Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What the March poll says about you: You're sensible, smart, funny, and technologically savvy!

The results of the March poll question are in!

1. Not shockingly, nobody chose "Strongly Disagree - I don't do it, and no one else should either."
  • What this means: You, my readers, are card-carrying members of the 21st century! Good for you! I'm not surprised by this, as you are reading a blog, after all.
2. More than half of you are almost equally split between those who like to keep the menu an in-the-moment type of thing and those who will feel badly about themselves if they are unable to view the menu online before attending a bricks and mortar restaurant.
  • To the first group, the "Disagree" group, I must say that I agree with your tendency to disagree. Maybe it's because I'm confident there will be something on the menu that I will like that is also within my price range, so I don't see a need to stress about it hours or days beforehand. Maybe it's that I am slightly lagging in the technology area and, for example, somewhat reluctant to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. Maybe you are too. We don't judge here, we learn from each other.
  • To the latter group, the "Strongly Agree" folks, I have so many questions! Is it because you get nervous when it becomes your turn to order? Is it because there are just so many decisions and you want to be sure you see them all? Similarly, are you the type to ask "what's for dinner" as soon as you're done with breakfast? Or maybe you're an online menu guru because you love social situations and can't spare a moment of face-to-face interaction to decide what you want to eat? Is it because you're unemployed and have a desire to make sure the restaurant is within your financial grasp? Or maybe you also like to read the reviews of the restaurant you are about to attend? Or, for all I know, you could just be lazy or somehow embarrassed to decide anything about a restaurant by reading the posted menu outside of a it. Again, though, no judgments... just learning.
3. Almost half of you agree and prefer to look at the menu online before visiting the restaurant, but note that it won't kill you if you aren't able to do so.
  • What this means: You, my readers, are sensible, smart, funny, and technologically savvy. Also, since this sounds like some sort of horoscopical reading, I might as well tell you now that you that an old friend will contact you during the next new moon, asking for money.
  • Since this is the biggest chunk of my readers, I will be catering to folks like you from now on. Why? Because I like you!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Memory Monday: Michelle Obama and her hotness

Ah, Memory Monday: The day of the week when I reminisce about an old job.

This MM, I reflect on an uncomfortable encounter with my boss at my most recent position.

It was some time around the inauguration of President Obama, and I was eating my lunch alone in the break room. It was only my boss and I in the office that day, and he was on the phone when I announced my intent to eat "lunch now" both in the common area and via email. I didn't want to eat lunch with him; he wasn't really my favorite person, and to boot, my fake smile was in the shop. So, I sat down with my toasted turkey and swiss cheese sandwich on sufficiently hot-sauced Fiber One bread (no, it's really good!) and breathed a sigh of relief.

The break room was so pleasant when it was just my turkey sandwich and me. The mini fridge circa 1992 gave off a pleasant hum, the sink a disfunctional trickle. The K-cup machine, for once, was silent. With a warm bite of sandwich in my mouth, I closed my eyes, thankful that this moment of solitude was not lost somewhere in the ubsurdity of the Place Games. A small sigh escaped my lips.

Ruining everything, my boss entered. The melody and harmony of the fridge and sink, like small forrest animals, sensed his presence and scampered away, out of earshot. He turned on the K-cup machine and started to brew his ninth cup of terrible coffee. My sandwich and I flinched at the incessant "BWOONNNNNNN" of the K-cup hulk as it heated the water. Solitude over. I donned the fakest of fake smiles as he sat down with a cold piece of pizza.

As a side note, maybe this makes me a communist or something, but I can't do cold pizza. I will gladly wait the minute and a half for the toaster oven to return it to its former glory, because cold, pizza tastes mushy and stupid. There, I said it.

My boss added to the chorus of ugly sounds by chewing his cold piece of nasty rather loudly. I felt like I would throw up. But then it got even worse: He decided to start a conversation.

Boss, holding up the newspaper, a droopy looking onion dripping off his chin: Oh look the Obamas are on the front page. That was a great innauguration. (or something to that effect -- I don't remember; I was distracted by the onion as it tried to escape his face)
Me: Oh yeah, it really was.
And then it hit me in the face like...like...like a cold, droopy onion...
Boss: Isn't Michelle Obama HOT?

I don't remember what I said; I think I might have blacked out.

He didn't say anything about the good stuff she's done already, what she stands for, nothing. I hadn't expected him to, and I don't know if that conversation would have been appropriate in the workplace either. But the road he went down was definitely not a road I wanted to travel with my boss!

I probably said something like "You have onion on your chin" to change the subject, followed by "oh, gotta go; I have a call in a few minutes." I'll let you in on a secret: I never had a call.

