Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Primer on Being Alone With Nothing To Do

Two Fridays ago, I got locked in the office bathroom.  The door had been inadvertently jammed so that it wasn’t budging from the inside or the outside.  So I was trapped, with no cell phone, no crossword puzzle, and no convenient panic button.  Now, being stuck in a 6 sq. ft metal box is pretty terrifying, especially when you consider all the notable people who have died in bathrooms (Elvis, Jim Morrison, Orville Redenbacher).  I was frightened… Would I really die here, having never tried kettle corn or cocaine?

Thankfully, my calls for help were answered.  A co-worker called building security, who assured me that I’d be out of there soon.  But while security tried to figure out how to unjam the door, all I could do was wait, stuck in a box with poor toilet-water feng shui and an odd, bleachy smell.

In our media-loving, tech-happy world, it’s a pretty rare moment when we’re helplessly alone with our thoughts.  There I was, sans-Blackberry, sans-television, sans-any type of entertainment whatsoever.  I tried to kill some time by reading the fine print on Scott toilet paper, but it’s a rather reticent product.  And after my initial panic subsided, I had to settle in for the remaining phases of Being Alone With Nothing to Do.

Phase 1 – Self Pity: Being trapped by yourself in the bathroom yields some pretty dark thoughts.  After I stopped sobbing, “Why me?  Why me?”, I reviewed all my recent misfortunes, like the time I gave away my TV to a “disadvantaged family” on Craigslist… who showed up wearing fur coats and driving a Hummer.  As I listened to the security team discuss the options (“maybe take the door off its hinges?”…”maybe we can get her out through the vents?”), I wallowed in my safe space of self-loathing.  What does my face look so fat in photos?  Why are 60% of fifth-graders taller than me?  Why am I stuck in a bathroom?  Why me?  Why me?  Why me, Nancy Kerrigan?

Phase 2 – Philosophical Evaluations of Life: With any exaggerated-near-death experience, it always happens that you move from panic to self-pity to a profound contemplation on the meaning of life.  As the security team called in backup, I considered the banal questions that people in jail must think about all the time.  I wondered whether The Circle of Life was meant to capture the irony that one enters the world wrinkly and helpless, and usually leaves the world wrinkly and helpless.  This may not have been the spirit of the The Lion King, but losing control over your bowels likely means you’ve lived a long life.  As I sat next to the sink and listened to the woosh of drainage pipes, I felt rather glad that I had some time before I’d be in diapers again.  

Phase 3 – Stir-Crazy: After about half an hour, I was still stuck in the bathroom, no real progress had been made by the team outside, and thus, the delusions had started.  First, I started juggling toilet paper rolls, which are not conducive to juggling.  I gave up on that and tried to remember the words to Rapper’s Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang.  I couldn’t get past “to the hip hip hop,” so I soon abandoned my musical efforts.  Then I started thinking about how rappers often pronounce “shawty” or “shortie” like “shaw-tayyy” (see: Lloyd’s “Get it Shawty”, Bow Wow’s “Shortie Like Mine”).  At that point, a revelation: rappers are all huge contemporary music fans!  Why else would they give so many shout-outs to Sade?

Phase 4 – Peace and Acceptance: To bring me back to normal, the security team outside soon guaranteed that they’d get me out of the bathroom in the next five minutes.  It was Tool Time in the office.  Outside, the team asked me to please step back, away from the door.  I could smell freedom, and it smelled like a sweaty security guard.  I hippity hopped onto the countertop and tried to look nonchalant as the men took a crowbar to the door.  Who knew I would be rescued with a Tonya Harding move?

Phase 5 – Back to Reality: With one final chop, the door handle was removed and I was finally free.  I peeked my head out of the bathroom, looking at my saviors wide-eyed, feeling like a full-grown Baby Jessica.  The security team had been gathered around the door, and they parted like the Red Sea as I came out.  I got a business card from the building manager, who told me to call if I needed anything (perhaps an hour of my life back?).  And although it was finally nice to be released from the confines of the wastebox, I also felt a bit disappointed that it was all over.  Who knew that being alone with nothing to do could be such an adventure?

