Monday, February 26, 2007

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Most people don't like to live in boxes. In fact, every time I have recently ventured into Salt Lake, I've heard at least one person living in a box who didn't much like the situation. Of course, cardboard does get soggy, and this man knew this. I don't doubt that he would love to have a more suitable situation. But he doesn't. Meanwhile, I (who has a perfectly comfortable home--well, perfectly comfortable when my dad isn't controlling the thermostat, anyway) have difficulties venturing outside my box.

But I am trying. Last week, I did something monumental for me. I wanted to flags to fly, Barbra Streisand to give her final concert (Again! Okay, that's a lie. I would prefer to see several million other musical acts before I listened to Babs in concert), people to give me a standing ovation as I walked past. I wanted overtures to play, bells to ring (in the non-death-tolling celebratory fashion, of course), and people to shower me with praise . . . because I signed up for driving school.

If you don't know me well, you obviously don't understand how huge this is. This is bigger than meeting J.K. Rowling in person. Bigger than getting a novel published. Bigger than an invitation to move out of state. I'm a turkey about cars.

Many years ago, a sitcom whose name I can't recall ran on the WB. (It was short-lived. And since it was both short-lived and on the WB, that means there are many, many to choose from. Thus the lack of remembrance.) Anyway, the daughter in the sitcom was ecstatic about learning how to drive. However, her father took every opportunity on lecturing that, "You are not just moving around in a fun vehicle. You are operating a vehicle of death!" I sympathized with that father. I was more a proponent of his ideas than his daughter's; I shuddered every time I saw someone my age get a license and then crash a car (I had the distinction of being one of the few sixteen-year-olds on the planet to crash the family van before even obtaining a license); I still stiffen--read instant rigor mortis--any time a car behind the one I'm traveling in gets too close.

In short, I'm a paranoiac. But I'm trying to overcome it! Look, I'll even practice:
Driving is fun. Driving is fun. I'm not operating a vehicle of death . . .

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My First Paid Holiday EVER

. . . and I was sick yesterday. So I did not go anywhere fun. I did not spend any money that I felt I was somehow recouping because I was getting paid not to be at work. (Which actually was still a great feeling. Hooray for getting paid on a day you're not working, and still receiving 80 hours' worth of money for the two-week pay period!) Anyway, you know you really don't feel well when the highlight of your paid holiday is watching Star Wars Episode 3 with your dad. Not that I have anything against my dad, of course. Quite the contrary.

But you know the Dayquil has officially kicked in when you watch Natalie Portman deliver the line, "You're breaking my heart" with her eyebrows all scrunched and a pained look on her face, and you think that the acting in the movie may have actually improved from the time you saw the film when it first came out in theaters (and snickered at the Portman line, much to the chagrin of the Amidala- and Skywalker-shirted people sitting on the row in front of you). I should have known better--and rested--instead of looking at Hayden Christensen and convincing myself that perhaps, just perhaps, there was a look on his face that did not resemble anger. (I don't care what some of the film critics said, taking back their jibes at his performance in Episode 2. Because even on the Dayquil, I still couldn't quite convince myself that he actually looked in love, or happy, or sad, or tortured. Just angry at best, and more or less like wood at worst.)

I am not the only one who spent my paid holiday sick. A couple of my co-workers did as well. Something, it would seem, is going around. But since I have yet to be gifted any sick leave (that doesn't happen until the beginning of March, which actually isn't terribly far away), I would much rather be sick on a paid holiday than on a weekday; after all, weekday sickness would require that I use vacation time in place of sick. And I can't think of anything that, for me, would be a greater tragedy right now. I'm anxiously awaiting actually using my vacation for a vacation. To New York, I'm thinking. But maybe to Chicago for the umpty-billionth time--I think Chicago is habit-forming. For this year, I only get five days. So England is out of the picture, because I need much more than five days for a vacation like that. And, because I am twisted, I don't want to use sick for vacation either. That's just wrong.

