Tuesday, March 17, 2009

coming soon...

We were gathered together for an office meeting after lunch. It's always been my suspicion that our boss calls these meetings after lunch in order to maximize the indigestion potential in his staff.

“As I'm sure you all know,” he began, “the economy is really bad out there, so we're all just going to have to buckle down.”

I sat, waiting for the natural progression of his speech which, I was positive, would be to inform all of us that we had to start selling more. Sales were down, we were slacking, and don't think for a minute that he wouldn't fire every single one of us. We had heard this speech several times before.

“This being said,” he continued, “I've decided to let go of the maintenance service that cleans the office each night. Instead, I'm assigning some of you to do these housekeeping duties.”
It's a small office with only six employees, and three of us, myself included, were added to his newly formed cleaning crew.

For the rest of the afternoon, our boss worked on a spreadsheet outlining his new cleaning schedule...time that he could have been spent selling, which could have increased sales and eliminated the need to create a cleaning schedule since the cleaning service could have been retained.

Once finished, he posted his schedule on the bulletin board next to the monthly sales chart. I saw that my Monday and Wednesday afternoons would be spent sweeping the carpets and my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons would consist of cleaning the bathrooms.

Later that day, wearing my yellow, rubber gloves, I stood over the toilet, gingerly poking the inside of the porcelain bowl with the toilet brush. The nature of my job was taking an alarming, and unfortunate turn...though I guessed that this fell under the 'other duties as described' section in my job description. At least I'm still receiving a paycheck, I told myself...puny as the check may be.

Once I had poked at the toilet enough to deem it 'clean', I checked to make sure that enough toilet paper remained in the dispenser to accommodate everyone's toilet paper needs. Our office's particular toilet paper dispenser is a NeverOut 3000, which is simply an impressive sounding name for a toilet paper dispenser that housed two rolls of toilet paper, one on top of the other.

As I checked the roll status of the NeverOut 3000, I began wondering where the number 3000 came from. Was this an attempt to make the cheap plastic casing sound futuristic? Doubtfully, I thought, because by the year 3000 I'm quite sure that pedestrian activities such as going to the bathroom will be a thing of the past. By then, I figured, bathrooms would consist of high powered laser beams shot toward our colon region and vaporizing all the excrement that had built up for the day, thus eliminating the need for any type of paper products, toilet or otherwise, in the bathrooms of the future.

And I couldn't imagine that this was the 3000th model of NeverOut toilet paper dispensers...because how hard would it be to simply design a dispenser that housed two rolls, one on top of the other? Even I, a lowly sales/bathroom cleaning associate, could have designed something like this...and I'm quite certain that it wouldn't have taken 3000 attempts. 25 or 30, perhaps, but not 3000.

At most, I thought, this might be the third generation of NeverOut toilet dispensers, but the NeverOut executives, fearing that a product called the NeverOut 3 didn't sound very impressive, decided to add a few zeros. A large number such as 3000, rather than 3, would ensure everybody that NeverOut only utilized the most up-to-date toilet paper technology available.

Which, as I stood in the middle of the office bathroom wearing my yellow, rubber gloves and contemplating our toilet paper dispenser, made perfect sense. Adding zeros to anything makes it sound more impressive and exciting! Would Thriller have been such a revered album if it had sold 45 copies instead of 45,000,000? Of course not. And, with another birthday coming up only a few short weeks away, I decided that I would employ this same logic.

So, coming this May, I am proud to introduce the new and improved Terry 3700!


Monday, February 16, 2009

home cooked holidays

Amy decided that for Valentine's Day we should share a home-cooked meal rather than make reservations. “These fancy restaurants," she told me, "all raise their prices to take advantage of people on Valentine's Day."

I pointed out that the price of a Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast was the same on Valentine's Day as it was on any other day.

"We are not going to Denny's...and I for one refuse to fall prey to this type of blatant exploitation that nice restaurants employ,” she announced.

Though she really didn't mean 'I for one' but rather 'we for one'.