I’d been hoping to get out of the bathroom that whole time… but now that I was back in my office, staring at another Excel spreadsheet, I couldn’t help but wonder: If I’m going to end up wrinkly and helpless some day anyway, why not enjoy my non-wrinkly days now?  Perhaps this means I should quit my job, or take a permanent vacation to Costa Rica… Or I suppose I could just keep truckin’ until I figure it out someday on my own, without the bleach fumes.

In any case, the next time I go to the bathroom, I’ll have my phone on me.  I don’t want to go through Phase 3 again. Get it Sade, get it Sade, get it Sade, get it Sade…

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An Attempt At Class

In my life, I have never done well with “classy”.  It started in pre-school, where I would frequently show up to daycare with no shoes on.  By kindergarten I was fully dressed, but would often tie a bandana around my head in order to look like a ninja.

In fourth grade, when Bryan Hart (the most eligible fourth-grader in town) asked me “to go steady”, I agreed… but only if he would date both me and my friend Cameron.  He refused, breaking my little polygamist heart.

In eighth grade, I received office detention for beaning a boy in the head with a pencil.  (He was reaching for a piece of candy but got a bleeding skull instead.)  And in high school, my friends and I would often dress up in old-school wrestling onesies and run around campus wielding a stolen bullhorn:  “PHIL, STOP PICKING YOUR NOSE!  WE SEE YOUUUU!”

So, classiness is not in my nature.  But now that I’m out of school and living in New York, I figure that I should learn how to be classy.  After all, Coco Chanel once said, “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”  And while I’m obviously fab, I must admit: I need to learn class.

With all its museums, art, and ultra-exclusive, high-priced, high-brow culture, there is no better place than New York to teach me about being classy.  Even in the most unlikely places, there are examples of the city’s refinement.  For instance, I was graced by an elegant framed painting of cherubic angels while waiting in line for a Big Breakfast at McDonald’s (see photo).  God and biscuits?  How can that not be classy?  Of course, there are some less-haute areas of New York, like the NYC subway system and its bombardment of GOT HEMMORHOIDS? and GOT BED BUGS? ads.  But every city has some unfortunate, uncouth moles.

Still, classiness is something everyone can aspire to, even if you’re heinously ugly (you can always cover up ugly with J.Crew).  From living in New York, I’ve learned that classiness is all about restraint.  It’s not classy to showcase excessiveness, although it’s fine to do it subtly (hello, $400 unbranded umbrella).  As a rule, collars should be semi-popped, bookshelves should be fully stocked, and you have to Just Say No to tequila shots.  Pretentious words should be utilized in everyday conversation (“shall”, “ergo”, “apropos”), and exclamation marks should be used sparingly, if at all (unless you are describing a melee involving a bullhorn).  Muted elitism is class.

Thus from now on, I will tap into the classier side of my fabulous personality.  I will order martinis, eat foie gras, and hold civil conversations about politics.  I will wear my hair in a stylish bun on Thursdays and write poetry about animal rescue shelters on Fridays.  I will say no to Playboy.  Ergo, I shall ensure that “classy” can be applied as an apropos keyword on my future eHarmony profile.

At the same time, I know it will be tough to shake old habits, especially with my penchant for ninjas and assaulting others.  But, if a classy tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound?  As in, if I leave the bathroom door open while peeing in my empty apartment, will anyone think I am less classy?…

…Just wondering, of course.


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How Carly Fiorina Killed Lamb Chop

In 1992, Lamb Chop’s Play-Along premiered on PBS.  Despite the show’s cruelty towards naming its protagonist (it’s as if Babe was named “Bacon”), the lovable Lamb Chop soon became an iconic figure: the heir apparent to Mr. Rogers, the predecessor to Barney.  Lamb Chop taught us all about sharing, caring, and singing never-ending songs during long car rides.  Besides being a talented songstress, our favorite sock puppet also served as a moral compass for her young, impressionable, audience.

Twenty years later, our adorable little Lamb Chop has grown up… and she’s become a raging, mudslinging, neocon bitch.  In place of sweet puppeteer Shari Lewis, we have the psychotic puppeteer Carly Fiorina and her pack of demon sheep.  Instead of espousing ABCs, Fiorina’s sheep are pushing for conservative fiscal policy in the state of California.  Sing along now: A is for axing taxes, B is for balanced budgets, C is for Carly Fiorina, D is for death by Democrats…

…It’s not a message for kids.

