Local Woman Finds and Disposes of Mysterious Candy Found in Office

Posted by Kathy on March 26th, 2014

jelly candiesBETHLEHEM, PA – A local woman found a smashed doughnut-shaped sugared jelly candy on the floor of her office that she claims she never purchased.

Kathy Frederick, 48, of Bethlehem, PA discovered the candy while pushing her chair away from her desk and standing up.

“I was like OMG, that’s not my candy,” she said. “I never eat those. They stick in your teeth. Where did this come from?”

Frederick, a computing consultant at Lehigh University, said she often takes candy from her supervisor’s candy dish, but reported that sugared jelly is not among the selections.

“I have no idea why this is here,” she said. “And it’s thick, so it’s not like it could have stuck to the bottom of my shoe and come in from the outside.”

Frederick considered contacting the Campus Police because she thought surely someone had gained unauthorized access to her office when she wasn’t present.

She suspected briefly that someone must have enjoyed their candy in the comfort of her office, where this morning she rolled over it with her chair and flattened it.

“It’s really gross now,” she said.

After considering the presence of the candy from every conceivable angle, she ultimately picked it up and threw it into a nearby trash bin.

“This will probably bug me for at least an hour,” Frederick said. “Huh.”

Frederick later returned to her regular candy-eating routine, enjoying several Reese’s minis, York Peppermint Patties and caramel creams with her afternoon coffee.

Once Upon a Timepiece

Posted by Kathy on March 15th, 2014

abacusI attended a conference this week for writers in higher education. During one of the sessions, I sat next to a woman who intrigued me because she was wearing a device on her left wrist that looked foreign to me.

In my tech job at work, I thought I’d seen everything. Devices are getting so much smaller these days and they do so much that it’s like walking around with an entire computer in your pocket.

But this thing she had strapped to her wrist was something that really baffled me. This device looked like jewelry, but wasn’t quite a bracelet. It had symbols on it, but didn’t light up. I wondered if it was taking her pulse or counting her steps or something.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I just blurted out “What’s that thing on your wrist?”

“It’s a wristwatch.”

“A wristwatch? What’s that?”

“A wristwatch is something you wear on your wrist to tell time.”

“Tell time? You mean, it speaks to you? Like Siri?”

“No, you just look at it.”

Look at it? But I see it’s not digital. How can it possibly tell you the time? Does it beep and remind you of appointments?”

She drew it a little closer to me. “See, it has hands that move. The shorter hand points to the hour and the longer hand points to the minutes.”

“So it keeps moving throughout the day as the time changes?”

“Yes.”

“But does it alert you to appointments?”

“No. You just have to glance at it when you think you’re getting close to an appointment time.”

“That must be hard.”

“No, not really. You just think about when you need to be somewhere and you check whether you’re close to it. Observe. I’m going to look at it right now and determine that I have to be at the next session in fifteen minutes.”

“Wow. That’s remarkable. No beeps. You mean you use your brain?”

“Yes, I use my brain.”

“Huh. Brain. I don’t see you have a place to plug it in. How do you charge it?”

“You don’t. You wind it. It’s mechanical. It’s powered by a spring mechanism.”

“A spring mechanism?! What is this madness?”

“You have to wind it periodically to make it keep accurate time. The spring tightens as you wind it and drives the watch as it unwinds.”

“So you’re saying that when it runs low, you don’t have to run all around looking for a place to plug it in?”

“Right. You just turn this little dial here a few times and you’re done.”

“Fascinating! So listen, did you get that last comment the speaker made that sounded really important? I didn’t type it on my laptop.”

“As a matter of fact, I did. I wrote it down.”

“Wrote it?”

“Yeah. I used this thing. It’s called a pen. “

“A pen? What’s that?”

Identity Theft Made Easy

Posted by Kathy on October 11th, 2013

Identity theftThis afternoon I went down to the computer labs in my building at work to hang up signs about National Cyber Security Awareness Month. (Huh. How ‘bout that. A government site that’s still running….)

While I stood arranging things, I noticed a student sitting at a computer, talking on her cell phone. She was obviously giving information about some kind of account she needed to verify.

I know this because she blurted out all kinds of personal information, including her social security number, within earshot of me and all the other people present in the lab.

This, while I was putting up signs about safeguarding your data and protecting your identity online.

I laughed to myself when she spelled her name and for each letter, gave a word that started with each letter. “A as in apple. R as in rover. K as in…. K as in…. K as in….”

I wanted to scream out “kangaroo!!!!!!” to help her along, but she eventually thought of a word that started with K, the poor thing.

Then I wanted to tell her “You should probably take your conversation somewhere private because we can all steal your identity based on the information you gave out so far.”

But then she gave the person on the phone her birthdate.

Something something 1994.

I have underwear older than her.

This disturbed me, so I mentally punched her in the face and left her to give out all the rest of her personal information for those still in the lab.

I just don’t understand how a student smart enough to get into the university where I work can be so utterly careless when it comes to keeping her privacy.

Although….. if I stayed long enough, I might have gotten a credit card number. I did have some shopping to do.

I Don’t Know Why I Even Try

Posted by Kathy on September 26th, 2013

Today at work I was asked by a professor to upgrade some software for her. Software that you have to stay near and babysit while it installs. This would be a long visit.

And since it was during my typical mid-afternoon energy slump, I decided to heat up some coffee and bring it with me in my mug.

It wasn’t until I got to her office that I realized the mug looked like something had been living in it for a few days.

Old stains and lipstick smears. Gross.

Because she was seated behind me, every time I took a sip I turned the cup away from us so the stains weren’t visible. No one should be subjected to your coffee funk and I didn’t want her to form an opinion about my coffee mug hygiene.

So an hour or so goes by, I finish the installation, gather up my USB drive, office keys and put on my eyeglasses. Done. Yea!

I go on about my business and about a half hour later, a guy shows up in my office. He’s the professor’s student assistant and he’s carrying the one thing I didn’t want anyone to get a good look at.

He has touched the funk mug that of course I forgot in the professor’s office. I apologize and thank him for bringing it back.

So now at least two people in Economics know that I’m a total slob and I’m just so sure they wonder if I wash dishes at home or clean anything at all.

I do. But apparently not good enough. I mean, really, how do you get coffee on the outside? I swear I know how to drink and clean like a person. Really, I do.

gross coffee cup

Mug Shots

Posted by Kathy on June 8th, 2012

I work with a mug hoarder apparently.

Right before quittin’ time today, I walked into the kitchenette to rinse out my mug and found a colleague, Sherri (not her real name, or maybe it is) cleaning out her mugs.

Mugs. Plural. Like seven of them. I’m scared a little. Did she lose a bet?

It’s like a load of laundry in there. She’s got bubbles up to her elbows, a scratchy sponge and I don’t know what else. Maybe she is also doing laundry.

Busy cleaning, she missed the “I’m going to blog about this” look on my face and so here we are.

Let’s begin.

“Um? Are these all yours?”

“Yeah. I used them all during the week.”

“So, what’s the deal? You leave coffee in them and then grab another? Like disposable mugs?”

“No, they’re for oatmeal. You know, the instant packets.”

“Ah, yes. I used to do that. And uneaten oatmeal gets hard and crusty and you could mortar a brick wall with it?”

“Right. Hence, the violent scrubbing.”

We’re all about saving the environment at work, so I give her props for not using Styrofoam cups for her oatmeal and then the conversation shifts to all things mug.

Our favorites, what we like about their shape, height, weight and which ones have good “mug feel.”

Mug feel is critical. Bad mug feel is the death of mugs and the reason I have a cabinet full of them over the microwave.

They’ll never get used because they’re either too tall or too narrow (or both), or they’re the size of soup bowls or they’re too tiny for a respectable cup of coffee.

My favorite one at work is this:

work mug

Minus the spillage. That happened on a Monday, by the way. The day coffee gets all bitchy and ruinous about things.

This mug is the perfect height, width and weight. What I love most is the color. It’s such a soothing shade of blue. It makes me happy.

A happy Kathy is the goal, especially at work. I don’t even mind that it’s an ugly mug, in terms of the company stuff written on it. I got it free at a vendor expo and I don’t even buy from them in my job. But the mug is awesome and for that, I love Lehigh Valley Business Machines.

Now here’s my favorite mug at home:

002 001

I love my Tigger mug! As far as I know, you can only get one at Disney World, so I’m totally screwed if this one breaks.

Although I would fly 1,000 miles to get a new one if push came to shove.

It’s perfect for its short, stocky size and circumference, and has a good weight. A hair heavy, but I forgive it because it’s TIGGER!

