REPORT A PROBLEM
Still trying to get back into the swing of things, after nine blissful days of vacation. Everything about the office irritates me this week: ringing phones, crabby clients, boring reports, muddy coffee. I hate wearing shoes. I hate office chitchat. I hate smiling when I don’t feel like smiling, filing when I don’t feel like filing, looking cute and perky and professional when all I really feel like doing is curling up on the sofa with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal and the latest issue of People Magazine for nine hours. Is 44 too young to retire?
“How are you doing?” the perky young mammogram technician asked me … not once, not twice, but at least a dozen times during the course of the five-minute procedure. Each time she asked, I replied exactly the same way: “I’m FINE,” I said, hoping I didn’t sound as irritated as I felt. As she heaved my right breast into the machine for the first x-ray, she said, “Don’t worry. This won’t make them any smaller.” “For SOME of us,” I delicately replied, “smaller might actually be a GOOD thing.” She didn’t say another word for the rest of the procedure.
David and I rode our bikes from our front door in Alameda to the foot of the San Mateo bridge and back this morning; thirty-seven miles round-trip, much of it through wetlands and salt marshes on hard-packed double-track. The map said the trail was paved, but it wasn’t. Tough on road bikes … even tougher on middle-aged knees. Now we have 900.71 miles to go in our quest to ride 2,002 in 2002. For someone who (up until last year) hadn’t been on a bicycle since the Nixon administration, this is all pretty ambitious stuff. Wonder if we’ll make it?
I’m not much for parties in general … and dinner parties in particular. So it took an extraordinary amount of wheedling on David’s part to get me there last night. "Pleeeeeeeeease?" he said. "It would mean a lot to me." So I went, and parts of it were predictably awful -- I haven’t wanted a drink so badly in four years -- but the surprise is that other parts of it WEREN’T awful. Listening to David work the room, for instance. Eating somebody else’s cooking. And -- of course -- that golden moment when it was time to go home.
Some days … everything clicks. Some days, your hair cooperates, and your blood sugar levels remain nice and even, and total strangers on the elevator look at you standing there, in your new seafoam green blouse, and say “That color flatters you.” Some days you remember where eve-rything is filed. Some days you know the answer to every question … even the really STOOPID questions. Some days everything goes just a little bit easier, and everybody is just a little bit nicer to each other, and you go home feeling just a little less frazzled. Too bad ALL days aren’t “some days.”
I tell David I want to start carrying pepper spray again. “Why?” he asks, horrified. I say it’s because of the stray dog that lives beneath the free-way overpass. Whenever I’m walking to the BART station, it charges out and barks at me. “You know how I feel about dogs,” I say. He looks unconvinced, and suggests I carry ammonia instead. “It’s safer,” he says. How would he feel if he knew that I’m not nearly as afraid of the four-legged menace as I am of the scarier two-legged variety, loitering in front of the Oakland BART station every night?
There are a couple of new lines on my face this morning, in the area just beneath my right eye. I caught a glimpse of them as I was trowelling on the Maybelline, and I swear they weren’t there just yesterday. At my age, I realize that this is to be expected: the inevitable collapse and deterio-ration of my once-youthful complexion. What I want to know, though, is this: while I’m loading up my shopping cart with moisturizers and “line erasers” and alpha hydroxy miracle creams, designed to turn back the clock … why am I ALSO still buying Clearasil?
I've been on the new meds for a month now - the miracle pills that were going to regulate my cycle, rein in my hormones, restore me to the land of the living (or at least to the land of the functioning) - but as far as I can tell, things are exactly the same as they were before I started taking them. In fact, it might even be a little WORSE than usual this month. So much for miracle cures. This sucks. I want results NOW! Today! Without delay! Sort of the pharmaceutical equivalent of microwave popcorn, I guess.
Day Two of a punishing Bay Area heatwave ... so naturally THIS is the day the air conditioning goes on the blink at work. In fact, not only did the a.c. die, but the CENTRAL HEATING kicked in, midway through the afternoon. It's like working inside a sweat lodge. I'm running on two hours of sleep, ten cups of lukewarm coffee, and multiple layers of Mitchum Quadruple Strength Antiperspirant. ("So effective, you can even skip a month!") How long is this going to last, anyway?? It actually makes me homesick for the good old mud-puddle and broken-umbrella days.
David and I skipped the Iron Horse Trail today - too hot - and rode the (relatively) cooler Alameda Creek Trail instead. On a whim, while we were there, we rode the Coyote Hills portion of the trail. One killer hill just about layed me flat, but the rest of it is this amazingly pleasant, scenic ride through rolling hills above the coastline. We'll definitely go back and ride it again. The rest of the day and evening were purposely slow, lazy ... and horizontal. It's just too damn hot to run around. Bed picnic, "Lord of the Rings," sleep.
