Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Further incidents from "The Road to the Altar"

Our second, third, and fourth incidents on the "Road to the Altar" equal the trauma of our first incident.

Incident 2: Finding a legally sanctioned Commissioner to perform the wedding.

We approached the selection of a Commissioner in the manner that most people approach on-line dating. When we went on-line to find a Commissioner we waded through the list of 45 Commissioners in the Vancouver area. We crossed out any and all men for no other reason then the fact that they were men. We then crossed out any women who did not post a picture. We then cut out anyway who was not within reasonable bussing distance of our house. Based on this rigorous criteria we were able to whittle down the list from 45 to 10 Commissioners. We realized, however, that ten Commissioners were still too many to contact. So we decided to contact only those who posted e-mail addresses on line. This brought the list down to three Commissioners. We e-mailed all three and waited with great anticipation for their responses.

The first Commissioner to respond took the whole wedding process very, very seriously. She asked that we call her directly. She informed us that she would not tell us anything over e-mail for fear of having any written record of her statements. Her paranoia disconcerted us so we pressed the delete button on our e-mail and never heard from her again.

The second Commissioner, although willing to talk to us via e-mail, was a bit overly excited. She responded to our query with her own frenetic comments. Her e-mail read, "You want to get married in three weeks. Are you sure you can get everything done in three weeks? Did you reserve a hall for the occasion? Do you have flowers? Food? Drink? What will you do if you can't get everything done in time?" She then went on to say, "Even if you cannot complete the planning in time I ask that you not cancel or change the date and that you still pay me." Her response prompted anxiety attacks in each of us. We thanked her for her concern and moved on.

The third Commissioner informed us of the cost of the ceremony, told us where to get our marriage license application, invited us to have the wedding at her house, and offered to find us witnesses for $25 a piece. We thought the witness thing was a bit odd but otherwise she seemed to be the best of the three choices. We immediately wrote back and confirmed the date.

Four days before the wedding we panicked because we realized we had not yet informed her of the location of the ceremony. We discovered this oversight when I happened to be talking to her on the phone and she asked, "Where will the ceremony be held?" I was caught a bit off guard and replied, "We assumed we were going to have the ceremony at your house. Is that still OK?" Fortunately, she was fine with that option because we did not have a Plan B.

Incident 3: Applying for a marriage license

GF and I got on the bus and headed to the local drug store to apply for a marriage license. The actual application process was fairly uneventful but for the fact that we applied for the license in a drug store. Let me repeat, we completed our marriage license application in a drug store.

On our way out of the drug store we picked up some shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and a prescription refill. We paid for all of these items and for the marriage license at the same cash register. In case this has not sunk in yet let me repeat, we applied for our marriage license at a drug store.

Incident 4: The ceremony

GF and I drove with our three witnesses to the ceremony. As it turned out there was a parade going on at the same time as our ceremony. The parade caused crazy Vancouver drivers to drive even crazier. As a result the drive to the Commissioners house took close to 30 minutes, instead of the anticipated 10. When we finally arrived we realized we were ten minutes late. Since we were so late we jumped right into the ceremony without any fanfare.

The Commisioner began the ceremony with the very solemn, "We are gathered here to witness the joining of two souls..." only to then interrupt herself and say out loud, "Oh, I forgot to turn the phone off. I will be right back." When she returned to the room where GF and I were standing she informed us that she did not turn off the phone because her husband agreed to answer any calls on the first ring so as not to disturb the proceedings. As a result, during the entire ceremony I kept anticipating the ringing phone and could not concentrate on the proceedings.

At the conclusion of the ceremony GF threw the bouquet to our three witnesses in attendance. Each of our friends jockeyed for the flowers - one of them even broke a tooth in the tussle.

It was when our friend got slightly hurt that we knew we had thrown a good party. GF and I can't wait to do it again....

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Road to the Altar

GF and I got hitched this past weekend. The road to the altar, however, was not without incident.

Incident 1: Buying rings

GF and I searched and searched for a jewelry store in Vancouver. The only stores we could find were well out of our price range. Since we could not find any affordable jewelry stores we did the next best thing and went to a mall in a nearby suburb. The beauty of the mall we chose is that there were close to 7 jewelry stores within spitting distance of one another.

