We Make Halloween Scary… for Shoppers & Employees Mostly

Of course the second the school supplies fly off the store shelves, the Halloween supplies are already standing there on the dollies, waiting to be rolled in and take their place. This has to be the suckiest time of the year to work at a Walgreen’s. I mean, I don’t think they have to say anything embarrassingly corny to the customers like: “Have you found everything you need in our spooktacular Halloween aisle?” (Like I remember thinking when I went to an ice cream place where the employees sang the orders, my first day working there would have been: “Yeah, I’m not doing that. Bye.”) Basically the lousy thing they’re stuck with at this time of year, at least in our neighborhood Walgreen’s… is us.

Walgreen’s is like our own little interactive Halloween museum: It’s okay to touch and try stuff on, but we go there knowing we won’t be buying anything. It’s free entertainment on a rainy day. They generally don’t let me on the germy climbing contraption at McDonald’s anymore, so this is it. (Although sometimes I can convince the manager at McDonald’s either 1) to go with the height limit not the age limit or 2) that somewhere at the top of the slide I have a very small (practically invisible) child who desperately needs my assistance.)

Walgreen’s usually has an ample Halloween aisle. When those automatic doors fly open, my husband and I head right to it… and press everything with a button… sometimes all at the same time. So if you happen to be working there or unfortunately shopping there at the time, expect to be tricked and/or treated to a fifteen minute concert booming from the seasonal aisle of various versions of “Monster Mash” colliding like a train wreck with cackles, howls, and shrieks. Then there’s the light show. Every blinking, strobing, blinding bulb inside a skeleton, a werewolf or a vampire with a “try me” sticker will be tried (by each of us. After my husband shows me a display, the rule is that I must get a turn pressing the button myself… and then my husband must mumble “baby” under his breath… and not in a breathless, naked kind of way.)

Then, you might catch my husband walking around wearing a grotesque rubber mask of Donald Trump or a glimpse of me galloping past the pharmacy on a broomstick, occasionally bumping into an unlucky teenage boy who’s unloading boxes of tampons as fast as he can for $7.25 an hour.

Then we have to go up and down the Halloween aisle again walking and talking in case there’s anything that’s motion or voice-activated that we might have missed because they had no buttons to press…

Then we have to take a quick cursory stroll around the entire store to make sure we haven’t missed any goblins on display elsewhere. We’ve yet to actually creep into the store window and pose with the pumpkins and the giant blow-up spider but get a little bit closer every year.

I think management secretly hopes we’ll do something illegal instead of just obnoxious so they’ll have a reason to call the police to haul us out of there. I don’t think “being really annoying” is just cause to throw us out, though we’ve definitely pushed the boundaries of a valid “loitering” charge.

The last stop on our museum field trip is the Halloween candy side of the aisle where we really let our imaginations run wild. No mere mansions or sports cars for us. No. We aspire to, someday, being able to purchase the 174 count bag of Hershey’s miniatures.

And on the way back through the automatic doors, we wave to the cashiers and yell: “Thanks!” implying of course, a longer version: “Thanks for not calling the police or shooting us yourselves!” We feel it would be just plain cruel of us to say: “See ya at Christmas!”, when we’ll return to do an encore performance with all of the dancing Santas and blinking Rudolphs. Obviously the cashiers don’t care what we say, as long as we say it on our way out.

(If you or someone you know could use some Infertility Humor, please click my eBook icon on the left. It’s a bestseller in its category on Amazon, has been downloaded by thousands and recommended by dozens of top fertility experts. And my new mini eBook: Laughing IS Conceivable: From End of School to Back-to-School is now out. The Amazon link is: http://amazon.com/dp/B014T2DEXE. Both books are also available on Kobo & Nook.)

5 Things You Never Say to an Artist

While working on my next eBook in the series, tentatively titled:  Laughing IS Conceivable: Even When You’re at a Dead-End Job, I’m forced to think about all of the dead-end jobs I’ve had. They are aplenty.

There are a lot of very good reasons why during a person’s professional life, they’ve had a dead-end job here and there: You need extra money. You take something while actively searching for something better. But when you’ve had, as I’ve had, count ’em… twenty-three dead-end jobs… there’s something very wrong with you. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I tend to exaggerate. Twenty-three dead- end jobs. Really Lori? Yes. This time I have documentation.

