You don’t have to be condescending to work here, but it helps.

There are some irritations in this world that I tolerate willingly and happily. However, these things never relate to my work. My first exposure to how the working world was supposed to operate (outside the context of my parents, who simply disappeared every day while I went to the babysitter’s house and threw hats into the lake) was Curious George. Every day the Man in the Yellow Hat, who was evidently able to find gainful employment at the Adventurers Club after illegally smuggling African primates into the US, would leave for work and come home chipper and upbeat and ready to tackle the problems that George and his Curiousness had caused during the day. I thought this is what it was to go to work, and I was confused when my parents would complain about it. “Come on, guys,” I thought, “The Man in the Yellow Hat has plenty of time and energy and enthusiasm and patience. Maybe you could get some tips from him at lunch.”

Ah, how wrong I was. Not only did I get the inkling that a porn-infested factory was probably not where The Man in the Yellow Hat spent his waking hours, I later learned that he is entirely fictional. Bum-mer. I could use a friend like The Man today.

Although I would probably hate him and fantasize about punching him in the face, for I work with … dun-dun-DUNNNN … academics.

I very recently was dealing with a situation where a member of staff provided information which indicated that he would be teaching during the next school year. His colleagues insisted that he was not teaching. “He told ME this was his last year!” they cried, “I’m confused! [EDITOR’S NOTE: As usual!]” So, I sent an e-mail to this member of staff. No answer. I then sent an e-mail to this member of staff’s line manager. “Could you please confirm whether this member of staff is teaching next year?” I asked. “I can’t seem to get ahold of him.”

Their reply was something to this effect: I’ll see if I can get hold of him. There is no such word as “ahold.”

As former president of the Grammar Club, this is the equivalent of a “Yo Momma” joke. First of all, SIR, “ahold” is dialectical and is so commonplace that it is considered acceptable in everyday lexicon. Secondly, what the FLIP does this have to do with the question I asked? And finally, SCREW YOU! AND YOUR MOM!

TRICKS AND TREATS

Daphne and Celeste – Ooh Stick You
The Perfect Work Mug?

Technology: Friend, foe or enabler of public perversity?

This morning while waiting for the second train involved in my morning commute, I spied with my little eye a woman reading from a Sony eBook. I was intrigued. Though I technically fall into the category of “Consumer Skeptic,” the reasons are purely monetary. If iPhones and Go!Explore technology were widely available out of gum machines for small change, I would be all over them like rhinestones on a prom dress.

I strategised my train boarding to be nearer so that I could get a better look. I lean over to check out the format of the reading material and to catch a glimpse of how this thing works, when what sentence do I accidentally read?

“Where do you keep your condoms, Lex?” Adam asked.

This tech-savvy, would-be normal person is reading a romance novel. On the train. I can’t think of a less sexy place in the world. A London Underground train ride ranks just below public restrooms and Raffi concerts in my personal “Sexiest Places” list.

Then again, what reason do I have to be judgy-wudgy? Is it the fact that she’s reading a romance novel or because she knew that people would judge her for reading romance novels so she masked her heaving passion with a sleek, electronic, non-phallic device?

TRICKS AND TREATS

Here they are, Adam!

Dear Corporate A-Hole, Issue No.1

Dear American Airlines,

As a seasoned air traveler, it has become my understanding that economy class is not comfortable for anyone. Therefore, passengers have two choices. They can do what they must to make themselves comfortable, or they can each do their part to ensure that everyone has as pleasant a journey as possible. Common sense would suggest that a flight attendant’s code would be more aligned with the latter philosophy.

During a recent 7+ hour, sold-out flight from Chicago to London, I was seated behind a passenger who was roughly the size of a CPR dummy that was used in my 5th grade gym class. The ample space given for such a small person, however, was not enough, as she found it necessary to recline (read: slam) her seat into my legs. As my legs were deeply nestled (read: crushed) into the back of her seat in the first place, this was not an ideal situation. I leaned forward and explained to her that I had very little leg room and if she wouldn’t mind sacrificing a tiny bit of reclining space so that I could be comfortable, I would really appreciate it. She said okay.

A few minutes later, she did it again. Again, I asked her to please stop. She said okay.

Shortly after, a flight attendant (whom we will call Pamela because her crew identification tag was conveniently flipped over and because she had blond hair and her blouse was buttoned inappropriately) passed and the passenger reported a problem with her seat. It couldn’t recline all the way! Why not?

