to McDonalds?

Guitar playing in a field of hay?

Reference to the Almighty?

Four wheelers?
You betcha.

I'll leave it up to you to form your own opinion, just don't say vAnnie didn't warn you. I'll also encourage you to take a bathroom break first, lest you let loose on your favorite desk chair due to an uncontrollable giggle fit caused by the phrase, "orange drank."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Adventures with Ike

I'm a north Texas kind of gal. In the parlance of natural disasters: I speak tornado, not hurricane. Tornadoes come hard, fast, and unannounced.

Hurricanes do not.

Hurricanes come after a week (or more) of conjecture, doom, and foreboding which builds to a crescendo of hysteria.

News of the impending hurricane sent citizens in droves to their local megamarts in search of supplies. My hurricane preparedness list failed to include ice or batteries, but chocolate soymilk made it to the top of the list. It's good to know that in an emergency type situation, I tend toward junk food and perishables.

Ike closed in on Houston and as the wind picked up the power at home flickered before finally shutting off completely.

Power was not restored until 82 sweat-soaked hours later.

It was so hot during the outage that I courted mental collapse.

So hot that I went through the 5 stages of grief:

Denial - "It's not so bad! I'll just step outside or stop moving around so much, maybe splash a little water on my face."
Anger - "I cannot f@#$ing believe how hot it is in here!It's hot. I'm hot. So hot."
Bargaining - "I would give up television for a year if the air conditioner would just come back on.Television and Netflix for one year. And going to the movies. Ooh, it's always so nice and cool at the movie theater..."
Depression - "Whatever. I don't care about the heat anymore, it doesn't matter. Nothing does."
Acceptance - "So that's it then. Electricity is gone forever and we the survivors are left to rebuild humanity lest we slide back into prehistoric darkness."

Once Ike passed, it was time for damage assessment. Apart from the lime tree in the backyard flung on it's side, a few missing shingles, and a fence now resembling a mouthful of crooked teeth, the homestead was unscathed.

Not so for some of our neighbors. A walk around the neighborhood revealed many downed trees, damaged roofs, and missing fences.

The best and most unexpected thing about hurricane aftermath was how my neighborhood came alive. In the absence of the usual creature comforts, my neighbors were walking outside, talking to each other, helping each other.

It gave me some small measure of hope that we aren't on a crash course to hell with every man out for himself. That even without cell phones and satellite television, we can still connect with each other.

And then power was restored and the people went back inside and the windows were closed and the street was quiet again.

The errant shingles and tree branches have finally made it into the trash and the lime tree was replanted. Should the tree make it, we'll call him Ike. Then maybe in the spring we'll buy a lemon tree and name it Dick or Tina.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dora, Dora, Dora

There's been some van drama recently, and the blame can be placed squarely on Dora's shoulders.

Evidently, Dora was recently promoted and her schedule has changed. Which means that accommodating her new schedule has become the responsibility of every other person on the van. After we made our final pick up last week, she floats the idea of changing the pick up and drop off routes and insists that she be at her desk no later than 7:15 a.m.

Well, gee, princess, I'd like to crowd surf into my office every morning where a feast of calorie-free biscuits with gravy and non-annoying coworkers are waiting for me. But that ain't gonna happen either.

Dora's plan went over (to borrow a phrase from my brother), "like a turd in a punchbowl." And poor Wizened Crone (who has recently taken over the Van Mother role) it was on her to diplomatically explain that not only was Dora's suggestion rubbish, but would be massively inconvenient to, oh, everyone.

So how does Dora retaliate?

She changes the clock on the van.

It has been previously addressed that the van clock runs s-l-o-w. But all the vannies have compensated by showing up a few minutes late. Last week, by pure chance, I found myself arriving to the van a few minutes early, or so I thought. When the clock read 6:30, less than a minute after I got on, our half empty van left. Rather, I should say our half empty van left about 6 people behind.

The next morning, having forgotten about the clock being moved, I drove into the parking lot in time to see my van pulling away. Instead of admitting defeat, I gunned my puny 4 cylinders and caught up to the van. The murderous glint in my eyes as I took my seat prompted Wizened Crone to say, "Everyone adjust your time because someone has changed the clock in the van."

Someone? Someone!?!? Often times in adult life, I find myself hopelessly frustrated by the lack of directness in the world. How's about something along the lines of, "Dora? Yes, you. Your little clock stunt has pissed everyone off. In time we will get over it, but right now everyone thinks your a selfish ass."

Although, Karmic justice reigns supreme: since changing the clock, Dora has missed the van three times. Which reminds us all that no one fiddles with van destiny and gets away with it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Wheels on the Van

This week marked the return of school buses, long commute times, and sardine-like van accommodations. In the early morning mugginess, the van has been swarming with mosquitoes. Which means the cabin is filled with sounds of random slaps and thuds as we try to massacre the wee varmints. Ahh, Texas.

The beginning of the summer was met with much happiness from fellow vannies because, according to them, traffic is significantly reduced during summer months. I dismissed this advice as wishful thinking, but have since come to realize that, sweet God, were they right.

The first week back is especially heinous as the roadways are clogged with folks who have been on vacation rather than commuting (and whose driving skills have not improved from lack of use).

Summer has drawn to a close and with it the carefree days of driving my own car or hitching early rides home. So, gentle readers, tuck in and buckle up for another long season of vannie antics.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Newest Vannie

There are some new faces on the vanpool these days and one of these faces sure does like to talk.

I was on the fence about this woman in the beginning. She was confident, which was a point in her favor, but she took the front passenger seat too many times during her first few weeks on the van, which turned me off. I was on the vanpool for at least 6 months before I dared sit in that seat.

The front passenger seat is as close as a vanpool rider will get to the warm towels, champagne and toasted nuts treatment. The semi-private front seat is the Concorde, resplendent with headrest, legroom, radio access, lumbar support, and personalized climate control. It is, quite simply, divine.

No newbie, not even a newbie with brass ones and an insatiable appetite for communication, can rightfully occupy the Holy Grail of vanpool seating.

I've been torn coming up with an appropriate moniker for this woman. I was considering the wordy and unimaginative (and thus completely appropriate) alias of She Who Can't Not Talk but ruled it out because I don't want to have to type that over and over. And over, because something tells me this woman is going to be giving me lots of material.

