Thursday, January 26, 2012


"They're telling us how to act when they come marching in. With the whole world crumbling we pick this time to fall in love."

"Yeah, it's pretty bad timing. Where were you, say, ten years ago?"

"Ten years ago? Let's see, yes, I was having a brace put on my teeth. Where were you?"

"Looking for a job."


So I wrote unto you all an informative and entertaining post about my adventures learning to make cheese . . . and blogger ate it. Didn't save the thing. Wouldn't publish. Nothin'.

So I wrote it again, and this time copied and pasted over in Google Docs, so I'd have a master copy in case the dang thing didn't save again.

It didn't save in Blogger OR Google Docs.

So I sulked for three weeks. Hope you all have been well.

Anyway, here's today's adventure.

A year or so ago, finding myself gainfully employed and with my very own health insurance for the first time in my life, and also in the midst of discovering my own burgeoning sense of vanity, I got braces. I was rather proud of myself for this . . . I found an orthodontist myself, did my own research, paid with my own insurance and my own money (cash on the barrel, no payment plans). I've been self-conscious about my teeth since I was about eleven, which was when I stopped smiling in pictures. You can see it in my school portraits. No smiles here. Maybe very late in high school a slight upturning of the mouth implying a smile, but actual visible teeth? No.

So I have spent the last year with a mouthful of metal and elastic. It's been something like being laced into a tooth-corset every day (and being a historical costuming geek, I do know what a corset feels like) and something like being turned into a Borg from the mouth down (this I'm extrapolating; I've never been turned into a Borg). I've discovered the wonders of flossing my teeth, even though the process takes about fifteen minutes . . . I've made it through a lot of audio books, sitting on my bathroom counter with my feet in the sink threading floss under those archwires. And I discovered that I really am not a big popcorn fan, and never have been, and was glad of the excuse to just pass the bucket along the row at the movie theater.

Last time I went to get my teeth re-laced, my very nice and professional orthodontist announced that if I was both a good girl and a little lucky, I could get the braces off today, rather than in March like originally planned. Braces . . . off? Like, to see the surfaces of my own teeth again? I returned to flossing with renewed vigor. I also didn't really mention the possibility to too many people . . . no use getting your hopes up and having to wait until March anyway.

But in the silence of my own mind, I was getting really hopeful and excited. So much so that I was on my way out the door to the orthodontist's office yesterday when I checked my planner and remembered, oh yeah, the appointment's on Wednesday, not Tuesday. (Still getting used to this year's planner; Wednesday's slightly higher on the page than it was last year.)

So this morning, trying VERY hard not to care whether they came off today or not, I headed over to Foothill. And the braces came off!

Dr. Luke just popped them off, with something that looked like a pair of tiny hedge trimmers. Pop Pop Pop Pop Pop. And my teeth were like "Huh? Where is that gentle and comforting pull to which we have become accustomed? Why are we just left to hang out like this? What's going on?" And then they (and I) were even more freaked out when the little grinder came out and the extra glue got ground off my teeth. I'm familiar and comfortable with dental work, even drills . . . but dental drills don't usually make your mouth smell like burning glue, which is not at all a nice smell and not a comfortable one to have emerging from your own mouth.

So once the glue was off, I got casts taken for retainers. This was distinctly un-fun for a number of reasons. Firstly because it's very much like stuffing your mouth with about three eggs of Silly Putty. Secondly because the nice folks had to take a cast of my upper teeth three times; they kept not quite getting the edge of my back teeth. Which, immediate discomfort aside, was embarrassing in a whole new way. Wha . . . are my teeth fat? Is my upper jaw just abnormally wide? Is there some kind of scull-focused diet plan I should be looking into? Sorry for my inconveniently fat teeth, everybody. I hope that Silly Putty stuff's not too expensive.

Lower jaw was double-plus-un-fun and even less dignified (four eggs of Silly Putty stuffed to the back of your throat); my poor gag reflex was like "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? What IS that thing? Get it OUT of your mouth or so help me I will get it out for you!" I managed to not vomit all over the poor technician, but I did end up drooling all over myself like a starving rabid timberwolf. A starving rabid timberwolf that's being fitted for a retainer. Ugh.

