The Shower Spider

I would like to begin this post by saying that I am, for the most part, a normal, grownup lady, and as such, I keep a reasonably clean house and have fairly respectable standards of housekeeping. If you were to show up at my house right now, it’d be a little messy, but for the most part there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Except for one spot. There’s one shameful spot that I cannot bring myself to clean: the window ledge above my shower. I never look directly at it, because it’s creepy as hell, but out of the corner of my eye I see enough: stringy clouds of webs, dried-up bug carcasses, and one enormous, jet black spider. The muscly kind. There’s probably an hourglass involved but like I said, I can’t look directly at it.

If I stand on my tiptoes outside the shower, I can see her suspended in her web, a couple inches above the sill. I check to make sure she’s there every day, because if there is a big black spider in the vicinity, I prefer to be aware of its location. Once I’m in the shower, I can’t see her at all. She’s smart enough not to move while I’m in there.

I have zero tolerance for gross bugs like roaches or ants. Spiders are a little different. I have no love for spiders but I am not phobic. I can usually kill them by myself, so long as they are not particularly jumpy or menacing. Usually I don’t kill them, unless they break the rules* or scare my daughter, but in general, if they stay out of my way, I allow them to live.

*The rules for spiders sharing my home is that they are not permitted to exceed the diameter of a quarter with all their legs extended, and they are not to present at eye level, occupy my bed, traverse the ceiling above my bed, or ever touch me for any reason. Because the spider who lives in my shower honors these conditions (except for the size limit, maybe, but she has the sense to keep her legs tucked up so I can’t be sure), she has lived there for several years.

I realize that it is probably not the exact same spider that I first became aware of sometime in 2015, but likely her descendant. I read Charlotte’s Web so I know a fair amount about the spider life cycle and I know they don’t live that long. I think they can only live long enough to save one pig, go to the county fair and make an egg sac, then they die.  Maybe this one has lived a little longer because there aren’t any pigs in our neighborhood, but still—there have been at least three county fairs since she moved into my window sill, and I found an egg sac on my shower pouf once, so she should have been long gone by now. We are probably on Shower Spider III or IV, I’m guessing.

Further evidence of multiple spider iterations: once, a big, black spider did crawl down the wall of the shower and when I opened the door to get in, it was at eye level. Since it broke the rules, I grabbed a flip flop and smashed it.  (Rules are rules.) Surprisingly, killing it made me sad. I came out of the bathroom in my towel and announced to my daughter, “After all these years, I just killed the spider that lives in my shower.” And she expressed sadness, too, despite her very real fear of spiders. I was a little blue as I showered that day, thinking that my old friend was gone, but the next day, there she was, in her web above the window sill! So I must have killed an imposter spider! My shower spider was either very happy that I wiped out the competition, or sad that I took out one of her kids. I’ll never know.

Once I had a boyfriend who hung around long enough to hear about the shower spider, and he offered to kill her for me. But I knew that boyfriend was terrified of spiders and he was just trying to be manly. I didn’t have the heart to ask him to overcome that fear for me, so I told him not to bother killing her. The truth is that I have mixed feelings about killing the spider because we almost have a relationship now. (The spider and I have the relationship, that is. That boyfriend is long gone.) It’s not exactly fondness, just sort of a mutual respect. She’s probably more afraid of me than I am of her. I mean, she has seen me naked every day for the last several years. She probably doesn’t like to look over the edge of the window sill during that seven-minute period of the day, either.

Sometimes I think about what would happen if I die, and people were cleaning out my house. “That Meg had a pretty nice house,” they’d say, “but what’s up with that disgusting window ledge above the shower?” And that’s fine…judge all you want, post-mortem house cleaners. Just don’t kill my spider.

Unless I died by spider bite, of course. In that case, the flip flops are right outside the shower door.

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday: A Classic Comeback to an Age-Old Question

If you have a teenage daughter, you know that there is no better source of cold, hard truth—especially about your appearance and fashion sense.

I rely heavily on my 19-year-old daughter for honest answers to critical questions like, “Hey, is it okay to wear socks with these?” I text pictures to her while shopping so she can assist with wardrobe choices. She screens my outfits before I leave for dates.

This may be her most significant contribution to our household—she keeps me from looking like a dork, or at least from looking like an old dork.

I became aware of Maddy’s gift for hard-hitting fashion feedback when she was very young. Consider this magnificent exchange from when she was just four years old.

I had just bought a new outfit, and it was a bit of a style departure for me. Fifteen years ago, I was every bit as bottom-heavy as I am now. Big butts weren’t as acceptable then as they are now. (They ARE acceptable now. I believe in my heart that they are.) So, I tended to hide my “curvy” lower half under big, tunic-style tops.

This time however, in a moment of body-bravado, I’d purchased a fitted black sweater and a printed wrap-around skirt. It was a long, narrow skirt with a tribal pattern on it. Between the fitted sweater and narrow skirt, my shape wasn’t hidden at all.

“Wanna see my new outfit?” I asked four-year-old Maddy, and she, already clothing-conscious and opinionated, gamely agreed.

I put on the outfit and stood in front of the mirror, where I could see her little face looking at me from behind.

Head tilted, she considered my ensemble with a definite frown. It was so clear that she didn’t approve, I just had to do it: I had to ask that age-old question. And she gave the best answer that I’ve ever heard.

“What’s the matter, honey?” I asked. “Do you think this skirt makes my butt look big?”

“No,” she said seriously, my joke lost on her. “I think your butt makes that skirt look big.”

Maddy age four 3

So. Much. Change. AllAtOnce.

