When You Teach Old Morons New Tricks

You know, I refuse to think of myself as old. I still watch cartoons and all the holiday specials and I still wave to all the blow-up things on people’s lawns at this time of year- usually while yelling: “Hi Mr. Snowman!” as I drive by. (Typically followed by my husband mumbling: “Oh, Gd. We’ve been by that same snowman twice already today. Do you have to do that every single time?”)

So now that we’ve started this new computer system at work, I don’t want to say that it’s freaking me out because I’m too old to learn something totally different. I’ve been using all kinds of computers over the past several years, so I refuse to be put in the same category as my father-in-law who soils himself every time you tell him to plug his in.

See, this is what happened. We trained a long, grueling week on this computer system without interruption. We went to a facility and experts showed us how to use it… In July. So there were issues with the system and the rest of the summer came and went and then the fall came and went and this week with a full work schedule and hundreds of clients clamoring to be served, we finally began using the system that we hadn’t seen or touched in like, five months.

I’m a pretty quick learner but I’m not trainable. I’ve always been a rebel and that’s not likely ever going to change. (Not that I’ve ever tried to change it.)

So first I was given a big juicy manual for the new system and told to consider it my new Bible. My goal is to read even less of it than I’ve read of the real Bible. In fact, as disorganized as I always am, I knew exactly where to find the manual they gave me at the end of July. It was in the trunk of my car where I’d dumped it at the end of July. If I’d gotten a new car in the interim, they would’ve been out of luck. I’m sure I would’ve sold the old one with the manual in the trunk thrown in as a bonus.

I also can’t have people hover over me as I learn. I can’t look at a computer screen and think out what to do next if I feel eyes piercing through the back of my head and breath on the back of my neck (especially since all the trainers were middle-aged woman.)

That brings me to the dilemma: How to politely get my point across to them. On the one hand, they’re there to help me. On the other hand, it’s pissing me off that they’re chiming in every second: “No, not that screen! You really don’t want to do that!” or even worse, just draping themselves over my shoulder like a sari and grabbing hold of the mouse: “Click, click, up, down, across this one… There!” They’re happy and I’m thinking: Great… Now what the fuck did she just do?

I tried to let my trainer down easy. The part about “pissing me off” and “draping yourself over my shoulder” somehow didn’t sound professional when I practiced saying it out loud to myself. I thought about saying: “You need to go somewhere” or “I think Stacy is having an issue. She’s way on the other side over there.” I finally settled on: “If it’s okay, I do better figuring stuff out by myself. I’ll call you over if I get stuck. But I really appreciate your help. I do. I really, really, really do. Gd Bless you and yours.” I don’t know if that was the right thing to say but I achieved my goal: She left.

The first day of this fiasco was my long work day, my 12 1/2 hour day. Imagine having no clue what you’re doing for 12 1/2 hours. (Then again, some people have no clue their entire working life.)

At noon, they sent me out for a lunch break. I told them: “If I were you, I’d make me eat in the employee lunch room and block the entrance while I’m eating. You might want to keep someone posted at the window too… especially the one that faces the parking lot.”

By 3 o’clock, my brain was like the first parking lot at the state fair. I told the woman who was helping me: “You can keep talking, but there’s not another inch of space available in my head.”

By 6 o’clock I said to her: “You know what? It would just be easier if you set me on fire.”

So finally around Thursday, I realized that really there were two things at play here that we needed to conquer: 1) Knowing how to use this new system and, what actually was the much bigger hurdle: 2) The Trauma. We all spent so much time running around and freaking out like a bunch of morons: “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, we’re lost! We don’t know what we’re doing. We’ll never know what to do! This is all different! We’ve never done it like this before! There are dozens of people waiting and I’m taking lunch later than usual, and where’s the printer now and what if I never get this and what if there’s nobody to help me?!”… It took us a good four days to realize the new system is so easy even morons like us could use it.

It’s Infertility Charlie Brown!

