Death Is a Pink-Faced Fat Man

20 Feb

I have seen death, and it’s a pink-faced fat man.

megabus man

It was approximately 10:00pm on Monday, February 17th when it first occurred to me that perhaps I frequent the Megabus too often to be able to statistically avoid certain death. I was on a return-trip from Harrisburg where I had spent a long weekend with my niece and nephew and I was slated to arrive in Pittsburgh at 11:30pm but thanks to relentless white sheets of snow and wind, would perhaps never arrive at all. It was late, I was worn, and I was very aware that I did not want to die under my current circumstances.

It isn’t until you’re in white out conditions late at night uncomfortably squished beside sweaty frat boys and no working seat belts that you realize maybe a ten dollar ticket to go across the state  really has some obvious weaknesses. On that particular evening, I was aware of them all.

It began when I noticed that what used to be a 4 hour trip from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg for less than the cost of a turnpike toll has now been converted to a 5+ hour trip from Pittsburgh to State College to Harrisburg (and then on to Philadelphia). This may seem a minor change, but I assure you that when you’re crunched up against a girl who brought a life-sized pink teddy bear on the bus because her boyfriend gave it to her over the weekend and she could only check one thing, every hour counts. It also means that instead of stopping at a reasonable rest stop on a major interstate featuring several restaurants for dinner, we stop at a convenience store named “Tom’s”, which results in meal arrangements including but not limited to Cheez Its, a family size bag of fruit snacks, and a king sized Kit Kat bar.

It was not my finest hour.

As if my experience at the shining American establishment that was Tom’s was not enough, my bus driver was kind enough to note that we should all return to the bus at 8:15pm and did not himself return to the bus until 8:30pm. I’m not one to get in a mess about a 15 minute delay, but given my proximity to pink bear girl, the bathroom door, and the (open) door to the outside, I was keenly aware of every extra minute needlessly spent in a three-layer sandwich of teddy bear stuffing and cold and poo.

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time, only months ago, when my trip from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg was a cost-savings stroke of convenient genius. I’ve frequented the Megabus so often that I’ve pinned it down to a beautiful science. I arrive exactly at the right time to be the first in line so that I get the absolute best position on the bus, I nest in my seat of choice with a pashmina and a Netflix binge, and I check out until I fall asleep.

There are a variety of typical concerns when traveling via Megabus. One of the most pressing is that if you get on at a pick-up point, you’re going to have a terrible time. That’s because everyone at the starting point has formed a nest already and is asleep by the time the pickup point is reached. Many seats are full and the spaces that are vacant of people are instead consumed by bags, legs, and teddy bears of various unreasonable sizes.

I am convinced that the true test of whether one is an asshole or not is how they handle the pickup point transition on a Megabus. It can be tantalizing to pay only a few bucks for a ticket across the state that affords you power outlets, comparatively decent leg room, a panoramic double-decker top view if you’re first in line, and, if you play your cards right, two seats to yourself.

There are a variety of tactics one can employ to ensure they get to enjoy their seat in solitude. The most common one is to sleep or feign sleep at a pickup point and to have a back or a body part across the adjacent seat so that someone will have to wake you from slumber to sit down. Others will just put on headphones and put a bag there to help deter people from asking while saving themselves from guilt by being polite and lovely if they do.

My preferred method is to leave the seat empty but to get out a bottle of lotion and obsessively rub my hands until all passengers are seated. It’s a perfectly innocent act, but when done with the right amount of intensity, is incredibly effective at inspiring strangers to wake up a sleeper rather than sit with me.

Over time, however, I have experienced pick up points with enough frequency that I ditched the lotion bit altogether and simply open the seat and take my chances. I’ve been that poor, wandering soul too often, and the choice between a 3-hour seat partner who is mad that I woke them up, annoyed that they have to ride with their bag on their lap, or showing indicators of homicidal tendencies is one I wish I didn’t have to make.

But those days are long over. I’m not afforded choice in my return trip anymore, my dinner is at a gas station, and my ticket time has increased. Especially in light of the insta-blizzard.

I remember texting Dave around 11:00 to let him know my bus would be late and that the weather was bad. He asked me how bad, and I said I was worried enough to move to a seat with a working seat belt. The snow was coming down so quickly and the wind so harsh that, looking out the windshield, I was fairly certain the bus driver was just hoping he was still on the road. I didn’t see how he could possibly know for sure.

I told myself to just go to sleep and that when I woke up I would be home, but it’s nearly impossible to sleep through the possibility of death. Having viewed the safety video no less than forty times, I thought it prudent to locate my emergency exits since at first glance I looked like the only human capable of assisting during a crash. To be fair, the teddy bear may have been able to also lend a hand.

From time to time I can harbor some Nervous Nelly tendencies so I tried to calm myself in spite of our crawling down the road like a half-squished slug and to watch House of Cards. That was when the Jesus music came.

Apparently our bus driver had concerns too, because just two hours after instructing us to relax and sleep until Pittsburgh, he put on his finest Jesus album to get him through the storm. Though artistic liberties beg me to say it was “Jesus Take the Wheel”, I am disappointed to admit that it was far worse than that. It was the repetitive kind that even born-and-bred-Baptist folk like me get grumpy over. One of those ones with a repeating chorus that goes on for 10 minutes in various iterations of someone speak-singing over a gospel choir and then riffing on a plethora of glory notes.

