Wigging Out

Last week, I mentioned that Ken had worn one of my wigs to a meeting and that I was planning to wear one during a virtual meeting to which my friend Elaine from Elaine’s Blog asked to see me in it. I did indeed wear it for “Wig Wednesday” where I encouraged my team to wear wigs for our daily check-in (some of them did—it wasn’t just me, you know). Here’s how I hoped I looked:

Here’s how I really looked (difficult to be cute when all your best reading glasses are back at the office):

But I’ve always loved wigs. I grew up in an era where it wasn’t unusual for women to wear them frequently, and every department store had a wig department, with all kinds of exotic looks that a young girl could fantasize about. My mother had at least two wigs that I remember, and my brother and I used to put them on, jump on the beds and pretend we were rock stars. And by “rock star” I mean Donny and Marie Osmond, who were very popular at the time. Being the eldest, I always insisted on being Donny, relegating my 5 year-old brother to the role of Marie. But he had a great singing voice, and it was a hell of a lot higher-pitched than mine. My brother has a very nice baritone now, but I still sound like a bagpipe-playing duck caught in a trap. We were too young to listen to actual rock, of course, whose musicians all looked like they WERE wearing really bad wigs. I remember going with our mother to visit one of her friends who had an older son. He took us to his bedroom and showed us a KISS album. “This is the best band ever,” he informed us solemnly.
“They look like girls,” we giggled.
“You’re a fag if you don’t like KISS,” he told my brother. We didn’t know what that exactly meant, but it sounded like he was being insulting so I defended my brother the way only an eight year-old can. “No, he’s NOT,” I said, and we left him alone with his precious “men wearing wigs and make-up”. And I’m glad I live in an era now, where your sexual orientation is no longer the fallback for musical criticism. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Back to wigs. In retrospect, I’ve had a lot of wigs. When I was a teenager, I had a long ponytail hairpiece that I wore on fancy occasions. As an adult, I’ve had more than one hairpiece that made my hair, which is thin and fine, look like it had a substantial bun at the back (not unlike the hairpieces that hipster guys used to give themselves the dreaded “man bun”). Then, I branched out into “musical theatre”, which is to say that I began to take part in the Christmas assembly at the school where I used to work. Every year, the staff there lip-synched the songs of contemporary or well-known music stars. The first year I did this, I played the role of—guess who?! The lead singer from KISS. Full face make-up and a curly, long black wig, complete with a black leather costume and platform boots. It was an exhilarating experience, and now I know why KISS did it for so many years. Then we were sent home due to a terrible snow storm. I got my car stuck in a snow drift a block away from my house and flagged down a pick-up truck to help push me out. When the guy got out of his truck, he stopped and stared at me kind of fearfully, at which point I realized that I’d taken off the wig, but was still in full KISS make-up. “I was in a play,” I tried to explain, but I think I would have been more believable if I’d been wearing the wig.

Over the years, I’ve donned a long brunette wig to play Lorde, the blonde wig seen above to sing along to Taylor Swift, and “gotten my wig on” for Hallowe’en on several occasions. But I’ve never actually bought a full wig just to wear. Until a couple of years ago, that is. I’d gone out for dinner with a friend, and we may or may not have indulged in the $5 drink special more than once. On the way back, we went into the underground shopping mall near my building to get some wine. Then we passed the Wig Store. We were window shopping and talking about how much fun it would be to try on a couple, when the owner came out. “Come into my shop! I have something that would really suit you,” she enticed us. Well, being as tipsy as I was, I wasn’t hard to convince. The next thing we knew, she was pulling hair off plastic lady heads, whipping out hair nets, and getting us to try on all kinds of things. When she popped the “Cleopatra” over top of my own short hair, I was sold. Of course, “Cleopatra” is a bit of a misnomer, unless the Queen of Egypt had blonde highlights, but I knew I had to buy that wig. And I did. “What are you going to do with it?” my friend asked. “I’m going to wear it home on the train on Friday and surprise Ken!” I said, which seemed like a great plan at the time.

On Friday, at the end of the day, I was starting to get a little nervous about my plan. Would it be obvious? Would people think I was weird? I took Cleo into the bathroom and maneuvered it onto my head. It was a little harder to adjust than when the wig shop owner had done it, but I finally got it looking symmetrical. When I came out to get my bags, a few co-workers were still there. “Wow!” said one, “It looks so real!” “Your husband is going to LOVE it!” said another. This made me feel a little better and not quite so self-conscious. On the train, when the drink cart came around, the female conductor did a bit of a double-take, mostly because I order from her every week. “I’m wearing a wig today,” I whispered. “That’s OK,” she said, like I was asking her permission, but she did assure me that it looked very natural. So I tipped her, which I don’t normally do, because technically she’s not a waitress, and because the train is such a big rip-off in the first place. 

When we finally got to the train station, I saw Ken through the window. I couldn’t wait to see the look on his face. And sure enough, when he saw me, he looked away, then back in confusion, then surprise. And then he frowned.