Okay, now I’ve done it. I’ve never hidden the fact that I love the autumn and every corny thing associated with it: Football (not the least bit corny), Macy’s parade (cool with many corny parts), fall foliage.

So in the past, I’ve written about going through infertility later in life (“The Autumn of My Fertility”) and spooky infertility stories for Halloween.

I can’t see what could possibly be left to write about that’s autumn-related except, of course the obvious: Charlie Brown.

This long lost Charles Schulz classic, “It’s Infertility Charlie Brown!” was shown on TV for years in between the Halloween and Thanksgiving specials.

I’m not ridiculous enough to suggest that Lucy Van Pelt grew up and battled infertility. With her stank attitude, likely the only men who would even talk to her would be a chiropractor or an orthopedist treating Charlie Brown for ailments caused by decades of her pulling away that damn football. (Then again there are lots of men who seem to adore crabby women: Have you seen “Bridezillas?”).

Here’s the episode in its entirety. It takes place in the classroom. Hope I don’t give anybody a Peanuts allergy. (ar ar ar):

I present to you: “It’s Infertility Charlie Brown!” (more…)

‘Tis the Season of the Aggressive Sales Person

I do believe that there are a lot of people out there who truly enjoy the holiday season. But not one of them is a sales person.

I find that every year as the cool breezes of early fall turn into the cold temps of late fall, instead of the crisp smell of autumn leaves in the air, there’s the stench of panic and frenzy in every store. And while businesses must love the moneymaking hoopla, the people who have to work there probably want to hang themselves.

The other night my husband and I went to an open house at our local supermarket. They sell prepared Thanksgiving meals so they invite everyone to come and let you try the turkey and all of the fixin’s. The employees ask you what you want on your plate, toss it on there and hand it over. They’re polite enough but somewhere behind their smiles I feel, lies an employee who reeeeally doesn’t want to be serving me. They all had this air like they were performing court-ordered community service. I know the idea is just to taste, not have dinner there, but the amount some of them were giving looked like what’s left on your plate as you’re lowering it into the dishwasher.

I felt like Oliver standing there with my pathetic look and little Styrofoam plate: “More please”. Just like him, I was hoping I’d get more food and nobody would strike me for having the chudspa to make my daring request.

Then my husband proceeded over to a table where a woman had been handing out meatballs to highlight a sauce she was peddling. She explained to him that she’d run out of the meatballs, so she had nothing for him to taste, but here was a coupon for the sauce, as she turned to a taller employee: “Tom, get him down a bottle, would ya?” My husband had no basket or cart, was already at his juggling capacity, had no interest in schlepping this bottle under his arm while he finished shopping and told her so. To which she replied: “Well, you have to take it now. I’m closing up and I get commission.” To which he replied: “That’s your problem.”

I’ve always been against jobs that pay only commission or the vast majority of your income is made by commission. I don’t know. There’s something about it that turns decent hard working sales people into… what’s a good word for it? Scumbags. Meatball lady probably didn’t work for the store. It’s usually easy to tell which stores’ employees live and die by commission: They’re the stores that the second you enter, the entire sales team flocks to you like they’re buzzards and you’re fresh road kill. There are those stores in the mall where your feet are technically still in the mall part, but if they look like they’re even possibly approaching the store, you can see the brigade of sales associates moving towards you. I always want to say: “No no. You can’t offer to help me yet. See? My feet are still on mall property. One step closer and I’ll call mall security.”