I haven’t blogged in over two months. So much has been happening, I don’t even know what to blog about. If you could screw off the top of my skull and release the contents of my brain, the thoughts would come leaping and scrambling out like clowns from a tiny car.

Remember the post about job hunting? Well, I have a new job. That job includes a new schedule and longer hours. Still haven’t figured out how there’s time to cook dinner and get some exercise and write and pay attention to my family and my boyfriend all before bedtime. (Plus there’s Netflix; damn all those TV shows.) I know that working moms all over the country do it—heck, I did it for years—but it’s kicking my hiney right now because I’ve had this cakewalk schedule for the last two years. Welcome back to the world of grownups, Meg.

Also, I moved. I read once that moving is the third most stressful event for humans, after death of a loved one and divorce. (Pretty sure “job change” was high up on that list, too.) So, I guess it could be worse, but yeah—it’s pretty stressful. Also included in moving stress: I shacked up with my sweetheart and we’re ADJUSTING.  “Adjusting” involves trying to fit two households into one home and trying to remember how to share space with someone after you’ve been single for 15 years. I’ve only freaked out once so far.

And the big, downhill-rolling boulder that is my daughter’s departure for college continues its rapid descent onto my poor mom-heart. Maddy leaves in less than a month. She needs plane tickets and dorm furnishings and a laptop and luggage and a warm winter coat. Hopefully I can come up with the money to pay for all of those things and still have enough left for a case of Two-Buck Chuck to drown my sorrows. It’s pretty bad. I’ll be driving down the freeway or doing the laundry—just minding my own business– and out of nowhere, BAM! Emotional ambush!  Fine one minute, a weepy mess the next.

So, all in all, this is a good time for me—new job, taking the relationship to the next level, kids are growing up and doing what they’re supposed to do—but it’s also a boatload of transition all at once. I’ve got no cause to whine because all my transitions are good transitions, but most days I feel like my life is racing ahead of me and I’m being dragged along behind it with a death-grip on the bumper.

Oh! Suddenly I thought of a metaphor! (I really thought of this right now, spontaneous-like.)  My life feels a little bit like parasailing right now.

Victor & I went parasailing a couple weeks ago. (Because, you know, things weren’t crazy enough—let’s get suspended 600 feet over the Pacific Ocean while hauling ass in a speedboat!)

I was totally game for the parasailing, when Victor asked me to go– I didn’t feel afraid at all. That was stupid, because as it turns out, parasailing is actually pretty terrifying. I was fine until it was time to go up.

We were on a boat with two other couples.  The staff harnessed us up in strangely loose-fitting harnesses, and offered no safety instructions whatsoever, except to say, “If you want to hold on, hold the rope; don’t touch the metal hooks. “

IF! IF you want to hold on! Holding on is optional! So my rational mind knew that it had to be pretty safe—they let any schmuck do it; you don’t have to be fit or strong or know what you’re doing, and obviously you can’t screw it up or they’d give you more directions. Must be safe, right?

We climbed up on the back of the boat in our big, loose harnesses and they hooked us up and ZOOOM! Up we went! 600 feet! It felt just like an elevator. My harness felt just like a swing. My boyfriend was with me, taking pictures all around with his iPhone, dangling next to me without a care in the world.

And I was CLUTCHING the ropes for dear life. White-knuckled, rigid arms—clutching. I understood that I was safe, that I could not fall, that holding on was optional—shoot, Vic was right next to me, happily using all his limbs—but NOTHING could have pried my fingers off those ropes. Nothing.

We were up there for about 12 minutes, I think. I managed to take in the amazing view; I marveled at the coastline and all the tiny people on the beach—probably pointing up at us lunatics dangling over the ocean—and I even enjoyed it when the captain reeled us in and dipped us low so our feet could trail in the water. But all the while, I held onto those ropes like my children’s lives depended on it. I squeezed so tight that my arms started to fatigue, and I was terrified that my strength would give out and I’d have to let go.

Vic took this...how's that for perspective?

Vic took this…how’s that for perspective?

There’s the metaphor: clutching. My life feels like it’s flying out ahead of me and all I can do is hold on. All this frantic feeling…all this desperate clutching for nothing…questioning my own strength when my strength is irrelevant, because this ride won’t stop no matter what I do.

Just like I knew I was safe in that harness, I know am safe now.  Everything is going to be fine. The clutching is instinctive, self-protective, but it’s not necessary, and I’d enjoy things so much more if I could just let go.

One way or another, I will let go. I’ll either wise up or wear out. And either way, I’ll be fine.

Anything Would Do…

When I was a kid, there was a 7-11 on the corner near my house. The parking lot was walled by a cinder block fence, and there was a cinder block dumpster enclosure in one corner.  There weren’t any dumpsters in it, so I didn’t know that’s what it was. I just thought it was a special little outside room with no roof.

I wanted the dumpster enclosure—badly– for a clubhouse. I remember thinking it would be so cool– I could make a little roof and put a bed in there, and it was just big enough to put my stuff in. I would check it out every time we passed, and no one was ever using it. I figured if I asked nicely, maybe the owner of 7-11 would give me the dumpster enclosure and I could live in it. Oh, I would be so happy if I could just have that dumpster enclosure for my very own.

This is the enclosure I wanted. They've upgraded it since I was a kid; now it has a roof and even landscaping. Dreamy!

This is the enclosure I wanted. They’ve upgraded it since I was a kid; now it has a roof and even landscaping. Dreamy! Too bad they put a dumpster in it.

