Sarah R. Callender

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Service

In General on December 30, 2010 at 7:25 am

There comes a time in every person’s life when he realizes that actually, he cannot be whatever he wants to be when he grows up. That some things, either because of personality or intellectual skill or height or predisposition towards motion sickness or lactose-intolerance or fear of bunnies, are simply not realistic or achievable professional goals.

Hooters for example. Husbandio is as unlikely to be hired to wait tables at Hooters as I am to be an astronaut or a Nobel prize-winning chemist. Or a Heisman candidate. Or one of those Geek Squad guys. Or a Hooters waitress.

Sometimes the reality that we cannot be and do anything feels tragic; other times, the various barriers are actually a relief. Would I really want to be a waitress at Hooters? Of course I would! But would I want to be an astronaut, whirling around in space, my face-skin pressed back as we travel at Mach 20, me puking every time there’s any turbulence? Holy schmokes, no way, Josie. Would I want to toodle around helping people with computer issues, 24/7, driving a car that tells the world I am a Geek? Not really. I do that quite fine in my minivan, thank you very much.

So in the end, it’s probably good that I don’t have the brains or the bosoms or the stomach for certain professions.

Recently however, in this, week two of my kids’ holiday break, it occurs to me that having a background as a Customer Service Representative, perhaps even a college degree in Customer Service Representation, would be quite helpful in my parenting.

Yet, just as Hooters or NASA or NFL wouldn’t be good fits for me professionally, I am not exaggerating when I say that I’d likely be sacked within the first ten minutes of my job as a Customer Service Representative.

Especially these days.

As I age, I find I have a harder time keeping my mouth shut, a trait that means instead of remembering to speak in a calm, soothing Customer Service voice, one that makes you, the egregiously wronged, rant-raving customer, feel my sincere sympathy, I’d likely start spouting off about how I don’t have to tolerate such rudeness. That I am a human being after all, one with a decent dose of smarts and pride. And I happen to believe, you angry nutball, that the world would be a nicer place if people (like you) were nicer to strangers (like me).

Then I’d probably start getting all Love Thy Neighborish on you, and if that didn’t work, I’d suggest that perhaps the reason you’re yelling at me about your rice cooker or your Crate and Barrel ramekins or your Pottery Barn Faux-Fur Throw is actually indicative of your dissatisfaction with your profession/marriage/current BMI, and that’s something, perhaps, you might take up with your boss/husbandio/trainer. Better yet, your therapist.

At that point, I’d need to pause for a breath and in doing so, I’d listen either for the sound of being hung up on OR quiet breathing on the other end, and if it was the latter, I’d take it as the green light to get extra un-Customer Servicey.

“You knowwww,” I’d say, as if the thought had just occurred to me at that very moment, “you could just tell me what’s really behind all this anger. I make a pretty good listening ear. But only if that would be helpful to you.”

And because you would, I hope, hear real sincerity coming through the mouthpiece of my headset, you would start telling me about what’s really bothering you. And I’d listen.

You know why? Because strangers, especially the most irritating ones, fascinate me. I like to try to figure them out, to understand why they are what and who they are. And once I can understand why on earth they are so irritating, I tend to like and appreciate them, sometimes quite a lot.

But unfortunately, that’s not what Customer Service Representatives are paid to do.

Thus, I’d be on that phone call, providing free and unlicensed and admittedly off the cuff therapy to a surprisingly lovely person who, as it turns out, has a whole host of issues far larger than her dissatisfaction with her Pottery Barn Faux-Fur Throw. Imagine that!

And that’s when the Director of Customer Service would rush over to my service carrel, yank my phone jack from the wall, and escort me to the door where they send the Representatives who Berate and then Befriend on the company dime.

So no. Me in that role would be a hot mess.

But. Week two of my kids’ holiday break, I have realized that assuming the identity of a Customer Service Representative whilst speaking to my children keeps me from going insane. It also keeps me from yelling at my kiddos, two small non-strangers who might be as interesting and intriguing as strangers if I didn’t spend so much TIME with them.

