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.