Of course, I grew up, and my ambitions outgrew the dumpster enclosure. First I wanted an apartment. Preferably an apartment like the one on Too Close for Comfort, with rainbows on the walls—but any apartment would do. By the time I got an apartment, it was 1994, so instead of rainbows I had country blue hand-me-down furniture. But I was fine with that—for a while.

Then I developed a burning desire to own something.  Anything would do, as long as it was mine. In 2001 I bought a grimy condominium wherein every surface was either dusty rose or mildew-colored. I can’t imagine why anyone other than a five-year-old girl would want so much pink. But that pink condo was mine, and once I cleaned that sucker up and painted over the pink with fashionable Tuscan colors, I loved it.  For a while.  Until I started to want a house.

Oh, how I wanted a house.  Any house would do, as long as it was mine.  My condo was cool, but it didn’t have a yard or a family room and it wasn’t big enough to host my family and suddenly, it just wouldn’t do. I had to have a house.

Well, I bought a house. Not just any house—I bought the house I grew up in. Just an ordinary ranch house in an ordinary suburb, with an extraordinary wealth of childhood memories in every room.  It had a swimming pool, a garden, and a garage to keep my hoard of craft supplies and half-done projects.  It had an antique piano in the living room. Not only was the dining room big enough to host my family, it was the very dining room in which we’d celebrated every major holiday since my parents bought it in 1979. It was more than mine; it was ours.  How I loved that house.

Until.

I wish there were no “until,” but there is. I loved that house until I had to sell it or lose it to foreclosure. An extended period of unemployment (2008-2011, just like everybody else) left me behind on the mortgage and nothing I did was enough to catch up.  It broke my heart to sell it. Still hurts to write about it.

I was in a crisis, earning half of what I’d earned before the recession, and I had to find a place I could afford—anything would do, with one tricky criteria: I wanted to keep my dogs. I had to find a place that would rent to me with two pit bulls. In case you don’t know, that is like trying to find a place that will rent to me and my herd of water buffalo. It’s really freaking difficult.  People questioned my priorities: you’re broke, and you have no place to go, and you’re going to keep those dogs? Yes, dammit, I already lost my house; I’m not losing my dogs, too.

Would you give up this dog? Me neither.

Would you give up this dog? Me neither. (Photo credit: Maddy Faulkner)

So I found one: a two-bedroom apartment that allowed pit bulls. Lucky me! Except I hated it. I tried to feel grateful because I wasn’t homeless, which is kind of a big deal. And I had my dogs, which was even something of a luxury. But I hated that damn apartment. I hated the crowded laundry room and the stupid ranchero music blasting all weekend and the idiot who parked his truck in my space and the damn yapping Chihuahuas across the way and did I mention there were COCKROACHES? (Cockroaches actually make me cry.) I hated that apartment EVERY DAY. I knew I was lucky to have it, but I couldn’t wait to leave.

Enter the ghetto cottage.  You can read about it here. It’s funky and older than dirt, and I was stoked to get it. It’s cheap and they don’t mind my dogs and it even comes with an exterminator.  Every day I am grateful for my own laundry, my own driveway, my yard, etc.

So what prompted this little walk down memory lane? Well, the GC finally got a paint job. I had been waiting for the paint job for six months.  I was so excited when they told me it was getting painted, it was like Christmas and my birthday all at once. Then I had a tiny meltdown.  WHAT ABOUT THE COLOR? WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE IT? WAIT, IS THAT PEACH? GOD ALMIGHTY, PEACH AND RED?!?

Have you ever gotten on your own nerves? I drove myself nuts obsessing about the color, when the proper response was to be grateful for the paint job. As often happens when I freak out, the reasonable part of my brain started to laugh at the crazy part. Criminy Meg, shut up. Out of the blue, I remembered that dumpster enclosure, and the kid who longed for four cinder block walls of her very own.

Oh yeah…perspective.

The ghetto cottage looks a million times better with the new paint, even though the color is a bit weird.  Now I feel even luckier to have it. As with everything in life, the key is to focus on the positive aspects while you’re working to improve the rest.  The truth is that I have everything I need, and then some.

You can't see the red behind the security door, but it's there. But look how pretty that white trim is! Woo!

You can’t see the red behind the security door, but it’s there. But look how pretty that white trim is! Woo!

This is the back door. It goes to the laundry room. I love the laundry room.

This is the back door. (It goes to the laundry room. I love the laundry room.)

Nothing Charming: Meg’s New Old House

I just moved. More precisely, I finally finished transporting my enormous mountain of largely superfluous personal possessions from a two-bedroom apartment to a tiny, three-bedroom house. I am exhausted and more than a little scattered.

When this little house became available, my dear friend, the property manager, told me about it with a hint of reluctance. “We have a house opening up that might work for you. But…you should see it before you get excited. It’s very old.” She must have seen my eyes sparkle (I love old houses) because she added, “No, there is nothing charming about this house. Believe me. It’s just old.”

It’s 87 years old, to be exact. It was built in 1925 and it’s just outside the historic district of Old Towne Orange. Peeling paint, abundant chain link fencing, a freestanding garage that doesn’t look as if it will be standing much longer—this is not Better Homes & Gardens material.

Some of the windows won’t open. Some won’t close. Many will open but will slam shut again unless you prop them open with the nearest object. Viewed from the outside at night, my new house looks like a strange, light-up showcase for bottled water and cleaning products.

There is no hallway; there is just one bathroom in the center of the house with doors leading to the kitchen, middle bedroom and back bedroom. The back bedroom (that’s mine) is only accessible via the bathroom. The bathroom is ginormous, relative to the house, and it is so oddly shaped that it has eight walls and no place to put anything.