There’s nothing like waking up to a blizzard of snow and a choir of people yelling for Jesus to draw them close to really scare the daylights out of you.

I took to Facebook to announce my perhaps-impending doom and asked that instead of dying-by-Megabus, I would prefer my story be adjusted to something more eventful like “death by honey badger joust.” And just then, the storm cleared, the white curtains were parted, and the gospel choir was silenced. 

We were cresting the summit that reveals the Pittsburgh skyline at 1:30am and it was a glorious sight to behold. I hugged the life sized bear beside me in jubilant relief. It was a 7+ hour trip from a snowy day in hell and I was pleased to not have to leave my obituary to those who survive me. 

Take note: should I find myself in similar circumstances again, you can just go ahead and let this serve as it instead. Until then, I’ll be looking into planes, trains, and a new automobile. ♣

PS – My 30 Day Challenge for February is well underway. Thank you to everyone who voted for me to read books and not for me to have to hang out with humans every day for a month. Going vegan was a close second but is still certainly a contender for the coming months. In the meantime, my biggest struggle is in finding an hour to focus where I don’t fall asleep. Maybe my next challenge can be 30 days of real sleep? 

I’m Failing the Digital Revolution

29 Jan

 

frus1

I’m failing the digital revolution.

I tried; I really did. But I just can’t adjust to a world without paper.

When I entered boldly into this, the 2014th year of our Lord, I realized that for the first year since I’ve been paying my own bills, I was not gifted a planner or calendar of any kind for the holidays. I don’t need much – just a thin booklet sort of job that gives me a 2-page spread of each month, with room to write notes. Every four weeks the spread becomes a snapshot of madness, with post its and inserts and appointment blocks color coded according to my area of life focus *pushes up nerd glasses.*  But since I was already without, and because some of the hippies at work have been giving me a hard time about my physical files, I figured I’d save myself the twenty bucks and the earth a tree and finally utilize the built-in calendar on my phone.

I began to store notes and appointments and reminders on the unassuming digital square and to ignore concerns about trusting my life over to something I could not touch or feel. All along, there was a disconcerting voice in the back of my head that asked me how it was that I couldn’t manage to maintain a steady supply of clean underwear but would manage to keep my phone fully charged, defended from tragic demise, and available at all hours of the day for reference. Nonetheless, I stayed the course.

It was January 25th when I first felt the heart-seizing effects of my paperless existence. I had spent the last month carefully selecting and preparing a monologue for my first audition of the year, which I scheduled online. I had a choice of Saturday or Sunday and carefully chose the time 4:15pm on Sunday based on what I knew would best set me up for success. With such a packed schedule laid down for January, I was careful to do what I could each day and to then portion off the entire Saturday evening before the audition to drill and workshop my piece to completion. The plan was simple: Dave had a radio gig in the afternoon that I would accompany him to, we would have a celebratory lunch, and then we would go home and put the final and necessary touches on my audition. Then on Sunday: magic sparkle dust.

We radio-ed, we lunched, we went home. Dave took a cat nap and I sat on the couch working. It was 3:15pm and I was getting the nagging feeling one gets when one  is at the checkout at the grocery store and doesn’t have the item they came for in their basket. It was so distracting I couldn’t work so I logged into my email and ran down my to-dos. That’s when I laid eyes on the confirmation email for my audition that I’d flagged and highlighted and left there to nag me to get ‘er done ever since I scheduled it: and it was a confirmation for Saturday – that day – at 4:15pm.

I had to be there in one hour.

To date, there has not been an act of losing one’s shit quite so monumental as how I lost my shit in that moment.

I sprinted to Dave, yelled him out of a dead slumber, grabbed my monologue, whipped the paper at him, rattled off the situation with a  mix of disbelief and terror, and told him to drill me on the piece until we had to go, which was in twenty minutes. My hair undone, my makeup a snowball’s chance in hell, and my hopes of a callback shriveling before me, all I could aspire to was to not go up on my lines, to sound somewhat British, and to get out of the room without going into cardiac arrest from stress and humiliation.

I went. I was uninspiring. I was grateful to avoid a hospital stay.

There was no magic sparkle dust.

It was the very next day when my heart experienced the glorious rapture of a second full stop. It was 8:00am and my subconscious began to stir at the sound of footsteps throughout the apartment. As my groggy, grumpy morning self lay in half-sleep, I realized that Dave was up and getting ready for work and that I, on the contrary, was in bed. Sleeping. Through everything.

I shot up with a start, checked my phone (read: alarm/clock/terrible excuse for a planner), cursed myself for forgetting that I had an uncharacteristically early work meeting that morning, swore in ways that shamed my Baptist rearing, and launched my pajama-clad self into the bathroom. As my electric toothbrush knocked around my mouth (the result of a brain woken with shock and appendages late to the party), I yelled through a foam of toothpaste to Dave that I couldn’t believe that I forgot about my meeting, that I needed to leave right away, and could he take me somehow on his way to work. My mind spun with reminders that I still needed to check my email for any last-minute additions to the agenda so that I could adjust the materials, and hopes for a long-fought promotion began to fade as a cog in my brain suddenly clicked into place.