So, I've settled on Gabby. It's short and to the point, and fits her like the gag I occasionally imagine stuffing into her mouth.

It's been a while since I cast the The Vanpool Chronicles Show. Let me welcome Gabby and say that while I know we won't be going out for pints or painting each other's toenails anytime soon, I am appreciative of her supporting role in The Vanpool Chronicles.

As the newest addition to the stable of memorable vanpool personalities, Gabby will be played by Chatty Cathy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On Location: Whole Foods

Owing to an expanding list of work-related tasks that require me to have access to a vehicle and recent uneventful van activity, I've been doing alot of my own driving lately.

On a whim, I thought I could use my lunch break to pick up a few items at Whole Foods. After exiting the parking garage, I was met with heavy road congestion thanks to Houston's ever-present construction. In retrospect, this was the first of many signs for me to turn around and spend my lunch hour quietly resting my head on my desk.

Twenty-five minutes later and 3.28 miles down the road, I finally squeeze into a parking space. I grab my enviro-friendly canvas tote from the back seat and pass through the sliding glass doors. It is my sincerest hope to purchase four items and be on my way in less than 10 minutes.


The patrons on this particular afternoon can be described thusly: old and un-fucking-believably-slow or young and hipsterish with an aura of unflappable superiority.

And now, an aside:

I loathe hippies, hicks, and SUV's. I hate men who wear sportcoats with jeans or any manner of a shoe tassel. I hate velour tracksuits and high fructose corn syrup. I hate people who mumble, randomly sing in public, ride their brakes or stand to close to me in the greeting card aisle. I hate cutesy ringtones, teenagers, the assholes invariably sitting behind me at a movie or standing in front of me in line. I hate hangnails, perms, and working for a living. And I Hate. People. Who. Stare.

Enter two Gen Y-ers accessorized within an inch of their lives from the top of their kitschy white framed sunglasses down to the last hole worn through their Vans slip ons.

Let it be said their is nothing inherently interesting about a woman on her lunch break buying a loaf of bread and a box of veggie burgers.

But this did not stop these two, who stared at me as though I asked the cashier for a price check on enriched uranium.

At first I tried to ignore them, then shuffled uncomfortably in my place, then turned my back towards them, but still their damn stares were boring holes through me. Unable to stand it any longer, I turned around to face them. We locked eyes the way villains do in action movies and then, and then...nothing.

Obviously, I hadn't thought my feeble retaliation through.

So there I was, staring at someone because they were staring at me. Feeling (and looking) like a total ass. The cashier held my bag out to me and I arched my eyebrow mysteriously at the two youths (because, if you already look like an wanker, you might as well go big or go home), turned on my heel and left, to spend the drive back wondering why I even ventured out in the first place.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eddie Does Houston

Last evening I remembered why, considering all the traffic, Republicans, and pollution, I live so close to the fourth largest city in the U.S.

Two words: Eddie. Izzard.

I have only recently come around to his comedic stylings and I fell for him instantly. You see, he embodies several of the attributes I most cherish. He's erudite, profane, and gay (maybe not gay, but anyone who refers to himself as an "Executive Transvestite" is a least gayish). Oh, and British.

I was looking forward to seeing him swan onto the stage wearing something glittery and with eyeliner that could be seen even from the cheap seats. But, instead he appeared in jeans, coattails (or as I dream he would say, "a frock coat"), and what appeared to be boots.

If he was pandering to his audience with the boots, I'll give him a pass. But I'm going to have to take issue if he was trying to fit in. I reject this notion that people who live in Texas are these quaint caricatures who drive horses and wear cowboy hats. A place where all the men look like Kinky Friedman and all the women like Mary Kay.

Eddie riffed on Intelligent Design ("I have only two problems with the concept, the first is the 'intelligence' part. The second is the 'design' part"), summed up Darwin's theory of evolution ("Monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey, you!"), and said that if Obama is elected president, then Americans can stop pretending to be Canadian when vacationing in Europe.

My librarian heart beat wildly when, upon failing to recall the Nazi who coined the term dyslexia (because only a Nazi would be sadistic enough to spell the word as such), he reached into his back pocket for his new iPhone and began searching through Wikipedia. I couldn't tear my eyes off him as he made the act of answering a reference question - entertaining.

I would love to go paddle boating over martinis with Eddie, or let him talk me into getting bad highlights. Hell, I'd settle for fetching him cups of Earl Grey or steam ironing his gowns.

In any event, I'll see him the next time he comes to town. Until then- Cheers, mate.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Vannies - 1, Upturned Collars - 0

While I am on the roller coaster ride that will deliver me soon enough to the big "3-0" I'm certainly not feeling old, but definitely am feeling the ever-widening gulf between me and the twenty-somethings set.

Case in point: as we pulled up to the first stoplight of our morning commute, Gap Lady gestures to the young man in the lane next to us and says, "Huh. We were next to this same guy yesterday."

All the vannies turned their heads to catch a glimpse of the whippersnapper. And there he was, in all his glory, stuffing his mouth with what looked to be a breakfast sandwich the size of a brick, a crooked baseball hat perched so high on his head that it looked like a Little House on the Prairie bonnet, and finally, a popped collar - standard issue worn by knobs the world over.

There was a moment of silence as we all took him in.

Then there was laughter. Laughter because he looked like a douchebag. Laughter at the stupidity of youth. Laughter that made us feel better than being some stupid kid getting laughed at by a van full of people who take a van to work. Just, laughter.

The light changed and he sped away from us, surely burning from being the obvious target of a group of middle aged working stiffs.

I would like to believe that we reached him, that we pulled him back from the abyss of fatty breakfast foods and pointless hat accessorizing and that maybe, just maybe, he'd put his goddamned collar down.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Epilogue: Cletus, Is That You?

While Cletus was seemingly becoming a fixture on the van, she abruptly stopped riding and I haven't seen her in at least a week.

I was not the only one to notice her absence (and the resulting merciful quiet). It seems that Generic White Guy was missing her, too. Well, maybe "missing" is too strong a word.

On the way home on Friday, the time when vannies are at their most relaxed and genial and looking forward to the weekend, Generic White Guy pipes up with:

Where's Cletus? Did you work her too hard? Har-har!

Innocent enough, yes? Only to be followed with:

Does she always talk like that?