“Besides,” she continued, “I think it would be very romantic for the two of us to cook a meal together. It's very domestic, you know? They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and if we're going to be together I want to make sure that you enjoy the type of things I can cook. So I'll come over to your place on Valentine's Day and bring all the ingredients that I'll need to make my eggplant parmesan.”

That Saturday, she arrived with a multitude of bags filled with pastas, sauces, and other foods that I had no idea even existed. She set all her bags down upon the counter, unpacked and, once ready to begin preparation of her masterpiece, looked over to me and asked where I kept my cooking ware.

I headed over to the far cabinet and pulled out a pot, a pan, and an old cookie sheet.

“Where do you keep all the others?” she asked.

“The other what?”

“All your other pots and pans...you do have other things to cook in, right?”

“Well, no,” I said. “I mean, I used to have a Tupperware bowl but it broke when I tried standing on it to change a light bulb. So this is now the entirety of my kitchen supply inventory.”

“You used a Tupperware bowl to change a light bulb?” she asked. “Why didn't you use a chair?”

“The bowl was right there...so instead of walking all the way over to the table to grab a chair and drag it into the kitchen, it just seemed...at the time, anyway...more practical. Besides, I thought that Tupperware was supposed to be unbreakable.”

She just rolled her eyes and stood thinking, with arms crossed, in the middle of my kitchen. Finally, she said, “I'm just not going to be able to make anything for us with one pot, one pan, and a cookie sheet. How in the world are you able to cook anything? What do you usually eat?”

So I revealed my culinary secret to her. Which is why, this Valentine's Day, we enjoyed a romantic dinner of Chinese take-out.


Friday, January 02, 2009

same old new year

For the first time in years, I found myself entering into the New Year as a 'couple'. Not since before Dick Clark became so painful to watch as the ball descended upon Times Square had I been with someone to share the beginning of a New Year. And, while I wasn't expecting much more from 2009 than I had from 2008, at least I was reasonably certain that I would be entering this year with a kiss.

I've been dating Amy for a couple of months now and we have become quite comfortable with several rooms in her house. Wine had been poured in the kitchen, dinner had been eaten in the dining room, and television had been watched in the living room. But the bedroom was still unexplored territory. And, while driving home from the New Year's Eve party at my friend Jim's house, it was this unfamiliar room that I was thinking about.

Was I expected to drive myself home after dropping her off or was I going to be invited to spend the night? And, if an invitation was extended, would I be invited to share the bed with her or would I be sleeping on the couch? And, if I actually made it into the bedroom, would there be any additional bedroom related activities that I would be permitted to indulge in beyond just sleeping?

While pondering all of this from the driver's seat of my Ford, Amy cuddled up next to me and rested her head on my shoulder.

“So which side of the bed do you prefer sleeping on?” she asked, thus answering several of the questions that had been occupying my mind and had almost caused me to drive through a red light a few blocks back.

“Well, I can't really claim to being an all-right or all-left side of the bed sleeper,” I told her, “because I always choose the side that's closest to the alarm clock so that I have easy and immediate access to the snooze button.”

She yawned and said, “Well, I always sleep on the side farthest from the alarm clock so that I'm forced to wake up enough to walk over in order to reach the snooze button. So this is perfect.”

And as we drove the last few miles to her house, I dared to wonder if perhaps this was a sign as to how the new year would be. Perfect.


Friday, December 12, 2008

tasting impaired

I've had a terrible cold for the past several days that has left me feeling very much like an aspirin bottle...head full of cotton and safety seals firmly attached over each nostril. So I've been taking a good bit of Day-Quil to get through each work day. Granted, I could simply take some personal time, but I'm strongly taking sick days when I'm sick. Any day-off should be enjoyed to the fullest...therefore, I'm saving all my sick days until I'm healthy enough to enjoy them.

The problem I've found with Day-Quil, however, is that while it provides breathing relief, I really only have about a half hour of optimal tasting time. Sadly, lunch is the high point of my working day, so the ability to taste is of the utmost importance.