Lessons I learned that day:
  1. When it was only Mr. Droopy Onion Chin and myself, I would henceforth eat my lunch in my own office.
  2. The topic of Michelle Obama's hotness is a good one to bring up at parties. I find there are equal numbers in the hot and not-hot camps. If there is a dull moment at a party or someone has just asked you "What do you do?" and you're unemployed, try bringing this up.
Unanswered question: Am I a communist for not liking cold pizza?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Big news: I'm not alone!

My friend Traci just got laid off. No, this isn't something that necessarily concerns you; you probably don't even know Traci. But it's big news for me, friends, and I'll tell you why:

I am no longer alone!

Now before you jump to the conclusion that I live under a rock, please understand that of course I was aware that I wasn't the only person unemployed these days. No one can escape the news about the rising unemployment rate. This is true even if you're unemployed and the news is no longer a) thrust upon you, like the soggy copy of the Metro that you didn't notice was on your seat before you sat down on the T, or b) convenient, like tuning in to NPR on your drive to work or asking the uber-informed coworker in your office. Instead of these sources, most unemployeds turn to one more more of the following five things:
  1. People who have daily access to the aforementioned sources
  2. The online versions of the aforementioned sources
  3. The actual, honest to goodness, printed newspaper...oh wait...nevermind
  4. The television
  5. Perhaps the most common source, at least among the laid off of my age group, the internet generally
In addition to my sources, there have been a few members of my family who recently found their inboxes echoingly empty but for the telltale pink slip. This presented me with close-to-home proof that people other than myself had come down with Unemployment. These days, everyone knows someone who has been affected by Unemployment, and now I knew some too. The problem was, however, that the folks in my family who were laid off are all middle-aged. This didn't make their experiences any better or worse than mine, but it did make them qualitatively different to the point of potential non-relatability.

And so upon contracting Unemployment and presenting its full chorus of accompanying symptoms, I was stuck trying to relate my unemployed feelings to my friends, none of which were unemployed at the time. They did as well as they could, considering none of them had ever spent more than a month unemployed. I truly appreciated every bit of their genuine condolences and attempts at empathy, but something was just missing. They hadn't lived it.

Traci, however, is living it and can relate to my experience, just as I can relate to hers.
  • We are both temporary victims of Unemployment and worked in the same general industry pre-layoff
  • We are of the same age group
  • We both grew up as members of the upper-middle class, have always been savers, and are not Recessionistas*
Among our concerns:
  • How to get another full time job in an industry that is the first thing to be cut in a recession
  • How to pay rent and still do a few social things with friends who have steady incomes
Not among our concerns:
  • How to find a part time job that might last until we can really retire (middle-agers)
  • How to seem culturally relevant and trendy by not flaunting our gobs of money (Recessionistas)
I feel like we will form the foundation for a nice little secret club; complete with orange juice-inspired declarations that we are doing just fine at breakfast, boss and coworker rants over mid-morning bloody marys, "I would do anything to get a job" talks over sobering sips of water at lunch, discussions of jobless depression during late afternoon cookies and milk, and affirmations of acceptance in armchairs over after dinner tea.

Why all of our conversations will be mildly alliterative, mimic the stages of grief, and be centered around beverages, I'm not entirely sure. But I'm ok with it!

*The Recession Chic article was written by my cousin, Kelly Marages. Read it or listen to the NPR segment.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A new workout!

I try to do something active for at least a half hour a day. When I was working in Middla'noplace MA, I woke up pre-crack of dawn to do a little half-asleep Wii Fit (because it was in the other room and wouldn't wake the dogs, not to mention that it was winter and too cold to go outside). Afterward, I showered and ate breakfast in a zombie-like state, then drove an hour and a half to work. During the first half of that hour and a half, my cup of coffee would kick in. During the second half, it would wear off, so that when I arrived at work, where I would once again be in a zombie-like state.

Well, no more! Now that I have more time on my hands, I can actually schedule a work out at a normal time of day! Finally, it's getting warmer and I have the time and freedom to do stuff other than Wii Fit. I can:
  • Go running or go for a long walk. Usually, I'll take Emma with me. She gives me a nice excuse to stop when I get tired. "Oh do you have to stop and sniff this tree? Alright..." I'll say, all the while I'm using her to catch my breath.
  • Hit some softballs at the park across the street and have Emma retrieve them. It's actually quite impressive since the softballs are bigger than her head. She picks them up by the laces and fumbles with them all the way back to home plate. It's not really an aerobic workout for me, but it sure is entertaining.
  • Play a pick-up game of basketball with the kids who skip school at the park down the street. I go in with the expectation that I will get my ass kicked, which, if there is more than one 7th grade boy there, I probably will. When the pre-growth spurt 5th graders are there, though, I usually win, and man is that a huge confidence boost! "I gots game!" I'll say quietly to myself as I leave the park out of breath.
  • Go biking. This option I probably choose the least. I suppose I would bike more around town if I wasn't so afraid of being hit by a car or if my helmet (circa 1991) wasn't from Costco. I would use the bike paths more if they weren't so full of holes and bumps. That sort of terrain is quite unfriendly to not only my 13 year old bike, but also to my nether region.
  • Use my rower machine. All of the aforementioned options require some sort of prep and travel time, so if I'm not in the mood for that and want to just get a workout in quickly, I choose the rower.
Well, now I have another rower-like option! My fiancee was recently glued to the idiot box, particularly an ad very much like this one for the HSN Pilates Power Gym. As a result of that brilliant ad ("you can sculpt, you can shape, you can lengthen, you can lean out that body!"), we now own the Pilates Power Gym!