When I was searching for my bridal undergarments, I went into a famous lingerie joint in the mall. The sales girl accosted me immediately and then kept forcing bras on me. I can’t wear anything that’s strapless or that closes in the front. So of course that’s all she tossed at me even though I was 39 years old, had been wearing bras for a good 27 years and was pretty sure of what I couldn’t wear. What started as a friendly friendship with this woman, my new BFF, turned into a very unhealthy relationship. She was very controlling. I felt trapped in my 2 x 2 dressing room. She was suffocating me. She wouldn’t let me voice my opinion. She wanted everything to be her way. I had lost my individuality and my self-esteem. After ten minutes of this, I couldn’t take anymore. When she looked away for a moment to put the rejected bras back on the hangers, I turned around to face the mirror and frantically mouthed the words “Help me!” to the lady on the other side. When no help came, I planned my escape. I told the sales associate to continue her search for my perfect bra on the sales floor, way… over there… and I would continue to try on the amazing bras she’d brought me. As soon as she turned her back, I hastily threw on my shirt, waved to the lady on the other side of the two-way mirror and, with my own ratty bra in hand, made my escape. I didn’t stop running until I was hidden in the safety of the swarm of thousands at the food court.

All things considered, I think I liked it better when I was a teenager and sales people used to follow me around because they assumed I was stealing.

I’ve Become a Very Positive, Negative Person

I’ve evolved into a world of positive energy. Even now, I’m typing this post from an ashram in the Himalayas. (Well it feels like the Himalayas, though I suppose the frigid temperatures can be attributed to my husband having the a/c on inside when the temperature is 40 degrees outside.)

Truly I am fascinated with all I’m learning about quieting your mind and a positive mind-set: Yoga, meditation with Oprah and Deepak Chopra… All of this will be just dandy for me as a humor writer. For a humor writer, lots of positive thought leads to lots of blank pages. “A rabbi and a nun walked into a bar… and they became the best of friends and brought peace and harmony to all those around them.”… See what I mean?

So in the interest of my art only, you understand, I’m what you’d call a positive, negative person. Just like I’ve worked with some people my friend Hannah refers to as “angry Christians”.

They go to church religiously (b’dum bum), talk about Gd’s will and Gd’s grace and quote scripture and carry around a Bible and are grateful for everything and everything’s a blessing until you cross them, then they hate you, never want to talk to you again, and Gd will punish you because “what goes around comes around” and “karma’s a bitch.” They’ll also sit next to you all day long at work reading Bible quotes on the Internet while everybody else does their share of the work.

So I’m a little like that. I believe in employing every fiber of my being as a force of positive energy in the universe unless you’re driving in front of me at 30 m.p.h. Then I believe in tailgating you and using my will, and if necessary, my front bumper to make you go faster. The same goes if you’re sitting calmly at a yellow light and just let it go red with me sitting behind you. So, I’m a big proponent of positive thinking, positive living, positive energy, and an occasional healthy bout with road rage. Call it “spiritual bingeing” if you like.  It’s like having kale smoothie cleanses for lunch all week and then on Thursday: “Today, I think I’d rather have a pound bag of M & Ms instead…. But not the green ones. I’ve had enough greens for the week.”

And now that I’ve become such a positive person, I’ve evolved in my relationships as well.  I dislike being around negative people. I mean I hate them. I mean I wish them harm. I mean if my husband is talking to my father-in-law on his cell phone, I make him take the call outside just to make sure the negative energy escaping through the phone seeps into the neighborhood instead of the walls of our house.

This new way of thinking positively has saved me from that dead end road I was headed down of being a kind and compassionate friend.  I’d have people come to me and say: “I’m so tired. I feel sick. My kids are driving me crazy. My husband doesn’t do anything he’s supposed to.”

Although I’m sometimes about to respond as I had for years: “Come, let’s talk about it.” My new-found attitude and way of thinking take over and out comes my glorious new enlightened mantra:

“Go away you depressing fk before you pollute my tranquil universe with your bullshit!”

Dinner at the Misteak House

I feel like I’m running a scam. But it’s perfectly legal I guess. My husband and I occasionally go to the local steakhouse chain where we never bring a coupon and never pay full price.

This steakhouse chain could create a whole new marketing strategy to promote it: “When we screw-up, your dinner’s on us… And we always screw up. Come in for a free meal Sunday thru Saturday, opening til closing!”

