all greek to me.

Imagine everyone that you ever hated in high school. Imagine anyone who ever made fun of you or made you feel bad about yourself or who ever dismissed you as though you were not even there. Imagine the people you despised but whose friend you still wanted to be. Imagine the people who somehow got a lucky break in terms of parentage and wealth and appearance and never let you forget that you didn't. Get a good picture of all those people in your mind.

Now imagine being in a room with them.

For the first time in my life, I went to a frat party. Josh's band was paid to play an afternoon social event at a hotel turned fraternity house, and I went, like the good, supportive girlfriend that I am, and then I spent the whole time wondering how on earth I had ended up there. The house was this beautiful historic hotel, an old lodge with hardwood floors and big brick fireplaces. I walked in carrying Josh's bass and wondered if it was the place where they shot "The Shining."

This was the rich frat. Greek societies are already known for their wealth, but this was the fraternity where all the brothers had the same last names as well-known companies. While the guys set up and tuned, I looked at the pictures of frat boys past. Rows upon rows of similar-looking, clean-cut white boys wearing matching suits, a few guys with long sideburns or chin-length hair thrown in to keep up the diversity. I noticed a pasty dork every once in a while and wondered if he had to pay extra fees, some sort of unattractive tax. Honestly - I wouldn't be all that surprised.

I looked at my afternoon before me, looming in its polo-shirted expanse, and I decided that I needed a beer. I suppose that's the good thing about being an outcast at a frat party - by definition, there's going to be booze. So I sat and drank my beer while the guys played and everyone else mingled. There were maybe 30 frat guys with a smattering of a dozen or so girls mixed in. Judging by the girls, it was strapless shade-of-red dress day, and I hadn't gotten the memo. I thought it was ratty used t-shirt and jeans with bleach-stain sneakers day. I must have gotten my days mixed up.

It was me and the band against everyone else, a giant game of "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other." See if you can pick us out - we're the ones with the holes in our clothes that were not there when we bought them. True, some of the girls were wearing clothes that were made to look old, as if those girls were trying to look like us, but no one was fooled.

I spent my time listening to the music, drinking my beer, and watching all the pretty people. I was free to do so, because no one spoke to me. I wasn't even a blip on the radar. I was glad, because I was afraid that if anyone were to talk to me, it would be some charitable girl who started the conversation with a kindly, "You know, you could be pretty if you tried."

Then I started wondering if I could be pretty if I tried. I looked at those girls and tried to figure out how they were all different, and yet all somehow the same, wondering if I could duplicate the sameness.

I could do it. Give me six weeks, and I could do it. I only need that long because I have to lose some weight and get a tan. So that means a membership at the tanning salon, and an eating disorder; I picked bulimia since at least I'd still get to eat. It doesn't take long to get an expensive haircut and a manicure, and I'm only a trip to the mall and a maxed-out credit card away from a new, socially-acceptable wardrobe. I'd also have to learn to apply makeup, but I figure with a patient teacher, I could master that, too. Then put me back here and see things change. See who talks to me now.

I think if I had the money and the patience, I would do it. I'd do it just to see if I am right, to see if I am treated differently. I am already instantly accepted in a certain kind of group because of the way I dress, but I want to see if I could get that same immediate acceptance in a group that ignores me now.

Most of those girls were not better-looking than I am. They were mostly regular girls straddling average but making up for it with maintenance. A couple were actually beautiful, and there was one homely one. I have reached a pleasant happy medium where I am mostly satisfied with the way I look without having to work on it too much. And at the end of the afternoon, it was me that the bassist looked over in my ratty t-shirt and bleach-stained sneakers and remarked, "You're hot."


all of the above.

You are a twenty-three-year-old, single computer programmer taking your ten-year-old niece out to lunch at Taco Bell after a morning of high-yield yard saling. She sits down with her food while you stand up next to the table, determining if you have enough napkins, silverware, and other eating accessories. Your niece shoots you in the chest with her straw paper. Do you:

A.) Sigh disapprovingly and look unamused without saying anything, thereby putting a tension in the air, which then causes the entire meal to be conducted in awkward silence. She will know her misdeed and not commit such silly acts anymore without you having to say a word.
B.) Start lecturing her about not acting like a child, at least not in public. Be sure to stress the importance of growing up and emphasize the advantages to increased responsibility so that you do not come off as too strict.
C.) Ignore her with the understanding that giving attention to such acts only increases their frequency.
D.) Smile at her and dismiss the incident, showing that you are an adult with more important things to worry about than lecturing her over an innocent prank, but that you have not forgotten your own carefree childhood. Kids will be kids.
E.) Shoot back.