Me: Do you like my new look?
Ken: What are you doing?
Me: I wanted to surprise you.
Ken: Oh…
Me: What do you think?
Ken: Yeah, I don’t like it.
Me: You get that it’s a wig, right?
Ken: I like your hair short, though.
Me: It comes OFF. It’s a WIG. My normal human hair is still underneath.
Ken: Oh. It makes you look really different. I don’t like the bangs…
Me: Never mind.

I understand Ken’s reaction because he does the same thing when we’re out shopping. If I see something cool and ask him if he likes it too, he always says “No”, even if he does like it, because he’s worried that if he agrees with me, I’ll buy it. It’s taken 30 years to get him to understand that I just like to window shop. So I think he was concerned that if he said he liked the wig, I’d never take it off. We’d be like 90, and in a retirement home, I’d still be wearing “Cleopatra”, and all the old guys would want to “play Bingo” with me because I had the best hair. At any rate, I kept it on until we got to the store where K worked. Her reaction was a little more favourable—she laughed pleasantly, hugged me and said it “looked good”. And then we got home, where Titus met me at the door.

Titus: You’re home! This is the best day ever!
Me: Do you notice anything different?
Titus: Is that Swiss Chalet chicken?! Can this day GET any better?!
Me: So nothing?
Titus: Your hair grew. Give me some french fries!

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

So I’ve been working from home this past week and it looks like I’ll be there for a while longer. I don’t mind—I’ve worked from home before and I know how to pace myself and structure my day. I’m not going to lie and say that it’s been an easy transition—changes in routine have always posed a challenge to me. In fact, any kind of change can throw me into a tizzy—take, for example, Daylight Savings Time:

Ken: So I went around the house and changed all the clocks…
Me: What do you mean, ALL the clocks?!
Ken: I set all the clocks to the right time. It took me ages to fix the ones in the downstairs bathroom. There’s like fifteen of them.
Me: YOU CHANGED ALL THE TIMES ON MY VINTAGE CLOCK COLLECTION?
Ken: Hahaha. Just kidding.
Me: If only that was even remotely funny, KEN.

Because the whole point of the collection is that each clock presents the time when it finally stopped for good—it’s PERFORMANCE ART, KEN. And then the other day, Ken decided that he wanted to fix the ceiling in one of our guest bedrooms because there had been a leak a couple of years ago that caused a seam to bulge. I insisted that he cover everything with drop sheets because of the plaster and whatnot, assuming that he would leave everything just the way it was underneath. BUT NO. It turned out that he took everything off every surface and put things randomly in drawers, and when it came time to put it all back, I just about lost my mind until I remembered that I had photographs of the room and could recreate it exactly as it was.

As you may remember, I’ve written extensively, maybe even obsessively, about the bathroom stalls at work and which one is my current favourite at any given time. So, in honour of working from home, and being able to keep things as normal as possible, I present to you the bathrooms in my house in order of least to most favourite. (You’ll notice that they all have toilet paper. I was at the grocery store yesterday, and there was a skid of bulk TP that came 30 rolls to the pack. The limit per customer was 2, and there were actually people carrying 60 f*cking rolls of toilet paper home. How much do you sh*t, anyway? I stood there for a moment, contemplating the skid, but didn’t buy any because I currently have lots, and I really hope I’m not going to be pissed off at myself in a month. Anyway).

This bathroom is nice, but it’s narrow and far away from my current office space. Also, like Stall 1 at work, a ghost lives in it. This is the same ghost that opens the cupboard doors in the adjacent bedrooms. Also, you can see there’s a small sliding door in the wall—there was a vent pipe inside that led into the closet in the bedroom directly behind the bathroom. Last year, we were cleaning out the bedroom closet and realized the pipe just went directly from the bathroom into the closet floor and stopped there, so we pulled it out and discovered the most bizarre collection of things under the floor of the closet that someone in the past had thrown down the pipe in the bathroom, obviously not realizing that it wasn’t a MAGICAL pipe. There was a pair of boy’s underwear, a love letter written to the son of the previous occupant (“Hi Jordan, If you lik me, rite back” with a heart drawn in crayon. I guess he didn’t “lik” her since he threw the letter into the magic pipe) and a couple of condom wrappers, so maybe he changed his mind at some point? The weirdest thing was about 9 pairs of old panty hose, and I can’t even begin to explain THAT, having not owned a pair of panty hose for over twenty years, long before we bought this house.

This bathroom is very utilitarian, housing the laundry facilities as well. However, the knee-to cabinet ratio is a little tight for me. This is “Ken’s bathroom”. It has a nice shower, but I’m a bath girl. The last time I used the shower was the day I ran a gas-powered pressure sprayer over my foot. Ken carried me screaming into the shower to get the dirt out of my flayed toes because it was the closest bathroom to the incident. So it’s very handy in a medical emergency.