Typically we go out to dinner on a Friday or Saturday night. That place gets pretty crowded. We take our little spaceship beeper they give you when you check in at the door, go outside and wait for it to blink and vibrate while I strategically position my husband between my thick head of hair and the smokers.

My husband and I are not the pickiest of restaurant-goers. We’ve learned what not to do from the best: My father and my father-in-law: Opposite sides of the same passive-aggressive coin. The host at the front door of the restaurant would say: “Follow me”. My father would let him/her get a few paces ahead so he could see what table they were under the impression they were going to seat us at. The rest of the family was standing behind Dad saying our silent family chant: “Please let this table not be too dark or too small or near the bathroom or near the kitchen or blocked by someone who’s sitting half at their table and half in the aisle, or too close to another table or where the entire wait staff is going to have to brush past us” because we knew if any of the above was true, Jerry was going to throw his arms in the direction of the table and exclaim to the host/hostess a full ten feet away: “I’m not sitting there! You’re out of your mind.”

Then you have my father-in-law: The anti-Jerry. He will never send any food back under any circumstances whatsoever. He could find a human elbow in the middle of his spaghetti, his plate could be illuminated by the red ambulance lights streaming through the window, EMS workers could be storming through the restaurant, diners could be staring at the kitchen as they hear: “Keep looking, Edgar. It’s gotta be here somewhere”, and he still wouldn’t summon the server or let anyone else do it for him. “Don’t you dare say anything! It’s okay. I can eat around it.”

So my husband and I, like I said, have learned from the best and, mercifully, are like neither of them. But somehow, at this one steakhouse, things are always amiss. Three times ago we waited 40 minutes to get any food at all except for our nice lump of bread that’s always accompanied by a dish of butter in a restaurant that doesn’t seem to own any butter knives. You always have to debate whether to use the meat cleaverish knife they provide to spread on the butter or dip the bread right into the little butter dish. On a first date, the latter could be awkward but we’ve been married for a while so I don’t mind him publicly dipping his bread into my butter dish. (Where was I?) Apparently, at that visit, our little pumpernickel loaf was meant to sustain us for 40 minutes. I felt like we were hiding in a foxhole and had to ration our last bit of food because we had no idea if or when anybody would come to rescue us.

A slew of people came over to apologize: “Oh, I’m so sorry. We’re very busy tonight.” And who could have predicted it would have been busy at 7:30 on a Friday night? The worst part of the apologies was that they were all delivered by empty-handed people. “I see someone coming toward us but he’s not carrying anything. Oh crap, it’s probably just another apology.” At this point, we were determined to ignore anyone who approached without a tray in one hand and a portable luggage stand to set it down on in the other. We were just not having a g’day.

For our pain and suffering we left with a pass for a free appetizer at the next visit which came about three months later. This time we got our entrées in 20 minutes which were followed shortly thereafter by our appetizer. We said it was okay, we no longer wanted the appetizer at which time the manager graciously offered to take our free appetizer off the bill. So now it was free twice. Bloomin’ great.

After a few months, we decided to take another shot just for the thrill of the adventure and to see what we might score this time without trying. This time it was the steak itself. My husband and I both ordered our steaks medium-rare. His was medium-rare. I estimate that mine was medium-rare around the time I was brushing my teeth that morning.

Oddly enough (or not) lots of other people have told us eerily similar stories about their experiences with this chain in different parts of the Country. So maybe it is us. Maybe we’re all just picky pains-in-the-ass. Or maybe someone needs to get all the managers of this chain together and take them out back.

19 Duggars- Hey, Are You Guys Done Counting Yet?

The first thing I thought when I heard about The Duggars: 19 and Counting when it premiered is “Have we even had sex 19 times? Maybe we’re not infertile. Maybe we’re just lazy.”

