Friday, April 17, 2009


When I used to work in a bookstore, I had one particular customer interaction over and over. Someone would come up to the counter with a book whose price was written in obscurely tiny type, or buried weirdly in the bar code, or occasionally they'd be brandishing an impulse-buy object whose price sticker was peeling or lost. Every one of these shoppers would say the exact same thing: "I can't find a price on this. Is it free?"

Then they'd stand there, grinning smugly, pleased with themselves...because by God, they were really going to put one over on the ol' mall chain outlet! I always wondered what they wanted from me: mere praise for their scintillating wit? Or did they expect me to throw up my hands in bewilderment, all well, that is not how commerce has worked for at least the last century or so, but YOU GOT ME THIS TIME, sir or madam! I mean...did this fly in other stores? I was a cashier there for five years; how many times was I on the receiving end of this line, in half a decade? Fifty? A hundred?

Enough times to remember it, and enough times that once--just the once--I lost my patience. It was late, technically after closing but this one guy had been dawdling around, taking his sweet time even when my manager had pulled the gate halfway down and stood brandishing the vacuum cleaner ten feet away. (That was another common trope, the I Do Not Understand Hours Of Operation customer. Once I had someone ask me if I couldn't just count the money out of the safe while they were still browsing a little; possibly this was just the most hapless holdup ever.) Finally dude approached the counter with some allegedly price-less item. "I can't find the price on this. Is it free?" he asked brightly.

And I don't know what came over me, because I looked this man right in the eye and said, brighter still, "Wow. I have NEVER HEARD that FUNNY JOKE BEFORE!"

Beside me my colleague Alan dropped wordlessly to the floor--ostensibly to get a bag for the man's purchases, but really to stick his head into one of the under-counter cubbyholes and laugh. I guess I am lucky that the customer was not prone to Mall Rage; he stood there so gobsmacked that I don't think he said another word, just meekly paid whatever the (probably easily identifiable price) was and scurried out. I should have told him it was a hundred bucks and split it with Alan, maybe.

Anyway. I have been thinking of this story all week, because I have been the recipient of a lot of similar well-intended information or advice...that only a cave-dwelling nincompoop would find illuminating. It started with the doctor's appointment, my scheduled-two-weeks-ago session with the clinic psychiatrist to explore a new Crazy Pills prescription. Alas, when I showed up, they'd scheduled me for the wrong shrink, the other one, who does not dispense meds. No, I'd have to go through the referral and scheduling process again; come back in three weeks, thank you, sorry.

But I still had an hour on the clock with Shrink #1, so she asked me to stay and tell her my problems. And I realize that, in a single first meeting, we were not going to do any deep digging. I have a therapist for that; I've been going to Dr. Professional Friend for, like, 12 years off and on. But I'm a grade-grubber at heart, so I tried to be a good little nutbar and get the abridged version of my present depression on the table. In turn, the doctor gave me several suggestions, among them "get more exercise!" and "go out and make new friends!" I didn't know how to respond, truly. Was I supposed to leap up off the couch and scream "I'm cured!!"? Because, you know, I might have entertained these ideas once or twice before, and I certainly see their validity, and yet I cannot seem to do them, PERHAPS BECAUSE I STILL FEEL LIKE SHIT AND AM HERE FOR SOME DRUGS HELLO.

Three weeks. Ironically, I was so annoyed at this comedy of errors that anger has been a strange motivator; I'm more irritated than depressed. Perhaps my wrathful disdain will continue to build, and I'll be perktastic by May?

Another delight this week was that my regular physician sent me the results of my latest bloodwork; my fasting glucose is high (as it was back before I lost--and then regained--a bunch of weight), and she wants me to schedule another appointment, to come in and discuss pre-diabetes prevention with her. (Thanks, Dad, for this legacy to go along with the nose. AWESOME.) I like my doctor, and I believe that she does in fact have my best interests at heart...but I was disheartened, myself, by the "Pre-Diabetes For Dummies" flier she inserted with the lab results; it encouraged me to lose weight, reasonably enough...but then came with its own set of lowest-common-denominator-dipshit suggestions for how one might do this, including "park further away from your destination!" and "switch sugary sodas and juices for diet drinks...or water!" Because as we know, all fatties are inert, except when lifting an arm to stick a burger into their blubbery maws.

I did manage to bring this up with my trainer, this morning; we had a nice chuckle. Between the three sets of fifteen pushups I did, bitchezz.

