Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mr. Big Stuff, Who Do You Think You Are?

The older I get, the more acutely heightened is my sensitivity to the class differences in this country. And it's not simply because at present, I'm unemployed and squatting in my landlord-foreclosed apartment awaiting eviction, though technically I suppose that would cynically give me more impetus to want to stick it to "the man."

I consider it a blessing to still live in the middle-class neighborhood in which I grew up. I've moved around a bit into and out of the suburbs directly adjoining the Northwest Side of Chicago, but never in my life, except for college, have I lived outside a mile radius of where I presently live. That said, I am content and deeply steeped in my mostly blue-collar community and have no desire to ever rock that boat. For the most part, we're all just regular folks with regular lives, good moral makeups, generally friendly and polite and loyal to a fault.

When the suburb in which I used to live, Park Ridge, became increasingly more white collar and upper class, with the infiltration of McMansions, Mercedes, $700 baby strollers and residents dripping in snooty attitude on every block, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I was once again living in Chicago proper, though my mom and my ex still live on the South side of Park Ridge, the veritable town "ghetto," if suburbs can have ghettos.

As much as I love hanging out at my boyfriend's downtown high rise, luxury apartment, with all it's perks and amazing view of the Chicago skyline, and it's comfy and awesome and is my little vacation oasis away from home, some of the overt disregard for others, disguised as the affluent's divine right, is not only unfathomably rude but also completely irritating.

This observation is routinely evident to me in the parking garage of my boyfriend's apartment building, which is both a residential and public paid lot. It has six levels, with an elevator on each. Next to most of the elevator entrances on each level is a row of clearly marked handicapped parking closest to the door. But more often than not, the handicapped spots are not occupied by cars bearing either a handicapped plate or a handicapped placard, either of which is required by state law in order to occupy a handicapped-reserved parking spot.

Who, then, occupies the rock star parking in this garage, if it's not a handicapped resident or visitor, you ask?

The rich. The really, really rich. The richer, the better. The more expensive the luxury vehicle, the greater the chance that it's parked in the handicapped spot next to the elevator on any of the six floors, and not just for a quick grocery-unloading or Neiman Marcus shopping-bag hauling of stuff upstairs and then moved to a proper, legal spot. No, if it's a Bentley, or a Ferrari, or a Maserati, or a Lexus or a pimped-out Hummer, it's chillazing there for days on end.

While I can't directly quote any of the fucktards whose cars are illegally in the handicapped spots, I imagine the one-sided conversation would go something like this: "I make a ton of money. I pay rent for a very expensive apartment in this building. I have a vehicle for which I paid $200,000 and I don't want anyone to scratch or nick it. Who cares if I'm parked in a handicapped spot? I have enough money to pay any tickets I might receive. I'm sickeningly rich, therefore I will do as I damn well please, little peasant girl. Try not to bump into our utter perfection on your way back to your hole in the wall. "

No, not all rich people are so callously inconsiderate, just how not all poor people are meek and considerate. This sort of stuff balances out for the most part; I just happen to encounter a surplus of douchebags. Welcome to my life.

While I could very easily take pictures of the culprit cars and hand them over to the Chicago Police, what good would that do? Mr. and Mrs. Gotrocks will just pay their way out of it, which is sad. Here's hoping The Gotrocks sleep cozily in their extremely fluffy bed while wheelchair-bound Mrs. Finkelstein lies in traction in a nearby hospital after having to schlep half a block from her car to your elevator.

Color me weird, but it would never occur to me to park my big ass Chrysler in the handicapped or visitor parking spaces in my church's lot, even if there's nary another soul there (Pun Alert!). I could. I totally could, particularly when I have, you know, my entire drum set to haul inside. Still, I wouldn't. But that's just me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Hello, My name is Bob. Bob Smith. Yes, that's it."

Yesterday was Part Two of "Can This Computer Be Saved?" over at my best friend Patti's house. Last week's episode featured a busted DVD-RW drive, 2 un-syncable iPod Nanos, a universal remote control system for the house that hinged on said DVD-RW drive NOT being toast, three yelpy kids and a ride home after a missed train that hands down had to be more fun than I've had in decades.

And for the record, Makenzie (Patti's 11-year old daughter), it was not Jesse Jackson who rode his horse along the tracks to rob trains. It was Jesse James. What are they teaching kids in school these days?

I'm far more technically inclined than my cool, hip facade would ever admit (and the readers all laugh in an uproarious "We're so sure!") so Patti trusts me to install, program and troubleshoot most of the electronics in her sprawling suburban nest. Well, that and the fact that since I did most of her homework for her and cleaned her room all the time when we were kids, I'm historically competent, dependable and hard-working. (So why is it I can't find a job to save my life???)

