The Tragedy of the Salad Spinner

This afternoon I was reading some Amazon reviews on mini-salad spinners, as you do. OK, it was because I wanted something I could… You know what? I don’t owe you an explanation. I don’t owe anyone an explanation. There’s no law against reading Amazon reviews, or mini-salad spinners, or reading. YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME. I DO WHAT I WANT. So. Salad Spinner – reviews of. I ran across this opening line in a review of a mini-salad spinner:

 “My late wife kept asking me for a salad spinner for a long time, but I always demurred because the ones that I had seen were designed so poorly as to foretell breaking soon.”

Your wife, rest her soul, wanted nothing more than a simple implement to help her rinse and crisp leafy produce. Something to save hours of pounding the lettuce on the rocks by the river and hanging them on the line to dry each and every salad day [n.b. – I am not 100% certain this is how one processed salads before salad-spinner technology was developed, but it seems likely.] and you, parsimonious to the point of qualifying as a Grade-A Cheap-skate, determined that this was not necessary. Based on what knowledge, exactly, was that judgment made? Did you make salads, or indeed any foodstuff for the home? No. You did not. You wouldn’t know the difference between iceberg and romaine lettuces if your salvation depended upon it. You wouldn’t recognize arugula if it marched onto your plate carrying a sign “I AM ARUGULA – SPICIEST OF THE SALAD LEAVES!” You neither know – nor care about – the secret of emulsifying a vinaigrette, or how the right crouton can transform a dull side-salad into a zesty main dish. And it is to you, a salad ignoramus of the highest order, that your late wife (may she rest in peace) had to apply to get just one little gadget for the kitchen.

I must ask, sir, was this not a grown-ass woman? What could possibly be the reason she was not permitted to select her own small mechanical helpmeets? Perhaps she once absconded with your charge card and spent $18,320 at Williams-Sonoma on assorted ergonomic citrus reamers, onion goggles and a sous-vide machine and could no longer be entrusted around kitchen implements. Was it that her quest to find the perfect garlic press left you with over 136 of them moldering away in the garden shed, when everyone knows you can just use the flat of a chef’s knife, for fucks sake, added strain to your marriage. Maybe her careless use of a dehydrator led to the political de-stabilization of a small central american country. I don’t know. But it seems like, just this once, you could have humored your late wife and “allowed” her to get a salad spinner.

“Go ahead, Ethel,” you could have said in a fit of magnanimity, “Pick out your favorite salad spinner. And why don’t you choose which jello to use in the jello mold tonight. After all, it is Christmas!”

But no, Melvin, you didn’t say that. Because some latent oracular talent presented itself and “foretold” that such an item might eventually break. As if none of your household goods may submit to the law of entropy .  And now you sit, alone with only memories of your sainted wife daubing gently at damp baby spinach leaves as you permit yourself the luxury of spinning your own salad in the one appliance she ever desired, but could never have.

You disgust me.

Yes, all women.

Anyone who has read my various blog posts and facebook updates can tell you that my verbosity makes me ill-suited to the medium of the Twitters, but I’ve read so much incredible commentary over the last few days that I wanted to bear witness in my own wordy way, and maybe add to the pile of testimony the data-point that there is no woman so outwardly non-descript, or quiet, or fat, or modest or intelligent that she hasn’t dealt with a metric fuckton of harassment and assault by the time she is forty. Here are a couple of shit things that have happened to me.

1. I’m 19 and I work at a warehouse job. We get a half hour lunch which I have to clock out for, and two 15-minute breaks a day, which I spend at my desk because getting to and from the breakroom would take a couple of precious moments of my reading time away from me. Every spare moment is spent with my face buried in a book. And every day the same guy ignores my body language and hits on me. Within the first week I break with my “be nice” passive-aggressive mormon training and give him a steely “no”. He also ignores every firm “no” I give him until I start wearing my poison-ring on my left-hand ring finger, and hang up a picture of me draped over a literal knight in shining armor I took at the ren faire the previous summer. When he interrupts that break, I talk fondly of my “fiance’s” jealousy and skill with edged weapons. The harassment stops and now some of the guys mutter behind my back.

