Friday, August 24, 2007

Quandary and reminiscing

I'm all the way across the building, cause this is the only open restroom at this time of day, and am looking forward to this little activity the same way those guys in "Cocktail" must have looked forward to tossing full tequila bottles in the air all night. This is something I'm good at, but it's also just a means to an end. Efficient and showy.

I pull out the tampon from my pocket and squeeze the end. It doesn't really give, so I flip it around, knowing I'll need to unwrap the squishier end first. In a move practiced yet somehow instinctual, I pop open and peel back the wrapping like a monkey getting into a banana.

As I grab for the end with the hand that just deftly dropped the outer paper in that maddeningly hard to clean mini-can attached to the wall, something goes awry. I'm not sure what. But the next thing I know, my only tampon is flying across the room and bouncing around in the fruit fly inhabited shower stall.

Even as I watch, lip pulled back in a disgusted sneer, the thought flashes through my mind for an instant: "Should I still use that?"

The correct answer is no. But the thought of having to wad up a bunch of scratchy government issue toilet paper and jam it in my crotch, hobble back to my office to try and extract a tampon from one of my colleagues is exhausting.

I wish there was some way to make a tourniquet in situations like this, but other than duct taping my legs together at the hip hinge, I can't think of anything that might work.

I hem and haw for a minute and then do exactly what I have done many times since 8th grade: thank god that I am wearing black underwear.

I dash in and out of my cube. Make it back to find the room unoccupied. Crisis averted.

But this has made me think of adventures from the past:


Working in rural MN in a greasy spoon after school until 8:30 serving endless pots of Farmer's Bros coffee to groups of upstanding citizens attending court-mandated AA meetings.

It's January, which means the temperature is about 12 below the donut. My bag is in my car because it is the only way I'll be able to carry it around at school the next day without it smelling like a bowling alley.

As I'm running yet another order of fries to the back room where the smoke and heat make it seem like a low class vision quest, I get "the feeling." Right after "the feeling" I get another feeling, which is my stomach sinking into my pelvic floor. My bag, which is in the car, has essentially been in a deep freeze all day.

I'm one of two kids working, and my boss is glued to the TV in the kitchen because COPS is on FOX. I have to make arrangements for my surly waitstaff partner to watch my tables and not steal my tips and then duck out into the parking lot and pry open my door, grab my bag and haul ass to the ladies room, where I roll a Tampax Popsicle in my hands like how kids make Playdoh snakes. I think it has warmed up to room temperature, and I can hear the alcoholics getting restless for me to dump their ashtrays into the gallon ice cream bucket I carry in there for that purpose, and banging their cups on the table nervously for more coffee, always more coffee.

I breathe deep and impale myself with a skinny fist of cotton that feels cool at first, which is okay, but then a basic law of thermodynamics proves to me in a demonstration more gripping than any 5th period science class lab ever will that two objects at varying temperatures will seek common ground, making me double over in what can't really be called pain, but can be categorized more as blinding discomfort.

I recovered, of course. The AA people got their new ashtrays and coffee, my coworker was scowly because my tips weren't worth his trouble to pilfer, and my boss got to watch an entire episode of COPS without us hitting the bell on the heat-lamp warmed pick-up counter and screaming "Order in!"

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wisdom and meatballs

Leaning over a steaming cauldron of soup so spicy my sinuses drain with the first tentative sniff, my friend D tells me this analogy for dating:

"If single women are empty parking spaces (and we all know how hard it can be to find a space at all), why would I want to park somewhere really far away from where I want to end up? I'd like to find a space near my destination."

He warned me that his thoughts on this upset most other people, but as I absorb what he has said so far, I happen to think it's the most accurate description of trying to figure out what you want in another person I've ever heard.

"Like, a space might be close in, but it might be too tight and if I took it I wouldn't be able to open my door. And there are always things like fire hydrants. Those are like, I don't know, gay men. Those spaces are open, but not for me."

I fill my soup base with about a pound of chicken thighs and radishes and stir while trying to keep from laughing. The steam is locker room thick. This is the best abstract conversation I've had in a long time about the nature of relationships. It certainly helps that I'm not trying to butt in and let everyone know what I'm thinking. But I have questions.

"So, do you like to cruise lots of neighborhoods or do you just try to stick to the reality of your ultimate destination? And what about if you see someone walking to their car? Do you just idle behind them and wait to grab it or what?" These are some of my burning questions.

"I've been trying to stay close to home. I have a couple of neighborhoods I drive around in, but I never get on the freeway to check anything out across town anymore. And I have, once or twice, gotten the sense that someone was about to get in their car, so I waited, but ultimately, you can just never know how long it's going to take for someone to really clear out completely. Now I just keep my eye on the spot, especially if it's a good spot, but just keep driving with the option to check on it later."

I put 20 cloves of garlic in my broth, along with a whole glass of soy sauce and hot peppers. D has already eaten his last meatball, urging me to stay away from the thinner slices of red meat as he 'had some trouble with the gristle and everything.' I ask him if the meatballs were okay, and he says since they're already ground up with no chunks of problem connective tissue, so they're safe.

Conversations with him are always really sort of paradigm shifting for me. His abstract observations of animals always leave me doubled over in hysterics. Things like:
"If you can't use a cat as a weapon, why are they so filled with hate?"
"I think chickens have more hate than brain."

One final thing on why I like D: I recently heard him play a Justin Timberlake cover on the concertina. Top that.