good print karma.

A couple of years ago, the university decided that paper and ink were just too much of a cost burden. So they started charging for print services. They installed all these computers and card machines and implemented a great big campus-wide system, the cost of which was supposed to be paid for by all that paper and ink they weren't just giving away anymore.

Now students have to carry around these little gold cards to use the printers. There's a dollar amount associated with each card, and three cents is deducted for every 8 and 1/2 by 11 inch black and white document you print. It's extra if you want something special, and ten cents for copies. Double-sided printing is the same charge as single-side to encourage conservation. When you run out of money, you can go down to the library and put more money on your card.

The school used to send out these little coupons at the beginning of the semester good for a $6 print card. I'm not sure if they still do this, but they don't send them to me anymore. I suspect it's because I forgot to redeem mine once, or maybe they just can't afford the paper and ink to print the coupons anymore. So I have to pay for my printing.

I actually have a very nice printer at home, and it takes care of most of my printing (and copying and scanning, thank you) needs. But sometimes I finish up projects and things on campus and take it straight to class, so I have to use the university printing faciliities. So I keep maybe fifty cents on my card in case I need it.

In the computer lab where I work, there is a printing station, meaning there is a printer, a computer terminal, and a card reader. There is also a little metal lockbox filled with staples, the key to the file cabinet where all the paper is kept, and a whole bunch of print cards with one or two cents on them. People leave their print cards around a lot, maybe because there is a delay between printing and the card being spat back out. Usually, the ones that get left are the one and two cent kind, though you might find a twenty center every once in a while. Once I found one with three dollars on it, then turned it over to see my roommate's name written on the back and realized that I had to give it back. My disappointment was tangible.

But at the beginning of this year, some time after the university may have sent out the vouchers for $6 cards that I no longer receive, I found a card in the lab. I put it in the card reader to see how much money was on it.


Oh, heck yeah.

I turned it over. No name on the back. I looked around. No one was near the printer, no one was looking at the printer, no one seemed even remotely interested in the little piece of treasure that I was now signing my name on. Of course, I felt a little bad for the poor guy that left his very valuable card in the lab. I felt just almost as bad for him as I felt good for me and my good print karma.

But hey, I'm a nice girl. Sometimes, people don't quite have enough money on their print card for whatever they need. And they always ask me, because I'm the lab op, and I sit right next to the printer. They always offer me the three pennies or whatever in change to make up for my deducted print card. But I let them use my card, and I don't let them repay me. (Actually, I usually tell them to buy themselves something pretty.) I don't feel I have the right to charge for use of a card I didn't pay for. I'm just passing along my good print karma.


on with the bugs!

It's been a bad week for bugs.

After all these infestation type entries, where I've revealed that I've had problems with fleas, ants, and now fruit flies (not including all the spiders that I haven't even mentioned), I'm afraid that you will all think that I am a slob. In all honesty, I'm beginning to suspect it myself. I'd keep these things to myself if they didn't make such good stories. So, on with the bugs!

First off, the wasp. I came home this evening to find a wasp in my pants. (Not a W.A.S.P., mind you, or that would be an entirely different kind of entry.) I was climbing the steps to my apartment when I felt myself being stung in the leg. And then again. And again. I started to panic, because my arms were full of all this stuff, because I hate to make two trips from the car. And so I started to put things down, with the intention of taking off my pants to get the stinging insect out. And then I actually said to myself, "No, no, go inside the house first." So I unlocked the door, hopping and screaming, threw everything down, and yanked my pants down to the ankles. The wasp flew out and met my screen door. Seeing he was trapped, I decided to take inventory of my injuries before I killed him as dead as I could possibly get him.

Five stings. And I grew up thinking that once a wasp stings you, it dies, that bees and such only get one poke before they go to the great garden in the sky. I have been sorely misled.

And then on to the major story: Fruit flies. While the wasp story was not a matter of infestation (though even one wasp is more than you should ever have in your pants), the fruit fly story is.

