03 February 2007

The bad student

I called to activate my new credit card today and ended up speaking to Sadguna Pohatkar, a helpful young woman from Mumbai. She was, she told me, very pleased that I had chosen to open an account with her company. Her voice conveyed her absolute pleasure in the rightness of my decision.

She confirmed my information and then had one very, very important piece of information to share with me about purchasing account protection in case of my involuntary release from work, serious illness, accident or dismemberment.

Normally I don't listen to sales pitches, instead politely declining right at the beginning. But she was so enthusiastic and so cheerful that it made me pause just long enough, and then she was off and running and unstoppable.

She read her script with such conviction and caring that for a moment, I almost believed that paying 79 cents a month for every hundred dollars I charged would solve all my life's problems and make me, for once, truly happy. She either really believed this stuff, or she was a brilliant actress.

She spoke for a long time, maybe 3 minutes, explaining all the legalities of the buyer protection plan. I was lulled into a dreamy, passive state by her sweet, lilting voice. She spoke perfect English, but with just enough of an accent to seem exotic and mysterious.

At the end of the pitch, I felt a little bad saying "No, thank you."

Ah, Miss Pohatkar thought I might say that, and she was very disappointed in me. I could tell from her voice, which changed to the tone of a caring teacher who had worked hard to help a slow, lazy student, but the student refused to learn.

But she still had faith in me. As soon as I truly understood all the wonderful benefits bestowed by the buyer protection, the perfect peace of mind, the safety that would be afforded to me and my loved ones, she was sure I would change my mind.

"Knowing all that, would you like to now purchase this protection plan with all it has to offer?"

"No, thank you."

Oooh. Now I had really, really done wrong. The love between us was lost.

"And may I ask what is the reason you have chosen to decline such a comprehensive and beneficial plan?" Miss Pohatkar had an edge of ice in her voice.

I knew that this was a crucial juncture. If I cracked now, I would give Miss Pohatkar an opening to use one of the dozen persuasive arguments in her database designed to cover every possible objection.

"Um...no. I just wanted to activate my card."

Oooh. That did it. Her voice turned flat.

"Well, Miss Davis, that certainly has been done and we do appreciate your business very much and I wish you a very good day."

"Thank you, Miss Poh---"

She hung up on me.

02 February 2007

The Saturday Whine

I got a jury duty summons. Right. You go, do your one day stint, come home for dinner. And it's not like I don't want to do it. I am one of those crazy Pollyannas who think it is actually my civic duty to make sure people get a fair trial with a jury of their peers. A cornerstone of democracy. Silly stuff like that.

But it isn't an ordinary jury summons. It's a federal jury summons.

The federal court is 65 miles away through some of the hairiest, slowest, most maddening, pull-me-through-a-knothole traffic on earth. Los Angeles Federal Court, building, baby, right in the heart of it, where brave men fear to tread. Or drive. Whatever.

We report at 7:45 a.m.

If I lived 15 miles further, say, up in Mrs. Kennedy's neighborhood, the court would reimbursement $100 per night for a hotel. But since I am a mere 65 miles - about 3 hours in morning traffic, depending - away, I get NOTHING.

Thank you very much.

The best part? I am on call for 30 days. During a period that coincides exactly with my manager's husband undergoing a dangerous and difficult medical procedure that requires her absence. Did I mention I am #2 in charge? And that there are only 5 of us?

(banging head on table)

I am going to beg for a postponement at the very least so I don't give my manager a heart attack in addition to her husband's medical problems. And maybe move in with Mrs K for a while, so I can get the hotel reimbursement. Somebody warn her for me, willya?

01 February 2007

In case you were feeling bad about yourself

Just when I think the world can't possibly get any weirder, there's this story from the NY Times (reg required, just do it!).

Let me summarize: 29-year-old dude goes around pretending he is 12 years old. Why? Because he is a child molester, and what better way to get to hang around young boys?

Ok, that's weird. But now to kick it up a notch (as Emeril would say). Dude moves in with two other child molester dudes, Mr. Stiffler and Mr. Snow, and convinces THEM he is underage, so they are totally happy to let him live with them, so they can "molest" him - not knowing he is actually a legal adult.

But here is my favorite part, and I quote:
The authorities said Mr. Stiffler and Mr. Snow were shocked, too, and angry about being duped by an adult posing as a minor.

The two molester dudes were angry because they thought they were molesting a child, but they actually weren't, so, what, they felt used??? Arrrrrrrrrgggggg.