The day it came felt like Christmas: We were five, and the Reformer was Power Wheels. We took turns using it all day. In my sweatpants; I sculpted, I shaped, I lengthened. I wondered if I looked stupid. The reformer had all of the desireables a workout machine should have. Sure, it wasn't an actual Pilates reformer, but I am more than willing to accept its minor shortcomings and choose to refer to it as "the Reformer" anyway. I'm sure HSN can't do that for some intellectual property reason or another, but if they could, I have the perfect theme song for their infomercials!

Set to the tune of "Informer," by Snow:
Refooor-MER! A gooby doobie flobie zabba where?
A licky boom boom da dare!
Somethin' blah-dy goober yaba daba do, micky has no hair.
A licky boom boom da dare!

And you get the picture.

Dear HSN: You're welcome. Oh, and I have a question for you. Who has two thumbs and deserves an endorsement check?

This unemployed lady right here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm sorry, the position has been filled

My job search efforts are usually front-loaded at the beginning of the week. This is probably because on the weekends, it feels like everyone is unemployed. My friends and I engage in activities that I experience on a daily basis. Come Monday, however, the employed head back to their jobly routines and I remain here in my bathrobe. To fill the void made evident by this stark contrast between weekend and weekday, I job search.

The economy being what it is, however, I haven't found much to which I even want to apply. As a result, my standards have dropped dramatically and I've resorted to applying to anything. Anything at all, which includes jobs slightly outside of my realm of expertise, interest, and intelligence level. In what you think would be a cornucopia of resulting jobs, I have found that every position lists the same requirements:
  • Solid background in computers; and use of excel, word, etc.
  • Good communication skills and written abilities.
  • Well organized, with the ability to prioritize projects.
  • Prefer some experience within industry, 1 year or related degree.
  • College Degree preferred.
  • Working well with others in professional matter.
  • Sales experience a plus.
Am I right, job seekers? From teaching English in Korea to administrative assistant positions, these are the requirements. To that, I have four things to say. First, the cranky stuff:
  1. Duh! Could you be a little more specific?
  2. Just to clear the air and get something straight, here: Most people have those skills. In an economy like this one, everyone who applies to the job you, Employer, have posted will have those skills and more. The Unemployeds Formerly Known As Mid-level Employees (TUFKAME), like myself, are desperate and applying to anything, including entry-level positions. That means you can get someone extremely over-qualified for your basic entry-level position. Hooray for you. I have all of those skills, but will you hire me? Probably not. Boo for me.
  3. Why is every position these days laced with sales? You try to slip it in like it's just preferred, but we all know you're going to make us cold call until we've lost every shred of dignity.
And now for the heart of the matter:

4. I would kill for one posted job to have requirements that were a little more...interesting.
  • Solid background in fun: laughing, jumping, climbing trees, etc.
  • Able to pat head and rub stomach at the same time
  • Can find the funny in anything
  • Must have a catch phrase of some sort
  • Wears top hat, disguise glasses and nose, and polka dotted tie equally well
  • Must have own rubber chicken
  • Is friends with frogs and pigs alike
Oh, wait. That position does exist, and I'm sorry, it's been filled.

Wocka wocka wocka!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy birthday to one of my favorite "coworkers"


She's the coworker that collaborates well with others...
...but is never afraid to constructively voice her opinion...

...and hardly ever falls asleep on the job (except maybe this time)...

...and she's 2 (human) years old today!

Memory Monday: Brought to you by Coffee

Ah, Memory Monday: The day of the week when I reminisce about an old job.

Today, we're going back to a time when I was fresh out of college. A time when I decided to try living without coffee. A time when, no longer living with my formerly ER-obsessed college roommate, I hadn't seen ER in a while. That time was day ten of my first real job, 9:30am.

The back story:
Over instant messaging, a coworker of mine (who was also my superior on certain projects) asked me to help him with a small task. He and I got along very well and were fast friends from day one. He was a native of Venezuela, though it is important to note that his English was better than my Spanish (or any other language) will ever be.