Another thing that is also wrong is the pain in my feet. Granted, it's entirely my fault. And granted, today my shoes were cute and in fashion (this happens less than once in a blue moon). But they were heels. And heels are not comfortable, even though these heels did me a courtesy by keeping my too-long pants (why are dress pants tailored longer anyway?) from dragging on the ground. In fact, I am now firmly and unmovingly convinced that whoever first described something as "walking on pins and needles" was, in fact, describing the sensations in a girl's feet when she wears heels.

Thankfully, I am home now. Which means I have exchanged the actually fashionable office attire for my favorite ratty jeans, a hooded sweater, and slippers. Why does no one make office wear that feels this comfy?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Big Furry Hat People

My former Russian lit professor used to joke that Russian novels were so long because the Russians needed to entertain themselves through multiple long winters.

When I read Doctor Zhivago the other day, I had a loose idea for an exchange that I would someday like to stick in a novel.

Lit Lover 1: I am interested in reading more Russian literature.
Lit Lover 2: That's kind of a heavy topic.
LL1: But there are so many good ideas in all of those novels. Don't you agree?
LL2: I suppose. I'm not sure; I've had a difficult time making it through my Russian lit collection.
LL1: Really? What's in it?
LL2: War and Peace.

Friends (Of Sorts)

I am attempting to be friends with my ex-boyfriend.

It's a sentence that, when it has issued forth from the mouths of various friends, has caused a variety of reactions: a dubious nod, an elevated eyebrow, actual spewing . . . (as in, spitting out water) In my cynical state, I thought a friendship after a relationship had to be a distinct impossibility. Of course, every time I heard this statement, it came from the mouth of a girl who was still trying to hold onto the remnants of the relationship and keep hoping.

And now, I am one of those girls. Except that I'm not going to try to hold on to any of the remnants of the old relationship. The old relationship failed, so that would seem to indicate that to be friends, my ex-boyfriend and I need to create a new relationship. It's tricky, especially because there is a history there now. No way of starting over tabula rasa, which is easy to do with someone you haven't seen in so long that you have nothing in common anymore.

Surprisingly enough, I am not in a quandary. This is why: distance. It's not terribly difficult to maintain friendly relations between differing parties when each of them are in different places. Granted, he technically lives less than a mile away from me, but he goes to school. I go to work. He hangs with people from school. I hang with . . . whoever calls. Usually not people from school.

He has, as a matter of fact, fallen into the same category as all of the people I know from school who are still in school: we are friends, but we've lost points of reference. We talk periodically, exchange our most interesting stories. But we don't get each other anymore: they are somewhere in the vicinity of Boston and I'm trying to speak to them from London--using a cell phone with poor service.

Life, I have recently decided, was designed the way it is for a reason. Life has phases. And for many of its phases, it has people that belong only to that phase. So when friendships lapse or distance intervenes, I reason that the phase for that person has passed. I make efforts to keep such relationships alive. But when they die anyway, it never seems to present a good reason for mourning.

Fortunately, there are also select friends who transcend any sort of phase, who seem to weave their way in and out of the quilt of my life. (For example, Tabi threads and Petra threads and threads of at least two other varieties only leave my quilt for brief spans of time) And I have the feeling there are threads being woven even as we speak that I don't even know about yet . . .

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Carless in Centerville II

There are very few times I rue my transportational inabilities. Today was, sort of, one of them. But not really. I regretted the bus ride today because it was dreadfully long due to some bus stick-age that lasted nigh unto a half hour. However, when I stopped and thought about it, I didn't regret that half hour at all--because I read for all of it. And people driving cars don't have chances like that to read books. And, let's be honest, if I got home quickly, I would not have devoted that half hour to reading. Instead, I would have cleaned my room, practiced the song I should be perfecting in my position as choir accompanist, written in my journal, and performed any evening duties that needed to get done. And then, if I had left over time, I probably would have felt tired, crashed, and watched TV. Actually, that's a slight lie. My dad and I are going to see the Young Ambassadors (quite the opposite of what Chichikov peddles) perform at the Conference Center Theater tonight . . . but still, you catch my drift.