"So what are you going to have for lunch?" asked Dr. Luke. "I had corn on the cob first thing when I got my braces off." I hadn't thought about it, but suddenly corn on the cob sounded like a good idea. I left the orthodontist's office and headed straight for Chuck-a-Rama. (And my 'straight,' I mean that I had a pretty good idea of where it was, but had to do a few loops through the neighborhood to pinpoint the exact location.) Fortunately, they were just opening for lunch. Unfortunately, they had no corn on the cob. So I just indulged in everything else that I'd been avoiding for the last year: every kind of chicken on the bone, ribs, salads with sunflower seeds, dessert smothered in peanuts and Oreos. I can eat anything. Foods that yesterday required twenty minutes and a paper clip to completely dislodge from my mouth were utterly complication-free. Hot cinnamon from the cinnamon pull-aparts, which should have melted itself into every crevice of every bracket and hardened there, just melted away.

And through it all, I kept compulsively running my tongue across my smooth, straight new teeth, and pulling my lips back to get a good look at them whenever I passed anything reflective. I'm pretty sure that the other early patrons of Chuck-a-Rama thought I was a crazed cannibal of some kind. (Are we sure that's pork she's eating?)

So after a bones course, a crunchy things course, a things-with-cinnamon course and an everything-chocolate-in-one-bowl course, I came home and went straight to bed.


Today was the official Resheiving of the Retainers. My jaw has gotten a little codependent (or maybe it's Shtockholm Shyndrome), for it's almost a relief to have something wrapped shecurely around my teeth after a whole day of just letting 'em all hang out there. My shalivary glands are not as enthused. They are convinshed that these plastic things in my mouth must be shomething to eat (otherwise why would they be in my mouth?) and are doing their level best to get those suckers dissolved. I wonder if I'll start to get nausheous in an hour, like you do after chewing the same pieshe of gum for too long.

Retainersh feel exactly like having a hard plastic shell clipped in place over your teeth. I've been trying to think of some creative way to describe thish, but that's really all there ish to it. They're messing with my shpeech a little bit, leaving me inclined to lishp or even whishle, but with any luck that'll be over shoon.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Further Adventures in Management, or: What Happened to the Casserole?

 So you see, children, the Bible clearly teaches us that you can never trust an employer.

Fiddler on the Roof

The stage was set thusly.

It was midnight in a dark downtown office building. On only one floor, the second, were the lights on. Two teams, the Europe/Africa Customer Service Team ("Us") and the Europe/Africa IT Support Team ("Them") went about their business in the solitary bubble of florescent illumination.

It was the birthday of one of the Customer Service agents. In honor of the occasion, her team members had brought dinner to share: apple crisp, chocolate cake with ice cream, pomegranate juice, seasoned corn, and the magnificent chicken and broccoli casserole that had become a staple of these get-togethers.

The situation was as follows.

For the previous couple of weeks, one agent ("Me") had been playing her favorite game: Issue Form Ping-Pong. This particular issue/ball was a customer whose online store account wouldn't let him send materials to anywhere but his old ward's bishop's home address. By the time the customer actually sent an email that this agent could get hold of, the problem had been standing for eight months.* He was  understandably a touch irate by this time. (You should understand the word 'Irate' to mean 'Ticked as Heck.')

This agent, when she first received the e-mail two weeks or so ago, reached out the hand of peaceable friendship to the IT Support Team. It is within their power to re-sync online accounts, which (she had been given to understand) should fix this customer's problem. She offered food in exchange for the re-sync, capitalism being how it is and all. The food was accepted. The account was re-synced. The customer was assured that the problem would now go away.

The next day, another e-mail came: the problem had not gone away.

The agent submitted an Issue Form.

When she got the issue form back, Management had asked her for more information. When she tried to edit the form to add the necessary information, her browser fritzed out. Huh, thought she, the issue form must be corrupted or something. How inconvenient.

She submitted another form. On the top of the form, she put IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS that this was a duplicate because the original form is corrupted. She added the necessary information. She added AGAIN IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS that she had had this account re-synced and it didn't make any difference.

