Lost in Thought

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I took a personality test that asked me, “Do you tend to get lost in your thoughts when hiking in the woods?”

I was like, “Duh!” If you’re not lost in thought while lost in the woods, then what the hell are you doing? 

The nature of this question is freaking me out. It implies that there’s something unusual about me getting lost in my thoughts. This phenomenon apparently doesn’t happen to everyone.

So — what, then? You’re telling me you’ve just got a tranquil, empty mind? You have structured thoughts? You solve math equations? What! What am I missing!

Seriously — what is going on in everyone else’s mind that I’m not aware of? Because I’m always lost in thought — whether I’m driving, shopping, showering, taking care of my kid, pretending to listen while someone tells me about the dream they had last night, looking out the window at work, and so on. I thought that was the human experience! Am I alone in this?

I forget what I was just talking about. 

Here’s a list of words I never want to hear again:

COVID
Woke
Bespoke
Podcast
Pop-up

Also, while I just read the word “monkeypox” for the first time like two weeks ago, my first response upon reading it was, “NO! Just, no! Get the hell out of here with that shit!”

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I believe COVID exists. I got all my shots, I wore a mask, I socially distanced. But I say no to monkeypox! Seriously. Cut it out, guys. I’m not interested in hearing about the next trend in diseases.

I forget what I was just talking about.

You know when else my mind wanders is when I’m trying to fall asleep at night, on a flight, riding a bicycle, in a boat, sitting around a conference table, and tying my shoe.

In fact, the only time I’m not lost in thought is when I’m headed to the cookie store. Then and only then do I have laser sharp focus on the task at hand.

Rando in NJ

Antithesis to Emily in Paris

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I’m watching an episode of Emily in Paris on Netflix when I discover I’ve got sticky onion jam smeared under my chin from my sandwich at lunch half an hour ago. I’m wearing an $8 Target t-shirt with denim shorts, and I’ve got bags under my eyes from being so tired.

Meanwhile, Emily is having another fabulous day walking about Paris. She’s rail thin, wears expensive couture, and is always in heels with perfect makeup and hair. Yet, Emily is referred to as “basic” by a French designer. If she’s basic, then what the hell am I?

I’ve been known to watch movies just for their filming locations, such as Eat, Pray, Love. Which is why I’m now watching this show, which I understand has received quite some backlash, especially from the French. I totally get why. But I’m going to keep watching anyway, to live vicariously through this character who lingers at cafes and drifts around with a perpetual smile on her face. The scenery alone makes it worth my time.

The show is such a far cry from my reality as a middle aged, muffin-topped suburbanite that I welcome it with the desperation of a thirsty person being handed a cup of ice water.

Most of my shame as a pudgy plain Jane is generated in my car, where I regularly pig out, which means I’ve had all kinds of atrocities occur on the dash, on the seats, on the steering wheel, and even the seatbelt.

Cream cheese is the worst offender. Every time I chow down on a toasted everything bagel, the cream cheese gets smeared all over. And of course, I have to have a cup of coffee with my bagel, which drips and sloshes all over my clothes and the upholstery.

Yesterday I ate a chocolate dipped ice cream bar while driving. The ice cream started melting down onto my hand, and as the chocolate coating cracked apart that started melting as well. Pretty soon I had one hand completely out of commission. Meanwhile, I had to use the back of my other hand to wipe melted chocolate from around my mouth. I didn’t have any napkins in the car, and even if there had been, I didn’t have a hand free to grab one.

If a police officer had pulled me over right then, he’d have looked at my childishly grubby hands and been like, “What in tarnation is going on here?”

“Well, Sir,” I’d say, “I just murdered an ice cream bar. Actually, two. You don’t happen to have any Wet Wipes on you, do you?”

You would never see this scene on Emily in Paris.

So, binge-watching season one of this rom-com it is! Just to tune out the shame.

The Real Reason Behind the Fall of Icarus

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Let me get this straight, Icarus — we’re to believe that you were smart enough to design a way to fly of your own volition, but stupid enough to fly “too close” to the sun?