Tigger makes me happy. And – all together now – a happy Kathy is the goal.

So, peeps. Tell me all about your favorite mug.

I know you have a favorite.

What makes it so?

Weird Guy in the Men’s Room

Posted by Kathy on May 23rd, 2012

urinalsI don’t profess to know what goes on in a typical men’s room and I don’t have a desire to know, really.

What happens in the men’s room should stay in the men’s room.

Except that weird things happen in the men’s rooms where I work and I’m unprotected from these stories, which my male co-workers keep foisting upon me.

To wit.

There is a guy who hangs out in the library where I work. No one recognizes him as an employee. Those who’ve seen him suspect he’s a townie who just likes hanging out in a library reading.

Fine. We love reading. People should be able to read in a library all day. That’s a good thing.

It’s when he uses the bathroom that things get a little interesting.

My co-worker has entered the men’s room to find Weird Guy standing at a urinal, doin’ his thang, as normal.

But with his shoes off to the side.

When he finishes, he puts his shoes back on and exits. Without washing his hands to boot.

Now.

I have to assume that he’s protecting his shoes from errant spray. I think I get that.

But if you’re going to have spray, do you really want it on your socks, which you then cover with your shoes, so all that residue bakes inside the rest of the day?

Is spray really a problem in there? Is that what happens? If he’s not concerned about spray, then why take the shoes off? Unless they’re platform shoes, and Weird Guy wants to be closer to the urinal, what’s the point? Is it more comfortable to pee without shoes on? Who does that?

So many questions.

The same guy has been spotted on another occasion by a different co-worker.

We’re all about saving energy where we work. The men’s and ladies rooms both have tiny vestibules leading into the actual restroom, which are lit.

It’s a habit of this co-worker to turn off that light as he enters the bathroom.

The actual bathroom has motion sensor lights in it, so that they only turn on when someone enters. The light remains on for a good while after a person exits, then automatically shuts off.

Now.

When he entered the restroom, he did his usual thing – turned off the vestibule light – and then opened the next door leading to the men’s room.

The light turned on automatically.

And there he found Weird Guy, standing at a urinal in a room that moments before was dark.

OK.

So.

What this means is that Weird Guy went into the men’s room, the light went on, but then he stayed. Motionless. For as long as it took for the light to turn off.

I. Do. Not. Understand.

I can find no reason a person wants to be in the bathroom in the dark, well after he’s finished doing his business.

What’s to do in there? You can’t even read! You can’t see anything! You’re in a bathroom in the pitch black scaring the crap out of people who come in after you. What are you doing Weird Guy????

So many questions.

I’m super grateful that nothing like this ever happens in the ladies room. The worst that happens is discovering that female college students are complete and total slobs.

But at least they’re slobs who pee wearing shoes with the lights on.

Clown Day and The Movie Trailer

Posted by Kathy on January 27th, 2012

Clown Day was a huge success, except for the fact that students on our campus couldn’t have cared less that a clown walked among them. I’m still calling it a win because no one threw a pie at me.

I’ll recap the day and then let you enjoy the movie trailer we produced to commemorate events. I’m submitting it to Sundance. They take everything.

The day began with my clown assistant sister Marlene collecting me at my house. I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat later, and she immediately chastised me for putting too much of everything on the bread. I can’t do anything right.

We piled in the car and headed to work, getting noticed by no one. We clowned around in my office with everyone who came to get an eyeful. Took video and pictures and then headed out to our first stops.

No one said anything to us. And I looked like this. I don’t get it either.

Clown Day Students, if anything, simply glanced and put their heads back down. Only one student spoke. “Run! Run away!

Wow. Tough crowd.

We headed for visits to various buildings on campus, stopping at my satellite office, where I followed a grad student back to hers, saying “Would you mind if I followed you back to your desk? in the creepiest way possible. Until I told her who I was, she would not look me in the eye. Note to self. Creepy is only fun for the clown.

Before we knew it, lunch time! We headed to a deli nearby, where I had my first and last PBJ sandwich. I know I made it wrong. I know I used the wrong jelly (strawberry), but that didn’t matter. I was a “mouth feel” thing. Jelly too slimy. Make clown sad.

So my videographer graciously offered me half his BLT sandwich. Bacon good. Make clown happy.

The rest of the afternoon was more of the same: Students not caring, but friends and co-workers loving it.

By 3PM, my clown assistant and I were exhausted. Clowning is much harder than I thought it would be. You always have to be ON. We felt OFF by then and decided to head home.

Made a quick visit to my clown assistant’s workplace for pictures. Found out that her co-worker’s son is a campus police officer where I work and got the email that I sent warning that a clown would be on-campus (can’t be too careful).

Can you imagine the morning briefing? Be on the lookout for a clown today. She’ll be unarmed and hilarious.

So what did I learn by clowning all day?

  • A clown can hold her bladder for eight hours and not suffer any ill effects.
  • She can also eat a whole pizza for dinner by herself.
  • No one’s butt looks good in a clown suit. Hourglass figure? Forget it.
  • A blue afro rocks.

Thanks go again to my sister for helping me with picture-taking and lugging all my clown paraphernalia around. Clowning is hard, but I think clown assisting is harder.

Jason Slipp, my good friend and co-worker, filmed and edited the following movie trailer. Thanks for your creative spirit, time and talent! (Movie to come in a later post).

Here you go!

January 20 is Clown Day

Posted by Kathy on January 16th, 2012

post-it Many of you know that this Friday, January 20th, is Clown Day.

The day I agreed I would go to work dressed in full clown gear after you donated so much to my food bank fundraiser.

Let me tell you, it’s hard being a clown. But it’s also some of the most fun I’ve had in my life.

In the past weeks, I went shopping for just the right clown suit, makeup, a wig the size of a basketball, white gloves, a dozen balloons and a tote bag to keep all my girly clown things secured.

It took me four attempts at a face to land on one I’m happy with. YouTube videos helped, and so did pictures on the Internet and makeup packaging. I started out with a dreadful Joan Crawford face, but wound up with much more cheerful one in the end.

I took my clown self for an “in public” test drive yesterday, visiting my mother first. I had to call and warn her that she would not recognize my fully-painted face and to please not attack me with a baseball bat.

I drove around town before and after and waved at anyone who would look at me. If you have a bucket list, put clowning on it! It’s a laugh a minute!

All but one person waved back or smiled.

That one person who didn’t?

He flipped me the bird at an intersection.

I think he needed a hug. If you can’t smile back at a clown, you’re dead inside. That’s all I have to say about that.

So that you can all follow along with my clownal shenanigans, I’ve set up a Facebook page that you can “Like.” I’ll post pictures and updates as often as possible.

I’ll also blog about it after, with plenty of photos and video.

You are as much a part of this as anyone I run into that day. I hope you enjoy following along with me for the ride.

Thank you again for making the food bank fundraiser a huge success!

Feed the Hungry. Embrace the Crazy.

Posted by Kathy on December 7th, 2011

We’re embracing the crazy again at The Junk Drawer. If I gave you the chance, what would you dare me to do? Something gross? Something scary? Something embarrassing?

If I offered the power to choose one of those things, and I promised to do it on camera, would you pay for the opportunity?

Read on and see how the crazy works.

Bill White, a columnist from my local paper, The Morning Call, sponsors a fundraiser every year for a food bank in our area.

He’s also responsible for one of my family’s most-anticipated holiday traditions – visiting elaborately decorated homes on a Christmas lights tour that he designs based on reader submissions.

He drives by every nominated home and publishes a tour of the very best ones, including driving directions to take from house to house. It’s a huge deal around these parts and my family picks one of the routes to enjoy every year.

What’s really fun is that Bill turned his fundraising efforts and the lights tour into a challenge for his readers to collect as much as possible for a chance to win a personal tour with him.

Those who make the largest donations to the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley get to be driven around in style to see homes on the tour.

And I want a tour!

Here’s where you come in.

If I can reach my fundraising goal of $750 by December 14 that should guarantee me and my family a tour with Bill.

AND! My sisters and I are willing to match your gifts (up to $250).

What’s in it for you besides spreading Christmas cheer? YOU. GET. POWER.

Your reward for making a donation is to vote on which of the following you’d like to see me do. I MUST DO whichever one receives the most votes.

1. Eat my first ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Many of you know I find these two foods together a rather disgusting combination. I’ve gone my entire life without one, but I’d make an exception if it meant others could go a little less hungry.

2. Ride a horse. Some of you may recall this being on my list of 10 Things I Don’t Have the Guts To Do. I’m afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid. And the horse should be, too. Do horses have weight limits?

