Category Archives: Annoyances
The appliances in my house have obviously observed my recent concerns with making my house look presentable just in case I get serially killed, and have chosen the last few weeks to rise up against me. Being bullied by inanimate objects with tremendous electrical power has made me long for the days of childhood where the only thing I had to give up to appease my antagonizer was my milk money. Now the stakes are a bit higher.
Our kitchen sink backed up. The garbage disposal refuses to eat garbage. The washing machine stopped spinning the water out of the clothes. And the dishwasher’s top rack fell just enough to start whacking the dishes on the bottom rack with its spinner, taking nice chunks out of any plates we are dumb enough to put down there.
I drew the line at the shredder. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by this beast who is just waiting to chomp my hand off the next time I dangle a ream of unwanted credit card applications near its eager fangs. However, I started getting too comfortable with my daily brushes of danger this summer as I cleaned out a filing cabinet of paperwork from the Nixon era. I thought I was being clever by shredding things until the machine over-heated, and then waiting until the next day to continue with the stack. But it was only a matter of time before the shredder decided to stop playing this game and conk out on me altogether.
I’m no fool. I knew the shredder was just biding its time, hoping I would stick my fingers in its mouth to try to pry something loose. And I did. But I unplugged it first. Because even though it has a safety that is supposed to guarantee it won’t suddenly start grinding things up when you take it off the base, I learned a long time ago that things that should be safe for the majority of humankind are never safe enough for me.
But nothing was stuck in there. And, gosh-darn it, the stupid thing was working fine in reverse. It just refused to suck any paper in.
I thought about turning it upside down to see if I could reverse the reverse, but that seemed like it probably was just a recipe for disaster.
In our house, when something breaks, we have three choices: my husband fixes it, we call a repair person, or we buy a new one.
It seemed unlikely that it would be worth calling someone to the house to fix a $40 shredder. My husband was in the middle of trying to fix our toilet, and didn’t want to hear about the tragedy that would unfold if we could not get crosscut our paper waste so thieves would be unable to go through our garbage to steal our identity. And I did not want to buy a new shredder.
So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. The thing was already broken, so it’s not like I could make it any worse.
The first step was to unscrew the top. I grabbed a Phillips and went to town. Six screws later, I tried to pry it apart. Nothing doing.
I called in my husband. After he checked to make sure I had unplugged the appliance because he knows my history of ending up in the emergency room when I attempt DIY projects, my husband tried to pry the top off. He investigated the entire piece to make sure I had unscrewed everything. But it still wouldn’t come off. He shrugged and wandered back to his precious toilet.
I glared at the shredder. I went to the computer and typed in, “stupid top of shredder won’t come off even though I unscrewed all of the thingies.”
Yeah. So that’s a thing, I guess. Other people have experienced the same frustration, according to message boards.
“I got it off!” I yelled to my husband minutes later after reading one clever reader’s advice. He was suitably impressed. I think. It’s hard to tell when he just mumbled, “How?’ while he glared into the bowels of the toilet tank.
“The last screw was hidden under the warranty sticker!”
My pride did not last long. I realized when I popped the top off that I had absolutely no idea what to do next. Plus, it was kind of greasy and yucky in there. And those nasty sharp teeth were in the perfect position to take a chunk out of me.
Back to the internet.
“Now that I got the top of the shredder off, how do I make it start eating paper again?”
I found a lovely page where a man actually posted photographs of what the inside of my shredder should look like. He even added helpful arrows to the pictures. I love this man and maybe would consider divorcing my husband to marry him if I thought he would be as understanding as my husband about women who get in strange cars in the parking lot or dogs who can’t figure out if they want to come out of the closet or not.
An hour later (I’m spatially challenged so even pictures on the internet take me awhile to translate to real life) I ran victoriously into the living room where my daughter and husband (who had not fixed the toilet but actually made it worse) were watching t.v.
“I fixed the shredder!” I yelled, waving the screwdriver around happily.