Uh-uh. I’m not buying that story. Something else went down. A mistake so foolish and easily avoided that you decided to blame the sun.

Do you know how far away the sun is, Icarus? Well, I don’t either, but I do know it’s far enough that you would die of old age long before its heat melted your fake wings. And that’s provided you’re wearing a space suit. If not, you would die of myriad other causes first, such as lack of oxygen, freezing temperatures, and all those other factors human bodies don’t like.

Hold up — you flew nude? Weren’t you concerned about your nether regions? You should have worn armor. Shorts and a t-shirt. A toga at the very least. You could have crashed into a tree and broken your ding-a-ling.

No risk mitigation was considered at all, clearly. If you had earned your Project Management Professional certification, you would have thought ahead and made accommodations to correct for anticipated risks.

Even if you’re not good at math or physics, and even if you don’t realize how very far away the sun is from Earth, all you needed to understand the risks posed to wax wings was to witness the world’s most ubiquitous fail when the scoop of ice cream falls off a small child’s sugar cone and lands in a mushy mess on the sidewalk.

Here’s what I believe really went down: you were flying up, up into the sky, when suddenly, you found yourself facing off against a dignity-stealing bee. The bee is rushing you, trying to sting your face, your bare torso, your easily accessible backside. You’re swatting at it like mad, trying to knock it off course. But this bee is determined. They always are.

“Off with you, you damn-ed bee!” you shout, but it refuses to comply.

Your flight path is suffering due to the erratic swatting. You’re dodging left and right, regretting that you left your clothes at home, because your ding-a-ling — as your lowest hanging body part — is now your Achilles heel. You’re realizing how terribly, terribly vulnerable you are. To a fuzzy little bee, no less!

You’re sweating profusely as you thrash back and forth. With the last swat, your wings are coming apart. You fall back to Earth, where your father comes to collect you.

“My son! My son!” Daedalus cries.

“The sun! It was the sun!” are your last words.

You can’t have “Brought down by a bee” carved on your tombstone. That’s just shameful. But if it was the all-powerful sun, a massive ball of plasma upwards of 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (or 5.778 Kelvin, in case you want a data point that you can’t possibly compare to anything else you know), you’ll die a hero.

“At least he tried!” is what the public will say.

Whereas if they knew about the bee…

“Well, that was just dumb,” they’d say, shaking their heads.

So, you leave everyone to suspect the sun. But they’re also left wondering why you didn’t wear clothes. Seeing someone’s nether regions, both straining and dangling at the same time, as they slowly lift over your head and into the sky just isn’t a good look for anyone.

Gaslit by Toddlers and Robots

Source: Wikimedia Commons

After my 3.5-year-old used the toilet and flushed, I instructed her to wash her hands.

“Why?” she said. “I didn’t touch anything.”

“You just touched the toilet handle,” I said.

She responded, without missing a beat: “It’s an automatic toilet.”