I noticed that I had a few fruit flies a week or so ago. My dealings with these tiny insects was pretty much limited to a biology project in the twelfth grade. I bred them in a little tube to learn about genetics or bugs or ether or something. What I should have learned is that the stupid things basically only live to procreate, and they don't waste any time doing it.

And so where I had half a dozen fruit flies, I suddenly had half a million. All around the trash, all around the sink, all around my bowl of oranges, just everywhere. Some of them even migrated to my bedroom, where they sit on the mirror all day long. Apparently, fruit flies are quite vain.

I know the best way to get rid of fruit flies is just to clean, but I wanted something more barbaric to make me feel like I was really combatting them, not just making things sparkle. So I did some online research and found a recipe for what I like to call the Fruit Fly Death Pool. It's basically water, sugar, vinegar, and dish soap. I put out a jar of the stuff one night and woke up to see that it had a new ingredient: tiny floating bodies. So then I made four more containers of it to put at strategic positions around the kitchen. It looks like I've just got jars of coffee everywhere, because the only vinegar I had was balsamic. I periodically squint at the little jars to see the body count, and then I laugh.

And I cleaned too. The sink, the drain, the trash can, the counter, the bedroom mirror. The numbers are decreasing, hopefully more rapidly than the remaining ones are laying eggs. A winged cloud no longer rises from my kitchen surfaces every time I move, and that itchy, crawly feeling on my skin is subsiding. I can only hope that this is the end of the fruit fly story, and I don't even want to think about what infestation could possibly be next.

I hope it's puppies.


no, not really.

The idea of "going out" is very important to the girls I work with. This idea is not to be confused with that of "coming out," which is important to an entirely different group of people.

"Going out" means to leave from one's home at a late hour and consume alcohol at a bar or party. It is almost a nightly occurrence for these people, even on (gasp!) school nights.

The first week that I worked there, one of them asked if I went out a lot. You all know the true answer, just as I know it, but I didn't want to seem anti-social on my first week. Let them figure that out during the second or third week. So I started saying, "Well, you know, every once in a while," but I realized that answer was ridiculous and switched to "No, not really." I can think of maybe four or five times in the past year where I went out, which might seem to you as a "Well, you know, every once in a while," but at the rate that these people go out, it's really more of a "No, not really."

The process of them going out begins hours before they actually do go out. They have to determine who they are going out with, where they are going, and sometimes even what they will wear. You can count on someone asking the question "Are you going out tonight?" near the beginning of every shift, where you or I might ask things like "How was that test today?" or "I love your brightly-colored, food-related tie! Where did you get it?" That answer to the question of going out is never "Yes, definitely, I want to get hammered tonight." Sometimes, it's a definite "No" because the person has an early appointment the next day or perhaps a previous engagement. But more often, it's a "Maybe" or a "I don't know yet" or some other wishy-washy answer that I have come to interpret as meaning "Yes, of course, but I don't want to commit for reasons that are unclear to that weird girl stting there listening to us. You know, that one that never goes out."

This sitting on the fence usually lasts all evening, with discussion of parties or bars or other places to out to in between. Finally, one person leaves for the evening, and they all promise to call each other later with their plans for the night. What happens after that, I don't really know, because, well, they don't call me. Sometimes I hear about it the next day, and it seems to be pretty typical college students with alcohol behavior.

The whole thing amuses me. I laughed out loud at them one night when one girl ask for what had to have been the third time in half an hour if another was going out. It had been a long evening and I had felt that enough comraderie had built between us that we could laugh at each other. Apparently, I misjudged.

I'm speaking with a holier-than-thou attitude here, and any one of the going out crowd that read this would probably say something along the lines of, "Yeah, well, she's just jealous because she's a pathetic loser who doesn't have any friends and just goes home after work to do something lame like read or do homework or look on the internet before going to bed around midnight."

