Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Text of the Matter

Checking my agency phone is an expensive proposition these days.

Some high school girl practiced in the high drama of how to nag your friends 24/7 has confused my number with someone else’s, and sends me scads of text messages a day.

I don’t know what most of them say, because I’m one of those fuddy-duds who did not pay for text service on my phone plan, so it costs me .20 to open each one. But curiosity runs high, so I have opened about a half dozen of these gems. Here’s what I bought with my $1.40:

“Why r u txting Nick and not me?”

“Hey come on txt me back u no I can cu right?”

“I hate u”

and my favorite:


Yah, you got that right, kid. You didn’t have to yell at me to make that point.

The very savvy among you are wondering why I don’t just text her back. I have a pink Razor phone. It’s slim, fits nicely in a little pouch in my purse and the color makes me happy. And it has one of those flat keypads that make entering a phone number a studious exercise, full of wrong buttons and do-overs. I shudder to think of trying to use that thing to reach letters of the alphabet.

And I don’t happen to know how.

My solution would be to call the number (duh! It’s a phone! We still talk with our voices in some parts of this society) but my husband actually thought he would be more effective donning his “Mr. Mean” demeanor and threatening to kick her butt to St. Louis the next time she texts my number. My husband is also a guy, with that Y chromosome that means he procrastinates anything and everything.

And so the messages continue to pile up — and a part of me is hoping this kid will glean a valuable life lesson from the silence: Sometimes, dear, the problem really does lie with you and not the other person.

Oh, and you owe me $1.40.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And the Winner Is

Thank you to everyone who racked their brains to come up with a name for my vacuum cleaner. Sure, it's stupid ... what else do we have to do the first three months of the year when you live north of the Mason-Dixon line and somewhere between Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon?

Truly, all the names were better than what I came up with, but one in particular sparked a wonderfully naughty idea in my head. I tried to ignore it, I tried to say it was too ... well, blue for a family blog. Then I put all the suggested names in front of my husband, and his mind immediately jumped to the same conclusion. So thanks to Alisabow:

Meet Mr. Floor Play.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Talking Dogs Say the Darndest Things

My dog is a smart alec.

No, I haven't officially gone insane courtesy of Sesame Street songs. And I’ll bet a majority of pet owners know just what I’m talking about: You hold running conversations with your dog.

Most of my remarks are what we journalists call closed-ended questions, as in, “Would you like to go for a walk?” “Is it time for some food?” “Let’s go outside and do your business.” Which isn’t a question, of course, but I’m dealing with an animal, not an English teacher.

Those of us blessed with an imagination naturally take the conversation one step further and translate the dog’s body language into English. Out loud. Otherwise, it isn’t a conversation — it’s just me talking to my dog.

Most of the time, Dribbler — yes, that’s what we named our four-legged friend, after the basketball move — responds to the routine questions about his day with, “Ohh tay” or “Hoe de doh” as he heads in that direction. Occasionally, I get the “You’re kidding me, right?” backtalk.

But where he really shows off his sarcastic side is when I ask for an opinion. “Dribbler, do you think I should scrapbook or read a book tonight?” and his trusty response is “I dunno. I’m a dog. What’s reading?” His response to my plea for help in deciding between vacationing in Fairbanks, Alaska, or the Caribbean: "Make sure someone comes over here to feed me every day. I love to play the pitiful abandoned dog and snooker more food out of them."

A few days ago, I asked him when the temperatures would warm up so he could stay outside and play with that stick he seems so fond of. “Do I look like a meteorologist?” he shot back. When I asked what he found after a prolonged sniffing episode near our heat vent, he cocked his head, thought about it for a second and said, “Uh, something in the wall.”

So this morning, I asked his permission to post about him on my blog. He doesn’t mind, of course, since I hold the dog food bag, but he couldn’t resist the obvious wisecrack: “They’re all gonna think you’re crazy doing a ventriloquist act with a dog.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sweeping Up the Pieces

It’s here!

My new Eureka vacuum cleaner, the best ratings for the price appliance my husband could find on the Internet, shipped to me straight from a mysterious warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, where dock hands felt a need to wrap the box in neon yellow tape screaming: Refrigerate Upon Arrival.

For some reason, God has decided this is my month to deal with folks' nonsensical tape issues.

Now I’m probably the last person on the planet to wax on about a sweeper — it’s a bit of an oddity, actually, that I know how to plug one in and run it across the carpet. I darn sure won’t have a clue what to do when it comes time to change the bag, beyond sending my husband an email to add this to his to-do list.