My overly confident child thought she could convince me that we have fancy, self-flushing toilets. I think I’d have noticed that nice perk!

~~~

Have you seen those self-cleaning public toilets? I first saw them installed on Seattle sidewalks.

It’s a single toilet inside a capsule. You insert a quarter, the door slides open, you do your business, and when you exit, hot water and bleach are blasted over every surface to disinfect it.

I’ve never used one myself, because I am terrified about getting stuck inside when the wash cycle kicks off.

But it’s a pretty ingenious way to keep an unsanitary place slightly more sanitary.

I need my house to do that each time I leave. Domesticity is not my cup of tea. I’m so not interested in dusting, mending, decorating, whatnot.

My parents were some of the hardest working people on the planet. They ran their own bakery, worked odd hours, raised five children, and always managed to keep the house clean with a fresh cooked meal on the table. How did this apple fall so far from the tree? I guess as a kid watching my parents work their asses off, I decided, “This is gonna have to skip a generation.”

I bought an expensive robot vacuum to outsource some of my work. Turns out, it does precisely the half-assed job I would have done. The sales pitch was that this state-of-the-art machine makes two passes over each section of floor, and if it discovers an especially dirty area, it will go around in a spiral until it has cleaned every last bit of mess off the floor. Yeah – not by a long shot!

Instead, it moves as though going through a corn maze, while blasting right on past crumbs and dirt. It’s like, “I didn’t see that.” Then, it keeps getting stuck under the edges of furniture, and there is nothing more pathetic than watching a flat, round robot panic: “Eh, eh, eh!” When it has decided that the job is done, it races back to its platform to empty and recharge.

I’m like, “Uh-uh! Where do you think you’re going?! You’re not done, Mister!”

(I realize I have already written a story about said robot, but it’s killing me that I was hornswoggled into paying hundreds of dollars for this thing!)

Did you know that a robot is on par with a three-year-old’s ability to gaslight others?

A Case of Mistaken Identity and Mistaken Advice

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I was supposed to meet a colleague at the cafeteria. I looked across the room and thought to myself, “There she is! I’d recognize that long blonde hair anywhere.”

But as I approached, I realized it was a poster. Featuring a plate of spaghetti. That’s when I learned my eyesight isn’t 20/20. But, since no one was harmed in that case of mistaken identity, I choose not to wear glasses. I’ll just keep mistaking pasta for people and vice versa.

You know how if you’re a nervous presenter, they recommend you picturing the audience in their underwear? 

Surprisingly, not helpful! 

Because in that scenario, I’m still the odd one out. Everyone else is in their underwear, meanwhile I’m wayyy overdressed. 

Plus, that scenario, of one, standing, clothed person surrounded by seated people in their underwear only has two outcomes: a terrible college hazing that will surely end in someone’s demise or a human sacrifice is about to go down. 

In college when I had to give my first presentation, I jokingly informed my class that they were now all in their underwear. It was crickets from my fellow students, who clearly had NO idea what I was talking about. But my quick-witted professor blurted out: “Glad I’m wearing clean underwear today!” 

But, Professor, don’t you wear clean underwear every day? I hope? 

All of this is to say, I don’t want to improve my eyesight. If I’m speaking before an audience, it’s best if they appear as plates of spaghetti. It’ll make me hungry, for sure, but not at all nervous.

Hot Bunking

Otherwise known as false advertising

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a marketing tagline for the US Navy to reel in new recruits: “Join to serve your country. Stay for the hot bunking.”

Sounds like a frisky adventure, right? One you’d definitely be interested in signing up for. Alas, it’s false advertising.

I learned what the term ‘hot bunking’ means while touring a submarine. At first, I was like, “Ooh! Tell me more!”

But as soon as I saw the spartan sleeping quarters, I knew that nothing fun was going down there. Ever.

The cramped room contained nothing more than double rows of metal planks — each roughly the size of a morgue table — screwed into the wall. Atop each plank was a thin sliver of mattress, a pillow, and blankets, not unlike a prison cell.

When Joe’s turn in the bunk is up and he has to report for his shift, thereby relieving you, it’s your turn to at long last get some rest. You climb into the hard bed, which would be rather uncomfortable if it weren’t for the welcoming body heat Joe left behind. You snuggle up under those warm blankets, resting your head on the very same pillow. Not only do you smell Joe’s night toots, but you’re also now marked with Jeff’s hair pomade and Gary’s cologne. You’ll leave behind a little residue from your acne cream for Billy, who will use the bed next.