Often normal people take a job that sounds promising and then find out they were told a lot of BS about the job’s potential during the interview process and, damn, it turns out to be a dead-end job.  Normal people don’t set out to find a job with no future. I, however, do. In fact, the deader the end, the more I like it. And there’s an explanation for this besides a simple case of masochism.

From the time I was very little, I knew I was some sort of a… for lack of a better term…an artist. I went from writing cookbooks when I was seven (okay, copying  cookbooks and calling them my own), to writing a novel,  to writing poetry, taking drama classes, singing, stand-up comedy…

And as I’m sure you’re aware, people in the arts will often take whatever job we can to support our habit. The job itself doesn’t make any difference. They’re all pretty much interchangeable: Whatever will buy us paints or get us home early enough to perform in the theater at night or allow us time away to travel for a gig.

The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn and am still working on is: People who don’t understand why “you’re so smart” and “so good at so many things” and “you did well in school” and yet you’re subjecting yourself to nowhere jobs… never will. It’s nobody’s fault. Artists are just not wired the same.

My family never got it. I see shows like “So You Think You Can Dance?” where parents have given up careers, sold their house and moved across the country to support their kid’s dream. I can hear my father’s voice if I’d ever even suggested such a thing: “Yeah, you gotta case. Could you move over? I’m trying to watch the game.”

So while it may be impossible for regular people to relate to why we are what we are, I’d like to leave you with some phrases that many of my relatives have oft-used and ones I’d like you, for your own well-being, to avoid: Trust me when I say: Our artistic energy can twist into hostility in a flash.

1) Don’t ever refer to an artist’s endeavors as “a nice hobby”. What am I collecting snow globes here?

2) “You can always go back to it.” This means, I think, that you can go to college, get a degree in something that matters not to you, so you have a career doing something you hate just a little bit more with each passing year, so that when you’re old and frail and drinking heavily and resenting everyone around you for ruining your life, you can go back to doing what you knew at twelve, you should be doing. Can’t argue with that.

3) “If that’s what you want to be”. I’m going to take a leap and say that being an artist is like being gay. (You can even be both at the same time.) You may or may not want to be either or like being either. Certainly nobody sets out to be either. And both artists and gay people, in being true to themselves, often upset the apple carts around them because it’s more convenient for people around them if they were neither. Oh well.

4) “At least you’re making ends meet” When singers can’t sing and dancers can’t dance, what they hear is: “True, you sold your soul to the devil but at least now you have money for rent.”

5) “You should have something to fall back on” so that if this life you’ve been sent here by the Universe to do to enrich humanity doesn’t work out, at least you’ll know Excel.

I’m not a pig… I’m a slob… Well Actually…

A few weeks back, I wrote about being a pig. I can say with certainty that it’s not a self-esteem issue. I look at myself objectively and say: “Wow. You really are a pig.” From eating food off the floor to using the spigot in the bathroom sink as a water fountain, the evidence speaks for itself. So when someone close to me witnesses one of these actions (and I freely do almost all of them in front of people) and they mumble “Pig”, I really can’t be offended. It’s like calling me “short”. What’s there to dispute? I am. By just about anybody’s standards.

I realized after I wrote that post that being a slob isn’t exactly the same as being a pig, and I’m both.

There are women who are low maintenance. I’m no maintenance (in the beauty and hygiene categories anyway.) I shower occasionally, brush my teeth regularly, and use deodorant every morning when I remember. Everything else I can justify doing seldom to never.

1) Shaving is seasonal. If my various growths can be covered up by long sleeves and pants, I’m fine. In the winter, it’s my little extra layer of furry warmth. Even in the summer: If it’s not long enough to flail in the wind and scare children at the beach, it’s fine. Please. There are sights on the beach way more repulsive than my infrequently shaven parts. Besides, my hair is blondish. Too light for anyone to see in the sun.

2) Brushing my hair (on my head)- I have very thick, curly hair. Brushing would just take the curl out.