The first store we stopped in was the closest to the entrance. The store clerk was extremely cordial and interested in selling us rings but he could not promise we would have the rings in time for the wedding. The soonest he could guarantee the rings was 8 week so we nixed that option.

The second store we chose was 10 paces farther down the hallway. We began to look at the wedding bands when a store clerk came over to us to assist in our selections. The clerk, who was wearing bright blue eye shadow that started at her eyebrow line and continued up to her hairline, purple shoes with 7-inch heels, a light purple skirt suit, and crimped hair, asked if she could help us.

GF immediately immediately picked out a very nice looking man’s silver ring. The clerk handed GF the ring and told her to “Show it to him.” The clerk did not point at me when she made this comment so I assumed she did not confuse me with “a him”. We both gave her a quizzical look and in response she repeated “Show it to him.” GF responded with her own question, “Who is him?” It was at that moment that I realized the clerk assumed GF was marrying a man and that I was there as her female friend helping her pick out rings. When I informed GF of my discovery she told the clerk that there was no him and that we, pointing at me, were marrying each other. The clerk did not know how to respond so instead of speaking she took the ring from GF's hand and placed it back in the case. We took this as our cue to leave and we headed to the next jewelry store on the other side of the hallway.

We were a little shell-shocked by our previous experience so we treaded lightly into the store. We were greeted within seconds by a sales clerk named Brandi - heart over the "i" included. Brandi introduced herself and immediately informed us that this was her first day on the job. Needless to say, she did not instill confidence in either of us. We were tempted to leave until the Assistant Manager came up to help Brandi with her first sale.

Brandi asked us if we knew our ring sizes. Since neither of us were sure of our ring size Brandi pulled out a ring sizer that looked like some ancient torture device. The ring sizer was a huge metal key ring about 7 inches in circumference. Hanging off the metal key ring were a series of 40-50 different metal bands. Each band represented an actual ring size. Brandi took GF's fingers into her hand and tried a few of the metal bands on her ring finger. Since GF has fairly small fingers it took no time for Brandi to find the right size. Then it was my turn.

Brandi took my ring finger in her hand and tried to squeeze my finger into a size 6 band. The band would not move past the tip of my finger. She then tried the size 6.5 band. I am not sure what made her think the addition of a half size would make much of a difference but she tried. Again the ring did not get past the first knuckle. The Assistant Manager tried to coach Brandi and smartly encouraged her to consider going a few sizes up. Brandi then opted for a size 8 band.

Brandi slipped the size 8 band on my finger, it went past the first knuckle with ease but then stuck on the second knuckle. Brandi, however, was determined to get the ring on my finger so she pushed and pushed until the ring went over the second knuckle. When I looked at my finger I noticed that the ring pulled off a layer of skin where my knuckle used to be. Brandi must have noticed it too because she immediately tried to get the ring off my finger. She pulled and pulled but the ring would not budge. Brandi and I both looked at the Assistant Manager with panicked expression. Brandi's panic was borne out of the fact that she thought there might be a law suit on her hands and it was only her first day on the job. My look of panic was borne out of the fact that the ring sizer weighed close to two pounds and was not easily hidden in my pocket. I feared that if I was forced to leave the store with it on my hand and resume daily living that it would seriously inhibit my ability to work.

The Assistant Manager noticed our panicked expressions and went to the back room of the store. She returned with a an unmarked jar. She dipped her hand into the jar, rubbed my finger, and immediately slipped the ring sizer off my hand. She then proceeded to slip the sizer on to my hand again and found the perfect size with one try. Once that ordeal was over we chose rings for the wedding.

The rings we chose have an indentation cut into them about 3/4 of the way down the ring. I was curious to know if the indentation was to be placed closer to the base or the knuckle of the finger so I asked Brandi her thoughts on the matter. Brandi told us that she thought the rings could double as mood rings. She said, "If GF wears the ring with the indentation at the base of her finger you will know when she is sad and if she wears the indentation closer to the knuckle then you will know when she is happy." Unsure how to respond to this we just looked at Brandi in stunned silence and bought the rings.

As if this incident was not traumatic enough, tune in tomorrow for more stories from "The Road to the Altar".

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Lakota Way?

Here is another story for entry into the annals of "The Huh? Diaries".

