particle physics: friend and foe

There’s a great episode of The Simpsons wherein Principal Skinner has Superintendent Chalmers over for dinner. The meal Skinner is preparing is somehow set ablaze, and he blames the fiery glow coming from his kitchen on the aurora borealis. Chalmers rebuts, “The aurora borealis? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen?”

I asked myself a similar question today, when I realized that a breech in the space-time continuum had occurred within the confines of my handbag. In lieu of a purse I carry a medium-sized canvas sack with a shoulder strap. (It’s actually rather cute despite its utilitarian nature.) This sack is home to many, many items, but I am generally able to locate any desired object by sticking my hand in and rifling through for a moment. Today (a day off from work, while running an errand before heading to an exam) I approached my car in a parking lot, began rooting for my keys in my bag, and panicked. My searching fingers could not locate the keys. I removed various items from the bag, opened all the little zippered compartments, and eventually rushed back into the store to retrace my steps. It seemed highly unlikely that the keys could have fallen onto the floor without me noticing, but I had checked the bag thoroughly. While I searched the store (now starting to worry that I would be late for my exam), I hopelessly put my hand back inside the bag and felt around some more.

Suddenly, I felt a shape continuous with the electronic car beeper I keep on my keychain. I tried to remove it from the bag when I realized I was feeling it through the membrane of the bag’s nylon lining. I ran back out of the store and sat down on a bench to assess for tears in the fabric from which my keys had escaped, and through which I could retrieve them. No tears could be found; the lining was intact and the keys had apparently diffused through it and were now trapped beneath it. Fortunately, I carry a well-appointed leatherman tool at all times, so I was able to flick open the blade and make a small incision in the lining through which I performed an emergency keyectomy. Invigorated by my success, I drove off to my exam, perplexed by the implications of this supernatural hassle.

the life and times

This morning as I lazed with my pre-work coffee, pondering the word of the day (“Lycanthrope! How might I use it in a sentence?”) I heard the ominous horking gag of my cat about to regurgitate her breakfast onto the kitchen floor. Ever a woman of action, I tore ass into the kitchen, grabbing a roll of paper towels on my way, and upon reaching the cat I laid out a makeshift placemat for her horkitude. She started backing away, and as she did this I edged the towels towards her, crying, “If you’re going to spew, spew onto this!” The emesis occurred, half on the towels and half on the floor, and she promptly set about eating it while I declared the whole thing a moderate success and went to fetch the spray cleaner.

this is why i’m a hermit

I had two separate and equally disturbing instances of social interaction last weekend. The first was at a friend’s going-away party on Friday, which took place at a lounge, where I was introduced to a guy who works at a company I left a few years ago. We chatted a little about the business and then he took the reins of the conversation and galloped wildly into some insane, apropos-of-nothing topics. Here are some selected things he said to me:

“Oh, you’re a nurse? My ex was a nurse. One time she was driving her car to work and ended up pulling a gun on this guy, and yada yada yada, I sent her home to Montana.”

“So I was visiting this customer of ours, and I already knew the guys who work there because they made my tombstone.” Me: “You…already have a tombstone?” He: “Yeah, I was supposed to die a while back.”

“Yeah, those guys at [company he works for where I used to work] don’t know me. They don’t know how fucking crazy I really am. They’ll find out someday.”

He also managed to hurl some very random and unnecessary insults my way, at which point I informed him that I would be going over there now, and that was pretty much that. (Later, at the same lounge, a woman I had just met grabbed my hand to inspect my wedding ring, and upon finding a small moonstone instead of a diamond, wordlessly dropped my hand and went to talk to someone else. People are awesome, which is why I try to be around them as much as possible.)

The other incident occurred in the bathroom of a bar some friends took me to after dinner on Saturday. The two bathroom stalls were occupied, so I was standing in the very cramped area by the sink when another girl entered the room and squished alongside me.

“Someone pooped on the toilet in the upstairs bathroom,” she said, “so I came down here.” I muttered something about how nasty and improbable that was, at which point the girl in one of the stalls shrieked, “Something’s dripping on me in here!” We all looked towards the ceiling, from which a decidedly brown liquid was indeed dripping. The drippee struggled to finish her business and escape the foulness that rained down upon her, while those of us who were still waiting to pee weighed our options re: which bathroom was more disgusting, the one with shit on the seat, or the one with what very well could have been shit falling from the ceiling?