Option E. Duh.

My straw paper hit her directly in the eye, and stuck in her glasses. I felt like the biggest failure as an adult ever, that I could not even take a ten-year-old to Taco Bell without directly causing her bodily harm. But Social Services didn't swarm upon me, and no one started giving me option B. We had a pleasant lunch talking about my job, the concept of compromise, and the difference between circus clowns and hippies, and she seemed to be without emotional or physical scarring. We left happy and full, a girl and her aunt, or a girl and her niece, depending on how you look at it.


jumping ship.

"Morning, Sandra. How was your long weekend - you took Friday off, right?"

"Yeah, I did. It was a good weekend. I hear there was a little drama while I was gone."


"Yeah, with Tim leaving."

"Oh, that. Yeah, that happened. Hey, uh, listen, do you kinda wonder about everyone leaving? I mean, it seems like someone's leaving the company every couple of months, and-"

"You wonder if you're missing something by not being unhappy here."


"I don't know. I've thought the same thing. Like, what's wrong with me. Clearly this isn't a good place to work because so many other people are jumping ship."


"I used to work at a restaurant that had a really high employee turnover. A lot of people lasted less than a month, some less than a week. And I kept wondering what I was missing that I didn't want to leave, too. I finally figured out that the place was just kind of a weird environment that took a particular type of person to appreciate working there. Turns out that I was that kind of person, and the other people who stuck it out were all fun, interesting, amazing people. By the time I had to leave, I realized how much I had loved working there."

"So I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

"Yeah. But I mean, I'm young and single, so I can pretty much leave whenever if I had to. But I dunno. I'm okay where I am right now."

"Maybe our expectations are too low."

"Maybe. Keeps us happy."

"Yup. I'll take it."


teaching the crooks to spell.

Phishing is quite a brilliant concept. It plays upon fear and idiocy, both of which humans in general seem to have quite a lot of. I've been getting several phishing emails a week now, and I have grown increasingly irritated about them. My email provider is competant enough to send them straight to the spam box, so their presence isn't really in my way. No, I am insulted at how obvious they are. It seems like you have to really be an idiot now to fall for these things. I could understand back when phishing was new and no one knew about it, then you could probably get away with some of the obvious mistakes. They might look a little odd or possibly make you wonder for half a second, but then you realize that your PayPal account is in jeopardy, so you forget that little nagging feeling and sign away your life. I even rather enjoy the little irony they present: you give away your personal information to criminals to protect your personal information from criminals. No, phishing irritates me because it is an insult to my intelligence.

There are all the obvious signs that the credit card companies will list on their websites. For one thing, if you click the link and it doesn't even go to the site it says it's going to, that's a big hint. Then there is fact that the real companies have sworn up and down to never ask for your information in that manner. You have to go to their real site and sign in with your user name and whatever. Fine, you follow those rules, you'll be safe. But there are other signs that make these emails reek of a scam.

The misspelled words really get to me. I guess you've all figured that out by now, as misspellings anywhere get on my nerves. If my credit card company can't spell, then I don't want them to be my credit card company. Who knows what else they're screwing up while they're ignoring their spell-check? I am always tempted to red ink those emails and send them back with a message like "not working up to your potential" scrawled on there somewhere. I feel like this is an obvious one, a sign that the phishers have gotten lazy. It's not like their job is all that hard anyway, so they really have no excuse for slacking off. I can pretty much tell instantly that an email from "Verifyed by Visa" is not legit.

There is also the fact that I repeatedly get these emails about accounts that I do not have. Oh, crap, my American Express account might be in danger. Wait - is this an email from the future, when I actually have an American Express account?

The thing is, people wouldn't do this scam if it didn't work. There are people who use the internet but still haven't bothered to educate themselves about protecting themselves there. There are people who can't recognize poor use of the English language. And there are people who who no longer even remember what accounts they do and don't have. I'm almost tempted to say that these people deserve to be cheated, but I won't go that far. Phishing is pretty rotten.