I don't think they have much room to get on their moral high horse here. In fact, this may have been a perfect opportunity for them to haul out that tried and true phrase despised by journalists everywhere: "No comment."


Does anyone else hate the Blog Exchange? I get all confused about who is posting and it makes my head hurt. I'm always reading them, thinking "Hey, she doesn't have a teenaged daughter! She has toddlers?!" and then trying to figure out how I missed the teenaged daughter all this time, until I get to the bottom where they announce this is a freaking blog exchange.

Do me a favor, next time - announce the exchange dealie AT THE TOP, please. I am already confused enough as is.

31 January 2007

Good night, good woman

Molly Ivins passed from this earth today, at age 62, of breast cancer. The irrepressible journalist ate, lived and breathed politics and picked her teeth with the bones of any politician who dared cross her path.

Molly Ivins was the one who nicknamed GW Bush "Shrub." She also said — "....our very own dreaded Legislature is almost upon us. January 9 and they'll all be here, leaving many a village without its idiot," in a December 2000 column.

Her columns made me spit coffee on my newspaper long before I began spitting it on my keyboard.

She is a woman worth knowing. An article about here is in the Dallas Morning News.

Her most recent articles are here. Pick any one. They are all worth reading.

I like to envision her galloping around in the afterlife on Barbaro's back, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, like every good journalist should do.

In other news, thank you for all the thoughtful comments on yesterday's post. I am still holding out the hope that this circle the fat thing is some kind of urban myth, at least the part about it being done by frat boys as the women lie naked and bound.

The wish to be part of a group is woven within us, though, isn't it? It is especially apparent when we are feeling like less than perfect. We reach out to adopt a group identity because we don't trust our own to be good enough. This is the stuff that advertising is made of. I know plenty of women who dedicate a good chunk of their psyches to being Coach shoppers. Make sure that logo is plastered all over, please, because I NEED people to know what kind of woman I am! A Coach woman! A woman with such good taste that I have a logo to prove it!

I have always been a bit of a rebel, a non-joiner, one of the kids in the back of the room sneering when the cheerleaders came in to remind us about the pep rally (these are the kids who became journalists, BTW - right, WordGirl?).

During the disco era, I dressed like it was 1968, sporting jeans, knee-high lace-up moccasins, a paper-thin silk Indian blouse with crappy embroidery on it, and a bandanna tied around my head. Did I mention the waist-length straight hair? I was MY OWN KIND of cool, baby.

A cynical lack of enthusiasm was always one of my chief personality traits. I didn't want to do anything that anyone else wanted to do. I dated the unpopular guys, the guys with Issues With Authority. I never wanted to go to college because that was what the normal kids did. I didn't want to get married, to have kids, to own a house (and guess what? I never did any of these things!)

All this rebellion served to make me...what? A rebel, and nothing more. It is pretty hard to accomplish much when you are too cool to do anything. My problem was that I didn't know the difference between rebelling for a cause and rebelling because I was too afraid to invest my heart and soul in something because then I would show my hand, and showing who I was meant I might have to take criticism for it.

I still have problems joining in. Recently, though, I have tried to just go with the flow and shut my yap and have a good time. When I found my church, I decided to just jump in with both feet, so I became a Sunday School teacher, a snack provider, and eventually a board member. It hasn't been that bad, though I still cringe when someone calls to invite me to something. Then I say "Yes." Because I have to change sometime. Either that or put up with myself the way I am, and I am pretty sick of THAT.

30 January 2007

Soror horror

Every once in a while, I learn something that makes it hurt to be human. Something so horrible that I want to crawl back into the primordial ooze and just wait for humanity to evolve for another couple million years before I emerge again.

Guess what? Today was one of those days? (How did you know?)

I was innocently minding my own business, reading about Momma K's efforts to get her Jazzercise teaching certificate over at Petroville. In the middle of her post, she said, apropos of feeling picked on: "I felt like a sorority pledge in a game of Circle the Fat."

"Huh," I thought, never having been a sorority pledge. "What's that?"

Then in the comments section, someone said: "You made me laugh so hard…especially at the Circle Fat thing. Been there, done that. Don’t want to go there every again."

Curious, I googled it. I got to a review of a book called "Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities," by Alexandra Robbins that was published in The American Spectator.

I read about circle the fat: "to lay on a floor blindfolded and naked while snickering fraternity brothers "circle the fat" areas of your body that "need work" with permanent marker... "

I almost threw up. I sat there staring at my monitor for the longest time, hard put to move or blink or even continue thinking, because my brain had contracted in a painful, charlie-horse like spasm after reading that phrase.

