Partially Employed Salesgirl

 

The other day I was laying on my yellow, worn couch and realized I couldn’t will myself to move.  Then I realized I could, but only to transition to the floor.  I lay there, groaning like the eldest Belcher child, until I decided to quit my job.

So now, I’m a partially employed salesgirl.  What does this mean exactly?  A few things:

Instead of driving across the state at the crack of dawn, breaking the monotony between various appointments with beef jerky stops at the various local fillin’ stations, then only to return home around the time most snot nosed kids get sent to bed, I now start my days by sleeping in.  As luck would have it my unemployment coincided with a partial employment offer and, I love money, so I took it.

My new gig, besides affording me the capital to feed myself, also allows fun side stuff like being “used” as a hair model.  Having your hair cut or colored for free can be a real crapshoot, but I figured it was better than having an appointment where I’m greeted at the door by two Doberman Pinchers who reside in a cabin in the middle of the woods which *also* happens to be inhabited by a nice Czechoslovakian woman who doesn’t speak English.  After my upcoming hair appointment, I might get a latte.

One of the last home visits with my prior job involved a giant man who lived alone.  During our visit, he told me his only love was his cat.  His emotional attachment was so strong that he became distraught on his recent trip to Las Vegas and survived the grief solely by bringing a framed photo of his feline friend with him to kiss when he got sad.  I met this cat when he showed me his electric panel.  I didn’t necessarily need to see the panel, I definitely didn’t want to, but I had inquired about its condition earlier. As luck would have it, and despite the extremely invasive brain surgery he had just had a few months prior, the gentleman remembered.

His electric panel was in his bedroom.  His bedroom was in the basement.  His cat, an unapologetic asshole, sat perched at the edge of his unmade bed, judging me for it’s state of disarray.   I contemplated whether these might be my last moments on earth.

Today, in the comfort of my own home, I worked for two hours on my computer before watching Rachel Ray.  I also went for a run and cracked open a beer at 4pm.  I’m about to sit on the floor and drink another.  Not because I have to, but because I can.

 

 

 

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Birds

White security fences don’t always make for the most welcoming of introductions.  This morning, I was lucky enough to visit a homeowner who had a massive, enclosed property, a property that also happened to be filled with rescue animals of the winged variety.  Geese, Turkey, Ducks, and things I hadn’t really heard of, littered the two acre property, lounging in plastic baby pools and honking angrily at one another.   

The property owner, elderly and agitated, was less than enthused that I was there, ironic because she was the one who scheduled the appointment, but eager to describe the rescued fowl in detail.   

“Those seven were being starved before I took them in.”

I responded with a shocked stare.

“And I just spent thousands on an emergency bill for these,” She continued, not even bothering to gesture at the animals she was referring to.”

Her arms had scabs and she was visibly disheveled, but she spoke about the animals around us as if I was challenging her right to own them.  “I have at least one hundred in the front yard.”

I glanced around the acreage and noted the large cages lining her property line.  “They all seem so happy,” I responded, and hoped it sounded convincing.

I don’t know if it’s possible to read a bird’s emotions, but as a whole they did appear content, even more so when a torrential rain set in moments later. The homeowner however, was not expecting any “God Damned tropical weather,” as she put it, and as the first drops fell from the sky she leapt toward one of the cages.

“Food!” She yelled, along with something else I couldn’t decipher, and I watched as she grabbed a gigantic plastic tub filled with pellets and shoved it into a bird house.  

“Can I help?”  I yelled as I shuffled underneath her only tree, trying to escape the drops.  “Also, would it kill you to let me into your home?” I added in my head.  

No response, only rain.  

Ten minutes later, as the storm raged on we stood, soaked, underneath her gutters.

“Renovating the whole place,” she mumbled, offering insight into why I wasn’t allowed inside her home.  “Also have ten cockatoos that will scream their heads off at you.  

Renovating or not, protocol requires I document her electric panel at the very least, and as soon as the downpour ceased we headed around back to her basement.  

“I’m gutting everything down here too,” she explained as she opened the door.  We were greeted by her dog, Rudy or Rascal or something like that, a 19 year mutt who promptly leapt up from his bed to bite my extended hand.  

“He’s very spry for 19,” I commented, searching my knuckles for blood.