By the way, most companies (the legit ones) have a way for you to report phishing. If you go to the real website of the company, there's usually an email address where you can forward the phishy emails. I've found that doing this actually helps decrease the amount of spam I get, plus I get to feel like I'm doing something to help when I don't have time to write acidic and sarcastic replies to the bums. Everybody wins.


just a buck.

First off, a story:
I have a friend named Laura who can be a little ditzy. She's a smart girl and she's now a college graduate, working at broadening the minds of 11-year-olds in Asheboro. But yeah, she doesn't always think before she speaks. Once she and I were in a group of friends in high school, and someone told a story about the Dollar Store. I got a devilish gleam in my eye, and I asked, "Hey, Laura, how much does stuff cost at the Dollar Store?" Laura rolled her eyes indignantly at me, as if I were the biggest idiot ever and replied haughtily, "I don't know. I've never been there."

Herein lies the genius of the Dollar Store. They rely heavily on the idea that a dollar is not a lot of money. "It's only a dollar!" they say. You go in there, and you see something that you realize you will use eventually, say shampoo. You think, hey, I've heard of that brand, and it's only a dollar. So you buy some shampoo, not realizing that the same shampoo can be bought at Wal-Mart for maybe $0.85 or even the grocery store for $0.94. The Dollar Store is sneaky like that. Most people go into a place like Wal-Mart or a grocery store with specific needs. You buy shampoo at Wal-Mart when you are out of shampoo. And at that point, you need shampoo, so you don't consult the price. But you might walk up and down the aisles of a Dollar Store because it's a small place and because everything is only a dollar. So you see the shampoo, realize the price, and start stocking up on shampoo when you can get it cheaper elsewhere. It is brilliance.

That being said, I like the Dollar Store. I don't buy my shampoo there. If you've not been in a Dollar Store recently, you might be surprised at what you can find. For instance, I've heard tell that you can buy condoms there, though I've never seen them. I assume they come in 4-packs or something. Then, after you stock up on your dollar store condoms, you can also buy pregnancy tests there.

I like the Dollar Store because it's easy math. You can have your money all ready by the time you get to the counter. One night, I was waiting in line at the Dollar Store, and a mother was waiting behind me with her daughter. The mother was trying to explain that the daughter did not have enough money to buy the chewing gum in addition to the other three items she already had, because they had only $4.25 to pay for them; North Carolina has a 7% sales tax. The daughter was arguing with her mother, saying that she would wait and ask the cashier how much money they needed before she gave up her precious Juicy Fruit. I was annoyed at the daughter for doubting her mother and annoyed at the mother for passing up this valuable opportunity to teach her daughter how to calculate sales tax. Sure enough, the total was $4.28. I had three cents, so I offered it to them. I immediately regretted doing so, and wanted to add, "Unless you were trying to teach your daughter a lesson here, in which case, I do not have three cents." By that time, the cashier herself had offered the little girl three cents, so I was taken out of the transaction as just some nice stranger lady.

All this Dollar Store talk is the result of my recent photography hobby. I've had that beautiful and expensive digital camera for months now, but I'm finally getting around to developing some pictures. So now I have about 150 pictures, and I just want to litter my apartment walls with them and let them proclaim, "Lookit! I've made ART!" The Dollar Store has lots of frames, a fair percentage of them not tacky. They have these little frames just the right size and style for my pictures and taste, and they sell them in two-packs. Or at least, they did until I went to each of the five Dollar Tree Stores in the Winston-Salem area and bought them all. I also bought some photo albums. Photo display does not have to be an expensive habit. Except now I'm running out of wall space, so I suppose I'm going to have to go and buy some more walls. Maybe I should pick up some shampoo while I'm out.


lady grey.

I have found my first grey hair.

It should be noted that I have actually found many grey hairs in the past. I've found whole clusters of them. But those hairs were not on my head, and therefore not worthy of worrying or writing about. This grey hair was on my head, stealthily stuck in among all the innocent little brown hairs.

I am twenty-three years old and more than a little traumatized.

The worst thing about this grey hair, besides the fact that it is on my head and not someone else's, is the fact that it is long. My hair is fairly long, almost long enough for me to go around topless without really showing anything - not that I measure my hair in terms of how much of my breasts it covers up. I've got some layers in there, plus some semi-bangs around my face, so I've got a wide variety of lengths. This little grey hair was one of the longest hairs in the bunch. That means it has been there, being all grey for a long time. That means that I really had my first grey hair when I was maybe twenty-one.