[Insert sound of needle scraping across a record here.]

Everyone shrank a good two inches into their seats and the tension of a collective butt-clench could be felt through the van. All this caused by a thinly veiled insult to a dopey kid who talks way too much.

Sensing his gaffe, Generic White Guy started sputtering, "Uh, you know, maybe when she gets nervous...she, uh...talks people she doesn't know. So, ah, she seems like a lovely girl. Maybe, too, um, when she's in a small space she likes to talk. You know? Lovely girl, just lovely."

This put a much needed kink into an otherwise humdrum drive. But I'm sure Generic White Guy savored the taste of his foot for the duration of the ride home.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cletus, Is That You?

As summer approaches my fellow vannies are bringing their kids with them to work more often. I don't know if the youths are too irresponsible to be left home alone during the day or if mom is just putting them to work.

One of the more regular additions is the wizened crone's daughter. I'd be hard pressed to peg her age because I tend to lump kids into one of two age brackets. To me, kids either look like they're 4 or 17.

She's a nice enough girl I suppose, in the first flush of youth with bright eyes and the awkward dopiness known only to teenagers.

One thing I will say about this gal is that she speaks with a twang reminiscent of the marble-mouthed back woods Appalachians I've seen featured in documentaries on PBS.

A sampling:

Mama = "Maw-Muh"
Mini Cooper = "Mini Cooh-Purgh"
Why = "Wh-I-Ugh"

Another thing I tend to forget abut Today's Youth is that they tend to suffer from acute ADHD. Riding in the van with this girl makes me think of that mediocre Billy Crystal/Debra Winger comedy wherein Billy Crystal drives around with his father-in-law who insists on reading aloud the name every billboard sign, building, and vehicle they pass, as in: "You ask for it, you got it. Toy-Oh-Ta."

A sampling:

"Maw-muh, look its a Jag-wurh! [Editorial aside: The girl seems to have an inexplicable preoccupation with cars] What do they do over thay-urh? Look at this bump. It hurts. What is it? Look at it, maw-muh."

I'm sure there's more but after pleas to the matriarch to examine a bump of unknown origin, I had to put my earphones in to listen to this song and block this whole episode the hell out.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Once More Into the Breach

Following a lovely four day work hiatus, this morning I found myself lurching toward the city with a driver who favors sharp and heavy braking.

So far this morning, my lunch box accidentally opened, leaking tomato innards all over the bottom of my bag, I missed out on sleep between the hours of 3:15 am through about 4:45 am due to, well, I'm not sure, and I have to feign interest in baby pics being passed around the van so people don't think I'm a douchebag.

I look at baby pictures the way I'm sure people look at pictures of my dog - with a smile plastered on their face that belies their apathy.

Nevertheless, I am determined to have a good day.

As we continue our jerky commute into the city my shoulders soften as I absorb the overcast morning and the words of Billy Bragg:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fat Camp & Johnny Depp Miscellany

This day has been a medley of emotions running the gamut from delight to heartbreak.

The delight began as soon as my mp3 player's lone AAA battery died this morning and I was forced to listen to the conversation around me. From what I was able to piece together, Gap Lady was singing the praises of a local fat camp, or as it's euphemistically named, "Healthy Weigh of Life," to one of the Wizened Crones. It seems the crone was either looking for a job for her daughter during the summer as a fat camp counselor, or she actually wanted to send her daughter to fat camp. It was unclear.

The delight swelled when, at my first meeting of the day, the group was treated to a puppet show about the dangers of cigarette smoking. There really is nothing sweeter on this earth than the palpable awkwardness of a room full of professionals watching a puppet show while swilling their morning coffee and masticating on cream cheese-smeared bagels.

My delight overcame me when the two college-aged puppeteers began their show. The male half of the duo was about 5' tall and 250 pounds with olive skin and a greasy ponytail wearing thick yellow-framed glasses that screamed, "I am an ar-teeste!" and a voice that was a spot-on ringer for Johnny Depp. I was enraptured listening to the dangers of tobacco addiction and lung cancer from Willy Wonka/Edward Scissorhands/Raoul Duke himself.

After my brush with the Johnny Deppesque puppeteer, my day came crashing down. The second meeting of the day handed me the news that one of my favorite colleagues is retiring. I'm going to miss her terribly. Mighty Zen N, you're a woman for the ages.

All was not lost, my day was buoyed when I passed a hallway and saw that the maintenance staff had left their many cleaning carts and trashcans parked outside the break room. This made me smile as I thought of roughnecks lining their Hogs up outside a biker bar. I would no sooner mess with a grizzled biker than I would any member of janitorial services. Because either way, you're going home with some broken bones.

Monday, May 12, 2008


To my profound irritation and total lack of surprise, the vannies continue to work my last threadbare nerve like if they keep doing it, they're going to win something.

I seated myself promptly at our departure time and opened my book. Then I saw a hand-wringing figure approach the van. I recognized her as an occasional rider and also noticed that she left her car door open and headlights on.

Heads started straining to look out the window to diagnose the problem. And me? I make a big show of looking at my wristwatch to indicate my feelings of putupon-ness. I do this because I am a petty human being.

"I can't get the keys out," she says when she gets to the van.

I gnaw at the inside of my cheek and stare at my book to keep from laughing.

The van filled with advice for coaxing the keys from her vehicle:

"Give it a wiggle."

"Push the button. Does it have a button? These new vehicles have buttons and you need to push 'em."

"Is your car in 'park'"?

"Did you wiggle it?"

"You know you're lights are on."

I shouldn't poke fun. I know I've had problems getting the keys out of my car. Although, I'm sure the last time it happened to me the keys were made out of primary colored molded plastic and went to the silver Barbie Corvette convertible parked, not in my parent's garage, but under my canopy bed next to some Legos and an Easy Bake Oven.

The worst part, though? The worst part is that me and Ms. Master of All Things Exceedingly Complicated were wearing the same color scheme this morning. Yes, I'm dressed like an idiot.

Or rather, the idiots are dressing like me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


If the limited conversation on the van lately has been about anything, it's been about the rising price of gas. I guess we had the audacity to believe that gas would always cost 87¢ a gallon.

To listen to the vannies talk about gas, you'd think they had to sell their children into white slavery, sacrifice their weekly mead ration, and till soil with their bare hands from dawn to dusk just to make ends meet.