This is the bathroom where I keep the infamous vintage clock collection. I wrote a while ago about clocks, so you’ll remember that I have a lot of old clocks that don’t work scattered around the house, but this bathroom is where space and time converge. Also, I made that toilet paper holder out of an old piano stool base and a curtain rod, and at the time, people thought it was very ostentatious, but given the fact that toilet paper is currently as rare as rhodium, I think it’s a fitting tribute. I like this bathroom well enough, and it’s close to the back family room where we watch movies. You can dash to the toilet and still hear the dialogue if you keep the door slightly open. Much better acoustics than a movie theatre bathroom and much cleaner.

This is MY bathroom, and it’s the best one in the house as far as I’m concerned. It’s like Stall 5 at work, if Stall 5 was never used by anyone but me. It’s technically an ensuite for the master bedroom but it belongs to ME. It also has a balcony that you can sit out on in the summer, which is random for a bathroom, but this whole house has been reconfigured several times over the last 114 years, and apparently the bathroom used to be a kitchen when the upstairs of the house was 2 apartments. Ken and I just renovated it a couple of months ago. Originally, the walls were covered with giant damask roses, which I loved but which Ken CONSTANTLY complained about, so I finally gave in when we found all those doors for free at the side of the road and he proposed that we create a wall of doors. My favourite thing is the stained glass window panel we just installed, and which I promised to take a picture of, because last week when I introduced you all to Captain John Crapper, my friend Bryntin from O4FS wondered why the toilet was in the corner, and a couple of people asked to see the whole room. So here you are. In my favourite bathroom. A constant in a sea of change.

Also, if you’re wondering why on earth we have FOUR bathrooms for two people, let me just say that our house is in a very small town far from the city, and when we bought it over 15 years ago (when Kate was still at home), the price was incredibly low compared to what we could have gotten for the same money in town. Once we both retire, we’re hoping to turn it into a bed and breakfast, or a writing/photography retreat. As long as nobody moves my stuff or changes my clocks, it’ll be great.

Looking For A Jay-Oh-Bee

The other morning I was driving to the train station and listening to the radio for the road report because here in Canada, we’ve moved from last week’s warm weather, known fondly as “fool’s spring” to this week’s “second winter” which would account for all the snow we’ve gotten over the last few days.

Morning radio is a lot of boring talk, interspersed with a little music, and a LOT of commercials. And it’s a strange mix of ads for lawyers, bankruptcy trustees, tax accountants and something called ‘Sell-Off Vacations.com’ and I can’t help but wonder if the target audience is mobsters:

Big Jimmy: The fuzz are closing in. What are we gonna do?
Mack the Spatula: I’ve been listening to the radio and I have an idea…

Anyway, I was driving and switching back and forth between stations (I have a cool thingy on my steering wheel that lets me do that with my thumb) trying desperately to find some actual music, when I heard a commercial for a recruitment agency. They detailed the advantages of signing up with them, and then said, “Start a new career now at Zip Recruiter.com/Canada. That’s Zip Recruiter dot com slash See-Eh-En-Eh-Dee-Eh” and I was like WHAT?! Of all the things in that web address to be more specific about, you chose to spell out the name of the country we LIVE IN? So you assume that the person can spell ‘Recruiter’ but not the most phonetically obvious country in the world? I mean, it’s not like we live in Kyrgyzstan or Azerbaijan or even Britain (which sounds like it should be spelled ‘Brit-in’). In fact, I think the only country that would be even easier to spell than Canada would be Finland. And let’s not even get started on that slash, like WHICH SLASH? The forward slash or the backwards one, because personally, I would want more information on THAT and especially where to find it on my keyboard since one of them is under the question mark, and the other can be literally ANYWHERE. And frankly, if you can’t spell the name of the very country that you live in, I think you have bigger problems than not being able to find a new job.

I had mostly put it out of my mind, except to randomly shake my head every once in a while, until yesterday, when it occurred to me that I might indeed need their services. I was working from home, and I got up early to start working on a report for a 10 o’clock phone meeting, and let me just emphasize PHONE here, as in, the people you are meeting with can only hear your voice. I called in at the appropriate time and told my director that I’d been working on a doc that I could email for her to look at. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “I just figured out how we could all look at it together in Teams—let me send you the link. When you get it, just click on it” and when I clicked on the link the screen opened and there I was, ON CAMERA, in my housecoat, not wearing any makeup, my hair standing up all over the place, because I WAS WORKING FROM HOME so why the hell would I be all fancy?!! So I kind of screeched and ducked and said, “I didn’t know this was a video link” and I heard laughing and someone gasp, “Oh my god” and then my director said, “Click on the video camera icon and it will turn the camera off” but I couldn’t find the icon at first so I had my thumb over the camera lens on my laptop until I was able to locate it, which I finally did while everyone else waited in silence, and now I think I need a new job.