“Ralph that’s very bad!” Ms. Homeowner mumbled as she walked past the washing machine toward a closed door.  “The panel is back here if you want to look at it.”  

I didn’t, really.  I wanted to leave.  And as she opened the door, I wanted to run.  The room was black with darkness, sans a small window, and the light pouring in from where we stood revealed cages and cages of more birds, all eyeing me suspiciously.  

“Hello! Hello!”  

“What? Hello!”

“Hello! Hello!”

It was too much, really.  Rudy thought so too and started nipping at my heels aggressively.  “I don’t think he wants me to go in,” I tried to stay calm as my customer weaved through the cages to her electric panel.  

“Raymond, that’s enough!”

He was unfazed by her scolding, so were the birds.  They chatted away happily, like their basement situation was normal.  

Eager to end this horror film before it ended me, I deemed everything in order but (“Oh No!”) found a random and weak detail to kill the visit.  

“I’m so sorry I cannot help you today, but you have my card if anything changes,” I forced a sad smile and offered my hand.  She nodded and walked me to the gate.  

“I have to make sure it’s closed correctly,” she pointed at the handle.  “A few of them have a tendency to wander, right Rose?”  

Popular Kids

It was 6th grade when I took note of the concept of “popularity.”  Some individuals were deemed cool, as if by natural selection, and others were left to fend for themselves, taking puberty head on.  Hopefully, someday, we would come out the other side.  

 

Doc Martin sandals were cool then, the chunky kind, and I could easily spot someone popular by noting who was wearing these shoes, as well as how they were wearing them.  Docs were expensive, grossly so for any kid not yet familiarized with the concept of money, and by owning a pair it meant your parents were either well off or drowning in debt.  

 

Instead of acknowledging the price tag, being a responsible tween, and caring for the status symbol on their feet, the popular kids let the back of their heels rest solidly on the backs of their shoes, thus shortening the life of their parents investment.  This move cemented among their peers the aloof “I don’t give a fuck about your expensive ‘things’ and that makes me superior” status.  

 

One of the girls who seemingly ran the 6th grade was Kayleigh, a dark haired girl who also happened to possess the necessary “cool” factor of being rail thin.  She wasn’t “nice,”  she wasn’t “mean,” and for the life of me I couldn’t tell if she had any qualities someone like myself could take and use to improve my own social stature.   All I really knew was that she clomped along in her Doc Martins, unsteadily, day after day, dominating the attention of her peers.  

 

My fascination with Kayleigh and those who appeared close to her became something of a low-level, adolescent obsession.  And how could it not be?  Her name was everywhere,  “Kayleigh made first string cheerleader” “Kayleigh is dating Brock,” Kayleigh’s mom is coming to talk to us about bones in science class- and she’s hot too!”   

 

Kaileigh even “dated” the brief child star of “Lost in Space,” a short lived television show from my parents era that someone assumed needed to be remade into a movie.  Her opportunity to seduce a hollywood star occured when our class was in Space Camp for a week.  “Date” was the term we used, its meaning vague coming from a bunch of 12 year olds, but we were fine with the obvious lack of details.   My classmates and I did know that she had absolutely been in his presence once, and since the kid worked alongside Tom Hanks, Kayleigh became a star by default.

 

Shortly into my 6th grade year, after I had identified the key players in the “popular crowd,” I decided my time at home would be best utilized by writing soap operas about them.  I had no way of knowing what Kayleigh and her crew did behind closed doors and it thrilled me to think that any of the situations that spontaneously jumped into my brain might be played out in real life.  There was passion to the extent that my characters flirted with the idea of holding hands with each other, and betrayal inasmuch that Brock might decide to sit next to Hannah in the cafeteria, leaving Kayleigh at the end of the table next to Tyler, who was the brooding fellow secretly pining for Erin.   Their lives would intertwine in dramatic ways during the school hours and, if I was feeling saucy, they might happen upon each other later, while running errands with their moms.  They’d giggle, exchange a few pleasantries about school work, then clomp away on their Doc Martins, to do whatever it was that popular kids did at home.

Protein

I’ve noticed recently that it takes extra effort to zip up my jeans.  My weight usually stays consistent, due to years of intentionally training my brain to identify both food and connect it with its calorie content, but …ya know… I’m only human….hills and valleys.

