Sunday, December 23, 2007

Me and Mean Maxine

Written Saturday, December 22, at 10:55 a.m.

As I write, I am sitting smooshed on the train home. I am sitting adjacent to the most unpleasant woman ever. Really. An oversold train is no place to start in with moral indignation, which is exactly what she did when I attempted to move her paired pink luggage to make room for my one little bag.

I want to give this woman a name. I think she could be a Maxine. She is certainly sassy enough, although not in the good way. Mean Maxine.

“No! Don’t move my bag! What did you do? Why aren’t they together anymore? It’s going to fall! Put my bags back together! That will be easier when I get off! Why won’t this fit anymore? Did you put something there? People can’t just shove other people’s things!”

As usual, being the amateur sociologist that I am, I have a few observations:

1. I should mention that the guy behind me attempted to help me put my bag on the luggage rack. While this endeared him to me pretty much forever, it wasn’t really that necessary because I am badass enough to mangle other people’s packing arrangements on my own. My lady friend Maxine, however, did not seem to realize that I was the architect and primary executor of the evil scheme to heave her belongings into disarray. She therefore directed her anger at the guy trying to help. Because, you know, I’m just a girl.

I bet some poor conductor had to put her bags up there for her. I bet she stood there and told him he was doing it wrong.

2. Maxine was never a student of physics. Or, if she was, she was not a particularly successful student of physics. Concepts Maxine fails to grasp include the following:
a. Inertia. Maxine’s bag was not moving—I mean, at least not once I stopped sullying its pink perfection. It was not going to fall. Unless I decided to make it fall, of course, which at this point I was liable to do.
b. Center of gravity. Barring the possibility that Maxine had lined the bottom three inches of her bag with lead, there was no way that the small amount of suitcase looming ominously over my head—you wouldn’t think anything so pink could be ominous, but Maxine made it so—could contain enough weight to send it careening down. But apparently this impending crash was a source of concern for Maxine.

3. Once I hid my crying enough to dare give Maxine a dirty look—yes, she made me cry, not because she hurt my feelings but because she enraged me so—I noticed her ensemble. It was pretty festive. The obvious festive pieces were the bright red sparkly sweater and the big ring with pink and red rhinestones, but as looked more closely as the embodiment of cruelty, I noticed her earrings. They were wreaths. I thought they were just woven gold circles, but upon further inspection, I saw the little red bows that topped each one.

For someone who is so festive, Maxine does not have very much Christmas spirit.

**Note: I have moved to a seat across the aisle. It is much less smooshed and far enough from Maxine that I don’t fear she will claw me to death for touching her suitcase. This seat also gives me a new vantage point from which to view the ensemble, and I can now see the pin on her red “I’m a lady who wears a hat” hat. The pin is a woman’s head. The woman is wearing a red hat. Who knew old-lady accessories could be so meta?

4. Maxine is the most important person in the universe. This is abundantly clear already, I know, but it got even better once she took her seat, aired her last few uppity grievances to no one in particular, and resumed her crossword puzzle. Out loud. She’s one of those people who exhales, “Aaaand six down…” It’s intolerable. But of course Maxine does this because she’s very important and interesting, and we should all know that she is deeply invested in finding the correct answer to six down. I worked on something to say about it—and it was going to be sassy, let me tell you—but I was too convinced that she would send me into a fit of furious tears again.


Update: I'm home now, and I have slept more than 4 hours, and I have decided that-- while I do not understand why Maxine felt compelled to freak out at me for shifting her luggage-- she is probably not an evil person. She even offered me her pen when I had to sign my ticket, indicating not only the presence of a soul but also the conclusion of her crossword puzzle commentary. It does not explain why she had to work all the bitchy out of her system at 10:45 in the morning, but that's okay.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lessons from Joe's Basement

Well. It's been an interesting couple of weeks. At some point in the past week or two I realized that it's finals time for those still fortunate enough to be blessed with blue books, and as noted previously I started thinking about college. I was in the middle of getting all nostalgic when I stopped for a moment and remembered that I haven't really cut the cord. Part of this is my own doing-- I live with a college friend, I see other college friends at least once a week and talk to them all day to Gchat (bless you, Gchat). Hell, there is a giant YALE banner hanging on a wall in our apartment. The only physical thing that even vaguely suggests that something is different is my degree, which also happens to be hanging on a wall in our apartment, but that's really just a piece of paper.

To be honest, I was starting to feel a little guilty about all this stuff. Here I am, purporting to be a grown-up, when really I do all the stuff I did for four years. It's just that now I put on grown-up clothes and go to an office Monday through Friday. I still do my laundry from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Tuesdays. I still go to the gym to avoid other necessary tasks-- before it was reading; now it's grocery shopping. I have not ironed since I started my job. Seriously. Before I just avoided the wrinkly shirts. Now I wear them under sweaters. I actually think I ironed more in college.