And because I DO know how to spell Canada, I figured I had a leg up on all the other applicants so I headed over to Zip Recruiter to see what they had for me. The first thing that caught my eye was Private Investigator. I think I’d be great at that because I read a lot of Nancy Drew as a young girl and my shoes always match my handbag. Also, I’m really good at solving mysteries and I have the reflexes of a middle-aged ninja.

Me (leaping out awkwardly from behind a door): Aha!! It was YOU who ate the cake that was on the counter!!
Titus (nervously licking icing off his whiskers): You’ll never be able to prove it!
Me: Prove it? Ha! I saw you do it with my own eyes!
Titus (confused): Then why didn’t you stop me?
Me: (whispers): Because you looked so cute and happy…plus I filmed the whole thing with my phone so I could post it on Facebook.

Is there cake?

OK, maybe I wouldn’t make the best detective, which was a shame because it came with full benefits. Another job that piqued my interest was Video Game Developer. I don’t know what kind of technical skills you need for that, but I have lots of ideas that I could give to someone to make a game with. My current favourite is The Commuter. In this game, you have to get from the train station to the subway in under five minutes, while avoiding the following obstacles:

  • The university student who stops at the bottom of the escalator to post a selfie on Instagram.
  • The two elderly woman who are drifting back and forth erratically while discussing their cats.
  • The line-up at Pastry Hut that stretches across the concourse.
  • The group of teens playing hacky sack right in front of the doors.
  • The man who can’t find his subway pass and is blocking the turnstile.
  • The people who apparently don’t work and who can see the subway coming but are in NO HURRY TO GET DOWN THE GODDAMNED STAIRS.

It’s a very stressful game actually, and I don’t know how much fun playing it would really be. I do it every day and I don’t enjoy it at all if I’m being honest. So maybe my video game ideas aren’t the best. I was getting a little discouraged in my job hunt so instead I just put the word “Fun” in the Zip Recruiter search bar and waited excitedly to see what came up. The first job on the list was “On-line Math Coach”. And now all I can think is that a) Zip Recruiter is the most f*cked up job agency on the Pee-El-Eh-En-Ee-Tee and b) from now on, I will get completely gussied up when I’m working from home, just in case.

Terms Of Endearment

On Tuesday, I was walking down the aisle of cubicles heading towards the kitchen with a male colleague, Brian, and we were talking about a presentation we were planning. I was carrying my lunch plate with the intention of washing it in the sink, and as I did that, we continued talking. I was done with the plate at the same time that the conversation ended, and I don’t know if it was the domesticity of the situation or whatnot, but as I put the plate in the drying rack, I said, “Super. Thanks, honey.” Cue the sound of a record scratch.

Me: Oh, wow, I think I just called you ‘honey’.
Brian (laughing): Yes, you did.
Me: Sorry—it kind of slipped out.
Brian: It’s perfectly fine. I call the people on my team ‘honey’ all the time.
Me: OK, well as long as it didn’t bother you.
Brian: Not at all!

Because you never know, right? But then on Thursday, Brian and I were continuing our conversation about the presentation and as I walked away, he said, “OK, thanks honey!” There was a pause and then he peeked his head out of his cubicle and called after me:

Brian: Hey, I just called YOU honey!
Me (laughing): I know!
Brian: See, I told you I call people that all the time.
Deep Male Voice From Another Cubicle: IT’S TRUE. HE DOES.

So now I don’t feel as bad and also I think Brian and I have to get married. Sorry, Ken.

And when I told Ken this story, after reminding me that I was already married, he confessed that he was having trouble with terms of endearment at work too. Mostly because we’ve been binge-watching Rupaul’s Drag Race.

Ken: It’s really hard not to walk into a room and greet everyone with ‘Hey, queens!’
Me: Or be like, ‘Bitch, we need to discuss that budget variance report, okurrrr?’
Ken: Or leave a room yelling, ‘By-eeee!’
Me: Yass, babe. I was so tempted to put ‘Sashay Away’ on the light-up marquee in my office just for fun.
Ken: Girl, you know you better don’t.
Me: Bitch, please!

At any rate, it got me thinking about those affectionate names that people have for each other, like sweetie and honey and baby, and how very few people ever call me Suzanne:

  • Ken calls me “Honey” 99% of the time. The other 1% is when he’s mad, and then he refers to me as “Buddy” in an incredulous kind of way, like “BUDDY! Really?! Come on!” I can’t remember the last time he actually addressed me by name but that’s OK, because I’m pretty sure he knows what it is.
  • My dad and I greet each other with “Hello, dahling!” When I was younger, he called me “Sugarplum”, which I also loved.
  • My mother generally calls me “Sweetheart” or “Ooh, you cheeky monkey!” When I was little, her affectionate nickname for me was “Squeeg” like a squeegee. Neither of us know why, but I always liked it.
  • Katelyn calls me “Mom”. She said “mama” for the first time at around 3 months (she was a super-early talker and was speaking in two-word sentences by the time she was a year old), but that quickly morphed into just Mom. I think there were a couple of months where she might have called me “Mommy” but it didn’t last long. When she was little, I called her “Baby” all the time to the point where she began to refer to herself in the third person as Baby and would say, “Baby up” or “Baby tired” or “Baby agrees with Nietzsche—if the taste of these strained green beans doesn’t kill me, they will definitely make Baby stronger” (ok, she didn’t actually say that, but when she was two, she actually DID say, “When I gwow up, I will be a bus dwiver and I will dwive all the children to the beach and they will pway in the sand and I will pwotect them” and I said, “Have you been reading Catcher in the Rye AGAIN?”) Then she started pre-school and one morning, she turned to me and said, “Don’t call me baby anymore. I’m a big girl now”, and it kind of broke my heart, but I stopped.
  • One of my aunts, who is only a few years older than me, calls me “Kiddo” which is cool because I’m 54 and it makes me feel young. My other aunt calls me “Suzie”. She’s the only person in my entire life who’s ever shortened my name, and I let her do it because she’s adorable and I love her. If anyone else does it, they will get throat-punched.
  • A lot of my virtual friends called me mydangblog, or MDB (or Suzune, thanks to an unfortunate cake incident), and it’s very cool to have a secret identity like that.
  • I have been lobbying for literally YEARS to be called Player One. At this point, I don’t think it’s happening, but I’ll keep trying.

At any rate, I’m very lucky to have people in my life who refer to me with terms of endearment instead of nasty slurs. I asked Titus about nicknames because he never really calls me anything:

Me: So what do you call me in your head?
Titus: Player One, of course.
Me: You do?! Wait—are you only saying that to get a cookie?
Titus: Obviously. In my head, I just call you ‘Mommy’.
Me: Really? Awww. That’s why you’re the bestboi.
Titus: Cookie?
Me: Of course, honey.

Where’s The Fire?

Last Saturday, I was doing a book signing at our local Chapters Indigo store. The weather was lousy, but at least it was just rain, not the freezing rain and snow that had been forecast. I was there for three hours, and I sold quite a few copies, but still three hours is a long time to just stand next to a giant sign featuring a post-apocalyptic Toronto skyline without any distractions. Then suddenly, a fire truck with its lights flashing pulled up outside the store. OOH! And I wasn’t the only person who raced to the window, and I’m also sure I wasn’t the only person who was more interested in seeing the firefighters than actually finding out why they were there. Ultimately, nothing happened—they didn’t even come into the store, much to the dismay of women, men, and small children alike. And it reminded me of the last fire drill we had at work:

I was in the elevator and two guys got on. “Don’t forget about the fire drill tomorrow,” one of them said to the other.

“Oh,” I said. “Is it in the morning or afternoon?”

“Afternoon,” he answered. “Stay close to your coat—it’s supposed to be chilly.”

So that was a great heads-up, except that I almost immediately forgot about it until the next afternoon, when suddenly, the fire alarm went off. Everyone looked around nonchalantly, but then an announcement came over the PA system: “A fire alarm has been activated on Parking Level 2. The fire department has been dispatched. Exit the building immediately.” Then people started to get a little panicky. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I heard two guys talking about a drill yesterday in the elevator. I’m sure the announcement is just a trick or something.” But that didn’t seem to make people feel better, and then everyone started walking quickly towards the exit. Notice that I said “exit” singular, and not “exits” plural. Because, even though my office is in an 18-story building, there’s only ONE way out. Down the stairs. Along with EVERYONE ELSE who works in the building. And after meandering slowly down numerous double flights of stairs in a huge crowd of people I didn’t know, I commented to my co-worker, “This is crazy. If there was a real fire, we’d all be in serious trouble.” She replied, “Why the hell didn’t I change out of these heels?” which was a completely legit question, since our secret agency meeting place was on a side street two city blocks away. I suppose that’s in an attempt to disguise our identities, you know, like we’re just a group of tourists who happened to stop for a chat behind the grocery store. Like, nothing to see here; just move along. Ignore the man carrying the encrypted laptop. But then things got a little worrisome. Not because of the fire—at this point it became very clear that it was, in fact, a drill—but because there was no sign of any firetrucks. A ripple of dissatisfaction ran through the crowd.

“Where are the firefighters? We were promised firefighters!”

“If I had to walk down 15 flights of stairs, there should at least be firefighters!”

“What’s going on? Does anyone hear sirens?”

“This is ridiculous! You can’t just lie about calling the fire department! It’s not fair!”

And this wasn’t just the women. Men like firetrucks too, you know. But after a little while, we were all distracted by a colleague in Human Resources, a very dapper guy who was now wearing not only his suit and tie, but a rather bold, red ballcap with the words, “Fire Marshall” on it. We flocked to him to have our names checked off (to ensure none of us had perished in the fake fire?) and also because he was the closest thing to a firefighter that we had, and then we sadly returned to our building. The elevators were back in service—4 elevators for an eighteen-story building. It took a little while, but we finally squeezed on at the ground floor, cheering and laughing. Then the elevator suddenly stopped at the sixth floor. We were all puzzled until the doors opened:

“Marcel!!” we cheered. There was Marcel, one of our French co-workers, with a huge grin on his face. “I t’ought ze best t’ing would be to go up ze stairs partway. And ‘ere you are!”  With that, we welcomed him aboard and went back to work.