2. I’m 20 and 21 and working at the ren faire. All the male cast members have our back and security is great, but pretty much every day a stranger attempts to grab my ass (thank god for bum rolls, am I right wenches?) or my boobs. Sometimes they succeed. I chalk it up angrily to the idea that “cast members” aren’t perceived as real people anymore because of television.

3. I’m 24 and living in NYC. I stop between classes to pick up a play at the bookstore I work at and when I come out, a man follows me, sticking something pointy into the small of my back. “I have a gun,” he leans over and whispers in my ear, “and if you don’t follow me and do what I say, I will. shoot. you.” I panic. The skeptical, “don’t be a drama queen” part of my brain tells me it might not be a gun, just a crazy person. The rational part of my brain says to err on the side of caution. My lizard brain doesn’t know what to do and responds by making me sweat a lot and then shutting down. I stop in every store between 86th and 73rd, figuring that he would be unlikely to shoot me in the middle of a Duane Reade. The “gun” leaves my back in the middle of the Fairway and spin around, but cannot identify my stalker. I miss my next class and spend the rest of the month not going anywhere alone.

4. I’m still 24 and working at Shakespeare & Co as an assistant manager. As a supervisor I notice that one employee never manages to get his work done. Every time I check on him he’s sitting on the floor reading the books he was supposed to be shelving. Every time I put on my “supervisory” tone he grins. I consider writing him up for general Bartleby-ness if not outright insubordination when a conversation with several other supervisors and managers reveals they never have a problem with him. A friend suggests that Bartleby the Bookseller is trying to get me to yell at him for purposes of sexual gratification. I scoff at this. The next close I work with him, he asks me out. After the first “no”, he only tries two more times.

5. I am 25 and working at a mall bookstore in the midwest. Two less qualified males are given promotions instead of me and another female keyholder, including one freelance evangelical preacher who is made the manager of the calendar kiosk despite outright refusing to open boxes that contain PG13 “cheesecake” calendars and will not shelve or scan them. They lose sales because he is often the only employee in that store.

6. I am 26 and back in NYC. Walking from my apartment to the subway subjects me to daily catcalls from total strangers hanging out on balconies, stoops and fire escapes. I “learn to ignore it” which manifests itself in a fearsome (but not fearsome enough to stop the catcalls) Resting Bitch-Face which I still cherish to this day. The RBF encourages other, street-level strangers to demand that I “smile”.

7. I am still 26 in NYC, coming home at around 1 am from my closing shift at the bookstore. The empty seat next to the subway door is my reward for a full week of working two jobs. My typical friday night ritual of magazine and 20 minute subway ride home is interrupted by a homeless guy (this is just a guess) leaning further into the pole with every minor bump the train makes. He starts “accidentally” brushing me, and I instinctively become smaller and smaller until he is blatantly grasping my breasts. I marvel at my seeming invisibility to an entire subway car full of riders as I yell, swear at and push my assailant. One final kick from me makes it less than worth his while to continue his assault, and he miraculously becomes visible once he approaches two hot blondes. While they successfully fight him off by hitting him with a guitar case (girl power!) several previously oblivious men on the train chivalrously confront him and remove him from the train. At my stop.

8. I am in my 30’s and using public transit in LA. I bring a book because I like to read and also I don’t want to be bothered. I am interrupted nearly every day. I learn that chuckling while reading a non-fiction book about dead bodies with a picture of a toe tag on a foot on the cover kept people away from me for about a week and consider repurposing this cover for other books.

9. I am 35 and my friend and I are taking advantage of the lovely LA weather to walk the half-mile home from Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles after lunch. A man follows us for two blocks. He is out of breath because he must have run out of the restaurant. He is about 1 foot behind us when he starts making comments about my friend’s ass and demanding she give him her number. She tells him she is not interested. He follows us closer and demands to know if she’s racist because otherwise she would give him her number. I slip my arm around her waist and tell him pointedly we are lesbians. “I wasn’t talking to you, ugly bitch, I was talking to the hot one.” She pulls out her cell phone and threatens to call the police and he leaves. We take our keys out of our respective purses and do that thing we all learn to do as soon as we have keys, looking behind and around us roughly every 38 seconds to make sure the man hasn’t come back and that we aren’t leading him to our home.

