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Archive for March, 2008

I Don’t Get It

Friday, March 28th, 2008

I Don’t Get It
by Janet Periat

I am an alien pod person. I must be. Because I don’t get a lot of these Earth customs. I don’t get social conventions that are illogical. I don’t understand why I have to do something that doesn’t make sense just because everyone else is doing it. Why would I work eighty hours a week making some rich Ivy League guy richer so I can own a McMansion and an iPod and a BMW and only take four days of my ten vacation days off a year?

Speaking of iPods, I don’t get wearing an iPod everywhere. People wear them to walk in forests, to walk the dog, in shopping malls, at family functions, EVERYWHERE. What happened to talking to people? I like people. Studies have shown that people are more isolated than they were twenty years ago. Well, duh! Everyone is working eighty hours a week, plugged into an iPod, working in cubicles, when does anyone have time for socializing anymore? And if they do socialize, all they do is excuse themselves every ten seconds to answer their cellphones so their bosses can feel important by interrupting their workers during their one hour off a week.

I don’t get women’s fashions at all, period. Most of them are fruity and uncomfortable. I don’t get high heels. Why would you wear shoes that make your feet hurt? Shoes that can cause permanent damage to the structure of your feet? Isn’t the point of shoes to protect your feet? Skirts? Great, one gust of wind and HERE’S MY UNDERWEAR. Thongs? Which should be more appropriately named “Wedgies”. I don’t want my underwear up my butt. Why would I wear underwear that was intentionally designed to go up my butt? Nail polish and long nails. What? How the hell am I supposed to type with all that clicking and clacking going on? Besides, you spend hours getting your nails colored and elongated only to bust them opening up a bag of cat litter. What’s the point? And long hair is just stupid. It hurts to brush, you zip it up in sweatshirts, it’s in your eyes, it falls in your food, you spend most of your time sucking ketchup out of the ends.

I don’t get designer clothes. Why do I have to pay a bazillion dollars for an ugly handbag that some broad named Kate Spade had made in China when I can get a purse that looks pretty close for twenty bucks that was also made in China? Who the hell is Kate Spade anyway? All I know is that she’s someone who was smart enough to scam all the women in America into thinking she was someone special enough to sell her China-made handbags at the same price as a high end bicycle.

I don’t get expensive cars. Why am I supposed to buy a Mercedes for double to triple the price of a Toyota when Mercedes are constantly in the shop and a Toyota will keep going until we all run out of oil? Doesn’t anyone read Consumer Reports? And what’s the point of buying a car to show everyone how important and smart and successful you are? If you were that successful and smart you would know that spending a hundred grand on a car is just stupid. All cars turn into the same car after a month. After that honeymoon period where no one is allowed to eat, smoke or sit in the car, people forget they spent a hundred grand on the car and pretty soon the back seat is full of empty Starbucks cups.

I don’t get car alarms. When they were first out on the market, they worked. People heard one and assumed a car was being stolen. When you hear a car alarm today do you actually think it’s being stolen? No, you think some moron accidentally knocked into the car. You never think, “Quick, call the police!” Personally, I hate them. I live next door to a financial institution and every cubicle-dweller in the place has a BMW with a car alarm. They go off all day long and do any of those idiots come out to see if their car is being stolen? No. They assume it’s some other moron’s car that someone accidentally knocked against. What I want to know is this: if someone was actually stealing the car, just who do they think is going to stop them? Like I’m gonna put my life on the line so some idiot can get their Mercedes back? Sorry.

I don’t get cell phones. Well, in an emergency, fine. Like when your husband is coming home from work and you need him to pick up some chocolate, beer and Pringles. Other than that, they are stupid. I don’t want to talk to anyone while I’m driving. Or walking. Or shopping. Or walking the dog. I hate working. If someone calls you, they want you to do something for them. Why would I want to do anything for anyone other than myself? And contrary to popular belief, cellphones do not make you look important. They make you look needy. Like you can’t go five minutes being alone with your own thoughts, you have to be tethered to another human being? It’s pathetic.

I don’t get people who don’t say hi back to you when you greet them on the street. What? Do they think I want a lifetime commitment to them? No. Just a wave is fine. Actually, I want nothing more to do with them other than an acknowledgment that we are both humans on this planet and it’s a pretty nice place to live and we are happy that there are other nice humans here. But no. Luckily, I get about 95% wave-back. But I do wonder about that other 5%. Like a man I call Snob Boy up the block. He does not like me. His wife likes me, but he doesn’t. When he sees me coming, he makes a point to turn away so he doesn’t have to wave at me. I make it a game now. I try to catch his eye and be as cheery as I can. He never smiles, but I do get wave-back when I catch him. He hates it, but he does it. Which amuses me. Maybe it’s my pink hair. But at least Snob Boy is better than Anal Lawn Boy, another neighbor a couple blocks away. He refuses to say hello back. Absolutely ignores me. I call him Anal Lawn Boy because when I saw him last, he had a ruler out and was checking the length of his lawn. On second thought, maybe it’s good he ignores me.