Back to Bay Farm Island ... and one of the EASIEST Sunday morning rides in recent memory. David says it seems "easy" because I'm getting stronger. I guess that's true: I wasn't even breathing hard after we went over the bike bridge. The rest of the day was spent mostly alone. D. and his kids went out for a big chunk of the afternoon, leaving me to enjoy a little bit of peace, quiet ... and solitude. Posted my first new journal entry in over ten days ... formatted some digital photos ... wandered aimlessly around the Internet. Pure bliss.
My job is starting to seriously get on my nerves. Why is it that the person who answers the phones is considered only slightly more evolved than primordial goo on the corporate evolutionary ladder? Even people who ought to know better - including my nice boss, who I genuinely like and admire - have a tendency to treat me as though I'm a little bit stoopid ... as though I must be gently assisted over the mental hurdles of the workday. I'm sick of it. Even reminding myself that I make twice as much as the average "receptionist" doesn't help, some days.
Of course, some would point out that I have only myself to blame. I had two solid years of Executive Assitude on my resume when I left my old job last year and came to work here. I CHOSE to sit at a front desk and answer phones again. Any loss of prestige was strictly voluntary on my part. So griping about it when people call me the 'receptionist' (when in fact I'm not: I'm an Administrative Ass) doesn't address the REAL issue ... which is, Is this how I really want to spend nine hours of my life every day?
We swore we were going to ride after work tonight - a "quickie," over to the Hornet and back, while the turkey breast cooked for thirty minutes … but of course the minute we set foot in our messy, comfortable little apartment - our "nest," as we privately refer to it - all our resolve flew right out the window. The next thing we knew, we were sitting on the bed in sweatpants, eating turkey and mashed potatoes, watching "Entertainment Tonight" and grinning at each other like a couple of big dopey besotted middled-aged idiots. Which is what we are.
Tonight was David’s monthly Managers Meeting, immediately after work, so I was required to get myself home 100% on my own steam (as opposed to taking BART to David’s office, then riding the rest of the way home with him). Combination of BART, AC Transit and long walk home from the bus stop. Amazingly, I managed to get home in just under an hour. I’m either getting very good at this public transportation stuff … or I just happened to catch everything on a low-traffic night. Either way, it’s nice to know I can get around town on my own.
The Big Cheese was in the office today - Armand, the much-feared (and occasionally loathed) CEO of The Dirt Company - and everyone was on their best behavior, me included. I wore a bright pink suit and a flowery blouse (instead of my usual muted blues and grays), and I smiled nonstop, from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. I smiled so long and so hard, in fact, that my smile muscles ached by the end of the day. Still … it was worth it. Armand complimented me on my "presence." "You are like a ray of sunshine," he said. Gack.
We "rode my age" today - forty-four miles, one mile for every year I’ve been alive - and of course it was nearly the death of me. But then again, I say that about EVERY tough ride we go on, don’t I? It was hard, it hurt, I cried, I cursed, I saw the big hill ahead and wanted to quit, I rode over the big hill ANYWAY, I finished the ride, I felt triumphant, we celebrated, we’ll do the whole thing all over again in another week. Predictable pain, followed by predictable victory. Not a bad way to live.
Today we broke the 1200 mark: that’s 1200 miles ridden this year so far, with roughly another 800 left to go. I look at the numbers - David keeps a mileage chart posted on the fridge so we can track our progress - and I swear, it’s actually beginning to look like we might make the two thousand miles after all. Not only that, but today’s Bay Farm Island ride was the easiest Sunday ride imagineable. It took us just over an hour, and I barely broke a sweat, even going over the hills. The ride hasn’t changed: *I* have.
I talked to all three of my children on the phone tonight - even recalcitrant Daughter #2, who usually only favors me with a phone call when she needs me to Western Union her some rent money - and it sounds like they are all genuinely looking forward to my visit, later this week. (Or if they’re NOT, it sounds like they have all inherited a chunk of their mother’s acting talent.) I’m beginning to get very excited about the idea of wrapping my arms around all three of them, all at once, and enjoying a nice big Tot Sandwich.
Busy day. Constant flow of paperwork migrating in and out of my "To Do" box … heavy phones … never an idle moment. I love days like this. I didn’t feel overwhelmed, I didn’t come unglued over problems and last-minute changes … I simply DEALT with it, quietly and competently. I’ve said this before - why can’t ALL work days be as pleasant and productive as this one? - but I suppose that if we never had to suffer through an occasional Day From Hell, we wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate how nice the Quietly Competent Days can be.
This stupid rhyme has been going around and around in my head: "Tomorrow I fly, tomorrow I die." My nervousness about flying tomorrow night - my first time on an airplane since 911 - doesn’t seem to be abating much, even though the smart part of me knows it will be perfectly safe. I think I’m just nervous because David won’t be coming with me this time, and he is such a reliable and comforting buffer between me and unreasonable fear … not to mention social discomfort, warring emotions, family crises, and all the other stuff that happens in TicTac.