Those are the top 9. I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting and thousands of tiny micro-aggressions I’m omitting because they’re so constant you kind of forget it’s not normal. Comparing to other people’s lists, this isn’t all that long or traumatic – I am thankfully not one of the one-in-six women who has been raped. But the fact that this is a “boring, uneventful” list should be appalling to people.

Portland – the first day.

A brief travelogue:

Yesterday we got up at fuck-this-shit-o’clock (4am, ftr) got on airplane, napped a bit, got off airplane and on another airplane, and landed at PDX.

For an “international” airport, PDX is pretty tiny. When we got off that second plane, the first shop in the terminal was not a news stand or starbucks – it was a small-batch artisanal gin distiller. We had to get our light jackets out of the luggage because it was only about 59 degrees and overcast outside, which I have to tell you makes me inordinately happy. The driver of our “shared” ride (which was shared with exactly no one) was chatty and knowledgeable, especially when we all bagged on the entitled dingbat who kept marching over to the van to demand the shared city bus NOW. Where was it? Why did she have to wait? Say what you will about the friendliness of Portlanders – and by god, they are disconcertingly friendly – they also have the finer points of eye-rolling and snark going for them. Noting my indigo bangs and De’s variegated pastel blue and green highlights, the driver mentioned we should enjoy the city – we already had “Portland Hair”.

The condo we rented – actually one of four flats in a converted Victorian/Craftsman – exceeded all expectations. A nice big fully stocked kitchen (only missing a stand mixer and food processor) dining room, office, living room and two lovely bedrooms. Unlike home, this has nice high ceilings, lots of wood and a fireplace we’re probably not going to use. Unlike home, we are sharing a bathroom and have individual room air-conditioners we’re not going to use. While we waited for the place to be ready, we walked about a mile to my spiritual home, Powells City of Books, stopping at Supa for awesome soup/sandwich combo lunch. There was a fast moving mob at Powells, like salmon jostling their way upstream, but once we found the sci-fi floor, it was a little more bustling bookstore and a little less TEH GUIDEBOOK TELLS ME TO GO TO POWELLS AND I AM GOING THERE. About an hour in, we realized we were still exhausted from the flights, the not sleeping and they paying attention to shit and couldn’t remember half of our wishlists, so we decided to come back on Monday or Tuesday when I think it will be more Bustling Bookstore, and less Tourist Scavenger Hunt (“OK I HAVE MY BOX OF VOODOO DONUTS NOW I’LL WANDER AIMLESSLY THROUGH THE FIRST FLOOR OF THE BOOKSTORE SO I CAN CHECK IN ON FACEBOOK AND EVERYONE WILL KNOW I AM AWARE OF BOOKS.”~ that lady with the donut box who kept getting turned around in the how-to aisle, probably).

Exhausted, we took the delightful $1 street car home, stopping at the Safeway to pick up snacky food and all the crap we forgot to pack. Then we came home, passed out for a couple of hours before heading to Kells, which sadly had to delay the live music until after the Trailblazers game, and the only cider they had on tap was a cherry. Happily, the band Cul An Ti was worth the wait, and the cider – 2 Towns Cherried Away – was deliciously tart, unlike the new trendy ciders for the American market which taste like apple-juice flavored wine coolers to me. By the time the band started, I was ready to enjoy. Not only was the music great, but I looked around and noted all age groups and all ethnicities enjoying the music and the put itself. I also noticed that there seemed to be a lot of reasonable looking men actually dancing with women, and the women themselves didn’t wear ridiculously crippling shoes. This differs from LA in that the hot guys are almost always gay, and the reasonable looking straight men seem to have ossified into Black-belt level jagoffs who wear cheap-ass looking porkpie hats and slovenly outfits while dating tiny young chicks in hooker heels and clubwear. Or I could be generalizing. Maybe the reasonable looking men in the bar were all looking for beards. Who knows.

We took a taxi home and then passed out, eschewing the alarm clock for the natural waking power of the sun through the windows. (fuck you, sun). Today we’re going to buy day passes for the public transit and go to the portland Saturday Market – also available on Sunday – and Fat Fancy, a vintage shop for fatties. I will also most likely stop at Voodoo Donuts because I am not made of stone.

