Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pigeons & Role Models

When my sister told me she'd bought a book for my niece that I had to read to her, I thought it was just going to be about some fabulous aunt who saves the world with her super shopping powers or something, but The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! by Mo Willems surpassed all expectations. It stars a sassy pigeon who doesn't appreciate being told to smile by a bus driver. "Why should I?" Pigeon asks, "Do I get on your bus and tell you how to drive?!"

Excessive punctuation and a killer 'tude: I like this Pigeon character! What a great role model for my niece! I have a feeling she doesn't like randos telling her to smile any more than I do. Unfortunately, Pigeon does end up getting outsmarted (sorry to ruin the ending, but the cardboard book is only 10 pages long...)-- now if only I could figure out how to outsmart my niece when I want her to smile for a picture and she's looking at me like she is so over the paparazzi. Fourteen months of being a girl and she's already rebelling against smiling on demand. Maybe she should be my role model.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Be your biggest fan

Perhaps the self-esteem movement wasn’t all for naught—and perhaps we don’t all need to go through the five stages of post-collegiate grief—because apparently all those compliment collages and gold star stickers actually did prepare my generation for something: reality television!

My favorite part of this clip from E! News on a popular class on how to become a reality star is the list of tips to impress casting directors (highlighted across the screen in bubble letters), one of which is “Be your biggest fan by starting sentences with ‘I’”. This is fantastic. I know the golden rule of writing a cover letter when applying for a “real” job is to avoid beginning too many sentences with the word “I.” (“I’m interested in this position because...”) No, must demonstrate your humility and keen interest in Corporate Corporation X, and somehow at the same time focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

I always thought that was BS… and it was so hard to fandangle value from my non-experience while visions of health insurance (!) salary (!) and paid time off (!) were dancing in my head. So forget the “real world.” Who needs it when you can play a real person on TV?!

The other tips, for those of you who can’t access YouTube at work (more reason to ditch this “real world” that oppresses us), are “Speak slowly” (always a good one), “Work it all the time,” “Ride the wave of celebrity” and “Carry a makeup kit with you—because you want to shine, but you don’t want to shine.” (Oh boy.)

I feel like a good chunk of my generation has been groomed for this job since birth… but I guess a class would only further secure a destiny in reality television humiliation, er, stardom, I mean…

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's gotta be some kinda disorder...

Yesterday the Today Show featured a story on “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Apparently kids today aren’t spending enough time playing outdoors, experiencing nature. According to the segment, “Studies show kids with early exposure to the outdoors have less stress, better concentration, more creativity and higher self-esteem than their more shut-in friends.”

Sounds like a good argument… but I related more to an essay I read today in I Was Told There’d Be Cake, by Sloane Crosley (my new favorite book), called “Bastard Out of Westchester.” Crosley writes of her suburban childhood, “Suburbia is too close to the country to have anything real to do and too close to the city to admit you have nothing real to do. Its purpose is to make it so you can identify with everything. We obviously grew up identifying with nothing.”

So yeah, Nature Deficit Disorder might be a real problem (well, maybe not because if it was a real problem we’d be calling it NDD, wouldn’t we?), but I’m thinking maybe we should be more concerned with GIDD, Geographic Identity Deficit Disorder. I just know GIDD has the chops to become a real disorder—it makes the perfect acronym—one you can turn into a real word because it has a vowel in the middle of it, like radar. Soon people won’t even remember what it stands for! When a tween sporting black lipstick, heavy eyeliner and a Hannah Montana baby tee cuts in front of you in line at the mall, you’ll just shake your head and say to your shopping buddy, “gidd… what a shame.”

Crosley goes on to discuss how perhaps her unique name, Sloane, was the only identifier she could latch on to: “Like a lunatic in the psyche ward with only smocks and slippers for clothes, my name is the one definite thing I own…Occasionally there will be a character with my name on TV or in the movies. I find this incredibly distracting. I should hope this is not so much the fault of my vanity as it is the fault of my untrained hearing. I assume, when I hear the sound of my name, that it is referring to me. It’s like watching commercials on the Spanish channel and comprehending nothing except the word 'Coca-Cola.'"

This was fascinating to me because Amy is such a ridiculously common name. According to Social Security Online, it was only the 10th most popular the year I was born, but I don’t believe it. (Crystal? Number nine? Please...) I grew up with my last initial permanently attached to my first name because there was always another Amy in my class, and there were no fewer than five Amys on my dorm floor my freshman year of college. (So of course we all had to have nicknames. I campaigned for Hottie but somehow ended up with Bubba… I suppose I should be glad Crazy Amy went to the girl across the hall who was afraid of fruit.)

I’ve become so detached from my name that I don’t even answer to it anymore. When I hear someone yell it on the street, I assume they’re talking to someone else. My college boyfriend’s previous girlfriend was named Amy as well, so I endured being called “Number Two” for almost a year… and the dude I’m (kinda) seeing now has a friend who’s dating an Amy so I’m being called by my last name, or my college town… which is a long story for another blog.

So is that why I’m so lost in contradiction? My suburban (Midwestern, no less) roots? Crosley’s unique name helped her overcome her GIDD. It seems I’m screwed. Well, at least I’ll know how to save the next generation, should I ever reproduce—raise them in the city… or the country… or name them something like… Dancing Queen. Wouldn’t even need a last name with an identifier like that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Does the early bird get the worm?

What is it about being early that impresses people at work so much? I’m not excluding myself. It impresses me too. Maybe because it’s something I find extremely difficult to pull off on a regular basis. Every morning I tell myself I need to keep progressing toward dressing myself and moving toward the door, but most days I notice the Today Show has started looping stories, and I realize I’m going to have to sheepishly roll in who knows how long after my entire team, yet again.

