on waiting.

Yesterday, I was on my way to a class on the fourth floor of the science building. I always take the stairs to the second floor, and if I'm feeling frisky, I might take the stairs to the third floor. But the way to the fourth floor is strictly on the elevator. There are two elevators in this particular building, each facing the other in a little area set away from the main traffic of the hallway so people can wait for their laziness ride without blocking the hall.

I arrived at the waiting area and saw two other people waiting for the elevator. So I took my place among them, situated so that I looked like I was reading the sign I'd read a thousand times before to avoid embarrassing eye contact with strangers. Sometimes the elevator takes longer than others, but after a while, I started getting impatient and turned to make the futile and irritating effort of pushing the button over and over, as if the elevator cared that I was going to be late. It indeed had been a long time, because I personally get very irritated when people repeatedly push the button. It is one in a long list of elevator behavior protocol, including taking the elevator to the second floor, trying to strike up conversations with strangers, and taking the elevator down.

When I turned to push the button, I noticed that the button was not lit up. I pushed it, it lit up for half a second, and then turned off. Immediately after, I heard that familiar ding and the elevator behind me opened. The three us of, plus two others that arrived after I did, had all been waiting on an elevator that hadn't been summoned, that was in fact there the whole time.


The same thing happens all the time when people arrive early for a class. Sometimes the class before is still in the classroom, and sometimes the door is locked, so it's not uncommon to see students sitting around in the hall five to ten minutes before the hour. If there is already a person there waiting, the people that arrive later will never check to see if the classroom is available. They'll all sit down and wait too. Then you end up with twenty students sitting in the hall outside an unlocked and empty classroom when the teacher walks up, assesses the situation and decides maybe that the tests are all going to need curves.

The problem lies in the fact that people take for granted that other people know what they're doing, and even in a higher education setting, that's a poor assumption. We assume they've tried to open the door, that they've called the elevator, that there is a reason we're forced to wait before proceeding on to the next place where we will wait some more. This entry isn't necessarily a rant that people are stupid, but just maybe that they're a little too trusting that people aren't stupid.

And then this morning, I walked behind a girl to the elevator who walked to the waiting area and stopped and stood in front of the call button without pushing it. I sighed, pushed the button, and waited.

Okay, maybe some people are just stupid.


big, stupid, old man winter.

Apparently, it's winter. The sky is that funny color, no one stands outside unless they're smoking, and the cars all have those funny white afros.

I'm really not a fan. As seasons go, I prefer the ones that allow t-shirts and flip-flops. This long underwear and boot stuff? Not my bag.

And I suppose it's my own fault for coming, but this school and its location are not especially conducive to my attitude towards winter. I'm not alone. Many times have I overheard conversations where a voice lamented, "Why did I come to this stupid school?" Of course, a lot of times, that voice has been mine.

It's not just the snow, but rather that Watauga County is just so good at handling it. The University only cancels classes if the local bus system can't run. And darn those snowplows; they're too efficient for my own good. So the buses run. And my teachers are all very dedicated people who drive sport utility vehicles. I need to take more classes taught by people with sports cars. So classes are on, since the professor can make it, and the buses are running, I should be able to make it too. But I walk.

I live a block from campus, and the walk to most of my classes is about four or five blocks, which is not bad. Unless it's freezing cold, the sidewalks are icy, and the ubiquitous Boone wind is cutting any pedestrians in half. I walked those five blocks with 1.7 degree wind chill this morning. It's a strong and bitter wind, and students look like eskimos in some sort of Charlie Chaplin movie, being pushed in the general direction of their class or with their heads down, plowing through when they're walking upwind. And then you'll hit a patch where there is no wind, but you're still working hard to walk and you almost fall forward. You're in real trouble if the wind ever changes suddenly from in front of you to behind you, as if you needed any assistance falling down.

It's such an event going anywhere, because as soon as you enter a building, you have to strip off all these layers of clothing, while your glasses are fogged up and your boots are making those awful squeaky noises. And then, before you go out again, you have to put it all back on: first scarf, then coat, then hat, then gloves, and Lord help you if you forget to button your coat before you put on your gloves.

Everyone looks so ridiculous outside, well, at least I think they do. I know I do, so I just assume they do too since I never actually see anybody. If I look up from the ground, I'll slip on the ice and get snow blown in my face. So I pretty much stick to the scenery five feet ahead of me and down. It's not very attractive.

