The Wheels On My Car Go...Nowhere At All, Currently

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

UPDATED UPDATE!! When we got to the dealership, I suddenly realized that if I was going to commit to paying them hundreds of dollars every month, I might as well be paying it for a new car, instead of slowly creating a new car by replacing my old one piece by piece. SO! After crunching the numbers with my brother-in-law, car salesman extraordinaire, I drove home in a NEW CAR!! It is so exciting! With options!! And all working parts!! I woke up this morning and ran to the window to make sure it was really there!

This post is brought to you by Chevrolet, who reminds you why they're currently in Washington, D.C., asking Congress to raise their allowance.

I grew up in the Rust Belt (which becomes the Snow Belt in the winter!!). I knew plenty of people whose parents worked in steel mills or in steel-related factories. So I've made a point of always driving American cars. And all in all, I haven't been too disappointed. I mean, in the last 12 years, I've only needed to fix or replace: the entire main electrical system (Dodge); the brakes, twice (Ford); the silver pony on the front of the mustang (not really Ford's fault, that one); the brakes, AGAIN (Chevy); the side mirrors, twice (Chevy, but myself and the City of Cincinnati maintenance department can share the blame for those); the serpentine belt (Ford); and the power steering gasket (Chevy). So you know, normal maintenance.

Those issues aside, my 9-year-old Chevy SUV has been a pretty sturdy and dependable car until lately. I've been having problems doing some unimportant maneuvers like stopping and turning around corners. Due to the current state of our finances, I've been trying the Christian Science method of car repair. Apparently my faith isn't strong enough because yesterday I nearly launched, Dukes of Hazzard-style, into the Ohio River. Luckily all that training I got in the Snow Belt paid off and I was able to wrestle the car back onto the road and avoid completely skidding out. But the experience was sufficiently harrowing to convince me to actually take the car into the dealership for a physical. The major downside (aside from what I'm sure will be a huge bill) is that I've been forced to spend the day cleaning my house, blogging, reading other blogs, futzing around on Facebook, and reading Twilight (more on that later!). All of this instead of doing important Thanksgiving-related tasks like picking up my 25-lb turkey. Not that I don't love doing all the things I've been doing, but if I don't get my car back soon, my family will be eating cereal for Thanksgiving. Sorry, guys! Its not too late to change your plans!

UPDATE: I just talked to the dealership and its going to cost me $1600 to fix my stupid car. Gee, guys, do you think you could spare a few bucks from the $25 billion dollars you asked Congress for? Or at least, could you give me a ride to pick up my turkey?

This Post Not Sponsored by PETA

Friday, November 21, 2008

My friend A recently told me the story of how her daughter M discovered the Circle of Life. The family was eating dinner when M asked her mother what they were having. "This is chicken" A told her daughter. M looked at her plate, then looked at her mother, eyes welling with tears. "Bock bock?" she whispered, horrified.

Lil' Blue was less moved by the whole idea.

We were eating chicken saag when Lil' Blue pointed at a lump of chicken and asked us what it was. "That's chicken", we said. Lil' Blue looked at her plate quizzically, then brightened. "Bock bock!" she shouted. "Yes, that's right. Bock bock" I responded tentatively. She thought for a moment, then crammed another piece in her mouth, happily proclaiming "Bock bock! Yum yum!!"

Proof of the Apocalypse

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thought you'd never hear a muppet say "crunk"? WRONG!!!

Lil Blue loves this video.

COTW - Of Mice and Customers

Monday, November 17, 2008

In the spirit of the season, I'm doing today's Customer of the Week following yesterday's abysmal customer experience. Yin/yang, etc etc. This week's winner was another lady of a certain age who was buying Christmas paraphernalia. Normally I'm not a big fan of Christmas kitsch (she says...prior to unpacking a whole freakin' tub of Christmassy stuff I've accumulated through the years) But we sell these little mouse figurines that are pretty darn cute with their little christmas elf hats on. Anyway, the COTW was buying a few of the tiny elvish mice.

"I have a friend who's got a problem with mice in her house" she told me. "So I'm going to sneak these in. She needs to learn to laugh about the situation". Now that alone probably would have been enough to make me laugh, because...well, that's really cute. I commiserated with her friend, explaining that our 100-year old house also had served as a rodent flophouse during the winter months. She then told me the cutest story ever: In a nutshell, she and her husband had been having problems with mice all winter. They finally tracked down where the little guys were coming in, and found a nest with no mama mouse. Inside were three teeny, brand new baby mice no bigger than her fingernail. Which she and her husband rescued, kept in a hamster cage, and raised as pets! Altogether now.....awwwwwwww.

There is nothing more exhilarating than pointing out the shortcomings of others

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A customer called me stupid today. I don't mean she implied it with a snide comment. I mean, she called me stupid. In fact, she went on a rant during which she stated that thinking obviously hurt my meager brain, and that I shouldn't "strain myself" trying to think. I was slightly cheered by the customers who stepped in to tell her to cool it. I was even complimented on "handling it" well after she left. Although truthfully, I wasn't so much handling it as waiting for it to be a bad joke, and not someone completely losing their shit. After she'd left, I trembled for nearly half an hour from the adrenalin that shot through me. I laughed it off, even during the telling and re-tellings with my co-workers for the rest of the day. It wasn't until much later, sitting in my daughter's dark, warm room, that the tears came. I'm not a crier - I don't often crumble into a soggy mess or wear my emotions on my sleeve. When confronted with an emotional situation I'm more likely to default to rage or just a spacy nothingness. But today was a long time coming. Even though she'd long since fallen asleep, I held Lil Blue and suddenly I dissolved. I had thought I was so brave, quitting my legal job - thought that I was teaching her that there's more to life than chasing a career. That I love her so much I wanted a job that didn't leave me exhausted and mentally bruised at the end of the day. So what am I teaching her now? That's its okay to stand behind a counter being the brunt of the anonymous public's anger? That I think so little of myself that I let someone call me stupid to my face and let it go? How can I teach her about pride and self-respect when I couldn't muster any of my own?