Pamela pressed the button on the passenger’s seat and the seat reclined into my legs. She then identified the problem. My legs were in the way! She then asked me if I could move my legs. “Where? Into the aisle?” I asked. I then explained the situation and that I had asked the passenger twice if it would be all right if I could have a bit extra leg room to avoid a permanent tray imprint in my knees and that she had agreed. As if to prove a point, she asked my husband (5’2″) if the seat in front of HIM was digging into HIS legs. “No,” he replied, “but she is eight inches taller than me.”

Then Pamela looked at me as if I had just asked her for a complimentary filet mignon and said, “Well, she has a right to recline. She paid for the seat.”

And I don’t have the right to a comfortable flight? Pardon me, but WTF?

Allow me to present a similar scenario: You go to the movies where there is assigned seating. Despite being one of the first people to arrive at the theater, you are placed in the very back row. The show is sold out, so there is nowhere for you to move after the film starts.

The previews finish and the person in front of you stands up. This is not because of medical necessity or because he can’t see the screen already; this is simply because he can and it is his right to do so. You ask the guy if he wouldn’t mind standing more to one side or the other so that you can lean the opposite way and see the screen. He agrees, but then stays exactly where he is. An usher approaches and he complains that you asked him to move over. You explain that it is because you can’t see the screen. Then the usher says, “Well, he has the right. He bought a ticket.”

The Customer Service Plan on the American Airlines Web site reads: “We are dedicated to making every flight you take with us something special. Your safety, comfort and convenience are our most important concerns.”

Well, obviously. Thank you, Pam and crew, for making my flight extra safe, comfortable and convenient and especially for giving others license to be rude.

Regrettably yours,

Crushed in Cabin

The Gift That Keeps On Giving and Giving and Giving and Giving…

As The Eels would say, Christmas is going to the dogs. Especially in a time of economic crisis, when commercial enthusiasm is elevated to Seusslike proportions in order to mask the panic, we must ask ourselves two questions:

  1. Is it ever okay to re-gift?
  2. What about if we don’t get caught?

Since moving to the UK, I have become a merciless re-gifter. My parents have a huge hoarding problem which has over the years created the need for an attic, a large-ish storage shed, a poolhouse and the largest hangar at the local airport where my dad is a hobby pilot. (The hangar itself is a coveted piece of real estate, which I imagine was won in a Bloody Knuckles tournament.)

You know when you move in with someone and one person has all the stuff? Before the British Invasion, I was that person. I remember before going to college talking to my then-future-roommate, Becca, on the phone and discussing who would bring what. I agreed to bring a microwave (Target: $35) and she would bring the refrigerator. Dad, afraid that Becca would bring one of inadequate size, bought an additional fridge. (“What if she brings one of those tiny ones without any freezer space?” he asked.)

[Epilogue: Becca did bring “one of those tiny ones” and not only filled hers but half of mine. She also did not bring a computer, any crates or other storage-type pieces, or furniture. She did, however, bring every piece of clothing manufactured since the Reagan administration and a 90 lb. box of shoes.]

As my accommodation expanded eventually to a 2-bed/1.5-bath/2-story condo with garage, so did my array of possessions. Every Christmas I would go home and return with mountains of merch with which to festoon my living quarters and positively impact my life.

Shortly after arriving in London, it was apparent that I had no choice but to adopt a lifestyle which matched the size of my accommodation. I asked for very little for Christmas that year and every year since.

But somehow I mysteriously end up with all this shiznit for which I have absolutely no use. In these dire circumstances, it only makes sense to spread the love.

For fear of being disclosing any past and near future incidents of re-gifting, I hesitate to list any specific examples. I’m sure that past victims have been none the wiser and simply thought their gift(s) were stupid; however, I’m confident that they found the gift(s) no more stupid than I did the first time around. As my good friend Jason Holzhausen said in a letter enclosed with my unsigned wedding card: “I understand that this card is stupid. I’ve even left this card blank so that you can pass it on to another unsuspecting couple. You know…pass the stupid around.”

I encourage you to regale me with tales of your own re-gifting antics. Best story wins a special prize (which may or may not be a year or more old).

A Prom to Remember…After Dark

They thought it would never happen. “Blasphemy!” they said. Also, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.” (Although, to be fair, this doesn’t make any sense.)

But it seems they are wrong, for I am writing a post. Stranger things have happened.

For example.

Since living in the UK, I have noticed several seemingly tiny but culturally huge gaps in the things British and American societies deem important. Soccer and peanut butter respectively top this list.

However, it seems the gap is closing and we are embracing one another’s traditions. In return for the Americans embracing Victoria Beckham as a valid human being (in some cases), British teens have run away with the concept of senior prom.