3. Wear full clown gear to work all day. Face paint, big red shoes, wig. Everything. I will work as normal on my clients’ computers, go to meetings, and eat lunch with strangers. In public.

If you’re willing to donate, please use the ChipIn tool below to make a secure contribution. And THANK YOU!

Then leave a comment indicating which task you’d like me to do. If I hit my goal, I’ll get the job done and post back with a video of me in action.

REMEMBER: ALL DONATIONS DUE BY DECEMBER 14! That’s not a lot of time, but I know you can do it.

You have the power!

In Which We Give Thanks for Teeny Tiny, Light-Weight Technology

Posted by Kathy on May 4th, 2011

My team was recently moved to new offices at the university where I work. We’re now housed behind rows and rows of stacks at one of the two campus libraries.

Taped to the door of our makeshift kitchenette is this “Carrel Policies” note, apparently written for library patrons in 1972, where I suspect it remains as a reminder of how far technology has come.

To wit:

carrel policies

Did you see it? At the bottom?

personal effects

OK, here’s the part of the show where we find out who’s old enough to have lugged a typewriter to the library to work on a paper or other scholarly work.

Also, how far out of alignment is your back?

Ahhh, the good ‘ol days. No thanks!

Where There’s a Hair, There’s a Way

Posted by Kathy on February 4th, 2011

I have eyebrow OCD.

No, I’m not one of those women who plucks her eyebrows until there’s no hair left and then have to pencil in new ones. That’s just freaky and wrong.

I will, however, obsess over a wayward, disobedient hair and won’t be able to function until it’s plucked and gone.

You know that hair, right? The one that sticks out so long it starts to curl like a question mark, when all the other hairs are lying down flat like good little hyphens? Yeah, that one.

Yesterday I found a question mark.

At work.

Where I don’t have tweezers.

I did find this, though. It’s a Swiss Army card. I think you use it if your office gets hit by an avalanche and you have to MacGyver your way out.

swiss army cardLookie here. We have scissors, a letter opener/blade, a pressurized ballpoint pen, a magnifying glass, an LED light, four screwdriver tips and TWEEZERS.

Score!

Since I didn’t have a mirror, and a coworker who likely had one wasn’t around, I headed to the ladies room and got working on my hairy question mark.

I had problems immediately because there was barely any tension in my cheap Swiss Army tweezers. Over and over, they kept slipping off the hair. 
Then I heard a very faint rustle coming from a nearby stall. That was the “I’m here, wish you weren’t” rustle of someone trying to take care of business.

The #1 rule of bathroom etiquette? You exit the room if there is someone thinking really hard in there. They don’t need you loitering any more than you want to hear them thinking.

So I leave disappointed. The hair will have to wait. GRRRRR!

As soon as I get in the hallway, I’m ambushed by a student who frantically asks me the time.

When I tell him it’s 9:30 he says "Oh, man. That’s late. I’m really late for class, like 20 minutes late. I overslept! I never oversleep! I don’t want to go in now. Should I or shouldn’t I?"

I’m thinking "Dude, do you NOT see this question mark growing out of my head? I got bigger problems. Outta my way, Jack."

I wish him luck with his decision and leave him standing frozen in his tracks. I feel a little sorry for him, but not sorrier than I am about my errant hair. Priorities, people.

I head to a different ladies room upstairs. Good, no one’s in here.

Now. Let’s get to work.

I figure out how to pull hair easier by positioning my fingers at the tip of the Swiss Army tweezers and putting all the pressure there. Except, I keep pulling the wrong hairs.

Every time I think I have the question mark in my grip, it’s not. It’s a hyphen.

I’ve now pulled at least five hyphens and still have the question mark. And now the left brow is looking a little thinner than the right. Uh-oh.

Come on, Kath. Question mark! Question mark! 

I’m also getting red and puffy under the hairs because I’m over-plucking hyphens and they scream on the way out and leave a mark.

Worried now that I’m going to have to spend the rest of the day looking like a cross between Rocky Balboa and Bozo the Clown, and also scared someone will walk in on me during my hair surgery, I retreat and return to my office.

Luckily, my coworker is back at her desk and loans me a compact. Hunched over the mirror, I fluff up what remains of my left brow so the question mark stands out. Again. There it is, still taunting me. Oh, I’ve got you now.

With a steady hand, expert precision and perfect pressure, I grab hold of the question mark and yank away. I’ve got it! Yes, I’ve got it! Oh, sweet relief.

When I get home to a normal pair of tweezers, I even out and shape up my brows like I should have done sooner.

I make a mental note to buy a spare pair of tweezers so I can keep one at work because I’m pretty sure I’ll see another question mark – or worse, an ampersand – and I want to be ready for that bad boy.

&

Yeah. It could happen.

A Nightmare of the Worst Kind

Posted by Kathy on February 1st, 2011

monster I had a nightmare last night. One of the sweaty, high-anxiety, glad-I’m- awake-now variety.

It wasn’t about being chased by an ax murderer. It wasn’t about finding myself taking a college exam that I hadn’t studied for. It had no vampires, ghouls, ghosts or zombies. Nothing monstery.

It was far, far worse.

It was about accounting.

Bookkeeping.

Ledgers and missed deadlines.

Yeah. I know. It was that bad.

I haven’t worked in a university accounting office for twelve years, and yet last night I found myself back there and freaking out about a month end close.

At the end of each month, I ran a report that automatically redistributed the months’s utility and maintenance charges to all the fraternity and sorority building accounts.

A percentage of the services bill was allocated to each building based on its square footage. It was a pain to do because the data entry was tedious and time-consuming.

Plus, one wrong number and the program would fail. If the percentages didn’t equal 100%, the whole thing would explode and you didn’t have enough time to recover. You’d have to fix it the next month.

In my nightmare, I realized I went eight months with old percentages. Incorrect ones meant nobody was billed correctly and now I’d have some ‘splaining to do.

THE HORROR!

In my dream, I told my boss about the problem and started crying. There’s no crying in accounting! Luckily, she was understanding and I could dab my tears away.

The nightmare ended well, but still had me in a tizzy. That I could even be thinking about that job after 12 years away is horrifying and probably something for which I still need therapy.

I’m debating whether to contact the person who replaced me in that office. To warn him or her that a decade from now, they’re going to find themselves still worried about numbers. Scary, screwed-up, blood-thirsty numbers.

My advice? If you see a giant, ax wielding calculator leering at you from the shadows of a dark alley, RUN!

So do any of you ever have nightmares about things or places that stressed you out a hundred years ago, but that can’t possibly hurt you now?

My New Favorite Thing

Posted by Kathy on December 7th, 2010

I have a new love in my life. Don’t worry. There will always be bacon.

My new love and I met while I worked on a colleague’s computer. She noticed I was admiring something on her desk, which I used while I worked.

The attraction was instant and I fell hard. Be still, my heart.

When I finished my work, she gifted me with one.

So what is my new love?

A pencil.


But not just any pencil.

It’s a Pentel OE519 automatic grippy pencil with a twist eraser and deliciously bold 0.9 lead thickness. Oh, yeah, baby.

Hello? Are you still with me?

You fainted, right? I know! I did too!

And I almost had a meltdown yesterday when I couldn’t find it in my desk. I thought someone stole it. I wouldn’t blame them. I mean, it writes like a dream, very sturdy and forgiving — you can press really hard and not break the tip.

It’s smooth like a pen. A pen. But it’s not!

Don’t hate me because I have a groovy new pencil.

Hate me because I won’t let you use it.

Seriously. Try it and I’ll cut you.

Have a nice day.

Week in Review

Posted by Kathy on November 5th, 2010

A co-worker of mine sneezes so violently I’m afraid his spleen may come flying out one of these days. And it startles me every time. I told him “Geez, dude. Ring a bell before you do that.” Was that rude of me? I think it was a little bit rude.

I went to a church bazaar at lunch with another co-worker this week. It was their last day, so they handed us grocery bags and said “Anything you can fit in this bag is one dollar.” So we loaded our bags with a lot of stuff and paid our dollar on the way out, thinking all the while “We really should pay more than a dollar. This doesn’t feel right.” When we left, the handle of my co-worker’s bag came off, the bag fell to the floor and broke her ceramic bundt pan. Clearly, Jesus would have wanted us to give more generously.

I went to my credit union to deposit a check. While signing paperwork at the table near the teller windows, I dropped a pile of deposit slips, the flip-calendar thingy and then my purse, and I hit my head on the corner of the table picking up all the dropped items. A clerk sitting at a nearby desk rolled her eyes at me. I’ll give you an eye roll, lady. To add insult to injury, the ink in the pen chained to the table ran out. Tuesday was not a good day for me.