It takes a fair amount of concentration to walk anywhere, particularly right after a snow when the road crew is still working on the roads and haven't bothered with the sidewalks yet. Then there is a narrow path where the snow has been packed down by the feet of others, and the sidewalks start to look like a bunch of well-educated prisoners walking single-file to the license plate factory. Plus, the snowplows leave huge piles of snow on the border of the sidewalk that you have to climb over if ever you want to cross the street.

But to look on the bright side, it is very pretty and very peaceful. But only when you're inside looking out the window drinking hot cocoa or tea. Those are the times when winter really isn't so bad.


keep it like a secret.

I remember it clearly as if it were yesterday, and not some fifteen years ago. I remember being led to the closet in the bedroom with the orange carpet, it may have been my bedroom at the time, by my older brother. I remember him telling me that there was a secret inside there, a wonderful secret that I was to tell no one about. I remember it all vividly, in technicolor, because that really is the only way to remember the carpet in that room.

Of course, I don't actually remember which brother it was, but that's not important.

I think it was Knocker, because it seems like more of a Knocker incident. My other brother Barry would not have been living at home at the time, and incidents with my brother Sid usually ended up with me having some sort of injury. So we'll go with Knocker. Knocker showed me things like how to play chess or how to make chocolate chip cookies with the piano, which is the real reason I was upset that Mama gave the piano to my sister Carla. She probably doesn't even know how to make chocolate chip cookies with it.

And now at the risk of betraying Knocker and the wonderful secret in the closet, I'm going to tell everyone what it is. If you go into that closet, there is a ledge on the left, a ledge that is covered in more technicolor orange carpet. In the back right corner of that ledge, there is a patch of that carpet that is loose, cut away so that you can pull up a little flap and see the wood underneath. In that wood, there is a little tiny trapdoor, maybe four inches square, that you can lift up and find a little cubby hole, a secret hiding place for a child's worldly treasures.

Secret hiding places are wondrous things. I wasn't a very secretive kid; I spilled the beans on Daddy's surprise birthday present one year. But I kept the secret of the cubby hole to myself all these years. It was like a sacred place, somewhere that we kids could keep things from our parents. Not that I really had anything important to hide, but if I did and it was less than four inches cubed in volume, I knew where to keep it.

I remember keeping a little book in there, a tiny Snoopy notebook with a tiny pencil that went with it. It was technically my sister's, and since I don't really recall her actually giving it to me, it may have been a hot notebook. I think I claimed it as mine after she left it in the same place for a very long time, clearly giving up rights to it. I must have kept it there to hide it from her, because I knew my rights to it were a little sketchy. The fact that I was using the hole to hide things from her maybe means that every kid in my family didn't know about the cubby. Or maybe I just didn't think of the possibility that she knew it was there.

I think about the secret hiding place every once in a while, and happened to think about it this weekend when I was at home. I took a flashlight into the closet and cleared the area above the cut away carpet and looked inside. It was empty. I don't suppose I'd put anything in there for years. I don't even remember what happened to the notebook or any of the other things I kept in there.

And then it hit me, a thought that would never have entered the mind of the little girl who had a secret hiding place, but came obviously to the twenty-one year old that I am now. Mama and Daddy had to have known about it. They built this house, and they had to have known all along. There was no way that one of my brothers sidled up to the builders all those years ago and slyly asked them to add this little hole to the blueprints, slipping them a dollar or two.

So I showed it to Mama, who was amazed. She either had never known, or had forgotten she had known. She showed it to Daddy, who said that it seemed like he had known about it at some point but had also forgotten about it. Neither of them know why it is there.

And now I have betrayed my secret, the one I kept for all these years. I have destroyed any hope my siblings ever had of hiding a four inch by four inch by four inch secret in my parents' house, right under their very noses. I hope Knocker isn't angry with me. Or whichever brother it was.


the scratching post.

You scratch my head until your hand cramps. But you're a trooper; you just switch hands. My head couldn't even tell the difference other than from the pause in scratching while you changed positions so as to give your left hand better access to its task. But there was no decline in the scratching quality. Maybe you are ambidextrous.