I don’t get starting off a name of a product or website with a small letter followed by a capital letter. iPod. eBay. sTupid. Why do they do that? Just to annoy me? No, they consider themselves cutting edge. They are breaking the rules. I have no problem with breaking the rules, but with the dumbing down of America, don’t Apple and eBay realize the disservice they are doing to the English language? Kids today are going to think that it’s okay to capitalize the second letter in a proper noun. Kids today don’t read, don’t write, all they do is learn to take some dumb test. All for the great privilege of going to college to learn how to be happy working eighty hours a week in a cubicle for some stupid corporation whose name starts with a small letter followed by a capital letter.

See? I am an alien pod person. I don’t fit in. But I have to say, at least my feet don’t hurt, I know the names of most of the people on my block, I’m not going deaf from wearing ear buds and my underwear is not up my butt.

And people wonder why I’m so happy.

©2006 Janet Periat

Spring Has Sprung and So Have My Bathing Suit Straps

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Aaaah, spring. When I think of spring, I think freshly sprouted tulips, irises, birds hopping about, butterflies flitting atop fields of green. But unfortunately, this is not what spring is all about. Spring is all about TRUTH. This is the time of the year when we see the first rays of warm sunshine illuminating our freshly raked backyards. We immediately get into our shorts and tank tops and race outside to soak up the warmth. This is our first mistake. Because once we settle back into our lawn chairs, we are afforded the first views in six months of our bare arms and legs.

I am never adequately prepared.

The bright light of spring may be great for plants, but it isn’t so great for self esteem. Oh, my God! is the first thought. What happened to my body? is the second. I looked so great in winter, how could I go from that to looking like some fat trailer trash babe from the Jerry Springer show? This is when I realize that I was probably the same fat person during winter, that my clothes were not only providing me protection from the cold, but protection from the truth. I love that protection. All winter long I can imagine how I look under all those clothes. And boy, let me tell you, I look good. I look just like I did when I was twenty-four, all buff and thin and hard-bodied. Of course, in the winter when I shower, I take pains to ignore the fat woman in the mirror. No, I am skinny and young. And hot. And all the men want me.

But unfortunately, with spring comes the blinding rays of truth. There is no place to escape in spring. That first exposure to the sun is when I realize that I have to stop kidding myself. This is when the image of the twenty-something buff girl dies and emerging from the ashes of my youthful dreams comes the forty-something, dumpy, middle-aged woman. A forty-something woman who has to come to grips with the fact that change of weather means change of fashion.

In winter and fall, I have the color black on my side. Black is slimming. Black is good. Black makes me feel great about myself. Black, however, is not a color you can wear in spring and summer without dying from heat exhaustion. And for those of us with hot flashes, black clothing means human sauna. So, we have to opt for brighter clothing.

Which means we change from slim-looking people in dark clothing to brightly-colored fat people. Nothing accentuates pudge more than pinks, light blues and yellows. However, baggy clothes are still an option. One for which I continually opt. And my baggy disguises work great—unless I am planning to engage in certain activities. Those certain spring and summer activities we all dread more than going to the dentist for a root canal. Worse than a chamber of horrors, more terrifying than an audit by the IRS is… a day at the beach or public swimming pool.

We all know we will end up there. It’s inevitable. The time will come and before we can properly prepare ourselves, we will find ourselves in a bathing suit in public. Horrifying. Unspeakable. But getting prepared for said day at the beach is the worst part by far. I am less nervous when preparing for surgery than I am when walking into a store to buy a swimming suit.

Inevitably, the day I pick to go bathing suit shopping is when the store is packed with hard-bodied twenty-somethings. The store clerk is always some perky cutie who wears a size 1 and weighs 90 pounds sopping wet. So I find myself slinking to the outer reaches of the bathing suit area, quickly grabbing the largest sizes of suits and rushing, hopefully unnoticed, to the dressing rooms.

I would now like to lodge a complaint about dressing rooms in clothing stores. Why do they insist upon using fluorescent lighting with a green cast? Fat is horrifying under such lighting conditions. Not only are you faced with a terrifying, 360 degree view of your body (no one should have to endure that), you look like you’re covered in green cottage cheese. And not only is the lighting harsh and unforgiving, you only have a four foot-by-four foot square space in which to wrestle into a spandex tube. I always come out of the room with bruises on both elbows.