And they'd be right. I would not want to go out as often as they do. I would not want to be a part of this nightly "Are you going out?" dance. I would not want to get trashed in town when I know it's a long, curvy drive back home. But it would be nice to be asked. Because sometimes, I would like to go out and have a drink with friends. Maybe I would like to upgrade my "No, not really" to more of a "Well, you know, every once in a while." Is that so much to ask?

No, not really.


bus 244, second load of bus 244.

This semester, I park my car in an area that is designated as "on-campus." I can only assume that this phrase is short for "on-campus, but only within walking distance if you have hiking boots, or in the winter, those shoes that look like tennis racquets." So I ride the bus to and from my car, because I don't have hiking boots and I only have one tennis racquet.

Riding the bus puts me in a position I haven't been in in many years. Of course, that position would be sitting upright with a heavy book bag in my lap, very close to someone loud or sweaty or both.

I rode the bus for years. In elementary school, I was a second loader, meaning I was in the group of kids that lived far out in the country. The buses took the city kids home, then came back and took the rest of us home.

Second load was cool. You got to hang out with the rest of the second load kids in your grade in a classroom. Sometimes the teacher would play Mad Libs or something like that. Sometimes we were just allowed to talk quietly. And then sometimes we abused the privilege to talk quietly, and then we were allowed to talk not at all, which is called being "put on silence" in the grade school vernacular. But we all sat around until we heard the magic words on the intercom "Bus two forty-four. Second load of bus two forty-four," or whatever your bus number was. There were several buses that had second loads. Seems like 244, my bus, was always one of the last ones to pick up second loaders.

And then, when our bus was called, we all rushed out of the room, down the halls, and out the door to the bus lot. If you were in the third or the fourth grade, you walked as fast as you possibly could without running (because then you'd get in trouble), because the third and fourth grade classrooms were the farthest away from the bus lot. We were all terrified of missing the bus, because then the school would have to call your parents to come and get you, and then you'd be in for it.

The teachers played on our fears of missing the bus, or being bus-left, as we called it. If we had been particularly rotten during second load, the supervising teacher would make us stay seated after our bus had been announced until we were deemed well-behaved enough to go. We would sit at the edges of our seats, clutching our bookbags to our chests, our eyes wide and watching the teacher, visions of having our parents come to the school and pick us up looming large in our heads. After what seemed like ages, the teacher would let us go, and we would do double-time to the bus lot, never relieved until we were standing safely in the line that formed in front of the bus door. And Lord help the third and fouth graders whose teachers played this cruel little game of delays.

Sometimes, if you were really good in school, your teacher kept you in the classroom to clap erasers or file papers or sew Nike clothing instead of sending you to the classroom where the other second loaders waited. This was a great privilege and the position was much envied, especially when the teacher supervising the second loaders that week was known to put the room on silence without provocation.

Second load kids were different. Nevermind the fact that we got home from school forty-five minutes later than the first loaders. You were defined by your bus load. In a time before we could judge and label each other based on economic background, athletic ability, or supposed promiscuity, we judged each other based on bus routes. It seems to me now that second load kids were a little rougher around the edges - maybe as a group we got into trouble a little more often than the cleaner cut first loaders. Maybe because we were rural kids, or maybe because we were stuck in school an extra half hour every day.

Once I got into middle school, I found myself suddenly a first loader. There was only one second load bus at my middle school, and buddy, those kids were weird. They had to wait all together in the gym, long after I boarded bus 187 and gone home. They never got to clap erasers or play Mad Libs. They were never true second loaders in my mind, because that term died at our fifth grade graduation. Besides, we were all old enough to call each other sluts and dorks and jocks now, and we no longer needed bus routes to tell us who are friends were. But we still remembered our second load days like we were veterans from some war.

Yeah, I was a second loader. Bus 244.


murphy's law.

Murphy's Law states that a watched pot never boils. I think this law can be applied to a Federal Express truck. A watched FedEx truck never boils, and a watched-for FedEx truck never comes.