My last struggle with light, but extra poundage happened as a result of my discovery of White Cheddar Smart Popcorn.  The “Smart” meaning “low calorie.”  Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how “low” the number is on the nutrition facts if you eat it in unhealthily large portions.  The obsession was real.  Initially, I ate in moderation, daintily, but then I realized I could buy large bags of the popcorn in gas stations.  Traveling long distances daily for my job leaves me with few real options for food unless I want to gain weight in a hurry so I usually eat nothing or pick up the occasional bag of beef jerky (also low cal, but expensive, limiting my purchases).

Eating popcorn seemed to be a magical way to feed myself throughout the day that wouldn’t have me packing on the pounds or draining my wallet.  Seemed to be.  What I didn’t realize about having a trash can-sized bag of popcorn on my lap as I drove 30 miles across the state, was that it was alarmingly easy to eat the whole thing.  The first time I noticed the bag was halfway empty I was driving away from an appointment and 20 minutes into opening the bag.  I was shocked, also still hungry.   Luckily, hunger it was “Smart” and besides, I was stress.  I saved the remaining half for that afternoon as I drove home.

Then it happened again.  And again.  I started telling myself that it wasn’t actually “gross” or unsanitary how my sticky cheddar finger residue was all over my steering wheel, or that I was finding more and more popcorn kernels stuck in my teeth.

One day I ate two bags.  I told my boyfriend, out of guilt, that I ate a bag and a half.  That following weekend we went to a wedding, where I saw a photograph of myself for the first time in months.  The spell was broken.

Not long after, I found a new love.  “Did you know that ricotta cheese is basically just protein?”  My boyfriend was looking at his phone and commenting on my choice of appetizer.  I had just finished looking at the calorie content of what (I considered) was a wonderful cheese discovery, and was floored that it had less than half the weight of the hummus we shoveled nightly into our faces.

“Protein?  Really?”  He couldn’t see it from his screen, but my previous life flashed before my eyes.  My whole existence had been protein.  When I was modeling, my diet consisted of eggs, chicken and Franzia.  The Franzia may not have held any nutritional value, I’m still up in the air about it, but the birds I ate did, and I lost a significant amount of weight while feeling the best I have in my life.  When I lived solely with my dog I used to joke out loud to her that I was “half chicken.”  She thought it was funny.

“Protein….” I trailed off and dumped more into the bowl.  I topped off the mound of cheese with some white truffle oil, another obsession, and dipped a carrot into it.  The truffle was an undeniably selfish act, meant to play on my boyfriend’s aversion, and with that I secured this new snack as my own.

I’m now post-ricotta.  Consuming quantities large enough that they required a daily trip to the supermarket left me feeling… gluttonous.  Also I couldn’t fit into any of my pants.  Now I’m onto cream cheese.

 

Paula

As my car slowly and suspiciously crept up the cul de sac to my appointment I tried to contort my grimace into something resembling a smile. I knew that my company wasn’t going to be able to help this customer.  He didn’t qualify for our services, and I hoped that luck would grant me a thirty second meeting consisting only of my apologetic rejection.  After that I could use my precious time on more important things, like calling my boyfriend to complain about the wasted appointment I had just been sent to.  I was too early to my visit, as usual, and I mentally cursed the homeowner when no one came to the door.  “Worthless loser can’t even be on time for an appointment,” I thought.  My grin was stretched grotesquely from ear to ear as I strolled back to my car.  Protocol was to wait thirty minutes, which I wasn’t going to do.  I was already fifteen minutes early, and if this person didn’t respect me enough to be ten minutes early to his own home, I figured he could waste some other smuck’s time.  “Five minutes and counting,” I thought, and forced a pleasant sounding sigh.   

One minute passed and I took out my phone.  Protocol also required me to call my office, tell them to call my customer and then wait for the office to call me back.  Either the inside team would manage to speak to the customer or they would hold their breath and wait for a call back.  This was supposed to further waste my time in the management’s hopes that if the customer was trying to avoid us, they would have no choice but to emerge from their home or come back from whatever fake errand they had been running.  I started dialing the customer.  .  

It was then I heard the dulcet tones of Paula Abdul approaching.  A white Mercedes convertible came into view, top down and cruising quickly, I noted, at a speed somewhat excessive for a dead end.  