Hence, “hot” bunking. Literally hot, not in a sexy way. I’d imagine that the sleeping quarters are also located on the other side of the engine room, generating additional heat and probably an awful lot of racket.

Not a frisky adventure at all; rather, a tough way to serve one’s country.

In Pursuit of Standup

Photo courtesy of the author

I did standup comedy twice this past week in New York City, at Stand Up NY and West Side Comedy Club.

The first set I didn’t feel landed with the audience. I got one laugh and one “Woo!” As I drove home feeling dejected, I ate three vegan double chocolate chip cookies to soothe myself.

At my second set, with all new material, I got the multiple laughs I was looking for. As I drove home feeling elated, I ate three vegan double chocolate chip cookies to celebrate.

I get the impression that the rest of the world is preoccupied with the thought, “When’s the soonest I can get laid?”

For me, it’s, “When’s the soonest I can get my hands on some cookies?”

Other people are using apps to locate the closest available sexual partner.

Meanwhile, I’m Googling, “Cookies near me.”

This massive difference in interests is apparent when I hear other comics taking the stage to talk about raunchy sex, drinking, doing cocaine. Adult topics. I’m like, “I’m not old enough to hear this! Where my nerds at?” I need to find my target audience so that I can share the kinds of dorky thoughts I have, such as:

Why does Dr. Jekyll lose his doctorate when he becomes his alter ego Mr. Hyde? It’s like those seven years of medical school never happened. Your alter ego should be better than what you actually are, not worse. How sad is this guy that he transitions and is like, “I have no credentials.”

And this:

When I was a kid, my mom accidentally sat on my hamster. I worried that he would get amnesia after having his head compressed. When I put him back in his cage, he got right up on his wheel, and I felt so relieved. “Thank God – my little guy is fine! He’s back to his regular routine!” What I didn’t know was that in his tiny hamster mind he was thinking, “Where does this road go? I don’t even know where I’m off to in such a hurry!”

Likewise, I don’t know where I’m going with this new standup obsession. It’s something I’d always wanted to try. I’ll settle for it being my latest hobby. I’m under no illusion that this will become a career. So far it has cost me to get onstage (a two-drink minimum per person for a non-drinker means I’m having an $18 cup of Coke).

Here’s my imagined interview for this job:

Interviewer: “So, why do you want to be a comedian?”

Me: “The hours really appeal to me. Getting to sleep all day, just working from like 9:00 to 10:00 PM. I’m already a night owl so it just makes sense, you know?”

Interviewer: “What about your material? Shouldn’t you be working on that during the day?”

Me: “Oh…that’ll just come to me. Yeah! That’ll just come to me.”

Interviewer: “What do you enjoy doing the least in a job?”

Me: “That’d be public speaking, for sure. Getting up on stage in front of a bunch of strangers and giving a presentation?” (Shudder).

Seriously, I have terrible stage fright. Once, Jerry Seinfeld said that fear of public speaking ranks higher than that of death for some people. I was like, “Sounds right to me!”

There’s only one person up there to judge me. Meanwhile, there’s fifty down here!

I wish I could impart some wisdom as to how I overcame this fear. Or explain why on earth I decided to do something in the first place that is the hardest type of public speaking there is. All I know is, I can’t deny the urge to do standup. I just forced myself to get on up there and let the overly bright stage lights blind me into pretending there was nobody out there. If I hear a laugh, great! But if I don’t, it’s just because I’m talking to an empty room.

Social Justice Warrior

The perils of seventh grade

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Seventh grade in public school was like a dystopian future where lawlessness was the only constant. Good thing I’ve been a social justice warrior since long before Instagram gave people a reason to do so.

Math class was much worse than just the problem of math problems. There were two events we could count on occurring every day of the week.

First, our Latino teacher pronounced the word subtract as “substract,” and all the awful boys in class would mock him for it.

Second, a boy named Boris would sexually harass a girl named Jujuby with the exact same line: “What size bra do you wear, Jujuby?”

Squirming in her seat, she would otherwise pretend that no one was addressing her. In fact, everyone in the class acted like it wasn’t happening.

I would cringe and think are there no authority figures at this school that can keep these horrible, horrible children in line?

Every day, day after day, this idiot boy would say, “What size bra do you wear, Jujuby?” I think it was his immature way of flirting with her. However, this sexual harassment impacted everyone in the entire class who had to listen to it.