I didn’t really get the reaction that a woman who just saved her family from wasting $40 on a new shredder should receive. I didn’t even get the reaction that a woman who avoided turning her hands into bloody stumps because she was super careful to unplug the shredder first should receive. It was pretty anti-climactic.
Maybe they would be more impressed the next day when I rescued our 300 c.d.’s from the disc changer that stubbornly refused to change or even open…
(No, they weren’t. Repairing things is really a thankless business, I’ve decided.)
The other day I got a lovely teaching award, and had some very nice things said about me. Which is even better than the Oscars when you think about it – because no one says nice things about you when you win the Oscar (they just read your name off a teleprompter), AND you’re expected to then get up and say nice things about other people. That’s kind of a raw deal and almost makes me feel sorry for Meryl Streep – even though the whole time I was watching August: Osage County, I was thinking, “I bet she gets an Oscar for this.”
Anyway, I missed half of the nice things that were said about me because I obsessed over the first one, which had been said by a student. “She is very patient.”
Even better than receiving an award is being proven right – especially when your husband and daughter, who both declare that you need to work on your patience, happen to be standing there and witnessing the right-proving of the woman they repeatedly malign with accusations of impatience.
“Did you hear that?” I asked my family after I received the award.
“To be honest, I didn’t hear very much,” my husband said.
I was somewhat prepared for that answer. Before joining my family, I asked the speech-writer if I could have a copy of the speech.
“Look!” I pointed to the line about patience. “See what they said about me? I’m patient!”
They both shrugged. “I guess they don’t know you very well,” one of them said. I’m not sure who. Because steam blowing out of your ears tends to interfere with your understanding of the directionality of voices.
I did a bit of self-reflection to try to figure out how this could happen. I thought about the time I kept my cool with my daughter when she stayed in the shower for 30 minutes even after I told her to take a quick one because it was time for bed. I thought about the incident(s) when I stifled by huffs of exasperation when my husband changed his mind thirty times about the restaurant we were going to grace with our company for a rare date.
I thought about this exact moment when my family came to witness my award presentation and they didn’t listen to a word that was said.
I thought about the many times that I closed my eyes and counted to infinity when I really wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.
And it all became clear.
I deserve an Oscar way more than Meryl Streep.
Lately, I have been the unfortunate target of Well-Meaning People.
One of my students begged to help me after school every day for two weeks. Once he got all of his late work turned in, I finally accepted his offer. I needed to update a bunch of iPads, and his help was greatly appreciated.
You can see where this is going, right?
I’ll spare you the excruciating story. And I will tell you that iPads with cracked screens work surprisingly well – until someone complains about getting glass on her fingertips every time she swipes. Picky, picky.
Interestingly enough, the next incident also involved iTechnology. In this second story, my daughter is the well-meaning person. I’m not sure she was directing her well-meaning toward me or herself, but I guess that is not the point. Yesterday afternoon, she suddenly felt the extreme urge to clean something out. Instead of applying this new desire for minimalism to her closet or dresser drawers, she decided that she was going to clean out the Contacts on her iPod Touch.
“I got rid of all the people I don’t know,” she told me proudly.
It took a minute for me to recall that our devices are actually registered to the same account. And that the reason she had people she didn’t know under her Contacts was because I had added them to my Contacts at some point. And that the same Cloud that divvies out all of these names and numbers and addresses to all of my various pieces of technology just got a whole lot lighter when my daughter dumped all of the people who mean absolutely nothing to her, completely oblivious to the fact that they were there in the first place because they meant something to me.
And that. was. not. a. good. thing.
So, now, I can FaceTime whenever I like with the girl who sits next to her on the bus.
But I can’t call the doctor whose name I could never remember, which resulted in him being filed under “Stomach Guy.”
I hope the bus girl doesn’t charge for phone consultations about bloating and colonoscopies.
“XYZ Pest Control. How may I direct your call?”
“Direct me to the person who just made me leave work and haul a$$ over to my house for no good reason.”
“Sure. Just one moment.”
5 seconds later.
“XYZ Pest Control. I’m the person who just made you leave work and haul a$$ over to your house for no good reason.”
