keep stomping.

My downstairs neighbor, Zoe, has been AWOL the past couple of weeks. Well, she's probably not really lost, but since I don't know where she is and I haven't asked, that gives me the right to make up interesting explanations for where she is. Maybe she's joined the circus, or maybe she's on a secret spy mission. Maybe she is on tour with a Journey revival band.


Anyway, while she's been gone, her boyfriend has been house-sitting. I didn't realize he was even there until I came in one night last week to find my kitchen appliances vibrating. Stupid rap music with its ridiculous bass beats. A less uptight person might have made the best of the situation and pulled out my turntables and played along. Not me. I stomped downstairs to bang on the door. Of course he didn't hear me. The music was too loud. I love a good slap of irony in the face.

It was ludicrous. I don't care if the guy listens to loud music, but it should not make the house shake. I'm not even sure how he can stand it (and I'm refering solely to the volume issue; how he stands the music is a whole other question).

I went back upstairs and stomped around the kitchen, hoping he would get the hint. After a few minutes, he cut the music off and left, slamming the door as he went. Not that the story is over.

Today he was back, and the music either wasn't quite as loud, or the bass just wasn't as prominent. It started out with a soulful female solo, and I looked up from my computer, startled. It sounded like it was actually coming from my kitchen, and I half expected to see the angel of the Lord standing there. The music was better today, but still much too loud. So I stomped around the kitchen and thought mean thoughts about both the guy downstairs and his taste in music until he finally went away again.

I in no way imagine that this is over. But it's close enough for me to not do anything. I'm moving within the next couple of weeks, and my passive aggressive personality does not need much excuse to avoid confrontation. So all I can do is keep stomping. That, and hope he at least starts listening to better music.


apartment 1.

My mother loves wind chimes. When in doubt around her birthday, spring for wind chimes. I like them okay, maybe because they remind me of her.

I do own one set. They hang above my couch in the living room, which despite its proximity to the ceiling fan, is not a very windy spot. But the awful irony of wind chimes is that when you actually put them out in the wind, they tend to tear up and get battered and broken. Perhaps this is a marketing trick the wind chime companies came up with. My mom had one on the front porch with little porcelain doves. The noise it made was very pretty, but I tried not to look at all those headless and tailless birds very often.

My set is made of bamboo stalks, and they make a lovely noise as well, though I have to physically reach out and touch them to create that lovely noise. I bought them not long after I moved into this place as an audio reminder, not of my mother, but of 216 Howard Street, Apartment 1.

Apartment 1 was, appropriately enough, my first apartment. I lived there with two other girls, and then later with two girls and a husband, not mine. And in the kitchen of Apartment 1, which was painted yellow by me, there hung a bamboo wind chime from one of the pipes that came out of the ceiling. And even though the kitchen was not a very drafty place, I heard those chimes all the time.

The chimes hung down next to the light switch. Pavlov's dog drooled when he heard a bell, but me, I turn on the light when I hear a bamboo wind chime.

You heard it in the mornings when Ashley went in to make coffee. You heard it in the afternoons when I came in from class to make lunch. And you heard it at night when Krystal came in from going out to party. No matter when you heard it, you almays always heard the same tune, the same sequence of hollow notes, because we always hit them in the same way as our hands made for the lights.

I think we meant to move them. We just hung them there when we moved into Apartment 1 to get them out of the way. And then we didn't move them until two years later we we all left Apartment 1. We even had another set of metal chimes shaped like elephants that hung outside from the porch. And I don't remember what they sound like at all, not even the tone of notes that those elephants made in the wind. But I do remember the exact bong-da-long bong-bong of those bamboo chimes in the kitchen of Apartment 1 announcing that someone was home and the lights were on.

When I hit my own bamboo chimes hanging above the couch, they don't play the same bong-da-long bong-bong song the ones in Apartment 1 did. But I hear it in my head just the same. And I turn on the light.



Okay. So I know that I haven't worked at The Bistro in over three weeks, but I was still invited to the Christmas Party, mostly because I still did work there when we drew names for Secret Santa. And I had every intention of going, even as I put in my notice, even as I worked my last day, even as the party drew closer and closer and I wanted less and less to go. I was determined to go to the stupid party, if nothing else than just to prove everyone wrong. They clearly thought I was not coming, all because of the Pig-Pickin' incident.