After a couple of un-tastable lunches and some trial and error with my nasal medication, I discovered that if two capsules were taken at precisely nine o'clock in the morning, my taste window fell at the exact time of my lunch break. A nearby diner was serving their famous crab-melt sandwiches...with fries... as their lunch special today, and these crab-melt sandwiches are my all-time favorite from their wide array of lunch time delicacies and appears on the menu very infrequently. So it was essential that I be in prime-tasting form for lunch.

As the noon hour hit, I grabbed my coat and made a dash for the front door, but as I was about to exit into the parking lot, my boss Vince called me into his office. “With the holidays coming up, I've decided to give you one last chance to improve your sales for the year,” he told me. “Here's a flyer that I've typed up outlining some great holiday sales that we'll be offering along with a list of potential clients in the area.”

He handed me the flyer and a stack of papers that had been printed straight off of yellowpages.com for every business within a 50 mile radius of the office. A quick glance at the clock above his desk revealed that my optimal taste window was rapidly closing.

“Now,” he continued, “what I expect you to do for the next two weeks is send each of these places a flyer and follow up with a phone call three days later. This mass marketing blitz that I've designed for you is certain to bring in a few dozen extra sales.”

Time was quickly ticking off the clock and rather than try and point out the futility of junk mail in an attempt to generate sales, I said, “okay Vince...since this is my lunch break, I really should get going.”

I'm trying to salvage your job here and all you're concerned with is your lunch?!” he fumed. “Sit Down! You can take your full hour when I'm finished!”

45 minutes later, I was given a reprieve and headed out the door to my car. With the slim window of time left, I sped down to the diner in the hopes of salvage a few bites of crab melt that I could actually taste.

I hurriedly placed my order, waited impatiently for the food to arrive and, once sitting on my plate steaming beneath my nose, took that long awaited bite. Chewing slowly, I realized that I had lost my opportunity. The food had no more taste than what I imagined styrofoam would probably taste like.

I nibbled on a few fries until, reluctantly, I gave up the charade and placed a few dollars onto the table...leaving the majority of my meal untouched. Leaving the diner, I decided to stop by at the supermarket near the office and buy an apple, figuring that as long as I couldn't taste anything I may as well eat something healthy for a change.

'This cold had better be gone soon,' I thought to myself. Because I can only withstand so much healthy eating, and soon there would be a multitude of Christmas cookies to indulge in...which was clearly going to require that my taste buds be in top form.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

a soy-based bounty

Years ago, my friend Jim worked at a fitness store. During this time, he was convinced that he had developed a health serum that was sure to keep all illnesses at bay. A co-worker felt a cold coming on and, at Jim's suggestion, she succumbed and tried his antidote. Soon afterwards, she threw up...thus nullifying any healing effects that may have resulted. Airborne hit the market shortly after Jim's failed attempt at developing a healing remedy, and he still holds them responsible for his non-millionaire status...completely ignoring the fact that his formula proved much more effective for promoting vomit rather than preventing illness.

He still keeps in touch with his vomit stricken co-worker and invited me along to her 'Orphan Thanksgiving Dinner'. Her circle of friends, all with family outside of the state, get together each year and celebrate Thanksgiving together. Jim is currently fighting with his older brother and refuses to attend any family function where he will be present. And, because my brother and sister were eating Thanksgiving dinner at their respective in-laws this year and my family was having a post-Thanksgiving dinner the following day, I accepted his invitation.

Once there, I quickly sought out a glass of wine and some appetizers while Jim caught up with old friends. A group of women were stationed near the wine bottles and, while pouring myself a generous portion of merlot, overheard one of them relating a story about her recent participation in a pro-abortion demonstration.

I imagined her to be of the hemp wearing, tree hugging, strict feminist variety and glanced up to see if my assessment was correct. I caught her eye and, appraising me briefly, she said, “Oh, and I suppose that you don't agree that a woman should have a say when it concerns her own body?”
Caught off guard, I stammered, “no, not at all. Tattoos, piercings, babies...hey, if it's your body feel free to run amok. I was just looking for the appetizers. Do you know if there's any of those little hot dog things? I've always loved those.”