I was recently watching TV when I saw a commercial for the "Lakota Way", a pain relief medication for those suffering from arthritis. To be honest, before I realized it was a commercial I thought I was watching a Saturday Night Live skit gone terribly awry.

The commercial progresses in this manner - First, a crossing guard is portrayed wearing a Native American headdress while standing in the middle of the street talking to the elementary school students crossing in front of her. Then a police officer runs down the street chasing a criminal while the headdress remains perched on top of his head. The camera then pans to a construction worker standing on an I-beam welding together two metal rods as he wears the requisite headdress and welding goggles. Finally, a farmer is portrayed driving a backhoe through cornfields while wearing his headdress.

My mouth remained agape for the duration of the commercial. I could not speak. I kept wondering, how could they salvage this blatant affront to the Native American community? Alas, no answer to my question was ever given. I continue to shake my head in disbelief.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Canadian Nice

Today as I was lying in bed listening to the radio I heard a very touching story about relations between the US and Canada. It seems that during the first world war, in 1917 to be exact, a munitions ship in Halifax, Nova Scotia exploded. This explosion set off a fire that leveled many parts of the city. Since the fire fighters in Halifax could not control the fire alone the people of Boston sent a huge regimen of fire fighters and medical worker to provide aid. As a thank you gift, the city of Halifax sent a Christmas tree to Boston. This ritual which began in 1917 continues to this day.

However, it seems that this year, the government officials in Boston decided to rename the tree. Instead of referring to the tree as a Christmas tree as they have done since 1917 they now refer to the tree as a "holiday tree". The tree farmer in Halifax who donated this year's tree, a 16 meter White Spruce (52.493438 feet for those like myself that do not do metric), was nonplussed by the name change. He reacted to the name change with this vitriolic statement, "I would rather see the tree go through the wood chipper than hear it called a holiday tree."

Other residents of Nova Scotia reacted similarly. Man on the street interviews elicited reactions such as, "Those people in the states have no right to change the name of the tree."; "Why can't people in the states let a good thing lie?"; "I think we should send a convoy to Boston to get the tree and bring it back to Nova Scotia."; and "What will they do next? Change the name of the Statue of Liberty to the big green statue?"

Finally, Canadians have dropped that facade of "niceness" and are acting like Americans. I knew the holidays would bring us together.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'm too young for alzheimers - aren't I?

Since I have a bus pass GF and I rarely use my car to get around in the city. However, this weekend we needed to run a few errands at the mall in a neighboring suburb so we opted to fill up the gas tank and use the car. On the way home from the mall we decided to stop and rent a video and run into Staples for some paper products. We put two quarters in the meter and knew that we would be free from parking attendants for at least twenty minutes.

Our first stop was Staples where we bought envelopes, printer paper, and a few gumballs. We then headed next door to the video store. We spent a few minutes eyeing the documentaries and the foriegn films but finally settled on some highbrow entertainment, season two of the OC. After picking up the video I had the brainstorm that instead of cooking we should stop into the neighboring Dominos to pick up a pizza to go.

We walked into Dominos and ordered the two topping special with green peppers and anchovies. After we ordered we were told that the pizza would take close to twenty minutes so GF chose to go home and I remained at Dominos waiting for the pizza. I passed the time reading and re-reading the Dominos promotional inserts, watching the manic behavior of the Dominos employees answering the phones and tossing pizza dough, and twiddling my thumbs.

When the Dominos employee finally called my name I walked up to the corner and took the pizza in my hands with great anticipation - I think my mouth even watered. I took the pizza outside and began to walk home. Since the evening was brisk I tried to keep my mind off the cold biting at my face by whistling and bopping my head back and forth.

When I got home GF and I ate the pizza in record time and were ready for seconds. GF asked me if I would be willing to head out again and get some dessert. Since it was unseasonably cold that evening I told GF that I would go but that I woluld drive instead of walk. When I went outside to get the car and noticed that the car was not parked in its assigned spot behind the building.

After seeing the car missing I came running up the stairs two at a time and frantically entered the apartment. I explained to GF, through my frantic breathlessness, that the car was missing. She asked if I thought it had been stolen. I answered with a sharp retort - what do you think. GF was not too pleased with me at that moment and left me to my own devices as I called the police.

