The Good and The Bad

The Bad: My flight out of Chicago was cancelled last night. Two and a half hours of being on hold with Amex Travel and United Airlines simultaneously (one phone on my ear and the other on speaker) later, I had a new itinerary, but one that was delayed today anyway. I left my house at 8:00 am this morning, and almost exactly 12 hours later, arrived in Los Angeles. Three of those hours spent waiting in line at O'Hare.
The Good: The old man next to me on my eventual flight was from Montreal, and with a certain bravado he placed a clementine down on the tray between us and said, "That one's for you, if you'd like it," as he began to peel his own.
The Better: I had the boldness, after first politely saying "oh how generous, but no thank you" to say YES I WANT THAT CLEMENTINE, I HAD ONLY A BANANA FOR BREAKFAST AND HAVEN'T EATEN ANYTHING ELSE FOR FIVE HOURS. Thank you, sweet old Canadian man. (He had earlier whispered to me that he was thinking it was time for his own Leer jet, because United Airlines doesn't care much about you and your travel plans.) World peace may be possible through clementines on airlines. Even the flight attendant, who stopped to pick up our trash, delightedly held one of the rinds in the air, crushing it between her fingers, breathing in the smell, and hoping to spread the happy, fresh, citrus scent to our fellow passengers.

The Good: I bought a cute striped v-neck at H&M this weekend, shopping with Jason's sister Courtney. (Thanks to Uncle Paul for the gift card!) Although so unlike me, I pulled it off the rack and took it to the checkout without stopping at the fitting room (and without collecting $200 either). It fit perfectly anyway!
The Bad: While stopping for a brief moment of privacy in the airplane lavatory during today's harrowing travel day I realized that this blue sweater, with white stripes, will be yet another piece of clothing that Jason looks at and asks me if I'm planning on joining the Russian navy. (See Christmas photo.)

Are These Obstacles to World Peace?

These are the little things that irk me (well, two of them):
1. That Plastic Packaging: you know, some machine sealed your newly purchased item (headphones, travel alarm clock...) in a plastic bubble where it will be impervious to water, air, the passage of time. These darn things are absolutely impossible to open. And you know that opening it is going to absolutely destroy the entire package, so if whatever your purchased item is doesn't work or doesn't meet your expectations, the return process with Customer Service will be more difficult than a simple return. Is this level of plastic security really necessary? Is there some trick to opening this packaging that I've missed?
2. Stickers on Cars: In Pennsylvania, car registration required two windshield stickers.
In Chicago, you need your City Sticker. It's not a parking sticker, you need it even if you just drive in Chicago, regardless of where you park.
My company requires a parking sticker. In our hierarchal corporate structure, your employment grade dictates how much of the windy parking lot you have to traverse to get to the office.
And then there's the reminder that the oil change shop puts on the top left corner of the windshield too. Reminding me of a chore that I've postponed.
I'm undecided which annoys me more, these stickers proliferating on my window like bugs splatted onto the windshield from a cross country road trip, or the painstakingly annoying process of trying to get them off with a butter knife. (I've used our Goo Gone way more than I thought I would when we first bought it.)

I sometimes wonder if it's little aggravations like these that keep human beings in a constant state of low level agitation, priming us to snap when someone cuts us off in traffic or decides to pay with a check at the supermarket. Is this why we haven't achieved world peace yet?

Still Miss You TiVo

This Chicagoist article perfectly sums up what it's like when someone gives you TiVo, and then takes it away... tricking you into getting a plasma flat screen, without telling you that you'll have to sacrifice darling, dear TiVo for it. TiVo doesn't do high definition, so what's the point of watching 42 inches of blurriness? Ah, but the picture's blurry now anyway, through the soggy eyes from crying missing the ability to pause and rewind TV whenever Jason asks me to watch something that the cat is doing.
Comcast is supposedly coming out with some fancy integrated TiVo cable box. Maybe springtime. Jason hunted down the Comcast repairman in our back alley to confirm the rumors, which the guy was somewhat able to confirm. "Heard of them, don't know when they're coming though."

How Does This Thing Work?

After 48 hours of a new ring on my finger (yes!) I started wondering why there aren't more directions provided. I took it off when I did some housecleaning on Sunday, that seemed reasonable. But later I tapped it accidentally on the side of the washing machine. Oopsie. No damage done, isn't it one of the earth's strongest materials? For something that you spend ostensibly two months' salary on (Jason and I wondered if two month's is meant to be before or after taxes.), it seems like they'd tell you more about how to take care of it. I'd make some joke here about not feeding it after midnight, but someone who's never seen Gremlins really doesn't have the credibility to say that. The jeweler did dispatch us from his store with a free jewelery cleaner and jewelery box with his store's logo on the top. But no instructions.
But I'm sure I'll be wondering the same thing about marriage and kids later.
At least I had manuals for taking care of the cat before he arrived.