Prom, where memories are made, is typically tacky and gross and therefore unsurprisingly something of an industry. I was too cool (read: misanthropic) for the prom committee, but I have been in physical contact with catalogues containing everything you need for your perfect magical evening.

Sometimes this gets out of control. My best friend, who was on the prom committee, claims that her senior prom’s color scheme was established to match a committee member’s dress. Further to this, she claims that she visited her high school during prom season years later and found that they had developed a new and unique prom theme all by themselves: Candyland After Dark.

If I remember anything whatsoever about Candyland, I recall it being relatively frightening in broad daylight. Not only did it feature Gloppy the Molasses Monster, the Lord Licorice of the ’80s looks like Satan and the Candyland Kids themselves look like they belong to Aryan Nations or Prussian Blue. I can’t imagine anything in Candyland being improved by darkness.

For that matter, the idea of any character-based board game after dark has potential to be utterly frightening. Clue After Dark. Guess Who After Dark. Don’t Wake Daddy After Dark. Hungry, Hungry Hippos…After Dark.

Is prom’s UK invasion a good thing? Will the obnoxiousness be lost in translation? Let’s consult our Magic 8 Ball After Dark.

Hmm. Outlook not good.

TRICKS AND TREATS

A Deterrant: Prussian Blue – Skinhead Boy
What’s Your Prom Style?

The “I’ll Try” Theory

Hello. My name is Aleshia, and I’m a hypocrite.

“Hi, Aleshia.”

There are some social phenomena that I fail entirely to understand, but in which I participate.

For example, almost every day for the past 7+ years, I have bought a bottled soft drink for $1. This is roughly $2,555 worth of Diet Pepsi, and that’s only if we assume that I bought only one per day and that I have not lived in England for the past year and a half (thereby making each one cost essentially $2). Also, I do not recycle when it is not convenient for me to do so.

But I think the most astounding of these phenomena is the concept of “I’ll try.”

A few weeks ago I held a party, to which a friend said she would “try” to come. How can you try to go somewhere? Either you plan to leave your house and reach your destination or you don’t. Saying “I’ll try” makes it appear as though you’re precontemplating an accident.

“Well, I’ll try to come, but there’s the possibility that I’ll be hit by a bus and be paralysed from the waist down. Then I’ll crawl along the roadside and try to hitch a ride, but one of my hands will get caught in a bear trap. The other hand, in a strange coincidence will be caught in the spokes of a passing bicycle, thereby breaking my wrist and all my fingers. But I will pressed on. I will chew my entrapped arm off and pull myself along by the lips, but by the time I arrive at your house, everyone may have already gone home! But I’ll try.”

I have perhaps used this phrase in the past, but I vow to never use it again, as it makes no sense. I encourage you to do the same.

Just say “no”.

After these messages…

I’ll be riiiiight back. Really.

So, to answer the all-important question of the pop-punk band Mest, the “dilio” is this:

I’m getting a Master’s degree writin’ for the talkin’ pictures and I’ve been writing like a madperson. But I will return soon. Not like Jesus, who said he’d be back soon and 3,000 years later we’re still waiting. I’d like to know what HIS “dilio” is.

Anyway. This is why I’ve deserted you, for which I apologi[z/s]e. Please take comfort in the fact that I have not forgotten you.

In the meantime, I insist you play THIS.

Discuss.

The Chat Room of Life…with Cheese

It’s tough to possess the secrets of the universe.

Day after day people approach me on the street and ask, “Aleshia, what do I need in order to live a life of purpose and fulfillment?”

And I answer: “Cheese.” Obviously. Show me a person who can think of something that can’t be improved with cheese, and I’ll show you a person who has not reached his or her creative potential.

I understand that for some — bless their little cottons — cheese is not enough. Which is why, like all things worth mentioning, there is a “top five” list of life’s bare necessities:

1. Cheese
(Previously discussed.)

2. Entrance Music
I think everyone will agree that there is no better way to announce to the world that, yes, you have arrived and yes, your arrival implies awesomeness than if Funkadelic’s “Freak of the Week” played every time you walked into a room. This could be decidedly inconvenient if walking in late for a final or if you (accidentally or intentionally) entered an “opposite” restroom. I suppose since we are operating within the city limits of Hypotheticalville, we could amend the entrance music to sound only when we need it most and not necessarily always in an entrance-type situation, like when we get strikes in bowling or when a salesperson is helpful.

