Monday, April 27, 2009

To Whom It May Concern

Every day I get a lot of spam e-mails, most of which offer me Viagra. However, there are a small percentage of cryptic messages that tantalize me. I don’t have the nerve to click on the links – I’m too scared of downloading a virus and wrecking my precioussssssss (laptop, that is). Instead, I try to figure out what they’re telling me based on the subject line.

This is the current batch I’ve been pondering for the last week or so:

Re: Sale 70% OFF on Pfizer
The economy is so bad that large pharmaceutical companies are now selling themselves to the first buyer on the Interwebs.

Re: Think of your age once more. You can change it.
Brought to you by the Amazing Kreskin and Tony Robbins – they'll guess your age and make you think your way younger!

Re: Disgusting Hoffman's act
Not a family friendly show – and not nearly as popular as the above.

Re: support your darling couch adventures
Slap some wings on that sectional, and it sounds like the basis for the next Hayao Miyazaki film. Just putting it out there, Mr. M.

Re: Your little friend down there is too young to retire.
A joint advertisement for Viagra and

Re: Passengers: Your Captain Has Screwed Up
Have I mentioned my fear of flying? This is one announcement I never want to hear.

Re: Keeping Up With the Kremplers
I saw this sitcom. It featured Sandy Duncan…

Re: Become independent from the circumstances that influence your vigor?
I believe this is a direct translation from a Russian novel I read last year. Next sentence, “I, Boris, am strong like bull. Here, drink vodka!”

Re: It's Talkfication Time
As someone who was voted the "Most Talkative Female" in her senior high school class yearbook, I would like to know more about Talkfication Time.

Re: Yammer to Keep it Together
Like “Talkfication Time,” this interests me greatly.

Re: Forgive me and answer.
You can’t make me forgive you, so forget about demanding an answer.

Re: I need you to answer!
No apology this time? It didn’t work yesterday, and it’s not going to work now.

Re: Your device is so tiny she barely finds it in bed?
Clearly, this is a private conversation between two men, one of whom has told the other about a sexual problem he and his girlfriend have been having. I just think it's a shame that his friend responded with his question in the subject line. Why not couch something so delicate in gentler terms, like "RE: Device Location Assistance"?

Re: You should be ashamed!
I am. Trust me on this one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Have Piles

Not those piles! I would hardly announce that I had hemorrhoids on my blog. If I ever feel that comfortable, I’m hoping people would leave a few “Ewww! Gross! TMI!” comments to shake me back into reality.

And the reality is that I have these piles:

Exhibit A – books and more books (and even more books) that seem to multiply no matter how many times I clear out my bedroom bookcase.

If you look very closely, you’ll see that I have Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, because I really am that literate and erudite. Lest I start feeling too intellectual, you are free to point out that it is wedged in there next to Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons.

Exhibit B – last summer’s clothing, casually flung over my chair.

In a fit of organizational pique, I recently decided my closet could use more space, especially since half the stuff in there was a little too roomy for me. I took out everything I couldn’t use. I put the clothes aside. I started to research local churches where I could donate them. And then…my schedule got hectic, I failed to call a single church, and I never use that chair, so it became easy to ignore it.

It wasn’t until the jewelry situation – one billion interconnected necklaces snaking over my dresser like vines – that I felt like my bedroom was less a retreat and more an indoor garage sale.

I’ve gone to the Container Store and bought bill organizers, toilet tank caddies and hanging shoe cubbies. But my bedroom remains the great wilderness in my apartment, the last refuge of the dreaded piles.

I finally decided to take the piles by the horns (yes, in my mind they have horns), and do what I do best: make a list!

I come from a family of list-makers. My mother insists on them whenever there’s a chance that her memory may fail. (Which doesn’t happen.) My father started his packing list before I was born, updated it when I joined the family, and has adapted it for every stage of life. Let’s just say it’s a diapers-to-dentures list, very comprehensive. If he knew we would need something while we were on the road, it would be on the list.