I called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and explained to the mountie on the phone that my car was missing. The mountie asked me all the requisite questions about the car including color, make, model, and year. She then asked where I lived and where the car was taken from. I answered all those questions in a haze. The mountie then explained to me that a "cruiser" was in the area and she would send the cruiser out to look for the car. She then encouraged me to come into the station the next morning to file a formal police report.

When I hung up the phone GF looked at me and inquired, "Is it safe to assume that you are not going to get me dessert now?" I looked at her with an icy stare which I think answered her question. Instead of getting dessert I walked door to door in the apartment building and asked every neighbor who answered the door whether or not they heard a car alarm and/or glass breaking earlier in the day. This door to door canvassing proved fruitless since none of them had seen nor heard anything the entire day.

As I hung my head in frustration I went back upstairs and tried to settle in for the evening. When I finally relaxed enough to watch the OC the phone rang. When I answered the phone I heard the voice of the friendly mountie I had spoken with earlier in the evening. She explained to me that the officers in the cruiser found the car in front of a Dominos around the corner. The officers also found two eyewitness at the Dominos who saw two women exit the car. One of the women was under 5'5" in height, had short spikey hair, and black glasses. The mountie then put me on hold to answer another call.

While on hold I explained to GF that the mounties found the car. She asked if they had any witnesses and I said yes. I then described the driver. She looked at me and said "Are you serious?" I asked her to explain her last remark and she said "the driver is you." I told her that I did not steal my own car. GF grew frustrated and reminded me that we had driven to the mall earlier in the day. I said, "Oh crap. I left the car at Dominos didn't I?"

Soon after this realization the mountie returned to the phone. She told me that the car did not seem to be damaged or vandalized and that they could tow it to their station or leave it on the street. I opted for the former choice and mumbled something about not wanting to file a police report anymore. I then thanked her for her help and hung up the phone before she asked me any questions that might further incriminate me.

Once I got off the phone I rushed to Dominos to pick up the car. When I got to the car I saw a piece of paper flickering on the windshield. I picked up the paper and saw that it was a parking ticket for $40. I thought for a second about calling my new mountie friends to fight the ticket but when I told GF my plan she told me not to push my luck.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Huh? Diaries

As I walked down the streets of Vancouver today I noticed a brand new Lexus parked on the corner. As I passed by the Lexus I looked inside the car to admire the "corinthian leather". However, to my surprise, when I peaked inside there was no corinthian leather to admire because the owner of the car covered all the seats with bright blue Snoopy seat covers.

The seat covers showed snoopy in various anthropomorphic poses. Snoopy was pictured playing tennis, talking to Woodstock, kicking a football, playing baseball with Charlie Brown, and sleeping on his red dog house. After sufficiently drawing attention to myself while standing and staring at the car and the seat covers for five minutes I continued onward down the street.

As I walked further and further from the car I could not get the imagine of the seat covers out of my head. I just kept wondering why Snoopy? I could understand the Jetson, the Flinstones, or even Sponge Bob because they are ageless and timeless. Snoopy, however, is just so 20th Century.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A $50 Cup of Cocoa

Since I do not currently work I have not had any reason or inclination to dress professionally. As a result I typically dress like an absolute schlump when I leave the house. (Note to the non-Jews and/or non-New Yorkers, a schlump is Yiddish for an untidy, slobbish or messy person. Or as my mom would say a "rag-a-muffin".) Recently, however, GF and I were invited to a "fancy" event which required me to pick my button-down shirts up off the floor and take them to a dry cleaner.

My experience with dry cleaners in every city I've lived in has been pretty much the same. The dry cleaning process includes these 10 steps:

1. You pick your clothes up off the floor and put them in a bag, usually a plastic grocery store bag because that is the only thing handy.
2. You bring the clothes in to the dry cleaner.
3. You uncrumple the clothes and put them on the counter.
4. The cashier counts the number of items.
5. The cashier asks you how much starch you would like them to use.
6. You respond to the starch question accordingly.
7. The cashier asks you if three days from now will be OK for you to come back and pick up the clothes.
8. You respond to the pick-up clothes questions accordingly.
9. The cashier hands you a claim slip. On the slip is printed your name, the number of items dropped off, and the total due upon pick-up.
10. You walk out the door.