Five Really, Really Good Entrance Music Songs (in no particular order)

1. Europe – The Final Countdown
2. Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone
3. Johnny Rivers – Secret Agent Man
(commonly mistaken for “Secret Asian Man,” thus making it ideal for individuals of oriental descent or those who would like to be)
4. Lenny Kravitz – American Woman
5. Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar on Me

3. An Alias
Above any other human right, everyone deserves an alter ego. If for no other reason, you always have a reliable person on whom to blame your shortcomings and the deletion of answering machine messages.

Five Notable Musical Aliases

1. Elvis “Napoleon Dynamite” Costello
2. Garth “Chris Gaines” Brooks
3. Prince “Alexander Nevermind”/”Joey Coco”/”Jamie Starr”/”Paisley Park”/”Camille”/”Weird Symbol Thingy” (Rogers Nelson — who’da thunk?)
4. David “Ziggy Stardust” Bowie
5. John “Mel Torment” Lennon

4. A Signature Sign-Off
Of equal importance to trumpeting your arrival, your exit, when you choose, should be solid and finite. We can pretend all we like, but there is no better way to control an unruly crowd of admirers than to answer everyone’s impending questions with a single comment.

Top Five Signature Sign-Offs Which Most Readily Leap to Mind

1. “Seacrest out!” – Ryan Seacrest
2. “And that’s the way it was.” – Walter Cronkite
3. “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” – Jimmy Durante
4. “Take care of yourselves and each other.” – Jerry Springer
5. “Bon appétit!” – Julia Child

5. Bacon

TRICKS AND TREATS

Funkadelic – Freak of the Week
Sheena Easton – Sugar Walls, as written by Alexander Nevermind
Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

Just a bowlful of superstition helps the Thanksgiving go down (as in “occur”)

As any red, white and blue-blooded, well-versed, gen-u-ine Ameri-person will tell you, one’s cultural identity is based upon the events that take place on the following dates:

April 16: The Day After Tax Day
Key ingredients: Large quantities of alcohol to drown out the undeniable fact that you have just spent upwards of $12 to send forms (probably filled out incorrectly) to the IRS overnight. Somewhere between “sober” and “unable to control bodily functions,” you will inevitably realize that you make little enough money that you could’ve just done the whole thing over the phone.

July 4th: The Fourth of July
Key ingredients: A pontoon boat homemade by your male relatives out of empty plastic drums and plywood; several large and noisy and orgasmically menacing pyrotechnic items; and lots and lots of very cheap beer. Somewhere between “sober” and “Hey, let’s run an extention cord out to the boat from the house so we can hook up some lights and the stereo!” you realize that you have inadvertently driven your truck into the lake.

The third Thursday of November: Thanksgiving
Key ingredients: Food. Namely, a dish suggested by NPR’s The Splendid Table which calls for – when one doubles the recipe – 2 small cloves of garlic. You and the artist formerly known as your boyfriend make this dish; unfortunately, you have the combined culinary prowess of a large rock and mistake a bulb for a clove, thereby multiplying the intended garlic content of said dish by six. Furthermore, in the absence of a food processor, you combine the cheese and liquid items in a blender.

Though specific traditions will vary depending on the family you’ve been bestowed upon, they invariably involve the exponential increase of any and all neuroses. By which I mean “creating a seating chart.” Despite any amount of planning to keep families together and the silly idealism of casting aside generation gaps, the arrangement was some variation of this:

Age-Biased Thanksgiving Seating Chart

While the adults’ table was adrift in the calm seas of Thanksgiving merriment, the kids’ table was without fail a proverbial monsoon of pandemonium: Aaron spills Kool-Aid all over Tiffany, Tim eats all of the mashed potatoes without making sure that everyone has had first helpings, T.J. is on Megan’s “side” of the bench (as if there were enough room to allocate personal space), and two of the little ones, whose names everyone has forgotten, have to eat under the table as there is not enough available seating at ground level.

We loved it.

I must say, though, that celebrating Thanksgiving in Britain was quite a change of pace. There was no raucous air of impending disaster, no forceable pie consumption, no even remembering it was Thanksgiving until receiving a MySpace comment asking whether or not Thanksgiving is celebrated in the UK. Apparently not. Especially since my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of some Brazil nuts, rice and a bowl of Lucky Charms, which my mother transported from the homeland in October. There is no better way to give thanks than over a bowl filled with tiny marshmallow manifestations of someone’s paranoia.

TRICKS AND TREATS

Bring Lucky Charms to the UK!
Big D and the Kids Table – Can’t Be Caught
Give Thanks for Mad Libs