Clearly I need to flesh (haha) this plan out into a self-help bestseller: Lose Weight and Feel Great, with the easy Everyone Else is An Aggravating Moron program. It will cost one hundred dollars, and that will be printed in 36-point type, right there on the front cover.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Looking up

I carry on. I'm still not feeling 100%...but the sun has tried to come out a few times in the past couple weeks (today a notable exception, ugh). The cherry trees up and down my block have blown out in full pink puffy madness. I dug out the weedy, bereft planters on my deck and front porch and filled them with pansies. I went to one baby shower yesterday and have another on the calendar for next week, and you really cannot put up much of a fight in the face of cake and presents and bubblegum cigars in pink and blue, dinosaur-patterned sleepers and an inflatable bathtub in the shape of a big yellow duck. My spirits, they are lifted. Possibly with some grunting and straining, scrabbling up the side of a cliff, hanging onto roots...Wile E. Coyote passing me on his rocket sled on the way down...but I'm getting up there.

This, as much as anything, gave me a boost this week: an outbreak of "spontaneous" musical theatre in a Belgian train station.

Sure, it's rehearsed and expertly coordinated. I've watched it five times (shut up) and can see, now, that even some of the "bewildered" onlookers we're shown at first are in fact plants, who drop their bags and rush in as it keeps going, and going, and going. But when the schoolkids come boiling down the stairs? I am totally powerless to resist them, or the white-haired grandma singing and dancing her heart out, or the dude trying to stay cool by the ATM, but he can't help clapping along. Love. It. Nothing like this ever happens to me, but I've always wanted it to--perhaps because of that steady diet of movie musicals when I was a kid.

The train-station locale helps, too--there's something about such a place, a cathedral to banality most days. You rush through your commute oblivious to the beauty around you--the spectacle of the space and of the tide of humanity storming through it--until something makes you look up. What? It reminded me of my favorite scene in The Fisher King, where Robin Williams's homeless, addled character spots the girl he secretly loves, coming through Grand Central Terminal.

I first saw this when I was in college, at the Bronxville NY cinema packed with probably hundreds of commuters who took the Metro-North in to Grand Central every day. I'll never forget the sound they made when this scene came up, when everyone started to dance: aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, a collective sigh, a little chuckly swoon of romance vocalized by every person in the room. All of us recognizing something we'd forgotten to look up for, for far too long. This is what it's like, I thought then and think now, to be in love in New York (and with New York). When you're in love, Grand Central looks like this all the time.

So. Dancing in train stations. It's probably for a commercial of some sort--many of the related YouTube links go to a similar all-hands dance-off in a London station, shot for T-Mobile. But don't tell me. I'd rather it was a prank for the sheer joy of it, the Belgian version of one of Improv Everywhere's missions--a gift freely given, something to make others walk away wondering, and grinning to themselves a bit every time they remember. It's working for me: it reminds me that I can't be unhappy forever, in a world where this happens, where people come together to turn out these little moments of wonder amidst the everyday grind. Look Up More, they say. I'm trying.

(Allow me to also recommend some other favorites from the IE folks: Frozen Grand Central, The Moebius, Romantic Comedy Cab, and Will You Marry Me?)

* * * * *

Coincidentally, The Sound of Music was on ABC Family last night. Is that considered an Easter movie?...maybe because it has lots of nuns? Anyway, I ended up watching the first third or so, up through the "Do-Re-Mi" number in fact. It was an interesting experience; the songs are practically embedded in my DNA, but I had pretty much forgotten any and all of the dialogue and scenery between them. Maria wanted to join the convent because she used to spy on them over the wall as a child and enjoyed their singing? That is...not the most substantial commitment to faith I've ever heard, let's just say. When I was a kid I wanted to be a librarian, but because I thought they got to live in the library. Later, I discovered the holes in this theory. Maria.

But it was fun. Sis prized the soundtrack album, on vinyl, a bit before she discovered Madonna and Run-D.M.C. I remember when the movie used to get an annual network airing--around Christmas, if memory serves--nuns again? It was a Television Event, and we'd get jammies on early and gather around the set, maybe even have popcorn. But! It's a long movie. Mom was a stickler about bedtimes, and I can remember at least once, probably on first viewing, being sent to bed precisely when the VonTrapps were fleeing the Nazis. Seriously, Mom! Come ON!

"They get away. Go to sleep," she'd say, turning out the light. Yeah, that worked. Sweet dreams! Heh.