Long Lost Last Names

The worst thing about Facebook is that you have to know someone’s name to find them. I’d love to look up so many people from my childhood, but I only remember a first name, if anything. and since I’m a girl, most of my childhood friends were girls, so even if I remembered their last names, they’d probably have changed a couple times by now.

I didn’t go to a school with a yearbook until sixth grade. I got that one, and all of them afterwards, but that still leaves six years of schooling and friends and neighbors that I can’t account for.

When I was three and four, and again when I was six through eight, we lived on a country road that, as far as I know, didn’t have a real name, just Route 2. I should ask my parents; my father still owned the land we’d lived on for several years after we moved away.

The first friend I remember was Aaron, a much older boy who lived across the street. I actually do remember his last name, because my mother said it often enough when talking about his mother, her friend. But there’s no finding him on Facebook. Too common a name.

Then there was Dionne. She lived down the street. I don’t know how we got so lucky as to be the only two girls for miles and the same age, but we did. I couldn’t even guess her last name.

And there was Amber from Girl Scouts. She had blonde hair and she was taller than I was when we were six. I didn’t make it past Brownie, so I’m not sure how long she was a Scout.file000250926781

I can’t find them to reconnect after thirty years. And it seems crazy to me that people younger than I am can find friends they had when they were six years old. It brings back the feelings of being an outsider that I had in high school, when everyone else had known each other since kindergarten, and there I was starting towards the end of tenth grade.

But at least I’m friends with most of them.

And I did find my friend Sara Johnson. Do you know how many Sara Johnsons there are on Facebook? A lot. Fortunately her parents still had the same phone number that they did in 1987.


Reading the Classifieds

I trained elsewhere, besides healthcare.

I was briefly a vacuum cleaner salesman. Perhaps I should say that I was briefly a vacuum cleaner demonstrator–I didn’t sell any of the two thousand dollar monstrosities.

I don’t remember what they were called, but people always asked if they were Rainbow. They were not. We were supposed to say that ours were better. I didn’t care; I wasn’t familiar with Rainbow vacuums.

How did I find this marvelous job, you may ask. Well, boys and girls, listen closely, and you may very well learn something.

best_free_classified_ads_posting_sites

Once upon a time, there were things called newspapers. They were made of paper and ink, and they were delivered every day. When you touched them too much, the ink would rub off and turn your fingers black. Kind of like when you eat a whole bag of Cheetos while binge watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. See kids, history has parallels today!

Anyway, in the newspaper was a section called classifieds. when you needed a job, you would get a copy of the newspaper and sit down with it at your dining room table, highlighter and pen in hand.

If you didn’t have a table, you unfolded the paper on top of your steering wheel because obviously you lived in your car, but that’s another story.

You’d peruse the job listings, which were kind of like Craigslist, only briefer, because anyone placing an ad had to pay per word. The highlighter was for circling the jobs you were interested in, and a pen was for crossing out the jobs you had absolutely no chance of landing.

Once all the winners were picked, you’d grab the phone and start calling. The most mysterious ads, the ones that said something like 20 people needed right away! Earn up to $1,000/week! were mostly a waste of time. Anything that precedes your compensation with up to meant commission, usually on overpriced ripoffs that were next to impossible to sell.

I called the number listed on a mystery ad three times.

The first time I was given an appointment time for a presentation. When I showed up, there were probably thirty of us seated in what appeared to bed a hastily-rented office space–pay attention, that’s a trend.

We sat in folding chairs and watched a twenty minute video featuring smiling beautiful people who shouted the joys of a flexible schedule and making as much money as you wanted.

After the video, the–hm, facilitator? yes.–facilitator announced that we would now interview in groups of three.

I was in the first group of suckers–I mean applicants–to be interviewed. It wasn’t really an interview; it was more of a live re-enactment of the video.

Do you like to make money? The other two girls nodded eagerly.

Do you want to set your own hours? Oh, yes!

Do you want to be your own boss? Again the nodding, accompanied by a chorus of yeses.

Through all this, I sat quietly. When he singled me out to ask what I thought about the job, I replied that I didn’t have enough information to form an opinion either way. He seemed taken aback, but apparently that was the right answer, because I got a call back the next day. I turned down the job offer because he still wouldn’t give me any useful information about the position.

The second mystery ad I answered led to the vacuum sales job. When I showed up for that interview, I considered simply walking away, although only for a split second. I had moved back home, and I needed a job to get my mother off my back.

The stained, ratty carpet and missing ceiling tiles were immediately reminiscent of that time I watched the video of beautiful people beat around the bush. I stayed anyway.

It turned out to be not so much of an interview as a meeting to tell me when my training would take place. By being one of two responders to the ad, I’d already gotten the job. I agreed to return at the set date and time.