In other news, I have done the unthinkable. Nothing that unthinkable! Pull your mind out of the gutter. What I have done is this: I have romanticized my job. Not in a particularly effusive manner on this blog (at least, I don't think it was that effusive), but often in conversation with other people. Perhaps it began because I was so ecstatic to get a job that didn't involve sitting at a desk for the entire eight hours. Or because I was delighted to see a certain lack of monotony. But, like all jobs, my job has its imperfections: hours of mapping out HR statistics on Excel, a cantankerous copier--older than I am--that the company refuses to replace yet because it still shows some signs of functionality (every time I use it, I swear I can hear it saying, "I'm not dead yet" . . . and in a Cockney accent too), a co-worker who does not know the meaning of the words "shower," "breathmint," "deodorant," or "lotion" . . . It's not perfect. And I've recently stopped myself from over-romanticizing it. Otherwise I get disappointed when my day at work is less than excessively interesting.

But there's one thing that I could not possibly be over-romanticizing: I have my own office! With a window!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Life Moves On

When my boyfriend first broke up with me a month ago, I figured that I had exactly six options:
1) get a job (which was necessary anyway)
2) move to a new city (proved economically infeasible, plus I got prompted to take a job here--can I just say that sometimes I don't like getting inspiration?)
3) switch wards and face the Primary curse again (in my home ward, all young single females inevitably end up teaching munchkins),
4) hole up in my room to write an angst-filled novel that could--possibly--top the YA bestsellers list but nowhere else
5) become a secret agent
or, 6) purposefully become a witness to a serious Mafia-related crime and go into witness protection, which would force a relocation, a new identity, a new job, and no contact with my previous life.

I must admit I favored option number 6. It offered clean breaks, something I had never had trouble coming by until this boyfriend. But a month later, I must admit that I'm glad that door #6 never opened.

I am beginning to understand how I can still be friends with my ex-boyfriend. I got a job. I made a lot of new friends. I discovered some new things to do . . . The list goes on. Because life marches on, like it or not. And unlike the marching band I used to participate in, life seems predisposed to wind up in a good place.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Wonderful World of Human Resources

Things I got to do in my first week of work:

1. Process paperwork for a new hire
2. Call an employee's doctor about faxing short-term disability paperwork to our office (note to the cranky lady on the other end of the phone line: I don't know what your problem is, but it wasn't me that caused it)
3. Process paperwork for a termination
4. Program my phone
5. Program the voice mailbox of one of the guys in accounting (Incidentally, he shares an office with another guy who is also in accounting and they are, surprisingly, the two funniest people in the building. I blame my father--the erstwhile CPA and computer geek--for any and all stereotypes I had of accountants. Although now that I think of it, he doesn't fit his own stereotypes. Curiouser and curiouser. Anyway, the aforementioned accountant requested today that I call to make sure he set up his voice mail greeting, complete with a statement of his name. It was a trick, of course, because he didn't use his name as his message. He used a song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.)
6. Fill out a mountain of new hire paperwork
7. Spend precisely one-fourth of my first eight hours of work at the drug screening facility
8. Make faces at one of the girls training me whenever her back was turned (It would seem that, alas, I'm at least as smart as she is; it's something that she views as a travesty . . . she told our boss today that I couldn't possibly be learning things as fast as I said I was. And I quote, "Nobody is that smart." I wanted to quote her some statistics.)
9. Go to lunch with my boss
10. Stay in my office for lunch
11. Enter a mountain of paperwork into Excel (The girl I don't like was adamant that she needed to train me on the specifics of it, and I must say that I want to know what she was going to tell me. "First you type in this cell, then hit tab . . .")
12. Write poetry on my lunch break

This is by no means a comprehensive list. But it's number 12 that sets me apart from other individuals in the department and causes all professionals in the building to look at me with raised eyebrows. I have already, unwittingly, firmly established a reputation by just being myself. I am now "the new girl--you know, the one who writes poetry at lunch."