Then there is the garage, which I am afraid to enter at night. A power cord dangles from the ceiling, and if you plug it in, a dim, flickering fluorescent bulb provides just enough light to dismember someone by.  If I have to go in there at night, I open the dilapidated garage door, back my car into the driveway, and make my daughter press on the brakes so my taillights shine into the garage*. (There is no way I’m feeling around for that dangling cord in the dark.) Then I sprint in, grab whatever I’m after and sprint back out before I feel the cold, clammy hands closing around my throat….

The garage is fondly referred to as the “Murder Shed,” thanks to my friend Lauren, who calls it like she sees it.

*I don’t know why I didn’t pull into the driveway and use my headlights. Why did I reverse? I just realized how dumb that is as I was typing the above paragraph. That’s how fried my brain is. Criminy.

Also, some classy individual wrote “FUCK” on one of the garage walls in marker. It’s sort of a decorative, bubbly lettering style. If it weren’t such a cute sort of lettering, I would have to believe it was someone’s last word before being dismembered. You can’t vandalize if you don’t have hands, punk!

In 1925, when the house was built, people didn’t amass boatloads of crap the way we do now, so closet space wasn’t a big deal. Consequently, I don’t have a lot of closet space. Other things not planned for in 1925: dishwashers, garbage disposals, or doorways big enough to slide a refrigerator through.

But it’s not all bad—obviously, I rented it for a reason. Most importantly, it’s cheap. I have my priorities, you know. Second, it’s not an apartment. Hooray! Also, it has a big back yard for my dogs.   It has washer/dryer hookups, so no more community laundry room. The scary garage is perfectly acceptable for storage (provided I access it during daylight) and the driveway has plenty of space for me and a guest to park.

You know what else it has? Charm. Sure, it’s hidden under the catastrophic paint—flaking off on the outside and layered thick on the inside—but there is plenty of charm to be found. There’s a huge front porch and tons of windows. We are already picturing our carved pumpkins out on our front porch, and our Christmas tree in the front room with all those windows.  Oh, and there’s moulding everywhere: big chunky baseboards, window moulding, door moulding— a girl like me gets pretty excited about moulding. And that chain link fence is perfect for sweet peas. Spring is going to be fun. The yard is really sunny, so I can plant herbs and tomatoes again…summer is looking good, too.

To be honest, I’m kind of excited about the whole mess.  I love fixing up old stuff. One of my favorite things is to find an old piece of furniture and paint it or repurpose it. Now I get to do that with a whole house.  I can’t spend money on it, because it’s a rental, and the whole reason I moved in was to save money (and escape the apartment).  So I will have to do it on a shoestring, which is another backwards pleasure of mine. I am the queen of frugality. Bring on the thrift stores, garage sales and Craigslist! Give me your oops paint, your castoffs, your unused plywood longing to breathe free!

I may be romanticizing a bit. Okay, I may be romanticizing a lot, but I find something loveable about this weird old house.  In a few months I may be cursing the wonky walls and pitching floors and longing for the relative modernity of my apartment.  But for now, while the house and I are getting to know each other, I will keep my rose-colored glasses firmly in place.

There it is, under the peeling paint and behind the chain link fence: something charming. See?

A Sneak Peak at Empty Nest Syndrome: UGGHHH

My daughter’s been away at camp all week. I’ve been home alone since Sunday. Usually, this means a good time for me. This week, not so much.

I’ve been a single mom for about 14 years. For most of those years, when my kids went away, it was kind of a treat. Judge me if you will, but every parent needs breaks and single parents need them even more. So I would pack their little overnight bags and bundle them off to Dad’s house with lots of love and kisses, and then PAR-TAY!! Momma’s alone for the weekend! YESSS!

Let me tell you, some of those weekends I got pretty crazy. I could sleep with ALL THE LIGHTS OFF AT ONCE. I could pee, or even take a whole shower, with no one walking in. Leave the TV off for the whole weekend. (Is there any sound more grating than SpongeBob?) Not have to make anyone pancakes. Not have to break up fights. Not have to share. It was awesome.

But things are changing at Casa de Meg. My son moved out two years ago. My daughter is almost 17 and about to begin her senior year in high school. She’s like a roommate now- albeit one I cook for and drive around, but still- it’s just she and I in our two-bedroom apartment. And she’s away fairly often these days, so I’m grateful for her company when I get it.

Last week, I tried to plan ahead for this kid-free week. I figured I could line up some internet dates—at least it would be blog fodder to entertain you with. Or maybe I could work out a whole bunch, try the gym by my house like I’ve been meaning to. I could catch up on paperwork. Paint something, maybe.

OR, I could—and by “could” I mean “did”—sit on my couch and drink and eat fast food and watch crappy TV for four days. I suck.

Here’s the problem: when my daughter leaves, it’s no longer a getaway from my single parenthood; it’s a glimpse into my future. That future is an empty nest. EMPTY NEST!! EMPTY NEST!!! (<——that is me shrieking crazily like Chicken Little).

Remember those cartoons where the guy would dive from the ridiculously high platform into the ridiculously tiny bucket? They would show the view from the platform down into the bucket before he jumped, and there would be clouds halfway between because it was so high up. That is how I picture the empty nest: way, way, down at the bottom of a very high cliff. One day, approximately 395 days from today, my daughter is going to leave for college and I am going to have to jump off that cliff.

Melodramatic? Me? Okay maybe, but I am really that apprehensive.