When I awoke this morning I chose to engage in the dry cleaning ritual. I collected all my crumpled button down shirts and put them in a grocery store bag (step 1). I then walked to the closest dry cleaner and walked in (step 2). I was about to begin the process of uncrumpling my clothes and putting them on the counter (step 3) when I realized that I had to take a number. I took my number, 98, when I realized that they were still serving customer 91. Since I had a potentially long wait ahead of me I took a seat on one of the two leather couches.

While seated on the couch an employee came over to me and asked if I would like a complimentary beverage while I waited. I must have looked at her with a perplexed expression because she said to me, "I know it might seem odd but we serve cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolates, and sparkling water to make customers feel comfortable while they wait." She was right, I did think it was very odd but I am not one to turn down a free drink so I ordered a tall hot chocolate with soy milk. The drink arrived within seconds of my placing the order. To my surprise the drink was quite delicious and had just the right amount of choloate and milky froth. As I sat blissfully drinking my cocoa my number was called.

I imediately jumped up with my bag of clothes in hand and walked to the counter. In an attempt to bring familiarity back to this dry cleaning experience I pulled the crumpled shirts out of my bag and put them on the counter (step 3). The cashier then counted the number of items (step 4) and I thought we were back on track. However, instead of moving to step 5, the starch question, she bolted ahead to step 9 and began to talk about price. She informed me that each shirt would cost $5.00 and that shirts with thicker buttons would cost $7.00 since these shirts must be "hand pressed". I stood there with my mouth agape. Needless to say since I had never paid more than $2.00 to have a shirt dry cleaned I was a bit taken aback but I could not leave since I had a free cocoa in my hand.

When I was able to speak again I asked her to repeat the prices because I thought maybe I had misheard her. When she repeated the prices I realized that I was looking at a $40 dry cleaning bill assuming that none of my shirts were deemed to have "thicker buttons". I then broached the topic of the "thicker buttons". The cashier explained to me that any button over two millimeters is considered a "thick button". She then showed me a thick button on one of my shirts and a thin button on another shirt. I told her that to my naked eye each of the buttons looked exactly the same. She explained to me that she is trained in judging the thickness of the buttons and assured me that there was a difference. Since I continued to look at her skeptically she decided to pull out a tape measure and measure the buttons.

She took the tape measure and measured the thin button - the button measured 1.75 millimeters in thickness. Next she took the tape measure and measured the thick button - the button measured 2.25 millimeters in thickness. To my chagrin the cashier showed me up on the thick versus thin debate. As it turned out most of my shirts had "thick buttons" which meant that my dry cleaning bill was now hovering in the $50 range. I tried to bargain with her because it seemed to me that .25 millimeters should not cost $2.00 more but she would not relent. I threw up my hands and walked out sipping my cocoa realizing I had been defeated by millimeters. Alas, at least the cocoa was delicious.

Monday, November 14, 2005

15 Minutes of Fame

A friend recently told GF and me about this all you can eat sushi restaurant so we decided to check it out. As we approached the restaurant we saw a sign posted on the door advertising the all you can eat special. The sign, printed in a faux Asian font, read, "All U Can Eat". The choice of font and the use of "U" should have been our first indication that moving forward with this dining option might be a mistake but we just kept on going.

Upon entering the restaurant the waiter sat us immediately. I noticed that as he was leaving the table he pressed a button on his stop watch. I found this to be a bit odd but did not immediately question him. As we began to peruse the menu we noticed the "all u can eat rules of etiquette" printed on the front cover of each menu. The rules read:

1. No wasting food. If you waste food you will be asked to leave and/or will not receive more food.

2. You must finish your meal in the 1.5 hour time limit. If you do not finish your meal in the designated amount of time you will be asked to leave. (This explained the stop watch...)

3. If you are not purchasing an "all u can eat" meal you cannot share food with someone who is choosing that option.

After reading the rules I realized that I had left Canada and entered Stalinist Russia. We decided to proceed with extreme caution when placing our food orders so as not to draw the wrath of our waiter.

Round 1
For our first course GF and I ordered a mix of sushi, sashimi, and small roles of tuna and avacado. The portions were small and we were able to polish off the food with little effort. We then gauged our stomach capacity and opted to move forward with round two.