Even though I did my infertility treatments- IUI, IVF, all of that a while ago, I still feel very much a part of that community. So while this blog is to make general people generally laugh… I’ve always been especially interested in amusing those dealing with infertility. So when I think of the Duggars and their 19 kids, I just feel like they’re rubbing my face in it. It would have been bad enough if they’d had 4 kids. I’d still have been saying: “This sucks. They have 4 kids, and we can’t even have 1.” But this is what they call in football “piling on”. When the game is such a blow-out your team couldn’t possible win unless there was 2 years left on the clock and yet the opponent keeps scoring over and over just to mock you and underscore how much your team is full of losers and you’re a loser for wearing their colors. I feel mocked by the Duggars. I think if someone has 5 or 6 kids I’m annoyed. But somewhere around child 14 or 15, I start taking it personally.

One thing that seems to be vital in the Duggar household is to instill their teachings and rules in their kids very early. Every child from the very beginning gets told the same things, taught the same way, knows what’s expected of them. Modest dress, no frontal hugs because that’s where all the squeezable goodies grow, all dates are chaperoned, and scripture, scripture, scripture. Their kids are living in their house and following their rules after they legally have to. Could you imagine waiting until a kid was 16 and telling them: “Okay, so now that you’re starting to date, this is how it’s going to be: There will be no hand-holding until you’re engaged.” That would have been a tough road for me. I got engaged at 39.

What if you wait that long only to find out he’s a lousy hand-holder? He’s no good in the glove. What if you like to have your fingers interlocked and he likes to engulf your entire hand like you’re a 3 year old? Or his hands are too meaty, or clammy, or bony? Or he grips like a vice or a wet tissue? You’re already engaged and you just found out you’re not compatible. I dated one guy who held my hand— the only way I’ve ever been able to describe it… like he was carrying a baggie that he’d just filled up from a walk with his dog. I couldn’t possibly spend my life with a man who made me feel like I was always on the wrong end of a pooper scooper.

Sending along a chaperone probably isn’t such a bad idea. It just depends whom you send to chaperone. Apparently it’s usually a younger sibling. The Duggars don’t just send them along on the date, the sibling is strategically inserted between the happy couple for the entire date. All I can say is, if I had to continuously chaperone my older sisters’ dates, I’d be one rich 12 year old.

I fear a little bit for the Duggars. I don’t like their odds. There are 19 kids. So far so good it seems. But what are the chances nothing will ever go wrong with any of them? Not one of them is going to go awry? What are the chances at least one of them won’t grow up to be some sort of anarchist? Somebody is bound to be gay or a democrat, or pro-choice, or Goth, or use birth control, or show side-boob or live in NYC or touch themselves inappropriately, or spend Sunday mornings sobering up, or move to Colorado for all the wrong reasons, or become an agnostic, or keep up with the Kardashians, or not get married, or marry a Hindu, or twerk, or not want any kids, or feel-up their fiancé or watch Family Guy… I just don’t like their odds at all.

When I Grow Up, I Want to be An American Girl Doll

It’s only a few weeks until Halloween and all houses of horror are not equal. Some don’t have blood and vampires. Some are pretty, immaculate arenas on Fifth Avenue. Such is the American Girl doll store.

I love dolls. I’ve always loved dolls. But these dolls aren’t what I’m used to. They’re not your basic huggable buddy you carry everywhere. They’re a little stand-offish:

“Please don’t cuddle me. You know I prefer air kisses. You’ll muss up my hair. Stop it: You’re creasing my new outfit! Do you have any idea how much this outfit cost? I don’t care if you paid for it.” Surely there must be a reality show: “Real American Girl Housewives” in their future. They’re just a tad elitist. Could you imagine the scandal if an American Girl doll was seen on the red carpet with Raggedy Andy? Sure he’s a legend, an American icon, but how could he not end up on the “worst dressed list” with that sailor hat?

I could swear I saw a trash can in front of the American Girl doll store that said: “No outside dolls or stuffed animals allowed.” I took off my shoes before I entered and carried them the whole time. It just seemed fitting.