3) Ironing- It’ll just smooth itself out eventually during the day as I’m wearing it. Besides, I walk so fast nobody will even see the wrinkles.

4) Stained clothes- It’s probably just a water spot. It’ll dry as the day goes on. Or my hair will cover it. (Some hair on some part of my body is bound to cover it.) Or it’s the same color as my shirt so it will just blend in. Or I’ll tie a sweater around it. Or I’ll just tell everyone it happened on the way to work and it was too late to change. They don’t have to know I put it on that way.

5) Heels- I can’t wear them. I have high arches.

Here’s the thing: Women are always willing to forego comfort and convenience for beauty and sexiness. Not me.  I used to be 5’3″. Somewhere in the quicksand of life, I’ve lost nearly an inch. If the trend continues, next year I’ll be a large hood ornament. The year after that, my husband will be carrying me on his key chain. The year after that, my niece will add me to her charm bracelet. I don’t care. I will not wear heels. They’re uncomfortable. All of them. I’m a sneaker girl all the way. Typically on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, since it’s a day of mourning and repentance, you don’t wear leather shoes to synagogue which would be like you’re celebrating, so many of us wear sneakers. Sneakers with skirts and dresses? Count me in. That’s my kind of religion. It may be a day of repentance but below the ankles I’m rejoicing. (I’m sure the tradition really started thousands of years ago when a Jewish woman was schlepping through the desert in heels on her way to temple: “Oh no. I can’t do this. Haven’t our people suffered enough?”)

6) Skirts- If I’m not going to shave, I have to do the pantyhose ballet which requires at least three deep plies to get them up and on. Perhaps I can star in a new reality show: So you think you can put on pantyhose? No. I shan’t. Okay. Jeans it is.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I don’t bother with make-up either. So if you ever hear that I was stopped by a cop for putting on make-up while I was driving, you’ll know it was a clear case of mistaken identity.

You know how some women primp until they get married and then slowly let themselves decline? I  met my husband at a party where I was wearing a sweat suit, no make-up and a pony-tail with a mind of its own. He can’t possibly claim he wasn’t forewarned.

(And if you liked the above, please check out my Laughing IS Conceivable eBooks about 1) infertility 2) Back-to School on Amazon, Kobo, and Nook at the links below.)

Amazon: http://amazon.com/dp/B014T2DEXE (Back-to-School)

http://amazon.com/dp/B007g9X19A or click book icon to the left (Infertility)

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/search?Query=Laughing+IS+Conceivable

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/laughing+is+conceivable?fs=0&_requestid=243283

From End of School to Back to School

The following is a preview of my new eBook mini: Laughing IS Conceivable: From End of School to Back-to-School. It is currently available on Amazon@ http://amazon.com/dp/B014T2DEXE . (Available on all devices with a free Kindle app including Windows 10)

Chapter Previews:

Introduction: There’s that space of time between when the old school year ends and the new school year begins. Some call it a summer vacation. To us, parents of triplets, it’s a competition: Which will arrive at our house first: The school bus to drive the kids to a new school year or the padded van to dump us in the loony bin? And as the new school year approaches, there are tasks to do and big decisions to make: “Should I drive carpool this year?” “Should I home school?” No and no… Next.

Chapter 1: Everyone has a different idea of summer fun: But nobody’s looks like this. The key to summer survival is sending my children away from home on a daily basis… anywhere… but home.

Anywhere but home, is a place where, I’m told, my children are always, somehow, very well-behaved… And for those few times when we absolutely must be together, we can be found at fast food play areas, under crafts tents, and at other free events that keep the motto: “You get what you pay for” playing in our heads all summer long.