Yes, it is more expensive than it used to be and yes, it will keep getting more expensive.

This is not to say that I am wholly at peace with the ballooning prices, I feel the pinch too when a vehicle that once took less than a $20 to fill now takes more than $40. But I console myself with the knowledge that I only have to fill up once a month and that my relatively modest monthly van fee has not increased.

Which brings me to a conversation I was recently hoodwinked into. While exchanging pleasantries with this person, s/he said that they don't understand why the oil companies are getting such a bum rap lately.

"Wha...???," I thought as my brain seized with disbelief.

The person doing the talking has a spouse who works for (surprise!) an oil company. This being Texas, especially Houston, Texas, I can think of at least four people I know that make their living working for big oil.

But what really wound me up was the following misguided statement:
"I just don't understand why there is so much criticism of oil companies. Why aren't they allowed to make their profits just like any other business in a Capitalist system? No one ever criticizes the fashion industry for charging exorbitant prices for their products."
Well, to my knowledge the turbines of our economic engine aren't powered by last season's Prada handbags or outmoded Louboutins.

No, people need access to affordable heating and transportation. No one needs a $300,000 watch. Any anyone who would lump these pursuits into the same category is criminally stupid. And an asshole.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sixteen-Point Turn

I drove myself to work today. In part, because my van is getting me down these days and also because I'm leaving early today.

Traffic dictates that if I leave for work later than 6:40 a.m., I will be met with a bumper-to-bumper snarl that easily doubles my commute time. With my trusty radar detector guiding the way, I arrive at work shortly before 7:00.

Once I'm in the parking garage, I usually spend a few minutes sitting in my car listening to NPR, finishing my coffee, and otherwise preparing for the day.

This morning, however, I had a front row seat to what I am calling, Parking for the Uninitated: A Play in Three Acts. This impromptu melodrama forced me to consider that the reputation of women as profoundly awful drivers is not entirely undeserved.

Curtain up:

vAnnie sits in an unassuming Volkswagen, drinking coffee from a local convenience store, serenely absorbing NPR's Morning Edition.

Tires squeal as Minivan Driver flies into the parking garage, she narrowly avoids sideswiping a cement column.

vAnnie's head jerks as she watches MiniDriver in her rear view mirror dart past.

MiniDriver's tires squeal to a halt. For a moment, the van is still. Suddenly, the reverse lights illuminate and the vehicle lunges backward.

MiniDriver has spotted vacant parking space next an unassuming Volkswagen, and she begins her approach.

MiniDriver darts behind the Volkswagen in reverse, then makes an attempt to pull into the adjacent space. The attempt is unsuccessful and MiniDriver reverses from the space in a blur of steering wheel spinning and brake lights.

The intervening moments find MiniDriver driving partially into and out of a parking space that is more than amply sized for her vehicle. Upon the fifth or so failed attempt, MiniDriver actually attempts to reverse into to parking space. More brake lights, more jerky lunging, more squealing tires, etc.

Inexplicably, MiniDriver manages to reverse into the parking space and thoughtfully leaves a 2.14" wedge between her vehicle and the Volkswagen.

vAnnie stares at the MiniDriver who, by now, has flipped open the lighted vanity mirror on her sun visor and is applying lip gloss with the steady hand of a surgeon.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

They're Onto Me

I think I have to apologize. Not for ratting out my fellow riders for their wackiness or using their lives as fodder for my own (and possibly your) amusement.

No, I have to apologize because they have been the most boring lot of working stiffs for the past month. Nothing is happening with them. So, I am left to conclude that they are onto me. And they think the only way for me to stop writing about them is to stop talking completely.

The mornings are quiet. Eerily quiet. So quiet that I recently contemplated a move to a different vanpool in search of new material. This plan was promptly abandoned when my faithful blog PR manager said quite simply, "There's something to be said for the devil you know."

I'll keep burying my head in my book and eavesdropping for the slightest hint of amusing anecdote, but until then, we'll all just have to wait.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I ♥ Cops

My husband graciously offered to drop me off at the van this morning and how was this generosity repaid? That's right, with a big fat speeding ticket.

Let it be said that my 8-minute commute to the van in the morning is a breakneck exercise in short stopping, weaving, and excessive acceleration. So I naturally feel terrible that my spouse was the one clipped by Fate when she was clearly gunning for me.

As soon as we experienced the simultaneous "Oh-shit-are-they-pulling-me-over-no-they're-not-pulling-me-over-maybe-no-yes-no-no-noooo-Dammit!" stomach drop at the sight red and blue lights advancing on us, we knew we'd been had.

Never one to go down without a fight, I leaned toward the portly officer Gonzales as the million-watt searchlight from his cruiser flooded our car and asked, "Could we please do this in the Target parking lot, I have about 2 minutes to catch my ride to work."

He let us go but kept my husband's license and told him to come right back. I took this as a good sign, maybe officer Gonzales wasn't a complete bastard and he would give a break to a guy who was just giving his wife a lift to her vanpool. After all, it's not as though we were throwing empty vodka bottles out our windows or doing lines off the dashboard, we were just traveling a hair above the speed limit.

No dice. As I sat with the phone on my lap anticipating the message that we got off with a warning, the phone rang and my hopes were dashed: "Yeahp," was all he said.

So, officer Gonzales you glorified meter maid wanker, as I spend the first few hours of my day working (i.e. updating this blog) to pay for the speeding ticket you wrote this morning, I have nothing but contempt for you and your ill-fitting polyester trousers.

As for my spouse whose day has surely been shot to hell and who still has to face his own commute, a little ditty to put it all in perspective:

Monday, March 31, 2008


There's a woman on my van who rides about twice a month. She assumed all of Van Mother's administrative duties when she left.

She only shows up to collect everyone's monthly van payment and to tell anecdotes about her kids - this morning's punchline was when she told her son to behave himself at a neighbor's house and he said, "But Mommy, I just don't know if I can do that." - cue the polite laughter for her charming imp.

She's a pretty lady, with full hips and thick blonde hair. When she does ride the van, Blondielocks is perpetually late. This morning was no exception. As we pulled out of our parking space her G-Dub '04 stickered SUV roared into the parking lot.

Were it left to me, I would have pretended not to notice her and hoped that getting left might serve as an inducement to be timely in the future. But no. Someone said, "Oh, there's Blondielocks!" and we had to stop.