So today I flew, and I am relieved to report that I did NOT die. Jaymi, Joel and Kyle were there to meet me at the airport when I got in at 7:30 … but no Kacie. Hoping I’ll see her sometime this weekend. We immediately went to the nearest Taco Time so I could satisfy my craving for a soft taco and Mexi Fries … then dropped Kyle off at the house and went "home" to Jaymi and Joel’s apartment, where I’ll be spending the next three days. Cheaper - and LOTS more comfortable - than the No-Tell Six!
Mom and Vince picked me up at Jaymi and Joel’s apartment this morning at 9:30, and I spent the entire day hanging out with them. We visited Jaymi at her new office, had breakfast at The Alki Café, and then spent the afternoon sitting outside on the deck at Mom and Vince’s house in West Seattle, looking at travel photos (China, Hawaii, North Carolina) and enjoying the sunny view of downtown Seattle. Family barbecue tonight: Debi and newly potty-trained Connor were there, along with my niece Karen, Jaymi, Joel and Kyle. (Still no Kacie.) Nice, relaxing time with my family.
Shopping Day! Picked up Kyle (and KACIE!) at the house this afternoon and took them - along with Jaymi and Joel, of course - to the mall to shop for clothes. Kyle will be starting his junior year in high school in just a couple of weeks, so he loaded up on appropriately trendy/ugly/ridiculously-expensive pants and shirts. The girls each picked out a few things, and I even bought myself some slacks and blouses for work. Fun. Dinner tonight (sans Kacie) at a Greek-Italian place in Des Moines. I am enjoying myself far more than I had expected to. Amazing.
More shopping in the a.m. - Jaymi, Joel and I went back to the mall - and then a long, leisurely lunch at Red Robin with all three of my children. My heart felt very full as I sat there and looked at them … all three of them so grown up. The greatest sorrow of my life is that I can’t live closer to them and see them every day. Still, as I got on the plane tonight and flew home, I carried my full heart - AND my full suitcase - back to California with me. Jaymi, Kacie and Kyle: I love you forever.
I am so blue today, I can barely stand it. I knew saying goodbye to my kids would be tough: it always is. I guess I just hadn’t anticipated HOW tough it would be this time, with so many things left unresolved. I’m a weepy, disconsolate mess. I was planning to take the day off to "recover," in fact, but that fell through and I wound up going to work after all. It’s probably just as well: at home I would have moped and cried and eaten everything in the refrigerator. At work, at least, I can’t mope and cry.
A little better. Some of the sad, achey, post- TicTac feeling is beginning to dissipate, and things are slowly getting back to normal. It reminds me of the way I used to feel when I came home from summer camp every year, as a kid: it would take me days, sometimes weeks, to lose that lost and hollow feeling of "campsickness." Work has helped, this week. I’ve been absolutely buried in reports and phone calls. Having something to do every single minute helps keep me from lapsing into depression. And David helps, too: he genuinely understands what I’m going through.
We’re having another heatwave here in the East Bay: the second or third one this summer. Temps up in the 90’s and low 100’s. Fortunately I spend the bulk of my day sitting in a nice air- conditioned office (when the a.c. is WORKING, that is) … and then I go straight home and jump into shorts and ice water. Stopped and picked up a few groceries on the way home; frozen pizza and "American Idol" on TV. No bike- riding this week, incidentally - David broke an axle on his Cannondale and is trying to figure out how to fix it.
I’m crawling with viruses this week … both the natural and the UNNATURAL variety. Our computer has been infected with something called the KLEZ virus, and it had us all but shut down yesterday. Had to pay to reinstall a lapsed virus program and hand- clean our hard disk files, one by one. In the meantime the virus has managed to slime everyone in my Outlook address book. Damn. On top of that, I’m coming down with a hideous cold: my first *real* cold in months. Left work two hours early, rode BART to David’s office, went home to bed sick.
Called in sick this morning, in spite of the fact that I have no paid sick time left: that’s how horrible I feel. (Also: it’s the start of a three- day holiday weekend, and calling in sick on a Friday really LOOKS bad. You know? But there was nothing else I could do.) I finally wrote a piece for the website, all about my trip to TicTac - not my best work, but hopefully I’ll get some of my creative drive back soon - then basically stayed in bed the rest of the day, reading old magazines between cold medicine induced comas.
No bike- riding for David and Secra today, for the second Saturday in a row … sigh. Last weekend I was out of town, of course, and this weekend I am too sick to get dressed, let alone climb aboard a bike and ride forty miles. (David did manage to fix his broken axle, though, so whenever I’m healthy again we’ll be able to ride.) Mostly I plan to spend the day in bed with my laptop and a gallon drum of orange juice, allowing my handsome husband to wait on me hand and foot. Almost makes feeling this horrible worthwhile.
The Tip Jar