The conversation that followed on IM:
Awesome coworker: Hey Pam, I need you to {insert small task here} within the next half hour. I know it's short notice, but do you think you can do it?
Me: Oh yeah, I'll have it to you stat!
AC: Great!
I start on the project and am half way through, when AC asks...
AC: So, what does "stat" mean?
Feeling the awesome social responsibility to tell him the correct meaning of a somewhat commonly used English language colloquialism, I began to panic. "Why oh why did I use that word," I thought, "and more importantly, why oh why can't I remember what it means?!" So I made it up to buy myself some time...
Me: Stat means "ok," I think...
AC: Oh. Ok!
AC: I mean, stat!
Ohhhh that doesn't sound right! I could feel him latching on to the incorrect definition and trying it out. "Wait!" I wanted to scream. "Give me a minute!" That was when I heard my college roommate in my head, saying, "You idiot! Stat means 'immediately,' like Sooner Than Already Here - not 'ok'!" I typed hastily...
Me: No, wait! It means "immediately!" Sorry about that!
AC: Oh, alright! Thanks!
Phew! I had saved him! Our IM conversation ended and I felt helpful.
But I hadn't saved him. The "ok" definition stuck with him and every time he meant to say "ok" henceforth, he said stat. I corrected him the first couple times, and we laughed about it. But when I heard him doing it in conversations down the hall, I knew I had lost the battle...the battle with my own stupidity. Now every time I hear "stat" I think "I'm an idiot!" and turn bright red.

What's the lesson? Contrary to what you might think, it's not "watch more ER." The lesson I learned from this experience is to never swear off coffee again.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Mascot Awards

It's been a few days of March Madness now, and I'm beginning to see why they call it "madness." I have had the time, being unemployed, to watch every single college basketball game-- both men's and women's. We're talking hours, nay, days of yelling at referees, cursing the other team, routing for the underdog, and shouldering the bracket busters. During this time, I have subsisted on minimal interaction with live humans and maximum interaction with Mr. Pringle.

All of this has led to the very real potential for a case of March Madness. There was a point today when, slumped over on my couch with only the remote and a bag of chips to prop me up, I realized if I watched college basketball for much longer, my eyeballs would grow soft and just pop right out of my head. Enter: Stage One of MM. Stage Two consists of total muscle atrophy and loss of brain function other than that which is required to say "Yes! And the foul!" Stage Three, the final stage, you don't even want to know about.

Before that could happen, I decided to use my brain. What have I not had time to do because I've had a pesky thing called a job? March Madness still on the brain, I decided to research iffy collegiate mascots. Sticking to the teams that are participating in either the men's or women's tournaments this year, here are the awards for...

Most represented mascot of the 2009 men's tournament: Tigers (LSU, Memphis, Clemson, Missouri)

Most represented mascot of the 2009 women's tournament: Bulldogs (MSU, Georgia, Fresno State, Gonzaga)

Mascot that makes you go "really?" with the most skepticism: The Chattanooga Mocs. "Mocs" was short for "moccasins" until '96, when they decided to be hip (and/or more sensitive to Native Americans) and go by "mocs" instead. Scrappy, the Mockingbird is their mascot. He rides atop a Chattanooga choo choo train. So it's a bird on a train that really represents a shoe. What? Really?

Most made up mascot: The bearcat. Oh, crap, no that's a real thing. The real winner? The Illinois Fighting Illini. Another school who went the less-offensive-to-Native-Americans route, their mascot was Chief Illiniwek until 2007. They kept the name "Illini," though, their reasoning being that "Illini" is short for "Illinois." Even if that worked, it would be stupid because it would make them The Illinois Fighting Illinois. What? That's made up.

Best plant matter mascot: This one has two winners-- Ohio State and Stanford. On paper, it's the Ohio State Buckeyes. Buckeyes are trees native to certain parts of North America, Europe, and eastern Asia. BUT, they lose to Stanford because

does not =

In terms of mascot presentation, clearly it's the Stanford tree. They are, however, referred to as the Stanford Cardinal, meaning the color, not the bird. So why are they a tree again? I don't see the connection.

Most disputed abstract mascot: Cornell and Western Kentucky University, both are "the big red"
Cornell's big red...bear:
WKU's big red...muppet?:
Ok, that was fun. I liked the mental exercise. Now, back to the couch!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Creative Shepherd

Creativity often springs from time spent with no particular task at hand (when you're unemployed, for example). It also stems from unusual situations and the ability to look at things in different ways. I, for example, wrote a book and started a blog. I did some fun stuff with business cards. You, on the other hand, might have decided to create some sort of sexy butter sculpture, or perform an interpretive dance on protein synthesis. To each his own. The point is that the possibilities are endless.