There was another employee holiday party at Halloween. I was expected to attend. I said I would attend, and I was signed up to bring brownies. The thing is, Halloween is the day after my birthday. When I said I would be at the pig-pickin', I obviously intended to drink more water and less alcohol the night before than I actually did. So on Halloween, I was very very sick. Hungover sick that I did to myself, but sick enough that I couldn't go to any stupid pig-pickin' where vomiting would not be encouraged. I called and told them I was sick. I even admitted the reason, thinking that since I worked with a bunch of partiers, they would understand. Not only did they not understand, they didn't even believe my excuse. (Apparently, when you drink frequently, you handle hangovers better or something. I have no idea.)

So it was clear that there was some doubt as to whether I would make it to the Christmas party, which was last night. But I was going to go. I had cookies and I had my Secret Santa gift. I was going to go to this stupid party. I only became even more determined when I received a message on my answering machine reminding me of the party this past weekend.

I spent the day down the mountain with my sister-in-law baking cookies for this party yesterday. Around the time that I needed to leave, the weather started getting iffy. I left for the party anyway, because that's just how stubborn I am. But I called my apartment to check my messages, just to see if the party had been changed because of the weather. Sure enough, I had a message from my old boss, saying the party had been moved to "tomorrow at five-thirty". Since I was hearing the message on Sunday, I assumed that meant the party was now on Monday. You can see where I am going here.

I get back to my apartment a few minutes ago and there is a new message. It is from one of my former coworkers, basically telling me off for not showing up, not calling, and not dropping off my Secret Santa gift. As the result of my inconsiderate actions, someone didn't have a gift under the tree. (Apparently, this sort of inconsiderate action ran rampant last night, as I also did not have a gift under the tree.) The message I heard Sunday night was left on Saturday night. Now I have a batch of cookies and a present for someone else and a restaurant full of people mad at me.

I'm going to go in tonight and apologize. I'm going to give the present I bought and I'm going to share the cookies I helped make. I'm going to tell them what happened. I will not expect to be believed. I will expect to be talked about in disparaging tones once I leave. That is what I am going to do.

What I am going to try to do is not let this bug me. There was a misunderstanding, and I'm going to do the most I can do to make it right. But if I am not forgiven, I will say "Screw it" and get on with my life.

Then I will eat all of the rest of the cookies all by myself in one sitting.



Forgive the computer science joke in the title. It's okay if you don't get it. Laugh, it's funny.

After months of feeling dejected and rejected, worrying about my future, and sending out my resume to companies all over the South, I have a job. Don't worry, it's official. I signed a paper that said that I accept the offer of employment and that I will not work for any other trucking-related software companies.

I'm going to have a job with benefits. I'm going to have medical and dental coverage, paid vacation and a 401k. Nevermind that I had to look up exactly what a 401k is on the Fidelity Financial site. Now that I know, I am very excited about planning for my retirement in 40 years. I will not have to work on Thanksgiving or the day after. In fact, I will be paid to not work on either of those days, plus another seven holidays every year.

I'm going to have a salary. I'm not going to live off the generosity and tipping know-how of strangers. I don't have to ask anyone how they want their filet cooked, and I won't care if someone's coffee cup is full or not.

I'm going to work somewhere where I will not be the biggest dork. I will make computer jokes, and people will understand them. Moreover, they will laugh, because I will be the only female employee under the age of 35.

I'm going to live in the (comparatively) big city. I'm going to live in a town where they have a Best Buy, a Total Wine & More, and a mall that does not sell furniture. I will live close enough to a Sam's Club to merit getting a membership. I'm going to be able to give directions based on the interstate.

I'm going to live somewhere where there are about 185,776 other people living (based on 2000 census reports), and I will know two of them. I will live two hours from family and an hour and a half from where I've lived for the past nearly four years.

I'm not going to be a student anymore. I'm going to be something other than what I've been for seventeen years now. I'm going to start a brand new career in a brand new place, and I may hate every bit of it.

I'm terrified. I'm excited. I'm ready.


i (heart) math.

Alright, okay, I admit it. It was bound to come out eventually anyway, so I might as well tell the world before the world finds out from someone else. I am not ashamed of it. I am proud of it.

I like math, and I am good at it.

Let me define good at it. I do not mean that I can do crazy Rain Man arithmetic in my head. I can do a little arithmetic in my head and get pretty close to the answer. But I'm slow, and there's a good chance I'll be wrong. I hate to break it to you, but in college math classes, they don't spend a lot of time teaching you extended multiplication tables. We use calculators for that.