All of the dolls come from different backgrounds and have different stories and yet, they all look suspiciously similar. Has anyone actually done a background check to verify their stories of hardship growing up? And how much hardship growing up can they have had? Aren’t they all like 9? Whatever struggles they may have had must have been short-lived because now they’re living it up in a ritzy store on Fifth Avenue.

Some of the dolls are on display and some are in boxes. I wondered if the ones in the boxes are being punished. Do the employees come around at night when the store’s closed and say:

“You, Marlena Isabel… Not you, the one behind you… Not you either, the one behind you, the next one, after her… Marlena Isabel #8, yes you. I saw you chewing gum earlier while customers were near your display. People pay $130 for a doll that has class not a gum-chewer. It’s back in the box for you!”

I pondered: If someone offered to shell out $1040 plus tax for the whole slew of Marlena Isabels, is there a former government witness protection program employee in the basement, who in a flash, can create a whole new identity- Name and background -for each of the octuplets? “Marlena Isabel #6. You’re now ‘Estrogen’. You were raised by a lesbian couple in Fresno in 1971. Toss me your maracas and throw on this tie-dye poncho!”

Clearly some of my disdain comes from jealousy. Especially when I got to the part of the store where the beauty salon is. Grown-ass women stand there all day coiffing dolls’ hair as they sit in their little salon chairs with the little salon cape around their little plastic necks. One phrase had bombarded my thoughts since I’d entered the store and was only growing louder as I’d approached the salon area: “Are you fking kidding me?”

And why do the dolls face us when they’re getting coiffed? Don’t they want to see themselves in the mirror? Maybe they’re mocking us because we wish we were, literally, in their shoes. I couldn’t stop thinking: “Okay, something’s very wrong about this. I have my hair balled up in a stretched-out scrunchie because I haven’t been able to afford a haircut in 2 years, and I’m watching a row of Stepford dolls getting their hair done on Fifth Avenue.”

They’re only a block away from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Do any of the dolls ever take a limo over to kneel down in gratitude for their good fortunes? Do any of their knees bend?”

And I don’t think the dolls’ snobbish attitudes waiver once they leave the store either. Have you ever seen a little girl with an American girl doll shopping in Target? Never. Once that doll sees those red shopping carts in the parking lot, she starts sending subliminal messages to her owner:

“I’m not going in there. I demand you leave me in the car at once!”

But then of course there probably is an AGDPS – The American Girl Doll Protective Services who would arrest you for leaving your American Girl Doll alone in a hot car. The penalty? Who knows? They know you have no money left to pay a fine since you’ve already forked over hundreds for the doll, her outfit, and accessories. Maybe in the back of the store somewhere, in the deep recesses where shoppers are never permitted, there are extra large boxes where they keep naughty American Girl Doll owners.

What happened to the good old days? Where’s a vindictive little brother to come along and pop the head off your doll when you need him?

Simple Rules to Picking a Doctor (Part 1)

(This week is a 2-part blog post. Apparently I couldn’t get all my venting into just one post. So when you’re done with me here, Donor Concierge has graciously allowed me to post Part II over there. http://www.donorconcierge.com/gails-blog/)

I’m pretty sure I’m not one of those people who annoys their doctor so much that the receptionist knows their phone number by heart and cringes and retches every time it comes up on caller ID. And yet, I’m pretty particular about the doctors I pick. And interestingly enough, my pickiness really has little to do with their medical expertise.

No, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been diverted to or referred to or conned into using medical professionals who seem qualified to see me in various degrees of undress. (Sorry, Mr. Podiatrist. In your case, I mean taking off my shoes and socks.)

So my issues aren’t always with the doctors themselves. Yet some little most basic common sense things can make me want to call it quits with them.

…like not being able to get in touch with them. I had a gynecologist not too long ago who had one phone line and no call-waiting. What? It was like going to the little gyno on the prairie. I had to pretend I was living in 1978 and keep hanging up when I got a busy signal and psycho-dialing over and over again until I got through. How ridiculous: I was trying to make a doctor’s appointment not win concert tickets.