I stopped cold, my toothbrush no longer rotating. With my face remaining toward the mirror, my right eyeball slowly pulled to my peripheral to see a bewildered Dave standing, staring, waiting.

There was a long pause as I realized my self-spun tragedy. Foaming at the mouth, I lowered my toothbrush and uttered,

“It’s…

it’s Sunday. Isn’t it.”

Dave tried to hold back a sympathetic chuckle to spare me what little embarrassment was left to be spared. He made a conscious effort to close his gaping mouth (It’s rare to see me move so quickly in the morning – like a sloth snorting a coke line):

“Yeah. Yes. It is.”

He gave me a hug goodbye as he left for his regular Sunday shift, and when his mouth was next to my ear he told me to get a planner. A real one made out of real paper.

And so I did. I can’t go on like this. I can’t operate in a world of intangibles. There comes a time when we must accept our limitations, and I now know mine. I made a living as a receptionist, office manager, and executive assistant for several years. Managing calendars, goals, and strategies is what I do. I like my ducks in a row. I paid my bills by putting other people’s ducks in rows. But alas, I now know that there are no ducks and no rows when there is no planner.

It shipped today. Only a few days to go.

Speaking of which…note to self: when new 2014 planner arrives in the mail, immediately open to December 1st and write “buy new planner.”

Psst! Hey! You! I’m about to finish my first 30 Day Challenge of the year and in February it’s on to the next. So here’s your chance to tell me what to do. Whichever has the most cheerleaders by February 1st is full speed ahead; I’ll even mark it in my new planner. You can read more about my penchant for 365s here, about my challenge for 2014 here, and you can boss me around in the poll below. If you’re new, you should know: I’m a hermit; I adore meat and dairy; a brief canvassing stint has been the extent of my political involvement; and I’ve only finished one book in the last five years. Enjoy.
 
                                                               

 

Come to the Cool Kids Lunch Table

16 Jan

Look: I made buttons. They’re over there on the right. Remember how last time I said something about how if I was a nice person I might put all this motivational nonsense into one convenient location so that I can use my posts to talk about my unwillingness to do laundry in a timely fashion and my discomfort with everyday life situations and keep all my other stuff where I try to be a moderately better person over there in faraway land? Well there they are. Over there in faraway land. 

Now I need to put some things there and I want you to be the things. For now those fancy homemade buttons I fashioned with my own paint program and a google search lead curious ducklings to a previous post I’ve written regarding Lollipop Tuesdays, The Gaunlet, and 365 Projects. In an ideal world where my blog is cosmically awesome and you’re all supportive, those links will change to pages that instruct you how to start a challenge and links to people who have completed them and lived to tell the tale. So If you’ve successfully completed a 30 Day Challenge, a 365 Project, or a Lollipop Tuesday, and have documented the experience in any way, I’d like to tell people that you’re cool.

You, yes you could put yourself through a serious challenge of discomfort in social situations, a dedication to completing one daily task that you struggle with, or to repeating the same small achievement every day for 365 days. And in return, I will grant you a link on my website, which statistics have shown could perhaps have some sort of percentage of my readership click on if they are absolutely without anything else in the world to do at the time.

So there we go: I’m made little image linky things over there on the right for you. And kind of for me. Mostly for me. But a little more for you, and I think that’s worth something.

And I had my dad draw my cats for you.

cats

© 2014 Jackie’s Dad

Aren’t they precious? I love them so. Lola is the frazzled one and Hobbes is the one who is grumpy because his cake is gone. They’re very accurate. I’ve begun to harass my artist father to doodle things so I can steal the doodles and design my blog after them. That’s right: change is coming. Lots of uncomfortable change. 

See? I have new buttons and I’ve gifted you cartoon cats. Join my page of cool people and let me link to you.

Seriously, if you’ve completed a 365 Project of any kind, successfully completed a 30 Day Challenge, or tried a genuine Lollipop Tuesday and have written, virtual proof of it, I’d love to invite you to the cool kids lunch table. I was never really invited myself, so I thought I’d start my own and invite everyone.

Read about the things on the buttons, do the things the buttons say, get added to the buttons. For those of you who want to be added, hit me in the face with a link. For those who’ve thought about starting a challenge, may the half-promise of perhaps-fame embolden you.

Do it for cake-starved Hobbes. 

The Next 365

2 Jan

Okay. It’s January 2nd, 2014 and I have a 365 to account for.

For those of you just tuning in, it’s been exactly three years to the day since I wrote my very first post in my very first 365 Challenge: to fire up a blog I once adored and let sit dormant for years with one post every day for 365 days. It was far more successful and fulfilling than I could have imagined and I’ve become an advocate for 365 Projects ever since, much to the irritation of my friends and family.