Without any real acknowledgement of my robotic wave the Paula fan pulled his car into the opening garage door and hopped out, immediately grabbing grocery bags from his trunk.  

“Um yes?” the guy paused briefly, hands tangled in the plastic Stop and Shop purchases.  

I introduced myself, reminded the guy of our scheduled appointment, and tried to get a read of what I was looking at.  Flipflops, tight jeans sagging slightly off his butt.  His hair was bleached a white hot blonde, dripping with oil and hanging loosely over the shaved section in the back.  He looked disheveled, I thought to myself.  Maybe caught off guard that he had forgotten about the appointment?  “Or he’s on crack,” I added.  Whatever it was, he invited me in without making eye contact and sashayed through his garage door to the kitchen.  

“Just watch out for the dogs, they’re harmless but bitches.” He said as he unsteadily motioned me toward the kitchen.  “So old.”  

Without saying anything else he deposited his bags on the couter top and started sorting through his groceries.  

“Do you need help with any of that?”   

“No, I just need to make sure the salmon roe gets in here.” He said without making eye contact.  His refrigerator was seemingly busting at it’s hinges with food.  He clumsily shoved items around to make room.

“Oh it’ll go here,” he said, this time to himself. “Right next to Jasmine’s pee.”

He paused and then gestured toward me.

So sanitary, right?”

My gut instinct after three minutes with this guy was to walk out the door but I took the bait.  “Did you say pee?”

“Jasmine’s pee, it has to go in the big tupperware since we take it everyday.”

For some reason, this guy was under the impression I knew who Jasmine was. He move a few more items around before moving the tupperware to the top shelf.  

I took a shot in the dark.   “The dog……?”

“Yes, we have to get some every day now.”

With that he stopped talking and started searching for a spot to place the celery.  I forced myself to come up with a response.  “Does she…. have…some sort of problem?”

Of course she did, I thought, why else would jars of her urine be aging in the fridge?  I resented the guy for making me even ask the question.  

“Yes and it’s making her a complete bitch,” was his only response.    

“Well…. I guess we all have our problems,”  I was struggling to put a positive spin on this conversation.  What the hell was with this guy, anyway?   

“Ya, I would know, my psoriasis is out of control.”

“Oh,”  I trailed off.  

“Well let’s go,” He said cutting me off. He walked toward the back door and grabbed a pair of beige clogs before stepping unsteadily onto the porch.   

Outside he decided it was time for him to talk, and talk he did, without any real participation on my end. He liked all the trees in his yard.  He liked the church parking lot behind their property.  He and his partner didn’t garden.  The customer pointed out the random tulip that was growing about 20 feet away from us.  “Those shitty little bunny rabbits are going to try and eat that,” he said.   

Yet again another silent pause and I stared at the doomed tulip.  

“I suntan up there.”   

I took the bait.  The customer was pointing the the small, steep, asphalt roof three stories above us.  

“You suntan? Up THERE?”  

“Oh ya, sure, why not, lots of sun.”  

No, actually, due to the forest around us there wasn’t any sun at all, I thought.  “How did you get up there?  I don’t see any window access?”  

“Oh I just climb the ladder.”

At this point he took off his sunglasses for the first time and started shuffling back toward the porch.  Neither of us said anything until we reached to door.

“Well I’m sorry we won’t be able to help you,” I finally uttered the apology meant initially for the driveway.   With that, he turned to make eye contact.  The customer’s face, normal looking moments before, was now red and blotchy.  His left eye appeared to be swelling dangerously.  

“Oh well,” he shrugged his shoulders and extended his limp and now reddening hand. “I guess it’s alright.”

“Is that psoriasis??!” I screamed in my head.  “Is that contagious? Don’t touch him you fool!!!”  

While my mental alarms went into full panic mode the professional salesman on the outside took over.  “JUST FREAKING SHAKE HIS HAND,” the salesman threatened.   The customer’s hand was limp, with little bumps on it.  We shook.  

“Nice to meet you!”  I mumbled and broke into a power walk toward the garage.  

“Oh Jasmine, you bitch, now you wake up to say goodbye?”  

His dog, an obese and elderly chihuahua, limped from a back room, pausing to give both of us the stink eye.  