One day, I decided I’d had enough. “What size underwear do you wear, Boris?!” I heard myself say.

Now it was Boris’s turn to act like no one was addressing him. The whole class sat facing forward in their seats pretending that they hadn’t heard anything. I thought what I said was brilliant; a hilarious burn worthy of a round of applause. The dead silence after I spoke felt awkward, but I’d prefer crickets to Boris’s stupid insults any day.

I thought Jujuby might thank me later for standing up for her in my own weird way, but she never mentioned it.

It’s so weird to think that Boris is perhaps a CPA now, or a police officer, or is in any way employed at all. I think behavior like that should stay on a person’s permanent record. He should be a pariah. I can’t find him on LinkedIn, so perhaps he is in fact living in a cave somewhere with no one to love him. I hope wherever he is, he’s got his big boy underwear on.

Birthday Shmirthday

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I turned 45 this month. Neither of my parents wished me happy birthday. Their silence carries its own message: “We don’t celebrate your life.”

Now, if I were, say, Hitler, I would totally understand. I’d be like, “No offense taken.”

I suppose I can’t really blame them. I’m very judgmental of their parenting. They, likewise, reserve the right to be disappointed in me as their child.

But here’s the thing: I don’t lie, cheat, or steal. I earn a paycheck and am a contributing member of society. I’m not a burden on anyone else.

My primary fault? I speak my truth. I’m over the hill – I can’t live to please others anymore. I’m living my truth.

My midlife crisis is less of a crisis and more a series of dares, borne of an inspirational quote that I really took to heart: “Do something every day that scares you.” Hence the leap of faith in changing jobs, trying standup, driving in NYC (something I had always refused to do), taking solo mini vacations in Providence, central NH, and Long Island. I’m not letting fear hold me back anymore.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” So said the novelist, George Eliot. That’s the commitment I’m upholding to myself at this stage of my life. I’m finding out who I might have been.

Eating in bed and bombing onstage

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I just fulfilled my biggest bucket list item by trying standup comedy tonight at a club in NYC. I was second to last of approximately 25 comics. TJ Miller and Ronny Chieng were special guests. How do you follow them?

Several comics didn’t get laughs, so I guess I shouldn’t take it so hard that I didn’t either. I think my set on Y2K, eating in bed, and being over the hill were far too nerdy for the audience. Most comics talked about dating (complete with raunchy bedroom details), drugs, and drinking, so it’s no wonder I didn’t connect with the audience.

I got one solid laugh and one “Woo!” But mostly it was just crickets. Not sure exactly what I’ll change next time…except for all my material. The thing is, I’ve been married for 23 years and am not on social media, so I get the feeling I have very little in common with most people.

Here’s an excerpt from my set:

“My husband has a strict no food policy in the bedroom. I’m always so excited when he goes out of town on business. I feel like I’m cheating on him with snacks.

The second he’s gone, I’m in the kitchen putting together a smorgasbord. Then I’m under the covers in bed with my stack of waffles, topped with melted butter and syrup, and a mug of coffee in my other hand. I’m watching Netflix and spillin.’

I try to be sneaky about it, but I dropped the plastic cookie tray from a Tate’s bag between the mattress and headboard. (As an aside, Tate’s has finally got a vegan chocolate chip cookie and it is amazing!) Now I’ve got cookie crumbs scattered throughout my sheets, and worse, hard evidence that my husband will eventually find.

My favorite song is “Let’s all go to the lobby,” sung to you in movie theaters across America in the 1950’s by the snacks themselves. Who can deny singing, dancing snacks their simple request to go to the lobby? I’m the easily suggestible type – that jingle works on me every time.

To say I’m a “foodie” is understated. I’m ecstatic just thinking about what I’m going to eat for breakfast tomorrow. I wish every meal was breakfast. I want waffles, and bagels, and coffee all day long.

I was once talking to this woman who had a pet Griffin – it’s this little brown dog with a beard. Looks kind of like an Ewok. When the woman put doggie biscuits in front of her dog, he took a disinterested sniff, then turned his nose up in the air. She told me that he wasn’t “food motivated.” I was like, “That dog thinks he’s better than me!” And then, since he wasn’t gonna, I ate his biscuits.”

I only got halfway through this bit onstage, though, because I could tell it wasn’t landing. I’ll have to settle for being a comedian just for my own benefit, since I’m pretty good at making myself laugh. I guess that’s better than nothing.