Another gynecologist had an answering machine field all of her calls. I often can’t be reached during the day so this is really irritating. I need a one step deal. It was never a one step deal to make an appointment. I couldn’t just call her, make an appointment and move on with my life. I had to call and wait for someone to call me back. Then they’d leave me a message, then I’d call them back and leave them a message. Then… well you see where this is going. Instead of the one step deal it should’ve been, it became a three day Olympic event. Finally I’d get so exasperated, I would just leave detailed information on the machine message and let them work it out without me. “I’ll be in Monday the 29th at 3:10. Deal with it.” You know you’ve left too many messages when you don’t have to leave your number because you’re sure they already have it… Or your name because they must, by now, know your “angry voice” by heart.

Then sometimes you get receptionists, administrative assistants etc who are unpleasant. I will go as far as to say I had a Reproductive Endocrinologist who has an assistant who’s evil. (And I say “has” because she’s still there.) She was always so nice to my face, but clearly something more sinister lingers just below the surface of her cheery shell. Somehow doctors never got the messages when messages went through her. If for some reason she was out, everything was fine. But when she was there, she was like a giant cement road block. And there was no way to get to a doctor or a nurse without going through her. I tried frantically to warn the medical staff when I saw them in person, grabbing them by the lab coat lapels. “Listen to me! She’s only gone out for coffee. We don’t have much time! I’m telling you. That woman you have as your assistant- She’s not who you think she is!” But apparently they were all fooled by her or she had them in an evil trance or something. Did they never question how she could bring them every day, hot S’Mores directly from her office?

My internist has an online portal and, I hate to say it but, I love my portal. (Did that sound right to you?) I go online to ask for prescriptions or ask the doctor a quick question or get lab results or make my own appointments. I sincerely hope none of it has put anyone out of a job. Then again, a few of them probably shouldn’t have been in that job in the first place. I often thought as unemployment was hitting an all-time high: “10 million people out of work… and this is who you gave the job to?”

To continue this post where I kvetch about waiting rooms, waiting in waiting rooms, and doctors who have lousy bedside manner, please check out: “Simple Rules to Picking a Doctor” (Part 2) at Gail Sexton’s blog: http://www.donorconcierge.com/gails-blog/

“Suspended With Pay?… Sign Me Up”

I, for some reason, keep an eye on what the hottest job markets are. I admit, I don’t have much interest or talent in either computer sciences or neurosciences which always seem to be at the top of the list, but there’s a new one that has been gaining in popularity recently. It’s in the news all the time and I’m obsessed with it: The “Suspended With Pay” career.

You know sometimes you read online news articles and there are pieces missing?: An important detail or something’s misspelled or a word has been inadvertently omitted. That’s really what I thought was happening the first few times I saw that someone had been: “Suspended WITH Pay”. But it couldn’t possibly be a typo over and over again, news story after news story, could it? It turns out it’s not a typo. It’s a career path.

And I think you have to have a pretty decent job to nab the coveted “Suspended with Pay” status. I mean, if you work at Burger King taking orders and they catch you sticking your hand in the till and shoving cash under your paper crown, you wouldn’t get suspended with pay. You probably wouldn’t even get suspended without pay. They would just “have it their way” and dethrone your ass out the door.

But if you have a more important job… or at least a better paying job or maybe just a more high profile job… and you steal a few million or do something just a little heinous like making a right turn through a family while you were texting a friend that your blood alcohol level was around 12, or moonlighting as the director of a Meth lab, or if your constituents voted for public funds to open a hospital cancer wing and you gave it to your brother-in-law to buy a jet, or if you’re a top linebacker in the NFL and you didn’t like the furniture your wife brought home so you broke it over her face, or you touched somebody’s bathing suit while they were wearing it without them giving you the go-ahead. Apparently the appropriate punishment for all of these crimes is: “Suspension WITH Pay”.