I also selected the perfect job for my M.O. of being in college for the foreseeable future. We're all the same age, the majority of us still think we can drink as hard as we did in college, and many of us routinely try. This is how our department outing turned into The Night of 28 Bottles of Wine and inspired haiku (yes, just as in college I am still a huge nerd and enthusiastically participate in haiku contests) such as the following, composed as I groggily waited for the Metro the next morning:

Department outing!
So much wine in Joe's Basement...
I don't feel so good.

I mean, when you and your boss start singing the Mory's song [notorious Old Yale drinking song] in a restaurant that is not Mory's [notorious Old Yale drinking establishment], and his boss challenges two other people to a wine chugging contest... it's hard not to think that you're still in a basement on York Street passing around 4-liter jugs of Carlo.

On the other hand, I try. I realize how much I am a work in progress, and I really aspire to become one of those productive, upstanding citizens you're supposed to aspire to be. I go to museums, I bake too much for anyone's good, I go to concerts, I read again. The reading has been a really big deal-- I missed reading for pleasure all through college and I've always harbored anxiety that I'm not especially well-read. So I decided that this is an area for development, and isn't a desire self-improvement a sign of maturity? Or something?

My book selection has been a little haphazard, and my plan to alternate recent work with classics was thrown off course when I lost my copy of Love in the Time of Cholera-- which I inevitably accidentally found tonight. It was on my bookshelf. You might think that this is the stupidest thing you've ever heard, but consider for a moment-- why would I put it on the shelf when I was in the middle of reading it? See, I don't know either.

So Marquez is on siesta until I finish one of New York Times's 100 Notable Books of 2007-- Throw Like a Girl: Stories, by Jean Thompson. The characters are all smart women and girls, several with a wicked steak-- I wonder why it appealed to me. Hmm. Unfortunately their common bond is their links to loser men and boys, so maybe not the best message to send to myself. But I remain optimistic for a Bridget Jones moment--not necessarily the kind of moment when the sassy and deserving heroine ends up with Mark Darcy, but at least the kind of moment when she choses vodka and Chaka Khan.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Language Barrier

I can't believe it has been a week since the last time I wrote. It has been an interesting week. Son of Pie was a huge success, but more about that in the next few days-- honest, I have a whole post planned in my mind, but the execution was just a little too much for me tonight. Blame it on real-people tasks, which happened to include the gym AND Subterranean Safeway AND laundry. It was a big night; usually it's all I can do to shower after the gym. The irony is that this amazing hypothetical post is all about how I'm pretty much still a college student who plays dress-up and goes to an office during the day.

Anyway, as I said, that is a post for another day. And, as per me, I had a bizarre encounter tonight so it's not that I'm struggling for material.

I went straight from the gym to Subterranean Safeway. It was around 9:00 p.m. I was wearing a sweatshirt, gym shorts, and a layer of grossness from the gym-- and I wasn't cold, which is just messed up. I'll admit, after nearly wiping out on ice multiple times last week, I am kind of enjoying the temperate weather, but then I remember that we're halfway through Advent and I freak out a little.

That was a digression, but the following is an important sidebar. I mentioned a sweatshirt. It is one of my many, many articles of Davenport clothing. The back of this particular sweatshirt proclaims-- in a salute to our diminutive mascot-- "gnome is where the heart is." Cute, right? I love it. Bear this slogan in mind.

I ran up the hill to my supermarket of choice, grabbed a cart, and pillaged the produce section. But I'm me, and apparently the job description for being Kate includes "must attract the crazies in the supermarket." A slim, relatively short, older man approached me as I picked apples, and said with a slight accent, "What does the 'g' stand for?"

Whaaaat? Where did this guy come from? Seriously, he kind of sneaked up on me. I looked at him with a look of pure, unadulterated confusion.

"Is it for genome?" he continued, "like human genome? G-nome?"

Oh no. Am I supposed to do the English as a second language explanation of 'gnome'?

"Uh, no... it's for--" I point to the small gnome who is emblazoned, pointy hat and all, on the front of the sweatshirt. He still seemed intrigued. I think to myself, "There is no good way to say this that allows me to finish my shopping before the store closes at 10."

"--little people. It's like little people."

I think he was pretty disappointed that it wasn't a human genome joke.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Revenge of the Pie

It's about 1:30 a.m. and I am still awake, waiting for my amazing apple pie to come out of the oven. People in my office have been on a collective baking binge recently, and I am joining in with this particular confection to avenge a previous foray into the world of baked goods.