Those who follow me on Facebook know now that my husband puts mayonnaise on everything. This week he put it on pizza. Commence vomiting.

The reporter from NPR who interviewed me on-air about Windy the Plastic Bag emailed me Monday to ask how she was doing up in her tree. That both cracked me up and warmed my heart. Incidentally, when all the leaves on Windy’s tree come down, I’ll post new pictures of her. What’s left, that is.

Someone in my blog audience got her first boyfriend and she stopped commenting here. I miss her. But her boyfriend adores her, as well he should, and so it’s all good. But still. Sniff. Pass me a tissue.

The student assistant who works in my office is 6’ 4” tall. It means that he can see over the partition to my cubicle. He’s caught me more than once doing something I shouldn’t by peering over it to ask a last minute question. So now whenever I’m shoveling, say, six miniature Halloween candy bars in my face, I have to make sure he’s really gone before I begin another session wherein I disgust myself for all I can eat in one sitting.

I know I made a co-worker green with envy when she watched me back my car into a parking space in one quick, perfect action. I’m an excellent back-in-parker-inner. Admit it. You’re jealous, too.

Hope you guys had a good week! Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead on Sunday. Or is it back? Whatever. Just turn it whatever way you feel and hope for the best.

Travelogue: Norfolk, Virginia

Posted by Kathy on October 28th, 2010

Hey, peeps! I’m home from a business conference I attended in Norfolk, Virginia. Oh, sweet blog, how I’ve missed you!

Here are some random observations I collected along the way:

1. A garden shed with a crucifix slapped over the door and a hand-painted sign counts as a church in the south.

2. I almost threw my back out unloading pillows from my bed every night. It is possible to have too much comfort and too much poof.

Marriott  pillows

3. If the conference staff puts out chafing dishes every day full of delicious bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and buttery biscuits, and you get accustomed to it, when they start putting out stuff like this…..

Does not compute 

this is how much of it you will take.

No thanks

4. Apparently, the Tyson plant somewhere in Virginia has a Chicken of the Month award for birds on good behavior. We saw a gaggle of them feeding outside the factory on the front lawn.

If death row chickens knew how to fly at a decent clip, they could, you know, leave.

Tyson escapees

5. The south doesn’t breed tail-gaters or speeders, and everyone politely lets you into a lane when you need to get there. Unlike in the north, where drivers will sooner shoot out your tires than show you the least bit of courtesy. North, take a lesson.

6. After going insane being on the road for eight hours, when your driving companion leaves your neighborhood to return the rental car, and you follow behind, you will  laugh so hard you cry when you see her make the first turn the wrong way and wind up in the suburban abyss for an extra ten minutes it kept her from getting the hell home already.

7. Having a panic attack while riding on a leisure yacht going only 2 knots per hour will get you laughed at by total strangers.

yacht

8. Having a conference badge hanging around your neck and swinging off your boobs will get you unintentionally ogled by total strangers trying to read your name and university, printed in teeny tiny typeface.

9. Four cups of coffee in the hotel room the morning of the drive home, plus four more during conference events and one more on the way home is sort of too much. It also gives you the crazy eyes, an unforgiving bladder and lead foot.

10. Coastal cities rock it with the seafood. And so do seafood restaurants.

We Serve Crabs

11. That guy who was stuck to my trunk on Philadelphia’s I-95, in the rain and on a shoulderless stretch, can go to hell. You proved that I had every reason to fear driving on that highway and ruined any chance of me ever attempting it again.

12. Southern hospitality is alive and well. When your fat ass knocks over a dozen formerly organized pashmina scarves from a display in a gift shop — not once, but twice — the cashier will apologize to you for the incidents. You will feel like a dumb northerner and pray she doesn’t have a blog of her own.

I’m glad to be back! Missed you guys!

Malware Bytes

Posted by Kathy on September 22nd, 2010

malwarebytes In my line of work, I find myself cleaning malware off my clients’ computers two or three times a week. Sometimes that involves an entire reinstall of Windows, applications and data. You have no idea what I’d like to do to the people who spend their time invading computers with their crap programs.

I’m not a violent person, but let’s just say my punishment would involve burying them in sand up to their necks and unleashing an army of hungry fire ants. It may also involve gasoline, a match and maniacal laughter. OK, so maybe I am violent.

The one thing that’s troubling for users when they acquire malware is that they feel almost physically violated. Some look like they’re going to cry. All are annoyed, and rightly so. Yet others react to it as though I told them they have a case of head lice.

This is what the discussion feels like when I inform them of their infection:

Client: I have what?

Me: You have head lice.

Client: How did I get it?

Me: Likely a website.

Client: But I’m careful.

Me: Head lice is everywhere.

Client: How can I prevent it?

Me: It’s hard to avoid it.

Client: But I haven’t been hanging around sites with head lice.

Me: You wouldn’t really know it if you were. Lots of normal-looking sites have head lice.

Client: How do I get rid of it?

Me: I clean it with head lice remover.

Client: Will it work?

Me: Not always. Sometimes we have to chop off your whole head. It could take hours.

Client: So if you get rid of my head lice and I lose my whole head, can you at least save my data?

Me: Yes.

Client: Wow, I really want to punch those stupid people who gave me head lice.

Me: I’ve got it covered. See these fire ants?

* If you have a bout of head lice on your Windows PC, you can remove it easily (most of the time) with the free Malwarebytes program. It’s best to run it in Safe Mode.

The Copier’s Over Here Next to the Irony

Posted by Kathy on August 12th, 2010

ricoh_copier This morning at work I took an elevator to a lab I’m responsible for maintaining. Two service workers from a copier rental place got on-board with me.

They asked if I worked in the building.

“Yep. What’cha need?”

“We’re here to pick up a copier in Room 61.”

“Oh, that’s great. I’m headed down to Room 51 myself. I’ll take you to the room.”

We arrived at the pickup location and I unlocked the door for them. Inside was a giant copier on wheels, the kind that can do every task imaginable in addition to copying.

The guys checked the serial number to make sure it was the right copier and it was.

They thanked me for letting them in the room and asked if I wouldn’t mind signing the pickup form.

“Sure. No problem.”

I signed and dated the form and then because the guy wanted to send one to the department who requested the pickup and keep one for himself, he asked me this:

“Do you have a copier I can use?”

Hand to God.

If I Say It, I’ll Have to Do It

Posted by Kathy on May 21st, 2010

writing This post is more for my benefit than yours.

I’m taking a two-week vacation in early June. Everyone who knows it asks me where I’m going.

While I’d like to say I’m jumping on a plane to take me to some faraway place, the truth is I’m headed to a dark, dank corner of my basement.

I plan to lock myself down there for at least the first week so I can finally get my book off the ground.

No sunlight.

No fresh air.

No email.

No cats.

No husband.

No TV.

No distractions.

Just me and my laptop.

I’ve been wanting to write a book for the last couple of years and I settled on the subject matter only recently. You’ll probably all be mad at me for not telling you what it’s about, but I’m superstitious and feel that if I tell you, I’ll jinx myself.

I also feel if I announce publicly that I’m going to venture into book territory, I’d better actually DO IT.

So send me your good vibes that despite being surrounded by dusty old Christmas decorations, furniture we don’t use, kitty litter boxes and bugs falling on my head, I will still feel creative enough to knock out a few thousand words a day of decent book material.

I consider this venture the hardest thing I’ll ever do, but probably the most rewarding.

If you’ve ever tried to write a book, I’m open to advice and suggestions, but I’m scared you’ll all tell me it’s a waste of my time.

You know what?

Lie to me.

Sure, Now You Tell Me

Posted by Kathy on May 10th, 2010

Today a laptop was delivered to me for virus/malware removal. Before I got started on my work, I wanted to clean the laptop because the screen was kind of funky and so was the keyboard.

I spritzed a little cleaner on a cloth and wiped down the screen and then went all crazy on the keyboard.

A little too crazy.

With one quick swipe, the CAPS LOCK key went sailing.

Cray-ap!!!

Keys on regular USB keyboards are pretty easy to snap back on, but laptops are a different animal.

Why?

Because this is what the the underbelly of a laptop key looks like.

CAPS LOCK

Ridiculous, huh?

I tried everything.

I Googled how to replace keys on the make and model of this particular laptop. I did find one link, with pictures and everything, but this key mechanism looked nothing like the pictures.

And so I sat there for half an hour studying it, trying eighteen ways to get it to clamp down.