I don't think about dexterity. I don't think about much of anything. Any thought processes that start are immediately cut off by my fatigue and the gentle rhythmic scratching that somehow knocks thoughts straight out of my head. Like a natural sedative, your hand works its way across my head and answers every would-be thought with the answer to the age old question of ignorance versus apathy: I don't know and I don't care.

We're watching a movie. Well, you're watching a movie. I'm really just looking at it and only because I'm faced in that direction. No matter. It's a new age film, mostly music and pictures that probably have a deeper meaning, some sort of commentary on society. I definitely don't get the deeper meaning now, and I probably wouldn't get it anyway. So I look at it, and someday I'll try to impress someone by saying I've watched it to appear cultured and well-rounded.

The only active thing I am doing is not falling asleep, if you can actively not do something. I suppose I'm actively not doing a lot of things, like horseback riding and ice skating. Falling asleep is only one of the many things I am not doing. But it's the only one I'm thinking about, because right now, not falling asleep takes a lot more concentration than not ice skating. Never have I been in bed reading or watching TV and suddenly found myself wearing ice skates performing triple axles.

To look at me, you might think I'm engaging in some sort of competition to see how slowly a person can blink. My eyelids worked fine all day, but now it's as if they go down and forget to come back up. Silly eyelids. Then again, I suppose they worked pretty hard today.

I feel dirty, like I'm doing something bad. Little girls play with the hair of their mothers all the time, but it's different because you're a man and I'm a little girl with the misfortune of having grown up. It's dirty because it feels good, it's innocent and sensual, casual and intense, all at the same time. And if it feels good, it must be bad, right?

I think that I love you. Maybe you planned it this way; lured me back to your apartment to watch this new age movie with your promises of appearing cultured and well-rounded, and while I was watching out for drinks and for roofies and maybe even cheesy poems, you made your move on my very head, where my heart had no choice but to follow. I would elope with you right now, if only you could find some way to get through the ceremony and the subsequent trip to Mexico with all my savings while still scratching my head.

Tonight, when you get ready for bed, you'll wash your hands when you realize that you've brought home a million tiny pieces of me under your fingernails. Or maybe you'll try and save some of those pieces of me and make some clones so there will always be heads to scratch, an idea which is creepy and oddly flattering all at the same time.

But for now, you've stopped scratching; whether because you've realized what's under the fingernails on both your hands or because your left hand is now cramping too, I don't know. I would think about it, and maybe even come to some real conclusions, except that now you run your fingers through my hair in a single repetitive motion that is different from the scratching but makes me almost certain that I do love you.

I've heard that there are people who don't like for others to mess with their hair or touch their heads. I've heard it, but I'm not entirely sure I believe it. Maybe I actually am one of those people, and I would protest except that I fall in a trance before I ever get any words out. The world may never know. I know that I don't know, and I don't care.


hope you're bored enough to read this.

So I am bored. How bored am I? Bored enough to stare into space. Enough to try and strike up online conversations with people to whom I have nothing to say. Enough to think that I am suffering from lack of food rather than just lack of something to do. Enough to write an entry all about boredom. Bored enough to do my graph theory homework? Not quite.

Being bored used to be a crime in my house. Well, no. Just stating that you were bored was the crime, and was punishable by chores. You could lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling for hours, and that was okay. But the minute you sighed and said, "Man, I'm bored," was your minute of doom. My parents considered that to be a cry for help. What we were really saying was "Please entertain me," which they interpreted as "Please use me for slave labor." Many times have I gotten as far as "I'm bor..." before realizing my mistake and suavely saving myself from washing the dishes by finishing with "...derline schizophrenic," which has actually led to a whole other series of problems.

There is a similar policy at work, except that there is no need to state your condition, although I'm sure you would get very rapid results. You can do anything you want, but you have to stand up straight. If the kitchen manager catches you leaning against anything, he says, "If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean!" and assigns you to scrape grime off of something or other. I love orders that rhyme. Sometimes you can quickly scurry away before he says anything and escape, which also solves your boredom by getting you to play hide-and-seek from him. Me, I like to solve my boredom issues by thinking up more orders that rhyme.

But I am not at home, and I am not at the restaurant. I am at the computer lab, and I have nothing to do besides the intimidating graph theory assignment that I don't want to have to think hard enough to figure out. Boredom is no crime among the lab operators, but only because we'd all be convicted within five minutes of starting every shift. The boredom itself is probably punishment enough.