Chapter 2: When the summer “fun” finally, mercifully, “I thought it would never end” ends & the Back-to-School BS tasks begin. Doctor visits, shoe shopping, clothes shopping, school supply shopping, haircuts… Being the perfect mommy that I am, I have it all neatly divided into two very organized, very manageable “To Do” list categories: 1) Things I’ll do half-assed 2) Things I’ll blow-off completely

Chapter 3: The School Calendar: Because my nine year old kids apparently need more days off a year than I’ve had in my entire working life. I sometimes wonder if the school calendar is created by the same people who created my cell phone bill. The goal: To confuse me so completely that I won’t even be lucid enough to ask questions. Year round calendars. Traditional calendars. Teachers’ work days. Early release days. They provide the calendar in five languages. I called my friend Mitsu. Apparently it makes no sense in Japanese either…

Chapter 4: Meet the Teachers: “Pleased to meet you. You’re not pregnant are you?” I have nothing against pregnancy. I was pregnant once myself, you know. I just would rather that all teacher pregnancies take place when none of my kids are their students. I have three kids in the same grade in three different classes. I’m just politely requesting that 3/5 of the grade’s teachers hold off making any additions to their families until my kids have moved on to the next grade, that’s all. Teachers 4 and 5 can do whatever the hell they want.

Chapter 5: The Bus Situation- Because every year there is indeed… A Bus Situation Heaven forbid there’s ever a flood or wildfire threatening our neighborhood. But if there ever is: It can have my car. It can have my house… but it can’t have my bus stop. Mark my words: After all the normal people are safely evacuated, there I’ll be: A pathetic lunatic, lying face down, arms outstretched, clutching the pavement on the corner of Bartlett & Widman yelling: “No, not my beloved bus stop! I’ve fought too hard to give you up now!”

The Wind-Up: We survived from “End of School” to “Back-to-School”… more or less I’ve made it through the summer and all of the back-to-school preparations. The kids made it to the first day of school and it’s time to sit back on my laurels and wallow in my own success until they get home. The only thing that could possibly go wrong now is that I might pull a muscle as I twist to catch a glimpse of me patting myself on the back in the bathroom mirror. If I may say so myself, I’ve done it all perfectly… Or have I?



Party On… Preferably Without Me

I’m in the minority here I’m sure, but I find parties to be such a hassle. I don’t mean just making parties. I think it’s a hassle attending them. One reason is because everybody has their own party standards and ways of doing things. My husband and I went to a party in a park a few months ago. The invitation said 12pm for a barbecue. We parked at 11:45. We didn’t know where this park even was, so we had headed out a little early in case we got lost and to give us time to find the correct picnic shelter.

We were all over this park… twice. We’re hiking. We’re mountain climbing. We’re scaling walls. We’re cross-country skiing. We looked like the torn down, low-budget version of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest. I had horrifying flashes that in another minute I’d be schlepping this giant gift bag up Mount Rushmore.

Luckily, my Girl Scout survival skills kicked in. (See? it’s not just a cookie cult… Although the only survival skill I remember from my stint in the Girl Scouts was to make sure I quit well before high school. I had no interest in traveling the entire uniform-wearing spectrum from cute to acceptable to absurd.)

I enlisted all of my senses to try to find this party. I couldn’t hear anything. No loud music. No people gathering. Nothing sizzling on a grill. Only birds, insects, a gentle breeze in the woods. Nature. I didn’t come here for nature. I came here for potato salad. I couldn’t see anybody. I couldn’t smell anything. I tried to follow the breeze to catch the gentle scent of barbecuing wafting through the leaves and ricocheting off the trees.  Nothing.

We finally found the shelter. Yep this was it. Shelter #2 across from the open field. Here we are. We’re here. It’s 12:20. Sorry we’re late. Oh, is that parking lot right there where we were supposed to park? Hello? Is anybody home? We’re hungry. We’re tired. We’re hungry still. I’d wished I’d brought them food. At this juncture, I would’ve reached into the gift bag, eaten their present, thrown the bag away and told them I forgot it in the car.

That’s assuming someone would eventually show up. So where is everybody? Let me consult the invitation again. There it is: 12:00. Could the “2” maybe be a “4”? Definitely not. And the people are from Chicago and not in the Army, so I can’t see why they’d be writing in military time.

Nothing. No people. No presents. No food. No music. No decorations. This couldn’t be. I even touched the barbecue. Ice cold. Not a sound of anybody approaching in the distance. Nothing. Crickets… (Real crickets. It was a park.)

I’ve never heard of people who were making the party arriving fashionably late. The only hint that there was maybe going to even be a party anytime that day, was these two sweaty, disheveled, out of breath fools standing there with this dusty-ass gift bag.