In 2012, what I now refer to as The Dark Days, I didn’t complete a 365. In 2013, I enacted Project Fat Ass. To quote myself: “…before I give up all hope of ever being the kind of person who can run for 6+miles and/or fit into single-digit clothing, I’d like to give myself a fair shot by forcing myself to face my fat every single day for 365 days.  And then of course running a 10K so I can be sure something tangible came out of it: a certificate and a t-shirt.”

I did. I did all of that except get in the single digits (they’re a terrible myth, I’m sure of it). I exercised every day and ran a 5K and then exercised every day and ran a 10K and I got a shirt and a finisher’s medal. I took shots of myself every month and tracked my progress . At my least fit, I was 189. At my fittest, I was 155. It was really hard and it was completely worth it.

Originally I placed the 10K at the end of September because I thought it would give me an extra few months to harden up my body post-6-miles before reporting my progress. I thought about all the extra motivation I’d have thinking about how awesome it was that I finally ran that far and that long.

In reality I kind of blew it.

I mean, I walked for 20 minutes most days and sometimes I’d even do something pretty taxing but post-10K Jackie was nothing like pre-10K Jackie.  I should have gone harder. I won’t say I failed because hot damn I completed a 10K but I also won’t say that I was a warrior those last three months. If pre-10K Jackie were around, she’d be pretty upset. I’ve gotten pretty soft.

It’s all good though. Not only because I spent all year understanding my body and my motivations and what does and doesn’t work (and how disgusting my habits used to be), but because it’s January 2nd and it’s time for a new 365.

I was thinking about my big accomplishment this year and celebrating my new improved self with a bag of Skittles and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food (which I now eat in two days, not one), when I really struggled to think of something I wanted to do every day for a year.  I also thought about how many of you have talked about doing smaller daily challenges (30 Days) and how many of you took me up on my Gauntlet challenge earlier this year.

I can do lots of things better or differently than I’m doing them now. I had a whole list of ideas – I could spend all my free time only reading books, I could be vegan, I could go carless for a year, I could cook from scratch every single night, I could say yes to everything for a month – there are many possibilities I could dabble in daily that would seriously affect the kind of person I am and the effectiveness of my personhood a year from now.

It’s kind of hard to choose.

So this year my 365 is actually a series of 30 Day Challenges. I have twelve chances to adopt a new habit within thirty days. Some of them might stick, some of them surely won’t – but every single month I get to focus intently on something I want to be better at and share my failures with you all.

I’ve already picked the first month. As penance for the last three months of slacking, I’ll whip out my tried and true Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred so that I can stop hating on my soft self for the pathetic walks in October and November and the shameless cookie munching through December. That should also give you all ample time to tell me what you want me to do for 30 Days.

That’s right: I’m taking reader suggestions. I’d love to hear from you. Some of my best Lollipop Tuesdays have come from you guys. Heck, we can do one together or you can try to live vicariously through me or you can just suggest something you think I suck at so that you can point and laugh while I struggle.

In 2012 I wanted to be the kind of person who was fit. I wanted to be able to jog and maybe even run a race. It seemed completely out of my territory and I was so scared leading up to the 10K that I wanted any possible way to get out. Because deep down I’m a little whiny bitch and a bit of a pussy.

That’s truth right there. I know that it’s vulgar and I don’t usually do vulgar but that’s truth. And it’s probably true about all of us, really.

Let’s do 2014 correctly, shall we? We’ll live with intent, try new things, and laugh at ourselves. Of course you’re always welcome to just laugh at me, but I do hope that at some point this year you’ll consider joining me. If you aren’t sure what the rules are for a 30 Day Challenge, you can review my recommendations in numbers 1, 2, and 3 here. Eventually I might even put it all in one convenient location because I love you so hard.

Oh, and thank you. Whether you’ve been here since the first post or just got on the train, there is absolutely no doubt I would be a fat, motivationless pile of self-produced oils and cheetoh dust if you didn’t support me and ignore my frequent cat, unicorn, and World of Warcraft references. You’re swell. Thanks. As a token of my gratitude, here’s an oldie but a goodie: a large cat either being offered up to a nation or getting a breast exam in front of one.

cat feel up

Thank you and Happy New Year, all. The suggestion box is open. 

A Christmas Gift for You

25 Dec

Merry Christmas, dearies. Here’s the best yule log ever. Use it wisely and often.

Oh, and make sure you turn up the sound. 

Kittens and sprinkles,

Jackie

 

Smuggle Me to Canada

11 Dec

My Canadian voyage draws nearer.

It’s difficult. Gas money to the north is tight, it’s going to be cold, and I have questions.

Normally I wouldn’t fret over questions. I would take comfort in the fact that two heads are better than one and that when Dave and I are together he will take care of the things I openly struggle with on this blog, like navigation…and a steady supply of clean pants…and managing my Skittles intake.

Do they have Skittles in Canada? Are they weird Canadian Skittles or like, regular Skittles? I want American Skittles. I’m a patriot.

Regardless of the Skittles situation, I don’t have Dave’s help on this one because I’m flying solo. What are the roads like? What if I don’t understand the signs? What if there are lots of assumed Canadian normalcies that I don’t know about and what if I don’t answer the questions at the border correctly and what if the states won’t let me back across the border because they don’t believe that a young healthy American woman would launch herself across the border at a prime stage of life or that she would choose Canada as her first international adventure and what if they interrogate me?