So I do the voice, this Customer Service Representative voice. An added bonus: when Husbandio is there, going equally crazy with the kids’ whining and their questions and their lamentations about the obvious inequalities in the world, and I do the voice, it makes Husbandio laugh. Which makes me laugh. And I find in most cases, it’s harder to go insane on week two of the kids’ holiday break when I’m laughing with Husbandio.

“Uh oh,” he says, just as the kids are getting really whiny or ungrateful, the opportune time to kick it into high CSR gear. “Kids? Your mother’s just pulled out the The Voice. Heads up.”

This happened just two nights ago in the car on the way home from Bellevue. A 20-minute car ride.

“That’s right, my dear, darling children,” I say in the voice, one that’s really just a suped-up, Joan Holloway-ish rendition of Hal from 2001 A Space Odyssey. Only my voice is 10% less creepy than that of Hal. Maybe 8%.

“I’m using my soothing voice,” I announce. “Which reminds me to be calm. And serene. And grateful that I have two healthy children even though my particular two healthy children have been whining and fighting and poking each other since we got in the car. And if one more person talks about something not being fair or equal, if one more person talks about his or her sibling getting more or being first or playing more Wii, I might just have to incinerate all your toys.”

There’s silence from the back of the minivan. My tone, far more than my words, has gotten their attention as only the voice can.

Of course, they know I am mostly kidding about the toy incineration. Yet still, there’s a tremor in Buddy’s voice. “Like Arnold Schwarzenegger does when his kids leave their toys on the floor?”

“Affirmative, Buddy-Dave,” I croon.

I once mentioned to Buddy and Sweetie (probably in an attempt to prove it can always be worse) that according to Maria Shiver, Arnold requires a tidy home. And, if his kids leave their toys or clothes on the floor, he either tosses them in the trash or BURNS them. I know! It’s delicious and terrible at the same time!

Ever since (and this is a further aside) whenever we’re listening to NPR and there’s a story about Arnold, Buddy and Sweetie shake their sweet little heads wistfully, one of them saying, “That’s the guy who burns his kids’ toys.”

Now, back to the car ride from the other night: “But Mama,” Buddy says, “even my Legos? My Christmas Legos? What about Sweetie’s stuff? If you throw away only my stuff and not her stuff, it won’t be faaaaaaair!”

“Look Buddy-Dave,” I say, my voice as mellow as a stoned jar of warm caramel that’s listening to Miles Davis. “’I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.’”

At that point, I can see Sweetie in the rear view mirror. “Don’t worry, Buddy,” she says, always the one to console and protect her older brother. “If she throws away your Legos, I’ll let you use mine.”

The kids do know I’m kidding. I think they know I’m kidding. But the voice is magical in its power. Or maybe it’s Voice + Arnold that’s the real magic in my briefcase of parenting tactics.

So if you find that in this holiday season, you’re having a bit of trouble appreciating humanity, if you’re a little worn out by crowds and post-holiday blues and the short, dark days, and you happen to happen upon someone who’s a little irritating, might I suggest you create your own Customer Service Representative voice? You don’t even need a background or a degree in Customer Service. Heck, you don’t even need the patient, sympathetic, helpful personality that’s necessary in such an occupation.

Try it, and you’ll see. At the very least it’ll make YOU smile, and as smiling is one of the planet’s most contagious expressions, it just might improve your day. Even the day of another. Best of all, if you’re a parent on week two of your kids’ break, you just might avoid going insane.

Happy New Year, all. Here’s to a merry and peaceful start to 2011. I’d also like to share my huge appreciation to you lovely folks who not only read inside-out underpants but add your clever, witty, charming comments. I am grateful to have you as readers. I really do mean that. Happy 2011!

Finally, Dad: that “I wish I could be a Hooters waitress” thing was just a joke. But I’m sure you knew that.

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Smooth

In Body Stuff on December 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

Husbandio bought (i.e. I bought) his first pair of skinny jeans this week. It’s pretty cute.