Of course I understand this is all while the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I’m just wondering how they manage to never sign, on the day they’re hired, what I always sign: The “At-Will” policy with the words “At-Will” prominently displayed, circled and highlighted. It basically says what Lou Grant said to Mary Richards on the first episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show: “If I don’t like you, I’ll fire you! If you don’t like me… I’ll fire you!”

So let’s sum up, shall we? I can do some crime so horrific that neither AOL nor TMZ can show the video footage and then, let’s say I’m out on bail… Maybe even on house arrest… I can sit on my couch eating ice cream and watching a Murder She Wrote marathon all day every day with no worries about not being able to afford the ice cream or my cable being turned off because my direct deposit will continue to flow peacefully into my bank, right on time, on the 15th and the 30th of every month. And it will take probably a year before the case comes to trial… Hmmm… I’ve always thought it would take me about a year to write my next book. Perfect… It’s Kismet… It’s Karma. My home can become my very own artist’s retreat. Who needs “Go Fund Me”? My job will bankroll my writing career.

Suspended with pay… Some call it a punishment. I call it a promotion.

57 Years to Think for Ourselves is All We’ve Got

The golden years of life are between ages 18 and whatever age you can get to and still be able to think semi-clearly as well as move the majority of your body parts. See, I don’t like to be told what to do… (Yes, having that as my motto, makes me the ideal employee) …and for the first 18 years of our lives we’re constantly told what to do. Not only do people have the right to tell us what to do, they’re obligated by law to tell us what to do. “Put on that seat belt.” “No, you can’t go to the mall alone with your friend: You’re both 8 years old.” You’re told what to wear at 4: “You can’t wear a bathing suit outside in winter” and what not to wear at 16: “That’s the style? Whatever it is, you’re not leaving the house with those hanging out.”

Then we get a lull. From age 18 until 75 we get a reprieve, a breather, a short window of opportunity in which to think for ourselves: Freedom. And, if we’re smart, we milk it for all it’s worth. We can have key lime pie for breakfast. (Did it yesterday). We can watch a show late at night without anyone telling us to turn off the TV and go to bed even though we’re on our third round of the “fall asleep & pop back up” merry-go-round and have no idea where we are let alone what we’re watching. We can wear what we want. (Walmart shoppers excepted.) We can sleep with nothing on or everything in our closet. We can talk to strangers. We can run with scissors. We can lick dip right out of the container in the privacy of our own home. We can leave all the lights on in the house all day. We can drink right from the faucet. We can swim 3 minutes after we eat or even while we’re still chewing. We don’t have to brush our hair or our teeth. No one can make us make our bed. No one can make us go to school. No one can make us go to work. We can just call up and say to the boss: “You know what. I really don’t feel like doing this anymore. Bye.”

Then we turn about 75. And the nightmare starts again. A mere 70 years ago they were telling us we couldn’t eat glue, crayons, snot or lint. Now they’re telling us we can’t eat salt, fat, sugar or anything referred to as “delicious”. And suddenly everybody wants to know about our bowel movements again: When, how often, do they look like gum balls or balloon animals? Serpents or giraffes? They haven’t been a topic of conversation since we learned to wipe from front to back… And we definitely shouldn’t be driving. They won’t take us anywhere but we shouldn’t be driving. And we can’t live where we want. They don’t want us to live alone but they don’t want us to live with them either.

My sister-in-law suggested that my father-in-law check out a senior living place near her. He says it’s a nursing home. She says it’s nice. The first day he was there, they sat him at a table with one of the residents. She introduced herself: “Hi. I’m Gloria Marshall. I’m 96. I’m done living. Who needs this anymore?” I never imagined in my wildest dreams that my father-in-law would ever be the most upbeat person at any given meal. Poor Mrs. Marshall. If only she could escape for a while to run with scissors and drink right from the faucet, she might feel different.

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