I remember when my family once went to Niagara Falls they asked my mother her nationality at the border. She answered “Pennsylvanian.” I don’t think I’m really set of up success here.

Can I bring my cats? Can I take cats across the border? I have a complimentary pass for two to the Museum-of-Something-Kind-of-French-Sounding. Could I redeem that pass for say, my cat? Because it’s unlikely I’m going to befriend a Canadian in less than a day in a way that says “Hey, I’m totally normal and safe and I know this is fast but you should totally go to this museum. Which one? I don’t really know. Where? I’m not sure – can you tell me? Here’s my American coupon for your Canadian land attractions. Show me to this so-called ‘museum.'”

I might be able to use my extra pass to try to pick up a male specimen. I could pretend to be a mysterious American who is looking for adventure in Vancouver and just happens to have a pass for two to the Museum-of-Something-Kind-of-French-Sounding and see if my quirky American wiles are successful across the border. I guess that’s not really pretending because I actually am all of those things except looking for a Canadian male.

That might also be a classic serial killer tale. I’m not sure which. The differences between the serial killer tales and the best friends forever tales can be quite minor.

I have dreams that in Canada they find my squinty right eye and half-hunch appealing. Those maple leaf lovers might hop on this in a hot second. Especially if I bring my cat.

By the way, Dave doesn’t read my blog. I discourage it. So if I disappear someone is going to have to alert him that I could be trapped in Canada with a perhaps-serial-killer.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 1.25.08 PM

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pull off this “go to a new country” resolution before the end of the year. I have the passport and I have the voucher that’s redeemable for a place to put my head and a place to go when my head wakes up. As long as I eat something in the midst of all that, I’ll have a full-fledged whirlwind tourist experience in only 24 hours. I just need to get the money to eat. And to drive there.

The voucher includes valet parking. I like the idea of my tired little car going all the way to Canada and then getting to sleep with all the fancier cars. That’s if my little car doesn’t tire out on the way. It’s used. Very used.

My whole adventure is littered with tiny problems. Mostly they’re financial but I figure I’m two complete steps closer to crossing a border than I was this time last year. A tax return or an unexpected ebay sale or a few laborious babysitting stints and I’m on my way to The Great North. I briefly considered a little online fundraiser to see if people would fund a 20-something white female shut-in getting some culture, but I can’t imagine that resounds loudly with a large population of crowdfunders.

That, and I might need to call on that one for my potential 2014 365 Project, wherein I try to save $10,000 in a year or have to donate an egg.

I haven’t had a 365 with an ultimatum before, but I figure hey: let’s go right for drastic. I’m going to need that crowdsourcing card when I’m faced with two months left on my ultimatum without meeting my goal and I’m starting to reeducate myself on the effects of being hopped up on hyper estrogen.

That’s unofficial, by the way. I still have 20 days to finalize the plan. There are a lot of things I suck at so there are a lot of things to consider conquering, not just being poor. While I’m at it, I encourage you to consider taking up a 365 as well. I’ve pulled this soapbox out a lot of times so you can read more about why that’s the best decision you’ll ever make in your life here or here or here.

Or here.

Or here.

Just, you know, think about it. You have 20 days. And maybe after enough of my readers have tried it (like this one), I can finally convince Dave to do it too. I’m like Oprah but instead of giving away cars and books and flights with John Travolta, I’m giving away hesitant year-long commitments.

Seriously though it’s awesome and every year of your life you don’t do a 365 is basically a waste, as proven by myself in the dull, dark year of 2012.

So here’s the plan: I’m going to continue to find ways to scavenge for dollars to fuel my car to Canada to complete my 2013 resolution, I’m going to work on a post that sums up my 365 for 2013 (dubbed Project Fatass 365) I’m going to figure out the details of my 2014 365 Project, and you’re going to consider slightly the possibility of completing a 365 Project as well.

It seems I have a lot more to do than you. Maybe you could do more than “consider slightly.” Perhaps we can upgrade to “consider moderately.”

We’re running out of time, people. Twenty days until the end of the year. Get your goals together and let’s debrief after I conjure creative ways to raise money in ten days or less.

Canada, I’m sorry for the delay; I’m coming. I’ll figure it out.

It might be time to put smuggling on the table. 

All I Want for Christmas Is Fewer Office Parties

5 Dec

We’re less than one week into December and my calendar is already chock full of miserable holiday parties.

I don’t mean regular holiday parties. Those can be kind of nice when I’m able to kick the hermit in me and focus on good ol’ holiday cheer wine. I mean work parties. 

I’m sorry: work “parties”.

I’m quite certain that I have more interaction with other humans per diem in December than the rest of the other months combined. Unfortunately, most of those interactions are the result of mandatory work fun. 

As many of you know, I harbor a deep disdain for a variety of workplace traditions. Maybe all of them, actually. I hate the obligatory signing of a non-descript birthday card that some poor, abused office worker had to spend their lunch hurriedly retrieving and wondering if they would be able to be reimbursed for it. I hate the staff meetings where we act like the stale chips we found in the office closet will make our review of redundant agenda items more palatable. And above all, my beautiful butterflies, I hate mandatory work fun.