I had my first kid before I turned 21. I don’t know how to be a grownup without being a mom. I always figured I would raise my kids and then resume my regular life– catch up on all that stuff that normal people do before they have kids. Only now they’re grown and I don’t know what to do. Or maybe there is so much to do I can’t decide what to do. And I don’t have anyone to do things with and I don’t have any money to do them and waah waah waah… Is there any beer in the fridge? TV sounds pretty good.

One day at a time, Meg. I have books to edit, college to finish, dogs to walk, blog posts to write, practically ARMIES of WINNERS on the internet just waiting for me to date them… there’s plenty to keep me busy when the kids are gone. Maybe I will find someone new to make pancakes for. Or better, someone to make pancakes for me.

And anyway, there’s still a whole ‘nother year before I have to jump.

 

 

 

 

 

Time Warner Cable: A Study in Nomenclature

This post contains the F-Word. I’m sorry, but I’m writing about Time Warner Cable, so the F-word is absolutely necessary. If you have ever interacted with them, you will understand.

I originally wrote a 1,200 word post describing my ordeal, but you don’t really want to read that, do you? Believe it or not, I try to distill these posts of mine to just the funny parts or the parts where I learned something. I’m trying to be either entertaining or helpful— that’s my goal.

Hey—that should be TWC’s goal, too! Someone should tell them that! Only you can’t tell them anything, because there is no way to communicate with Time Warner Cable. You can call, email, walk into the store, actually scream and cry, but no information will be received by anyone with a soul or a sense of accountability.

Over my two-month struggle to regain internet access, I have realized that Time Warner Cable needs a complete overhaul of their entire organization. Let’s start calling things what they really are, Time Warner. Here are some suggestions.

National Help Desk: The National Help Desk is neither helpful nor anywhere in my nation. I’m not sure what nation it’s in. I suggest we call it the Foreign Frustration Desk.  I have called the Foreign Frustration Desk at least 50 times in the last few months. I received no help, only frustration. The frustration delivery mechanism is superbly effective: a protracted automated answering system subjects you to the same recorded advice each time you call (Reboot your modem! That’ll fix it!) until your call is finally answered by a Frustration Specialist who barely speaks English but has been instructed to apologize excessively while calling you ma’am until she transfers you to another Frustration Specialist who  makes you repeat all your identifying information and tell your entire story again. Repeat ad nauseum.

Service Technician: Again, there is no service actually being provided by these individuals. These are the guys who show up to your house, plug and unplug some things, tappy-tappy-tappy on your keyboard, and say you are up and running. Then they leave and you lose connectivity again. I have had at least three of these guys out in the past couple months. One of them (in collusion with the Foreign Frustration Specialist) told me that the problem was my computer. Everything was fine on Time Warner’s side, so it must be my old computer.  I actually bought a new computer, but guess what? He was wrong. I spent $1,300 and I still couldn’t connect.  These “service technicians” don’t actually have any technical skills, either. I hereby dub them “Workload Shufflers”.

Local Cable Store: Okay, this isn’t actually a misnomer, because I suppose you can buy stuff at the Cable Store. Maybe you can even buy cables there. But these should actually be called Local Apathy Centers, because if you go in there, they don’t give a shit. I went in and desperately pleaded for some help after weeks of no service. Apathy Centers are staffed by Customer Deflection Specialists, who are trained to make sympathetic noises while tapping on their keyboards (aka “updating your account”) and saying whatever is necessary to make you leave the store as quickly as possible.

Supervisor: At the Apathy Center, when I asked, “Who can help me? Who can be accountable and get me some results? Nothing I try is working.” They said, “Well, you can call our Supervisor.”  “Is she here?” I asked, believing that supervisors, well, supervise. But I have been to the store three times and left two voicemails for Supervisors, and they have yet to materialize. I think the supervisors are actually Voicemail Decoys, tricks employed by the Deflection Specialists when you become too persistent.

Construction:  After I bought a new computer because TWC insisted that it was my problem, and I still couldn’t connect, I called the Foreign Frustration Desk and they said, “Oh, we’ll have someone check the line.” Excuse me? You didn’t check the line before you told me it was my computer? This is CABLE INTERNET and you didn’t check the CABLE?  They sent another Workload Shuffler to check the line but he couldn’t solve the problem (shuffle, shuffle) so he placed a work order with “Construction,” who was supposed to replace the line. “They’ll call you,” the Workload Shuffler said.   I would rename Construction, “The Magical Internet Fairy,” because it doesn’t actually exist. No one called; no one came. Ever.

Customers: This one is easy. More than one person told me that if you want results from TWC, you have to freak out and throw a fit. That is not my style. When I am interacting with customer service or retail workers, I try to remember how it was to be the front line—you make very little money, you have no authority, and you take all kinds of crap. Low-class people love to lord over receptionists, retail clerks and other people who are required to interact with them; I am a classy chick and I try to treat others with respect.  There is a limit, however. If you offer a faulty product and appalling customer service and provide no means for resolution, you leave your customers feeling utterly powerless and they become Ticking Time Bombs.

So, after countless hours on the phone with the Foreign Frustration Desk, three visits by Workload Shufflers, two new modems and a brand new computer and still no internet, my fuse was just about gone. I went to my Local Apathy Center and explained the problem to a Customer Deflection Specialist. He scheduled me for a visit from The Magical Internet Fairy the very next Saturday. And on Saturday, I, a Ticking Time Bomb, opened to the door to another Workload Shuffler.

“Are you from Construction?” I asked him.

“No.”

“Do you know what’s going on with my job? Did they tell you anything?”

“No.”