Lab boredom is no ordinary boredom. It is the kind of boredom you reach when you are free to do whatever you want, given your school books, a computer with high-speed internet access, and lots of time. I can kill a lot of time with a computer, but it is never enough. There is always more time waiting to be killed, and I can never commit a thorough enough time-massacre to get rid of it all.

I have another two hours before my shift is up, and chances are very good that I will be forced to choose between doing the assignment or gouging my eyes out due to my lack of anything else to do. It will be a tough call.


the dorks knew it all along.

So the trilogy of our time is over, at last the king has returned, the one ring has been destroyed, and the general population has realized that the dorks were right all along because Tolkien really is awesome.

Honestly, it makes me a little mad sometimes to think that everyone has now been invited into what used to be an elite club of people who read fantasy novels, which is only slightly more elite than the group of people who read at all. We are a special breed, with our thick books with desert worlds and imaginary creatures on the cover and the maps in the front. I'm not sure whether to be upset that I'm not special anymore or glad that people are actually reading something worth reading.

As much as I disagree with some of the ways the books were portrayed, I can't help but be engrossed every time I see one of them. I've read the books several times (even before they were so en vogue, mind you), seen the movies, so there is no doubt that I know what is going to happen next. But I can't stop watching, and I can't stop the rising suspense, as if maybe this time, it will be different and the good guys won't win.

And I love watching the movies with the people who are experiencing Tolkien for the first time. They're complex stories, and no amount of plot exposition is going to let people in on all the subplots and connections between characters. Every time I reread the books, I pick up one something new. But as long as these Middle-Earth newbies know who the good guys are and pick up some of the more witty dialog, people will enjoy the movies. But still, they ask questions, and I love the opportunity of explaining who that guy is and how he fits in, even if the knowledge is not critical. Rarely is my dorky knowledge called upon so readily.

And every time I see one of the movies, I'm so worried about what will happen in the next or even what has already happened that I go back and read the whole trilogy again. Sometimes I read The Hobbit, too, just to make sure I'm boned up on my history of Middle-Earth. Afterwards, I try to read The Silmarillion, but usually can't get past the summary of the War of the Rings.

Whenever I get to the end of the last book or make another attempt on The Silmarillion, I get stuck in the discussion over whether Tolkien was brilliant, crazy, or just plain pathetic. For those of you who are not familiar with The Silmarillion, it is a history book, like a textbook that little elves study in their history classes. It's dry and filled with lots of names that are all similar and hard to remember, just like every history textbook has ever been, so if you haven't read it, then I completely understand. It is enough for you to know that such a thing exists. Of course, if you've not read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, then please go do so before you finish this entry. We'll wait for you.

Waiting...Back? Good. You never saw that thing with Gollum coming, did ya?

Anyway, Tolkien didn't do anything halfway. It's not as if the man made up a story about this fairy land. He didn't just write a couple of books and move on. He created a world. He made an entire history and wrote languages for several different types of sentient beings. And to think of all this, to keep it all in his head, no doubt qualifies him as brilliant. Then again, it equally qualifies him as at least rather eccentric and maybe a little lonely. It's like a little kid with an imaginary friend, except on a grander scale.

I never come to any real conclusions on Tolkien's mental and social state. Even if actually put some thought into the question, the only answer I ever come up with is that even if he was crazy or lonely, I wish my imaginatoin worked on the scale his did. I wish that I could write myself a world, and that people would carry around worn and dog-eared copies of my world around, waiting impatiently until they could sit down and make a new dog-ear a few pages farther. I wish I could create another battle of good versus evil and make the old story new again with a new setting and new heroes and villians and damsels in distress.

I don't actively aspire to be Tolkien. Fiction is not my bag, although I did create an imaginary society of cats when I was little and kind of a lonely kid. They lived in Canada. Somehow, though, I don't think I'll be signing over any movie rights soon. I'll just have to appease myself with enjoying the fantasies of others.

On that note, the people that made the LOTR trilogy are rumored to now be working on a five-movie series for the Chronicles of Narnia. And I can't wait.


louie, louie.

So a few months ago, I wrote an entry about my troubles with Louie. Despite my fervent prayers (okay, not really), we still share the same place of employment. Since the deal-with-it-until-he-quits plan is failing me, I'm trying a brand new plan. I am going out of my way to be nice to the man.