In which my bitchiness becomes an asset to the company

The grown-ups in my department have been sequestered to do data cleansing for one of our third party distribution deals so the peons have been left (mostly) to our own devices for the last week.

In the absence of a more responsible member of the staff (i.e. one whose job isn’t classed as “unskilled) one of the things I get tasked with is minor IT testing and break-fix reporting. To that end, the big boss requested yesterday that I open a ticket on behalf of the entire department, as the main module we use seemed to be experiencing technical difficulties. The ticket was something like “No one can use $MODULE, please fix ASAP.” A few follow-ups were made showing the exact error message we were receiving, some members of IT worked on it and by the time I got in this morning, the module was working just fine. I then received an email from one of the offshore IT guys (remember like three months ago when our Company claimed they were getting rid of all offshore IT?) telling me that I could no longer request access to $MODULE via ticket, and instead, I must go through some arcane process involving drop-down menus, radio buttons and burnt offerings. I responded to him that I have had access to all roles in $MODULE since 2006, and then explained that the original ticket was to fix the broken module for everyone, thank you for your time and hit send. He just now emailed stating:

We checked and found that currently you don’t have $MODULE access. The process to obtain access has been changed and we no more do the manual provisioning.

Kindly apply for the access as per the instructions provided below and revert back in case you find any difficulty.

Huh? Is this a threat? Are they going to remove my access just so that I have to jump through the hoops all new hires have to? (it takes them a minimum of 2 weeks to get it right – somehow IT can’t figure out what “mirror $JOHNNY LONGTERM EMPLOYEE access” means). Here was my terse response to that veiled threat.

The ticket opened below was to fix a problem for all $MODULE users. The issue was fixed and $MODULE users are no longer receiving error messages. I am using $MODULE right now and have been using it all morning. My access has not been removed. Please update your records.

My former manager surfaced from the terrarium they’ve been locked in to let me know he had put my snotty response up on the big screen in the conference room. “Did you see how she’s responding to IT?,” he whined in mock outrage. The Big Boss, who noted at my last non-binding review that one thing that may keep me from getting promoted is the perception that I am “mean”, looked it over and said, “Good. Let her say whatever she wants to these people.”

Learning to Fail

Dammit , this shit’s not funny. Again. I’m starting to think that like the unprepossessing yet productive oyster, I  can’t produce a pearl unless I’m irritated. As this blog pretty much takes the place of costly therapy for me, I’m hoping if I purge some of the boring stuff I can once again rant at top form. Pressing on…

At about this time last year I started feeling a little stagnant. Maybe it was the impending middle-age making me cranky, who knows. But I decided that I needed to reacquaint myself with failure. Not that I’m such a massive success story, but because in all my years I learned to avoid the feelings of failure by not taking too many chances. I should find someone to blame, some precipitating experience. Oh, here’s one: I learned to read way early. In fact, I can’t remember a time I didn’t know how to read (english and music, come to think of it) which actually may say more about my lousy memory than any particular giftedness. Regardless, my parents always made sure I had plenty of books, I had a great University pre-school co-op education so that by the time I got to kindergarten, I sat smugly in my chair as everyone learned the alphabet, certain that I did not have to practice writing the letters and sounding them out due to my many books, chalkboard and crayons. This school stuff was going to be AWESOME. I was AWESOME at learning. I didn’t even have to try! I knew all of school!! So the next day I sat smugly again, patting myself on the back for my intelligence, when a math worksheet broke my reverie. It was then that I realized I could not make a “5”. I was stymied. I tried copying the figure with the arrows, but try as I might, I could not figure out how that top line attached to the rest of the “5”. I think it took me a couple of weeks before an epiphany led me to put it on the Right side of the numeral, not on the left, like a strange hieroglyph of a wheelchair. But what that experience taught me was not, alas, some things wiLl take more effort than others, but instead, MATH IS IMPOSSIBLE! I DON’T UNDERSTAND NUMBERS! I WILL NEVER GET THIS!!!