“You said my dog was running around the backyard chasing you.”
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
“I am standing in my house right now. With my dog. In the kitchen. He has a dog door that leads to a pen that is surrounded by chicken wire. The chicken wire is 4 feet tall. Are you saying that my 70 pound bulldog leapt over the chicken wire, chased you around the yard, then leapt back over the chicken wire, and raced back into the kitchen just in time for me to arrive home?”
“That seems unlikely.”
“You’re darn right that’s unlikely. Unless you were carrying around a shoulder of beef. Were you carrying around a shoulder of beef?”
“Because that would be stupid, you know. Since your job is to get rid of pests, not attract them.”
“Yes, that would be stupid, ma’am.”
“Okay. Now that we agree that you’re not stupid, the only logical conclusion is that you made this story up just so you wouldn’t have to spray our backyard. And you are going to come back here, do your job, and not charge us anything at all, right?”
“Good. Oh, and by the way, watch out for the snake back there.”
That’s exactly how this whole thing went down.
Except for the part after “How may I direct your call?”
Some people take Valium before they speak in front of thousands of people or before they board a plane. I like to save my supply for the really anxiety-inducing occasions in my life – like going to the car wash or La Madeleine.
I get my car washed about once a year. Notice I said, “get.” There are other, infrequent times, that I actually wash it myself. But every once in awhile, I feel entitled to give someone else the opportunity to try to scrape the bird poop off my roof.
My anxiety begins at the “Entrance” that is never quite clearly defined. If I make it onto the property unscathed, I am suddenly faced with 5 different choices of lines to head toward. I have been known to make a line decision that gets abruptly waved off by someone who appears to be absolutely appalled that I made such a terrible decision, and how could I not know that was the line I was NOT supposed to pull into?
Then I sit in the line and look at the choices for “packages” on the billboard above, noting that the least expensive package, which was listed online, appears nowhere on the billboard. And does that mean they don’t really offer it, or just that they don’t really advertise it, and do I really want to have this conversation with the guy who writes the code on my car, and where the heck is that guy anyway?
Everyone else has a code on their car except me. As I pull closer to the vacuuming area, I begin to panic. How will anyone know what I want done to my car if I DON”T HAVE A CODE ON MY CAR?
I am waved up to the vacuum and I try to focus on not running the vacuuming guy down because that would make for an embarrassing newspaper headline, while I prepare my speech about the package that I want that isn’t on the billboard and dig in my purse for my black Sharpie so I can write my own code on the window.
I can’t find the Sharpie, and they are telling me to get out of the car.
Code Guy magically appears and asks me what I want.
I mumble, “The Manager’s Special,” which was not the lowest package, but it offers an air freshener, and I figure that’s worth the extra $100.
Then I have to leave. The arrow to the waiting area does not point me to the waiting area, so I wander around stupidly while everyone in the car line watches the poor mentally challenged lady who probably should not be driving a car in the first place. I finally stumble into the building.
From previous experience, I recall that I must pay for my car wash at this point. I am not distracted by the many delightful objects being offered in the car wash “boutique” because I must pay before I can pick up my car. And even though there are at least 30 cars ahead of mine, I am compelled to get in the line of three people because it would be a disaster if my car was done before I finished my transaction.
Then I face the next challenge. If I sit inside, I will be told when my car is finished. Someone will yell out the make and model of my car, and I will march outside and hand over my ticket which I did not lose inside my purse this time.
But there is no room in the waiting area. So, I must sit outside, and then I must watch like a hawk for the special secret hand gesture that will be made when they are finished drying my car.
As usual, I misinterpret the hand gesture and try to Collect my Car Prematurely. They have finished drying my car, but now someone is supposed to inspect my car. And I feel like an idiot once again as I stand there for another 5 minutes because it’s too late for me to go back to the waiting section.
And the $5 bill I am holding in my hand gets all sweaty, especially as I realize that there are 3 people in charge of this last phase of the cleansing of my car, and I only have one $5 bill with which to tip them.