I figured that the two thin metal pins went through the holes on the left and right sides, as shown above. That much seemed straightforward.

But that white thing above it that looks like a tiny toilet seat needed to hook over a very small metal anchor on the side closest to me. But no amount of fiddling or carefully applied pressure would get it to snap on!

I enlisted the help of my co-workers who tried for a few minutes, but quickly gave up.

“You’re screwed. Can’t be fixed.”

Just then, a hardware tech happened into my office and so I showed it to him.

“Oh, that’s messed up,” he says. “Better have Keith (another tech) work on it. He’s great at fixing these things. Better yet, just give me the serial number and I’ll get a new keyboard from Dell and come back to put it on.”

I didn’t exactly want to do that because my client was really short on time this week and I doubted he’d have time allow more work on it.

So I emailed Keith and sent him the picture.

“Is there any way I can fix this myself?” I asked.

“Oh, man. Those are nasty. But if you bring the laptop down, I’ll try to fix it,” he said.

I really wanted to fix the key myself, especially because I’d broken it and felt like a royal doofus. I also since found out that the laptop wasn’t under warranty anymore, so getting a new keyboard would cost money. Money spent that would be my fault.

I finally gave up the fight and called the client. I left voice mail that I’d cleaned the malware off the laptop and also cleaned the keyboard, which resulted in the loss of the CAPS LOCK key. And then I begged for forgiveness and told him that we’d have to deliver the system to the shop for repair and that I was sorry for the inconvenience.

My apologies took up the entire 3-minute voice mail limit before I was unceremoniously cut off.

About ten minutes later the client showed up.

Laughing.

“Kathy, that key has been broken for years.”

And right then and there, my head exploded all over the wall. I gathered up my brain and pieced it back together much better than I was able to reassemble the CAPS LOCK key.

And that was my Monday.

How was yours?

How I Got to Paris on Ten Bucks

Posted by Kathy on May 1st, 2010

Sometimes luck taps me on the shoulder, introduces itself and shakes my hand.

Luck paid me a visit in 2004 and sent me to Paris.

I was sitting at my desk at work, fighting an urge to raid the snack machine downstairs. The urge won and so I grabbed my wallet and headed out the door.

On my way downstairs, I spotted a fraternity student sitting at a table by the elevator, selling raffle tickets for a charity fundraiser.

The sign on the table read “Win a Trip to Paris!”

Curious, I walked over to the table to get more information.

“Tickets are $5 each,” the student said.

Digging through my wallet, I was disappointed to find that I had only a few singles and change I planned to use in the snack machine.

“Will you be around later this week?” I asked.

“Yep, til Friday,” he said.

“Good.” I told him I’d be back later with enough cash in hand for two tickets.

The next day I found the student, paid him $10, filled out a form and received my tickets. A note on the back said the winner would be announced a few weeks after that, and it included a URL with more raffle information. I stuck the tickets in my wallet.

Weeks went by.

And nothing. No phone call to say I had won. Oh, well, better luck next time, I thought.

But then I remembered the tickets in my wallet and thought maybe the winner would be announced on the web site for the contest.

Maybe someone I know won. That’d be nice for them.

And so I pointed my browser to the web site, which revealed an animated image of the French flag.

The caption read “Click here to see who won!”

I clicked on the flag.

The French national anthem began playing over my speakers and the image dissolved gradually to reveal this:

ParisWinner 

I immediately felt a rush of adrenalin and almost started crying. It was me!!! At least I thought it was me. Feeling like a game show contestant who’d just won a car, I thought for a moment maybe I wasn’t really staring at my own name on the screen.

Winning big things makes you take leave of every last one of your senses.

So I did what crazy game show contestants do. I got up and, arms flailing, ran over to a woman who worked outside my office. “Nancy!!!! Go to this web site!!!! Does it say Kathy Frederick on your screen too?!?!?”

I swear to God I did that and you can ask Nancy. Just don’t ask her how stupid she thought I was at that very moment. She’s such a nice lady, she wouldn’t be honest with you anyway.

There we were, looking at my name and listening to La Marseillaise, letting it all sink in.

Wow. A trip to Paris for ten bucks. You just can’t beat that.

I called my husband and didn’t even say hello when he answered. I simply shouted “Pack your bags! We’re going to Paris!”

He let an expletive slip and we hooted and hollered for a good five minutes, not believing my good fortune.

I contacted the student organization who sold me the tickets and they apologized for not notifying me by phone earlier. They confirmed my prize, told me to contact travel services to make arrangements and the rest is history.

It was the trip of a lifetime.

And all because luck pulled up a chair and gave me a fine How d’ya do?

A Very Expensive Cat Chair

Posted by Kathy on April 28th, 2010

This month marks my 25th anniversary working at a local university.

Before y’all gasp and pity me for working at one place so long, I haven’t worked in the same job all that time. I’ve held several different positions in two vastly different departments, so it hasn’t been boring and I haven’t gotten stale.

Last week I was notified by the HR department that, as a gift for my years of service, I may choose between two kinds of $425 hand-crafted solid maple chairs.

Boston Rocker

Captains Chair

Not a bad deal. They are very nice chairs, except I know deep down I will never sit in them because I’m not 93 years old.

Obviously, I would have to make a decision based on the seating preferences of someone else in my house:

Shadow 

Meet Shadow.

Her first favorite spot to sit is in the kitchen sink.

Her second favorite spot to sit is on a junky chair we keep in the dining room.

Shadow, my dear, you just got an upgrade.

I decided to go with the second chair since the rocker will probably slide on the floor every time she jumps on it and bang against the wall as a result of her girth.

The stationary chair will serve her well.

Of course, something tells me she’d be happier sleeping in a $2 hand-crafted cardboard box.

Too bad. She’ll just have to suffer in luxury.

Art? Prank? Scavenger Hunt?

Posted by Kathy on April 9th, 2010

Every spring a honeydew melon shows up on the roof of the university building where I work. I do not understand what’s happening here, but I’m sure students are behind it.

Is it a prank, part of a scavenger hunt or some weird tradition they keep up for the sake of tradition?

Sometimes the melon disappears suddenly. Sometimes it rots until it’s black and stinks. Sometimes it’s placed off to the side. Sometimes, like this time, it’s right in the middle.

Always I ask “why?” but I will probably never learn the reason.

And that gives me a one way ticket to Crazytown. Why? Why is it there?

image

melon 002

Incidentally, this is the roof from where I take Windy pictures. She turns two tomorrow (!!!!!) and there will be a cake on Monday. If you work with me, come on over to my office and we’ll celebrate!*

image

* Tours of the Melon-Windy roof run every hour. Admission is free.

Words and Topics for the Lunchroom

Posted by Kathy on January 27th, 2010

say_what I want to work where my sister Marlene works. Her co-workers are exactly the kind of crazies I need to be around 40 hours a week.

I received this list from her today. A list of words, phrases or topics that are either prohibited or encouraged in her lunch room at work.

Yes, they’re keeping a list. Do with it what you will.

Prohibited Words:

· pimple (includes “goose-pimple”)

· blackhead

· moist

Note: “Moist” is acceptable in reference to baked goods, chicken… i.e. things that are supposed to be moist. “Moist” is unacceptable in reference to anything gross. (Feet, fungus, basements, bathroom floors)

· E.V.O.O.

· Rock hard

· rebut

  Note: The word “rebuttal”, as well as “flying buttress” are acceptable.

· genitals

Note: Words such as “bajango” and “hoo ha” are acceptable substitutions for the word “genitals”

· bequeath

· secrete

Topics:

· Food poisoning experiences

· Bug-eating experiences, accidental or intentional

· Gleeking experiences

· The Charmin bears

· The apocalypse

· Rachel Ray

· Any situation involving body fluids, especially when conversation is taking place in the presence of Louise.

Prohibited Smell Addendum: All citrus and banana scents will be kept a minimum of 10 feet from Marlene. Additionally, measures shall be taken to prevent wafting.

Encouraged Words and Topics for the Lunchroom

Words

· Smokin’ cookies

· Oh, snap!

· Delicious!

· Bodacious

· Giddyup

Topics

· What we are eating for lunch

· What we ate for dinner last night

· What we will eat for dinner tonight

· Foods we like / dislike

· Things we’ve seen on television

Note: Things we’ve seen on television that reference any of the prohibited words and topics are also prohibited.

—-

Feel free to add your own words you love or hate, or to question any number of these words or phrases. Marlene, feel free to provide explanations for any of them in the comments section.

Me thinks you’re going to have to explain why “rebut” is on the list. You don’t have to explain why Rachel Ray is. We all know she is the devil.