She was in a mood to chat and looked at me over her shoulder a few times trying to catch my eye. So I promptly put in my headphones, closed my eyes, and leaned my head against the window in my usual Monday morning grump pose.

We occasionally talk on the way home in the afternoons, but me not having any offspring to tell tales about really handicaps me when talking with suburban women.

She thought to include me in her party planning for Van Mother's departure. She asked me what I thought we should do for her last day and I suggested a card or some breakfast goodies but said that I was unsure of vanpool protocol. This made her laugh and she said it would be funny if she wrote a book about all the things that happen on vanpools, the people who ride and what they do and say.

What I thought, but couldn't say to her as I considered this then-fledgling blog was, "Blondie, you don't know the half of it."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's Pronounced "Gee-Ah-Mah-Tee"

Generic White Guy piqued my curiosity this morning when he asked Gap Lady if she had seen the John Adams miniseries currently airing on HBO.

This interested me because after reading several glowing reviews about the show and Giamatti himself, I promptly set the TiVo, or whatever that bastardized TiVo-like thing that came with the satellite is called.

I haven't gotten around to watching it yet so I was eager to hear what Generic White Guy had to say. In short, he hated it.

Not for the acting, not for it's degree of faithfulness to the book, but because of Paul Giamatti - or as he called him, "Paul Giamalla." In fact, Generic White Guy hasn't even seen the show.

Once he heard Paul Giamatti was cast in the role of John Adams, Generic White Guy knew the show would be terrible:
He's a character actor, not a lead and he most certainly is no John Adams.
I was struck by Generic White Guy's sense of ownership over the casting of the John Adams miniseries. I mean, what the hell did Paul Giamatti ever do to him?

And for the record, I like Paul Giamatti. I loved his sad sack, wine snob turn in Sideways, his cranky everyman in American Splendor, and I even managed to sit through that misfire called Planet of the Apes (Mr. Burton, you owe me.)

As I said, I haven't yet seen John Adams so I'm in no position to defend it. I will however defend that Giamalla fellow his right to do what he does best - Acting, which is to say his ability to convince an audience that he is someone else.

Monday, March 17, 2008

vAnnie's Eyes Are Smiling

Thanks to Spring Break, traffic this morning was fully a third less than usual. I opted to drive myself to work this morning rather than take the van so that promptly at 4:00 I can head straight to the nearest Irish pub. Although as my Best Gay said, "All the bars will be a little Irish today."

I plan to submerge myself in several double Stolis and indulge in all the faux Irish revelry. You can always count on bumping into a few wandering bagpipers and more kilts than you can shake your shillelagh at.

While I tend to think New Year's Eve is the official amateur night for binge drinkers, St. Patrick's Day comes in a close second. I'm sure that at least 5 of my nearest and dearest are going to report to work tomorrow worse for the St. Pat's wear.

So, I hoist my pint to all of us who will spend tomorrow hunched over our desks bleary-eyed and sweating out too many green-tinted ales - Sláinte.

I'll leave you with a tune from the one and only (and shockingly still alive) Shane McGowan, a man who has given us music that, as the Irish would say, is grand altogether.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

vAnnie, Thou Art Loosed: Part the Second

To recap, I am now out of my vehicle at a four-way stop in rush hour traffic stalking toward a vehicle easily twice the size of mine, looking for all the world like a woman gone mad.

I unfurled a stream of vicious profanity as my feet hit the asphalt, I said things that would make my mother question her effectiveness in raising me and my continued suitability as her daughter.

But before I get to her car, the woman takes off. This should be the end of things, right? Right?

No. I cannot leave well enough alone and I get back in my car and drive after the woman.

It should be said that I've been overcome with such a singular sense of rage at this point that I am no longer thinking about what I'm doing.

I follow this woman into a neighborhood subdivision. It was not a high speed, back alley sort of a chase but rather a sedate 20 mph tour up, over, around, and through a neighborhood. I get the feeling that this woman is probably beginning to regret interacting with me.

I follow behind her for about 10 minutes before I regain my sense of decency and call my confessor, my brother. I dial his number and I tell him that I'm in the middle of doing something really, really stupid and that I really, really don't need him to yell at me about it.

In true sibling fashion, my brother will never allow any opportunity to criticize me slip away so it is a testament to his maturity (or my level of bat shit crazy at the moment) that he calmly asked me if I would rather be on my way home or continue my low speed pursuit of a stranger through the greater-Houston suburbs.

I abandoned the chase and headed home. But not without replaying the events in my mind. I am susceptible to occasional bouts of piss-poor behavior, but man - this was a doozy. Did my blinding rage stem from having what is essentially a desk job, or from living in the all-too-quiet suburbs for a few years, or is it the recent rediscovery of industrial music when working out? Or is it, as I suspect, a complete systemic rebellion over me trying to take up Yoga. Maybe I just wasn't built to be that serene.

Now you see why I ride the van in the first place. Mixing with other drivers on the highways and byways of Houston's mean streets is obviously more than I can manage without resorting to homicidal mania.

But I'll bet that woman never tries a stunt like that again in her life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

vAnnie, Thou Art Loosed: Part the First

I went feral today.

The van dropped me off this afternoon and I headed to the library. On my way home I lost my E'ffing mind. Because what can push you over the edge if not a jaunt to your local public library?

I was a scant 2 miles away from home when I engaged my turn signal to exit. Contrary to popular belief, the world will in fact not split open causing the simultaneous deaths of all kids and birds if you let someone in front of you in traffic.

The Stegosaurus-sized SUV to my right made it abundantly clear that they had no intention of letting me merge by stomping on the gas and keeping pace with my car when they saw my blinker. Undaunted (and probably emboldened) by the paid off, 5-year-old vehicle I was driving, I continued to merge into their lane.

A brief aside: Upon moving to Houston a few years ago I realized that if you really commit to a maneuver behind the wheel, no matter how egregious or steeped in assholery, you're probably going to get away with it. Sure, sure, you'll see the extended digit of the person you wronged or see their face twist with rage at your stupidity, but this is usually short lived.

After exiting, the single lane I was in becomes two. The woman pulled up next to me but I chose to ignore her and stare straight ahead in my best Bitchy Ice Queen from Hell impression. I'm inching to the stop sign ahead, I am shortly to turn left and the SUV will turn right. Momentarily, we were to be out of each other's lives forever.

