Friday, December 31, 2010

Back In Recovery

Aah, Family.  Nothing more delightfully exhausting, is there?

There was a song once (maybe more than once) about how a person just wanted to sleep in his own bed again.  To say that I could relate would be understating things, although the songwriter's version was apparently at the end of a bad turn with a woman, mine was after a few days of my self-induced Not Your Routine thing at my parent's house.  And let me be clear--they are great people, community leaders, talented and nice as all get-out, but after the 900th time hearing your parent declare something "stupid" (or any variation thereof) and being silent about the fact that you flat-out disagree, a person gets a bit twitchy.  And then you have a few (several) beers or some pills to calm the twitchy.  When I got home and flopped sideways on the mattress in my own room, sans chemical enhancements, I became unconscious immediately and stayed that way for almost 12 hours--didn't even care to find a blanket the entire time.


Now then, is the problem is that my parents think things are "stupid" that I do just about every day (including living in a city as opposed to a wind-swept prairie)?  Or is the problem that I choose not to tell them that I think them impossibly small-minded?  After all, living where they live, "small-minded" is a survival technique.  It's rough as hell out there--small population, harsh landscape--and you won't survive it without friends.  Well, when there are only a couple hundred of you and the choice is agree or be out in the (literal, bitter) cold, you are more likely to form some opinions that might not fly when confronted with a more diverse population.  Here is an example of what I mean--a class mate of my sister's moved away and became a successful doctor and my mother admitted to being surprised by that because "he always seemed so backwards."  And various other entrepreneurs (or nationalities...), when their names are uttered, it is with disgust.  How dare they?  How dare they be different, and be successful at it?  

There is an old marketing credo which goes like this:  "Everybody drinks Coke".  That is to say, in almost every populated corner of this earth, you can buy Coca-Cola.  The Coca-Cola marketing campaign has convinced every living soul on the planet that they are, in fact, The Real Thing.  In marketing, we hold this example most high, because, well, it means that you can sell anything to anybody if you just keep at it long enough.  There have been a couple of occasions in my life when I have heard someone declare that "you can't do that here" because this is (insert name of town)  and a person of influence has, at one time, declared it undesirable.  When you hear that sort of thing, you make a decision--do you tell them "Everybody drinks Coke" and set about the business of proving them wrong, or, just say "screw it" with the full realization that you're going to have to excuse yourself from there before long or succumb to the twitchiness?

My home town has a strong "you can't do that here, this is (insert name of town)" vibe--not that anyone is nasty about it, but that may be only because nobody ever confronts them with a Coke.  Things are a certain way, they've been that way a long time, and rarely do they falter.  Why should they?  Things are working just fine the way they are, right?  Well, yes, but it's so different everywhere else!  If I had never left, I might still feel the same, but, I did.  I left, and, spent 20-odd years looking at things that were in direct contrast with my upbringing.  Somehow, I managed to thrive despite the fact that everything I've done has been "stupid".

Of course, it may also be true that it is I who is the small-minded comfort junkie and all of what I found so painful was just me being annoyed because I couldn't flop on a couch with whatever my current project was, a handheld social net/email/texting device at the ready, and watch Hugh Laurie's American accent show for six whole days in a row.  That kind of thing can send me right over the edge.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ugly Business AKA She Breathes Fire

What an ugly day it was.  

Not the weather, not the part about how I had to walk two blocks to my car thanks to the Minneapolis Snow Parking Disaster of 2010, or even my bad hair, was ugly.

You know how when someone is giving you a hard time and giving you a hard time and giving you a hard time and you tell them to knock it off but they don't stop and finally, at some point you haul off and smack them (literally or figuratively) because they Just. Wouldn't. Listen. ?  You know what I'm talking about?

Today was the day that I hauled off and smacked someone.  

Figuratively, of course...

They had been hassling me for a long time and I'd reached the end of my patience for their stupidity.

I don't take myself very seriously, but I do take my work very seriously.  I put actual effort into it, and I'm the opposite of a clock-watcher.  I'm one of the rare few that actually gives a shit about the level of work that they do.  As such, when I meet someone who doesn't take work seriously, I don't have a lot of respect for them.  When I get stuck working with someone who doesn't take work seriously, I find them annoying.  When that person works in an area where they can affect ME by not taking their work seriously, I flat-out get angry.