Sometime in October, when we all thought the fall weather might finally descend upon D.C., several of us planned a fall festival for our department, complete with scarves, pie, Schnapps hot chocolate, and pumpkin beer. I love to bake, so I offered to make what I consider to be the greatest apple pie in the history of... well, of pies. My mom has been making it for years, and we are pretty sure that it could kill a man-- really, the amount of butter in the topping shall remain nameless to protect the LDL-impaired. But what it lacks in fat-freedom it makes up for in apply goodness-- eight apples of goodness, to be precise.

Needless to say, I was very excited about this pie. I baked it the night before; the apartment smelled amazing. I left for work early, hoping that I would be able to get a seat on the Metro-- because, seriously, what could be worse than dropping my pie on the Metro?

I walked carefully down the hall, down the elevator, out the front door of the building. At which point I realized it was raining. Grr. But no big deal, right?

I stood in front of the building, under the awning, balancing the best pie ever on one palm and digging through my bag for my umbrella with my free hand. I located the umbrella and began to open it.

"Hmm," I thought, "maybe I should set down the--"

It was one of those moments when you float out of your body and time slows down.

"AAAUGHUUUH!" I didn't really scream so much as this strangled yelping sound escaped from me. I like to think my choked cry was drowned out by the slurp of pie flopping onto the sidewalk-- concurrent with a single crunch of glass, of course. Because I had just a little too much hubris to get the pre-made pie crust in the little aluminum pie plate. Nah, who needs that?

Apparently, a spaz like me.

I debated my options-- run away and get on the train, run to Safeway and bake a new pie (I would probably only be about two hours late to work-- I really thought about this), clean up the mess (damn nagging conscience), sit down in my mess and cry (a strong contender, but not the winner). And of course, some attractive guy walked out and saw me staring transfixed by the pile of apples, brown sugar, and glass on the sidewalk-- really, it was the topping on the pie, as it were.

That was the end of the pie. I didn't even get to taste it-- again, a bad option that received a lot of consideration, but finally my taste for apples and cinnamon was bested by my distaste for Pyrex shards and emergency room visits. The fall festival was still a smashing (ha) success, complete with a moment of silence for my fallen pie.

There was a silver lining, though. I got home from work that day with an urge to write about my fruit-filled failure and though, "Hmm, if I had a blog, I could write about this." So it's only appropriate that as Long Island Sound approaches its 1-month birthday celebration this Saturday I avenge the pie that contributed to its inception.

Let's just hope that Son of Pie's life is a little longer and ends in dismemberment rather than a fatal fall.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Trivia Night Triumph, Thanks to Lance Armstrong

After a fun but lackluster first trivia night out of The Have a few weeks ago, tonight marked my return to Fado. This time forty percent of the old all-star team was present, and Laura and I were determined to win big. We recruited a solid group, convened with our answer booklet and our shiny blue but woefully dull pencil...

...and the pillaging began. Seriously, I have never gotten owned by a game of trivia the way we got owned tonight. And there wasn't even a music round! Do you know who Mariska Hartigay's mother is? Because we sure didn't. We didn't completely fail-- again, we ended up in the middle of the pack-- but it was not our finest hour and, in fact, it made us want to find trivia that's slightly less grueling.

But there was a silver lining to the evening-- in addition to returning to my trivia and Newcastle ways with one of my favorite old trivia friends and several new ones. A big part of the joy of trivia is amusing yourself and those around you. This aspect of the game can be manifest in absurd answers when you have no chance of guessing correctly. It can also be realized in the selection of a team name. To acknowledge the importance of hilarity, the organizers of this trivia night give an award for the best team name each week. And guess who won tonight!!!

Yes, it's true. We considered ragging on Mike Huckabee, taking a swipe at Larry Craig, formulating a joke about Iran's lack of a nuclear weapons program, and saying anything true about Kevin Federline and letting it speak for itself. But finally we chose a name that encompassed a variety of topics from sports to television and movie stardom to... well, to just dumb-dom. At the suggestion of Laura and with refinement from Andrea and me, we synthesized the best team name of the week:

Lance Armstrong trades in his Schwinn to ride an Olsen twin.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kate Discovers the Power of Plaid

Long ago and far away, during my time with Mother Yale, one of my favorite events of the year was Sigma Nu's "Champagne and Schoolgirls" party-- by which I clearly mean I went once and stayed for 10 minutes, none of my clothing was short or plaid or tied under my boobs, and we called them Sketchy Nu for a reason. I mean, really.

As it turns out, those uncomfortable minutes in a house on High Street were, in fact, teachable moments. Because, as I determined tonight through an informal experiment, the guys love the plaid.

PROBLEM: Will my outfit attract guys--in particular guys I might deem date-able? And by "date-able" I basically mean "not complete social miscreants." Bonus points if they're literate.

HYPOTHESIS: The combination of a short skirt and boots is attractive; guys will respond accordingly.

girl (me)
skirt-- very cute (like, OMG, it's so totally cute), plaid miniskirt from Gap-- short but not raising-extra-money-by-working-nights short
boots-- black
test subjects-- males
alcohol-- everywhere, including the bloodstreams of girl (me) and males.