In Carly Fiorina’s F-ed Up Campaign Ad Play-Along, she depicts an idyllic scene where we follow a pack of sheep that metaphorically represent fiscal conservatives (note to Carly: next time, try NOT to align yourself with a group of pea-brained mammals that get skinned every winter).  But alas!  In this budget-conscious pack of future sweaters, there is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: Fiorina’s Republican adversary in the upcoming primary, Tom Campbell.  According to Carly, Campbell is trying to pass as a fiscal conservative… though, in reality, he’s a tax-happy, red-eyed, demon sheep.

Thankfully, Fiorina has come up with an acronym for this disguised devil: FCINO, or “Fiscal Conservative in Name Only.” In the ad, you can watch as the Tom Campbell demon sheep brings an apocalyptic end to California.  And, in a call-out to Unsolved Mysteries, you can even “Report a Sighting” of a FCINO on Fiorina’s website.  “This is Officer Fiorina, chasing the perp down the street… Suspect is wearing tweed jacket and khaki pants, but I spotted him carrying ‘The Audacity of Hope’ with no intention of burning it.  FCINO alert!”

With this Carly Fiorina campaign ad, I can’t view sheep the same way anymore.  Gone is the legacy of Lamb Chop: gone is my perception of sheep as cute, cuddly, clone-able, and great mattress salesmen.  Now that there are demon sheep running loose, I won’t be able to sleep on my Sealy Posturepedic without fearing the wrath of a masked FCINO.  So, thank you, Carly Fiorina, for being the great destroyer… of HP, of sheep, and of dreams.

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Why Do We Have to Wear Clothes?

So maybe it’s just me, but I don’t understand why Americans have to wear clothes.  I think clothing is incredibly inefficient.  Every morning, I stare blankly into the mirror for at least fifteen minutes, wondering what to wear.  Whatever I choose, I still end up looking like a children’s model from a J.C. Penney catalog.  Thus, I really don’t see the point.  I could save so much time if it were socially acceptable to roll out of bed naked and head off to work.

To me, wearing clothes is like putting ornaments on a tree.  It’s pretty much unnecessary, except that some people think the tree looks better if it’s draped in glitter.  But, it’s not as if we need clothing in order to live.  Animals don’t wear clothes, and they do just fine.  If you watch Animal Planet, you’ll see that all the animals are perfectly comfortable in their own skin.  And if grizzly bears can survive in the winter without a bubble vest, I’m sure that hairy, obese people could survive too.  Maybe the rest of us would die, but hey, it’s called evolution. 

If I had to find legitimate reasons for wearing clothes, there are only three scenarios where it makes sense to me: 1) Protection.  2) Camouflage.  3) Pockets.  Protection is only necessary to cover all the open orifices of our body that are susceptible to disease — I’m definitely not sitting commando on the NYC subway.  (This is probably why Native Americans used to wear the flaps.)  Camouflage is pretty self-explanatory too, since our stalker nation would be deterred if we were easily detected when hiding out in trees.  And lastly, pockets are useful for carrying cell phones, keys, and concealed weapons – though, at the same time, fanny packs could be a suitable alternative.

I can sympathize with those who argue that clothing is a way for us to showcase our individuality.  Indeed, clothes allow businessmen to show off how much money they have, and it can serve as an outlet for teenagers to rebel by wearing black leather and chains.  Unfortunately, it’s also a means of social stratification.  Back in elementary school, all the cool kids owned a Starter jacket with light-up sneakers, No Fear t-shirts, and Adidas tear-aways.  But if you couldn’t afford these brands, it immediately signaled that you lived in a trailer and had a head full of lice.  Clothes make kids cruel.

Today, there are hundreds of cultures where clothing is a choice, not a requirement.  So, why can’t we signal our American individuality by wearing nothing at all?  Those who wish to cover up their bodies may still do so.  But those who wish to go au naturale shouldn’t be deterred.  Nakedness is more efficient and less exclusive.  We’re just taking our cues from Adam and Eve, Michelangelo’s David, and brave, pants-less Donald Duck.  

Instead of hiding from nakedness, let’s celebrate it.  And even though we may see some terrifying examples of the hairy and obese, perhaps this could inspire new programming for Animal Planet.


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