This is not to say that I was outright mean to him before. I don't think I let my dislike of him show. If I ever did, it was only when he was being particularly frustrating, and even then I stifled my feelings of distaste. The point is that now I am actively thinking of ways to be pleasant. And it's true that I employed the use of the plan in late October, but not to the extent that I am doing it now.

Okay, so the plan isn't brand new. I've even done this before with other coworkers. In fact, I was trying it with a fellow server when one day he said to me, "Sandra, will you do me a favor since you don't like me but are trying to be nice to me?" I laughed and hope that I played it off so he didn't realize it was completely true. I still don't know how he knew, since I hadn't mentioned my intentions of niceness to anyone.

To be fair, Louie has been easier to deal with lately because he's been waiting tables rather than hosting. Louie doesn't seem to like me, or girls in general, as he gave bigger and more tables to any guys that were working than he did the girls. I assure you, this is not a figment of my imagination. It was blatant. The guys that were being favored even noticed it, told me that it was unfair, but would never say anything. I suppose I should have said something, since during the busy Christmas season, the female servers would consistently walk out with as much as $90 less than one of the guys, even if the girl had actually worked a longer shift. But as a server, Louie doesn't have that kind of power. And people in general are much easier to work with when they have no sort of authority over you.

Part of the reason that being nicer to Louie came to me was because of Casey's recent employment. Louie likes Casey, liked him almost instantly. Obviously, I don't consider Casey unlikeable, as I liked him almost instantly, too. But I don't consider myself difficult to like. Then again, the unfair doling out of tables to servers and Casey's instant acceptance into Louie's circle of friends makes me think that this may be a sexism issue. And I may not be able to overcome some sort of deep-seated misogyny, but I suppose it won't hurt to try. What does not kill us makes us stronger, eh?

Yesterday was the first day I put my niceness campaign to work. We were slow; business was deader than the deadest of the doornails. Therefore, I had plenty of time to hang around, do nothing, and make conversation. Joe had gotten Louie talking about some things he did when he was younger, so I decided to continue the conversation.

The idea of getting to know him better was actually my sister's. My family ate at Vintner's one night, and Louie was our server. He said something about his grandchildren, and it occurred to me that I didn't even know he had children, much less children that had bore other children. My sister started talking to him about his grandchildren, and it was obvious that he liked to talk about them. People like to talk about themselves. I should know this better than anyone, otherwise I wouldn't have a journal where I write paragraphs and paragraphs about myself.

So Louie and I sat at a table and talked about bartending. I found out that he was the first legal bartender in the state of North Carolina. I would ask him questions about bartending "way back when" and he answered them. The conversation was interesting, so I didn't even have to force myself to look interested. And he told me other stories, which all led to pieces for me to add to my Louie puzzle.

I have no idea if yesterday was effective at all. Part of the goal is to make Louie like me more, thinking that he will then not be a jerk.

Otherwise, I'll just have to go back to hoping he'll quit soon.



Tomorrow, Casey and I will celebrate our seventh anniversary.

Mama mocks the idea of a dating anniversary. I suppose it's not as legitimate as a wedding anniversary, but it's the only thing us unmarried but not uninvolved people have. It was especially important in high school. We counted the months then, sometimes the weeks. We didn't have the kind of permanence and official status of a married couple, but we longed for it. Getting past that first year was a big deal, and so few people made it. The two year club was even more elite, and I only know of one couple in my high school that ever made it to three besides us.

We stopped counting the months a long time ago. Too much trouble, and as weeks become more insignificant as they turn into months, months do the same as they turn into years. Now, we pretty much go by half-years, like little kids telling their age. We only do that for the occasions that people ask how long we've been together. Eventually, we'll give that up, too. Casey has already taken to answering with "Too long."

Seven years is a third of my life. That fact strikes me as vaguely ridiculous, and people never cease to be amazed by it. Some are in awe, since a lot of them are yet to make it to that one-year milestone. Some people actually pity us. Not because they find Casey or I particularly repulsive, but because we're young and "tied down." Our age is a time to be free and wild. Neither of us has ever had a relationship other than the one we're in; we were each other's first kiss. And some people find that sad that we missed out on the experience of being with different people. It's true that both of us have wondered what it would be like if the hand we held was not the one we were used to. But relationships are not like ice cream in that you can go back to chocolate after you've had vanilla. And since chocolate makes us happy, neither of us feel the need to look around at the other flavors. Besides, I don't think I would be all that free and wild anyway.

