Sunday, August 28, 2011


Six months ago, I sent an e-mail to a local yarn store asking for details about its crocheting classes. No one ever got back to me, and I completely forgot about both the existence of this store and my interest in crocheting until Friday afternoon when I got this e-mail:

Impromptu Hurricane SALE!!!!!
Wouldn't waiting out the hurricane be so much more fun with a new project?
Just come in Friday or Saturday and sing a few bars of "Come on Irene"
(sung to the tune of "Come on Eileen") and you will get 10% off of all of your yarn!

I take meteorologists about as seriously as I took the Bush administration. Whenever I need a reliable weather update, I study the sky, sniff the air, and make my own experience-based judgment calls. But this week’s Doppler Radar-driven pre-hurricane coverage managed to catch even my attention, from the astronauts weighing in on how horrific the storm looked from outer space to last night’s panic-stricken, poncho-flapping, southern Queens-stationed newscasters carrying on as though they were reporting live from Benghazi.

This weekend’s grocery store lines were longer than the ones outside of most downtown clubs. I made a long list of sale-priced items to buy, but half of what I wanted was gone by the time I arrived on the scene. I had to quickly grab boxes of generic-brand seasoned cornbread stuffing mix and whatever else was left.

The line at the wine shop looked even worse. So I went around the corner to a liquor store, which hosts an entirely different clientele. I was one of the only customers wearing something other than a threadbare white undershirt. Someone stumbling around behind me genuinely didn’t know a hurricane was coming. When I apologized to the white undershirt I bumped into on the way out, I was slowly and hoarsely told that I could rub up against him anytime.

After I was all stocked and shaken up, my main concerns were: a power outage that would interfere with tonight’s Real Housewives of New Jersey episode; and just the very idea of a sudden evacuation order. I’m not public-shelter material.

When I woke up this morning, the sun was shining and the rain was gone. That’s not what the Accu Track Radar experts said I would wake up to.

In any event, I have 3 days worth of food and filtered water. Although it’s a little too salty, the seasoned cornbread stuffing isn’t half bad. It feels like the day after Thanksgiving.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

From Downpour to Downfall

A last-minute change in Friday-night plans found me walking uptown in the drizzly aftermath of a thunderstorm that I overheard no fewer than 4 people describe as “biblical.” In the warm-weather months, I now wear the kind of foam-padded, well-tractioned flip-flops that don’t fall apart or make squeaking noises when they get wet. Even so, after a solid hour of jog-walking across soaked surfaces, I marveled at how remarkable it was that I hadn’t fallen down yet. I darted onto the grass to avoid a sidewalk puddle (and to sidestep the couple whose 2 dogs were dressed in raincoats) and broke into a swagger after computing that it’s been 6 months (nothing short of a record) since my last fall.

Next thing I knew, I was on my back, with one leg folded underneath me.

When I fall, it’s usually on concrete and with no dignity. But this one had some flair and there was an element of pleasure in it. Like a figure skater in the heat of competition, when I go down I always bounce right back up and keep going as if nothing happened. This time, however, I didn’t feel like doing anything of the sort. It was relaxing down there. There was no more drizzle and it had turned into an achingly beautiful night. I wanted to continue lying on the cool, plush grass in that yoga pose and gaze up at the distant etchings of lightning in the sky before treating myself to a moonlit catnap.

I could have and would have done just that if it hadn’t been for those raincoat-dog owners.

It’s a foregone conclusion that people who parade a pair of poodles around in day-glo, waterproof outerwear are going to be all about the drama, and I could hear the histrionics from yards away as they shuffle-rushed toward me. You’d have thought they witnessed someone getting shot at close range. I knew they wouldn’t shut up and leave me alone until I bounced right back up and kept going as if nothing happened.

Two days later, I’m still using a bag of frozen vegetables to ice the foot that’s become injured on account of having to bounce back up sooner than I had been ready to.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Telling Twos

Before it started raining yesterday, a friend’s 2-year-old son and I took turns going down a pimped-out tunnel slide at a lakeside playground. One of us wouldn’t stop saying “Me first,” and it wasn’t him.

A few days ago, I filled out an Inside the Actors Studio-esque personal questionnaire, and one of the queries was “Who are your favorite living people?” As usual, I typed in “my dad” before quickly moving on to the next question about what 3 adjectives best describe me. A few minutes ago, I re-opened the questionnaire and updated the content of the “favorite living people” answer to also include the name of this 2-year-old. I’ve kept an eye on his development since he was a newborn, and spending time with him gives me more concrete hope that this world isn’t on the brink of going bootleg.

By all accounts, I was a real prick at his age. So were all of the 2-year-olds I babysat for in high school and so are most of the 2-year-olds I’ve come into contact with since then. That’s why I know how newsworthy it is for a toddler to be this much of a thinker, a charismatic leader, an athlete, a comedian, and an empathizer. He has more social sophistication than many adults I know, and it’s only going to ripen over time because he has the kind of parents who withhold treats until he unambiguously says “please” and who still send gratuitous thank-you cards in the mail.

Thirty years from now, when a reporter writing a profile about something uncommonly admirable he’s done contacts me for an inside scoop, I’m going to bring up how his diapered ass seamlessly approached, entertained, and disarmed every single member of the other family on that playground yesterday; and the way the adults of that family locked eyes with each other, then with me, and finally with the boy’s mother as she rounded one of the jungle gyms pushing his 3-month-old brother in a stroller. And how, after we reached the top of another slide at the same time, he looked up at me with twinkling eyes and an ear-to-ear toothy grin to say, “Now I’m gonna go down first.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coffee Klash

Whenever my non-profit organization’s tech guy steps into my office in response to the latest help-desk “work ticket” I’ve filed, I always know we’re about to dive into another conversation for the books. Since we share an allergy to senseless, censored chatter, when we delve we delve deep. We’re only interested in the kinds of discussions that many people are too repressed to take up.

This afternoon was no exception. Then we reprised a longstanding rant about our outfit’s failure to provide employees with complimentary coffee. With the exceptions of my campus jobs in college, maybe one non-profit school-sponsored internship, and an unorthodox temp gig in the East Village, I don’t remember ever having to pay for coffee while on the clock. The unlimited free coffee is the whole reason why I decided to stick around in the traditional white-collar workforce. I know people who began drinking coffee only because it was constantly in their faces from 9 to 5.

I told Tech Guy that I’ve been spending approximately $2.50 a day on caffeine during the workweek. As soon as I started throwing out hard numbers, he put down the equipment he’d been rewiring to whip out his cell-phone calculator so we could get a tally going.

$650 a year.

If we knock that down to $600 (to take paid leave time into account), I’ve spent $1,800 on workweek coffee over the past 3 years. I could have gone to Epcot Center for a week with those benjamins.

Sometimes it rains while I’m bringing in the caffeine from the outside. I have to hold the scalding container in one hand and an unfurled umbrella in hand #2. I don’t have a third hand, so when I finally reach my building’s heavy, non-revolving doors, how do I close the dripping-wet umbrella and pull open the door without burning myself?

Why don’t I brew my own coffee at home in the mornings before leaving for work? Because I don’t want to – it’s a slap to my senses.

I used to voice my outrage to management. They would chuckle and/or shrug it off. Their eyes glazed over at any allusion to organizational psychology or the importance of incentives. “If we put out a coffee pot,” I was asked (twice), “somebody’s going to have to clean it every day, and who will that be?” What kind of a question is that? What do you think receptionists and interns are for?

When I briefly worked as a receptionist in an office smaller than my current one, I was the captain of the coffeemaker – and wielded more power than anyone else on staff.