Thus Luke and I took another Metra out to Patti's little town and embarked on a trip to Best Buy to procure a new DVD-RW drive. Yippee, I was smart enough to bring along the specs on the old one to make sure the new one would be compatible with her desktop. Yippee, it was! Got home and I rifled through her husband's tools to find itty-bitty screwdrivers since I left my computer-repair tools at home.

I'm not totally familiar with the Dell Dimension B110, so I sat there temporarily befuddled trying to gauge how to open the tower on the CPU. I certainly didn't want to unnecessarily unscrew a bunch of stuff, so to be on the safe side, I blew another call into the friendly technical support staff at Dell USA.

Last week's tech support call, where the guy remotely diagnosed Patti's computer as having an irreparable hardware issue cost us (well, Patti) $39.99, since her warranty had expired just weeks prior (naturally). No way I was falling for that shiz again, so I told the technician this time that I had but ONE QUICK QUESTION and then I'd be good to go...that whole "how the fuck does the tower open?" one.

Dell Guy, in insanely thick Indian accent: "Hello, thank you for calling Dell USA Technical Support. My name Bob Smith. How may I help you?" (I think last week's tech said his name was J.R. Ewing or some such nonsense.)

Me: "Hi, I just need to know how to get the cover off of the tower on my Dell Dimension B110. That's all I need to know."

Bob: "Yes, ma'am. I'm happy to help you with that. But first I need to ask you the cacophony of questions to verify both yours and the computer's identity that will take upwards of 20 minutes and are a direct repeat of the information you provided for us last week."

Me: "Fine, blah blah blah."

Bob: "Now, ma'am, turn the CPU on it's side to your right. You will see a black plastic lever that shifts from side to side. Do you see the lever?"

Me: "Yes, Bob."

Bob: "Yes, ma'am. Now, do you see two black indentations on the cover on either side of the CPU?"

Me: "Yes, Bob."

Bob: "Yes, ma'am. Now I need you to take one hand and use it to hold the black lever shifted to the right. Take another hand and use IT to lift up the left side of the black cover and your other hand to do the same on the right."

Me: "Bob, that would imply that I have three hands."

Bob: "Yes, ma'am."

Me: "Ok, just wanted to make sure we're on the same page here."

Bob: "Yes, ma'am."

Me:"Yes, Bob, thanks, I got it open."

Bob: "You are welcome, ma'am."

Me: "Keep sailing, Bob."

Bob: "What was that, ma'am?"

Me: "Bye, Bob."

That ended my Dell Technical Support Love-In for the day, and I swapped the drives out in under 10 minutes. And the new drive worked. And the iPods synched. And we ate really yummy food. And giggled more and had a ton of girl talk. And Luke and I made the train home and enjoyed getting soaked in a summer thunderstorm en route back to our car at the station.

Life is good. Keep sailing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Please Weigh In on..."Should I Totally Punish Luke for This

Friends, I need your take on this.

I drew Luke a nice, warm, relaxing bath and prepared his toothbrush with paste, as usual. His bed is turned down and his little stuffed bunnies are next to his pillow...ah, how invitingly relaxing!

Historically, Luke takes his clothes off in the bathroom and leaves them on the floor and then gets into the tub, where he bathes and washes his hair, like any self-sufficient 8-year old would. After brushing his teeth and toweling off, he puts his clothes in his hamper and puts his fresh jammies on, poised for a peaceful night's rest.

Now, I don't usually watch this routine very closely, because he IS 8, and isn't in danger of drowning, etc etc. But he called me into the bathroom specifically tonight, where once I came in, he was giggling in the tub STILL WEARING ALL OF HIS CLOTHES. Oh boy, what a HA HA HA. And a HO HO HO.

I was supremely pissed off and ordered him out of the tub to put the now WET CLOTHES in the sink, for fear the entire bathroom would soon be a lake. Luke didn't understand a) why I didn't find the humor in it, b) why I told him that it was EXTREMELY naughty for him to do such a thing, and c) why that meant that my knee-jerk reaction was to forbid him from using the computer for 24 hours. Thus, I was met with his hostility and his questions...

Luke's reasoning:

1) "The dirty clothes are going into the washer and dryer tomorrow anyway."

2) "At least I took off my socks."

3) "You never told me it was naughty to get in the tub with my clothes on, so how was I supposed to know it was naughty?"

In reaction to the computer punishment, he said, "I don't care, I wasn't planning on using it tomorrow anyway." Well, that's a load of crap because he spends an inordinate amount of daily time making videos and uploading them to YouTube, and watching some other idiot's channel where they experimentally microwave stuff to see if it blows up.