1. Go to Adams Morgan. Do not pass Metro Center. Do not collect a good night's sleep after watching The Departed again. Go directly to Adams Morgan.
2. Do a lap up and down 18th Street. Yes, I missed the bar on the first try-- either because the sign is poorly lighted or because I was walking briskly to plow through the crowd of test subjects outside of Tom Tom (see OBSERVATIONS AND DISCUSSION).
a. Note reactions of test subjects encountered.
3. Enter bar; begin drinking; observe.
4. Leave bar; move to new bar via 18th Street; observe.
5. Repeat Steps 3-4 as many times as necessary to accumulate statistically significant number of observations.
6. Depart Adams Morgan; ride Metro to home.

Guys love a girl in a plaid skirt and boots to a degree I did not anticipate. Seriously. The following list details actual comments made to/about me during the course of the night--in Adams Morgan and on the Metro:

~ "Hey, girl! You from Scotland?" [Seriously. Five distinct times. I kid you not.]

~ [As I send a text message to locate my friend] "You texting me, baby?"

~"Hey schoolgirl!" [I lost count.]

~ "Nice skirt." [This was from the bouncer at Nolan's.]

~ [I am clomping furiously down the Woodley Park Metro escalator to make a train. Two guys are standing-- one in my path-- drinking from bottles of Bud.]
GUY IN MY WAY: That is one serious walk you got going there.
ME: Yeah, well, you know. Good job with those bottles.
GUYS: Thanks. Good job with that skirt.

~[GUY and GIRL are exiting red line train at Metro Center, as am I.]
GIRL: So wait, which way do we go?
GUY: I don't know. I'm just following the schoolgirl. [Yes, I'm sure he was referring to me.]

~ [Cute, non-sketchy guy (who is apparently going to visit his girlfriend in McPherson-- boo) and I are discussing our apartment complex-- he lives two building over; go figure. Additional, seemingly non-sketchy, attractive firefighter guy joins conversation, has been considering a condo in our complex, asks us pros and cons.]
FIREFIGHTER GUY: Yeah, well, it must be nice. There sure aren't girls walking around in skirts like that where I live now.

And finally, FIREFIGHTER GUY for the win:
"Can I tell you something? I mean, I'm going to tell you either way. Anyway, that combination of a plaid skirt and boots just does something to guys. I mean, I can't speak for anybody but myself... but I'm willing to say it's the same for a LOT of guys."

Guys-- even guys who seem nice enough and are not at all aggressive or threatening-- are pretty skeezy about this whole plaid skirt thing.

I mean, seriously. "Baby One More Time" was a great song and all (yes, I just said that, and I even kind of mean it-- sorry), but this is not just about Britney back when she was young and spry. This is about some kind of fetishization of the schoolgirl image, and there is plenty that is disturbing about that. I mean, besides that fact that women pay upwards of $50 each October for a $5 plaid skirt and a flimsy white button-down they buy in a bag at VIP because they think it's a cute Halloween costume.

What does it even mean-- the "schoolgirl"? Is it just someone young? Is it someone innocent for a guy to corrupt or debauch? Is it even more nuanced and sinister than that-- she is someone naïve and vulnerable, of whom guys want to take advantage?

That's one thing. The other thing is that I was completely taken aback by the number of guys who cat-called me. If you're going to be like Firefighter Guy and tell me to my face that you think my skirt and boots are hot, fine. Not gonna lie, it was a little awkward, but it was really flattering, and it took some cojones to say that to me-- on the Metro no less, which is notoriously awkward (although everyone trying to catch the last train to Virginia on a Friday or Saturday is pretty friendly). But anonymous cat-calls from people in cabs and lascivious looks from people you pass on the sidewalk are at the very least annoyances, and at their worst these incidences can make women feel threatened and cheap. And tonight I blew by those people with a look of "Oh please," but a person with less of a head on her shoulders or a little more time on her hands might have kneed one of those guys in the aforementioned cojones and gotten herself into some trouble.

(All that said, I totally want to run a control experiment with an equally short skirt that isn't plaid. I mean, it's for science.)

That's it. I am a feminist but not an angry one. I am also a realist-- I want to be judged for my mind, but I know we all judge based on appearances too. And I that's fine-- I am quite secure in the knowledge that I am smart, but every now and again it's nice to have some guy suggest that my mind isn't all that interests him. I don't go to the gym only for my health; I go so my legs look good sticking out of my short skirts and tall boots. What I don't want are guys yelling at me from cabs, insinuating that I-- or any other badass young lady with ridiculous quads and a miniskirt-- am the answer to their prayers for a sexually frustrated parochial school student.