I did not pluck it out. It was so awfully long and strong-looking that I couldn't bear to just rip it out. Now I can't find it anymore, though, because I have a lot of brown hairs. It's no surprise that since its existence eluded me for two years, it's able to hide again amongst the hairs that look like they belong on the head of a twenty-three-year-old. Or maybe all the nice brown hairs found it and forcefully threw it out, crying, "She's too young and vibrant! Go away, you hideous and premature sign of aging!"

I called my mother, expecting sympathy. No, she laughed and said, "You know, your Aunt Rita was completely white-headed by the time she was twenty-nine."

I think that is the meanest thing anyone's ever said to me.

And now I fully expect to be like poor Aunt Rita. I've got these mental images of myself at my wedding, my hair blending in with my dress - I won't even need a veil if I just wear my bangs long and in my face. Pretty soon after that, my hair will thin out and I'll have to get one of those old lady perms and I'll never get to go around topless. I'll go around with my kids and people will think I'm their great-great-grandmother. That's all assuming I even get married, since now I'll have to find someone who will want to marry me based on my personality.

I've never really been all that impressed with my natural hair color. It is brown. Like my eye color and like my blood-type, I've managed to be saddled with the kind that most everyone else has. Brunettes reportedly don't have as much fun nor are we seen as fiesty, though we do have the small consolation of winning all the blond jokes. My hair has some nice highlights in the sun, but nothing that can't be beat by highlights in a bottle. But now I think that it is surely the most beautiful color that ever graced a head. I beg of my hair to stay brown, it can even get mousier if it wants, just as long as it doesn't look like the mice that are bred solely to be fed to large reptiles.



In my wine science class, we do the experiments that everybody wanted to do in high school chemistry, but there was no time because you had to learn all those chicken wire drawings. Last week, we were doing the whole series of tests on a freshly mixed batch of white wine. I was in the group measuring total acidity, and it was my turn. Basically, you drip drip drip one chemical into some wine mixed with another chemical, and when the wine turns pink, then you stop and measure how much of the first chemical it took to turn the wine pink. Then that measurement tells you how acidic the wine is. Or something like that.

The drip drip drip part takes a little dexterity, because you have to drip drip drip the chemical and swirl swirl swirl this little flask of wine at the same time. I kind of enjoy doing these, except my constant fear is that I will drip drip drip too much, and then rather than having a lovely and delicate shade of pale pink, I will have a bright and garish shade of hot pink. And then I'll have to do it over again. I suppose if the wine industry the world over decided to go for the hot pink, we could just change the standard, but luckily the wine industry, even the wine science industry, is more fashionable than that.

Anyway, I do enjoy these basic experiments. They are simple, yet neat. Dr. Bob meanders around the lab, watching us, critiquing our technique ("Embrace the buret!"), and delightedly exclaiming, "Science!" I always want to start singing that Thomas Dolby song from the 80s when he makes this last exclamation, but refrain.

Wednesday night, I was preparing to do the titration (the technical term for drip drip drip), with Daisy in her green flowered glasses watching closely at my elbow. Daisy is short, with long greying hair. She is enthusiastic about her classes, always bringing in extra information that she found on the web. Daisy is also a hippie; I think she plans on naming her vineyard after the band Little Feat. As I was getting ready to embrace the buret, Daisy said, "When you get ready to do this, I'll sing you a song." And she did.

In Heaven, there is no beer.
That's why we drink it down here.
And when we're gone from here,
all our friends will be drinking all our beer.

In Heaven, there are no smokes.
That's why we'll take another toke.
And when we all have croaked,
all our friends will be taking all our smokes.

She clapped her hands and marched her feet to her titration song. I was giggling so much that by the time she started the second verse, I almost overshot and missed the delicate shade of pale pink. Then I would have had to do it all over again. I wondered if this was how all those important research chemists at universities all over the world did their experiments.



bitter cuttings.

I just realized that it's been about a year and a half, and I am still angry about the cutting board.