Technically, they are not at all skinny jeans; they are “straight leg,” but because they are two sizes smaller than his previous jeans, Husbandio refers to them as his skinny jeans. I can tell he likes them because he’s doing that male supermodel walk up and down the hallway between our bedroom and bathroom. Makes me glad I married him, all supermodel-walky like that, all 34-inch waisted and skinny-straightlegged like a tall drink of middle-aged husband-dad water.

And let’s not forget his new shirt, bought in concert with the jeans, from Banana Republic (which was having a 40% off of everything sale). Cool shirt + skinny jeans = a get up that can only be described as middle-age metro-hottie.

A bit of background: at 6’4″, Husbandio is a full foot taller than I. And, subsequently, a few pounds heavier. But after attending Coach Kitty’s kick-arse class at our gym, AND after frequent international work trips where he makes Bad Choices like dining on a tuna fish sandwich at the Tel Aviv airport or brushing his teeth with the Mexican tap water, he’s dropped a few pounds and a few sizes around the waist. These days (thank you, Coach Kitty) he likes me to feel his biceps. Which I do. Right after I make him feel mine.

Now. Allow me to digress for a moment and explain that this is the time of year when I like to eat my fabulous neighbor’s (thank you Sarah K.) homemade Almond Roca for breakfast. Thus, I am equally grateful to another Sara. Sara Blakley, inventor of Spanx. Now if you haven’t embraced (and been embraced by) Spanx, check them out. No matter how thin and toned and Coach Kitty-ed a gal is, I have realized that there comes a time when she can benefit from Spanx. I’m not sure if it has to do with skin elasticity or the relentlessness of gravity or maybe how sheer and slinky women’s dresses are these days, but I need me a little Spanx to smooth out the hip ripples. The hipples.

When I was a kid, however, I would marvel at the torture device that was The Girdle. Frankly, they scared me a little.

Sure she may appear so much happier when her various parts are pressed and raised, but I knew, even as a girl, that the girdle was just another form of female torture, not unlike foot binding, the technique where women attempted to transform their feet into THREE-INCH “golden lotuses” in order to land themselves husbands. Not unlike whalebone corsets which gave women 17-inch waists . . . the tinier the waists, the higher a woman’s social status. Sigh.

So as Husbandio is prancing around our bedroom in his skinny jeans, and I’m wishing the Spanx went just a little higher on my torso, I asked him. “Hey. Do men ever wish they could wear Spanx?”

Husbandio looked at me. “I don’t even know what that means. And even if I did know what that meant, I feel like the answer to that question would incriminate me. Or become a blog entry.”

“No, look,” I said, typing spanx.com onto my laptop. “Do men ever wish they could wear stuff like this, but for men? To make you feel smoother? Are women the only ones who try to tighten themselves into corsets and girdles and three-inch shoes, or do men sometimes–”

And then I stopped. Because lo and behold, what to my wondering eyes did appear! There ARE Spanx for men, to lift up THEIR rears!

“Yikes,” I said. “Check it. If Rhett lived in 2010, he could have been as smooth and tiny-waisted as Miss Scarlett.” I clicked another link. “Oooo. Rhett could have also been . . . enhanced.”

So yes, it turns out that Spanx makes a men’s line too. Indeed (as the web page announces) GAME ON!

I will spare you the imagery of the Cotton Comfort Brief ($38.) which claims to add “dimension and depth for an enhanced profile.” But I did show Husbandio.

“Hm. Like a codpiece,” Husbandio noted. “Or male ballet dancers. Those guys have a lot of dimension and depth going on.”

I nodded. “And look at these undershirts. Not that you, Mr. Skinny-jeans, need this, but the undershirt could provide you with ‘zoned compression [that] targets abs and torso.’ Just don this $78. undershirt–it ‘eliminates bulk under clothes.’” I looked at Husbandio. “Do men really worry about feeling bulky under clothes?”

Husbandio shrugged. “Maybe once or twice. But that was before skinny jeans.” And then he resumed his male supermodel prance.