When I did, I was given a lovely prepared sales spiel to memorize, and then I was shown the demonstration that I would be performing.

Too bad it wasn’t a steam cleaner. That carpet was disgusting in there.

I practiced the demonstration until my performance was approved, then went home with my demo unit. I did demos for my family and my mom’s office nurse, but fortunately, the hospital’s CEO canceled  her demo, because by then I’d had my fill of vacuuming for fun, without the profit.

A few years later I was looking for a second job to supplement my income, and I answered my third mystery ad. I just couldn’t help myself, I guess.

This one turned out to be telemarketing, but the office was just as unkempt as the other two I’d visited. I got the job, was given a script, and set free at my desk to sell magazine subscriptions.

This operation was so shady and cheap, we didn’t even have headsets. We didn’t even have to little piece you stick on a handset to rest the phone more comfortably between your shoulder and your ear.

We also did not have computers. Take a moment to digest that. Take all the time you need.

At least we had touchtone phones.

What else we had was a paper list of phone numbers, and a bell. When you got a sale, you rang the bell. First sale of the day and most sales of the day got you a bonus: a shiny new half dollar.

Yes.

I am dead serious about this bonus system.

Oh, did I mention that we didn’t call people at home? We called them at work to sell them magazines to get at home.

I worked there four whole days and sold one subscription.

But I did learn why I got the job. It was my phone etiquette. Anyone who called who said anything other than hello, I’m calling about the ad in the paper was told that the position had been filled.

I would have loved that job. She did nothing but set up interviews and turn people down. She didn’t even do that interviews–only scheduled them for the manager.

Times have changed, but I guess not all that much. I found my current job through Facebook, and my husband’s came from Craigslist, as did the other job that I recently left after five years.


I Own My Story

Today I read an article about stories; more specifically, whose story is whose

I stand firm in the I own my story camp. 

I used to worry; I used to wonder. I do still ask the people I know if it’s okay to share pictures here. 

I’ve admitted to you that as much as I’ve told you, I haven’t shared my story here

But when I do share it, I will share it. Because it’s mine: my life, my story, my words. I don’t worry about losing people over it. Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. 

I own my story. It is mine to tell. 

It does feel slightly hypocritical to say that. Anne Lamott‘s statement “if people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better,” correlates so perfectly with the attitude toward government surveillance that I cannot abide: “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” It feels unfair that I can tell everyone what good and bad you’ve done, but heaven forbid any authority figure claim the same privilege. Feelings aside, there’s still a huge chasm between the two. 

No one is going to watch himself all the time. We all slip up every once in a while. 

Writing about someone’s involvement in my story is like seeing them pick their nose behind the wheel at a red light. I happened to catch them. They slipped up.  Nobody judges another person when they catch them digging for gold. 

The Man putting a camera behind the windshield to catch you exploring your nasal caverns means that being caught is a virtual assurance. You can’t ever risk it, because someone is always watching. 

I might not be watching. 

Or I might.

Either way, if my eyes are involved, it’s my story, so pick at your own risk. 


Punching Judy

My parents don’t get along.

Well, I’ll take that back, a bit. My biological parents get along tolerably well when they’re in each other’s actual, physical presence, at least, since a few years after they divorced. They’re quite civil with each other, and I’ve never heard my father speak ill of my mother. When we talk on the phone, he asks after her wellbeing, and listens to my answers. He even asks after my half-brothers, because they’re my family. https://ericwedwards.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/punch-and-judy-1880.jpg?w=500

My mother is a different story. Once I was ‘old enough,’ however she defined that age (she never told me; I never asked), the words that she’d held back for so many years came tumbling out. Before then, her communications were limited to eye-rolls and sighs of disgust.

Now, it’s one thing for my best-friend-since-we-were-eleven and I to laugh bi-annually when I received my birthday and Christmas packages from my father; a quick summation of his gifting skills is secondhand, cheap, and/or quite odd. Not that secondhand is bad, necessarily, but when it comes to an address book or a calendar, it does subtract from the usefulness of the item in question. So. It’s one thing for us to do that, and we certainly do. My bestie awaits those packages as excitedly as I do.

But it’s another for my mother to tell me that my father, who always paid his child support the month it was due, if not generally the day it was due, who never struck me, who, as a creative artist, supports my own creative and artistic endeavors, is a sorry piece of shit. It’s worse than the pot calling the kettle black–I don’t know how many times she hit me, and she has often ridiculed my artistic ambitions.

The thing of it is, she’s proud of being that person. One of the (admittedly few) stories I’ve heard of when she and my father were married is about her shrewishness: once, my father simply stated boogers are salty. She promptly and furiously contradicted him: no they’re not! But when she tells this story, she can’t leave it at that; she has to boast that she’s so contradictory and argumentative that even an example like this is a source of pride to her.