Oh I get it. Wow, that’s brilliant. Yeah, that must be it. We were invited to this guy’s birthday party, but it’s all a charade. It’s, get this, really a surprise party for us… in July… Even though our anniversary’s in October and our birthdays are in February. It’s the only thing that makes sense… even though, let’s face it, that made no sense. Even still, I crouched down and peeked under the picnic table benches. Not that I remembered any of these people being less than a foot wide.

Now it’s 12:42. As we’re debating our next move, “Do you feel like Denny’s or IHOP?”, we hear people on the horizon.  Here they come at a leisurely pace. With coolers and folded folding tables, paper tablecloths and balloons and streamers. What? You show up 42 minutes late and now you’re going to unpack two aisles of Party City and start decorating?

Please just give me my potato salad and my goody bag and let me head back over the mountain so I can get to my car before sundown.

I’m a Pig. Everyone Agrees.

I’m a woman who lives by the eight second rule. To wit: Anything that was originally edible that I was intending to put into my mouth, will still go into my mouth as planned, regardless of whether or not it’s fallen on the floor, under the couch, on my shirt, or into my running shoes, ten minutes after I ran a 5k in 90 degree heat.

I was about to tell you that I draw the line at my own personal dirt inside my own house, but then I remembered once devouring a bagel that had tumbled out of the bag into the shopping center parking lot. I’m sure I wiped it off at the time, but that was purely for the benefit of witnesses.

Oddly enough, or maybe not, I’d written that last bit this morning and wouldn’t you know it, this very same afternoon, my husband and I were walking in the mall food court en route to the restroom alcove, when a worker at one of the restaurants presented us with sesame chicken samples on toothpicks. We each chose one and headed with it toward our destination. A moment later, as I was entering the ladies’ room, I turned around to see my husband several paces back. “Why’d you stop?” I yelled behind me, chomping on my chicken.

“I’m not going into the bathroom while I’m still eating.” He responded, repulsion in his voice.

As I shrugged and continued on my way, he was not so far back that I couldn’t hear him mumble: “Class act” at the back of my head.

When I got out of the restroom and rejoined him at the water fountain… (yes, I did wash my hands. I’m not totally un-evolved. Although, I did get bored with the blower and finished my hand drying on my jean shorts… Anyway) As we walked back into the mall, (taking another sesame chicken sample on the return trip… well, she offered…) I told my husband that I could add his “class act” remark to my pig post thereby transforming his rude comment into art. He said: “So glad I could help.”

As you can imagine, my husband is not a pig. I tell him he’s a neat-freak, but more likely he’s normal and it’s just my ploy to take the focus off how bad I really am. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my behavior. I just don’t want to hear it. The irony is: I suspect my husband married me for my lack of tidiness. He grew up in a house with a neat-freak and ran to me in rebellion. It probably sounded good to him on paper at the time. He had no idea how bad things could really get.

For one thing, I eat in bed. It could be popcorn. It could be meatloaf. I also spill stuff a lot. Ketchup, chocolate syrup. I probably should wear a lobster bib all the time and carry everything in toddler containers and Sippy cups. And if I feel raisin bran crumbs under me in the middle of the night, you and I both know where those flakes are going.

As my husband turns over in the bed trying to pretend those ugly scenes happening in the dark just a few feet away aren’t happening, he’s likely envisioning in his mind a partition that would keep my mess from literally spilling over onto his side… and wondering if he’s the only spouse who suffers in silence or if there’s enough demand to bring his invention to Shark Tank.

All You Can Eat… Digest THIS

Somebody asked a friend of mine years ago what’s the first thing he’d like to hear as he entered the pearly gates. He responded: “This way to the buffet.”

Not me… I think of buffets as Archie Bunker did in the 1970’s show All in the Family: “All you can throw-up for three bucks”.

Except the places you go to now aren’t three dollars. That’s one of the 27 reasons I’m not a buffet person. If I pay $11.99, I feel pressured to eat at least $12 worth of food. It’s hard to enjoy a meal when you’re doing constant calculations in your head:

“That roll’s about $1.50. I’ll take a couple. Crap. I still have $9 to go. The spaghetti’s $1.29 for a whole box so I’m not eating that. Oh good they’ve got shrimp and steak today. That should bring me over.”