“What a sweet looking dog,” I said, noting how the customer’s eye was now throbbing.  
“Oh, I guess,” he said, acknowledging her with a wave of his hand.  “She’s old.”  

Little Things

Today as I was walking to my hair appointment, on the verge of a mental breakdown due to various life tragedies that aren’t all real tragedies, I power-walked past a middle aged lady who appeared to be talking to herself.  In Boston, whether or not someone is yelling to themselves or, wearing a set of headphones and engaged in a discussion with a real-live human being is a crapshoot.  In this case, as I passed carefully under the fake-safe distance of an arms length, I noted that she was wearing headphones, signalling interaction with another breathing individual.  

 

“And I went to Panera Bread.  I ordered a bottle of water.”

 

“Oh really?”  I thought to myself.  This was front page news.  “Tell me more…”  I glanced quickly in her direction.  Based on her appearance she looked like a capable human, more capable than myself at least.  I tried to recall if I had ever advertised lounging in a Panera Bread before.  No.  

 

“And I sat in a booth with my cup of water, and I drank it.”

 

This confused me.  Was it a bottle?  Was it a cup?  Did she buy the bottle and then pour it into the cup?

 

“And it was nice.  I was there for a while.”

 

“Really?”  I thought.  “That’s the story? This woman went to a Panera, ordered water and just sat?”  She sounded happy, if not excited that not only had this Panera time-out happened, but also that she was able to share it with someone.   

 

My pace took me away from her before I could get any additional information and I did not want to suddenly bring to a halt what had clearly been my pseudo jog.  This was fine, as I felt I had gotten the gist of the story and didn’t want any of her afterthoughts to ruin what had clearly been a meaningful morning.  

 

What was really important in her life?  Mental health is most definitely up there for most.  Did she have no worries and spending time in a booth at a popular chain give her additional pleasure?  Or was this her way of decompressing?  Was the person on the other side of the phone line bored with her Panera chitchat and securing the knot to their noose or was he/she cheering her on for her bottled water purchase?  
Should I be cashing in on my two-year-old Panera gift card?

T Time

 

 

Exploring new surroundings has always been a favorite pastime of mine and whenever I move or visit a location I prefer to dive into the area on foot.  The same applied to Boston, and when my boyfriend and I moved to the city we spent our free time wandering different neighborhoods.  Aside from the the obvious, that I was able to spend my favorite activity with someone I love, I noticed that there was a dramatic change in the way my exploring was conducted.  No longer was I walking wherever I wanted, now there were two of us determining which direction to go.  There was really no wrong answer to whether “left or right” was the best way to go given we were both ignorant of the area, but it meant communication was necessary, something which has never been one of my strong suites.  The other difference was both refreshing and alarming: I wasn’t required to have any awareness of my surroundings.  I was happy to let my boyfriend lead the way most of the time and confident that even if we ended up in a bad area, we’d be fine.  He’s a large guy with a beard and by default that makes him lower on the pecking order for muggers.  This left me, a small blonde girl, to skip along beside him and enjoy the scenery in ignorance.  

 

One evening when we were still unpacking our new apartment we put our task on pause to head across the river and grab dinner with a few friends.  We took off on foot to the T, where we would need to make multiple transfers before reaching our destination in Cambridge.  Along the way, noticing my distress of juggling my jacket, phone and lipgloss, my boyfriend filled his pockets with my things, casually draped my jacket over his shoulder and took my hand, letting me once again follow him blindly.

 

Our trip continued without incident until we made it to our second transfer.  At the base of the entryway stairs was a map meant to indicate whether you wanted to head into the city or out, left or right.  “Or is it right and left?” I asked.   We both stared at it for a moment before my boyfriend said, “I think we want the left one.”  As the last word was still leaving his mouth I took two large steps to the left and stepped into the cab.   I turned to face his direction just as the still unfamiliar “ping” sound of the doors closing echoed through the area.  The doors closed.  Boyfriend, less than two feet away from me was cut off and alone on the platform.   We stared at each other briefly, his mouth hanging open and my expression confused before the train began to pull away.  I gave the glass and his angry face a halfhearted wave.   “Oh this’ll be fiiine,” I thought to myself, both entertained by the mishap and agitated that he looked so angry.  “What’s the big deal?  Instinctively I reached for my phone to call him.  