So, there I was, green and naked and miserable, facing my three choices. I had the two-piece I recklessly grabbed while I was still clinging tenaciously to the last vestiges of denial, and the two, “safety” one-piece bathing suits. Daringly, I tried on the two-piece. It’s amazing how much chunkier one’s middle can look when your fat is being squeezed simultaneously from the top and bottom. My torso looked like three links of pork sausage. So, I moved on to the one-piece bathing suits. And I have to say for sheer convenience the two-piece was much easier to put on. Pull down on the top, pull up on the bottoms and you’re in. Not so with the one piece.

Trying to squeeze myself into the one-piece bathing suit was like trying to stuff a waterbed into a sock. I jumped, I wiggled, I pulled, I tugged, I twisted. By the end of it all, I had invented a new dance and threw my back out. But I have to admit, the suit covered up what I wanted covered and seemed to contain my fat fairly adequately. I should have stopped there, but for some reason, because I didn’t look overly ghastly, I decided to try on the final suit. The last bathing suit I tried on was a one-piece, but had some cut-outs in the back, exposing the small of the back. A bit sexier and youthful looking than the matronly one in which I had just jammed myself. Because the suit wasn’t a complete tube, it was easier to get on. I only had a twist and pull a couple times before I managed to wiggle myself inside the thing. Hey, I thought, from the front, it looked okay. It was a bit sportier than the other one, a bit jazzier pattern. Pretty cool. Then I checked out how I looked from behind. Instantly, my dreams were shattered. The cut-outs displayed my fat like the windows in a package of bacon.

So after departing the store with my matronly spandex wrap, I realized what the best part of spring was—I was only two seasons away from fall. Which meant I was only six months away from wearing black and returning to my happy delusions of being a twenty-something hard body.

©2005, Janet Periat

What Would Janet Do? 3/08

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Dear Janet:

I am raising my 2 grandkids and my daughter, the mom, won’t get it together and stay out of trouble, off of crack, etc. Do I disown, or hang in?

No Name
Letter to Janet’s website

Dear Grandmother:

First of all, bless you for being there for your grandkids. Your sacrifice is admirable and will ensure that the children have a decent chance for a future. I wish there were more people like you in the world. As for your daughter, you need to set some strict boundaries with her. Tell her what you want her to do. Tell her what she needs to do to stay in her kids’ life. Be very clear, put it in writing if need be. She needs to clean up her act, get into rehabilitation, stop doing drugs, get a job, get an apartment and get her life together. If she cannot do these things or refuses, you will have no choice but to put some distance on the relationship. I do not recommend “disowning” her. Always leave the door open for her to recover. But this does not mean you need to have anything to do with her now. Do not let her stay at your home, do not give her money or help her in any way other than raising her children. She needs tough love from you and professional help from a doctor and therapist. Call the county social services and see what is available to your daughter. Take down phone numbers and give them to her. Then let go of her and concentrate on the children. Don’t let the daughter see the children unless she is cleaned up. They need safety and routine. At this point in time, your daughter cares more about herself than her children. She is a danger to them. You need to concentrate on the welfare of the children. I would get legal custody of the children if you don’t already have it. Your daughter needs to have some consequences for her actions or she may never wake up. Shutting the door on her when she is drugged out will be heart-wrenching, but without a strong message, she may never get it together. I wish you the best of luck, my dear.

Dear Janet:

My grown son moved back in with me after his divorce. He promised to help around the house and with the bills. I am working hard to save money because I want to retire soon. He’s been living with me now for eight months, but I have yet to see a penny. He has been non-stop on his computer on dating sites and is going out about twice a week. I want him to find a nice girl, but he must be spending money on those dates. He says he is short of cash and thanks me for my patience. I don’t want to nag, but he eats a lot and he is a very messy kid. I want him to feel at home here, but last night he brought a woman home. They went into his room and he turned up his music and I heard some noises I wish I hadn’t coming from his room. He’s such a nice boy, I hate complaining. Help!

Frustrated Mom
Letter by email

Dear Frustrated Mom:

I’ll bet you’re frustrated. And ewwww, who wants to listen to a close relative have sex? Well, Bank of Mom, it’s time to put your foot down. You need to have a nice sit-down with your son and hand him this letter. If he’s a nice guy, he’ll probably be fine with your demands. But one point: he is not a “kid”, he is a grown man. You aren’t doing him any favors by letting him take advantage of you and yes, he’s taking advantage of you. It’s time he moved out and found his own place. It’s okay to claim your space and money. You won’t lose his love. Initially, he may get a bit angry, but he’ll get over it. Good luck, honey.