Round 2
For the next round we did not veer too far from the success of our last formula and placed an order for more sushi and sashimi. The food arrived in record time and we began to dig in with a vengance. I picked up a piece of tuna sashimi with my chop stick then dipped it into my soy sauce/wasabi mix and took a big bite. Within milliseconds I realized that the fish was frozen. I could even hear the crunch as I bit down on the fish cube.

I looked at GF in horror because I knew we could not eat the frozen cubes of fish but I also feared we would be accused of wasting food if we did not finish it. GF assured me that the waiter would be reasonable and would take the fish away without any fuss because it was not edible. After hearing her rationale I settled down.

The next time the waiter came to the table I informed him that the fish was frozen and could not be eaten without an ice pick. He responded by telling me "This is normal. We do not want bacteria on the fish. Enjoy." He then left the table without the fish and without taking our next order. At that moment we both realized that we needed to get rid of the fish if we were to ever order again.

I suggested to GF that I take the fish to the bathroom and flush it down the toilet. She did not like that idea because it reminded her of her dead goldfish, Hermann, that her mother flushed down the toilet many years ago. I then suggested that I ball up a napkin and hide the fish inside. GF nixed that idea too because the fish was so frozen that the cold was emmanating from the napkin with force and she feared the waiter would find us out. I then suggested that I put the fish on another table. GF relented because she knew this was our best chance.

We began to scope out the "table" scene. The patrons at the table to my immediate right were enjoying a lovely meal and would likely object to our plan so we did not even consider using thier table as our dumping ground. The table to my immediate left, however, seemed to be a viable option. This table top butted directly up against our table top. The only thing seperating our two tables was a very small partition with a decorative hole at the base.

I looked through the hole ever few minutes and watched eagerly as the patrons at the next table paid their bill. As soon as our neighbors exited the building I slid the plate of frozen fish through the partition. We then waited to see what fate would befall us. We noticed the bus boy pick up the food and eye us suspiciously but he knew he could not pin it on us unless he did some fingerprint analysis so he moved on. Soon after the waiter came to our table and we placed our next order.

Round 3
Given our previous incident with the sashimi we opted to move away from fish for our next course. GF branched out and ordered some barbecue short ribs. When a massive plate of short ribs arrived, a plate bigger than my head, I conjectured that the wait staff knew about the sashimi but since they could not pin it on us they were trying to test our "all u can eat" metal.

GF began to eat the ribs at 8:45pm and was still eating the ribs at 9:20pm. At 9:30pm the waiter came over and gave us a five minute warning. He showed us the stop watch and explained that we had been in the restaurant for 1 hour and 25 minutes and we had to be finished with all of our food by 9:35pm. I asked what happens to us if we do not finish the ribs. He pointed to a wall of polaroids. Each polaroid showed a person sitting in front of a plate of unfinished food. At the bottom of the picture the person's name and the date were also printed.

GF tried hard but she could not finish the ribs in time. We thought we might be able to leave money on the table and sneak out before being spotted but to our chagrin the waiter brought over a polaroid camera with the check. He took our pictures, wrote our names and the date on the front and then he put them on the wall with great flourish and fanfare. Every patron in the restaurant stopped to watch the fuss. For that split second I was the talk of the town.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Where in the World is Mini Proportions?

If you have ever lived in and/or visited a foriegn country you know that it is inevitable that you will be asked more than a few times where you are from. I think it is safe to say that since moving to Vancouver I have been asked that question more than 35 times. My response is always the same - Baltimore, Maryland - but the reaction I receive from those asking the question is often very different. For instance some recent responses include:

1. A glazed expression followed by the question, "Where is that?" At first I thought the question referred to where in the United States is Baltimore but as of late I have realized that the true meaning of the question is "Where in the world is Baltimore?"

2. An unusual response I heard recently was, "Is that the city with the big bell?" It took me a minute to understand the question but when I finally grasped what was being asked I responded, "No. That is Philadelphia but we are only two hours away."

3. Since Baltimore begins with a "B" it is often confused with other bigger cities. As a result I have heard, "Oh, the home of the Red Sox" (Boston) or "Wow, one of the New York Boroughs" (Brooklyn) or "Didn't spicey chicken wings originate there" (Buffalo).