I’m not saying I didn’t have fun this weekend, because I did, but sometimes life really is like a bad sitcom, except it lasts much, much longer than twenty-two minutes.

rear window: unrated edition

There is a wall of windows in our dining room that faces out onto the backyard and all the houses on the street parallel to ours. Two of the windows are roughly standard width, but the main window is very large. When we moved in, it was clear that we’d have to get some kind of custom blinds/curtain situation going, which as of yet, we haven’t done.

Our bathroom happens to be right next to the dining room, such that if you are in the bathroom with the door open, any of the people living in nearby houses could theoretically see you through their windows. Since no one ever seems to be looking, and since I am lazy and don’t care, I very frequently make the post-shower walk out of the bathroom and past the windows without bothering to cover up.

There are a couple of elderly people who sometimes hang out on their porch and could potentially see my naked ass while I do this, but aside from them I have literally never seen anyone looking out of the many windows that face into our house. That all changed a few nights ago. I had been standing in the bathroom either naked or close to it, and was heading to the bedroom when I noticed something in a neighbor’s window. It was an unclothed male torso, and one arm was manipulating an unseen object around waist-level with a distinct back-and-forth motion. My curiosity got the best of me, and I admit I stood there and looked for a few seconds to try and confirm the burning question of “Is he really?” While I watched in horror, he reached for a small bottle on the windowsill, poured some liquid into his hand, and resumed his repetitive hand motion. At that point I understood that I had gone too far, looked too long, and should never have been looking in the first place. But in the very next moment, I had a much needed epiphany and realized what he was doing: washing the dishes.

This disturbing and intriguing event made it clear that we really do need to get some window dressings, however custom and difficult to obtain they may prove to be. Not because I’m worried about people looking in at us, but because I don’t want to be able to look out at them and see whatever activities they may or may not be engaging themselves in.

wherein i enter a world of pain

So the other day Jared, Ezra, and I are at the new and improved Sound Bites. We’re pretty much done with brunch and Jared gets up to refill his coffee mug. I decide this is a good moment to act out one of my favorite and most oft-quoted scenes from The Big Lebowski for Ezra: the one where Walter Sobchak starts swearing and ranting in a diner and, when asked to leave, refuses because of his right to free speech (and also invokes Vietnam).

“I’m staying!” I declare. “Finishing my coffee. Enjoying my coffee.” I’m not much of an actress, but I make it a point to inject plenty of obnoxious indignation a la Walter.

What I didn’t notice during my performance was that a waiter had come over to bus our table. He had taken our plates away, and as I was grabbing my coffee cup in defiance and bellowing my lines, he mistakenly (though reasonably) assumed that I was angrily reacting to his clearing of the table. “That’s ok,” he said quietly. “Take your time.”

When this horrible realization dawned on me, I immediately felt a deep and intractable shame. It was too late to apologize. I searched my memory but could not locate an instance of feeling more embarrassed than I felt at that moment. I had just, as the saying goes, fucked a stranger in the ass. And we all know what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass.

ye old yankee smackdown

Last night, I served as “Date to Office Holiday Party” for the second time in a week. I am quickly becoming accustomed to this lifestyle: being invited to dress up fancy-like and eat free sushi in exchange for shaking a few hands. This time I was Julia’s date, and while her office party was significantly less debauched and vomit-drenched than Jared’s, it was fun nonetheless. The main event of the night was the Yankee Swap, and let me tell you people, that shit is cut-throat.

For the uninitiated, a Yankee Swap consists of a large group of people each bringing a ~$15 gift to a party. The gifts get placed in a pile, and each person draws a number from a hat. Person one selects a gift and opens it. Person two selects a gift, opens it, and has the option to force person one to swap gifts. This goes on until the end, each successive person entitled to choose any previous gift and make its owner swap. Gifts change hands left and right, people laugh, people cry, and you generally end up with some worthless piece of shit that you can’t even regift because it’s so bad.

For my contribution, I brought a cute little set of two tea mugs and an assortment of loose teas. As the gifts were unsheathed during game play, I noted that other gifts included: a Red Sox beer cooler, a handheld Sudoku game, two chocolate fountains, various gift certificates, scratch tickets, and a large handbag. The hot item of the night, however, was a Dustbuster.