These fine gentlemen have illustrated my point completely and have taken creativity to a place not many of us have visited before: shepherding.

I admire their work and am confident I would fit in with these guys. I'm moderately good at training dogs, after all, so maybe I could get a job as the Border Collie trainer! It's settled, then: I will move to wherever these fellas are located and join them as a Baa Stud-ette.

I just hope they're not under a hiring freeze.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Unemployed = No Swimming

Today I am feeling the opposite of yesterday's jubilation: Total despair. Why? Because I just realized that this year I cannot participate in an office March Madness pool.
Since none of my local friends follow college basketball, that leads me to a few important, life changing questions. Among them:
  • Who will comment on my brackets?
  • Who will lose to my superior prediction skills?
  • Who will I track my predictions for, other than myself?
I feel so alone.

Instead making my annual March Madness culinary delights for the office, I will have to eat them all myself. They're supposed to look like this, but they never do-->

Instead of getting into heated arguments with coworkers about how Siena is somehow a 9 seed and how UCONN will not fall to Memphis in the Elite Eight (as President Obama seems to think), I will bask in the confident glow of my own predictions.

Instead of having one tiny speck of wall in my office dedicated to small print outs of my Tournament Challenge Brackets, I will have every wall in my apartment wallpapered with huge copies of Tournament Challenge Brackets, March Madness-related articles, and photos. Just like a crazy person.

Instead of having to give most of my attention to the men's tournament because few of the places I have worked have had a women's office pool, I can devote equal amounts of energy to tracking both races to the final four.

Instead of sneakily tuning in to games and commentary while at my desk, I will have to watch them all from my couch, live and on television...

Wait a minute! This is freakin great!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patty's Day and Filing Day

Happy St. Patrick's day! And oh, it is happy for me because I'm NOT suffering through an awkward St. Patty's day office party and the likely shenanigans my former boss is probably performing as we write/read!

For example, he is probably wearing something ridiculous and/or creepy like this parade costume at right.


In addition, he and his HR wife have five children, all of whom are all likely to make an appearance in the office later in the day. They are equally likely to wear something ridiculous and/or creepy.


So, PHEW! I am glad I dodged that bullet!

I'm also not Irish, so other than a little night cap, I don't have anything planned for St. Patty's day. But if I did have something planned, AND I was Irish and African or African American, I would wear the Irish Afro wig:

No, it's not just a green clown wig, it's actually labeled an Irish Afro wig. (Don't believe me? Click on the picture.) Look at how excited that guy looks to wear it, too! It is really nice to see that there's something out there for Irish/African Americans to show their heritage on St. Patty's day.

Or, if I were Irish and Chinese or Chinese American, I would certainly celebrate with the St. Patrick's Day Wheel of Fortunes:

These are, I daresay, amazing. Look at the detail! And once again, it really is great to see the Irish showing such inclusion of diversity in their celebratory efforts! Now Irish/Chinese Americans can show their shamrock spirit! The leprechauns on these fortune cookies sure are happy about it.

Or finally, if I were Irish and Mexican or Mexican American, I would definitely show my pride with my favorite: The Talking Leprechaun Pinata!

This Irish favorite of Mexican origin is not at all creepy when he says, "I'm a lucky leprechaun!," "Ouch!," and "Awesome hit!" as you pummel the crap out of him to get yourself some Tootsie Rolls. (At least, that's what he's supposed to say. Click on "Hear me talk!" to find out what he actually says).

But, the point is, I am not Irish, nor am I African/African American, Chinese/Chinese American, or Mexican/Mexican American. I am of the Unemployed Clan. Sadly, our clan doesn't have a specific day in which we display our salient points in a parade. We can't even throw a party because none of us have money. And what fun is a party without my talking leprechaun friend? None. None at all.

No, instead, we celebrate Sundays, for they are "Filing Day," observed from 7am to 7pm.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Memory Monday: The Place Games

Ah, Memory Monday: The day of the week when I reminisce about an old job.

This MM, the thought bubble above my head features a formerly frequent occurrence at my most recent job: The lunchtime "Place Games." These were typified by the game of "Now, what was that place called again?" and the popular variation, "What's the best way to get to that place?"

Around 12 or 1, someone would either send an office-wide email asking "lunch now?" OR enter the common area and say, loudly, "Eating lunch now." This was everyone's cue to drop everything to have lunch in the kitchen/break area.