I finally thrust my money upon a surprised young woman who walks past me (it’s possible she wasn’t even an employee), assure the Inspector that my car is perfect, and get into my car to drive off out the Entrance as fast as I can get away from this traumatizing experience.
And then I realize there is no. air freshener. in my car.
My anxiety-inducing questions at La Madeleine are exactly the same – which line do I stand in? (oh, that’s for baked goods only?) what can I order? (you have 3 different menus and you don’t carry the item I’ve been ordering for 6 months any more?) how do I know when my food is done? (well, sometimes we give it to you while you are in line, and sometimes we bring it to your table) who do I tip? and WHY DOES MY CAR STILL SMELL LIKE WET DOG?
To be fair, I don’t really think anyone can answer that last question.
I spend more time trying not to waste time than I would have spent wasting time without the attempt to avoid it. The wasting of the time, I mean.
I hate going places to get things fixed.
Because I hate waiting in line, and I hate having someone tell me to my face that there is nothing they can do, and that I should just GIVE IT UP, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, YOU STUPID IDIOT. THAT THING IS DEAD AND JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF COULDN’T RESURRECT IT!
They haven’t actually said that, but I know they are thinking it.
So, lately, my Apple devices have been giving me various problems. And I decided that I should go online to figure out how to solve them. I’m a pretty tech-savvy person, so I figured I might be able to do it myself.
There is loads of advice on the internet on how to fix your Apple devices. I would venture to say that there is more advice on the internet about this than about how to fix anything else – including your zipper or your credit.
It took me awhile to figure out that most of this advice, given in very reliable-looking technogeek jargon, is full of crap.
I have done everything recommended on every forum and it has not made a bit of difference. I did get a bit suspicious when one guy said that you have to hold down the Home button and the Power button while you stand on your head and drink a cup of coffee. But he said it worked for him, so I went with it.
It turns out that spilled coffee does not improve the inner workings of Apple devices. Neither does throwing them across the room while you try to keep burning coffee from going up (or down) your nose.
So I am trying to figure out if the people on those forums accidentally fixed their devices and just figured that whatever event preceded these miraculous repairs must have been responsible.
Or, do they have so much time on their hands that they can visit every forum on the internet and giggle wildly as they type in stupid, but remotely possible, advice to gullible people like me?
Well, I have learned my lesson. Yessir. No more ridiculous attempts to fix things on my own. I made my appointment and the Geniuses of Apple can sort through this mess.
Let’s keep that little coffee incident between you and me, okay? People can be kind of fussy about warranties.
I Know this Pegs Me as a Pessimist, but I Can’t Think of One Situation Where More Cockroaches Might Actually Enhance My Life
Yesterday I realized that dead cockroaches in the house are the perfect metaphor for my life and got to experience my heart leaping as it always does when I discover a perfect metaphor while it simultaneously plummeted in disgust – a not uncommon reaction when contemplating dead cockroaches in the house.
This emotional paradox was precipitated by my encounter with a dead cockroach in the living room yesterday. Actually, it was not completely dead, just nearly dead (a stage of expiration which I find highly amusing in The Princess Bride and Spamalot, but is much less laughable when I’ve grabbed an entire roll of paper towels to pick up a cockroach and he vehemently begins to protest from his prone position with legs waving violently in the air and somehow manages to wedge himself into the perfect position in our plumbing to clog up the toilet which I used to dispose of him – although I might grudgingly admit that the roll of paper towels that encased him might have contributed to that situation.)
Anyway, this reminded me of what the pest control dude told me a few weeks ago when I called him to take care of this exact problem – the regular sighting of upended arthropods within our abode.
“I’m going to put out some poison around the perimeter of the house. In the next couple of weeks, you’ll probably find some more dead cockroaches in here,” he informed me.
“So, let me get this straight. I called you because I keep finding dead cockroaches, and you are telling me that your solution is to give me more dead cockroaches?”
“But they’re dead. Dead is good.”
“No, dead outside is good. Dead inside is a problem. And dead insect corpses littering my floor and crunching every time I walk is a bigger problem that will result in me relocating to the mental hospital – and probably canceling your contract.”