When I Grow Up …..

Posted by Kathy on January 9th, 2010

playing_dressup Yo. ‘Sup.

Remember me? I used to write here. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been a whole week since my last post. And I have no excuses.

Been holed up in my house freezing like the rest of the country, wishing it were summer. Puttering around the house not doing the things I should be doing and playing Bejeweled on Facebook too much to be healthy.

You guys need to fear when when I run out of ideas because then I give you that sideways look, wring my hands greedily and try to figure out how I can make you do all the work.

So what’s that mean for you today? You get a question to answer.

Are you making a living the way you thought you would be when you grew up? If not, why not?

Nevermind the Slippery Sidewalks

Posted by Kathy on December 9th, 2009

Evil_Steps It snowed and sleeted and poured last night and this morning. I was concerned a bit about how well the sidewalks would be cleared around my building at work.

Icy sidewalks can be such a hazard.

But so can perfectly dry indoor steps that are pretty easy to navigate if you just pick your feet up as you ascend.

Not if you’re me. That’s right. I fell up the steps. I do not recall once in my lifetime falling up steps. Down, yes. Up, no. To me, there’s a big difference. The ego hurts more when you fall up.

(Note: Actual Steps of Death pictured above.)

I am currently nursing a very sore shoulder and a pretty ugly kneecap.

There is blood.

I ripped through skin when my knee stopped the fall.

The worst part? I fell in front of a colleague. He was terribly sympathetic and concerned, but if I were him, I’d be laughing all the way to wherever he was going.

I’ll be avoiding him forever.

Also, I’m getting a new husband because this is the email exchange we just had:

Dave,

I hurt myself pretty bad just now. I fell UP the steps in the back stairwell. I’m bleeding on my kneecap. I don’t think I need to get anything checked out, but I will have one hell of a bruise tomorrow.

His response?

Kath,

Way to go. 

—-

p.s. Since I started writing this, my knee is now softball-esque. Is that bad?

Nice Try, Spell Checker

Posted by Kathy on October 8th, 2009

Don’t we have enough to worry about with the people in our lives thinking they know what’s better for us?

Now software wants to get into the act?

My sister Marlene emailed this to me today. It’s a screen snapshot of a co-worker’s Lotus Notes program.

The screen shot came attached with a note: “Things just aren’t making a whole lot of sense today.”

No kidding.

spell_check

What’s the matter, brainless program whose opinion wasn’t asked for? Not feelin’ the 16th vibe?

Kinda like ordering surf ‘n turf and getting a salad.

Thanks. But no.

Ever Worked the Night Shift?

Posted by Kathy on July 31st, 2009

moon For a brief period between high school and my first real job, I worked the night shift at a mall.

One of the stores, a large pharmacy, was remodeling and needed people to unload merchandise from shelves, clean and reorganize while renovations took place. And they wanted it done round the clock so the store could reopen quickly.

It was the single worst job I’ve ever had.

My heart goes out to anyone who works 11PM-7AM. You’re basically living in another world. All the people with day jobs are relaxing or sleeping when you’re going to work. It completely messes up your view of everything.

I shot mental darts at people who were joyfully getting their days started, while I was going home to unwind and then sleep — in the middle of the day.

In the middle of sunshiny, action-packed, outside-noise-disturbing-my-sleep days.

Knowing that the rest of the world is up and active, while you’re unconscious, makes it that much harder. When I’d wake up, I could never really enjoy what was left of the day because I knew I had to report for work later.

I wouldn’t work the night shift again if you paid me ten times my salary now. Not worth it. Not kidding.

Anyone work a night shift? Anyone in a relationship with one who does? I’d like to hear how you cope.

I’d especially like to thank any medical or emergency professionals who routinely work the graveyard shift. You make it possible for us to call someone for help in the dead of night. Thanks for being there.

And It’s Not Even My Birthday

Posted by Kathy on June 12th, 2009

heart_cup The effects of a grueling work week washed away in an instant following this exchange with my husband as I loaded the dishwasher tonight.

I called out to him in another room:

Are there any dishes out there?

No. Just you, Kathy.

He may need his eyes checked, but if he sees a dish then so be it. God bless that man.

File It Under Stupid

Posted by Kathy on April 23rd, 2009

Making some room in my desk drawer today, I came across my interesting filing system. I do enjoy a good alphabetical one, as it’s kind of helpful.

I do not know under what circumstances I thought it would be appropriate to file My Laptop Order under M for, you know, "My."

Discuss.

File_Folders

How to Make a Grown Woman Cry

Posted by Kathy on October 28th, 2008

tissues Sniffle.

A client came to my office today to ask for password help on his laptop. While I worked on it, he glanced around my cubicle and noticed a movie poster for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World on my wall.

That’s one of my all-time favorite flicks and I learned it was one of his, too.

After exchanging a few laughs about the film, he asked me if I saw it in Cinerama when it first came out.

He remembered watching it in a theater with three screens side by side, where the film was projected in widescreen across all of them.

He said at first it was weird to view a movie like that, as you were distracted by the lines separating the screens from one another. But after a while you got used to it and your eyes stopped noticing it.

This post is not a study of cinematography. This post is about the crime perpetrated upon me.

Did you catch it? He asked me if I saw it when it first came out.

The movie was released in 1963.

I wouldn’t be born for another two years.

I know I have a couple gray hairs, but is it worse than that? Do I need a face lift? Maybe a little Botox? God, how old do I look?

Pass me a tissue. I think I’m going to cry.

Fuzzy Math

Posted by Kathy on October 23rd, 2008

My husband Dave likes to think I have the answers to everything off the top of my head, including stuff I haven’t seen, studied or heard about in years. He has such faith in me. Silly man.

He phoned me from his office this morning to see if I could run to the store on my way home from work. In the same breath, he said "Write this down," and I dutifully scrawled the following:

3(n-1) = 5n + 3 – 2n

This randomness is typical of our conversations.  Hi. How’s your day going? Get eggs and bread. Solve for n.

I asked him why he was making me do algebra so early in the day, or anytime, for that matter. "Because Bill’s daughter got this in her homework and she told her teacher it wasn’t solvable. The teacher said it was, and now they’re having a dispute."

I quickly worked the equation and got this as a result:

3n – 3 = 3n + 3

You can see right away there is no solution. No value for n will make this statement true.

At least I hope there’s no solution, because I told Dave I was sure of it, and he told Bill "My wife is sure there is no solution," and Bill’s gonna tell his kid to tell her teacher "Kathy says there’s no solution!"

Apparently my husband has convinced his co-worker that I’m some kind of algebra expert. I was once. Twenty five years ago! I’m a lot fuzzier on algebraic formulas now. As I keep looking at the equation, I’m worried there’s some bizarre value for n that makes it true.

Is it solvable if n is an irrational number or something? Is there a mathematician in the house? Or a high schooler who’s currently taking algebra?

If this post gave you a headache, I’m sorry. Think of cotton candy and puppies instead. That’ll cleanse you of all things math.

p.s. Tomorrow I reveal the winner of What’s That? Wednesday!

That’ll Teach Her

Posted by Kathy on October 20th, 2008

A co-worker who reads my blog suggested there was something terribly wrong with me because I kept five old containers of Parmesan cheese in my refrigerator for so long.

Oh, yeah? Is that right?

A few days later she had a birthday. Heh-heh. Have fun tryin’ to get at your desk.

 Birthday

When she arrived this morning and the shock wore off, she asked me how she was going to get any work done.

"Hmmm. Don’t know. That’s your problem."

Balloons 017

Is there a lesson here, kids? Sure!

It’s best not to suggest I need therapy, at least not to my face, or you might find yourself the victim of something circus-y. Next time it might be the animals.

Anyone up for a contest?! The first person to submit a guess closest to the number of balloons pictured here wins a box of 15 bacon bandages or 1,000 Entrecard credits, your choice.

Helpful information (or not): There is a 17" box monitor buried under the balloons in the first shot.

Rules:

1. One guess per person.

2. You can’t ask me if it’s more or less than some number. In fact, I’ll get it over with now. It’s more than 1, but less than 500.

3. The closest guess can be under or over the actual amount.

4. Entries must be received by Monday, October 27, 6PM EST.

CONTEST IS CLOSED. It turns out the response was way over the top. Future contests will likely not be open for more than a few days, long enough to allow a reasonable amount of responses. Thanks for playing! Click here to find out who won.

Was I on Drugs or Something?

Posted by Kathy on October 9th, 2008

scrambled_letters Every month I have to prepare a report of activities at work. I keep notes in my calendar for each task and then quantify them.