So I gave it a test run out of boredom — I mean, curiosity — and learned in the first seconds why they named the brand Eureka. As in Eureka! It’s picking up the confetti. Eureka! It’s dragging me across the floor like an untrained puppy on a leash. Eureka! This thing truly sucks!

Now I’m in love with a vacuum cleaner to the point I’ve used it since my cleaning gal was here last week, and clocked in an extra 50 steps on my pedometer in the process. There’s just one problem: the name. Every time this bad boy stares up at me with its The Boss SmartVac label, I’m irritated. Hey, I’m the human in the house — I get to be the smart boss. This appliance needs to be called something else, and I’ll send one of my infamous flip-flop shoe books to the person who suggests the best nickname.

As a bonus, I’ll wrap my own piece of tape bearing this new name around the canister and send you a photo. Maybe we’ll both figure out what’s so fun about tape.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The End Is Near

Winter has officially won the battle for my sanity.

It was scoring on the little skirmishes all week: I don't especially enjoy mail that comes in from the box feeling like little pieces of dry ice. I'm not a fan of feeling as if the wind is about to break your bones. I don't think it's funny when people send me notes asking if I know it's -11 outside. Yes, I do. That's why I'm wearing three layers and have locked myself inside.

<-----Before I lost my mind

But this morning was the last straw. I woke up with a song stuck in my head. Now it happens to everybody, and it's usually annoying to walk around humming Take This Job and Shove It or Bubbly for hours on end. Although I kinda like when my brain locks on to Devil Went Down to Georgia because I have an excuse to say son of a bitch.

However, I'm now catching myself in odd moments singing that Sesame Street classic, Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood. I don't even know all the words because I don't have kids, so it's a tune from my brother's childhood in the record library of my mind. I'm not sure of half the notes.

I'm willing to pass the crazy crown and straight jacket on to someone else who can top that. Kudos if you can also get that stupid jingle out of my head in the process.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Post Office Goes Postal

I went back to the Greenwood Post Office yesterday, where I’m such a beloved patron to start with. This time, I was dragging a box of paperwork from Globus to send to a client, along with a gift I’d wrapped to thank them for their business.

Now let me just say that if I’d had a box big enough for all of this, I would have arrived with my stuff already in that box. The fact I was holding it in two hands was the first clue I was about to be a pain in their side again.

But it is NOT my fault the clerk at the counter took the measurements, and then told me to select a Priority Mail box 17 x 17 x 17 from the little store and bring it over to her. Only the box read 17 x 17 x 16 on the side, so I drug the next size up back to the counter as well. Because everyone knows that a missing inch can make a difference down the road.

It only took a few seconds to realize this gal’s name wasn’t Everyone, because she insisted on working up the first size box. Whatever. I was already stuck shipping priority class instead of something cheaper because unless you bring your own packing tape gun and assemble it yourself there in the middle of the lobby, that’s the default. They wait and tell you that when you're standing there empty-handed and helpless. Silly me, not thinking to carry packing tape along with the umbrella, first aid kit, spare tire, and bag of salt riding around in the trunk of my Miata.

Eventually, she had something that resembled a box ready for my shipment, and you already know it was too short on one side to hold the gift. I offered her the bigger box, but instead Ms. MacGyver started pounding it down in there until the side of the box bowed out and now there’s a 2.5-inch gap between the top flaps. Again, I offered to hand her the bigger box, but no! She can handle this! And out comes the mighty tape gun.

She ran it over that gap about 25 times, then started plastering both sides of it as well. She flipped the box over and started slapping tape on the bottom. She circled the box about five times with the Priority Mail messaging, like she was tinseling a Christmas tree. Oh, that gap in the corner? Whap! More tape.

Finally, we had a misshapen thing that couldn’t sit flat on the counter — you couldn’t really tell it was a box and not an exhibit in the World’s Biggest Wads Of Priority Mail Tape Museum. I would have taken a picture of it, but I didn’t have a camera in my emergency stash, either.

Final step: We needed to weigh it to determine my cost. Sigh. I knew it would be in the $30 range, so that didn’t shock me. Still, I couldn’t help getting the last word:

“And should I attribute $27 of that to the tape art?”

Uh, I might be banned from the post office by now. I don't intend to go back any time soon to find out.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Treadmill Tales: Climbing the Stairway to Infinity

Contrary to my reputation, I do exercise and on purpose. I've owned a treadmill for five years, and wear a pedometer constantly as my self-imposed requirement to walk 10,000 steps (read: 4 miles) a day.