“Someone is supposed to replace the outside line. Someone from Construction. Do you know about that?”

“Construction?”

I started to lose it.  My voice began to escalate as I repeated my story for the 743rd time.

He went outside to call his Voicemail Decoy. My mistake was that I tried to call the Frustration Desk while he was gone. “For technical support, press 1.” “Most problems can be corrected by restarting your modem.” The automated voice-recognition system goes into panic mode when you scream at it. “I’m sorry…I didn’t understand that. Please try again. To cancel your appointment, say, ‘Cancel.’”

I was in full-fledged Automated System Rage by the time the Shuffler returned.

He told me–this was his mistake, using these words–that someone from Construction would call me.

At this point I can no longer accurately relay what happened, because I lost my fucking mind. I’m not kidding. I was shaking and shrieking and probably frothing at the mouth. I heard myself screaming but I could not stop. The kids rushed downstairs to stare and the dogs cowered in the corner of the yard. The Shuffler turned to flee. I chased him out the door and kept yelling. He tried to reason with me. There was more screaming and I’m pretty sure I told him to “stop fucking lying to me and give me someone’s phone number who will actually help me.”

I never saw that Shuffler again; he got in his TWC van and drove away from the crazy lady. But guess what? That very afternoon, some guy showed up to replace the line. The guy said he was from “Quality Control.”  Another giant misnomer: Quality? Control? At Time Warner Cable?  REALLY??

Feeling exhausted and broken after my morning rage, I meekly relayed the story of my TWC ordeal. The guy poked around outside for about 10 minutes and returned with a length of cable that looked as if it had been gnawed by a beaver. “Here’s your problem,” he said, “I don’t know why no one saw this before.”

So in about 20 minutes, this guy—who seems like a figure in a dream; I wouldn’t believe he actually exists except that the internet works now—fixed the problem that I had been fighting for months. All I had to do was make one more trip to the Apathy Center for another modem since the one they’d given me a month before was defective, of course.

The moral of the story is this:  avoid all contact with Time Warner Cable if you can. If not, try screaming first. And please, let’s all call things by their proper names.

The Mattress Adventures of Meg

Alas, this isn’t a steamy sexcapades memoir.  How I wish it were.  Really, it’s about mattress shopping.

Recently I visited my chiropractor to address my nagging low back pain. He gave me this bit of common sense advice:  if your back hurts in the morning more than it hurts at night, your problem is most likely your mattress.

My back definitely hurts more in the morning, and I was aware that my bed was a torture rack, but it was nice to have it confirmed by a professional.  Now I can justify spending the money on a new mattress without feeling frivolous. We are not going to delve into why I can’t spend money without a flurry of self-judgment. We’re just going to be happy that I get a new mattress.

The first store I went to was a local, custom mattress store and the basic models started at $1,000. I was okay with that; this is my bed we’re talking about, and I’m tired of back pain. So I am open to spending $1,000. (I’m aware that you also can spend $15,000 on a mattress, but those mattresses are not for regular humans.)  However, $1,000 is like a bazillion dollars to me, so I wasn’t going down without a fight—I was ready to shop my head off.  If they’re getting my thousand dollars, I am getting ONE HELL OF A MATTRESS. I tried a few beds in that store, but mostly I was freaking out about the money too much to make any progress.

The second mattress store was less fancy.  As I walked in the front door, I bumped into a mattress that was clearly labeled, “Back Support” and it was $399. I was able to settle down and think for a minute, but then the mattress salesman came over. And he was cute.

This is a problem.  Mattress shopping is already exceedingly awkward. First of all, mattress stores are almost always empty except for you and the salesperson.  So you walk in, explain that you are shopping for a mattress (duh) and then you LIE DOWN and try to act like it’s no big deal to lie down and talk about beds in a big empty room with a total stranger.  Throw a little attraction into the mix and you can crank that awkwardness up a few notches: just act natural, while you talk to the cute stranger about how sometimes you like to lie on your back but sometimes you lie on your side and never mind that beds are also for sex but not mine, we’re not talking about that, I’m just lying here trying to act natural.

(There is a bigger problem here: I don’t know how to pick up men. So even if I’m all alone with a cute guy, and I have his undivided attention in a room full of BEDS, I still don’t know how to close the deal.  Pathetic.)

The good news is that I really liked the $399 bed.  It felt as good as the custom, expensive beds.  However, you can’t return a mattress, so you only have one shot to get it right. Must…keep…shopping…

Store #3 had the biggest selection and a very knowledgeable salesperson. She showed me a very comfortable bed that was $1,100. Empowered by my $399 secret, I asked if she had anything that felt that good but was cheaper. She said, eyebrows raised, “Cheaper than $1,100?” Yes, lady; I am a low-digit girl and I need an awesome mattress that is super cheap. What’s the problem?

She might have been a little snooty, but she gave me this useful advice: if you are shopping for a mattress, you must lie on it for at least 20 minutes, because that’s how long it takes your body to relax and get a feel for it. She showed me a very comfortable mattress and encouraged me to lie on it for as much time as I could spare.

I lay on that mattress for a good 25-30 minutes. I may have even dozed a little, right there in a public mattress store. It felt great. I was pretty much in love.  “How much is this one?” I asked.  “It’s a closeout,” she said. “It’s normally $3,000 but I can sell it to you for $1,300.”

$1,300 is not less than $1,100. Am I the only one who thinks so? Because she failed to come to that conclusion. Also, $1,300 is way more than $399.