4. Sometimes people try to play it off as if they know where Baltimore is but they are really seeking to buy more time to figure out the exact location. A common stall tactic question is, "What is Baltimore known for again?" As if my response, "crabs," will give them more insight into the location of the city.

5. "Is Maryland one of those red states that voted for Bush?" To this I shake my head emphatically and say "No, No, No."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My Cross to Bear

I must apologize to avid mini proportions readers for my dearth of blog updates these last few days but I can explain. I have recently discovered something as addictive as crack. This addiction is requiring all of my mental and emotional energy. I have discovered and subsequently become addicted to the first season of "Lost" on DVD.

My addiction began innocently enough. GF and I went out on Saturday to rent a movie and pick up some Chinese food. While in the video store we picked out two selections that we were both quite happy with in less than 10 minutes. As we approached the counter to pay the cover of the "Lost" DVD caught GF's eye and she recommended we bag the two movies in our hand and get the first two "Lost" DVDs. To be honest, I am not one to buy into hype easily so when GF made the recommendation I hemmed and hawed and then reluctantly and begrudgingly conceeded defeat.

Once we got home we began to eat our food and we popped in the first disc. We watched the first episode then took a break to wash the dishes, make a few phone calls, and brush our teeth. We then watched the second episode. At the end of the second episode GF went to bed but I remained in the living room.

I proceeded to watch four more episodes in a row and stumbled into bed at 3:30am. While in bed I could not sleep because I could only think of the remaining episodes on the disc in the living room. I tossed, I turned, and tossed some more. I woke up the next morning after a fitful nights sleep and knew that I needed my fix. I finished the one remaining disc and went back to the video store for more.

This cycle of rent - watch - return - rent - watch - return has continued for the last three days. I have seen no one but GF in that time nor have I eaten anything that requires more time to prepare than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I fear that I have gone over the edge but figure the only way to kick the addiction is to finish the entire first season so I keep on watching - I guess that is my cross to bear.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

More Reasons to Love the Bus

If you are an avid mini proportions reader you likely know that I have a warm spot in my heart for my bus pass. I love the bus pass because it expedites my travel throughout the city without the annoyance of finding parking and dodging pesky pedestrians. I recently found another reason to love the bus pass - the entertainment.

Since riding the bus I have been collecting quirky experiences for all to enjoy. Below is a short list of those oddities:

1. A bus driver colluded with a passenger who needed to deliver Chinese food to two different apartments. The driver let the delivery person out of the bus at the first building and waited for her to return 5 minutes later. The driver then continued with normal bus operations until the delivery person requested another stop. Again, the driver let the delivery person out and then waited at the stop for more than the usual amount of time. Once the delivery person returned the bus continued without interruption from that point onward.

2. I recently shared the bus with 25 four year old nursery school students. The students were on a school field trip with four adult chaperones. I think it is safe to say that I have never seen so many blinking sneakers in one place at one time.

3. I witnessed a couple making out in the front of the bus for all the passengers to see. Since the offending couple stood directly behind the driver in the middle of the aisle the driver was forced to turn around to inform them that they were blocking his view through the mirror. The couple moved out of the drivers view and subsequently moved within spitting distance of the rest of the passengers. This behavior disgusted all but the creepiest of passengers.

4. A 60ish woman stood next to me in the aisle of the bus gyrating, swaying, and shimmying her breasts to the unidentified music in her head phones. It was a little disturbing to say the least.

5. I noticed a young man in his 20's wearing a dress shirt with the word "jackass" taped on his back. The word was typed in 14 point Times New Roman font and was clearly placed there intentionally. I thought for a minute that maybe it was a performance art piece but then I discounted that notion because neither he nor his companion seemed to be creative or artsy. Then I thought I should inform him of the word on his back but I chose not too because upon further observation I realized that the guy was indeed a jackass. I imagined that the word was likely taped there with great care by a "friend" and who was I to interfere.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Socialized Laundry

The apartment building GF and I live in has some strange idiosyncrasies. The building, built in the late 1960's, has a short box-like exterior frame, orange shag carpet lining the hallways and common areas, and quiet hours enforced every night after 10pm. Most bizarre, however, is the "socialized laundry" procedure.

When we first moved in to the apartment the landlord assigned us a laundry time slot. He told us that it is within our two-hour time slot each week that we can clean all our clothes, towels, and sheets. He also told us if we do not abide by the strict laundry rules and regulations our laundry privileges will be revoked.