Why would ANYONE involved think this is ok? Why would a young woman agree to such humiliation? Why would any young man with one ounce of kindness or morality take part? What kind of people are we raising?

I am not normally overly moral or a prudish scold, but come on. This is so wrong on so many levels that it just ties my heart in knots to learn about it. I didn't think that much could shock me anymore, but this shocks me and pains me and brings me great despair.

It's not out of an exaggerated sense of propriety, either. It is more a deep sadness that these young people have so little concept of their own value as people that they would all take part in this. It seems that they believe they are a collection of soulless parts that can ridicule and be ridiculed with no lasting damage. Hey, it's all in good fun, right?

I spoke with a young American Muslim woman who wore the hijab one time. She said: "You assume that dressing like this takes away my power. In my mind, it gives me power, because I decide who sees me and under what circumstances."

I had never thought of it that way before. I don't think veiling women is necessarily a solution to women being exploited and to them opening themselves to humiliation. But at least the Muslim woman had thought about it, which seems to be more than these young women have done.

PS - I don't know if this is the type of thing Momma K was talking about. I didn't ask her. She may have experienced some kind of girl-on-girl cruelty of a similar sort. In any case, I don't think that pointing out other people's flaws, especially in a group-think situation, is often productive or healthy.

Happy Birthday to yooouuuuu

Today's is Elizabeth of Table for Five's 40th birthday. She is taking it pretty well, as far as I can tell.

Elizabeth was my roomie at BlogHer last year and is a mom of 3, as well as a friend and cheerleader for everyone in this corner of the Blogiverse (you know, the fun, cool corner).

She's hoping for 40 comments for her 40th, so stop by and wish her a happy day.

28 January 2007

Foul pursuits

I am roasting a chicken. I know, I know, alert the media. For you it may not be a big deal, but for me it is.

I became a vegetarian before I learned how to cook. In fact, one of the things that may have kept me from learning to cook was my fear of dealing with meat in all its oozy ickiness. Once I realized that I could skip that step, I started cooking every vegetable and starch under the sun with great glee.

In my life, my meat cooking experience is as follows: I have cooked about 3 roast chickens, not counting this one, for my dear dog Goldie when she had an upset stomach. This one is being sacrificed because my mom alerted me that it was on sale for 57 cents a pound.

I also worked briefly at a terrible family restaurant, where I was such an incompetent goof that I wasn't trusted to cook meat much, but I did have the privilege of making 300 meatballs a couple times a week and also of removing chicken parts from these disgusting large plastic lined boxes that were inevitably awash in smelly chicken juice.

So for me, roasting a chicken is a Huge Deal. First there is the buying of it. I feel as shamefaced as an AA leader picking up a fifth of Vodka. There is always the thought "What if someone sees me buying this disgusting thing?" I have to remind myself that normal people buy chickens sometimes and no one bats an eye. No ID is demanded.

I bring it home feeling like I have a bag of radioactive waste. What if I spill some of the juice on something? What if it contaminates my fridge? Aren't chickens seething with bacteria? I hope I have enough clorox to dispel this paranoia.

Then my least favorite part - the disassembly. What are those little bloody pads they put in there in the bag with the bird? You know what they look like. I don't have to say it. And it does not pique my appetite.

Then why, oh why do they shove guts and parts inside the creature's body cavity? I can think of no circumstance where I would want these slippery things, but now I have to remove them. That involves touching the chicken. How do you people who do this all the time stand it? The clammy flesh that feels, well, just like dead clammy flesh. Urk.

And then the poor dead thing is lying there looking for all the world like a decapitated human, all fleshy and bumpy with the butt at one end and the missing head at the other. By this point, I am almost weeping for the little animal. Why, why must chickens die?

Ok, that's a bit overwrought and PETAish. But still. But it IS pretty disgusting, no?

On top of all my guilt over the roasting chicken, I can hear it in there spewing grease spatters all over the oven. Did you know that vegetarians almost never have to clean their ovens? Really! No grease! It is super.

Do you think it is odd that I eat fake chicken (Quorn, really pretty good) for dinner and make real chicken for my dog? Yeah, me too.

Goldie will be so happy though. She has no guilt over the murdered chickens. Or squirrels. Or rats. But I draw the line at chickens. No matter how many times she asks, I will not roast a rat for her.
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