So here's my conundrum: While there was no sign posted in the bathroom about the prohibition of bathing with one's clothes on, was that still supposed to be an assumed? Should or shouldn't an 8-year old know better? What IS so terribly naughty about it that deserves punishment, because I myself can't reasonably think of an answer, other than it's messy, wet, stupid and irritating? Is the punishment I handed out sufficient?

I'm curious to know what you all think about this. Post a comment or email me here, whether you're a parent or not. Because we were all 8-year olds at some point. My son, as many of you know, is WAY too intelligent for his own good, which often makes dealing with him a royal challenge.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Help a Sistah Out, Won't You?

Watch this. Often. Clickety-clackety. My friend Susan needs like a gabillion hits and then she gets either her own reality show or a lifetime supply of Rice-a-Roni, either of which would be so fucking awesome!

"You Must Be Able To Satisfy..."

As most of you know, I'm feverishly looking for a full-time job. A jobby-job with all the requisite bells and whistles like health insurance, a 401k, preferably not in a tan or steel blue-colored cubicle. But not a job where I just go and plug away for 8 hours a day like a drone, and not one of the craptastic jobs for which I've recently interviewed where they think it's acceptable to pay a 36-year old with a decade and a half of vital, relative, challenging experience the paltry wage of $8.00 an hour. Color me choosy, but that's not being unrealistic.

While I would not ideally work again as an administrative assistant (my experience is more on the executive assistant pay scale/level), I'm certainly not averse to submitting a resume for such work if the gig is worthwhile, the pay is do-able and I can still write in my leisure time. Picking around myspace this afternoon, one of he jobs posted was for GE, the folks who claim to "bring good things to life." You know, one of those monopolizing conglomerates at which I would most likely swing my aforementioned (and still patented) Fist Full of Blue Collar Whoop-Ass.

Their want ad for an administrative assistant was pretty dull and uninteresting, seeking not the brightest "bulb" in the GE organization (one of the job prerequisites was a high school diploma or G.E.D.). The final requirement in their ad, however, was listed in bold all-caps. That must mean it's crucially important, yes/no?


Well, duh! Who doesn't? I think I satisfied that the last time I got my tires rotated. For shits and giggles, I Googled whatever the fuck it is, and should you care to peruse it at your leisure (like say, for example, you're incarcerated for money laundering for the next 50 years and need to build an appeal), it can be found at:

Only the Son of Two English Majors Would Say This...

Driving along with Luke, as usual...

Luke: "Mom, what do you think is the most commonly used form of punctuation?"
Me: "Probably the period."
Luke: "Yeah, followed closely by the comma."
Me: "I don't know, question marks are really popular too."
Luke: "Then the exclamation point."
Me: "I don't think the semicolon gets enough credit."
Luke: "I use semicolons A LOT when I write my journals."
Me: "Good boy."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rides for the Jesus-Themed Adventure Park

Rides for the Jesus-Themed Adventure Park
Current mood: rebellious
Category: Religion and Philosophy
I was exchanging emails with my friend, Patti, when she mentioned that she would be volunteering at her church's vacation Bible school, and asked me if our church was doing the "Power Lab" theme. Unfortunately, we're not, but St. Paul IS presenting the Jesusriffic "SonWorld Adventure Park."

I'm not sure if the curriculum for "SonWorld" involves the actual creation of rides and attractions (that alone would take at least 7 days, would it not?), but golly gee, if I were my son, I'd be plugging for a piece off of THAT Kit-Kat bar.

This naturally flowed my deviously creative juices, cutting into my valuable daydreaming and procrastination regiment.

How's about....

... a Goose St. Matthew While You're Nervously Stuck at the Top Ferris wheel?

...Wednesdays after Memorial Day, Lepers can enjoy a 5% discount in the gift shop?

... "Hell in a Handbasket," a thrilling climb up a perilous slope of free will and sin, finally plummeting into a refreshing baptismal rebirth?

...the Old Testament Cafe has a 5-star menu of manna, locusts, Sodom Sundaes and Amazing Technicolor Dreamsicles, while the New Testament Bar and Grill serves up Lamb of God, loaves, fishes and wine in a fully air-conditioned manger?

...the You Vs. The Twelve Apostles bumper cars?

...the Tunnel of Love (Thy Neighbor)?


..."Purgatory," a vertical coaster that shoots you neither up nor down, just 45 seconds of heart-pounding hanging in the middle?