Taking a look at one item today, I realized I might have been on drugs or something when I recorded the following:

9/17: Met with Tim to have him login and mortyupe his data; help w/email; sent Thunderbird-at-home instructions.

I have no idea what it means to “mortyupe” your data. But it sounds painful. And who’s Morty? For the record, I asked Tim to review his data to make sure I backed it all up.

For all of you who are irritated you didn’t win a Junk Drawer magnet in yesterday’s contest, here’s another chance.

Any idea what I meant by that? I actually typed that word straight to my laptop. From my head. It wasn’t a case where I couldn’t translate my own handwriting.

Help me. Tell me it was an easy mistake to make. What was I saying?!?! If nothing else, reassure me that these mental blips are OK and I won’t soon start speaking in a language no one understands, not even me.

What’s it Worth Melted Down?

Posted by Kathy on September 16th, 2008

100_0865

More importantly, is it enough to save my retirement account?

Plastic Bag Update

Posted by Kathy on September 5th, 2008

It’s been almost two months since my last plastic bag update. For those new to this blog, I’ve been monitoring the status of a plastic bag that got stuck in a tree outside my building at work. It’s been hanging on for 167 days.

Incidentally, a few people have asked me if it has a name. I’m partial to Windy, which was the name suggested by longtime reader, Alan Bamboo.

bag_longview

The bag hasn’t moved from its original spot, but take a closer look now. Notice the split down the right hand side through the "T" in Wal-mart?

We’re expecting hard rains this weekend, so maybe it’ll cause the split to continue and at least pull down the right handle from one of the two branches it’s stuck on.

bag_closeup 

Thank you, Rich T., for helping me move a gigantic piece of furniture away from the window to the roof so I could get outside for up-close pictures.

To the woman who saw me walking back into the building from the roof, don’t worry, I wasn’t going to jump. Although I might have if my work week had gotten any worse than it had. TGIF and all that.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

The Best Tech Support Call I Ever Got

Posted by Kathy on August 23rd, 2008

keyboard A computing consultant by trade, I tend to stay away from discussing tech support calls I get on this here blog.

Not because they’re not chuckle-worthy sometimes, but because there is an understood doctor/patient-type confidentiality agreement in place with the clients I serve.

But I think I can let one story slide. I feel I’m safe to share it because it happened many years ago in a former job and the woman who called has long since retired. I’m required to share it because it involved boobs.

The call went something like this:

Caller: Kathy, I’m having trouble getting to my forms for data entry.

Me: What screen are you on now?

Caller: It doesn’t have a screen number and I don’t know what it is.

Me: How did you get there?

Caller: I’m not sure.

Me: You should be able to get back to the main menu by pressing the F10 key.

Caller: Not working.

Me: Tell me more about what’s on the screen. Still not sure where you are.

Caller: It’s got some help stuff on it and it doesn’t have a place to enter a new screen number.

Me: OK. It sounds like you’re in a sub-menu. Try pressing the Esc key once, then F10.

Caller: Yes! That worked! Thanks!

Me: No problem. Boy, that’s a weird one. I still can’t figure out how you wound up there.

Caller: (Whispering) Well, I was a little embarrassed to tell you. I dropped a pen on the floor and when I leaned over to get it, my boobs smashed a mess of keys on the keyboard. I didn’t know which ones they took out.

Me: Oh, that’s rich. I don’t think I’ll ever get a call like this again in my entire career.

And I never did.

Remember, ladies. Watch your aim.

——-

Check out Humor-Blogs.com. It’s smashing!

Draft Post #11

Posted by Kathy on June 29th, 2008

keyboard These are trying times. Kathy has no words. A whopping ten drafts in her queue and nothing worthy of posting.

I think if I don’t post something today, nothing will ever get posted again, the Junk Drawer will close shop and you guys will loiter outside wondering what the hell happened.

I have to get something on the page to kick start me out of this funk I’m in.

Come back in a couple days if this post bores you to tears. I’m about to tell you about my weekend:

1. I fell asleep on the couch at 5PM yesterday and awoke at 8PM thinking it was the next day already. I slept hard. I even had full, movie-length dreams. In one of them, I was standing in a reception line at a political function, holding hands with Henry Kissinger. Discuss.

2. I worked all day Saturday, brought a lunch, but ate it before 10AM. So the rest of the day I took from the other junk drawer in my life and gave myself a headache, a stomachache and left work on such a sugar high I don’t remember how I got home.

3. My husband cleaned the bathrooms, God bless him, but broke the toilet seat off one of the toilets. How is this possible? Broke an entire toilet seat off its hinges? Men, if you’re going to help clean the house, don’t do it in the manner you would, say, play football. Cleaning a toilet needn’t be a race nor a destructive act. It just needs to be wiped down — gently.

4. In the process of preparing to send DrowseyMonkey her prize magnet for having the fattest head, I got sidetracked researching whether I can mail it with U.S. postage or if I have to take it to the post office to get international postage put on it. I tried Googling for the answer to this simple question, but could not find a satisfactory one. I’m too embarrassed to ask Drowsey, so I’ll just head to the post office tomorrow where I’m sure a clerk there will tell me what a moron I am.

5. I didn’t have the energy to fix something that’s been bugging me for a month. Our wall clock is stuck at 4 o’clock. We don’t know why because the batteries are fine. The pendulum below the clock face continues to swing to and fro. I meant to check on why it’s malfunctioning, but now I’m getting really used to it being 4 o’clock all the time. Four happens to be my favorite number, so I’m keeping it.

6. Since I took such a long nap yesterday, I couldn’t get to sleep until midnight last night. But my body always, always gets up between 4AM-5AM, which means I’m running on fumes right now. I’m sorry. This is the kind of post you get on fumes.

Forgive me for having to post such lame material, but this was the prescription for funkitis and it had to be done. Pray I’m funkless tomorrow.

Night.

Clean Up in Cubicle 4

Posted by Kathy on May 25th, 2008

Anyone who works in an office environment comes to expect certain things:

1. Staff will always be a little slow-moving on Monday mornings.

2. Meetings will always run later than expected.

3. No one ever wants to make the next pot of coffee.

4. The copy machine needs paper the second you’re about to use it.

5. Staff don’t clean the kitty litter box often enough, which is a shame because everyone knows cats will go anywhere they please when it’s not kept spotless.

is that what I think it is

Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is.

My sister Marlene works at what I thought was a cat-free, poo-free insurance company. When she sent it to me, the first thing I wrote her was “You’ve GOT to be kidding me.”

She reported back, “We found it in our office this morning. No one knows how it got there.”

I replied, “Who disposed of it, and more importantly, can I blog about it?”

Marlene replied, “One of the guys picked it up and Gina sprayed Bath & Body Wash on the spot, but we have no Lysol….Yes, you can blog about it, in fact, the lunch bunch said you would have a field day with this….”

She and her colleagues have two theories:

1. A cat or other animal got in somehow – maybe Louie – he’s a cat that roams outside. Somebody in one of the buildings of our industrial park feeds him, but he’s allowed to roam.

2. The cleaning people brought their pet.

My money’s on Louie. All I’m gonna say is they should be real happy that Louie left his calling card in an obvious, open space. Otherwise, I’d hate to be the poor soul who sits down at his desk Monday morning, bleary-eyed from the weekend, only to find a fresh Tootsie Roll next to the keyboard.

What’s that saying? All the world’s your litter box?

Oh, and God bless the person who thought to take this picture. I love that it was the first thing someone did before cleaning it up. There’s a Junk Drawer magnet for you if you want it.

No Man is An Island, Except in the Bathroom

Posted by Kathy on April 24th, 2008

toilet bowl Ahhh, bathroom issues at work. We either hear something we don’t want to hear, or see something we don’t want to see.

The two bathrooms nearest my office are single-use. You have to lock the door behind you because the only toilet inside has no privacy wall around it. The room has just the toilet, a chair, a sink and a trash can. And the toilet is at the farthest point from the door.

If you forget to lock the door, you’re in serious trouble. If someone comes in, unless you can cross the space-time continuum, there’s no way you can slam it shut before they see you.

Someone forgot to lock the door.

Here’s a run-down of the voice mail I got from a colleague who walked in on some poor sap.

Kath, the opposite of my worst fear happened to me. I walked in on a dude in the bathroom who didn’t lock the door. He was totally exposed, man. Just an island out there. He was an older dude. I don’t know who it was.

As I’m shuttin’ the door, I’m like “You gotta lock the door, dude!” He’s like “I know! I’m sorry!” Usually I’m scared I’m on the opposite end of that, totally prone! Dude. It was crazy. God! I have a 2:00 meeting. I gotta go. God!