I realized that looking at other women's rings is an entirely different sport when there's one on your finger too. Hers is bigger, but plainer. Hers is like mine, but on steroids. There's ultimately little point to it, there will always be someone who has a bigger ring, and someone else whose stone is smaller. Just like there will always be someone who's richer, or poorer, thinner or fatter. Liking where you are is important. And I do like where I am. (Ok, maybe a little bit richer and in better shape would be nice, but the ring, and the new fiance that goes with it, are perfect.)

An interesting Atlantic Monthly article (that I've never managed to finish reading) on diamond engagement rings, and how it was the advertising industry that made us all think we needed them, and probably bigger rather than smaller, is here.

Platitude Attitude

One thing that I didn't share in my last post about the sinkhole on our street, and the car that fell into it, was that a few days prior Jason and I had been walking home and I noticed that the traffic barricade that the streets department had delivered to block people from parking over the hole had been moved down the street. "I'm going to go get that barricade and move it back over the hole," I said. "Seriously?" Jason said, a pleading look of desperation on his face because he knew this would mean his having to wait in the cold holding open the gate while I plodded up the block in my snow boots, wrenched the barricade out of the snow, and carried it back to where it belonged. (And probably preventing him from a future heroic moment of saving a motorist in distress.)"Yes!" I replied. "Seriously?" again he lamented. I looked down the street at the barricade, looked at Jason again, and said, "Ok, fine. Let's go inside."
Jason admitted that he knew the first thing that went through my mind when the car went into the sinkhole the other night was, "See, I was right. You should have let me put the barricade up! I could have saved that woman." Indeed, I told myself, "Bad things happen when good people do nothing." Or as Edmund Burke more eloquently put it, "The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing." A website I referenced went further, "Perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, victims: we can be clear about three of these categories. The bystander, however, is the fulcrum."

With a renewed missionary zeal I have kept a vigilant eye on the sinkhole and people's parking habits since. If the warning sign falls down, I go pick it up. The other night I saw two people move it and start to park their car. Since there was so much snow, they probably didn't see how bad the hole was; I opened the window and offered my advice, "Hey guys, be careful, there's a big hole in the street there." They half-heartedly thanked me for the heads up but parked anyway, tossing my little barricade to the sidewalk. And probably thinking "Jeez woman, it's cold out here and this is the only place to park. Leave us alone, you busy body." Since then about three other cars have come and gone. I put a friendly note on one windshield, pointing out the hole, and asking them to put the barrier back up when they left. (No surprise, they didn't.) This morning a new car sits in the spot, its rear tire precariously perched on the edge of the sinkhole. My new platitude and attitude is that you can't save people from themselves. It's snowing again and I'd rather stay inside then tell my fellow citizens where they can and can't park. The hole is full of snow anyway so maybe it'll be all right. How quickly I have become disillusioned. I pessimistically wonder if now that I've blogged this I'll be liable for anyone else who falls in. Rats.
And if this loss of innocence wasn't bad enough, last Saturday we saw Santa had thrown away his cheery red outfit leaving it cast on the roadside like a empty potato chip bag. Actually, when looking at the photo more closely, it looks like it might be Santa himself. (There's a face peeking out.) Good grief, Santa died in our neighborhood and we gawked at his crumpled body and then continued on to catch our train. We are the worst kind of bystanders. Sorry kids, no Christmas this year.

Grey, Blustery, Marshmallow World

What's funny is that the weather today (and probably tomorrow) is nowhere near as wicked as it was the other week. But inches of snow are more photogenic that just atmospheric cold air, so it gets way more play and a lot more hysterics.
It snowed pretty much all day today. My boss called me at 2:30 pm from inside of his slowly inching forward car to tell me that I should flee the office just as he had already done.
There were some heroics this evening as Jason looked out the window and saw that the back tire of an unfortunate soul's car fell into the 2 foot wide sink hole that has been festering on the street outside of our building. (There was a traffic cone to warn people of the danger, but someone took it down the block a few days ago.) Jason's Ohio/Midwestern can-do spirit had him quickly donning hat and gloves. "We can lift her car out!" He alerted our New York neighbor to the situation, who gave the more blase East Coast answer, "So?" But three neighbors (including the doubtful New Yorker) were rallied, along with some stranger who was innocently parking his car on the street. We lifted the car up out of the sinkhole, shifted it over by about 10 inches and proclaimed ourselves heroes. Unfortunately the girl got a flat tire when her car went into the hole, and that was beyond us. It seemed like a second shift of her friends and family arrived to remedy that situation. (This is notably the second time that Jason has lifted up a car in a pinch.)
The harshly beautiful photo above is from the NYT. The amateur ones below are by me.