My mother collects negativity and misfortune and hoards them, only to pass them out when she needs to one-up someone, anyone. She doesn’t feel the hurt of these things as everyone else does; they’re good things, to her, because she can use them as building blocks to raise herself up to martyrdom, above everyone else’s suffering.

She’s built up this cult of anger instead of personality, and my stepfather bears the brunt of it now. All four of her children have tried pointing this out to her, pointing out her pettiness and her belittlement of him, and all it’s done is make us notice more.

But sometimes, now, he gets angry back, and they will scream and fight and blister each other with insults until one of them gives up; not verbally, but physically leaving the room and locking the other out.

It’s uncomfortable, to say the least. And yes, tremendously awkward.

And I’m afraid it won’t end until one of them is institutionalized.

Tues Truthiness at TBP–from a few weeks ago


The Humble Sandwich

Food embraces tradition and occasion. Even a simple sandwich for lunch, how or when you take a cup of espresso (if at all), or a casual meal on the run reflects culture, tradition and occasion. Does your daily “routine” of meals, or favorite meal out reflect who you are as an individual, what you love about dining, or your cultural background? Did you grow up in one food culture, but now live in another? What are the different food culture’s you’ve experienced?

Have you heard the saying if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing correctly?

Let me tell you about sandwiches.

Sandwiches are certainly one of those things worth doing, and worth doing correctly. When I sit down to consume a sandwich, I want to have a memorable experience. I don’t see the point in bothering with a sandwich if you’re just going to slap some filling between something carby and call it a day.

Sandwiches are important. They’re universal. They deserve time and special attention.

For brevity’s sake, we’ll stick to sliced bread in this discussion; bagels and rolls and tortillas deserve posts of their own.

The first thing that must be considered is slice correlation. If you’re opening a fresh loaf, but you don’t like the end slice, that’s fine. But what you must do it skip two slices, not just one. The only exception to this rule is when no one in the house will eat those two poor neglected ends, in which case, by all means, throw the first one away or put it in your duck pond stash or crouton bag or whatever. Now, the reason you must skip two slices is so the long-suffering end-slice-eater has a matched set of bookends for their sandwich.

If you don’t understand, grab a new loaf of sliced bread and try to make a sandwich from the end and a middle slice. It’s not a happy sandwich, is it? That border all the way around the smaller end piece ruins the whole sandwich aesthetic. But now you know, skip two and everyone will be happy.

Condiments. Condiments must go on both sides, or neither. Nothing will unbalance your day more than a top-heavy mustard sandwich. Or a bottom-heavy one, for that matter. Apply a thin, even layer to the corresponding sides of each slice of bread. Make sure it goes all the way out to the crust–this is why the slices must match.

Once slathered with the flavor of your choice, it’s time to move on to the cheese. Ideally, cheese touches the condimented bread. Why? Because cheese comes in slices, unless you’re making some type of blue or feta sandwich. Cheese slices generally hold the shape they’re assigned. They’ll stick to the condiments like a stamp to a letter, and if you’re a two-slice kind of person, this is crucial when it comes time to fold the sandwich into one cohesive unit.

Are you heating this sandwich? If so, skip the vegetables for now; if not, lettuce goes next to cheese, then tomato, onion, pickle, whatever your little heart desires. The key point to remember when it comes to vegetables is that they must lie flat. Normal bread will never survive a sandwich that juts out in the center or to the side, even with a cheese shield.

Some people consider meat the be-all and end-all of any sandwich that’s not a PB&J; I beg to differ. While the contribution of meat to the overall experience of a sandwich is significant, it isn’t essential. You want a good sandwich, try mayo, cheddar, and white onion on homemade bread. It’s delicious. I used to eat them daily.

But we’ll assume that you’re making a meaty sandwich. Perhaps you’re using sliced meats: in this case, layer and fold them to exacting standards so that the same number of layers cover every square inch of bread. This will ensure that every bite is as enjoyable as the last. However, perhaps you’ve decided to involve meatballs, or even chunks pulled from the carcass of a leftover turkey. In this case, you have two options: slightly squash the larger pieces of meat so that when the sandwich is completed you will have approximately the same volume of meat throughout, or break out the knife and cutting board and slice them evenly, and follow the procedure for pre-sliced meats.

Now. Did you put the meat on top of the vegetables, or is each on its own side? For ease of combination, I recommend layering the meats on top of the veg. When you’ve done that, it’s no challenge at all the flip the remaining lonely slice of bread, with or without cheese, onto the top of the tower of filling.

Once you’ve flipped, the only step left is slicing that bad boy. There are two types of people in the world: squares and triangles. Which are you?

And for crying out loud, get a plate and arrange that sucker attractively!

Tuesday Truthiness at TBP