The next night, she received an e-mail informing her that her second issue form had been deleted because it was a duplicate. She was instructed to use the original form. She checked. It was still corrupted and unusable.
She submitted a third form. In ALL CAPITALS, she requested that this form not be deleted until the problem was confirmed as solved.

Management responded to her issue asking if she'd had the account re-synced.

The customer e-mailed again. 'Irate' has been upgraded to 'Livid.'

Before she could beat Management to death with a desktop white board, another Management talking head (Management 2) popped up to inform Management 1 that yes, she did say clearly that she'd re-synced the account.

Managment 2 was silent for a couple of days. Management 1 informed the agent that the problem probably wasn't important enough to actually get solved. The agent broke this news to the customer. The customer was not pleased.

Then, on a white charger, shining armor all a-gleam and a-twinkle, Management 1 announced that he had consulted the Programmers, tweaked one or two things, and now a re-sync was all that was needed.

The agent, filled with deep suspicion, nevertheless sent another envoy of goodwill over to IT Support. Having no food of her own to offer in exchange, she proffered the chocolate birthday cake. The cake, after all, was huge and rich. There was plenty of cake to share with an IT agent in exchange for his cooperation.

The IT agent re-synced the account. Then he came over to get some chocolate cake.

Then the other IT agents came over to get some chocolate cake.

Then the cry was raised: "What happened to all the chicken casserole?"

The agent hunched down in her chair and didn't say anything.

The moral of this story is:

It's Management's fault that our chicken casserole is gone.

*In case you're skimming, that was EIGHT MONTHS (all capitals). Like, since last April or something.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pedal Power

That's pretty dangerous, building a road in the middle of the street. I mean, if frogs couldn't hop, I'd be Gone with the Schwinn.

Kermit, The Muppet Movie

Today's Epic Adulthood Project: Cycling.

I live roughly three and a half miles from downtown Salt Lake. This means I live three and a half miles from my high school, my first job, my other job, by current job, the movies, the library, and really good raspberry muffin tops. Downtown is really close and convenient.

Since we moved to Salt Lake, my father has been trying to convince me that it would be a good idea to ride a bike to downtown instead of bumming a ride off of him.* Over the years, we've worked out a number of compromises, including:

The 'I bum a ride off of him anyway' compromise
The 'Just drive me out there and I'll find my own way home' compromise
The 'No one's even using the car right now, I'll just borrow it' compromise
The 'I'll bring you back a shake from Crown Burger' compromise
And last but not least, the 'Co-sign the loan for my own dang car' compromise

I do now have (Own! Paid off! Go me!) my own car, and since I work downtown, I have the shiniest parking in the whole wide city. For many months now, I've driven myself to and from work. (This habit started when UTA canceled my convenient late-night bus. Really. The bus was discontinued [With lots of warning . . . thanks, UTA, those hours standing on the corner waiting for a nonexistent bus really enriched my life] and after going back to the ride-bumming game for about a week, I bought my first car. Correlation may not imply causality, but in this case, causality sure as heck implies causality.) But there's still that niggling voice in the back of my head insisting that even better than driving my own self to work would be biking the 3.5 miles like a Gosh Dang Grown-Up.

Really. Biking to work means that my largest expenditure of fuel just disappears. I get a daily dose of cardio exercise, which I really need because I hate cardio and can't run a block downhill. It decreases pollution in our lovely city. It saves wear and tear on the car that I'm hoping will last me until the birth of my fourth child. (Only five seatbelts, see.) So it's free transportation, free exercise, and free smugness. Where's the downside?

The downside is that I have to drag my lazy tush out of bed at eleven o'clock at night and go out into the cold, cruel, dark world. That's what the downside is.

Oh, and let's just add: Salt Lake has these little suckers.

Who needs alien invaders? Our planet produces these diabolical things all by itself.
They're called 'goat's heads' or 'steerheads' and are little seed pods and were specifically created by the Lord God Almighty on about the sixteenth day of creation, when Adam had done something to tick Him off, to destroy bike tires and thus teach mankind a lesson in humility and patience and just giving up and driving a car. They are proof that God hates bikes and wants them to languish in garages, cowering in fear.