She shot me a disgusted look and replied, “us vegans don't usually eat meat, seeing that it's murder and all.”

“It's not really murder,” I explained. “Well, I mean, I guess it is, but it's not like I personally murdered any of the animals in question...I'm just eating them. No sense in letting them go to waste.”

She just sat and glared at me. Clearly, while she felt that animals deserved to live, those sentiments didn't carry over to me. I quickly grabbed my wine and slunk silently away.
After the food had been situated on the dining room table and plates began to be passed around, I found out what vegans substitute for turkey...tofu. Or, to be more exact, a tofu, soy, and chickpea flour mixture, which is how our hostess described the bounty which she set before us. And here I had always thought that the term 'tofurkey' was nothing more than a joke.

Perhaps in response to the look on my face, the guy sitting next to me said, “don't worry, it tastes exactly like turkey. You'd never even guess that it's tofu.”

However, the tofu, soy, and chickpea flour turkey ended up tasting exactly as I feared it would...which is to say very un-turkeyish. And I could only conclude that the poor guy had gone so long without eating turkey that the true taste was nothing more than a distant memory.

I sat pushing the tofu turkey around on my plate and employed a 'hide it under the mash potatoes' technique in the attempt to disguise the fact that I had actually eaten very little.
I looked across the table at Jim and found that he was doing the same thing, mixing in his tofu with the wild rice instead of hiding it under the potatoes.

Later, as we were driving home, Jim said, “hey, I'm really sorry about that. I had no idea she was a vegan!”

“Don't worry about it,” I told him, as my stomach rumbled.

A convenience store was coming up as we drove down the road. Jim, apparently having the same thought as myself, pulled into the parking lot. Shortly after, we sat in the car eating our microwaved beef burritos and large soft drinks. We raised our styrofoam cups, toasting a meal that we could finally be thankful for.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

dog dumping

After her boyfriend broke up with her, Gwen decided that a vacation from men was in order. So rather than throwing herself back into the dating scene, she chose to get a dog. And, finding a no-kill animal shelter near the city, she was soon the proud owner of a black terrier with white paws. She named her dog Raya...after her favorite type of Ugg boot. After explaining the origin of the name, I asked, “what's an Ugg?” In response, she simply rolled her eyes and said that men are completely clueless.

Soon after arriving home, she made a trip to the local PetSmart where several toys, a collar, food and water dish, and a fashionable pink leash were all purchased. “Shopping is the best kind of break-up therapy,” she told me.

She called a few days later. “Raya ran away! Can you believe it? I give this mutt a home and this is the thanks I get? Boyfriends are bad enough but now I'm even getting dumped by dogs!”

“Well, in all honesty Gwen, your track record with pets isn't all that great,” I said. “Remember that tropical fish you bought? It was dead the very next morning because you forgot to plug in the fish tank heater.”

“Don't go bringing that up again,” she warned. “They should make those things with some kind of alarm or little light that goes on so you know when it's plugged in or not!”

I decided that this wasn't the best time to point out that in order for an alarm or light to work it would still probably have to be plugged in, so I kept quiet.

“And to make matters worse, a few hours later I get a call from the shelter. It turns out that Raya ran away from me and went back there! It's like adopting a kid only to have him run back to the orphanage! How's a girl supposed to get over this kind of rejection?” she asked. “Look, I don't mean to cut this short, but I'm heading out.”

“So you're going back down to the shelter to retrieve your dog?” I inquired.

“No. I told them that maybe it's better if they keep her. Besides, I'm sure these dogs all talk to each other and I can't imagine what kind of horrible rumors Raya has probably spread about me. So I'm sticking to my theory that shopping is the best kind of break-up therapy and am headed out to buy some new shoes. I'll talk to you later,” she said before hanging up.

She ended up buying a pair of Ugg boots...the same kind that she had named her dog after. “In memoriam,” she told me.