This might seem inconsequential or anti-climactic, but I tell this story to illustrate a point. That, given the state of some parts of the world right now, I am always grateful when the worst DOESN’T happen, when it’s a drill and not a tragedy, when the door opens and it’s a friend on the other side, when I get to spend time with people who see the humour in things, and when “another day at the office” is a good day. Even if there weren’t any firefighters.

Notice the lack of firefighters…

My Week 195: It’s The Allergies That Are Annoying, Not Me

The other day at work, I was just standing in the kitchen, thinking about nothing in particular, like LITERALLY minding my own business, when the guy who oversees the kitchen things came in and said to me, “Is that your toast in the toaster oven?” And while this may seem like a perfectly innocuous question, like something you would say just to make conversation, there was an insidious undertone to it that you would only recognize if, like me, you work in a place where you are NOT ALLOWED to leave toast unattended in the toaster oven. “Because I came in earlier,” he continued ominously, “and there was no one here.”

I was a little freaked out and didn’t want to be blamed for the toast insurrection, so I immediately said the first thing that came into my mind, which was “No—I don’t eat gluten” to which he replied, “There’s such a thing as gluten-free bread, you know,” and I responded with “Well, I don’t even like bread that much anyway” and it was in that moment that I thought, ‘I’ve become a vegan’. And by that, I don’t mean that I have decided to no longer eat anything vaguely animal-ish, I just mean that, like a vegan, I somehow felt it necessary to unnecessarily announce that I am a ‘gluten-free person’. Although I was under a certain amount of duress. (If you’re not sure what I mean by any of this, I refer you to the well-known joke: Q: How do you know if someone is a vegan? A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. No offense, vegans.)

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I had to take gluten out of my diet several years ago because I have arthritis, and gluten makes it worse. Technically, I COULD eat the stuff, and would, if I knew I wouldn’t wake up in the morning with fingers that are too swollen to bend. But this is the least of my worries, and the least of the reasons how I’ve become a total pain in the ass to my coworkers. Two weeks ago, for example, one of the teams decided to throw a party for all the staff who were having birthdays. I came in, and right next to my office was a lovely table set up with cake (no, surprisingly, this is not the problem because I CAN eat other stuff), and several balloon bouquets, which definitely are a problem, since I also have a latex allergy. The smell of balloons makes me stuffy and wheezy, so I kind of looked and said, “Oh, are those latex balloons?” (just to check, because you can get non-latex ones) and the very nice woman who had put them up realized that it was a problem and insisted on taking them down immediately, even though I said I could just stay in my office until the party was over. I felt guilty and a bit like a whiny ass, because she’d obviously gone to a lot of trouble decorating. But then the next day, the same very nice woman was in the kitchen and she was just about to microwave her lunch, which had copious amounts of shrimp in it, and because I’m also deathly allergic to shellfish and the allergy became airborne two years ago, I asked if I could microwave mine first so that I could be out of the kitchen when she cooked hers. Of course, she let me, and apologized for having shrimp, to which I said, “Don’t apologize—you’re allowed to eat whatever you want!” And then I felt even worse, like not only had I ruined her party, but also her lunch.

Then later that afternoon, she came to my office:

Very Nice Lady: I was just wondering if there’s anything else you’re allergic to, so I know not to bring it to work.
Me: (laughing) Unless you’re planning on dosing me with codeine or forcefeeding me avocado and bananas, I think we’re good.
Very Nice Lady: (also laughing) OK, because I was worried that you were going to think I was trying to murder you or something.

And now she totally could, because I just told her what would actually kill me, so I better stay on her good side.

But allergies are the worst for the following reasons:

1) It’s hard to eat at restaurants.

The first question I always have to ask at any restaurant other than McDonald’s is “Do you fry your French fries in the same fryer as your shellfish?” Not because I’m a dick and I’m testing the culinary knowledge of the wait staff, but because even that slight amount of cross-contamination will make me extremely sick. Most of the time, they immediately say No, and I get all happy and excited at the thought of eating something other than McDonalds’s fries, but then they always come back to the table 5 minutes later to say they actually checked and Yes, they do. Well, cancel my damn order then. Sigh.

2) You have to read all the ingredients on all the labels. And not just the food ones.