But that was not to be.

As I approached the stop sign, she jerked her vehicle sideways into my lane. Seen from above our vehicles would have made one very top heavy letter 'T'.

Something inside me snapped. I flung open my car door, threw on the parking brake and approached her vehicle.
In effort to avoid the longest post in Vanpool Chronicles history, tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of the "vAnnie, Thou Art Loosed" saga.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Say What?

Monday mornings are usually on the quiet side. But not today.

I found myself uncharacteristically disinterested in both my book and music this morning so I tuned out and stared out the window. That is until the Gap Lady and one of the Wizened Crones snapped me back into cognizance with their chatting about car washing and tractor repair. Seriously: tractor repair.

The two of them chatted for a while and I got the impression that Gap Lady really wanted to talk. After a few minutes of silence she says:

I just don't know what to make of all this political stuff.

My eyes widened, my jaw clenched, I leaned forward slightly, and I held my breath. I was beside myself with anticipation.

The response was a total let down. The wizened crone said matter-of-factly that she'd been hearing alot of ads for Obama, but very few from Clinton.

Then she said she heard that it was supposed to rain later.

And then there was silence.

It was, gentle reader, a deliciously awkward moment.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Rolling Fish Wagon

I can describe the mornings of late thusly: steamy, thick, heavy. Winter is becoming a distant memory and the rainy season lies dead ahead.

It seems though my fellow vannies have not gotten the message.

Running late, I was the last person on the van this morning after blowing past three stop signs and barreling through an empty shopping center at 50 mph.

I pulled the van doors shut behind me and was instantly assaulted by the stomach churning stench of fish. The folks up front had the heat on, so make that the stomach churning warm stench of fish.

It is 6:40 a.m.

I want to laugh.

I want to cry.

I want to hurl.

The smell is so profoundly awful that I can't believe no one has said anything. I know when you're an adult you're supposed to be polite and ignore unpleasant smells or noises, but I am not that kind of person. I can't help myself when I'm in a public restroom and the person in the next stall farts - I always laugh.

The windows are sealed tight and the heater is on. I am so nauseous and hot I think I might black out. I glare at the temperature gauge on the instrument panel and focus on the little arrow pointed at the red line and I dearly wish it were pointed at the blue line instead. I stare at the blue line so hard that I start to believe I can move the knob telekinetically.

My watery eyes dart around the van. I look at the backs of heads and wonder who is responsible for the fishiness. My fish stench addled brain swears vengeance on whomever has subjected me to this horrible, horrible smell.

I spent the day with phantom fish smells on my clothes, hair, and hands. Even in the peanut butter sandwich I had for lunch.

It's almost time to go home but if the van still stinks, I'm walking.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Barack for Vannies

On Tuesday evening, the first day of early voting in the great state of Texas, I went to see Barack Obama. I secured tickets and stood in line for about two hours with a jovial group of people. I overheard the family behind me chatting up a HPD officer and a woman asked the cop, "I bet you have lots of girlfriends, huh?"

The woman in front of me offered me her suit jacket as I was ill prepared for the downtown crosswinds and she thought I looked cold. Aww. The group in front of her gave me an Obama '08 sticker which I gratefully accepted because I cannot resist a freebie. The crowd was decent and excited and compensated for standing outside shivering for the better part of 2 hours.

We were finally let in I found seats directly facing the podium and only about 60 feet away. While my brother stood outside with the throngs of other non-ticket holders (my faithful blog PR manager and her cronies included) my husband and I valiantly tried to save a seat for my brother in the rapidly filling stadium. We successfully turned away a handful of people looking to take the seat. That is, until this woman:

This wretched chore of a woman approached my husband and the following conversation unfolded:

Wretched Chore of a Woman: I want to sit there.

vAnnie's Husband: Heartily sorry, madam, but this seat is taken.

WCW: By who!?!

vH: He's in the bathroom.

WCW: Well he's not here now.

At this point, the Wretched Chore of a Woman proceeds to hoist herself onto the seat my husband's thigh was occupying. Yes, she attempted to sit on the lap of a perfect stranger. He raised his hands in disbelief and says,

vH: [Actually, we are both too pissed off at this moment to remember what was actually said]

We sat next to Wretched Chore of a Woman and overheard her talking to her friend as several hostility fueled minutes ticked by when my husband turns to me and says,

vH: I'm sorry, I just don't think I can let this go.

He proceeds to pick up his phone and pretends to call my brother who is still in line outside,

vH: [facing WCW in full-on enunciation, voice-projection mode]

Hey man, some lady took your seat..........No, she's right here..........Yeah, I can see you [cranes neck toward section entrance]..........I told her it was taken..........I know, I know..........yeah, I guess you can talk to her when you get here..........Okay, I'll see you in a second.

At this WCW's friend shamefacedly takes WCW by the arm and pulled her to another section.

Immediately upon seeing the WCW being led away, the couple seated directly behind us says,

Now that is a blessing.

Oh, the speech. The speech finally got underway around 8:30, we had been there since around 4 o'clock that afternoon. It was the same well-oiled stump speech we've been hearing in bits and pieces for months on NPR but there was still a thrill in hearing it live from the man himself and energizing to rub elbows with my fellow Dems.

It was also pleasure to hear a politician with some oratorical skill. I'm usually left with my mouth hanging open whenever I have to listen to Dubya talk for any length of time.

I don't know if the skinny senator from Illinois has what it takes to lead us boldly into the future, but I'm willing to give him a shot.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kiss Them for Me

The only people that make plans on Valentine's Day are trying to prove something. The couples crowding every decent restaurant in the city are amateurs. The real lovebirds are at home doing the same thing they do the other 364 days out of the year: keeping a relationship going.

Courtship has its moments to be sure, but I think the real honest-to-goodness, knock-your-socks-off, head-over-heels moments happen much later.

For those currently without partner: you know relationships are a real pain in the ass. Acting like the best version of yourself for someone else is downright exhausting. To quote Sarah Vowell,

Some afternoons a person just wants to rent Die Hard, close the curtains, and have Cheerios for lunch.
When you're flying solo, if you want to crawl home from the bar at all hours, miss a few showers, and spend your free time rubbing your naughty bits raw, well then that's your business, isn't it?