I left without buying a mattress. I ate a sandwich. I walked my dogs. Then I concluded that mattress shopping is a crap shoot. Both mattresses felt good in the store, but either one could end up being uncomfortable after a whole night’s sleep. If I was going to gamble, I would rather risk $400 than $1400. I’m not much of a gambler.

Back to store #2, home of the cute mattress salesman. It was twenty minutes to closing.

Cute Salesguy:     Oh, you’re back! I was worried that you found a better deal.

Meg-in-my-head: He remembers me! Of course, I am probably the only customer he’s  had all day.

Meg-Out-Loud:      No, I’m just having trouble making up my mind. I know it’s close to closing, but would you mind if I lie down a little longer? Someone told me I have to try it for at least 20 minutes.

Cute Salesguy:        Not at all! I’m glad you want to lie on it for a long time; that’s the smart thing to do.

Meg-in-my-head:   He is cute AND nice! I wonder if he would be willing to spoon me while I  try out this mattress?

Meg-Out-Loud:      Thank you so much. I hope I’m not keeping you.

Cute Salesguy:       I have plenty to do. Take your time. Get comfortable; I’ll even dim the lights for you.

Meg-in-my-headBow chicka bow-wow…

Meg-Out-Loud:      Okay, but if you turn on Barry White I’m going to be suspicious.

I didn’t hear what he said after that because of the blood rushing to my ears in complete horrified shame that I’d spoken the Barry White comment out loud. He turned down the lights (probably so no more weirdo customers would come in) and turned on some kind of normal music that was not suggestive at all. Of course, I couldn’t relax and feel the mattress properly after that anyway, because I was mentally berating myself for not filtering my dumb jokes.  I just lay there feeling like a dork for 15 minutes.

I bought the mattress. While we did the paperwork, we made small talk and he really was very nice. And then, get this: there was an earthquake right while we were sitting there.

Now I’m all alone, with a cute guy, in a room full of beds, AND THE EARTH MOVES, and I still cannot manage to ask for a phone number or make any romantic-type advance.  Somebody help me.

My new mattress was delivered yesterday and ironically, the delivery guy hit on me! No one ever hits on me, so I was flattered, although the delivery guy was…well…let’s just say he was no mattress salesman.

But my bed feels great.

P.S. for grammar freaks: I had to consult the lay v. lie reference about fifty times to complete this post. How did I do?

Good Times in Riverside. Really.

So far, my posts have been musings and observations, maybe a recollection or two. I, Midlife Meg, don’t have many actual adventures.  I mostly just think about things.  However, blogging has inspired me to try to find some adventures, so I will have something to tell you about.

This post will be about me actually going somewhere and documenting it for you, dear reader.

The somewhere is Riverside, California. I went for work, which wasn’t very adventurous of me, but I ventured briefly off the business path had some fun. In Riverside, of all places.

For my readers who aren’t from SoCal, Riverside is a decent-sized city directly east of Los Angeles.  It’s not exactly known as a mecca for entertainment. Although it has a university and some historic landmarks and blah blah blah, I knew Riverside as the place I get stuck in traffic on the way home from Vegas, when I am hot and hungover and just want to get home. I’ve always thought of it as a smoggy, dusty place that really needs to trim its palm trees. From the freeway, it ain’t pretty.

However, I have now been there three times, and I kind of dig it. I went to the downtown/ City Hall area. The first day I went, I was surprised at how pretty the downtown area is.  The courthouse was so striking, I snapped a picture of it.

The Riverside Courthouse was built in 1903. Beautiful, isn’t it?

I don’t know about you, but when I am in a new city, the first thing I want to know is, where can I get a cookie? Turns out, Riverside City Hall has a café that sells cookies—big ones. I got an oatmeal raisin cookie as big as my face, and I am happy to report that it also contained nuts and coconut. Bonus! I took a picture of the cookie (with only one bite missing).  I placed it next to this chubby, middle-aged hand as a size reference.

I noticed a cute storefront on Market Street called Old Glory General Store—antiques! I love antiques. I live near Old Towne Orange, which is a hub for antiquing in Southern California. Most of the stores in Old Towne are a little pricey, though.  Since I am fairly ignorant about antiques, i.e. I can’t always tell a real antique from a reproduction, I am unwilling to spend much money on them.  (That is the difference between ignorant and stupid, see?) I have learned that antique stores outside of my beloved Old Towne are often much more affordable, so I feel more comfortable indulging elsewhere.

I took my cookie into the crowded, adorable store and meandered through the spaces. Furniture, housewares, pottery, art…it was overstimulating and wonderful.

Now that I am officially old, the toys I played with as a child are considered antiques. I don’t even care; I am still happy to encounter them.  I found a Snoopy dog, not the Charles Schulz Snoopy, but the wooden pull-string toy with the wobbly wheels. I clearly recall my own Snoopy and the odd, honking squeak his wheels made when I dragged him along beside me.  Did you have one of these?

Right behind Snoopy in the photograph is a Shirt Tales lunchbox.  I loved the Shirt Tales when I was a little older, in the early Eighties. At my elementary school (go Taft Tigers!) we traded stickers at recess, and Shirt Tales stickers were my favorites.

Although I loved marionettes as a kid, I’m grateful that my parents never gave me any like these.

These are like punishment toys, aren’t they? Terrifying. You could hang one at the foot of your kid’s bed, so he wouldn’t be able to sleep. He’d have to lay there, wide awake, thinking about what he did wrong and whether that witch puppet would come alive and eat him for it.