Because while she does poorly in dating and dogs, her track record in shoes is unmatched.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

happiness is only a day away

My friend Gwen’s foray into amateur psychology seems to occur each time she breaks up with whoever she happens to be dating at the time. So when the guy she had been seeing for three months ended their relationship, I knew that Gwen would once again be holding office hours.

Apparently, her latest boyfriend had shaved his head one day and told her that he needed to seek ‘redemption’ for his ‘past sins' and couldn’t see her anymore. When she asked what sins required a penance of self-induced baldness, he told her that she wouldn’t understand and that he needed to embark upon a ‘personal self-empowerment odyssey’ that had to be travelled alone.

A week later, she saw him with another woman whom she described as a ‘blonde tramp with excessive boobitude’. He had clearly found room for one other person on his personal odyssey. This led Gwen to empty her Carmel Latte onto his beige chinos. “So at least he’ll be that much damper while he continues down the path to enlightenment,’ she told me.

Since this outpouring of coffee beverages, she has devoted herself fully to all things of a self-improving nature…with the exception of her weekly dose of Desperate Housewives. Why Men Love Bitches, Women Who Love Too Much, and Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem are all titles which have since appeared on her Amazon suggested reading list.

“Clearly he was an unbalanced individual,” she told me a few days later, once her drink-hurling desires began to subside. “You know, I think it’s entirely possible that he was a polaroid schizophrenic.”

“Gwen, don’t you mean a paranoid schizophrenic?”

“And I had always suspected that he was bipolar,’ she continued, ignoring my correction of her previous diagnosis.

Her recent binge on self-help psychology books has her analyzing everyone…not just ex-boyfriends. Her Pilates instructor has suddenly developed obsessive compulsive tendencies. Her co-worker projects a deep rooted self-loathing upon those around her. And her mother should really begin dealing with the guilt complex that she has been harboring.

I was talking to Gwen on the phone the other day, describing the newest bone-headed measure my boss has cooked up to increase sales, when she suddenly asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” I answered.

“No,” she said, “something is definitely wrong. I can hear it in your voice. You sound depressed. Look, I only want to help you before this develops into a full-blown manic depressive episode.”

“I highly doubt that any episodes are forth coming,” I countered.

“You spend too much time alone," she insisted. "When’s the last time you were on a date? You need to get out more often. Dr. Phil said on his show just the other day, ‘you won’t score any touchdowns if you’re sitting in the dugout’.”

“That’s baseball, Gwen, there are no dugouts in football. And anyway, I’m not in any dugout. It’s just a bit of a slump. Besides, I’ve been enjoying my alone time.”

“Look, the sports analogy isn’t what’s important here," she told me. "The fact is that all of your time lately is alone time. When did all this low self-esteem begin? When did it start?”

Listening to Gwen, it became very clear that overexposure to Dr. Phil had some very negative side effects. I sighed and, trying to humor her, said, “I don’t know…maybe it was that whole Atkins diet thing. I mean, you know how much I love bread…”

“Yes…and cookies, and muffins, and cake,” Gwen added.

“Yeah, yeah...well, as soon as carbohydrates became such a bad thing to eat, not only did my diet suddenly become that much worse but everything else seemed to follow suit. In fact, now that I think of it, nothing good has happened to me at all since this whole vilification of carbs. Rolls with dinner. Buns on hamburgers. Even pasta! Everything I enjoy eating makes me feel guilty. And if I can’t even be confident in the food I choose, how can I even begin to trust my judgment with members of the opposite sex?”

“This has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard you say,” she told me. True, Gwen is no psychologist, but her bedside manner could certainly use some improvement. “How am I supposed to help you if won't even take this seriously? Maybe you should just stop eating so many stupid carbs. Who knows, maybe you'll be happier.”

Her diagnosis complete, she launched into a tirade about Angelina's twins that she had read in People magazine. While listening, I walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bagel. Sitting down at the table, I stared at it and began wondering if a cut-back in carbs could actually lead to a happier life. I took a bite as I mulled this over, figuring that happiness would have to wait until tomorrow.