Herewith, a few suggestions for your Valentine's Day:

I recently saw Sleeping Dogs Lie and thought it was just lovely. And any movie that can deliver the line, "Does anyone here other than me know what canine semen tastes like?" and still have me describe it as "lovely" is surely worth a viewing.

Have a listen to (and ignore the video of) Philip Glass' Einstein on the Beach and experience Sigur Rós' Glósóli. True love from the very first listen.

One cannot let the sun set on Valentine's Day (or any other day, really) without drinking deeply from Uncle Walt's well. I Sing the Body Electric if you can manage, Sometimes With the One I Love if you prefer, but Whoever You are Holding Me Now In Hand is a must.

Now, enjoy this virtual cupcake (the rest of which were given to coworkers today) and go home to nurse a bottle of cheap vodka and cry over the one who got away. But whatever you do, stay away from the Cure's Pictures of You.

In fact, stay away from the Cure altogether, unless you want to spend your evening fetal wondering how it all went so wrong.

But before you get too caught up in this non-holiday, remember that all the tacky pink and red sentimentality will be clogging bargain bins come Friday but vAnnie will still love you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I admit to feeling rather rudderless since the New Year. Last year turned out to be all about self-improvement and physical health. But the sense of purpose and satisfaction that it once gave me is long gone.

I had chalked it up to general malaise, but I am increasingly aware that I am drifting through my days on autopilot. I am coming to hate the routineness of my days, which means I have to find the 2008 project that will keep me merrily plugging along for the next 11 months.

In January I went through a brief cupcake phase wherein I was turning out two dozen of the sugar-laden beauties every weekend. But a cupcake hobby is, sadly, a one way trip back to fat-assery so I'm going to have to give them a rest for a while.

I then took up with a non-caloric form of junk: reading trash. All the lowbrow crap at the library that you wouldn't give a second glance, I've been carting away by the canvas bagful. Things like Why Men Marry Bitches and That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between by none other than Victoria "Posh" Beckam herself. I think I'm one small step away from barricading myself in my bathroom to read shampoo bottles.

Since I found eating or reading crap made has made me feel no more alive or engaged, I'm going back to the basics. I'm dusting off the music and books of my formative years. I plan to spend my lunch breaks and lazy afternoons rereading Camus and Rand and Emerson to see if their ideas retain any of their former power and weight.

I also grabbed a random sampling of CD's from the dusty recesses of my bookshelves and added them to my player. I spent this morning on the van with the Dead Kennedys , Big Black , and Fugazi in my ears reminding me of what I was like before I cared about the future.

I'm coming to realize that life isn't short, it's damn long. So, I guess I better dig a deeper foxhole.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Special Place in Hell

When It settled on to the van yesterday, someone commented that her arm cast from a recent surgery had been removed. Can't say I noticed the cast, or overheard about the surgery, or even noticed her absence for that matter.

What I can say is that it's true I never really cared for It (I think the name really says it all). We've had our differences, she's into dog breeding and perms and I can't really relate.

Athough, never underestimate the unifying power of hate.

As It told us yesterday, her 70-odd year old mother, who was at a local hospital receiving chemotherapy, was robbed in an elevator.

One of the Wizened Crones breathed, "That's shitty."

Apparently there were two scumbags running this scheme wherein one scumbag pretends to fall and while the victim attempts to render aid, scumbag #2 steals their wallet. Nice, huh?

The duo then proceeded to rack up more than $6,000 in charges on this woman's credit cards in less than 2 hours.

To the two worthless motherfuckers preying on an elderly infirmed woman: Fuck. You. I can't imagine anything worse that having to look at your own face in the mirror and see yourself for the vile shitstain that you are.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Freedom Fries

Traffic jangled even my steadfast nerves when this morning's drive, which usually takes about 30 minutes, clocked in at 1 hour and 27 minutes.

It was slow going, but going nonetheless. The following conversation began as follow up to one of the wizened crones talking about getting permits for her show cow (I don't know either, just stay with me).

Driver: So, Wizened Crone, have you gotten the permits yet to have your show cows on your property?

Wizened Crone: No, not yet.

Dora the Explorer: Why do you need permits for your cows anyway?

WC: When we first bought the property, there were no restrictions for farm animals. Now the neighbors are complaining about our cows, so we have to get the right permits to keep them.

D: Ugh. We have a neighbor like that, he's a pain in the neck. His cows are always getting out and a few weeks ago, my daughter's boyfriend was coming home and he hit one.

[Editorial aside: I assure you this conversation actually happened and that, no not everyone who lives in Texas owns livestock.]

D: This neighbor is really crazy. I think he must have gotten a deal on potatoes one time because once I saw the bed of his Escalade filled up with potatoes and there were potatoes rolling all over the street in our neighborhood...

The cabin fills with hysterical laughter due, in part, to tales of the rural Escalade-drivin' potato bandit and a heady brew of exhaust fumes from the hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
D: ...I wonder what he was doing with all those potatoes.

Don't we all.

Monday, January 28, 2008

If I Weren't a Vannie


It's Monday again.

The huddled vanpool masses slog themselves onto the van and head workward.

I don't dislike my job per se, it's just that going 5 days a week is a bit of a drag. I still clearly remember the lovely stretch of free time during the holidays and even the recent long MLK weekend. As my husband has told me, "You just don't like working." To which I responded, "Well, I still go don't I? I still bring home a paycheck."

As I sat bolt upright in the jumpseat this morning to keep from wrinkling the hell out of my shirt and thus looking as slovenly on the outside as I feel on the inside, I thought about other occupations I might like to take a crack at...

Dogwalker. Arborist. Bathroom attendant. Pastry chef. Senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. Docent. Henchman.

I actually know what my dream job would be: to write program descriptions.

I started subscribing to satellite television a few years ago and I discovered a summary for each program is featured at the top of the screen. It's usually a 2-3 sentence description of the show including the length and rating.

I think it would be the perfect job for me for a number of reasons: I could do this at home, finally get to use that English degree for something (if only to check my own grammar), and comment on a mix of pop culture mindlessness and highfalutin' films and documentaries.

I have no idea how you break into blurb writing, but it is surely a tough market filled with other loafers who would rather take a Cliffs Notes approach to their professional lives than rot behind a desk for 40 hours a week.