You know: mandatory work fun. It’s when your boss thinks it will help with “teambuilding” if you can all go do something fun outside the office together. Or worse: when your boss thinks it will help if you can do something fun inside the office together.

I have found this to be absolutely never true. Not once in my entire work experience have I been willing to pitch in more to lend Steve a hand with any of his tasks because I learned to respect and understand him more fully as a result of the way he handles himself after three tequila shots. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s just never happened for Steve and me that way.

Steve, just two tequilas in.

Steve, just two tequilas in.

That’s, of course, if Steve can even bring himself to drink in the first place. Mandatory work fun, in my experience, has meant happy hours where no one can actually drink because your boss is right there. And they’re usually talking about something horrible. Last Christmas, for example, my boss was actually doling out task items from the head of the table after pretending we were there for festivities; people had to get out notebooks or write on cocktail napkins. The Christmas before I distinctly recall a very vivid regaling by my boss of a stomach bug they got while traveling and the flurry of details that followed their plane ride back to the States.

I believe it wrapped up at about the same time our food arrived.

To add insult to injury, your boss won’t go where the office wants to go. In fact, they won’t even ask. They’ll just pick a place that matches their sentiments, which, as a rule, are almost never on par with everyone else’s sentiments. It will be a place where you can’t quite get comfortable with anything on the menu and even if you just do drinks you’ll be dishing out twice as much per beer as you would at your favorite joint down the street. Deep down, you’ll wonder if your boss will let the light of holiday joy infect their heart with the gift of giving by picking up the tab for the group or doing a round on them.

They won’t.

I’m barely a week into December and my planner is so rampant with mandatory work fun that even a frugal selection and a free parking spot each time will munch away a decent portion of my paycheck. Heck, my calendar is so rampant with required fake festivities that I can’t even get the time off I need for real festivities. Honest to all holy things the other day I was denied a day off the week of Christmas because I was told I have to be at work celebrating it with work folk.

For now, at least, I’m trying to find solace in the fact that there have not yet been plans announced for secret Santa-ing: my least favorite Christmas workplace experience. Perhaps this year I can be spared the terrible task of pretending to know someone well enough to purchase something they won’t regift while also not spending so much they think I make more than them or so little that they think I’m a cheapskate.

Why can’t we all just agree to keep the good parts about December in the office (the time off) and get rid of the bad parts about December in the office (everything else)?

Maybe unions should focus on these sorts of things. After all, these are the items that make a big difference in my daily life. Do you have any idea how much I would pay for a membership to a group that protects me from awkward office Secret Santas, terrible mandatory happy hours and required work festivities that override actual real non-work festivities? A lot. I would pay a lot. At least as much as the tab for my cheap beer and appetizers at mandatory work fun outings.

Unfortunately I’m not sure anti-work-festivities unions exist. At least, not yet.

It’s Christmastime, after all, and I do have a list to write.

Why You Should Stay for the Credits

20 Nov

I remember the Facebook post that changed it all for me.

It wasn’t a cat or a picture of someone’s dinner or an inspirational quote, life-altering as those can be. It was a miniature rant from a friend who had worked crew on a film and wrote how it was insulting to him that as text rolled after the movie giving credit to him and to his fellow coworkers who pulled long hours for months to make it happen, folks just gathered their coats, left their messes behind, and filtered out of the theater without paying them any mind. His bottom line? If you liked the movie, show respect for what and who it took to make it.

I’ll admit I wasn’t always a stay-for-the-credits kinda gal. I liked to get out the door and get to the next thing. I wanted to go get food (I always want to go get food) or talk about the movie, but I didn’t  want to sit there and read a bunch of nonsense about who did what when I didn’t know any of the people. And what the hell was a “Best Boy”, anyway?

After I read my friend’s Facebook comment, though, I started to feel kind of guilty. He had a point. If I liked the movie, I should show appreciation and look at what it took to get it made. So I forced myself to sit through them out of respect. And then, as often happens during the strange transition from being wholly against something to wholly for it, I found myself learning and taking interest in new aspects of the credits. I was starting to take note of actors who did their own stunts, and who required several personal assistants, hairstylists, and body guards. I could note how much of a movie required special effects and what locations it was shot in and how many people it employed. I noticed thank yous to local governments and organizations, information about underscoring, which actors also produced, and all sorts of tidbits that made my nerd cells shiver with excitement.

It’s actually kind of interesting when you know what you’re looking at.

Hey, I get it. It’s just words scrolling on a screen and you’re pretty sure you’re never going to care. Movie makers are pretty sure you’re never going to care, too, because they went from putting the titles at the beginning to mixing them in with establishing shots, to cutting them entirely and throwing them at the end. If you see a movie on television, they’ll shrink the screen the moments the credits roll, speed it up to four times its rate, and stick it up in a corner on the side of the screen so you can be entertained by commercials or get on to the next thing. They know you don’t care.