After the inevitable "ooo what are you having today?" round of questioning and a few bites in, The Place Games would begin.
Coworker 1: My husband and I just went to a great little diner the other day.
Coworker 2:
Oh, is it that new place down on Route 2? I love that place!
No, but I love that place too!
<insert tangent about the new place down on Route 2 here>
C1 continues:
Anyway, no it's a place called <insert wacky suburban name here>. We were going to just go to Applebee's...
I love Applebee's...
...but this place looked really good.
How did you get there?
Boss, totally interrupting: I know which place you're talking about and they have great grilled cheese sandwiches. The best way to go is to take <some road> all the way to the end down near <some town>. Then you take a left and then that exit at the next light that goes all the way around and after about a quarter mile, it's there on your right.
C1: Ohhh you're right! We went the way you go to <that town> but then we didn't take that first exit, we took the next one that takes you by the old mall...
At that point in the Place Games, I had become invisible to my coworkers and boss. I had no idea what diner, old mall, roads, or town they were talking about. It was all a distant suburban mishmash. I also had nothing to add to the conversation, because of which I was the only one done with my lunch.

It reminds me very much of the time I drove by a certain restaurant sign in the 'burbs and shuddered with discomfort. The restaurant I'm referring to is a chain located in a few outside-the-city areas surrounding Boston. It was started in the early 1900's by real Italians, so I'm sure it's authentic and delicious. That's not the issue. The issue and source of my discomfort is that it is called "The Chateau Italian Family Dining." There are three things that just don't sit well with me in that name:
  1. "The," a word from the English language, is followed by
  2. "Chateau," which is French for "castle." French, so shouldn't it be preceded by "le" or something equally French?
  3. Not to mention these two words are followed by "Italian Family Dining." Italian? How do you figure? It feels like a slap in the face.
Maybe I'm being silly. Maybe the family who started the restaurant didn't want it to sound overly fancy or common by attaching the ever so common "Ristorante" to its name. Maybe it wanted to bring out some long lost French heritage, but also wanted to show that they knew a little English too. I'm not sure. I'm sure they had their reasons, as my coworkers did for playing The Place Game, but they're reasons I struggled to find and/or understand.

Ultimately, what did I learn from The Place Games? You shouldn't have to work in a place so far from that with which you understand and are comfortable. Especially if it's so far from said place that you have no idea what your coworkers are discussing at lunch.

Thinking about it more, the Place Games were only an example of my lack of assimilation into office culture. There were also bigger issues, like:
  • I didn't eat frozen or pre-made aisle lunches, at least not every day. They often looked upon my leftovers with envy and disdain, making me both boastful and uncomfortable.
  • I wasn't married. Even if I was, which I soon will be, I don't know that I could match the stories that spawned from their marriages.
  • I didn't have a yard or own a house, so I didn't have problems like this.
  • I didn't have a weakness for bad local access television or a need to discuss it at length
  • I didn't drink two mountain dews a day.
  • I didn't have a 5 minute commute to work.
It's not that they were better or worse because they did, it was just that they all did or had or lived these things...and I didn't. I was the odd Pam out.

Well, no more! I'm back in Boston! I'm unemployed and I feel like I'm back in my element. Is that a bad sign?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Everybody is somebody's secret

So I decided to get my hair cut in the middle of the day yesterday, just because I can. I arrived earlier than my scheduled appointment and started flipping through a magazine. That was when I noticed this ad for Stoli:
I stopped mid-flip. For some reason, I was captivated by this ad. First, that woman didn't look either secretive or like she was someone's secret. She just looked, well, ridiculous. Second, that "Everybody is somebody's secret" copy was thought-provoking. I repeated it over and over as a Latin song played in the salon waiting area, and soon, the words were embedded into the music. It sounded a little something like this as I sang along:

I would have salsa-ed, but there wasn't enough room.

When the song was over, the ad copy was still on my mind. Was I somebody's secret? Did someone have a crush on me that I wasn't aware of? Or did someone dislike me? Then I thought some more and realized whose secret I was...but I can't tell you: It's a secret.

I continued flipping through the magazine and found an article on the crappy economy (you cannot escape it's wrath!), and then on something called "white-collar rage." Basically, it's the "going postal" we've all heard about, but spread onto other occupational areas. White-collar job-holders are generally worried about their job security and very upset about the state of the economy and their 401Ks. So they go to work with this stress bubbling up inside of them, and when something stupid happens (like a printer jam) to derail their day, swears, obscene gestures, and general temper tantrums are unleashed. One guy in the article was reported to have gone directly to a shooting range after hearing how badly his 401k was doing. Yikes. I'll bet he's somebody's secret.

Moral of the story: I'm glad I'm not working alongside these crazies right now. Maybe I should just hide until this is all over, then get a job...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why didn't I think of that?

There have been two notable occasions in my life when I thought I had come up with a revolutionary, unique idea.