I worry about us getting stale, about me looking at him and seeing him like he's just Casey, and not the way I saw him when I first did. And truthfully, we go through periods where that's probably true. I will probably never see him exactly the same way I did when I was fourteen, because I'll never be fourteen again. And thank goodness. But the way I look at him when I'm twenty-one is not a look of boredom. He can still make me laugh when I pretend to be mad, he still knows how to be romantic, he still makes me check him out approvingly when he's walking away or towards me.

I think we romanticize the new-romance tingles. Yeah, they were nice, and they were exciting, but they were nervous and uncomfortable. And if I were ever to find myself in a situation where I had to start all over again in the game, I would find that it was kind of a nice change, but that being settled and comfortable with someone was where I belonged. It's probably true that a lot of people don't belong in those kinds of relationships, and more power to them, but I'm glad that I'm not one of them.

We went out to eat last night and spent too much money. We are far beyond the stage of going out to nice restaurants, and we almost always go dutch on the check, the exceptions being when one is feeling particularly generous or perhaps to make up for being a half hour late for something. On occasions like last night, he usually pays a little more, which I never mind. I even drank sweet tea instead of water, which is free, a true indication of a special occasion. We even got all dressed up, and I couldn't help but keep my eye on his retreating figure in his shirt and tie when he got up to use the restroom and think about how good-looking my boyfriend is.

We talked about school, about work, about whatever, and held hands across the table while playing footsie under it. It's nice that we can still have a conversation about the little things that happen day-by-day, that we still flirt with the one we've already caught, and that this level of affection is not something we reserve for special occasions like tonight. We were alternately silly and serious, transitioning from one easily to another.

The food was good, and we shared by transferring food from one plate to another. He had some of my broccoli, because he didn't get any on his plate, and my chicken, pieces I cut especially for him since he doesn't like the end pieces. I had some of his steak, mostly the pieces he cut off before he sent it back for being too rare and just the way I like it, and all of his zucchini and carrots because he can tolerate only broccoli. He did not have any of my mashed potatoes, of which I am glad because I wanted them all, but I did offer. There was squash left on both plates when we left.

We didn't have dessert, but not because it was too expensive. In fact, we went somewhere where it was even more expensive, which also happened to be the place where we both work. We had specialty coffee drinks and individual creme brulees. I don't think either of us wanted to share one, and we justified the extra expense with our employee discount.

The girl who was hosting, our coworker whom we both like very much, asked if it was a special occasion. We told her it was our anniversary, and before she could even ask how long Casey and Sandra had been a unit, Casey told her, which I found unusual and kinda cute. Even when people ask, he generally just gives his token reply of "Too long." But last night he seemed proud that he was a part of something that had started out with two kids shyly and awkwardly flirting and then turned out to be something pretty great.


myst again.

Not to prove myself a total dork or anything, because I think that it goes without saying, but I am about to write an entire entry about a computer game. Even dorkier, a whole series of computer games.

I am limited in my role-playing game enjoyment by the fact that I'm a bit of a wuss. So the games where you stalk the halls with a big gun, shooting people and taking bigger guns from their still warm, yet lifeless hands would appeal to me if not for the fact that these people occasionally try to defend themselves. The shooting back is where I have trouble. It makes me nervous, and it seems like I'm always getting shot at from behind and can never turn around properly before I am dead and someone is taking my gun from my still warm, yet lifeless hand. Playing these sorts of games only makes me tense. Basically, I like games where I can't die.

Enter Myst.

Most people have probably heard of this game series, if not played it. Seems like a copy of the original used to come with new computers. If not, the basic idea is this. You are put on a world, a limited yet pretty sizable world. Your goal is to get off the world or to solve some sort of mystery using clues that get left around. It's just you. In the later games, there are other people, but the interaction is limited. They give you information and then they go away. They do not shoot at you.

In these games, there is no little health meter at the top of the screen telling you how close you are to dying. There is no dying in this world. You cannot fall off a cliff unless it would be okay to do so. If it would not be okay, then the game doesn't let you fall.