I've watched for the FedEx man for three days now. That's right, I looked for it on Sunday, too. Logic told me that the order wouldn't come before today at the very earliest, but that didn't stop me from having the hope that I would be dazzled by the combined shipping efficiency of FedEx and L. L. Bean.

Murphy's Law has nothing to do with that sitcom starring Candice Bergen, as my friend Mike thought, and everything to do with screwing people over. Murphy's Law is against me, because Murphy's Law is meant to be against us all, whether we are waiting for the pretty new navy bookbag with taupe and black trim we ordered with monogramming (add $5), looking for our lost keys, or waiting for a FedEx truck to boil. It's ole Murphy's fault that you start your period in the class where you have a male teacher on the day you wear a skirt. Murphy made you drop red wine on your favorite white shirt, and Murphy made that shirt dry-clean only in the first place.

But I am onto Murphy and his stupid laws. I am most definitely watching for the FedEx truck and the lovely new monogrammed bookbag with extra pockets and reflective fabric it carries. But I am doing it in a t-shirt and panties and the curtains pulled open, and Murphy's Law states that the package will be delievered because of this, and probably by a man. I only need put on some green facial cream to make him a very attractive man. But I don't care, because he'll give me the package before he runs away screaming, and I'll never seem him again anyway.

Take that, Murphy.


beautifully weird.

Nostalgic kleptomania. That is the new phrase, the new buzz word, the name for the condition I am about to describe. Nostalgic kleptomania will furthermore be used to describe the need that some feel and subsequently act upon to have a souvenir that is not for sale. I'm sure you know the type. They take broken-off pieces of stone when they visit ruins, they take ashtrays from restaurants, and they are the reason that pens in banks are tied to large pieces of furniture that are difficult to steal. I've known some nostalgic kleptos. I had dinner with one who took the little plastic frame that described the dessert menu from the restaurant because there was no ashtray; we had requested non-smoking. And I've been in the restaurant business long enough to see things disappear. Not frequently, not even enough to warrant the theft as a major nuisance. Call it a minor annoyance. Sometimes it's even a little amusing, just thinking about the bizarre things that people will steal.

But bizarre isn't even the word for what I witnessed last week. Kirstin was emptying the trash in the men's room to close down for the night when she happened to notice the empty picture frame hanging next to the mirror. Now we do exhibit some things that might be considered modern art, but nothing so modern as an empty frame. It took Kirstin a minute to realize that the frame hadn't always been empty, that it used to contain the standard sign issued by the State of North Carolina, stating that all food service employees must wash their hands after each and every trip to the bathroom. But now the sign was gone.

The job was thorough. The thief had taken the trouble to first take the sign out of the frame. Then the culprit very carefully replaced the cardboard backing into the frame, making sure to bend all the little metal tabs back so the backing would stay. Finally, our clever criminal hung the frame on the wall, knowing that as long as the frame was in place, the crime could go unnoticed for days.

We all marveled at our thief's brazen cunning, his deft ability, and also at his outright weirdness. I speculated that it might be an inside job and looked at all the males in the room with narrowed eyes. Harry, our head chef, jokingly admitted that he did it because he was tired of washing his hands. By pretending to confess, he smoothy shifted the suspicions away from himself. Tricky, that.

But then we decided that it was probably just someone who suffered from nostalgic kleptomania. A particularly odd form of nostalgic kleptomania. And the whole thing was so deliciously weird that I wanted to start doing it. I wanted to begin a collection of the hand washing signs. Maybe I'd even branch out to taking the "Stealing is a crime!" signs found in Wal-Mart bathroom stalls if I was feeling particularly ironic.

And I could showcase my collection in a 3-ring binder full of sheet protectors holding the souvenirs of all the bathrooms I'd been to, each one neatly described and dated, organized by location and time of theft. And it would all be so dazzingly, fascinatingly, beautifully weird.