I'm only a scant 12 years into my working life and I'm already crossing out the days on my calendar until retirement.

And what about you gentle reader? Let us borrow from the Proust questionnaire (or, for the uninitiated, "Inside the Actor's Studio")
What occupation other than your own would you like to attempt?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Typhoid Vannies

I've had all I can stand and I can't stands no more.

Coughing and other bodily noises have been previously addressed in the Vaniquette post but two of my fellow riders have chosen to disregard this sage advice.

The coughing is out of control. I felt someone cough into the back of my head yesterday and my hair moved. Words cannot appropriately describe my level of irritation and feelings of ickyness.

We're in an enclosed environment, let's try to keep all secretions to ourselves, okay?

Use a Kleenex, shirtsleeve, or a page torn from Generic White Guy's newspaper, I don't care just please, please don't force me to listen to you sucking the mucus from your congested nose down the back of your throat. Grande, Venti - I'm talking to you.

I'm not asking for world peace here, or even for the vannies to while away Sunday afternoons with each other playing Pinochle and swapping marinade recipes, but let's get it together - If you're sick...stay off the van.

Even without the Typhoid vannies, it's been a dreary week here in Houston - cold and rainy. I think I'll conclude this post with the following passage by the Bard himself, fetch myself a cup of coffee, and let the clock run out on today.

I have of late,—but wherefore I know not,—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me.

And please don't cough in my hair anymore.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Time and Temperature

Due to increasing road congestion several months ago, our vanpool decided to start leaving earlier. While I dreaded the prospect of extracting myself from bed even one nanosecond earlier than usual, I agreed that getting to work in a timely fashion was important enough to make the sacrifice.

It was upon making this change that I realized the clock in the van is woefully slow. About 7 minutes slow. Like any good liberal, all my clocks are of course in sync with my local NPR affiliate. If Jim Bell tells me it's 6:01, then it's 6:01, dammit. I've thought about how I could change the clock without anyone knowing it was me, but since I don't even have a set of keys and tend to be a vannie-come-lately, my chances are slim. I think all I can do is wait around for Daylight Saving Time and elbow anyone in my path to get to that clock.

Directly above the slowest clock ever is an oversized four-knob instrument panel that regulates cabin temperature. There are two, and only two, climates that can be maintained using the aforementioned knobs: Nuclear Winter and Roast.

Since we're all a bunch of Texas weenies who scramble for the scarves and mittens when the temperature drops below 65 degrees, when we get on the van in the mornings we pump up the heat. Which means we basically spend the first 10 minutes in the van chilled through and rocking back and forth to generate a few BTUs, then the next 45 seconds comfortably warm and toasty, and the following 8 minutes feeling the flesh melt off our bones until a fellow rider tells someone in the front "Okay, I think we're all cooked to about medium, medium-well now" at which point the heat is turned off and we're cold again.

The worst of the four knobs is the one labeled "Floor." This knob enables the user to direct either arctic winds or skin-parching blasts of air from the 4th circle of Hell directly at passenger feet. Now, even on the best of days, a person's footwear smells less than inviting. The addition of an external heating element to an old worn out pair of shoes can fill the cabin with the sharp musky odor of baked footwear. Eww. The Floor setting can radiate enough heat that I once arrived at work to retrieve a partially thawed Lean Cuisine from my bag that I (foolishly) left on the van floor.

Climate controlling a bunch of whiny working stiffs is a miserable, thankless, and indeed impossible task.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vannies Ride Again

This morning, everyone on the van was in top form. Generic White Guy read aloud from his newspaper items he thought might be of interest to his fellow riders. Someone received a margarita machine from Santa and the cabin was suddenly abuzz with 'rita recipes. There was discussion of van sundries as in, "I don't have the gas card, do you have it? I gave it to you. I don't have it. Who has the gas card?" and so on.

There were also two college-age daughters riding to work with their moms. Coincidentally, they are both softball players. Now I don't know what the softball gals look like where you live, but all the ones I've ever met are stout and stocky and look like they could really fuck you up in a dark alley.

The two this morning were no exception.

I was briefly mesmerized by speed and efficiency with which one of them was able to type and send a text message. While my agile fingers can fly over a keyboard at a brisk clip, I morph into an arthritic hunt-and-peck typer with mild dyslexia when attempting to send a text message.

All of this morning's activity on the van sent me searching through my peppy music folder rather than for my usual maudlin sad-bastard tunes. I was in a state of pure pop induced bliss listening to The Cure's Boy's Don't Cry. While I harbor no American Idol-like fantasies (I have proudly never watched a single episode) and would not attempt to carry a note in the shower or in a bucket, if there was ever a song to make me squeeze my eyes shut, throw back my head, and indulge my inner chanteuse, this would be it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Year in Review

I've been back at work for a few days now after the glorious holiday hiatus. Christmas was delightful and yours truly received some great swag, including a Sonicare toothbrush, a pile o' new books, and a console table I had my eye on (you know you're getting old when you get excited over dental hygiene and furniture).

I can best describe the mood on the van these past few mornings as sullen. I think everyone is coming down from their time-off high by returning to the soul-crushing low that is the 40-hour work week.

I've spent some time this week thinking about how I filled the past year and what I have to show for myself.

2007 will go down in the record books as the year I finally quit smoking, a habit for filterless cigarettes with me since college - okay, since my senior year of high school.

2007 saw me go vegetarian/training-wheels vegan and lose 45 pounds in the process (which should have been 50, but I couldn't resist the endless parade of baked goods in the final weeks before 2008).

I got a new job, became a Vannie, and staked my claim in the blogosphere. I adopted a second dog, took up running, and forgave a long-standing grudge.

I also realized that me and my life mate's abiding love of documentaries, homemade soups, and NPR just may be enough to keep us happily yoked in marriage forever.

I heard someone say, "If you love something, than love it. If you hate it, then fucking hate it." This is fairly pedestrian advice that resonated with me nonetheless. I think the occasional staleness of daily life can wear on a person and this reminds me to keep my many fires burning.

I saw myself make many changes this year. I look and feel a bit different, but underneath it all (and still growing out a bad haircut), I remain the same little old button-cute irrepressible sprite I've always been.

So, gentle reader, I wish you a year full of double prizes in your cereal box, $20 in a long-forgotten pair of jeans, and never having to say you're sorry.