So there you have it, people. Men may, at times, yearn to be smoothed and “enhanced” (and will pay large amounts of money to be encased in stretchy fabrics) just as women do.

That makes me feel a bit better, less like I am willingly purchasing torture devices that bind my various body parts in dangerously, bone-breakingly, organ-smashingly tight spaces, just to land a husband.

More like I just want to smooth out the hipples.

As long as men are willing to go to similar lengths to look like middle-aged hotties, I say, bring on the Spanx! As long as all’s fair in love and girdles, game on, I say.

GAME ON!

Hard

In General on December 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I will preface this post with the warning that it has been rated RG for Really Gross. Read at your own risk. If you feel the need to respond with comments like, “THIS IS SO GROSS!” you are preaching to the choir, people, largely because the following story addresses the topic that is already #1 on my Grossest Things list. So now, without further ado, let’s get this party started.

I notice that I’m really good at worrying needlessly about things like getting a brain tumor OR running out of bread and peanut butter OR developing amnesia before I can complete the final revisions on my book. Most recently, however, after a snorkeling adventure gone awry, I am obsessively worried that the coral scrape on my ankle is not healing as it should. It’s not a healthy color, and it feels like it’s angry, the way husbandio’s stomach feels when he eats raw garlic. The way I feel when I find boy-pee on the bathroom floor. I’d take a picture of it (my cut, not any of the other angry-feeling things) and show you, but that would be an example of gratuitous grossness. That’s not how I roll.

First things first. I would like to express my condolences to the coral that I surely damaged as it stripped my ankle of a decent-sized swath of skin. But I was distracted by the fact that I was in charge of teaching Buddy to snorkel. Husbandio got Sweetie (the brave one). I got Buddy (the opposite of brave one). And that teaching experience, my friends, will get its very own chapter if I ever write a memoir.

I’m not ever proud of the times I completely lose my patience when I’m helping the kids learn to read or snorkel or ride a bike without training wheels. It’s never OK to lose patience. Just like it’s never OK to touch coral. I am merely suggesting that when Buddy starts screaming (in 3.5 feet of Hawaiian water after he got a little salt water in his mouth), “IT BURRRRRNS! I CAN’T BREATHE BECAUSE IT’S BURRRRRRNING!” I CAN’T BREEEEATHE! AND THERE’S A SCARY THING DOWN THERE, MAYBE AN EEEEEEEEL!” that must provide sufficient distraction to allow unintentional ankle-to-coral contact.

Back on the beach, Buddy is at my side, whimpering about “a salty taste in his mouth.” Then he notices my ankle. “Mom! You’re BLEEDING!” I glance down. Sure enough, there’s a river of red running down my foot.  “See, Buddy?” I say. “I’m bleeding,  quite a lot actually, and I’m not even crying.”

See what a mean mother I am! I get mad at him for crying and then I praise myself for not crying. In one brief snorkel event, I manage to emasculate my seven-year-old with just a few words. I’m like Zorro, with a snorkel and SPF 80. With sharp, cutting words instead of swords. Swish, swish, swish!

And Sweetie finishes the job I have started. All the way back to the hotel, she describes, in great detail, all the amazing, beautiful, amazingly-beautiful rainbow fish she saw. “It’s not scary, Buddy,” she says. “You just have to be brave and not worry about it.” Swish, swish, swish.

Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I am trying to remember what I have heard about coral cuts. And how they can get easily infected. So, back at the hotel, I clean the cut, slather it with Neosporin, and bandage myself up, determined to carrying on with my tropical vacation.

Until three days later when I notice the cut is throbbing and doesn’t look so great. It’s got that angry look I mentioned earlier, only now it looks irate. Enraged. Incensed and fuming.

The sight of it grosses Husbandio out (which frankly, isn’t that hard to do). “Yuck,” he says. “That doesn’t look so good.”