 

“This train ends at Braintree,” the intercom overhead announced.  Our destination, and the fact that I was reaching for the phone I didn’t have, in pockets that didn’t exist in my dress meant two things:  1- I was going in the wrong direction and 2- I was missing my lipgloss.  At least, that was the second thing I realized after I figured out I didn’t have my phone.  

 

This still was not a big deal.  Boyfriend would be coming after me anyway, so I would wait for him to arrive on the next train and we’d head to our overpriced dinner.  At the next stop I hopped off the train, found the least-stained and littered area, and tried to look casual as I waited it out.  

 

The first train arrived and I scanned the crowd for tall angry faces.  Nothing.  This immediately concerned me.  Surely he had realized that he had all my things and I was waiting patiently for him to come save me.  If he assumed I was coming back, which was the definition of why you don’t assume, he was facing the same situation I was.  I could picture him down to the pacing and unnecessary checking of his phone.   “Is she coming back on the next train?  Should I wait again?  Is she expecting me to come get her? Can she call me without her phone?  Does she even know my phone number?”   The answer to his latter question was no.  As I watched the first train pull away I wondered if this was the universe testing our relationship.  How well did we really know each other, anyway?  I had figured I knew him pretty well by now, we shared a phone plan after all, and I resented this sudden microscopic look into our lives.  I decided to wait for the second train.  He’d come looking for me.

 

Nope.  He didn’t.  “Damn it boyfriend,” I muttered under my breath.  He was doing the same thing I was, figuring that surely when I didn’t see him on the first train I would come back because, after all, he was in the right direction.  My brain began to hurt.  “Mom always said if we get lost, stay put and wait for help to come,” I thought.  “Well I’m doing it Mooooom.”  Surely he’d know after two trains that I was waiting for him here.  

 

Third train.  No boyfriend.  As the doors creaked shut and the beast moved slowly away I started to realize the consequences of not paying attention to my surroundings.  This was all my fault.  If I didn’t have a boyfriend I would know what I should do.  Why did I get a boyfriend?  Why did I have to move in with him?  Why did I even grow up?  How old was I?  Old?  Why the hell was I so old?   The evening plans were absolutely off the table, I had no idea what the name of the restaurant was or what stop it was on.  Getting home was the bigger issue.  I didn’t know how far away I was or what stop.  I also didn’t have any money for a cab.  Could you ask people for directions?  If so, what part of the city did we live in again?  Was I currently in a bad part of town?  Even if I was able to borrow someone’s phone the only phone number I knew was my sister’s and she lived in Arkansas.  

 

I made a very meaningful and audible “Uh Oh,” for the second time in my life.  The first occured while sitting down in my airplane seat when I moved to New York City years before.   No money, no job and no connections.  For some reason this hadn’t concerned me and I headed to the East Coast anyway.  The only moment I questioned my decision was in that seat, once, and then it went away.  As this memory hit me, I wondered if my current situation was worse.

 

“Hoooo girly lookin good!” A few men from the other side of the platform whistled in my direction.  

 

Yep, this was worse.  

 

It wasn’t until train number seven passed that I decided to make a move.  He had planted, I had planted.  As long as boyfriend was consistent in his actions, he would remain in his place.  If I got there and he was gone, all bets were off.  I was going to have to hit the streets and see if anyone in the modern world carried a map.  Surely not everyone relied on their digital devices to get around.  “I’ll have to find an elderly couple,” I decided.  “An elderly couple that’s out at nine pm on a Saturday night and carries a map they can lend me.”  But a map to where?  I struggled for a moment to remember my new address. “805?  “855?”  I shook my head, there were far too many ways for this to end poorly.  

 

Train number eight finally groaned its way to the platform and just as I stepped into the car a familiar, angry voice echoed off the walls.  “Jessica! NO!”  
Sweating, panicked and out of breath, my other half came into view.  “Hey there!” I said, stepping off the train toward him.  “Whew that was close!”  The doors closed behind us.  Too close really, and we both knew it.  We made it to dinner, only marginally late and everyone thought our train mishap was funny yet dismissable.  “Our address though…” I nudged my boyfriend.  “It’s 857, right?”