The first time was when I named my most favoritest stuffed animal. It was a stuffed beagle with a red sock hanging out of his mouth, and I received him at one of my early single-digit, family birthday parties. I looked into his marble eyes, and they looked so yellow and sparkly that I decided to name him "Sparki" (with an "i" because that was very "in" at the time). I declared this to my aunts, uncles, and cousins, who laughed at me. One even said, "oh that's original!" I couldn't trace down who had said it, and stared into the crowd awaiting an explanation. It was then that I found out approximately 85% of dogs are named "Sparky." Well, damnit.

Second, I discovered that in a very old journal of mine, there was the idea for a pen with multiple colors of ink. There was even a diagram:
Obviously, there is no way that this would work. The inks would run into each other and then onto your fingers as they spilled, unchecked, "down the shoot" of the pen. I, however, really thought that this was a great idea at the time.

I found out shortly after sketching out this idea, though, that some genius at Bic had thought of the "pen with multi-color ink" long before I had. In fact, someone even came up with pens with scented ink. (This one either smells like limes or dong, I'm not sure). Either way, whoever thought of the scented pen is set for life. Why didn't I think of that? Instead of being unemployed right now, I would be retired.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bless my bathrobe forever

Part of the beauty of being unemployed is that you can follow through with any thought that would normally go unfinished, no matter where it might lead.

Here's a good example of this: I play trumpet in the Brookline Community Band (yes, I have band camp stories, no they don't involve any flutes), and we're playing Highlights from Camelot. When our 1/2 deaf (bless his heart and hearing aid, it's actually closer to 3/4 deaf) conductor passed out the piece at rehearsal, I was reminded of how my mother used to love the music from that show/movie. She would play it while we did the dishes or rearranged the curtains in the living room and sing merrily along. I tried to watch the 1967 movie rendition growing up, but at age 5, didn't have the patience for monologues and musical numbers. "I should watch that again," I thought to myself, and lo, because of my scads of time, I decided to do just that.

It's delightful corniness and 60s era jokes make me smile...why can't life be more like that? It would be wonderful if we could all stop and spontaneously combust into song. Think of the musical numbers traffic jams would inspire! I'm picturing the choreography now, Jets vs. Sharks style. Oh and the songs I would have sang and the choreography I could have fight-danced when they laid me off...oh to dream.

My frustration with once again being unemployed, though, is still a ripe topic and can easily be set to the tune of Edelweiss:
Unemployed, Unemployed
Once again, I meet thee
Surfing Craig's List, I feel dissed
by the failing economy

When will I get a freaking job?
Will I wait forever?

Unemployed, Unemployed
Bless my bathrobe forever

I plan on singing it in the style of a German bar song every day until I find a job.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Memory Monday: Professor Quotes

Ah, Memory Monday: The day of the week when I reminisce about an old job.

Today we're going waaaay back to my college and graduate school days! Why? Because I was bored and cleaning out my bookshelf today, when I came across a bunch of old binders. That's right: Binders. Luckily, I didn't find any Trapper Keepers, because if I had, nostalgia would have highjacked my tear-ducts. Then, after a little internet research, I discovered that there is no reason to feel nostalgia because they still make Trapper Keepers...and now they're sexy! I don't feel special anymore.

I do, however, feel bad for the kids these days who take notes with laptops. How do they doodle? How do they know what their handwriting looks like? So much is missing... At the top of my notebook pages (college-ruled, thank you very much), I wrote memorable quotes from my professors; quotes that to this day are relevant and serve an important purpose in my life.

For example, reviewing the following quotes has made me glad I decided against becoming a professor:
  • "Don't get ahead of me; I'll break your legs." Said by the same professor who told one student, "This is your moment in the sun, but oh look! I've stolen it completely." I'm glad I'm not a professor because I wouldn't want to be a dick.
  • Some gems from my graduate school research methods professor: "MANOVA board!," "I went to a Halloween party once where someone came dressed as a 2-tailed hypothesis...ok, it was me." I'm glad I'm not a professor because I wouldn't want to be a total nerd (granted, I am already a partial nerd-- the difference is, I can currently function in society).
  • "When you eat bread, do you feel lonely?" My professor for Understanding Consumer Behavior uttered this one over his cell phone as he was coming into class one day. He also gave me, "I was carded at 40 years old once...for real." I'm glad I'm not a professor because I wouldn't want to be sad.
Memorable hypotheticals, segues, similies, and metaphors I may one day steal for use in everyday conversation:
  • "Let's say you're all monkeys in a garage..."
  • "Eat like a bird, but poop like an elephant."
  • "Crisis plans are like colonoscopies..."
  • "I'm sorry to beat a dead horse with sports analogies, but I feel this all leads well into something Robert Frost once said..."
So, what did I learn today?
  1. Though I may not have picked the right industry to work in (marketing research), I'm sure glad I didn't become a professor.
  2. In this economy, my degrees seem utterly worthless...but if for nothing more than comments like the Robert Frost comment, I'm glad I went to college and grad school.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A new kind of recycling that cuts into my Lego time

I just got one of these guys in the mail and have come to the conclusion that the Commonwealth may or may not receive a list of recently laid off folks, using it to send them a Summons for Juror Service.