Speaking of inanimate objects coming to life, I turned a corner and encountered this torrid scene:

I felt like I must have interrupted something.  Her panty hose are all jacked up and everything! Maybe mannequins are like Toy Story toys, and they come alive when we leave the room.  Maybe there is another mannequin hiding under the chaise, or in that armoire. Or, maybe she was having fun all alone…whatever she was doing, it must have been fairly vigorous—her arm flew right off! See it in the background?

The best part of the store was behind a beaded curtain: a magical room with sparkling lights, full of vintage clothing and accessories. I found a trunk with a sign that read, “These items belonged to a retired belly dancer. Some of them are quite provocative.”  Of course, I had to dig into that. And put something on.

I’m not sure how provocative I look in this. Guess I won’t be doing any belly dancing.

I don’t think I saw the whole store; there was so much to see. I wanted many, many things but I left with three.

This is a framed piece of vintage fabric. I love the colors; those burnt Seventies golds, browns and oranges always do it for me. Throw in some avocado green and I’m in retro heaven.  This little sweetie was only $6!

I also bought these bookends, because I liked the grumpy owls on them. I know I’m a little late to the owl party, but ever since I painted that owl, I’ve developed a fondness for them.

The last item was birthday present for a dear friend, but I can’t show you a picture because she is a faithful reader of this-here blog.

All in all, that was an unexpectedly fun foray in a town that is much more interesting than I realized.  It was only a lunchtime adventure, but it was a start. Maybe when you go somewhere looking for a story to tell, you find one–even in Riverside.

Dancing for The Rest of Us: Meg’s Big Idea

I have this great idea. I’ll tell you, but first I have to give you the backstory. I’m all about the backstory. (It’s not enough that you have to hear my every random idea; you must know where it came from, too.)

I really want to go dancing. I’ve had this urge for a while, but I don’t know where to go. The problem is that I am too fat and old for your average Southern California dance club. I don’t want to go where the clientele is barely 21, or even younger with fake IDs, and the girls wear Lycra Band-Aid dresses and five-inch platform heels. (Have you seen height of the platforms these youngsters are wearing? If I tried to pull those off, I would snap both my ankles within an hour. Orthopedists must love those shoes.) At a club like that, I would just feel like everyone’s mother. And worse, I would LOOK like everyone’s mother.

So where do grownups go dancing? I asked around and came up with two options: one for fat, and one for old.

Apparently there is a club in Costa Mesa called The Butterfly Lounge. It’s a size acceptance club. BBWs (Big Beautiful Women) and the men who love them go dancing at The Butterfly Lounge.

At first, this seemed like it might be an option. I’m not sure if I count as a BBW. I’m a size sixteen, which is right on the border of plus size—sometimes I shop in regular stores; sometimes I shop in a plus size store. In most of the country, a size sixteen is considered average. In Orange County, women are expected to wear a size four (and have D cups—it’s a tough crowd in the OC) so I’m pretty large by local standards. I’m probably closer to BBW than Band-Aid dresses. Still, when I checked out the Butterfly Lounge web page, there were lots of very large women, and guess what? They were STILL wearing Band-Aid dresses. And crazy platform heels. And bustiers! Lots of bustiers.

I’m all for size-acceptance and for women being comfortable in their bodies. We should all be able to shake our thangs, no matter how big our thangs are. But if the whole club revolves around body size, does it matter what size we’re talking about? Seems like just another way of defining the woman by her shape. It’s kind of a two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right thing. Mainstream society glorifies one body type; glorifying another body type doesn’t correct that. I don’t want to go dancing in a club that’s all about size. And I sure as hell don’t want to wear a bustier.

The second option, for old people, was The Foxfire in Anaheim Hills. I hear this club caters to two sorts of folks: people who have been dancing in clubs since the early seventies and are still wearing the same attire, and Cougars/cubs. That makes for some interesting choices in dance partners, I guess. Shall I dance with the guy whose gray chest hair is nicely accented by his gold medallion and silk shirt? Or the young man with the Oedipus complex? Tough call! I have never had any Cougar instincts, but I guess if I were both drunk and ovulating I might consider it….for as long as it took me to do the math and realize that he was closer to my son’s age than my own. Ugh. Shudder.

Okay—that’s the backstory: there are no good dancing options for the likes of me. What I want is to go dancing at a wedding reception thrown by my awesome, ginormous Midwestern family. You know– lots of alcohol, lots of friendly people, and something to celebrate. Everyone dances with everyone, and everyone’s glad to see you.

Here comes the great idea: I should open a dance club like that. Genius!

If I could make a club that felt just like a wedding reception, everyone could come and dance. There are plenty of fat people and old people at wedding receptions, and everyone loves them because they are friends and family, not because they’re fat or old.  There are also young people at weddings, and skinny people—all sorts of folks, including your wacky uncle and ancient great-aunt, and even total strangers—like those hot, single friends of the groom. My club would have a great crowd.

People might look at you funny if you wore Lycra and platforms, but they would be perfectly accepting of mom shoes. And if you did look a little slutty, well, you could be that cousin, the one who makes questionable choices.

The DJ would play good dance music, but he would have to include “Celebrate” by Kool & The Gang and “We are Family” by Sister Sledge. Also “Shout”. Maybe even an occasional polka, so everyone could clear the floor and let the old gals take a spin. Oh, and “The Cha Cha Slide”…one hop this time!

This might be a club for dorky white people. I don’t care.

My club would be perfect for people who have courthouse weddings or those who need a cheap reception. Just show up; the reception is already in progress. We’ll let you do your first dance and your toast if you bring us some cake.

What do you think? Would you dance at a club like that? What should I call it?

I’m pretty excited about this. I need to shop.