Every Little Girl's Dream of Escape

I advised Jason that I had drafted this post earlier, but nixed it for doubt over how he'd respond. He cracked a smile, laughed and said, "Yeah that sounds like a great way to live your life. I'm afraid of what Jason might think so I won't do it." That sounds like permission to me: blog away.
The topic is one that I didn't want to jinx with what I think is just a lighthearted blog post topic: marriage. And actually I should probably tread with caution with the rest of you since, more specifically, the matter is: elopement. Hopefully no one's been holding their breath, dreaming of the vision of me floating down the aisle of a cathedral in a cloud of gauzy white meringue, preceded by twelve bridesmaids in similar puffs of lilac chiffon, serenaded by a choir of heavenly voices. (I'd have a tiara too.) But since there are few of you who've entertained me at your weddings, you might be hoping to kick up your heels at mine. Although I believe a couple ladies have preemptively declined bridesmaid duties. (I know you'd do it if you had to, but admit it, at over 30, do you really want to wear the same cheaply made pastel dress as four other girls?)
I'm thinking I might prefer to kick up my heels on my coffee table and spare myself the nightmare of running around trying to plan A Perfect Wedding. What's funny though, is that it seems like there are nearly as many planning books dedicated to obsessing over the details of elopement as there are about freaking out over the wedding favors and seating charts. Maybe some of the titles from Amazon are a little bit off topic, namely a Hospital Law Report, "Psych. Hosp. Fails to Follow Policy: Pt. `Elopes'- Suicide Results." Mmm, maybe elopment is not as worry free as one might think.
But my mom's parents did it, and don't they look happy?

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Cantelope
Cantelope who?

Can't elope tonight, my dad's got the ladder.

Wandering Thoughts: ADA, Suitcases, Baby Names (Not for me yet!)

As I was watching my co-workers leave our building this evening (waiting for my shuttle bus) I considered the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It came to mind as I watched a woman kind of hurl herself bodily against the door to push it open. She was pulling a rolling suitcase in one hand and grasped a sheaf of papers in the other -- no hand available to push open the door. She managed with some trickery and leg contortions to keep the door open while she pulled her suitcase through the door after her. Only to repeat the whole act again, since we have double doors. I know, I could have rushed to her assistance and held the door open, but I was lost in contemplation about how she could just use the handicap button which opens both doors gently and automatically.
One of Juliet's first architecture jobs involved designing homes for seniors. Special features included lever doorknobs (instead of the slippery round ones) and little ledges outside of the front door, so that groceries can be set down while unlocking the door. As she listed the amenities I wondered to myself, "do I have to be old to get those things?" Why can't all homes be designed with such consideration? Where is MY grocery ledge?
Hasn't the Americans with Disabilities Act made life for all of us easier? Curbs that meet the street in a small ramp, good for wheelchairs as well as rollerboard suitcases and strollers. Buttons to open doors whether you're in a walker or walking your shopping cart out to the parking lot. A spacious handicap bathroom stall makes changing for the gym at the office much easier, as well as pulling that darn rollerboard suitcase safely inside at the airport restroom.
As you can see, much of my life has become about accommodating my travel shadow: rollerboard suitcase. Considering I use Suitcase nearly as often as my car, perhaps I should name him. Any suggestions? I've come to have a simple affection for him, since he reliably fits into almost every overhead compartment and always seems to have extra room inside for an extra pair of shoes. His family name is Delsey, so whatever the first name is better fit with that. (It's funny to consider, but I bet there are real kids running around out there named Delsey. In my industry we sometimes wonder with humor: how many kids might have the same name -inadvertently- as drugs for infectious diseases, bladder problems or mood disorders. Celexa, sounds nice doesn't it? Also helps get rid of the blues!)

(This blog post is really like inviting you into my head to crawl around the passages for a while. I usually try to have some unifying theme, but not today.)

COLD

Minus 6 degrees was the temperature on the car's dashboard this morning. And 6:30 was the time that I nudged Jason awake this morning, hoping he'd make good on a promise made the night before to drive me to the train station instead of my having to walk the 3 blocks and stand on the platform bundled up to an unrecognizable pillow of scarf, hat, earmuffs and goose down. (Thank you, thank you, thank you again, Jason!)
I've observed that a near ankle length coat and those wraparound earcovers are required Chicago resident wardrobe, especially for those of us who are riders of public transportation. Those who work at home, like Jason, might spend their days in shorts, which took me aback in a moment of horror and wonder when I saw him dressed as such over the weekend.
It's too cold for snow. The thought of snow actually makes me feel warm at this point. The streets, cars, and sidewalks are crusted with salt, giving the impression that we've transitioned into a post-apocolyptic permafrost. And schools are closed - not because of impassable roads or snow so high that you can't open your door - just because the little ones might lose fingers to frostbite. (BTW, how nice is it that kids these days can look up their school closings online? Rather than listening to KYW Newsradio for the reading of your school's individual number. I remember sitting in bed, still in my pajamas hopeful that it might have some impact on the results of the reading of the numbers, waiting for our grade school's number to be called as one of those schools closed. If it wasn't read I usually waited around for a second roll call, just in case. I can guess the modern day equivalent is lots of kids citywide hitting the refresh button, just to be sure their school isn't on the list.)