Of course I didn’t say the last part. That’s whatimeant2say. But I knew the results of prolonging the conversation…
“You’re lucky you have dead cockroaches. Some people live in huts with live ones crawling all over the place, spreading disease and laying eggs in their ears.”
To which I would reply, “Some people go their whole lives without seeing a cockroach. Some people have other people who work for them and never try to persuade them that more cockroach cadavers is actually an improvement to their living conditions.”
Why can’t I be those “some people” just once? Why do I always have to be the in-between “some people” who don’t have it great, but could have it a whole lot worse?
Just once, I would like someone to say, “Everyone has it worse than you. There is no better-than-this.” Just once I would like to be the happy cockroach, racing freely through an open field without a care in the world, instead of the somewhat dead cockroach counting his blessings that he hasn’t been flattened by a shoe – his last comforting thought as he is flushed down the toilet.
And on the other side it would say, “And Hates Cutesy Bonding Activities That Require the Use of Wooden Spoons”
I think you people know me better than the people who know me better.
Yesterday, I got a wooden spoon in my box at school. It said, “Positive”.
We did this thing at the beginning of the year where we decorated wooden spoons and wrote someone who inspired us on one side, and one of the qualities we most admired about them on the other. Now we are supposed to pass the wooden spoons secretly to people we work with who exhibit these traits.
So far this year, I have gotten “Fun” and “Positive”.
Granted, I just started working at this school last August. But I cannot imagine what I have done to give anyone the impression that I am either fun or positive.
My idea of fun is sitting in my armchair with my farting bulldog watching The Daily Show.
As for being positive, when I complain about something, and someone says, “It could be worse,” I say, “Well, it could also be better.”
Maybe that sounds positive to some people.
Some people also seem to have gotten the impression that I am smart – probably because I teach gifted students.
They obviously have not seen my bathroom drawer full of abandoned hair appliances that I bought because the infomercials convinced me that each one was the solution to my frizzy hair.
Or the long scar on my hand that I got because I thought I could remove the wall-sized mirror in our bathroom by myself, but didn’t actually plan where I was going to put it once I got it off the wall.
If I was going to put a spoon in my box, I think that it would say, “Cranky Klutz Who Repeats the Same Mistakes Over and Over…”
But that probably wouldn’t fit on the spoon.
See? Not positive.
Dear Man Who Rescued Me from My Solitude While I Waited for My Daughter to Finish Swim Practice, Foolishly Thinking I Could Spend My Time Writing:
I was so overcome during our conversation the other day that I could not find the words to properly thank you. So, here it is.
First of all, thank you so much for offering me your used earbuds so I could listen to your daughter’s video on your phone. Your generosity apparently knows no bounds.
Secondly, thank you for educating me about gun control. Now that I know that the government is out to get us, I am going to save up some money for an AK-87 (the bigger the number, the better, right? but I thought an AK-97 would be too greedy) so I can defend myself. Because when the government finds a way to persuade the military men and women who have sworn to protect our country to start dropping bombs on my house, I want to be ready.
Once I was edified about my need for an arsenal in every room of the house, your insights into the welfare system and health care illuminated how completely selfish it is for my friend to ask for assistance for his son, born prematurely, who maxed out his health insurance life-time benefits before he turned one. I can’t wait to inform him that his money-grubbing ways are, in a large part, responsible for our titanic national debt.
I only wish you had been around to admonish me before I made my foolish choices in the last two presidential elections. Of course, you would have had to find some kind of loophole in the 22nd Amendment in order to keep the man who, “at least you knew where you stood with him” in office. I say just blast a hole in that pesky little alteration to the Constitution with your assault rifle “that isn’t any more dangerous than a revolver”. That’ll knock some sense into people.
I’m probably leaving out something important, but I think you can get the gist of my gratitude. It’s not every day that someone takes as much time as you do to rectify all of my clearly preposterous beliefs and assumptions.
I’m only sorry that you did not get the chance to enlighten me on abortion and gay marriage.
Maybe next time…
Mrs. Cap’n Firepants