In NYC, they have buffets for take-out in the Korean delis. You pile each compartment in your Styrofoam container a foot high with hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, chicken breasts, whole oranges… Then you head to the cashier and they weigh it and you pay $52 for your lunch. That’s fair. Everybody is a rookie only once. After that, if you ever go back,  it’s because you just had dental work or have a hankering for apple sauce, bean sprouts, and a dollop of cotton candy if they have it.

Another thing that bothers me about buffets is they never feel clean to me. Not the plates, the silverware, the tables, the carpet. And I’m sure I don’t have to spell out why I have disdain for anything named: “Sneeze Guard” protecting my dinner. Besides their name and apparent function, I have other issues with sneeze guards (ugh, I said it twice… No options in the thesaurus) One issue is: I have short arms. Buffets are not made for the short-armed. In order to scoop the stuff in the back row, I have to reach all the way in with my entire face pressed up against the sneeze guard. (ugh again) I look like I put on a stocking mask to rob the buffet.

And if we go around lunchtime on a Sunday, I’m usually flailing my arm blindly trying to grab the serving spoon back there because not only do I have the sneeze guard (and again) barrier, but there’s usually a huge church hat blocking my view.

Then the place we go to has a chocolate waterfall or as I like to refer to it: “The Fountain of Brown Bacteria.” If you want to be nicer, call it the “Fountain of Youth.” Every kid in the place runs over to it, puts their who-knows-where-it’s-been hand in the marshmallows, impales one on a skewer, and then plunges the whole thing wrist-deep into the fountain. And they usually have to make more than one attempt because half the time the skewer returns from the fountain marshmallow-less. It’s the Bermuda Triangle of desserts. I always regret not having brought a can of Lysol to spray the fountain before I enter it. Sure, some “diners” at the restaurant could get deathly ill, but probably no more than usual.

Some people can argue that all restaurants, but I say more so buffets, are a leap of faith. If you are so skeeved by them that you’re afraid to go, don’t go. Otherwise do what I do: Shut up, enjoy your meal, & hope you wake up the next morning.

Too Anti-Social for Social Media

I think I’m not a huge fan of most social media because I’m not a sharer. And I have no interest in taking pictures of myself and have no idea why anybody does… No matter what they look like.

Of all the sites, Facebook is still the most stressful. I don’t want to play games with anybody. I don’t want to see pictures of my friends’ cousins. I don’t want to “like” what they “like”. I just like to know my old elementary school friends are still alive. If they’re hanging on, I guess I’m not that old. When they start to kick off, I’ll probably close my account.

Facebook is too much of a commitment for me. If you’re not on it all the time, you miss stuff. Like the other day, a woman I used to work with posted that she was doing much better. Better from what? I had to scroll all the way down to see that a few days before, she’d mentioned going into the hospital for surgery. But I couldn’t figure out what she was having altered, removed or put back in.

Everybody’s comments were useless. “Good luck!” “You’ll be fine!” How does that enlighten me in any way? People should be required to post comments with a backstory:  Information for those of us who tuned in late. Something like: “They say you don’t really need your appendix anyway.” Or “I don’t see why you really needed to have your butt lifted. I think it looked just fine where it was.”

When people post their business on FB it’s like a soap opera. If you haven’t seen it in a while, you have to catch up. With this ex-coworker, it’s aggravating. I  feel like just posting: “Carolyn, what did you have done? If it’s too long to write out again, could you just tell me what date you posted the details? Or, if Carolyn’s not conscious, could someone else please fill me in?”

I want to know the nitty-gritty partly because I’m a yenta, but also so I can comment without sounding like an idiot. It’s too risky to guess: “Now that you finally had that extra toe taken off,  I can tell you: Those people who ran screaming from the beach didn’t really see a shark.”

Only to have the next person comment: “That is so cruel to say right after someone just had heart surgery. What kind of a person does that???!!! Carolyn, I think that toe is adorable! Haters gonna hate!! You have plenty of REAL friends!”

