Sunday, January 28, 2007

German-Jewish-Scottish-Greek Twins

My sister and I are two and a half years apart. We were conceived at the same time, but she felt pressure to surface at nine months and I did not. (I wanted a May birthday, my own entrance, and nothing to do with the seventies.)

Our grandparents have always given us different versions of the same gift. I originally thought the distribution was random, but it's difficult to ignore patterns. When given porcelain dolls, Meghan received a happy redhead with a flowered dress and boingy curls. I received a German prude in head-to-toe velvet and unbrushable braids. When we were given music boxes, Meghan got a delicate, white merry-go-round, while I was given a haunting clown that turned jerky circles on top of a garishly-painted block. When Keypers became popular (http://www.80stoysale.com/keypers.html), Meghan received the pink snail named Pearl, who came with a pink hairbrush for her long, magenta locks. I unwrapped Sheldon, a sexually-confused, grayish-purple turtle whose one short tuft of hair made his/her hairbrush a total joke. Even when we were given picture frames, Meghan's was pink and mine was green.

It begs the question- do they just like Meghan more? Or, since they seem disappointed these days, were they hoping I would become a lesbian? or a boy? or a circus clown? It is comforting to realize that they seem equally disappointed in Meghan.

As if the entire universe would like to join in on this game, I recently tried translating my name into Chinese. My mom, sister and I have begun to learn Mandarin, and my sister's Chinese name is Mei ge, or "beautiful song." I divided Leighton into Lei tong. Translation? Thunder bucket. Meghan's name is a sweet symphony, and I'm a crude synonym for the toilet. I can change the meaning by changing the tones, so I could modify my name to mean "to accumulate pain" or "together we clean the sewer" or "ribs of copper." I think my options are slowly improving.

Monday, January 22, 2007

That I May Save You Time and Pain...

Choosing an esthetician:
Before paying money to make yourself physically vulnerable, gain the reasonable assurance, through interviews or trusted recommendations, that your future esthetician is knowledgeable, seasoned, and human. (Probably a lesson that could have been learned and applied from the masseuse incident, see "Spa Night," July 14, 2006.)

My first esthetician lesson was learned at the hands of "I'm the best waxer around," aka Kelly. Self-aggrandizing testimonials should not be trusted, regardless of how many different ways Kelly described her talent or how many business cards Kelly gave me. As someone with an above-average pain tolerance, I just should not have gotten the pain shakes during a lower leg wax. Shins, a purely functional part of the body, have very few nerves. Something is going terribly wrong if my shin pain is eliciting flashbacks from a dark period of my life known as "Braces in College, 2000-2002."

I threw all of Kelly's shiny business cards away and never looked back, except when I get a pedicure from her.

My second esthetician lesson was learned when I received a facial last Tuesday from "you should feel really condemned about the state of your skin," aka Sandy. I never should have bought into the apparently-legitimate setting. The dim lights, steam, and scent of cucumber lulled me into a false sense of safety that made me forget any concerns I had, such as "why is this free?" and "why do I have to take all of my clothes off to get my face cleaned?" and "why does it feel like someone is clawing my face off?"

Since then, based on a friend's recommendation, I have switched to Cami. She appears to possess concepts of pain AND propriety, so I think we may be onto something. Here's hoping that she also turns out to be a hairdresser, accountant and podiatrist, so that all of my searching can be done.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

An Unfortunate Incident

Dear Mr. Leighton Davis,

We regret to inform you that you have been the victim of identity theft. In an unfortunate incident, a disgruntled former employee gained access to our database of client information. We apologize for this unforeseen occurrence, and promise that we will do everything in our power to prevent this from taking place in the future. We recommend that you contact one of the three credit agencies to place a fraud alert on our credit account. By contacting one of the credit companies, all three will be notified to monitor your account for suspicious activity.

As of now, we are pleased to let you know that no more than six flights have been purchased with your credit card information. We are unable to refund this money to your credit card as the flights have already taken place, but you now have a credit with our company for six round trip flights. Please note that the tickets must be redeemed by you, in your name, and the flights must be booked and used before March 15, 2007. Other terms and conditions may apply.

Also, due to a series of complicated, and as of yet unknown, codes used by our former employee, you will be receiving a Kosher meal on all of your flights, you will not be allowed to check baggage, and you can only book a seat in the last three rows of any airplane. If any of these are a problem, we recommend that you call our 1-800 number and request a "Change of Name" form. An official name change in our systems will only take 6 to 8 weeks, but will undo the restrictions placed on your account. Please note that a name change in our system will require an official name change with the United States government.

Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. In order to compensate for the potential inconvenience, we would like to offer to waive the security and handling fees on the next flight that you purchase. While we would like to offer this, due to restrictions instituted after September 11 we can only waive the handling fee. Thank you for understanding. If you have any questions, please visit our Web site at www.unnervinglyinexpensivetravel.com/FAQs.


Lawrence Bunker
CEO, Unnervinglyinexpensivetravel.com

Monday, January 08, 2007

What Would I Do If I Was Me?

Of my two choices for a local hardware store, I have decided on True Value. Both options are chains, they are in a three mile radius of my house, and they carry the same merchandise at the same prices. While True Value has yet to live up to its name (they overcharge for batteries and seem to have no regard for my time), it is the staff of Store #6 that keeps me coming back.

The electrical department is not run by the 17-year-old who wants to be an electrician and has an answer to any question about wiring (even the question of how many volts of electricity it takes to kill a baby*.) No, due to an interesting management decision, the future electrician works the cash register, and the department is run by a middle-aged Italian man in high-waisted, light denim jeans, who apparently has a very cursory understanding of electricity, and who expresses what little he does know in long-winded, unsubstantiated opinions.

I love this man.

When a fuse blew out on a row of red Christmas lights that was strung across our back fence, I asked if there was a way to rewire the plug. His response: "What would I do if I was me?" I don't know. What WOULD you do if you were you? His brilliant existential question launched him into a heavily-accented monologue about how big explosions occur when you try to connect a male with another male, and it's good to start with a female and end with a male, and it's really bad to connect three males. I interpreted that it was best to just replace the entire strand of lights.

When asked whether it was a good idea to wrap all the plugs in electrical tape to protect against the elements, he said that he personally has never had a fire at his apartment. Not feeling like his luck was the strongest of foundations, my next question was which aisle had electrical tape.

My mom recently went to True Value to purchase a new coffee maker. As my Italian electrician maneuvered the desired machine off of the very top shelf and out from below another box (without the use of a ladder), he kept telling my mom that he wakes up every morning before 10. Since most of the world is up before 10, with the exception of college students and the depressed, my mom was not impressed and did not pretend to be. He continued to repeat the statement until he elicited the proper response. "I wake up 'fore ten. I wake up 'fore ten. I have to be at my first job by 5, so I wake up every morning at 4:10."

*Answer: I believe about 350 volts. I don't remember exactly, and I feel weird about calling him and asking.

Monday, January 01, 2007

I Am a Woman of My Word

People move to tropical locations for a reason: sunny weather means that you do not have to face the emptiness in your own life. Alaskans, Canadians, and all others who brave the netherworld (any latitude below 35 degrees south or above 35 degrees north) are quickly forced to take stock of their inner darkness*, and to either overcome or succumb to it.

In Southern California, January to mid-November provides an external atmosphere of sun, heat, and calm that is available to anyone. Thanksgiving brings the punctual arrival of the unexpected: cold darkness. People are forced indoors, where they wander around without a sweater or socks, exclaiming to their freezing family members that they don't remember the last time they were this cold. Depression begins to hover as all memories of warm, good times disappear. Suddenly, there is only one answer for the impending gloom: it's time to celebrate this magical time known as "the holidays."

This year, celebration of the holidays couldn't wait until Thanksgiving ended; the darkness came earlier. My neighbors at the end of the street** hired their gardeners to hang pink lights on their palm trees in mid-November. ("Darkness?! What darkness?! Our happiness this winter can only be expressed in the color pink!!") Our local disco radio station began playing Christmas carols on Thanksgiving as a reminder that there was no need to panic because the holidays were already upon us.

My favorite Christmas carol is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," because it invokes such a heavy feeling of nostalgia. The only problem is that I do not feel nostalgia for any of my own Christmases. I'm carried away to memories of being cozy inside a warm, brick house as snow whirls around outside, and I am handed a long, rectangular gift by a kind member of my fake-Christmas-memory family. No offense to my real family, but my fake family wears long, cable knit sweaters and doesn't ask me to help clean up the house. I tend to think that the Christmas nostalgia felt by most people doesn't even belong to them. Face the darkness, people. You're going to be fine.

*Inner darkness: the unknown depths of one's soul, good or bad, kept covered for fear of what could be uncovered. Examples of what may be uncovered: memories, tendencies, habits, fears, coping mechanisms, obsessions with dance movies, allergies to Celtic music, etc.

**I assume I have neighbors at the end of the street. I have never seen them, but their lawn stays watered.