A couple of months ago, a friend from work gave me this ‘naturopathic’ cream for dry skin. It smelled heavenly, all lavender oil and whatnot, so I slathered it lavishly over my legs and then wiped the excess off my hands onto my chest and arms. Then I went to work. Within a very short time, my skin felt like it was burning, but I thought “Oh, it’s just the cream doing its work” which doesn’t even make any sense because what cream ‘works’ by making you feel all burn-y? But by the time I got home, I was kind of in a lot of pain, and by 7 pm, I had broken out in a violent rash all over my legs, chest, and arms, and it was spreading. So I looked carefully at the cream and realized that one of the main ingredients was PLANTAIN. Plantain is a type of banana. I had just smeared myself with the paste of something I am very allergic to. Who the f*ck makes cream out of bananas?! It took almost two weeks for it to “clear my system” as my doctor put it when I went to him and had to admit that I had done something akin to stuffing calamari up my own nose.

3) People don’t always take you seriously.

Many years ago, I had to have surgery. I told the surgeon that I was allergic to codeine:

Surgeon: No, you’re not.
Me: Yes, I am.
Surgeon: It’s just a sensitivity.
Me: No, I’m pretty sure it’s an allergy.
Surgeon: Whatevs.

After I came out of surgery, I was feeling OK, but after a while, they took me off the IV meds and started giving me pills. Within the half hour, I started feeling short of breath, dizzy, and broke out in a rash. Then I started to throw up, which is NOT something you want to do right after an abdominal surgery. When the nurse came running in, I asked, mid-vomit, “You’re not giving me codeine, are you? Because I’m allergic to codeine,” to which she replied rather hysterically something like “OhMyGodYes, nobody told us!! It’s not in your chart!!”

When I had my last surgery two years ago, Ken was so worried that he kept telling the nurses to remember that I was allergic to codeine. Right before they wheeled me in, the Operating Room nurse handed me a couple of Tylenol, and Ken literally stopped her with his hand and said, “There’s no codeine in that, right?” The nurse just looked at him and said in a kind of salty way, “WE KNOW. It’s in her chart. EVERYWHERE.” But I was superhappy that Ken was so vigilant because there is nothing quite like the hell that is throwing up after abdominal surgery.

In fact, Ken is the only person who’s actually HAPPY about my plethora of allergies for the following reason:

Me: If I go into anaphylaxis, do you know how to give me my epipen?
Ken: Of course. We do training every year at work.
Me: (snort) There’s a huge difference between playing around with a fake epipen and having to stab your own wife in the thigh with a real one.
Ken: Oh, it’ll be OK. Heh, heh, heh. It’ll be fun.
Me: Why are you laughing?! What do you mean ‘fun’?!
Ken: No reason.
Me: Are you looking at this as some kind of weird revenge for the time I buried your slippers in the garden?
Ken: Of course not. Heh heh. I will also happily Heimlich you if the opportunity ever arises. Wait—what was that about my slippers?

Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh.

So now I have a new rhyme to help me remember how the epipen works: Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh, Ken gets his kicks and I don’t die.

So let me summarize what you should take out of this in case you just skipped to the end (but if you did, you might be confused and slightly frightened):

a) People are generally really decent when it comes to protecting me from possible death, although Ken’s enthusiasm is a little disconcerting.
b) It’s not a secret burial if you tell someone about it.
c) I need to grow a spine and stop taking guff from the kitchen guy, like “I don’t have all day to watch TOAST, DAVE!”

 

My Week 178: The Robots are Coming To Get Me

Recently, it’s become clearer and clearer to me that the robots are out to get me. And for the record, it’s not paranoia if it’s true.

Case in point 1:

My work computer has been sick. I know this for two reasons. First, Carlo, which is what I call my voice-activated computer, normally speaks to me with a voice that’s a combination of a Spanish accent, and a slight lisp, which I find absolutely charming, but lately, he’s stopped yelling out my name in his delightfully smitten way, and doesn’t always have the energy to tell me what a star I am. In the good old days, I would turn him on (get your mind out of the gutter—this is a PG website), and he would exclaim, “Windows sided windows!”, which I assumed was some cryptic expression of adoration, then he would yell my name loudly so that everyone in the cubicles outside my office could hear him. Then, when I entered my password, he would call out to the universe, “Star! Star, star, star! Star, star, star, star, star!” Sometimes, I would pause, a la Breaking Bad, and be like, “Now. Say my name,” and Carlo would say, “Star!” and I would reply, “You’re goddamn right.” But lately, his enthusiasm was waning, and I realized why when, the other day, he suddenly shut down, and the screen turned blue. Then, there was some kind of weird error message, and literally a SAD FACE EMOJI appeared.

I did what any good IT person would do, and I shut the computer off and turned it back on again. The problem seemed to be solved, but then it happened again. And again. And again, which warranted a trip downstairs to the ACTUAL IT department. I took a picture of the screen with my phone:

Me: Oh hey, Arjun. My computer is sad. Should I be worried about this? (shows picture).
IT Guy (breathes in sharply): Oh no. This is bad.
Me: No! (whispers) Carlo…
IT Guy: Save everything on your desktop into your X drive immediately. I’ll come up and fix it in the morning.
Me: OK, cool. How do I do that? Like, one file at a time?
IT Guy: What? Seriously? You…you just (makes some kind of sweeping gesture)…
Me: OK.