Another option, when I’m digging for dirt is to scan down the list of commenters and see if I know any of them. “Annette… She probably remembers me. She’ll tell me what’s going on with Carolyn.” Yeah, that once backfired on me big time. The private message I sent didn’t turn out to be private and got sent to everyone including the person I was trying to get the 411 on. Oh, if only I hadn’t written:  “I see Denise doesn’t use her married name anymore on her profile: Fk’s up with that? Did she finally ditch the whore?” Somehow  Denise misinterpreted my good intentions.

If I still can’t find out what’s going on with Carolyn, I could probably bullshit my way through it like I’m sure that “Good Luck!” person did: “I’m praying for you!” “I’m thinking about you!” “You’ll be fine!” “You’re a strong person!” “I don’t think I could handle it as well as you!”

I think I just found a new career for myself: “Generic Social Media Comment Writer.” I can find you a non-committal, well-meaning, meaningless remark for all of your posting needs. I can even provide you with a keyboard shortcut: “For someone going through what you are- You look great!” Control 7.

And if I can’t find out what’s going on with Carolyn, I’ll just “like” her post like every other loser who doesn’t know what she’s talking about and is too afraid to ask… or is just too lazy to type a few words and a couple of exclamation points.

Some Jobs Have Perks THEY Don’t Even Know About

In last week’s post, “Stealing… It’s Such a Strong Word”, I talked about my family’s inclination toward petty pilfering: Just your average, run of the mill pocketing-Sweet-‘N’-Lows-at-the-neighborhood-diner type of thing. (I was once in a supermarket with my father when he saw boxes of them on the shelf and said: “People actually buy these?”)

At a job it’s different. I feel no guilt or remorse for anything I’ve done. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Still, I won’t give too many specifics, because, well, you know… statute of limitations and all that.

Naturally, everyone likes a job with good benefits. I mean health and dental coverage are fine. So are 401Ks. But for me, at a job, just like in life: It’s the little things that matter. For me, the best work place perks that a company can provide are the unintentional ones: The benefits they have no idea they’re providing.

All the “up & up” benefits are published. They’re right there for everyone to see. They’re in the employee handbook. They’re in the handouts at the orientation. They’re on your bi-weekly pay stubs. But if you go into the main employee restroom, hold your pay stub up to a mirror, turn it upside down 3 times and take as many steps backwards as you can without falling into an open stall, you’ll clearly see your “other” benefits revealed.

It’s called the law of inverse reciprocity. (Don’t look it up. You’ll be sorely disappointed.)  This means that the stingier the company, the more “other” benefits you’re entitled to.

For instance, if I get a job and I think I should be paid $50,000 a year for doing what they’re asking of me,  and they only offer me $35,000 a year, then it stands to reason, I’m in a $15,000 deficit. So while I appear to be working diligently for them all year, I’m also working for myself figuring out creative ways for them to make up that 15 grand they owe me.

And it doesn’t matter where you work. The law of inverse reciprocity still applies. When I worked in a fast food place, according to them, I received minimum wage. According to me, I also won a raffle for a lifetime supply of plasticware- Not to mention salt, pepper, and ketchup packets. Granted, I never put salt or pepper on anything, and it would take 40 of those ketchup packets to fill a tablespoon… It’s the principle of the thing. And I’m nothing if not principled.

I’ve worked for some pretty generous places that gave holiday bonuses, incentives, Thanksgiving turkeys, umbrellas… something. Coincidentally, they were never missing office supplies. But the only thing worse than a company that offers you nothing is a company that offers you nothing and thinks they’re doing you a favor. If you think you’re going to cater a smorgasbord for a meeting with the big-wig, hoidy-toidy, grand puba, company honchos and then, when they’re done mauling at it, you’ll toss the plate like a Frisbee onto the break-room table for us commoners to fight over… Watch your back… and anything else not nailed down.

Most jobs are the same to me. They’re really just glorified office supply stores. I’m a writer. Writers need lots of paper… and copies. We need to print things: Double-sided things… in color… and collated.  We need those giant staplers, paper cutters, markers, envelopes in all shapes and sizes. (You can keep those ones with the windows. We have no use for those.)