A professor told me a story about when she was going to take her Comprehensive, which is a great big math test that graduate students take that makes the SAT math section look like a pop quiz. At the time, she was explaining to a non-math person that she had spent days upon days studying for this test. The person replied in all seriousness, "Wow, there must be some really tough fractions on that thing." Yeah, fractions. Not multi-dimensional calculus or abstract algebra or statistics, but just a bunch of really tough fractions.

Like I said, I can do some math in my head, mostly stuff I've picked up from waitressing and not my math classes. Trust me, I got really good at calculating 10%, 15%, and 20% of a check total pretty quick. I've waited tables for two years now. That's a lot of percentages.

Math is not embraced at The Bistro. They see it as just another of my weird quirks, along with the novelty earrings, the bowling shoes, and the sarcasm. If possible, they disdain math and math nerds there. I was reading a biography of Paul Erdos (who is second only to Euler in the number of math papers he published), and a fellow server said, "Please tell me you're not reading that for pleasure." When I said I was, everyone else joined in the eye-rolling and laughing, except for one of the kitchen guys, who leaned in and whispered, "Can I borrow it when you're done?" He's a math major. My coworkers were not impressed with my pi earrings, either. Seems like there was some eye-rolling the first day I wore those, too.

They can scorn all they want. I scorn the fact that a group of seasoned servers can't tell the difference between a good tip and a bad tip. One girl was griping about a tip before I looked at it and told her it was nearly 20% of the check total. Most of them will go back behind the bar and pull out a calculator so they can decide whether or not to be pissed off about a tip. Did I mention that most of these people are about to graduate from college and that they all have at least two years experience waiting tables?

Once I was working the bar and was cashing out a check. The customer gave me $48.18 for a $40.18 check, and the change was the tip. I brought up the check and just hit cash rather than enter 48.18 and then cash to see the change. I knew the change. The owner came over and actually fussed at me. Then she asked, "Do you do that all the time?" I answered, "Only when the change is easy to figure out." Again the eye-rolling. I could understand if I had been doing something like $53.72 - $38.91 in my head, she would be justifiably concerned that my internal calculator would be unreliable. Subtraction isn't even my forte, particularly when borrowing and canceling are involved. But $48.18 - $40.18? Please.

The people I worked with were the ones who asked "When are we ever going to use this?" when they learned multiplication. You know what? You use it. I've been in classes where that question was asked and the teacher said, "Probably never." I know perfectly well that I will never ever use Laplace Transforms (differential equations), eigenvalues (linear algebra), and Jacobian matrices (calc 3) again. I can do them all, and I happen to think that Laplace Transforms are pretty neat, but I know I'll never use it. But I sure as heck use multiplication. Everyone does. I don't expect everyone to be good at it. But I expect some things. I expect people not to need machines to do the same calculations their job requires every day. I expect waitresses with three to four years experience to be able to tell that on a $70 check, a $14 tip is great and $9 is crap. I don't expect to be treated like a freak because I can subtract nice round numbers.

But whatever. Depending on your stance on math, you're either nodding emphatically or still working out $48.18 - $40.18. Maybe you're still rolling your eyes over the fact that I own pi earrings, which, by the way, are really cool. But even my math-hating coworkers can tell that my new salary is a lot higher than theirs. Roll your eyes at that.


the bus windows are not tinted.

Yesterday, I was on the bus. Waiting, sitting, observing. Outside, a couple was walking toward the bus. She was cute and bubbly-looking, talking animatedly and walking with a little skip to her step. She clung to his arm as they walked. He, however, was striking in his solemn confidence. His posture was upright, his step was strong, his jaw was set. I couldn't imagine why these two were together. I figured he was humoring her for some reason. Why else would they be together, he in his stolid silence with his gliding gait, she with her breathless enthusiasm?

And then, all of sudden, he did this ridiculous hop-skip for several steps, his hands thrown up in the air, his mouth open and smiling. I couldn't help but smile broadly as I watched this transformation.

It was then that both the girl and I realized simultaneously that the bus windows were not tinted. I saw her laugh and point straight at me, clearly telling him that I was laughing at him. He smiled broadly and waved at me; they both laughed. I smiled back. The bus pulled away from the stop, the couple kept walking, and it was all over only a few seconds after it had all began.