But I’m starting to think the whole getting in early thing is overrated. Yesterday I had to get to work for an 8:30 a.m. call, which thankfully I can usually manage to do when I have something to motivate me. And I had even drank a few beers at the Cubs game the night before [patting self on back]. So this morning I guess I felt entitled to a little extra time … and I ended up leaving my apartment about 15 minutes later than my usual panic time—when I won't even go back for my travel mug if I’ve discovered I’ve left it sitting on my counter as I step into my building's elevator. Which happens a lot.

So I was strangely relaxed while I was waiting to cross the street to get to my bus stop—didn’t even tempt my fate with a game of George Costanza-esque street frogger when I saw my bus approaching, like I usually do. I did, however, start to get nervous when I was only halfway across the street and another bus appeared right behind it. Oh crap, I thought. I’m going to miss this one too, and then I’ll definitely be waiting forever for the next one. Deflated, I made my way to the empty bus stop, took a seat and opened my book. When I happened to glance up a minute later, though, I couldn’t believe my eyes! A THIRD bus was approaching. And it was practically empty! I boarded and not only got a seat, but had an empty seat next to me to put my mounds of stuff on—something I’ve fantasized about while I’m usually standing, smooshed up against fellow commuters, trying to pretend I don’t realize the corner of my giant bag is poking some unsuspecting suit’s “private” area every time the bus lurches, which is about every 32 seconds.

AND since we were able to cruise by a few empty stops, I actually ended up arriving at my office only a few minutes later than I usually do—AND instead of a mass of people waiting downstairs for the elevators, I saw there were only two people, getting on the first elevator to my right (!) as I swiped my security badge and went through the turnstile, and they held the door for me so I hopped right on and up. Slid into my cube probably only a minute and a half after I normally do—in a much better mood.

Yesterday, on the other hand, I boarded a packed bus, which became more and more packed as we approached the Loop—and got to listen to not only the bus driver yell at us to “MOVE TOWARD THE BACK PLEASE, MOVE TOWARD THE BACK” every five minutes, but also some cowboy who decided to take it upon himself to help herd his fellow commuters, shouting things like, “Come on people don’t be shy. We’re all just trying to get to work,” and “Hope we all remembered to put on our Dial today.” Thanks, buddy, for telling us all what to do, because we don’t all take this bus EVERY MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. And by the way, you don’t “put on” Dial, and you’re not funny—probably not ever—certainly not at 8 a.m.

But I did arrive at work on time for my call … and here’s about how it went:

8:30—Dialing in.


8:35—“Hello … Hello … Thanks everyone for joining … I know my screen is black too … We’re having some technical difficulty with Live Meeting … Bear with us for a few minutes.”

8:40—“Thank you for your patience … Still working on the Live Meeting … By the way we’re going to record this presentation … Does everyone have the exercise we sent with the invite?”

8:45—“Does everyone have the exercise we asked you to do? …. What exercise? … It was in the invite.”

8:47—“Does everyone have the exercise?... Well, at least this gives you time to complete the exercise.”

8:50—“Okay we’ve got Live Meeting going now. Thanks everyone for your patience. We’ve decided not to record today.”

Twenty minutes I could have spent sleeping (I had completed the exercise the day before, as instructed) ... although I did enjoy seeing the shock in my co-workers’ faces when they came in to find I had arrived before them. After I told one of them it was because I had an 8:30 call, he said, “Oh, I thought maybe you’d just wandered over from Wrigley Field.” Now, that alone is almost worth getting out of bed a few minutes early for.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Blue Light Special

I know we’re all familiar with drinking games—Flip Cup, Beer Pong, Hockey, Circle of Death, etc.—so I’d like to share with you a new favorite after-drinking game of mine: Blue Light Special. You might be wondering: What’s an after-drinking game, and why would you want to play one?

Well… at the end of a summer week spent celebrating at the pool, beach, bar and bar at the beach (God Bless Corporate America and PTO), there may come an afternoon when some of your friends are hungover, some of your friends are drunk from breakfast at Stanley’s and some of your friends are new and happen to have fantastic ideas of how to pass the time—and you all magically come together and decide to do something different—a magical activity called Blue Light Special. Important: this is not to be confused with Red Light Special—the former has quite the opposite effect as the fantastic TLC song and video. Here are the rules:

  1. Everyone in the group puts their name and clothing size in a hat.
  2. Everyone pulls out a name. If someone chooses their own name, they have to pick again.
  3. Find the nearest Kmart.
  4. Players have 15 minutes and $29.99 to buy the person they picked an outfit to wear out that night.

Some special items to look out for: mom jeans/capris/shorts, muumuus, slip-on canvas shoes, bejeweled belts, visors, and long pajama shirts and baby t’s that say things like “Not Listening!” and “I’m No Angel.” Another tip: Stay focused. Some players might be tempted to use part of their 15 minutes to go to a nearby grocery store and pick up cases of Old Style and Busch Light, hastily purchasing clothes that are actually attractive. This would be a mistake. And finally, my most important tip would be to head out, after an amateur fashion show, to an establishment with outside seating—so everyone in the neighborhood can admire your new threads. My favorite comment of the day: “Hey, I think my grandma has that shirt!” Priceless.

How do you determine the winner? Well, like the aforementioned drinking games, “winning” is pretty inconsequential (and kind of defeats the purpose). But if you have to choose one—would be un-American not to—I guess it would be the person who picks out the most unattractive outfit, although I think the person who has to wear the most unattractive outfit should get some sort of consolation prize. So… I’ll keep checkin’ my mailbox.

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