I have owned various Dustbusters in my life and never considered them essential or wonderous items. They’re neat and all, but they usually run out of juice way before you’re done cleaning, or the suction just isn’t enough to get the job done. However, when the Dustbuster was unwrapped, a collective “ooh!” issued forth from the assembled guests, and an all-out war for ownership ensued. Many successive players unwrapped vile gifts and quickly announced, “I want the Dustbustahhh!” to much whooping and hollering.

When it was my turn to pick a gift, I opened up an unidentifiable “set” including some glazed earthenware objects that looked like they might hold liquids of some type. I took one look at that trainwreck and demanded a swap with the Dustbuster’s most recent guardian. Knowing it would not be with me for long, I held it in my arms and cherished it while I could.

Sure enough, it was soon taken from me and replaced with a set of wine glasses etched with images of grapes. I a) hate wine, and b) am too klutzy to own a wine glass, let alone eight wine glasses. Oh, and c) if I did drink wine and own wine glasses, they wouldn’t have fucking grapes etched onto them. So I went home, dejected and Dustbusterless, bearing my sub-par gift, and also bearing Julia’s gift, a set of two oversized hurricane candleholders made to look like (wait for it) wine glasses that were so horrific she didn’t even want to take them home. Does anybody want this crap? I’ll send it to you. Really I will.

…unless I get invited to another Yankee Swap and can unload that shit on someone else.

it’s just the way she pours it for you

I woke up this morning determined to finally put the coffee maker back together and brew myself a nice cuppa rather than walking over to Dunkies. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the decanter was missing, either not having been packed, or having been accidentally thrown out during the move. So I figured I’d go to Target and try to get a replacement decanter. A few minutes into my trip, some dumb cunt driving on a side street decided to forego the whole “stop the car and look before you merge onto fucking Main Street” thing, and nearly smashed into my car. I slammed the horn and the brakes and swerved around her, feeling the car shudder and shake. As I glared at her in the rearview, I could feel my eyes change from green to red. Tiny horns began to sprout up from my skull. I tried to give her the finger, but my right hand had been replaced by a large block of stone à la Hellboy. Seeing this, she freaked and turned down another side street. I pulled over to survey the damage, and various passersby looked on with terror and amusement as I circled the car, my dagger-tipped tail ripping through my jeans. It turned out there was no damage; the shaking I felt had just been the ABS kicking in. Fine. However, in my bedeviled state, I was pretty furious that my assailant had left the scene of the crime, and I got back into the car all IM’A FIND THAT BITCH, and remained in that mode for about two seconds before I remembered: I still haven’t had any coffee!

So I put my plans for bloody, bloody revenge on hold and continued on to Target. I stood in front of the coffeemakers, noting that the replacement decanters were half the price of the cheapest coffeemakers, and didn’t even look like they would fit my machine. Should I just buy a new machine? I was deep in thought when a middle-aged guy wheeled his cart into the aisle and started mumbling to himself thusly: “Mr. Coffee…twelve cup…Mr. Coffee…” I was already on the verge of tears from my near-accident, and now I had to make a Very Important Decision with a mumbler standing next to me. THE WHOLE WORLD HAS GONE MAD!, I declared in my mind, just as Mr. Coffee turned to me and said, “I have this machine! It’s great!”

What followed was a long and in-depth conversation about a particular model of coffeemaker which this man felt was superior in every way. He described its various features, explained how I should clean it before use and periodically thereafter (with vinegar), and peered at me with the wide round eyes of someone who is clearly a bit cracked. I quickly relaxed, because I have great affection for the slightly insane, and also because he was guiding me through this process like the guardian angel of caffeine that I so sorely needed. He already had this model, you see, but was buying a second one for his other home. It made a great cup of coffee, he said. “Ok, you’ve convinced me,” I said, reaching for a box. “NO! THAT’S THE WRONG ONE! THAT ONE COSTS MORE!” he cried, kneeling down and resuming his mr. coffee twelve cup twenty dollar mumbling. He located the correct box and handed it to me, saying, “It’s this one, honey,” and we parted ways, two lost souls who had managed to find salvation for $19.99.