To have your reputation destroyed by someone who simply doesn't give a shit is the worst kind of injury.  I'm talking about someone who, just for jollies, just because they can, takes purposeful steps to make you look bad, even though there is nothing to be gained by it.

That is what you call Evil.  Evil, evil, evil.

There is no remedy.  You can't teach people like that how to cooperate or be nice--the are not interested in cooperating and they don't care to be nice.  If they can fuck you up, they're going to fuck you up.  The only way to get them off your back is to haul off and smack them.

So you do it.

And then, you can't believe it came to that.  

You can't believe you had to smack someone (figuratively, of course...) to get them to stop being a fucking asshole.  


And most untidy.

Not to mention somewhat barbaric, and strangely, you find yourself wanting to say bullshit like, "You have fucked with the wrong person today!" and other exciting B-movie dialog.  It just sucks.  I mean it really, really sucks.  So unnecessary.  I'm so not interested in smacking people.  It's the last thing I want to do.  What drives someone to pick at you until you snap?  And why do you feel like you are doing them a favor by doing it?

Anyway...that was my ugly day.  Poke, poke, poke, ROAR!  My turn to be the dragon, I guess.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

There Are Reasons Why Kittens and Babies Are Made Cute. This Is One Of Them.

The kitten likes Palette.

Palette is a delicious Peruvian Highland Wool sold by KnitPicks (Click. See. Buy. Enjoy.) that one uses to make....well, Peruvian Highland Wool thingies.  

In my case, I'm using it to make teeny sweaters.  Please enjoy this delightful photograph, taken by someone other than me, of teeny sweaters that were knit by someone other than me.

I keep a fair amount of yarn in the house.  

Oh, who are we kidding?  There is what some might call a "lot" of yarn here.  So what? 
Anyway...all the yarns are yummy in their own way, but by the taste of the cat, none so Palette.  

Palette, he sneaks off with in the night.

Palette, I come home to see unraveled all the way down the hall and into my room, where I find it mostly intact, but heartlessly discarded by it's kidnapper.

Palette, I sit down on my accident, even though I am certain I didn't leave it tucked under that blanket in the crevasse of the sofa.

Palette, which I keep "safely" sealed in the plastic bag it came in, taped shut, always manages to escape with the help of some striped beast who shall remain nameless but you can call him "You Asshole!" because he's used to it by now.
"I'm not wrecking your yarn, Mom! I promise!  Instead, I thought I would destroy the Christmas Tree!  
You're welcome!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stuff You Wish You Didn't Have To Write

I wrote a sympathy card this morning.
It's not one of these things where I try to show off any skill at writing, but at the same time, hope to be able to say something that is of some comfort.
But what could I have told her, this friend of mine, this would-be mother of two, who has suffered the loss of her second baby 6 months into the pregnancy?  All she ever talks about is how she wants to be a mommy and have a house full of children, and I'm supposed to tell her it's not shitty to go home from the hospital with no baby...again?
Of course, I could not.
It seems so ridiculous.  Other friends get pregnant and have babies entirely by accident.  Hell, I did that, too.  And on days when my "accidental" children make me angry and annoyed and I'm ready for them to hurry up and move out already, what does Angela do?  What does she always say? 
She laughs at their antics and says, "What a blessing your girls are."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Got Your Crazy

Once about a hundred years ago, I was watching Law and Order, CI, because I have a thing for men in long coats, and Vincent D'Onofrio had a great line about how schizophrenics make very good witnesses.  I always remembered that line, for some reason, and today, when speaking to my very, very first actual schizophrenic, I remembered it again.

What I do for a living is talk to doctors, and I don't hear much from patients.  Because I work for an insurance company, you can imagine that the doctors are stressful enough--adding patients to that would be like playing sad songs for a depressed person.  It would ultimately just push me right over.

Today I was working on some new technique for talking doctors hands off my throat when out of the blue, my phone rang and on the other end was a lucid, confident sounding person who said he needed to speak to someone regarding insurance fraud.  I perked right up, as anyone in an insurance company would, upon hearing the words "insurance fraud", asked him is name, and begged him to tell me what happened.

He replied that while he had been in custody that cameras and probes had been implanted in his head, and that's not appropriate treatment for schizophrenia.

Huh...wasn't expecting that.

I didn't want to go into the "why" part of the "in custody" revelation, and simply asked, "So...what makes that insurance fraud?"