Dear Janet:

You’re going to probably think this is silly, but I’m going to ask the question, anyway. My boyfriend thinks that I’m not being open enough about food. He likes all kinds of weird food: foreign dishes, ethnic dishes and I’m a meat and potatoes kind of a girl. He thinks I’m narrow-minded. I just know what I like to eat and it isn’t what he likes to eat. Am I close-minded? By the way, we just moved in together and are planning to get married soon and we’re already arguing about the menu. I think this is his problem, he thinks it’s my problem. And other than this one issue, we get along great.

Picky Eater
Letter by email

Dear Picky Eater:

We don’t choose what we like to eat. We either like it or we don’t. I, personally, would love to like Indian food, but I can’t stand it. This is not my fault and I am not close-minded, I just don’t freakin’ like the taste. Tell the BF to stop the name-calling. In order to go the long haul, you two will have to accept many things about the other person you may not like. It doesn’t mean BF can’t have what he wants, it just means you may be fixing two meals at night instead of one. This is what my husband and I do. Sometimes he’s craving something I think should be served to the cat. And vice versa. As for the wedding? How about if you pick half the foods and he picks the other half? Compromise is the key to a successful relationship. And congratulations on the upcoming wedding.

Dear Janet:

I’m a fourteen-year-old girl and a freshman in high school. I have a boyfriend and I love him a lot. He’s older than me and a senior. I told him I was a virgin when I met him and he loved that I was. We make out, but I don’t let him go too far because I don’t feel ready. But just last night, when were out parked in his truck, he showed me a condom he keeps in his ashtray and he told me it was for “Just in case.” He also said that his doctor told him that his acne would clear up more if he had sex regularly. I want to help him and I don’t want him to leave me, but I feel mixed up. I’m afraid of I don’t do what he wants that he’ll leave me. A bunch of my friends are hooking up, they say it’s no big deal. Am I making too much out of this sex thing?

A Virgin In Love
Letter by email

Dear Virgin:

No, you are definitely not making too much out of the “sex thing”. No matter what your friends say, sex is a HUGE deal. Especially for girls. You say you’re not ready, which means you aren’t. You will know when you are. If your boyfriend loved you the way you deserve to be loved, he wouldn’t pressure you. He is only thinking of himself right now, not you. You wouldn’t pressure him to do something he didn’t want to do, would you?

By the way, acne and regular sex have no relationship. That is a LIE. He is not only pressuring you to have sex, he is lying to you in order to get it. This is not a good sign for a healthy relationship. This boy believes that his needs outweigh yours. Which is just wrong. Besides, do you want to lose your virginity to someone who is only thinking of himself? If he does leave you because you won’t sleep with him, you’ll be better off in the long run. I’m sure you’ve heard that a million times from old people, but it is true. A break up is a wound like any other. It hurts like the dickens, but eventually you heal. Good for you for having such strong convictions. You’ll do well in life if you learn to stick to your guns and not bow to peer pressure. It isn’t easy, but the rewards are great.

©2008, Janet Periat


Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Hey there people!!! New and exciting information here! My Cafe Press Shop is now open for business! You won’t believe it! I’m trying to put a link here, but am unsuccessful right now. So go to the place below! And I’ll add a link on my blogroll, too.

This is from a fast food joint featured in Tastes Like Chicken.

The artwork was done by a good friend of mine, Randy Cleveland, a wonderful artist/cartoonist and all around heck of a guy. Thanks, Randy!

A Corporate Fairy Tale

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

 WARNING: Political Humor Contained Within.

Note From Janet: While I used King George in this story, it just as well might be Queen Hillary or King John, (hopefully not but probably King Obama as well.)

Once upon a time, there was a magical fairyland called The United States of America. All of its people were happy, all of the leaders of the land were just, true and good. The king, a humble man named King George lived in a big white castle called the White House and ruled his land with kindness and compassion. His ministers who ran the kingdom were benevolent and caring. There was the Minister of Energy, Lord Exxon; the Minister of Food, Lord ConAgra; the Minister of Transportation, Lord Detroit Big Three; the Minister of Information, Lord Time Warner; the Ministers of Defense: Lord Halliburton and Lord Lockheed; the Minister of Health, Lord Pfizer; and the Ministers of Happiness, Lord Tobacco and Lord Alcohol. All the Lords cared deeply about their subjects. And everything was wonderful in the Kingdom.

One day, a small girl wandered into the White House on a tour and got lost. She walked the vast hallways of the Castle until she happened upon a large room where many white men sat around a huge table smiling and smoking cigars.