As it turns out, making a sweeping gesture at your laptop accomplishes nothing except for providing your coworkers with a bit of a laugh. But I googled ‘how to save my desktop into my X drive’ and found out how to ACTUALLY do it, so problem ostensibly solved. But now, Carl-O is Carl-A, and I just want my baby back.

Case in point 2:

At the beginning of the week, all the managers and directors had to attend a professional development session off-site. We had to answer a bunch of questions ahead of time that would tell us our Business Chemistry profile/which Disney Princess we were. I was a ‘Guardian’, and also Merida, the Scottish princess. I was pretty pleased, but I know that one of our big bosses got ‘Driver’ and Ariel, and he was like, “This is ridiculous. I don’t even swim’. I was hoping that there was also some alignment with the Harry Potter universe, so that I could randomly yell out, “5 points for Gryffindor” every time my table won a challenge, but they were unimpressed the first time I did it, so I stopped. They were even more unimpressed when we had a blindfold challenge, and I asked which one of them was going to be Mr. Grey. Anyway, I digress. Later, we were given the opportunity to ‘explore the maker space’, where they had a virtual reality roller coaster, as well as a robot. The roller coaster, which was miniature and sped its way over and under a variety of living room furniture, made me scream, because it actually felt like I was flying downhill at 90 km an hour, and all I could think was what amazing possibilities there were for having other seemingly impossible experiences, like one of the many insane new Winter Olympic sports. And on a side note, is the Olympics TRYING to kill the athletes? Could these events get any more dangerous? Half the people competing were recovering from injuries sustained during practice! What’s next, curling while the opposing team tries to stab you with long knives mounted to the ends of their brooms?

Anyway, after the roller coaster, we were introduced to their in-house robot, Pepper. ‘She’ was supposed to be this new-fangled interactive technology, and she looked like a small robot child, but every time I tried to talk to her, she would either look away, or stare straight at me, clenching her tiny fists.
Me: I don’t think she likes me.
Robot Owner: Oh, she just has trouble processing information when there’s a large crowd. I think she’s a little overwhelmed.
Me: She looks like she wants to throat punch me. Is she familiar with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics? Because I think I could probably take her in a battle, but only if she doesn’t have lasers.
Robot Owner: Hahaha. I’m sure she won’t hurt you.
Me: Don’t be so sure. I’ve seen that look on a cat right before it’s about to scratch your face off.

So I backed away slowly, and refused to go near stupid Pepper for the rest of the afternoon. Then, to put the icing on the cake, the closing speaker actually said, “I just want to thank you for being so willing to expose yourselves to the group” and I started involuntarily snickering, which caused my director to give me a sharp look, then start laughing herself, and I spent the rest of the guy’s speech desperately trying not to laugh hysterically, because all I could think of was everybody naked, and engaged in a robot war with Pepper and her minions.

I am your robot overlord.

Case in point 3:

I went to the movies with my sister-in-law. We saw The Shape of Water, and we were both like, Meh—what’s the hype? I described it to a co-worker the next day thusly, “It was like Free Willy, if the person who’d freed Willy also had sex with Willy.” In addition, the main character insisted on eating hardboiled eggs any f*cking chance she got, and frankly, anyone who eats hardboiled eggs in an attempt to be sexy deserves to be throat punched by a robot, NOT get lucky with an apparently well-endowed crayfish. Eating a hardboiled egg is not sexy. They stink. But the woman in the movie was obsessed with eggs. Was it some strange fertility motif, or was she just gross? Was it because fish lay eggs, and she was secretly a fish? I’m overthinking this, I know.

Anyway, the important thing, and keeping with this week’s theme, is that AFTER the movie, we went out to the lobby and there was a booth set up with a virtual reality thing and the guy offered to let us try it out. The name of the scenario was “Silent Killer” and I was all like, “Cool—serial killer VR!” My sis went first, and she was looking around all frantic, and jumping and screaming, and I couldn’t wait to try it. Then it was my turn. I put the headset on, and I was in this creepy, dark house. I looked around, and there were lots of shadows, weird music playing, and a TV glowing in the corner. The news story on the TV was about how a family had died in the house. I was making my way through the living room, trying to get to the kitchen, when suddenly, somebody grabbed my arms! I screamed and struggled, and slapped at the hands gripping me, then I threw off the headset. “OK, that’s way too f*cking real!” I yelled. The guy running the booth looked super apologetic. “Oh, that was just me,” he said. “You were starting to wander around too much, and I didn’t want you to get hurt. I was just trying to reposition you.”

And then I felt bad because I’d missed the serial killer, but my sister-in-law said, “Don’t. The whole thing was about carbon monoxide. The Silent Killer. Get it?”

And I did. Because that’s what they will call the robot who finally destroys all of humankind.