The guiding philosophy of my education has pretty much been “Either You Excel, Or You Suck. Stick With What You’re Good At”. I need not explain why this was a fairly poisonous attitude, but even after all these years, it sits in my lizard brain, poking me every time I fail at something. That sense of shame is deeply itchy and unpleasant. I grew up and decided I didn’t like that feeling, so class loads became random patchworks of non-mathematical pursuits, and I quickly surrendered whenever faced with a challenge. Why bother? I was going to suck anyway. Why not marshall my efforts to something I’m not going to suck at? It did not make me even better at those things. There was a flaw in that logic. As a grown-up, I can say I’m pretty good at accounting type mathematics, and I’m super-awesome at fractions and conversions that come up in recipes, so there is evidence that if I tried a little harder, maybe I could have made some progress (except dance. guys, I tried, I really did. I have some sort of dyslexia of the body which allows me only to physically express myself in Polka. This is less useful for professional musical theatre purposes than you would think.) but it never sank in.

So last year I thought maybe I felt like I was spinning my wheels because I never tried. Maybe I need to get past my fear of failure by trying something I most certainly will fail at. My mind immediately went to music. I thought of auditioning for a choir – one that would probably not need me. I could only think of two possibilities, and this is not ego speaking. I am so awesome in a choir you don’t even know. Not only can I sight read pretty damn well, I blend like an Osterizer. You can put me anywhere in a group and I can find the center of the tone and match it. (and now all my St. Thomas friends are going to cackle gleefully at my hubris and I’ll sound like an adenoidal chicken at our retreat next month because I’ve read those greek plays. I know how this shit works). But still. Two choirs. One I think would give me a 50/50 chance. Those odds were a little close to success, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to commit. The other would be like, 1200-to-1. Sounds great, right? Well, that one has a recorded audition process, wherein you would send in your CD (srsly, no MP3s? must you reinforce the stereotype of classical musicians being a bunch of clueless olds?) and I guess if they liked you they’d tell you where they rehearsed, but if they didn’t you just never heard from them. This would hardly help me face my fears.

I was contemplating this exact same conundrum this year, when a position became available at work. One that was still within my department, reporting to my favorite supervisor, working with similar things that I’ve been doing for the last 7 years. Reading the job description, it seemed tailor made for me. There were drawbacks though. I conversation with the supervisor confirmed that it was more of a lateral move than a step up for me. And (and this was a biggie) it would mean leaving the union, and it’s wonderful perks, such as fully-paid insurance and pension, OT pay for when they needed me to work OT, and the knowledge that if I was going to be shit-canned, I’d see it coming a mile away. But still. The ability to move in the organization. A job title that might actually be transferable to some other industry should I decide I couldn’t take it anymore in the land of sunshine and superficiality. I held my breath and applied. I actually had to re-do my resume (WE HATES IT, PRECIOUSSSS!) find an interview appropriate outfit (in LA. for a fat lady. hahahahahahaha!!!!) and interview. So I put forth an effort on an unknown outcome and crossed my fingers. For what, I wasn’t sure. Like I said, there were some drawbacks to that job. Still, I trusted everything would work out. As the week wore on, I became more ambivalent, if that’s possible.

A few days ago, a kind co-worker let slip that she heard they had hired someone else. Aside from the irritation that nobody bothered to tell me, I have to admit I was relieved. But still, my “failure” kind of itched. But I soon began to realize that like that break-up I had that one time, I was more butt-hurt about being rejected than heartbroken over the loss. I was never in love with that dude/job in the first place. So yesterday I was officially informed that they had chosen someone else for the position; another internal candidate, this one with a slightly different (but applicable) set of skills. Thanks to the heads-up of my co-worker, I wasn’t shocked and I had had time to process my emotions so I didn’t burst out into THE FEELS in his office. And then the manager said: “If you’d like to schedule a meeting next week, I can give you feedback on your interview. I think there may be some opportunities coming up and we’d like you to be ready to move up when the right one is available.” Huh.

So, to sum up: I took a chance. It didn’t work out. The world did not stop spinning. I am not being followed by one of those inflatable wavy-arm guys with sign saying “YOU SUCK!”. The next challenge will be finding a time next week where I can accept constructive criticism while not getting defensive or weird about it (I am so bad at this). Happy are they who hear their detractions and can put them to mending, right?