King George, who had been staring out the window, was the first to notice the little girl.

“Hey there, little girl, what are you doing here?” the king asked.

“I’m lost,” the little girl replied.

“Well, so am I most of the time. Hey guys, here’s a lost little girl, let’s take a break and talk to her. Might make for some good press, ay Lord Time Warner?”

Lord Time Warner nodded. “Little girls always make good press. What’s your name little girl?”

The little girl smiled widely. “My name is Truth.”

Lord Time Warner frowned. “Truth isn’t exactly a pretty name for such a pretty little girl. I, myself, hate the truth.”

All the Lords nodded their agreement.

King George was appalled. “Hey, she’s just a little girl with a terrible name. Probably had some hippie/commie/loser parents. Let’s cheer her up until our security detail gets here. I’ll bet she’s scared.”

“I am,” Truth said.

King George patted her on the head. “Your parents will find you, don’t worry, Truth.”

“I’m not worried about that,” she replied.

“Oh, no? Then what?” the king asked. “What could possibly worry someone as pretty and non-threatening-looking as you?”

“I’m worried about the polar bears. Their ice is melting and now they’re gonna dig for oil and ruin their home. They’re all gonna die.”

Lord Time Warner gasped, the king paled. All the Lords focused on the little girl.

Lord Exxon cleared his throat and said, “Now, now, who told you that lie? Why everyone knows that Polar bears hate the cold. They are thrilled that all that nasty ice is going away. And they love oil. They love to play in it, they love the oil rigs; why they even drink pure oil right from the ground—that’s why their eyes are so black and their coats are so shiny.”

The little girl nodded, relieved. “Oh, good. I was worried about that.”

All the Lords relaxed.

Truth frowned again. “But… the ice is going away then? So it’s true? Global Warming is happening?”

Lord Detroit Big Three’s face turned beet red, he began fanning himself. “No, no, it’s not happening. Nothing proven yet. And even if it is happening, India and China are causing it all. Not us. We’re good and just and true.”

All the Lords nodded their agreement.

Lord Time Warner said, “Global warming is a natural process of the earth. Now we may be getting a bit warmer, but you don’t like being cold, do you?”

“No,” Truth said.

“See?” Lord Exxon said. “Global warming is a good thing. Besides, this gives us the opportunity to exploit—I mean, develop other means of creating electricity. Like nuclear energy. It’s safe and wonderful with no waste.”

Truth shook her head. “I thought nuclear waste was toxic and they had no place to bury it anymore. That it had a half life of 50,000 years and they can’t get containers that last that long.”

King George’s jaw dropped. “Really?”

“No, no,” Lord Exxon assured the two. “Nuclear energy is wonderful. You like glow-in-the-dark toys, don’t you?”

Truth nodded. “Yeah, I do.”

Lord Exxon smiled. “Well, nuclear power plants make everything glow beautifully.”

“Oh, good,” Truth said.

King George smiled at the little girl. “You feel better?”

Truth said, “Oh, yes. I was told you rich white men didn’t care about the people.”

King George said, “Why, everything we do is for the people. Look what we’ve done for the people who’ve experienced disasters lately. We were right there for those unfortunate rich white people in San Diego who got burned out of their homes.”

“But what about the Katrina victims?” Truth asked. “I have an internet chat friend in New Orleans who still doesn’t have her house back. She says it’s because she’s poor and black.”

Lord Time Warner laughed and said, “Oh, honey, we’re color blind here, don’t you know that?”

King George nodded. “Yes, we are. We represent all the people.”

Truth examined all the faces sitting around the table. “But you’re all white men in this room. How come there aren’t two Latinos, half of you aren’t women and there isn’t a black person and an Asian in this room?”

Lord Halliburton pulled out his cell phone. “We’ve got a situation, here. Get security here, pronto.”

Lord ConAgra said, “Would you like a Happy Meal? They’re nutritious and good for you.”

Lord Alcohol said, “Get that little girl a drink.”

Lord Pfizer said, “Darling, I know just what you need. Some Zoloft. Let me get you a prescription.”

“But I don’t have any health insurance. I can’t afford Zoloft,” Truth replied. “But I can afford a Happy Meal and booze. But on TV they said that if I eat Happy Meals and drink I’ll get fat and will have to go on Weight Watchers because I won’t be able to fit into my Old Navy clothes.”

Six large men came bursting into the room.

King George pointed dramatically at Truth. “Off with her head!”

Later that day, Lord Time Warner issued these headlines: Assassination Attempt on King Thwarted: Truth Killed. Stocks Are Up. US Winning War In Iraq. Global Warming a Hoax. Oil-Drinking Polar Bears Caught On Film.