The few times that I've actually attempted to bike to downtown (or home from it), I have inevitably wound up walking my flat-tired vehicle through the dark and creepy city streets, leaving the six or seven steerheads in my tires because what, really, is the point in picking them out? I've lived on the West Side for eleven years and have seen a thing or two, but the only times . . . the ONLY times . . . I've ever genuinely felt unsafe was those nights alone in the dark, far from home, with a crippled bicycle.

Oh, and I made the acquaintance of steerheads by getting fourteen of them stuck in each of my bare feet. No one has ever learned to do a handstand so fast. But that's a whole 'nother story right there.**

Anyway, this irrational fear of cycling has been preying on my mind for some considerable time. Finally, in a fit of madness, I took a leap: I asked for a bike for Christmas. A folding bike.

Even for someone who doesn't like bikes, folding bikes are COOL. I did not anticipate actually receiving a folding bike, because their coolness makes them expensive and my dad knows me too well to think that I wouldn't chicken out of actually using one to get anywhere. Unfortunately, I underestimated my dad's faith in me. I hate it when that happens.

This is what greeted me on Christmas morning:

It's my very own folding bike. And it's Pink.

For those of you who may not know, I hate pink. I don't own anything pink, with the exception of my own skin. (I'm letting everybody know now, so that later when I have kids everyone will know in advance not to bring pink things to my baby showers.) I hate pink. But this is a Folding Bike. And it's Pink. It's one of those things where you plow straight through hatred and emerge on the other side head over heels in love. My Pink bike is officially the coolest thing in the history of cool. (One of the great advantages of being a twenty-something is that you get to decide what Cool is. Any younger, and Cool is something decided by other people to which you need to conform; any older, and whatever you think is Cool isn't.)

I think the Pink must have originally started out as an expense-cutting measure, but it has rapidly degenerated to a running gag. My Pink bike now has a pink rear wheel, a pink bike lock, and pink cycling gloves to go with it. My dad has been having way too much fun.

Add to all of this gear my Kindle, stocked up with Terry Pratchett audiobooks (yes, I'm on a kick; no, it won't last forever, I'll be fit for company soon), and you have one road-equipped Blogger ready to take on the world.


Yesterday I chickened out. It was cold, I was sleepy, I didn't know where anything was and I hadn't put lights on the Pink yet. I drove. I felt like a coward.

Today I girded up my loins, put on long johns, work clothes, warm socks, boots, headband, heavy coat, fluffy scarf, bike gloves, camelpak, purse, reflective vest, and earphones, and . . .

. . . biked a total of three blocks. One to the bus stop, one from the bus stop to my honored dance director's house, and another block in there switching stops between transfers.

Hey, riding the bus is good for the environment too, right?

At my honored dance director's house there was a dance-related meeting, which was fun and involved discussions on Terry Pratchett and Doctor Who, and included free ham. Throughout the meeting, I kept waiting for someone to offer me a lift to the Trax station.

No takers.

No takers.

It's cold out there . . . and dark . . . and there are steerheads . . .

You know the great thing about a folding bike? It'll fit in a car . . .

"Bye!" said everybody. "Your bike is so cool! We're so impressed that you're riding it! Have fun!"

"Bye!" said I, watching their warm labor-free vehicles drive off into the night. My face sported one of those smiles that doesn't fit quite right and gets jammed into place, breaking facial gears and leaving you unable to emote properly until repair crews are called in.

So at last, resigned to my fate,† I biked.

More accurately, I coasted, at least part of the way; Honored Dance Director's house is thankfully uphill of the local Trax stop. I pedaled where it was flat and got off and walked the short stretch that was too uphill for the Pink's poor little gears to handle well. I listened to Terry Pratchett. My left thumb got extremely cold (but not my right thumb . . . go figure). I stayed on the sidewalks because I'm still not in the mental place where I'm comfortable interacting with cars like social equals. I got a little bit lost. I got found again. I made it to the Trax, and from the Trax to work.

Distance biked: 3.7 miles, plus a block and change.

Tires: intact.


*My dad's a Pedal Pusher.

** The expression 'a whole 'nother' is, as far as I am aware, the English language's only infix. That makes it Cool. I'm twenty-six and I say so.

†A fate that I brought upon myself. Like Oedipus, except with a Pink bike.