...deny Jesus 3 times before the cock crows and receive $10 off any adult admission to the new live-action production, "TRANSUBSTANTIATION!,"now playing in the freshly remodeled Garden of Gesthemane Ampitheater?

...the sick and the lame will be healed in the "Miraclenator," the world's first and only evangelical Tilt-a-Whirl?

...the "Carousel into Jerusalem," a collection of donkeys to ride up and down on the pole in concentric circles with free palms to wave along the way?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

When Life Hands You Dorks, Make...Uh, Some Sort of Beverage.

I've learned that when the world throws material like this into my lap, it is pointless to resist...

Scene: Elevator at the Highrise, the ride from Floor 1 to Floor 38.

Our Cast of Characters: Dorky Affluent Family (Dad in sandals w/granny glasses, khaki shorts and a Polo, Surly Teenage Son, who clearly loves him some serious J. Crew, and Mom with requisite medium-length hair in a bandana, a sundress, a sweater over her shoulders and their leftover dinner in a paper shopping bag).

Now, I'm barely socially seasoned enough to say hello to random elevator co-passengers, let alone engage them in small talk. Usually I just stand against the wall clutching my various Stuff to Schlep and construct little vigniettes in my mind about overthrowing their Bourgeois, elitist butts with a fist full of my patented Blue Collar Whoop-Ass. While the elevator to the 38th floor is zippy, it's still packs a good minute of conversation to overhear.

(We'll call whomever they were talking about "Joe," as I cannot remember his real name.)

Son: "Do you think Joe likes his new job?"
Mom: "Yes, he seemed to! But you know Joe..."
Dad: "Joe. Never worked a hard day in his life."
Son: "Wasn't he a coach at Loyola?"
Dad: "Football. Please, all Joe did all day was follow around young men in tights."

(Oh God, oh God, oh God....I have to say SOMETHING!)

Me: "Hey, THAT sounds like a good gig, sign me up for THAT!"

(Elevator stops on the 36th floor, where Dorky Affluent Family resides.)

Mom (hysterically laughing): "Ha! Ha! Ha! Yeah!"
(I was poised for my high-five, but alas...)

Dad (snarky and put off): "Yes, well, perhaps you can find that online somewhere. Good night."

Me: "Goodnight! Enjoy your evening!"
(Which translates to: "Now, why don't you take your uppity ass go outside and play Hide and Go Fuck Yourself?)

I'm giddy with wonder at who I might run into tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Aren't We A Little Young For This Discussion?

Luke and I stopped at Walgreens today, to pick up a prescription and a new bottle of Tylenol PM.

My son was rifling through the Impulse Purchase Section next to the register while I paid for my stuff. During this brief time, out of the corner of my eye, I could see him eyeing up some disgusting looking candied mice, Hannah Montana ball-point pens, mixed nuts, AAA batteries, hand sanitizer and a large box of Magnum condoms.

During my whole commerce exchange, workers were installing a Red Box DVD machine on the wall outside of the Walgreens, directly in front of the wall where the checkout is inside the store. It was almost impossible to think, let alone hear what my total was, with thudding jackhammer action playing in the background. This I did hear, however:

"Mom, what are condoms?"

The friendly Walgreens clerk looked at me with a "Better you than me, honey!" on her face while I politely and quietly told Luke that I would tell him what condoms were once we got to the car. Unfortunately, he was unable to hear ME over the jackhammers and repeated loudly, "MOM! WHAT? ARE? CONDOMS?!?!?!"

With my lips pursed and my teeth clenched, I repeated, "I will tell you in the car." Naturally, the other customers in line were all trying to stifle their laughter.

Luke: "Why are you so cranky? Why can't you tell me now? I just want to know what condoms are!"

Nervously trembling, I gathered my receipt and change and beelined out of the store. Once in the tranquility of the parking lot, Luke asked me again, "Mom, NOW will you tell me what condoms are?"

Me: "It's a delicate matter."
Luke: "Why?"
Me (once safely in the car and out of earshot of bystanders): "Condoms are a method of birth control."
Luke (shaking his head to indicate that my explanation clearly did not suffice): "What's birth control?"
Me: "It's what adults use when they want to have sex but they don't want to make a baby."
Luke: "What do you do with a condom?"
Me: "A man wears the condom on his penis so that when he has sex with the woman, she doesn't get pregnant."
Luke: "Eeeeeew."

Thankfully, no further explanation as to what comes out of the man's penis and goes into the woman's vagina, possibly resulting in pregnancy, was necessary, nor was elaboration on practicing safe sex, why condoms might be handy if men have sex with other men, or how STD's all figure into the mix. I managed to satisfy Luke's reproductive curiosity for the time being, and pray his father gets to field the next round.