I have found that finishing our laundry in this two hour time slot is quite a herculean task because the laundry building's facilities are quite small. I sometimes feel like we are facing a roadblock on the Amazing Race - I can even hear the Amazing Race disembodied voice explaining the challenge, "A roadblock is a choice between two tasks. In the first task the teams must wash one weeks worth of clothing, sheets, and towels in two small capacity washers and dryers. If they do not complete the task in two hours they will smell for the rest of the week. The second task is to carry an entire weeks worth of clothes, sheets, and towels to the laundromat. The task is not difficult because there are many more washers and dryers at the laundromat but if they drop a pair of underwear on the street they will be very embarassed."

However, since I am in charge of the laundry and since I am lazy I always opt to try to beat the clock in the apartment building. I have developed a routine that almost always assures laundry success. One hour prior to our designated laundry timeslot I synchronize all the clocks in the apartment to the official Greenwich Mean Time world clock. I also gather all the clothes into piles of lights and darks before heading to the laundry room. I do this so that I can just drop the clothes into the washing machines without any time lost on thinking about whether the white sock with the three orange stripes counts as light or dark. My laundry preparations are not complete until I finish measuring the precise amount of laundry detergent required for each load. Each of these precise amounts of detergent is then placed in its own tupperware carrying case. I also make sure to mark the carrying case with the requisite corresponding load of laundry so as not to be mixed up when I finally get to the washers. This system has worked like a well oiled machine until last week.

Last week GF did not have to go in to work until later in the day. So since she planned to be home during our allotted laundry timeslot she offered to help out with laundry duty. Before acepting her offer I explained to her the urgency of every single minute of our two hour time slot and demonstrated my well conceived preparation process. She observed me and then asked if I thought it might be time for me to go to the doctor to make sure I did not have obsessive compulsive disorder. I laughed at her because I assumed she was joking, however, upon further reflection she did not laugh which makes me think maybe she was not joking after all.

As the laundry hour approached I scurried about the apartment and helped GF prepare the clothes, the clocks, and the detergent. A few minutes before the top of the hour I sent GF out the door and wished her luck. She returned within five minutes and I asked her how it went. She informed me that when she slid the coin holder into the washing machine the coin holder jammed. She saw the look of panic on my face and then informed me that the machine was washing the clothes even though the coin holder was jammed and that we were still in good shape. I felt slightly relieved but was not feeling 100% positive about my decision to accept laundry help.

When the washing cycle finished GF went downstairs to load another pile of laundry into the washer and put the other clothes in to the dryer. She came up immediately and informed me that we had another problem - this time the coin holder on the dryer jammed. I looked at her expectantly and asked, "Is the jammed dryer still drying the clothes?" She told me, "No". At that moment real panic set in because there was no way we could manage to dry all the clothes in the remaining hour since we had at least two loads of wet clothes.

So in an effort to alleviate the problems I went downstairs to try and fix the jammed machines. First I pulled on the coin holder for the dryer since this was more of an urgent need. I pulled and pulled and pulled but the coin holder did not budge. At one point I almost pulled the dryer away from the wall and onto the floor. It was at that moment that I realized that I needed more leverage. I then pushed my body against the dryer to stabilize it and began pulling again without success. When GF came downstairs to see if I had any luck she found me pulling at the dryer with my feet pressed firmly on the dryer's frame and my butt two feet off the ground. At that moment she offered to help.

I thought the best way for her to help would be to sit on top of the machine so that her body weight would keep the machine steady while I pulled. She declined. Since she would not sit on top of the machine I took matters in to my own hands and climbed on the machine myself. While I sat on the machine GF began to pull and pull and pull still without any luck. We continued in this manner for at least 20 minutes without success.

As we were about to give up the landlord came out of his office down the hall to see about the commotion in the laundry room. He found me on top of the machine and asked what we were doing. We feared losing laundry privileges for life so we very carefully explained the situation. He pulled a key out of his pocket, inserted it into the coin holder, and within seconds the coin holder released. We both looked at him in stunned silence and scampered to get all of our wet clothes into the dryer before time ran out. As he left he said, "Next time just knock on my door". We both thought that seemed like a good idea.

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