And everything was good in the magical fairyland and all of the people were safe, warm and happy. The End.

©2008, Janet Periat

P.S. I don’t do political humor very often, but stuff has been bugging me lately. Schools, our health care system, social services and roads are failing; our environment getting more and more polluted, our climate is getting unstable and no one in Washington seems to care. All they care about is pandering to their friends. I pray for a change. I really like this country and all the lovely people in it. We deserve better.

My Fridge is in Violation of The Geneva Convention

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

I have decided that I hate modern living. Every action that involves technology results in mounds of paperwork, more complexity than a calculus problem and instruction booklets five inches thick written in incomprehensible pseudo-English. All of which results in the ownership of a much more inferior product than you previously owned. Basically, if you make the mistake of replacing and “upgrading” your technology, you will suffer the tortures of the damned. This week alone we made the stupid mistake of replacing our cell phones and our old refrigerator. I will never be the same.

We got a letter from Cingular stating that our old analog cell phones were being phased out and we needed to replace them before they stopped working. We decided we would change our plan as well since Frank and I rarely use our phones. We decided upon a “Go Phone”— a plan in which you buy minutes ahead of time but pay no monthly fee. We figured we’d go in, pick out the new phones, sign up for the new plan and leave. Seemed logical, didn’t it?

One early Friday afternoon, Frank and I went to the Cingular store and picked out our “Go Phones.” The salesman rang them up and then discovered that he could not change our phone plan (and keep our same phone numbers) from the store. After much discussion, his manager told us to go home, call their customer service center, change the plan and then come back to the store to pick up the phones. O-kay. So we dutifully headed home, called up and were informed that we needed to get the phones first, sign up for a two-year contract, and then call the service center back and switch to the prepaid plan. So later on that afternoon, Frank went back to the store. The salesman said the guy at the service center made a mistake. He explained that with a two-year plan the phone costs half of what it costs on the prepaid plan. But if that’s what the service center said to do, they’d be happy to sell us the two-year plan. So Frank picked up the phones and headed home.

The instruction booklet for our new phones (we both got the same model) was a half an inch thick. “Hey, can you figure out how to make a call on this thing?” I finally asked after reading for about twenty minutes. Frank replied, “Not yet.” By the way, Frank’s job is to write manuals for much more complex machines than phones—like for magnetic imaging devices—and he couldn’t decipher the manual. So we gave up and began a trial-and-error approach. Four hours later, Frank and I finally figured out how to use the phones and customize them for our usage. I was so frustrated by this time, I considered throwing the stupid phone away and getting a tin can and some string.

On the following Monday morning, Frank called the customer service center to change the plan. Here’s a big surprise: he was told that he could not do that. He would have to do that at the store. Now near meltdown, poor Frank went back to the store. At this point, the salespeople were stumped. The salesman called the service center, talked to a bunch of people, and his manager called, too. Finally, they all decided that the only procedure that would work was for Frank to return the phones we just got and exchange them for EXACTLY THE SAME KIND OF PHONES (???), and then sign up for the prepaid plan at the store. Which was what Frank tried to do in the first place on Friday and they wouldn’t let him. So a now incredibly furious Frank had to drive home, pick up the phones and bring them back to the store to get identical phones in a different kind of box. It was beyond us why they would want our used phones in exchange for brand-new phones because of some ludicrous accounting procedure. So while we got all new phones, we’d lost everything we downloaded onto the other phones and we had to start all over again, inputting everything—which took a whole bunch more time. I was more convinced than ever that the tin-can-and-string phone would work better and more efficiently.

Frank’s reason for going into the store in the first place was to avoid the hassle of trying to do the transaction on the phone or Internet. How come a giant conglomerate whose sole function is to provide telecom services can’t provide telecom services? What are they doing besides merging and giving bonuses to the top executives and changing their names every week? Apparently, the salesman in the store was frustrated too. He apologized on behalf of the entire conglomerate. Which was nice but I would have rather been given the address of the CEO so I could send him/her a Spank-O-Gram.

For some reason, the phone thing didn’t clue me into fact that I should stop trying to improve my life through technology. So I went and got a new refrigerator. Which was actually easy. Well, the purchase was easy. I have to commend Sears. You go in, talk to a human, pick out an appliance and the thing appears in your home, mere days later with very few hassles.