You Know I Have an Opinion

I haven't mentioned it yet, but you know I'm forming a point of view on the Democratic Presidential Race. Maybe my silence is just the eager wonderment of Dubya leaving office. Glee, pure glee.
Hillary: It seems like a reflex to get behind Hillary. A First Female President, and Bill in the deal as well. Considering him as First Gentlemen is both amusing and fitting, since he's moved to very cause-driven work these days like raising money to help the tsunami and hurricane victims and for HIV in Africa. Amusing because he'd be super over-qualified and that might be trouble. (It's like my engineer dad trying to re-tool my sister's Barbie motorcycle. The simple things eluded him, the metallurgist who could develop the best composite material for the exterior of a fighter jet broke Juliet's motorcycle within 1 hour of its being pulled out of the box. And then there was the time he tried to teach me algebra to help me do my fourth grade division homework.) A perhaps overly suspicious colleague speculated that last year's television series, Commander in Chief with Gina Davis, was really just a test case for how the American public would respond to a Hillary presidency. "Why else," he mused, "would a successful series like that be canceled? They got the answer they needed." Except that I don't think it was really that successful.

Obama: In Illinois, of course people love him. And I too entertained an infatuation after his Democratic Convention speech which was so genuine and optimistic. But I then caught a glimpse of his participation in a recent Senate hearing. Just like all the other politicians, he took a few moments of his questioning time to berate the witness and pontificate. Just like any other holier-than-thou politician. Ugh.
BTW, the NYT has an interesting article questioning whether Obama shares the real American cultural experience of being black, having grown up in Hawaii and Indonesia, with a Kenyan father and white mother, and how this might impact his appeal to African-Americans.

The dark horse that impresses me (this is sounding a little bit like a clumsy comment Joe Biden might make about Barack Obama, but it's not) is Bill Richardson. UN Ambassador, domestic cabinet experience, and a governor so none of those complicated, compromised Senate votes which helped sink Kerry last time round. (I still shudder at that stupid, stupid comment, "I actually voted for the war, before I voted against it.") And Richardson apparently brought commuter rail to New Mexico! Trains in the desert must be a miracle. Pretty trains too.
Just my initial thoughts... I'll have more, likely as I see my favorite candidates fall to the wayside for stupid stuff like getting too excited and screaming. (Still miss you, Howard Dean.)

Ready (or not) for some FOOTBALL

I'd be remiss not to mention the big event this Sunday, which has our new hometown in its spotlight: it'll soon be Superbowl Sunday.
The city is energized, with a lot of dark blue and orange being adorned on people, buildings, and also on the Art Institute Lions. (The way they decorate those things appears to be Chicago's submission to Stuff on My Cat. Wreaths for Christmas and now helmets for the game. There was just one small problem this time, one of the helmets broke before it could be worn, possibly due to how freaking cold it is here. 5 degrees tomorrow!) It's impossible to avoid the hype and with just one chorus I find that darn fight song in my head. The department I sit next to at work had both a Superbowl breakfast, and three hours later: a Superbowl lunch. This Flickr photo stream is documentary evidence of the near lunacy. They put a Bears cap on the Picasso at Daley Plaza too! If I stand still too long on a street corner, I might find myself similarly decorated. But that blue shirt I was chastised for wearing during the OSU game earlier this year (Michigan's color) may be handy for Sunday. The orange might be harder.


How'd they do that?: Writing "Go Bears" with blinds from Chicago Public Radio

And it gets worse

After my depressing dental visit yesterday, it was not helpful to have the gentleman behind me on the shuttle bus this morning tap my shoulder to inform me: "You know, you're looking for a suprascapular nerve injury by carrying your bag on one shoulder like that."
How had he judged my risk of nerve injury just by observing me carry my bag for the five minutes from disembarking the train to walking to the company shuttle? I wanted to cry. Maybe the friend of mine who had once reflected that every day since she'd turned 30 her body had began to fall apart was right.
Instead of being angry or breaking down in tears, I responded that I was not looking for such an injury, but tried to be polite and ask his suggestions for avoiding such an event, which really sounds kind of dire.
This is the problem with working at a pharma company, too much medical knowledge on the shuttle bus.
 

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