It's intellectually stimulating, because the puzzles you have to solve are frequently difficult. You have to look in every nook and cranny because there are clues hidden all over the place. There are puzzles with sounds, pictures, mechanical devices, and little cute bunnies, but none that are timed in any way. And if you get stumped, there are forums online that will guide you through the puzzles. Cheating? Probably, but I never would have gotten through the first three games without some assistance. I try not to look at the cheats until I want to poke my eyes out over a puzzle.

The game itself is beautiful. There are really some amazing worlds on the games. Every single world, and there are many, is different. The people who made them had to be pretty creative to keep coming up with new ideas. It's like imagining life on another planet where some previous civilization already got things started and then left.

Why am I suddenly writing about this game series? Because a new one just came out a couple of months ago, and I finally have a copy. Tomorrow is the first day of classes, and I am going to have to not let myself play the game until 4 am or worse, as I have been known to do so on previous games. But I've played a little, and I'm typing as fast as I possibly can so I can go back to playing soon. I have vast new worlds to explore and puzzles to solve.


9 days!

9 days!

It sounds like the title of a new movie, and maybe it will be, a movie about what the staff of a restaurant did while their place of employment was shut down.

That's right, Vintner's is shutting down for nine whole days, starting tomorrow. In case you're bad with calendar math, that includes a weekend. Do you know how long it has been since I had a weekend off? (Okay, about two weeks, but I was sick.)

We're open all year, Christmas being the only day we really close for a special occasion. Of course, we're closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays from January to March because there is no business to be had. But to be closed for nine straight days is something unheard of, something parents will tell their children about on snowy nights by the fire.

The reason? We're tired. The past two or three weeks have been long and hard work. Casey started working there making salads and desserts, and in his first week, put in 65 hours. Many people have been working double shift after double shift, when the single shifts were hard enough. We're sick of being there.

Yesterday, the day we first heard of this wonderful piece of news, we sat around and dreamed about what we would do, the places we would go with stars in our eyes. I'm thinking about going on a road trip with the new salad and dessert guy, who is pretty hot. The busboy is going home to see his family. Another wanted to go to the Keys. Still another said she would cure cancer. Then someone said that we'd all probably just stay home, sleep and watch TV the whole time, but even that sounded pretty good.

I walked around with a new bounce in my step yesterday, periodically jumping up and shrieking "Nine days! Nine days!" My co-workers might have thought I was crazy if they had not been busy with their own shrieking and jumping.

So this is my warning to you: I may be gallavanting, and may not have the time or the inclination to write about my gallavanting. For those of you who do not gallavant often, it's terribly time-consuming. But I will have my journal with me, one of the old kind that is made of paper, and should anything of interest occur, I will record it to later relate to you. If nothing of interest occurs, then I will make it up and later relate it to you. Or maybe I won't. It is, after all, my time off.

9 days!


in my country, we don't have potatoes.

Yuliya is easily one of my favorite co-servers at work. She's fun to hang out with, gets stuff done, and doesn't tell an exorbitant amount of stories that begin with "So, we were so wasted..."

She's from Belarus and has the cutest accent ever, which I am very good at making fun of. (There's not much I can't mock, really, but I'm especially good at foreign accents since that year in high school I became good friends with the exchange students.) She's been in the US for about three years now and has even settled down and married a nice American boy. But she still has trouble with her English.

Last weekend, our soups of the day were Potato-Ham Chowder and Garden Vegetable. (Soup names are obviously important enough to be proper nouns.) I heard Yuliya listing these soups for table 42 when they asked, except that she said "Tomato-Ham Chowder". I informed her of her error when she left the table, but told her that she was probably safe. I mean, really, who would want to eat Tomato-Ham Chowder?

Table 42, of course.

After they submitted an order for one cup of Tomato-Ham Chowder, I told Yuliya she had to tell them. It was no big deal, I'd told tables I'd made a mistake plenty of times. But maybe Yuliya was not as accustomed to making errors as I was. She didn't want to tell them; she was convinced they already thought she was crazy and could feel her tip rapidly declining. I argued with her. What else could she do but tell them? They were expecting their Tomato-Ham Chowder.

This is what she did. Like I said earlier, the other soup of the day was Garden Vegetable. Unlike it's partner, it had tomatoes in it. So Yuliya takes a few tomatoes from the Garden Vegetable soup and drops them in a cup of Potato-Ham Chowder. She served it, and we all held our breaths.

