Friday, January 27, 2012

Searching to Serve

As a teenager, I did a fair amount of regular community service – and it wasn’t all just to soup up my college applications. I was souping up my soul.

My soul and I haven’t had much luck finding a regular, tolerable adult volunteer gig, but we haven’t stopped trying. Yesterday was “Monthly Volunteer Night” at a local chapter of a national non-profit association. I can now kiss this place goodbye too. All they should expect from me in the future is an annual check in the mail, if that.

There I was, stuffing envelopes in a cramped conference room with seven others. By the time I showed up, these others had quite a system and rapport going. We got to hear all about the alternative liberal arts colleges that a couple of them went to. I already know what goes on at those schools, so I wasn’t learning anything new. In fact, Northeasterners constantly assume that I’m a product of one of those schools. I don’t even like pot, but I apparently look and act like someone who does.

Since nobody stepped up to formally train me, I grabbed a stack of letters and went to work.

“You’re putting the labels on like that?” I heard someone ask. The room went silent. I eventually snapped out of my deep concentration enough to look up. She was talking to me.


“Oh. Uh, OK. From over here, it looked like you were doing something else. My eyes must be tired.”

She later dropped the bomb that she’s friends with Kandi (not NeNe) from the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

A few minutes later, I noticed there were cranberry-colored streaks on the fronts of some of the envelopes I was labeling. Those stains had to be coming from my hands. Here we really go - was it blood? Even better – the streaks were from my cheap nail polish that I’d been having technical difficulties with all day. Had to make sure Kandi’s Yankee friend didn’t catch wind of this one.

“So what’s everyone’s favorite ice cream?” someone asked.

Jesus, can I take my stack into another room, or into the hallway or the bathroom, and get these envelopes stuffed there? Don’t ask me a question like that unless the ice cream is on its way.

I really belong at an animal shelter a few hours a week, but I know I’d get too emotionally invested and end up carrying out a dog, cat, or rabbit at the end of every shift. And, from what I understand, there’s a mandatory T-shirt I’d have to wear.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Interference of Others

A low-budget feng shui consultant detained me on lower 5th Avenue the other night. An analyst for the people.

She’d been halfheartedly handing out information about the slew of additional services she offered (herb color therapy, holistic healing, meditation, tarot cards, crystals, palmistry), most of which fascinates me. Can’t get enough of psychics, and mystics, and “witches” (it’s better to be a witch than a snitch). The other pedestrians ignored her, and she wasn’t feeling any of them. But as soon as I entered her radar, she pounced.

She stopped soliciting prospective clients to loudly and passionately follow me, insisting that we had to talk. I was treated to a pop preliminary reading. She said that most of the personal hardships I’ve suffered have stemmed from the interference of others, not from any fault of my own.

I liked her already. I could really sit down and listen to a thread like this for 20 minutes, or all day, especially if it wasn’t going to cost me much. She encouraged me to come upstairs with her to continue, and if I hadn’t been running late for something else I might have accepted the invitation - it was too cold outside and I had left my hat and gloves at home. I bet she would have served me a steaming cup of herbal tea up there (although I would have had to carefully supervise every step of its preparation, to keep out any funny business).

As we spoke, and the wind chill felt like it was plummeting by the second, she maternally grabbed the zipper of my fleece and pulled it up a couple of inches higher. She said her name was Lily, even though it says “Fatima” on her leaflet.

Looking back on it now, that 4-minute street consultation was the highlight of the evening.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kookoo Over ‘Coons

What is it with Manhattanites’ pathological fear of raccoons? I come from the suburbs, where raccoons are considered an annoyance – not the Anti-Christ.

Two years ago, when I was walking out of the 96th St. entrance to Central Park, I was pulled over by a woman with a hunted, haunted look in her eyes. She told me to “be very careful walking through the park at night.” I thought there was a serial rapist at large. But there was no rapist, there was a raccoon. “And when there’s one, there’s more,” she said. She’s right about that one. As Drita from Mob Wives said in Season 1, “they roll deep” - and then she tried to take them out with her paintball gun.

One of my many bored and overzealous neighbors has put up flyers around the building about the need to stay away from these creatures. It was complete character assassination.

I love raccoons. I cross paths with them all the time, in the city, out of the city. I think they’re gorgeous. Tragic, misunderstood beauties – like Margaux Hemingway. I once had a ‘coon kicking back on my fire escape, making freakshow noises until I softly tapped on the glass and cooed at it for a few minutes.

What, these people think every raccoon is going to come charging at them, unprovoked? How often does that happen? Are the odds of a raccoon attack any higher than the odds of being attacked by another person? Most raccoons don’t give two shits about the people in their presence, other than being petrified of them and trying to get away.

When I was walking through the park tonight, I heard blood-curdling screams up ahead. Three teenagers were standing around, looking up into a tree with terror. As I passed by, I smiled at the one who kind of looked like me.

“Be careful, miss. There’s a raccoon in that tree,” she said.

“I love it. It’s so cute,” I said.

“Nuh-uh. They can give you rabies.”

“Only if they bite you.”

“Oh my God, he looks like he wants to come down. Look at his eyes. RUN, MISS! RUN!!!!!!!!!"

I stayed put until I made eye contact with the sweet, extremely frightened animal. I warmly waved hello - and, if I’m not mistaken, I got a relieved little smile in return.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Instituting Policy

Everyone’s got themselves a policy these days. The stranger the better. From beachside boutiques being “unable” to exchange or refund defective jewelry items (that they sold less than 24 hours earlier) to currency exchange centers in the “Greatest City in the World” refusing to accept coins, I’m getting overwhelmed.

Yet I want to play too, and have come up with some official, non-negotiable policies and protocols of my own:

1. I will not answer my phone between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. during the week or between 12:45 a.m. and 10 a.m. during weekend hours. In the event of an emergency, please either text or communicate via smoke signals.

2. If your dog gets more than 1 thimble-sized globule of thick, sticky slobber on my clothing anytime before noon, you have to escort me to the nearest Starbucks. While I’m using one hand to wipe myself off with napkins, and petting the dog with the other hand, you’ll be busy buying me a grande bold blend.

3. If I have an aisle seat on a plane and, after having overdone it with the ginger ale, you get me up so you can use the bathroom 15 minutes before landing, amid heavy turbulence, you’ve forfeited your window seat. When you return to our row, consider that now-empty aisle seat your new domain for the duration of the flight.

4. The following terms and expressions are strictly forbidden in my presence and must be left out of all written correspondence that comes my way:
a. Swag
b. Sorry I’m not sorry
c. Gosh
d. It is what it is
e. Yikes
f. Any reference to the Village Voice as “the Voice”
g. Stoked, amped, or psyched
h. I’m just gonna do me

5. If you’re a cashier or server and I’m a regular in your store or eatery, and you give me a freebie or a discount that’s accompanied by a wink (or the body language equivalent), a precedent has been set – one that’s good for me, bad for you. Going forward, I’ll expect a bimonthly freebie or a discount of equal or greater value.

Please note.