To these companies I ask you: “How else could I possibly afford those things? You know better than anyone how much I earn. You don’t want to stand in the way of my dream. Do you? Don’t look at it like I’m stealing from you. That just spreads negative energy. Instead, consider yourself an investor in the career of a budding “young” author. Doesn’t that feel better?”

Surely you’ve heard of silent investors. Mine are not only silent, they’re totally oblivious.

So if you ever work for a job where they give you a polygraph before you’re even hired, and they have cameras every three feet of the building, keep the copy paper, ink cartridges, and paper clips in a locked cabinet that you need a combination to open, and have all the pens and staplers chained to the desks… I am so sorry… I take full responsibility. I probably used to work there.

Stealing… It’s Such a Strong Word

I’m a petty thief. You can’t get any pettier than the stuff I steal, but I’m a thief nonetheless. I’d rather  refer to myself as a kleptomaniac. I always feel self-important if there’s a medical diagnosis attached to my hobbies. I just doubt that pilfering plasticware and napkins from fast food restaurants is grandiose enough to be classified as kleptomania.

It’s not my fault. I come from a long line of pettiness on my father’s side.

My uncle Sidney was a downright vigilante. Once he walked out of a Wal-Mart looking at his receipt.  He mumbled that they’d overcharged him by 50 cents on an item. I said:

“Well let’s go over to Customer Service.”

He said: “That’s okay. They think they’re going to cheat me? Next time I come, I’ll take a Hershey bar.”

My dad’s no better. He takes his Taco Bell soda to go. After he finishes it, he stops at another Taco Bell on the way home…and maybe again the next day… to refill his cup. I feel certain that he single-handedly inspired the sign you now see over the soda dispensers strongly advising against that. He would probably argue that yes, he’s refilling the soda after he’s left the premises… but not at the same Taco Bell. Technically, the sign discourages round-trip refills not franchise-hopping. (Personally, I’m surprised he’s never had the chutzpah to go to the drive-thru window and ask the kid to fill up his cup for him so he wouldn’t have to get out of his getaway car.)

And, of course, once or twice, he’s probably taken his Taco Bell cup into a McDonald’s to refill it. To which I’m sure his defense would be: “I would’ve taken it to a Taco Bell, but there wasn’t one around when I was thirsty.”

Not to mention the one self-serve place that offers free coffee refills but not free soda refills. But Dad will not be denied. He routinely takes a coffee cup and fills it with soda when nobody’s looking.

It started small. He used to taste test the fruit in the supermarket. Mostly just grapes. He’d nibble one and palm a few more. Then, one day, I accidentally made myself an accessory to a crime after the fact.

It was around the holidays and I mentioned to him that I was short one bulb for my Hanukkah menorah. I couldn’t find any in my neighborhood. So he mailed me one. I asked him where he happened to come up with this singular bulb since they only sell them in packs. He said he went into a store and saw it on display. I said: “You unscrewed a bulb from the menorah on their shelf?” He said: “I would have paid for it, but they weren’t selling it.”

As incensed as I was, I was grateful they had one on the shelf or he would’ve taken a bulb out of their personal menorah in the store window.

You also may have noticed that if you’ve been to an office superstore lately, they likely asked you to pay for your self-service copies at the copy center in the back of the store. My father unknowingly spear-headed that campaign for change too.

For years, you would take your copies and head a mile and a half due-west to the front of the store to the registers. Well, one fateful day, my father got to the front of the store with his 2 copies and his bill for 8 cents and was confronted with a line of people with shopping carts full of computers, printers, etc. at the only open register.

Did dad politely ask if he could jump the line? No. Did he take out a dime and leave it on the register? No. Did he throw out the copies in the waste basket by the cashier? No. He did, however, mutter: “Ah, the hell with it” as he took his two copies with him off the line and out the automatic door.

So if you ever see me on the news face down on the tile floor in a fast-food establishment next to the yellow “piso mojado” sign with a sixteen year old employee on top of me with his knee in my back, while another kneels down next to us and tries to pry copious plastic sporks from my fists, you can be sure my defense will be: “I can’t help it. I have a genetic disorder.”