I had this great little cutting board, see, about yay long and half-a-yay wide. Small enough to stash somewhere and be unobtrusive, small enough to whip out when you only needed to cut a tomato. It was the single girl's cutting board, and I liked it a lot. It was real wood, and I found it at a yard sale for a quarter at a time when I just happened to be looking for a nice little cutting board. It's so rare that the yard sales give you what you're looking for. More often, they give you what you never knew you needed.

When I moved out of the commune, I took my marvelous little cutting board to my new place. I received a friendly call from one of my ex-roommates a couple of weeks later. I think we talked about something else, and the subject of the cutting board was really more of an "oh, by the way..." thing. She told me that I had her cutting board.

Um, no. I didn't.

Sure I did, she said. Remember? It's little and brown and has that great little handle, so convenient. I must have accidentally packed her cutting board with my things.

Um, no. I packed my cutting board with my things.

She insisted that it was hers. She even told me this elaborate story about how she got it from her dad when he remarried and combined households. I thought that story was a dirty trick, saying that the cutting board had come to her as a result of a situation that had caused her not more than a little emotional strife. This is why you should never get divorced: someone is going to get screwed out of a cutting board someday.

I argued with her a little. I was just about to point out the small rectangular mark left by the price tag from where I had bought it for a quarter at the yard sale. The scar of the price tag was my proof and my downfall. As soon as I thought about playing my trump card, I realized that it was just a stupid quarter and that I should get over it.

Sometimes I go out of my way to be the bigger person, just to teach myself a lesson. The cutting board incident was one of those times. But because I had not really learned the lesson, I delivered the cutting board by leaving it on her doorstep one day when I knew she wasn't going to be home. There's only so much injury I can take.

I saw her a couple of weeks later, and to my chagrin, she brought up a conversation about the cutting board, thanking me for dropping it by. I remarked at what a great little cutting board it was, and she emphatically agreed. "And," she added, "that's why I was so pissed off when my roommate left it in the wet sink under some dishes and it got all warped. I had to throw it out!"

Go ahead. I dare you to let that happen to you, and you try and not be a little bitter about it over a year later. It can't be done.


spared rod soup.

Some more waitress stories today.

Don't change in your car, or someone might get hurt.
The employee parking lot at Vintner's was behind the building, and the kitchen had two windows overlooking the gravel lot. One mid-morning, a waitress was coming in to work. She changed into her work clothes in the car right underneath one of the kitchen windows. On the other side of that window was one of the lunch cooks, cutting vegetables to prep for lunch. He became so distracted by the sight of that waitress changing that he cut his finger and had to be taken to the hospital for stitches. I don't know that the girl ever knew.

Something to cover up the soup spoons
My boss, Joe, was in constant fear of waste and/or theft. He would lock up the supply cabinet of various items that he felt were being used wastefully so that when we needed more, we would have to ask him personally. The list of items that were locked up grew as time went on and included: soup spoons, lemons, ketchup bottles, dessert syrups. The soup spoons were a particular peeve of his, since he was convinced the wait staff was stealing his silver. At one point, I used the last of a dessert syrup bottle, so I had to go ask Joe for another. He began griping and fussing as usual about how we and all of our generation were wasteful and how we were driving him out of business. He said he bet that I had two or three bottles of the syrup in my car. I smiled and said, "Well, yes, but I have to have something to cover up all the soup spoons." It's a good thing he liked me.

Spared Rod Soup
Everybody hated waiting on kids. One guy got fired for full-out refusing to wait on families with children. There were exceptions, but by and large, rich, snobby people who vacationed in Blowing Rock did not have the most well-behaved children. Plus, kids make a mess, they're loud, and they often have special requests. I had this table of a family of four once around the holidays. Two parents with two little boys around the age of seven and nine, i.e. old enough to know better. They were the first table of the day and they were sitting in the sunroom, where our Christmas tree was. The kids were running around the sunroom, pulling ornaments off the tree (I swear, I heard one of them ask their mother if they could take the ornaments with them). At one point, the kids went to the bathroom, taking unattended detours all over the restaurant. The parents had a marvelous time, sitting and drinking alcoholic coffee drinks and blithely ignoring their children. I suggested to my friend that he should go into the sunroom and say aloud "Spare the rod and spoil the child" and then just walk out. Then, my friend dared me to tell them that the soup du jour was "Spared Rod Soup." The thought of that was enough to get me through the rest of the day.