Top 3 reasons why this is awesome:
  • Way to go, MA: you've found a new way to recycle!

  • It keeps the unemployed off the streets
  • It makes the unemployed feel like they're contributing to society again
Top 3 reasons why this is salt in an open wound:
  • When collecting unemployment, any money earned while working part time is subtracted from your weekly unemployment check, providing little to no incentive to have part time work of any kind
  • This takes away from my Lego time
  • It's for Memorial Day weekend. You're telling me out of all the free time I have, you pick a holiday?! Come on...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Where did we go wrong?

I've had a lot of time to think over the past couple days, being between jobs again and all. Looking at my two dogs, I just have to ask myself: Where did we go wrong, Sparki?




Thursday, March 5, 2009

What to do with old business cards

It looks like I will be able to collect unemployment checks! Still waiting to hear for sure, but the employee on the phone was "pretty sure" I could, and that's enough reason for me to celebrate!

How should I celebrate?

I know! Arts and crafts!
After all, what else am I supposed to do with these old business cards?

The plane

The tower (not my best)
The wall-size inspirational message

The flip book

Something odd I found out while doing my arts & crafts: My name was not on all of the business cards. Some of them, interspersed irregularly throughout the stack, sported by boss's name. Creepy.

Note: I purposefully blurred these (I'm not actually a terrible photographer) because I'm marrying a future lawyer.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What this really means...

I just realized that not having a job presents me with a very serious problem:
When am I going to learn my Italiano!?

I finally got the pox

Remember in grade school when kids in your class started getting the chicken pox? Chicken pox parties weren't all the rage yet, so when this happened in my class, it happened slowly: one kid at a time. Despite best efforts of parents and teachers, however, chicken pox always found a way to it's next victim. I arrived at school every day just to see that another one of my classmates was missing: taken by the pox. One day, I got there and it was me and two other kids. I was beginning to think I would escape the epidemic unscathed when the very next morning, I awoke with the telltale itchy, red bumps...

I found the job I have now during the beginning of the economic crisis. As people left and right fell to lay offs and closings, I somehow remained employed with my, albeit shitty job. Around 10am this morning, however, I got a visit from the one-woman HR department. She came in, closed the door, and pulled up a chair before even saying a word. What the hell did I do now? I thought.

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news..." she started.
Awesome, they're laying me off. I finally got the pox.

As it turns out, the office manager who quit wasn't keeping track of any of the financial records. At all. They thought that, for months now, they were making a profit, when really everything is in red ink. Why they trusted a new employee with all their financials without checking in on that shit every once in a while, I have no idea.

On top of that, all the projects that were coming in when they hired me never came to fruition because instead of conducting research, these companies are going out of business. No clients= no money, and we've heard all that before. The new guys get the boot, and that's me.

What can I say? I can't blame them. I would have fired me when I told them I was looking for another job. At least I got a few bucks out of it. I only hope I can collect unemployment, because I was only there for a little less than three months and I think you have to have been at your place of employment for six...I find out on Thursday.

I just hope this whole thing doesn't leave me with bodily scars, because man, the chicken pox sure did.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My first query letter

I submitted a query letter to my first literary agent! Now I just have to wait 4-6 painfully long weeks to see if they're interested, then I send them my manuscript, and if they like it, they try to get me published! Yippeeeeee!

What's that? What am I talking about?! You forgot I wrote a book, didn't you? Either that or you haven't read this whole blog, and that's just shameful. Perhaps I've been neglectful: Maybe we should discuss that book again, reader.

This is what I told the company that will hopefully want to be my literary agent:
Born from the author’s deadly combination of graduate degree, ten months of soul-searching unemployment, and uniquely funny outlook on life, Between Jobs is the first novel to make the rapidly growing legion of the smart but suddenly unemployed laugh at their unfortunate predicament.

When Pam is fired from her first real job, she thinks it will be all too easy to find a new one; after all, she has a Masters Degree! She soon finds, however, that not only is it much harder than she thought, but that she isn't even sure what she wants to do with her life. Between Jobs is a lemons to lemonade tale that takes us through Pam's brainstorming, handy email networking, amusing experiences with recruiters, socially awkward encounters at parties, unsuccessful interviews, brief foray into temporary work, unclear sense of identity, and temporary loss of hope. The hilarious roller coaster ride of self-discovery continues as Pam is offered a contractor position, accepts it, and falls in love with it, only to be dumped when the contract is over. Defeated, but better for it, Pam decides to write a book about all the funny things that have happened to her while between jobs.

You know you want to read it! That is, when it's published...I'll let you know!