We get the fridge; the guys who delivered it were wonderful. It was installed, it worked, we were happy. Then I started loading the fridge. All of a sudden, the fridge started beeping loudly. Which alarmed me. I’d never heard a fridge beep before. As I continued loading it, the beeping continued. At this point, I became very concerned. Was the fridge about to explode? Frank looked in the manual and discovered that the beeping is a new “energy-efficiency” feature on the fridge. The alarm sounds after the fridge has been opened for one minute and sounds off every thirty seconds afterwards. Supposedly to prevent the fridge from being left open accidentally. Apparently, the brainiac engineers who thought of this handy device have never actually loaded groceries into a fridge. Or cleaned one out (which is recommended weekly). So now, while you’re performing a task you hate anyway, you get tortured by beeping. And there is no way to turn off the alarm. Made me want to pound engineer face.

I began to wonder if the beeping was also installed as a diet alarm. You’ve been grazing for too long! Punish the offender with the hideous beep! I wondered if you continued to ignore the beeping, if there was a secondary alarm. Like if a panel would open up in the fridge and zap me with a laser. While there was no mention of the laser in the manual, I was still wary.

As it turned out the beeping was the best part of the noises our new refrigerator made. The hideous beeping was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony compared to what was to come.

An hour after the fridge was plugged in, we noticed this irritating high-pitched whine. The kind that makes your nose and ears bleed. Frank determined it was coming from the fridge’s compressor. We figured the compressor was probably just warming up and the noise wouldn’t continue. An hour later, we were still bleeding. We finally realized that the refrigerator was broken. At this point, Frank and I nearly had a breakdown. We hadn’t even recovered from the cell phone trauma yet and now we had to somehow return the fridge? You can’t just stick a fridge in your pocket and drive to the store. All I could think was that I shouldn’t have allowed the Sears guys to haul away our old fridge, which was crappy and barely functioned, but at least it didn’t make a whine that should only be reserved for the torture scenes on 24.

Before I called Sears to have them haul away the fridge, I decided to check the manual to see if the whine meant that the fridge was about to blow up and if we should evacuate the house. Under the Troubleshooting Guide was this passage: Understanding Sounds You May Hear: The high efficiency compressor may cause your new refrigerator to run longer than your old one, and you may hear a pulsating or high-pitched sound. Great. The ear-bleeding high-pitched whine was NORMAL and would go on nearly continuously. Perfect news. Our homey little kitchen was now a Jack Bauer Torture Chamber. Frank got online and found that ALL new refrigerators make this high-pitched whine. Apparently, for those with hearing aids, the noise causes instant insanity. We were doomed.

We know what is going to happen. In two years, Sears and all the other fridge manufacturers will be forced to dampen the whining noise because of the hoards of people with bleeding ears that will be suing their asses off. But of course, Frank and I will still have our ear-bleeding fridge because it cost us thirteen hundred bucks and we’re not replacing it until it dies. Which could be soon. I’m planning on gluing my cell phone to the fridge and shooting the both of them.

Frank and I are going to be heading to an antiques shop soon to pick up an icebox. And stopping by Safeway for some canned soup and a ball of string. We are convinced the Luddites are the smartest people on the planet.

© 2007 Janet Periat

The Land of the Contracted Blondes

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

After nineteen years of forest dwelling, I have decided to make a change in my life. I’m moving to the Land of the Contracted Blondes, better known as the Peninsula. “Why?” you may ask. Especially given the earlier negative connotation. Quite simply, I need a change. After nineteen years of schlepping my garbage to the dumps, of being an hour away from EVERYWHERE, of having my shoes turn green with mold, I have decided to defect and move to the Other Side of the Hill. To the land of asphalt, pollution, cellphones and the aforementioned Starbucks-swilling, Contracted Blondes.

And I haven’t been this excited in years. Did you know that when you’re in suburbia, if you press a certain combination of numbers into a telephone, Chinese food magically appears at your door? Mind-blowing! After years of watching Domino’s commercials, suddenly, they have all new meaning to me. Dialing that number on the screen will actually bring a pizza to my door! Astonishing! Not only that, the Post Office delivers! So does the Chronicle, Waiters on Wheels and a million other places. It’s unreal.

I got a real shock when I started calling painting contractors. Instead of calling up a number, explaining where I was and either hearing hysterical laughter on the other end of the phone or the words, “How’s the year after next lookin’ for ya?” contractors came out the next day to give me bids. Competition for services? No way! I keep pinching myself, barely able to comprehend it all. I. Will. Be. Part. Of. Civilization. Again. Unbelievable. I’d forgotten what it was like.