In college, I used a detailed list to plan my study schedule just so:

12:00 to 12:30 – Review chapter 1
12:30 to 12:35 – Write chapter summary
12:35 to 12:45 – Answer chapter questions
12:45 to 12:50 – Drink water and take a pee break
12:50 to 2:30 – Draft opening paragraph of essay
2:30 to 3:00 – Review chapter 2
2:30 to 2:35 – Eat a peanut butter sandwich

Obviously, I couldn’t live up to the list. (For some reason, my body didn’t understand that I was only allowed to drink and pee at scheduled intervals.) I just needed to know that in a perfect world, I could accomplish everything – and in handy five-minute increments, no less.

I sat down last night, cracked my knuckles, and typed on my laptop: WHAT I WANT TO DO THIS WEEKEND.

I proceeded to list 13 organizational and cleaning activities I need to do to get my apartment in tip-top shape. I started to realize I wouldn’t get all of them done in one weekend, so I highlighted the text at the top and typed: WHAT I WANT TO DO THIS AND NEXT WEEKEND.

I thought that summed it up, and gave me two whole weekends to do it all, to boot. I paused, reflected, and added nine more things I wanted to tackle, from polishing my jewelry to spot-cleaning my kitchen floor and dusting every stick of wood in my apartment. I was satisfied that I had covered the organizational gamut, and that at the end of the 22 items, my home would look like a clean, well-decorated youth hostel. (It’s too downscale to imagine as a hotel.)

I saved the document, happy with my effort – and looking forward to my impending productivity– and closed out.

A few minutes later, I felt a tiny doubt surfacing. I reopened the document and highlighted the text at the top. I typed:


Seriously, what's so bad about some harmless piles? I'll get to them...sooner or later.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The paper cut pandemic continues.

Just call me Typhoid Nancy – I appear to be a very dangerous carrier of the disease.

I was in my boss’s office yesterday afternoon when he asked me for a document he wanted to review. I told him it was on his desk, and we both proceeded to rifle though the papers in front of him. We saw it about the same time. I got there first, and snapped it up.


That was the sound my boss made as the papers slipped through his fingers and sliced his pinky.

I had two thoughts when this happened:
“Oh. My. God. I just hurt my boss.”
“Oh! My! God! I just hurt my boss!”

He and I have a good working relationship. But he’s still my boss, and in any superior-subordinate situation you’re going to have moments when you want to give your boss a big, fat, juicy paper cut and pour a little lemon juice over it. Now, I didn’t have lemon juice handy. This was real life, and I don’t inflict injury on purpose. So I forewent the citrus in favor of a Band-Aid and Neosporin.

He took it with a sense of humor, pretending to pass out when the blood pooled over the paper cut. I felt terrible about injuring him. And I apologized profusely.

But I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t recall that moment fondly the next time he really pisses me off.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eat Your Heart Out, Richard Dean Anderson!

I am a paper pusher. Literally. In my capacity as an administrative lackey, I touch reams and reams of the stuff every day. Which means that I am one of the nation’s leading Band-Aid consumers. I get THOUSANDS of paper cuts per year.

I took a stained glass class when I was a pre-teen – the same summer I started French classes – when my mother was desperately trying to get me out of the house during my time off. I loved it. And I made some fantastic, artistic pieces. Ok, I made a crummy stained glass lily and a mirror with a toy soldier on it (which my mother has kindly kept on her walls for the last 20 years). However, my strongest memory of that course was the pain of scores of tiny cuts on my fingers.

When you solder pieces of stained glass, you can’t just apply heated metal to glass. First, you have to wrap it in an aluminum tape that adheres to the glass, and then solder the pieces together. That aluminum tape must be cut to size and then pressed tightly to the edge of the glass. While doing so, one is likely to incur the need for multiple Band-Aids per hand.

I am reminded of this constantly at work. You might think that getting cut with paper is better than metal tape, but you’d be wrong. I cut myself on manila folders, envelopes, thick expandable folders, and various office implements (e.g., staples and thumbtacks). Cutting yourself on thick folders doesn’t yield a paper cut – it makes you bleed like you were cutting a bagel and the serrated knife slipped (which might be an example specific to my youth).

A recent unscientific survey confirmed that I have the greatest finger-to-paper-cut ratio in my office. People know this, which is why everyone comes to me for bandages and Neosporin ointment. (I can’t stand the cream, it’s too runny.)

After a normal office-related paper cut, I take a moment to quietly curse, wipe off the blood and slap on a Band-Aid. However, when I found myself in the copy room this afternoon, tamping down a stack of newly copied documents, I was unprepared for the sting of the 22-pound multipurpose paper slicing my fingertip.