I haven't yet figured out how to implement my "not taking shit from customers anymore" plan and not get fired in the process. But I'm done kissing the ass of people who can't even be civil. Yes, I'm in a service job. But I'm not your servant.

Bunch of savages in this town.*

*TM Randal Graves, of course.

COTW - and a lesson about judging books by their covers

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I had initially planned a serious Customer of the Week Post centering around some post-election issues. I wanted to award the COTW to all the white people buying Song of Solomon, presumably because Barack Obama said it was one of his favorite books. Or to the man who bought a stack of Audacity of Hope to send to his friends in Europe and South America because, he said, he was so proud of America for getting it right. However, one customer who came in this afternoon just had to be the COTW because she taught me an important lesson about judging books (or customers) by their appearance. And also because she was kind of bad-ass.

About half an hour before I was due to leave this afternoon, a little old lady came up to the register. I braced myself for 1) being bitched at for not carrying enough Jesus-centric Christmas cards 2) carrying too much liberal-biased Barack Obama propaganda or 3) some other nonsense that would require me to mentally hum "la la la la la" while faking a bookstore-approved level of customer service. You probably know the type. Little old lady sweater, lots of makeup, hair that most likely requires the use of one of the plastic hat things when it rains. But, all she wanted was to ask how she could replace her customer card. I went into my spiel about how we can look her up when she makes purchases so its no big deal to not have a card, blah blah blah, when you renew we can get you a new card, yada yada yada.

Old lady: "okay. I just wanted to check. I lost my wallet when I got carjacked last week".

Me: "!!!"

It wasn't just that she'd gotten carjacked - you don't hear that every day. It was the fact that she was so blase, and seemed more irritated that now she had to replace all of the stuff in her wallet. And it gets better! She had gotten jacked in an area of town that mainly consists of college bars where kids go to get cheap beer and listen to indie bands. Was she lost? Picking up her grandson? Driving home after a Wussy concert? I'll never know. But needless to say, I hope someday I can be as badass and chill as that old lady. Rock on, grandma!

Dust on the Shelves

Sunday, November 9, 2008

*I'll return to the regularly scheduled Customer of the Week next week. I've had this work-related post kicking around in my head all week and finally feel like I can get it down on "paper".

The powers that be at my store recently decided that it was time for our regular cleaning and alphabetizing binge. You would be amazed at how much gets misplaced, mis-shelved, and just plain lost in a large bookstore. Since we alphabetize the entire store several times a year, you'd think we'd stop finding random magazines and books from ten years ago shoved behind other books, but yet it happens. There's no particular rhyme or reason to which section gets organized in what order. Mainly, the managers post a list of sections and we all hack away at it until only erotica is left. Then someone finally sucks it up (hee!) and organizes the sexy books.

I love alphabetizing, in part because it appeals to my latent OCD. After I finish a section, I just stand back and admire all the books all lined up neatly next to their mates. But mainly I like it because it gives me an opportunity to actually look at every book in a particular section. So I tend to gravitate toward the sections that interest me: religion, philosophy, science.

Lately I've noticed that I've spent easily as much time, if not more, dusting off the shelves rather than actually organizing. And that saddens me. Our country has been at war with two Muslim countries for nearly seven years. And yet the entire shelf of books on Islam were coated with dust. The polar ice caps are melting, coastal countries are drowning, and hurricanes are regularly threatening the existence of large numbers of people. And yet, dust covers the books on climate change. Gothic teenage vampire romances go flying out the door in droves, while we're constantly returning books about religion and philosophy and science because they've languished on our shelves for too long and must be returned to the publisher.

What nonfiction does sell is often of the "political expose" genre - this has been especially popular during the tenure of George W Bush et al. While certainly such books have a purpose, I suspect that many of them fulfill for the educated urban liberal the same purpose as People magazine does for the rest of the population. While it is certainly important to read about what is happening in the world, it seems that very few readers have an interest in why. At least not at the deep critical level that requires a basic understanding of who our enemies are, and what they believe.

Likewise, there has been an explosion of books on "going green" - a facile label for doing things like buying $20 reusable shopping bags. But yet we rarely, if ever, sell books to those interested in learning about the science of climate change. Even though having a basic knowledge of the underlying science allows one to read the "green" books with a critical eye, and take actions based on rational principles and not simply those promoted by the latest book printed on recycled paper.

Of course, I understand that reading non-fiction is harder. Sometimes even boring. And I'm as guilty as the next person and probably in no position to preach. However, I also appreciate that education is an active, not a passive, undertaking. To call myself an educated person, I have an obligation to pursue knowledge, even if doing so is harder than reading the next Spenser novel. I don't want to see dust gather on the shelves of the fiction section, the mysteries, or even the romance novels. That's not the point. I would just like to see the day when I don't need to wipe an inch of dust off the books in those other parts of the store.

Republicans Bite Back

Friday, November 7, 2008

I couldn't resist posting this. Apparently everyone in President Bush's inner circle is acting like a dick after the election.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We did it! My generation elected it's John F. Kennedy. We've finally closed the door on the past and bought our tickets for the future. And we did it our way. We did it $25 at a time. We did it by knocking on doors and making phone calls. Did you see the coverage of long lines of voters? Look at the faces in the lines. Young, black, latino...the faces that previous candidates wrote off because they don't vote, they can't be bothered to show up at the polls. And they certainly won't wait in line for four hours. Except for we did. We skipped class and took off work, we rode the bus and brought our kids, and we showed that we matter. Yes, we can. And yes, we did.