They liked it very much, thank you, and left her a 20% tip.

It has to be the accent.


not about heat costs.

You know that mom in the sitcoms? I know you do, she's in the commercials, too. She's always running around, sometimes to the tune of some fast-paced classical piece, cutting off all the lights in the house, pausing only to lecture her family on the electricity bill. They watch her run around, usually sitting on the couch, moving only their eyes as they follow her frantic money-saving movement.

Yeah, that's me. Although I've been unable as of yet to find an appropriate soundtrack, "The Flight of the Bumblebee" perhaps, I'm the one that's always turning off extra lights and cutting down the heat.

I hate running the heat. It's expensive, but unfortunately, in our basement apartment in the mountains, it's pretty necessary. You cannot type in gloves, trust me. So we run the heat. But I insist that if we run the heat, we have to keep the doors closed. Each room has its own heater, so as long as you keep the door closed, the heat stays in and the heater runs less often.

This concept, it's a troublesome one. There are certain members of this household (NICK! NICK! NICK!), who seem unable to close a door. So I can be seen pulling the bathroom door closed with a loud and frustrated sigh several times a day.

It's a problem that gives me much thought. The bathroom is misery without the heat. Could I install a spring that automatically shuts the door? Perhaps some sort of apparatus that turns the heat off if the door is open. Maybe we just shouldn't let Nick use the facilities anymore.

And then the idea came to put up a sign. A sign telling any and all users of this restroom that they must close the door after using it, or else some sort of terrible punishment will be inflicted upon them. As soon as the idea of the sign came to me, I knew that I had been working at Vintner's too long.

Ah, and you thought this entry was about heat costs!

Joe and Lynn, owners and managers of Vintner's Restaurant and Wine Shoppe, the establishment at which I am employed, are big fans of signs. Signs that give us, the humble workers, guidance as to how to behave so as to avoid consequences, usually "termination". I really don't know much about termination, but I have seen those Terminator movies, and they don't look pleasant.

The signs tell us to ring up beverages (or we pay for them), to not stack dishes in the waitstation (suspension), that lemonade is not on the free beverage list (ominously lists no punishment), where the styrofoam cups can now be found (behind the bar, but we can't use them for personal use or we pay for them), and who is allowed to use the telephone.

The signs tell us very obvious things. Things that Lynn and Joe could simply verbalize to us, and we would nod, and it would be fine. There would not even need be threats of termination. We could all just act like adults and be treated like we are intelligent enough to know where the styrofoam cups are and that we can't use them.

The telephone signs were some of my favorites. They were little green ones, written by Lynn, saying that no one but she, Joe, and the night manager at the time were allowed to take reservations. The day manager at the time took offense, took down the signs, and threw them away. Lynn put them back. He took them down. This continued for several days until apparently there was a heated phone conversation between the two of them over the little green notes. I personally find that when adults act like children, it makes me feel better about myself.

The signs generally make some sort of stir for the first couple of weeks that they are up. The instructions are followed, because though no one knows what termination is, we surely don't want to find out. And then after a while, they start to get a little ragged and ripped and ridiculed. The ones that were typed on the computer generally have spelling or grammar errors, and after a couple of weeks the people like me have the courage to correct them when we think no one is looking. And then one day they come down and no one really notices.

There was one sign that was posted near the waitstation that said "Do not ask to be cut until 2:00 pm or 8:00 pm for night shift" followed by a completely unnecessary amount of exclamation points and some sort of vague threat. A few weeks later, some clever person made a spelling change, and the sign then admonished us not to ask to be cute until the right time. As if I could help being cute. When the jokes start rolling, it's a sign that we can probably do whatever the sign tells us not to do without worrying about termination or amputation or whatever it is being threatened. I myself asked if we could request which weeks we were to be suspended for leaving dishes in the waitstation, since I had a vacation coming up.

I hate the signs. Everyone hates them, hates the obvious things they tell us, hates being treated as very stupid, yet literate children. And yet I considered putting one up in my very own home.

I realize now that such a sign would never work here. No one would take it seriously, and I bet they'd leave the door open just to annoy me. But most importantly is the fact that I don't have anything I can threaten to do. I cannot terminate or suspend my roommates. I cannot make them pay for beverages, though I have tried. I will just have to stifle my sighs and shut the stupid door.

But I won't let them ask to be cute until after 2 pm.