Did I stop preparing the documents, which needed to be sent to the clients immediately? No!

Did I curse and wipe off the blood? Well, yes.

Did I pause to go back to my desk for a Band-Aid? NO!

Instead, I went all MacGyver and did what I could to stop the bleeding until after I had done my job:

Yes, that is scotch tape on my ring finger.

MacGyver has NOTHING on me!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

10 Items or Less

Dear Sonja,

Last week I was waiting in line at the supermarket where you work, busying myself by reading the ludicrous tabloid headlines (“Britney Spears Deported!”) and deciding which gum to buy (“Flame,” the cinnamon flavor by 5 Gum). All I expected to do was hand over my store savings card, followed by my credit card, and book it out of there.

While I was standing there, I glanced over at the soda cooler nestled between the two registers, and almost passed over it before my eye hit on something on the top row. I believe you left it there:

I read the note you wrapped around that bottle of Aquafina. It said, “Sonja’s Water. Don’t touch!!”

I just wanted to let you know how effective that was. Not only did I not want to touch your water, I didn’t want to touch anything else in that cooler.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Sick Day

So, according to my calendar, Friday is "Don't Go to Work Unless It's Fun Day."

I assume you'll be staying home too?

I don’t mind going to work, although it’s not my dream job. My dream job would be as a famous journalist. On a side note, I would be gorgeous and married to a billionaire businessman. We would have a Bentley, a driver named Max, a helicopter, and would travel around the world solving murders. In case you were wondering.

Here we are:

When I was a kid, my father had the best job in the world. I told people he sold software for AT&T, which wasn’t true, but I didn’t understand what he really did there. Secretly, I knew that selling software (or whatever he actually did) was just a cover story for his true job: communicating with sentient computers.

I stumbled on this secret at AT&T’s annual Christmas celebration. Each year, kids were invited to accompany their parents on the last work day before Christmas to explore the wonders of a modern-day cubicle farm. They had cookies in every conference room, a clown in the cafeteria, and a lot of people trying to make sure their children didn’t spill fruit punch on their computers.

My father reveled in this experience. I was seven years old, impressionable and so excited to be there that I would do whatever he told me. This included reciting a poem to his coworkers on command that he had written:

Daddy, oh daddy,
Greatest of daddies,
Exalted above all daddies!

Did I know what it meant? Absolutely not. But they thought it was pretty funny, so I didn’t mind repeating it. To everyone.

My revelation about how he was spending his days came when he brought me to his cubicle, plunked me down on his chair and said, “Here, you’ll like this.”

That’s when I was introduced to ELIZA.

My dad typed “Hello.”

And suddenly, the computer buzzed to life and started talking!

“Hello. How are you?”

I almost fell out of the chair.

He left to go chat with coworkers, and I stayed to chat with his computer-robot. Our conversation went something like this:

Nancy: Do you have family?
Eliza: Do you have family as well?
Nancy: I do! I have a baby brother named Josh.
Eliza: Tell me more about your baby brother named Josh.
Nancy: No, I want to know if you have brothers or sisters.
Eliza: Why do you want to know if I have brothers or sisters?
Nancy: Because I am curious.
Eliza: Tell me more about why you are curious.

She was scintillating! This was the best computer-to-human conversation I had ever had! How could my father not introduce me to her sooner? I was sure we would be lifelong friends, if only I could figure out how to get Eliza to answer a question.

Nancy: Where do you live?
Eliza: Tell me more about where you live.

It was somewhat slow going. Clearly, my questions were going to have to be more probing.

However, if the zenith of AT&T’s kid’s day was meeting my first alternate life form, the nadir was the inevitable, magical sickness to which I succumbed every year. It hit me sometime after entering the building and struck full force about two hours later, forcing us to beat a hasty retreat before I threw up on the photocopier.

This happened more than once. And I’m proud to say that my brother, six years younger than I, continued the tradition when my dad started taking him to work years later. I think my father was convinced AT&T was conspiring to make his children ill and ruin the one really fun work day all year.

I have long since outgrown AT&T’s pre-Christmas children’s celebration. But I have never forgotten Eliza.

I think she is out there, waiting to tell me that she does have brothers and sisters.