But I’m going to suggest you give it a try. Seriously. Sometimes it even pays off with a nice little cut scene at the end as a reward for your commitment. Sometimes you’ll learn that Industrial Light & Magic does the visual effects for basically everything always. Sometimes you’ll learn that someone who performs all the major dance moves for an Academy Award winning performer can be credited as a “stunt double” and “hand model”.

Sometimes you’ll realize how many jobs each movie brings to an area and that it’s important to pay attention to those details when you’re at the polls voting on whether or not to pass a film tax credit law in your state.

It helps, of course, to know what you’re looking at. If you’re using ignorance as a shield, please click here to acquaint yourself with some of the terms you face in the slow scroll.

Give it a try. Not just once, but a few times. You might like it. You might even get to see an extra scene. And in the event that someone in the audience worked on the film, you might even get to make someone proud. 

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This post was written for and reposted from my  recent contribution to a geekier, more collaborative blog, VStheUniverse. You can find all sorts of nerdy bits there, from theories on time travel to weekly nerd moments to nerdical musings both great and small. If that gets you all hot and bothered, follow us on Facebook and on tumblr. 

Adventures in Backsliding

6 Nov

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted, my Jillian Michaels and running-infused workout plan has deteriorated into frequent light walking and lifting (cereal boxes), and as I write this, I’m stuffing my face with fifteen American dollars worth of beef fried rice. There is also an egg roll. And some Scotch, because I like to marry my trash with class.

In short, this:

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I ran a 10K about a month ago and in the time that’s passed it appears I’ve become a bit of a loser. Perhaps loser is a strong term. I can be hard on myself when I’m shame-slamming takeout.

This happens. I’m trying to find a way to get it to stop, but it is a pattern I can’t deny. Sometimes I like to project my own personal trends onto the general human population, and I think that’s actually kind of a fair thing to do because I do represent a small percentage of the human population – the people who avoid laundering underwear until they’ve exhausted their emergency underwear and swimsuit bottoms – the people who find it difficult to stay in little boxes in big towers, jabbering about minutia that determines whether an enormous corporation gives money to another enormous corporation – the people who sometimes want to look at their student loan debt and then look at their empty cupboards and make the former feel better by ordering beef fried rice so that they can immediately alleviate at least one of their issues at hand. Deliciously. While simultaneously rocking a huge hole in the crotch of their jeans.

So that’s me. I’m America. A fraction of America, anyway, and I’m a pretty serious backslider.

I frequently, on occasion, find myself in quite a schlump after quite a bit of gained ground. It’s a bummer. One likes to think that one has learned a lesson and is forever freed from it, but the fact of the matter is that after I go crazy for months at a time trying to conquer everything at hand, I will reward myself the best way I know how: sitting on my couch in unclean clothes and eating food that probably isn’t what it was marketed to me as. And then I will feel so ashamed by this that I will continue to self-soothe in a similar regressive pattern until I rebel against myself and go back into months on conquistador setting.  

It’s frustrating. Mostly because I spit my brains into a public forum where it appears the subjects are cats, food, discomfort in a variety of social situations, gaining ground, and losing ground. After a while of writing about these things, you start to notice yourself.

But it’s okay. I’ve got moxie. And I’m still a young whippersnapper but I’ve been around long enough to realize that there are two  Jackies on the spectrum of Jackiedom – the one that’s a pile of cheesy poof eating, unshowered slop that plays Warcraft all day and has literally no human interaction, and the one that’s in magazines and giving speeches and leading a very happy group of folks in doing whatever they all happily want to do, and that every day is a choice to continue the struggle against the former and to get closer to the latter. If I ever get to the latter and am asked how I got there by young hopefuls, I hope I have the courage to admit that it was a series of backsliding and pounding theater-style boxes of Milk Duds.

 I did achieve some things, though, in my time away from general live achievements. For example, while I was lounging in my pajamas using my sickness as an excuse to drink Scotch and split-screen watch Netflix and browse useless Internet musings, I learned that Chinese takeout containers are designed to conveniently unfold into a sort of semi-normal plate, and that has really served me well in the 30 minutes. So that’s nice. Payoff is nice.

I guess it’s that time again. That time where I look at every single thing in my life and scrutinize it relentlessly until I’m so disgusted that I spit shine my entire house, go for a 3 mile run, register for a race, organize my to-do list in terms of 1-week, 3-month, and 1-year goals, and thoroughly groom my cats for good measure.

I suppose that as long as I backslide only a little less than the amount of ground that I cover in my motivated periods, I’ll always be moving forward. So there’s that. I’m on the move. I’m getting things done, one overhauling/backsliding segment at a time.

Resolution reevaluation time is approaching quickly, however, so I really have to get my sloth gremlins at bay. I’m supposed to be in the best shape of my life by the end of December and I was doing pretty well there until I convinced myself that 20 minutes of light walking per day still met my exercise quota. Which, technically, it does – but light walking isn’t going to burn off this Chinese. Or yesterday’s. Or last week’s. My vagina doctor said so.

That, and I told myself I’d travel outside the country this year for a resolution. Last year I got a passport, and this year I’m supposed to use it. So far, the closest I’ve gotten to international travel is ordering contacts from the United Kingdom.