Not to tick you off or anything, but I conquered the challenge of walking while I watch TiVoed episodes of Scrapbook Memories, NYPD Blue reruns, Desperate Housewives and All My Children after the first 6 months. To stay interested that first year, I added my point total, divided it into total miles and figured out I had walked from Indianapolis to Hollywood, Florida.

That didn't exactly trip my trigger. It’s quicker to drive.

Here we go again

Year two, I started a Pedometer Hall of Fame, wherein I recorded my top 10 list of most steps in one day. Eventually, all of my entries were in the 20,000 range, which requires the kind of time and opportunities you only find on vacation (it’s not coincidence the chart today has locations like Washington, D.C., London, Dublin, Buenos Aires). Those days are rare and I needed a challenge on, for example, Tuesday, February 17 as well.

Then I found out about the President's Challenge –- that organization of dweebs that came into our schools and tortured us to do sit-ups and run obstacle courses in the 1970s. Only now those geeks have decided that any activity that moves your butt away from the couch equals exercise, and they have an online program to incentivize you. Even housework counts as a category where you can earn points toward bronze, silver and gold medals.

A gold medal. Now we’re talking.

It took nearly three years and four pairs of Reeboks to reach the summit, but I finally saw the magic 160,000 appear on the screen just before the holidays. That’s when I learned those chumps at the Challenge make you buy your own medal. Get outta here -- all that sweat and they think I’m forking over $7 plus shipping?

I have a better idea of what I can do with that fork.

But that’s not even the real insult. Because suddenly, automatically, audaciously they started pushing me toward the next level: a platinum award bestowed for racking up one million points. Nowhere on the website does it explain this option. It doesn’t say what the reward is, and I'm sure it wouldn't be encouraging to tell me how much that costs. I'll probably have to write my own blog post to tout my win. But, sucker that I am for finishing what I started, I have 824,925 points, or 83 percent of the distance, to go.

I should reach that by the time One Million B.C. rolls back around. And, I suspect, Erica Kane will still be up to her same tricks when it happens.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Eve Confetti Caper

I always host the New Year’s Eve party for one reason: I’m the only person in Indianapolis insane enough to encourage guests to throw trash bags full of confetti on my floor. And in my Christmas tree, under my couch cushions, on top of the light fixtures, down the toilets, around the dog’s cage, through the pool table, and hidden in our underwear.

Why? Because it’s fun.

OK, it was also fun to throw it off the balcony of the Embassy Suites in Chicago when we used to book rooms there, mainly because someone else would have to clean up the mess, but when the group got to big to transport everyone three hours away, I decided to suck it up and spend my first few hours of the new year getting personal with a sweeper.

For years, we handmade our confetti by whipping out a three-ring hole punch and asking the kids to go to town with construction paper during December. But for our 2009 bash, I had a truly lazy streak and sent those obnoxious orange, yelling yellow, neon pink, hot red, and glowing green sheets through the shredder in my office. Ten minutes = two trash bags of celebration.

Somehow, you know this isn’t going to end well, don’t you?

Well, we threw our confetti and then wallowed in it before wandering off to sing Paradise by the Dashboard Light on the karaoke machine. And when everyone left around 1:30 a.m., I started the familiar routine: First you broom sweep the paper pieces into piles you can pick up with a dustpan. Then you fire up the trusty Kenmore and start walking.

So I’m humming along when suddenly the sweeper began spitting paper back on the floor. I guess this happens when the bag is full … I’m no expert on this as I usually make the husband deal with anything technical, mechanical or logical. He took 10 minutes to change it out, and away I went again … still spitting paper back on the floor. He tinkered with it, and it spit paper back on the floor. We got out the central vac system, and the hose clogged two minutes into the process, refusing to suck the paper through the walls and into that bag. He was changing more bags while I stuck a knife into the hose, trying to break the log jam.

After an hour of this, Ron nonchalantly asked, “Where did you get this paper?” Where else? I stole it from his Toastmaster stash upstairs because it was pretty. It was also 65-pound cardstock, or cement as sweepers know it. I blew the motor in the Kenmore and have most likely killed the 28-year-old central vac system.

All I cared about at that moment was the fact I still had half a floor full of paper no machine could tackle. Yep, 3 a.m. and I was looking at a hand job.

That’s not fun.