Now for the other side of the coin. The aforementioned Contracted Blondes. After living on the Coastside for 19 years, I am accustomed to being surrounded by mostly friendly, down-to-earth people. While I am now surrounded by many more people, a shocking majority of them are Contracted Blondes. I swear, there is a manufacturing plant over here that produces them by the bushel. Everywhere I turn, there is some blonde, forty-something, Botoxed woman with perfect nails, wearing Nordstroms’ latest fashion, driving either a Mercedes, a Lexus or a BMW. She is in a hurry. Her hair is neck length, with either a slight flip out or in and she has the latest model of cellphone grafted to her ear. She is so tightly controlled, living within such narrow parameters that even her gestures are minimal. She holds her fifteen hundred dollar Louis Vuitton purse close to her gym-toned, bulimic body and when she waves to one of her Contracted Blonde friends, it’s a tight little sideways jerky movement, no more than an inch in either direction. Her mouth is a flat line, pursed occasionally into disapproval. I’m not sure she remembers how to smile. Of course, with all that Botox, that unmoving expression could be a smile, but I seriously doubt it. She seems to hate everyone who isn’t another Contracted Blonde. And I’m not sure she even likes other Contracted Blondes. I’m not sure she likes anyone. God forbid you should pull your loathsome American car in front of one. Talk about the Frozen Face of Death. I have only been living here in San Mateo part-time for six months and I have personally been frostbitten over twenty times by these odd creatures. Another thing, don’t bother trying to be friendly with a Contracted Blonde, they seem to take this as a personal insult. They look at you as if you had three heads, contract even further, almost to the point of disappearing up their own existence and then click away quickly in high heels, every step measured and perfect. I find the phenomenon fascinating. They are almost a different species of human. Actually, I’m not sure they are human. I’m beginning to suspect that they come from a plastic injection mold. I had to stop myself from reaching out and tapping one’s face the other day to see if she was real.

Aside from the weird species of humans, suburban living has changed somewhat since I was here last. When large trucks back up now they make a DOOT-DOOT-DOOT noise. I suppose the ear-shattering sounds of large engines wasn’t enough of a warning for people to get out of the way. I mean, if you’re too deaf to hear a truck engine, one wonders how the addition of the DOOT-DOOT-DOOT has helped anyone. Especially garbage trucks at four AM. We’re all supposed to be in bed at four am. I do not understand the need to be awakened by the back-up alarm unless the truck plans on backing through my bedroom wall. I would assume in that case, the sounds of crunching stucco and walls breaking would be enough of a warning.  Since I now live next door to a parking lot for a financial institution, most mornings I get serenaded by the garbage truck coming to unload the Dumpster, a mere thirty feet from my bedroom window. Just the other morning, the truck got stuck on the Dumpster and I was entertained for a full five minutes while the garbage man attempted to get unentangled. DOOT-DOOT-DOOT! CLATTER CLATTER CLATTER! DOOT-DOOT-DOOT! CLATTER CLATTER CLATTER! And so on and so forth. Then, the other night, some moron in a truck with a trailer got stuck in the parking lot at ten-thirty at night and tormented me with a twenty minute DOOT-DOOT-DOOT concerto. When I opened my curtains to glare at him, it seemed to just add to his humiliation as he seemed quite aware that not only had he made a serious miscalculation in parking, he was alerting the entire neighborhood to the fact. While it was annoying, the instance highlighted the only positive I could see for the devices, serving as a negative sanction for bad drivers.

Despite the annoyances of suburban living, I can’t help but be thrilled by all the modern conveniences. High speed Internet access makes shopping on eBay almost somewhat enjoyable. I can now walk to the bank, the store, movie theaters and about fifty restaurants. While I understand my safety is now in question (thieves, pollution, over-eating) knowing that if my car breaks down I still have access to food and my mail is quite reassuring. But of course, the jury is still out, the honeymoon has not even begun. Who knows? I could some screaming back to the Coastside in six months, clutching handfuls of Contracted Blonde’s hair. Only time will tell. But for right now, I’m calling and ordering a pizza to be delivered. Because I can.

© 2005, Janet Periat

AUTHOR’s NOTE: Sadly, I have adjusted to suburban living and have no intention of returning to the country. Chinese food delivered to my door won out over mold on my shoes. I no longer hear the garbage truck at 4am and if I do, I immediately fall back to sleep. I’ve met actual humans here since I moved here, wonderful people who aren’t at all like the aforementioned Contracted Blondes. Although, there are still multitudes of the alien creatures. I still find it odd that some idiot with a Lamborghini choses to drive his 100K vehicle to SAFEWAY, of all places. I guess rich people have to shop for food, too. Or maybe because his vehicle cost him so much, he eats ramen in secret. Who knows? All I know is while it is a weird place to live, it is now home. I love my neighbors, the weather and the sunshine. And I love that my shoes no longer mold and I don’t have to clean raccoon mess out of my yard. Yet, sometimes, I really do miss being surrounded by tall redwood trees.

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