Time to get on the ball. And since I’m pretty broke, I guess that means I’m going to have to just make it work. Looks like I’m hopping a Megabus to Canada.

Conquistador setting, commence. 

I Beat the Blerch

1 Oct

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ladies and gentlemen.

I hope that by my classic opening sentence for a Lollipop Tuesday post, you’ll recognize that I’m alive and well after attempting my first 10K this past weekend, but I suppose that the first thing a ghost writer would do is study my recurring themes and voice and copy it for the sake of consistency so I guess you’ll just never really know if the person blogging from now on is the real Jackie or not. I can’t make that decision for you.

I can, however, tell you that on Sunday morning at approximately 10:30am, my butt cheeks coordinated in perfect and opposing harmony to power me across the finish line of my very first 10K race.

In retrospect, there are a few things wrong with that sentence. Particularly the part about it being a race. I’m sure it was for some people, but the only person I was competing with that morning was the fat girl inside me, telling me to just stop and take a bus to the end. I was prepared for that, which is why I had two shortbread cookies in a tiny plastic baggie in the cup holder of the car, which was parked back at the start line. And since I knew fat Jackie was going to kick in around mile 3, I outsmarted her. She could either walk more than three miles back to the car in shame, or she could finish the less than three miles ahead of her, and then take a complimentary shuttle back to her well-deserved bag of cookies.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: being an adult is all about properly leveraging your motivators.

That would be me, pre-race. And Dave. And the friend who challenged me in January to make my 5K resolution into a 10K instead. Let's call him Lord Pickles.

That would be me, pre-race. And Dave. And the friend who challenged me in January to make my 5K resolution into a 10K instead. Let’s call him Skeeter.

 

Let’s move on to the second inaccuracy in my former sentence: the use of the word “first”. While it’s true that it was my first 10K, I feel uncomfortable about calling it out like that because seriously, I doubt that there will be another. Let’s face it guys: I suck at running. I bitch and I moan and I’m uncomfortable and the only way to get me to do it, really, is to either bully myself into it with embarrassment and fear tactics, or to promise myself some pastries I squirreled away for myself.  There’s a chance that I’ll revisit a 5K now so that I can work on having a less embarrassing pace, but it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to endure this particular kind of pain and suffering again.

What pain and suffering, you say?

At the beginning of a race, I scan the thousands of participants for whom I anticipate will be the weakest in the pack.  These include but are not limited to the old and feeble, the fat and frumpy, and (of course) the children. I then proceed to watch every single person I pegged out for losers pass me as I huff and puff and consider blowing the whole thing off. I spent the entire race alternating between trying to pass a father-son team who ran ahead and then walked until I passed them and then ran ahead again, and an old lady with a fanny pack and a serious hunch who did the same. I very keenly remember trying to chug up a hill in the very first mile and reminding myself to breathe and relax because it was just the beginning as a woman with enormous haunches harnessed her ass power and soared uphill without effort.

They all beat me. Every single one. And in case that wasn’t bad enough, at mile 2.5, I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked to see my boss smiling and leaping ahead. I could have tried to keep pace to rescue what remained of my dignity, but let’s be honest: there was no guaranteeing I was going to make it to the end and it wasn’t a time to get cocky.

So that. That pain and suffering.

The third and final issue I take with the sentence I was too lazy to delete is that it contained the term “opposing harmony”, which I’m pretty sure can’t be a thing. I’ve tried to justify it many times and I suppose there can be an opposing harmony that exists, perhaps, among counterweights, for example, and Paula Abdul and the cartoon cat in Opposites Attract, but there is a better way to describe the way one’s butt cheeks work together than “opposing harmony”.  I’ll blame the ghost writer for that lack of inventiveness…and basically everything terrible written from now until this blog dies a hard and humiliating death, just like the real Jackie did at the 10K on Sunday.

Just kidding.

Maybe.

Seriously though, thanks to everyone who has followed me from the couch to the 5K to the 10K. If you’ve been reading, you know this transition has been far from natural for me but I’m 30 pounds lighter than when some of you first started reading, I’m not out of breath when I walk to the bus stop, and sometimes I’ll even walk to get groceries instead of taking the car. When I was having a really hard time pounding the pavement to a decent pace around the 4.5 mile mark, I thought lovingly of you all and how incredibly humiliated I’d be if I went so public with this and failed horribly.

Which is why the real Jackie couldn’t bear to tell you the truth and instead hired someone to carry the torch of her blog in a sort of veiled semi-serious voice regarding her passing.

Regardless, whatever Jackie is left may have completed her New Year’s Resolution but still has three months left in her Project Fat Ass 365. That’s 90 more days of huffing and puffing and seeing if I can really realize my true goal for the year: to be in the best shape of my life before the late 20’s swallows me in its beefy jowls of doom.

Hey: if I pop in Jillian Michaels now, I might have enough time to burn off all the motivation cookies it took me to train for the 10K. 

By the way, if you’re wondering where the title came from, please go here and read everything on the site. Or maybe don’t because then you’ll never come back to me. It’s okay. I’ll understand.
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