"Well, you people paid for it, that's why!"  He answered.

I paused for a moment.  I mean, what else could I say but "Hmmm..."?  

Just ask any of the physicians I speak to on any given day--they'll all tell you the same:  "You SUCK because your company doesn't pay ANYTHING!"  Going by that logic, the idea that we would put up the funds to pay for experimental brain spyware seems, well....ever-so-slightly improbable.

I asked when the surgery occurred, and he said that it had happened within the last several years but that he wasn't sure of the date.

"Tell you what," I rallied.  "I know how you can see a list of every single thing we have ever paid to have done to you.  Would that be helpful to you?

He agreed that it would be very helpful.

I then rather mercilessly gave instruction on how to rend such a list out of someone in customer service, providing my new friend with the precise terminology to guarantee results.  He dutifully repeated my instructions back to me.  I gave him the phone number and transferred him directly to some unsuspecting sap who likely worked in the same office as the thug who had transferred him to me.  I figured with the right keywords, he'd sound no more crazy than the multi-degree'd physician who, after I implied that doctors across the country have just about the same remedy for a runny nose, said to me, "You know, here in Texas, we're not like you Minnesotans.  This is TEXAS GOD-DAMN-IT!" 

Really, there is nothing smarter-sounding than a person saying "This is TEXAS GOD-DAMN-IT!"  Am I right?  Or am I right?


That's my wacky work story for today.  As I mentioned, it is rare that I ever speak to a patient, but after this, I may switch.  Sure, this one was crazy, but, at least he wasn't stupid, and some days that's a step up.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Of It Is True

Burning one off, off the top of my head--ready?  Set?  Go!
  • The deli downstairs is having "Wiener Wednesday" with hot dogs, brats, etc., and one of the ladies at work is just slightly too excited about that.
  • My boss (and I swear this IS true) just asked someone how bi-focals work, because as a man in his 40's in these United States, he shouldn't be expected to have a grasp on that concept.  Really?  You don't understand bi-focals?  Bi-focals?  Why don't you just go home and lock yourself in the basement before you hurt yourself?
  • We're being asked to trust the same person who doesn't "get" bi-focals to stand up for us, to some of our highly educated clients, and explain our program without making the rest of us look like total assholes.  Hold me.
  • Let me make it perfectly clear that we do not need his assistance in looking like total assholes--we've got it covered.
  • I spoke to a client yesterday who happened to have a strong (almost stereotypical-sounding) Italian accent, who also happened to be from New York.  We spoke for a while, and he asked if he could put me on hold, so I said, "Sure."  ...And what do you suppose was his hold music?  Uh...the freaking theme from The Godfather.  The Theme From The Godfather.  Strangely, I was much more agreeable to his point of view after my short time on hold.  Touche with the subtle sales tactic.  You win.
  • Last nights Glee?  When they sang Don't Cry For Me Argentina?  Yeah, baby...
  • When I say that I started wrapping Christmas presents last night, please understand that what that actually means is I picked out the wrapping paper and bought it, then watched while one of my kids started wrapping Christmas presents last night.
  • Ditto the holiday spritz cookies.
  • Thank you, Cybermen--er....I mean, Online Retailers, for continuing to have ridiculously AMAAAAAZING deals and sending me 17 emails a day about them.  Sorry, I've spent it all.  I spent it ALL on Thanksgiving DAY!  Yep.  Not a penny left to spare on the $29.99 laptop.  Nothing but Ramen and spritz cookies from here to February.  Let me know when you reach that elusive Never-Runs-Out-Of-Money demographic you seek, OK?
  • OK, that one was a lie.  It won't be just Ramen and spritz cookies.  I probably have some pinto beans in the cupboard.  Pinto beans and a can of creamed corn.  We'll be fine.
  • I cleaned my room and the cats were so excited that I removed all of the clothing off of my chair (for once) that they now fight over the chair.  It was especially awesome to witness cats fighting over the chair this morning at 4:00AM.
  • OK, that last part was a lie.  I mean the 4:00AM part was true, but it was not, in any way, "awesome".
  • Related:  One kitten for sale, barely used.
I'd write more, but I thought it would be fun to go over and try to explain no-line bi-focals, and bi-focal contact lenses to my boss--I plan to speak to him as if he was very small, because my superiority complex has been at rest for far too long.