And one more thing in my ongoing Become An Adult project; I decided I need to learn a new skill if I want to stave off early senility. Not a new language or instrument – I have already developed those neural pathways, and would be best served by working on the german, polish and cello skills I’ve already started. Something entirely new. And also, cheap. To that end, I purchased a drop spindle and some wool with some of my generous birthday bounty and am teaching myself to hand spin. Something about being a literal Spinster is funny and appealing to me. Everything I’ve read says there is no way to learn this but through making mistakes. And I’m supergood at that! I’ve already noticed some improvement in the first three skeins. I have no desire to knit – I’ll have to send my decent output to knitting friends. It’s going to be a challenging year for me – failing, being criticized, making handicrafts. I hope I survive!

Moving On

I’ve been meaning to write this post since June of 2012, in order to mark my decade anniversary of becoming a Californian. Unfortunately, when I start feeling overwhelmed I lose the ability to organize my thoughts, not to mention about 40% of my vocabulary. Right now I’m winding up a major case of The Feels, so I figured I might give it a shot.

This is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. I had no expectation of that when we moved. In fact, it was possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life – I got in the car and traveled halfway across the country with no savings and no job. I had never even visited Los Angeles before I moved here. Every bad thing you know about LA is true; the Industry of this Industry Town trades on fantasy and shallowness, artifice and benign deception. As an otherwise unexceptional fat lady, I may as well be invisible here. My finely honed sense of sarcasm is not always appreciated. Actually, it’s not always recognized. I discovered I had a penchant for writing here, yet I think De and I are the only people around who don’t have a screenplay. As long as I stay here, I’ll never date – but don’t feel sorry for me, because as long as I stay here I don’t want to date. And yet… I like it here. I feel more comfortable here than I have anywhere else. I can have fuchsia hair at 40. I can be single and no one thinks it’s odd (or if they do, they’re polite enough to bite their tongue). I will never be the biggest freak in the room. I work a cubicle drone job and yet there’s no way I could possibly violate the dress code (ah, Industry), no matter how many rhinestones my glasses have, or how pink my hair is. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe I had been living under a cloud of SADD for so long I didn’t realize  how little everything I thought was important mattered. Or maybe I just have to live somewhere I can bitch about to be truly happy. Somewhere I know I’ll never fit in, so I’ll never try to be anyone other than myself.

Up until rather recently I would have accounted Ardala a great contributor to my unaccountable contentment, but I’ve had a little time to settle and I seem to be doing OK (and I will get to that puppy bio as soon as I can make a mental outline without my vision going all blurry), if somewhat subdued. I am incredibly fortunate to have a full refrigerator, overflowing bookcases and good friends. I am thrilled I don’t have the ability to go back in time and give my younger self some valuable advice, because I never would have come here. It was the best dumb decision I ever made.

At a loss

I have just begun a luxurious 4.5 day weekend and I have no idea what to do with myself. It has been nearly two weeks since we said goodbye to Ardala. Not a day has gone by that I don’t feel guilty for her last year, even though I know there’s probably nothing I could have done. The spondylosis which had made her left rear leg useless had already begun on the right rear leg weeks before the “incident” which may have been a disc, but was probably an FCE. Lacking the resources for an MRI or the desire to put her through more surgery, we’ll never know about that. But the spondylosis was definite, confirmed and progressive. I’m so sorry she suffered near the end.

But that is not why I’m typing here really. I’m bored. So much of our lives had been fitted around Ardala for the last year; timing when we would be home to take her out, timing her PT appointments to best coincide with both cash flow and free time. On the plus side, I had an instant “out” when attending gatherings. No one expects you to stay til the end of a party when you have a crippled dog at home. Now I have nothing to give shape to my days – no reason to get up early, stay up late, to get away from my desk. The trade off – the ability to make toast, run the dishwasher, vacuum with impunity – I’d  gladly give up for a healthy dog back. But then, she wasn’t actually “healthy” for a year.

If I had a little money I’d just drive somewhere, do something for three days. But – well, see above. I have no one to take care of and no cash to amuse myself. Maybe I’ll take up canning. Practice the cello some. Go through my Polish lessons. If anyone has any ideas, let me know!