And when I head over to my trusty laptop to Google/Bing “coral cut infection” I realize just how un-good things really are. From other folks’ tales of woe, I learn there is a huge likelihood that I did not clean it well enough. That hotel soap was not sufficient. That because this cut has become infected, I will have to be rushed home, body flaring as coral toxins flood my bloodstream, a calamity that will result in double leg amputation which will make it difficult to dance (well) or wear cute shoes ever again. Difficult, but not impossible.

However, as I read on, I learn something even more concerning than coral toxins: the possibility that a whole colony of coral has started growing under my skin.

This really did happen. Some British guy who stepped on some coral (in Hawaii, thank you very much), got himself all cut up, and five days later, noticed the entire sole of his foot had become hard as wood. When he went back to jolly old England, his doctor told him that CORAL WAS GROWING ALL OVER THE SOLE OF HIS FOOT, UNDER HIS SKIN. LIKE A BIG CORAL FLIP-FLOP. (I added that last part about the flip flop.) Apparently his doctor made some joke about him trying to smuggle coral into the country, which would have made me angry had I been the guy with the flip-flop coral foot. But perhaps he laughed at the doctor’s joke. Perhaps things are funnier in a British accent. Perhaps when you have a WHOLE REEF growing in you, your brain gets a little addled and everything seems hilarious. I don’t know.

I do know there are plenty of things in this world that terrify me: Cliffs without railings. People in Wisconsin who drive their cars–FOR FUN–on frozen lakes. Moray eels. Getting buried alive by snow. Throwing up in public. Dying while my children are still children. Sarah Palin.

I have a whole other list dedicated to things that give me the heebies, but at the top of that list is Things That Grow in Other Things. Needless to say, with this whole coral flip-flop story, that’s my worry of the week: Might I have a coral colony growing under my ankle skin?

Husbandio assured me that no, it looks just fine, much better than the other day, that it looks far less oozy and angry. That now it’s just mildly huffy. But then I tell him about the British dude.

“Ugh. That’s gross,” Husbandio says. “Kind of like the bot fly thing.”

Yes, my friends, the bot fly. The King of Grossness on the Grossest Things That Grow in Other Things. A coral colony under one’s skin? That’s in the top five, but it’s nothing compared to the human bot fly.

If you are still reading, this is where things get RG. I will not go into the gory details about the human bot fly. I will simply say this: if the human bot fly’s eggs get on your skin they will hatch and the hatchlings will burrow into you.

At this point in the bot fly’s life cycle, things get a whole lot grosser, so I’ll  just FastForward to my friend’s (true!) story about this poor guy who was recently back from South America where he was “violated” by a bot fly. Violated in his scalp. Doctors in South America suggested that he put raw beef on his scalp (to draw out The Violator, who, apparently likes its steak a little pink).

But the raw-beef-on-the-scalp trick didn’t work so this guy (now back in the states), probably in an attempt to take his mind of his woes, goes to see a Knicks game with his girlfriend. Just to try to live a normal life and do things that normal people (without bot flies in their scalps) do.  BUT  THE BOT FLY HATCHES OUT OF HIS HEAD DURING THE HALFTIME SHOW! So much for a normal life. When a fly hatches from one’s scalp at a Knicks game, things are not normal.

There is just so much that is weird and gross and disturbing about that image, but I’ll let you have some privacy for a moment while you noodle on it.

“Yes,” I tell Husbandio, my voice soggy with sarcasm. “At least I don’t have a human bot fly in my ankle.”

But for two days now, I have been semi-obsessively pressing on my ankle. While it does appear to be finally healing up, there is definite hardness under the cut. But that could be simply because my ankle bone lies right under the cut. And that’s a bone that has been fairly hard my entire life. If memory serves.

The verdict? I should be OK. Disaster averted. I should be able to keep my legs and dance and wear cute shoes (other than coral flip-flops).

I should even be able to take Buddy out snorkeling again. If he will let me. If I can promise him that this time I will be armed, not with blade-sharp words, but with patience  and kindness and compassion. And thick-soled swim shoes. With ankle guards.