When I met up with him later, he told me that in the split second he was witness to the horror, he could tell the guy was hunkered down for a long visit. He had the chair pulled up in front of the bowl and was reading! On the toilet! At work? The hell???

I will never understand why a man will take reading material into a bathroom at work, plan to stay a while, and forget to lock the door. Maybe he was so excited about the latest Wall Street Journal, locking the door slipped his mind?

When I use the ladies room, I probably check the lock four different times before I’m sure I’m safe. If someone walked in on me, I’d have to find a new job. I could never go back.

And let’s not forget there were two victims here. The obvious one, but also my colleague, whose eyes are still burning from the vision. No matter how brief the encounter, he’ll probably never forget it.

For the love of God, check the lock once, twice, three times if you have to. I’m not sure post-traumatic stress disorder is covered under my benefits plan.

Throwing Money at the Problem

Posted by Kathy on February 22nd, 2008

chain gang All too often I’m complaining about something. If you heard that’s what happens here, sorry to disappoint you for today.

The thing is it snowed last night. Not a blizzard, but enough snow to make the prospect of shoveling it unappealing to my husband Dave and me. We’re off work today and really wanted to kick back and relax. The more it snowed, the more our backs instinctively started hurting.

The plan was to watch the forecast and estimate the best time to go out, between when the snow was expected to stop and when the sleet was expected to start.  We had another hour to complain about work neither of us wanted to do.

Just then Dave heard some kids walking up towards the house. Kids with shovels. Five of them. In the ten years we’ve lived in this house, we never had kids come by to offer to shovel for us. I figured that was an activity today’s youth wanted no part of, or their parents were afraid to send them out the door to strangers’ homes. I thought what a sad sign of the times. As kids, Dave and I shoveled for money. All our friends shoveled for money. Doesn’t anyone want to shovel for money anymore?

Before the kids even rang our doorbell, Dave handed me 25 bucks. “Here, this should be enough for the driveway.”  I opened the door and before the kid could even say anything, I thrust the money at him and said “Is this enough for the driveway?” The look on his face was priceless. Red-cheeked from the cold and eyes wide open, he said “Yeah!! Thanks!!”

When he turned around, he waved the cash at his buddies and their faces lit up. They got crackin’ immediately.

Before they got halfway done, Dave asked me “Do we have any more cash laying around? We should ask them to do the back sidewalk.”

I frowned. I only had about three bucks in my purse and he only had eight more singles. I cursed the fact that I almost never have cash on me, since I prefer to use my debit card at stores. I considered writing a check. Dave and I discussed how stupid it would be to write a check to a child. I suggested we write it to one of the kids’ mothers, but then that seemed too weird. Dammit!!! We need more cash! And, hurry! They’re almost done with the driveway!

After nixing the check idea, we did the only thing we could do. We raided the change jar for quarters. There we stood, counting out enough quarters to round out to 20+ more bucks. As dumb as it felt to give them a pound of change and some bills, money is money. I hardly think they would care. They didn’t.

I opened the door and yelled “Hey guys? Is twenty good for the sidewalk?”

They shouted back, “Yeah! Cool!” And off they went. We had ourselves our own little snow-shoveling chain gang and now we didn’t have to get bundled up, get wet and cold or break our backs on what looked like very heavy snow.

When they were done, the leader of the group returned to tell me they were finished and to thank me for the money. No, thank you!

God bless you, Chain Gang. Your parents should be proud that you’re not afraid to sweat for a few bucks. I didn’t think I’d ever see that sight for the rest of my life. I hope I see them again next year. I’m pretty sure after making almost 50 bucks for a half hour’s work, those kids will remember our address.

“Y’all come back now, ya hear!”

So do any of you see kids shoveling for money (or maybe for nothing) in your neighborhoods? Or do I just live in a really lazy section of town?

We Can Hear You

Posted by Kathy on January 23rd, 2008

tp One would reasonably expect that if you entered a restroom at work that your private activities would be between only you and the toilet bowl. Not in our building.

A couple of months ago our restrooms were outfitted with the Kimberley-Clark Professional Toilet Paper Dispenser. It’s a fine toilet paper dispenser. Except for one thing.

Every time someone pulls paper from the rolls, something inside the dispenser shakes and shimmies so loudly, it sounds like machine-gun fire. How do we know? Our suite is located on the other side of the wall and the walls are paper thin.

What does this mean for us? Well, we get to hear every single time someone is about to …. er …. take care of the cleaning end of business. Once or twice a day wouldn’t bother me and my office mates, but our office is located next to a very popular, conveniently-located bathroom. Everybody uses it.

Yesterday I counted how many times we got to hear someone …. er …. get spring fresh. Thirty one times.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know I have issues with annoying noises and this is no different.  In fact, it’s worse than any of the other annoying noises because those aren’t attached to a private bodily function.

We’ve considered hanging a sign on the dispenser that reads: “Please pull paper gently. We can hear you.” But that will only serve to freak people out and we’re not that cruel. I decided the best thing to do is ask our Facilities Services staff to send someone over to either remove it and replace it with a quieter model.

Here’s the request I submitted:

The mens (Rm336) and ladies restroom (Rm334) toilet paper dispensers are incredibly loud. Everyone in our suite can hear whenever someone is in there. We never heard anything with the old type dispenser. It’s embarrassing to hear it all day, and so loud it disturbs our work. Hanging a sign “Please be quiet. We can hear you.” is not an option. Can they be removed, or fixed to be silenced? Thanks.

What happened today? A service repairman showed up in my office and asked “You the woman who reported a loud toilet paper dispenser?” Responding the only way I knew how to the most ridiculous question ever uttered in the English language, I said “Um. Yeah. Sorry.”

He and I then proceeded to discuss the problem at hand. I made him walk over to the kitchenette which is opposite the restrooms. I told him if he stood there for five minutes, he was sure to hear it. Every single time someone is in the bathroom, without fail, we get the noise.

I was really glad that one of my office mates, Jason, showed up to confirm to the nice man that indeed we are subjected to loud toilet paper rolling. We both explained that not only were we jarred by this loud noise, but that I could actually feel the vibrations from it under my feet if I stood near the shared wall.

That’s when he looked at us and said “It’s highly doubtful it’s the TP dispenser then.” Though it did just occur to us that it would be beyond bizarre to actually feel its vibration through the floor, we insisted we test our theory about the dispenser and MAKE it make the noise.

So off Jason went to the men’s room. “I’ll go nuts on the thing and I know you’ll hear it.”  The serviceman and I stood and waited as I grew increasingly embarrassed at having drug this guy over to our office to listen to our bathroom noise. I asked him if this was the stupidest job he ever got assigned and he said “Yeah, pretty much.”

Jason did like he said and went ballistic on the dispenser. The only problem was it didn’t sound like the noise we’ve been hearing. He ran back over and reported that it wasn’t the right noise. So I suggested it was the ladies room dispenser. Off I went to “fake pee” and do a number on the toilet paper. What I fast realized is it cannot possibly be this dispenser because you can barely get two good sheets out of the thing, much less pull down real hard so that the rollers shake and shimmy. I returned to the office deflated. “That’s not it!”

The serviceman who’d been humoring us all this time gave his assessment: “I think there’s air in the water lines. I’ll take a look.” He suspected that every time someone turned on the faucet to wash their hands, water and air ran through the lines and caused the noise. Just as we were getting over our embarrassment, we all heard THE noise. “Yep. It’s your water lines.” He rooted around in the maintenance closet, while I returned to my office with my tail between my legs. Whatever he worked on silenced the noise.

So it turns out our co-workers are not violent toilet paper grabbers after all, and we are the stupidest people on the planet. Thank God I never hung that note.

——-

Other humor bloggers are way smarter than me.

You Know Your Butt’s Too Big When ….

Posted by Kathy on January 12th, 2008

elephant No one has to tell me I’ve gained weight this year. Not that anyone would dare say that to my face, or they’d have a mouthful of Chicklets for teeth.

And not that I don’t recognize what happened to my body over the last 12 months. I see it every day in the mirrors I haven’t already thrown a drape over.

But as so often happens with weight gain, you tend to ignore the obvious and just buy bigger clothes. Last week, my butt decided to publicly and rudely remind me of just how big it’s gotten. It almost injured a person.

The date: Friday, January 4.

Where: In a seminar room at work. I was about to give a presentation to a group of graduate students, who had just begun filing in at the door next to the instructor’s station.

How it happened: As I was preparing materials and kicking equipment cables out of the way, I backed up into the line of students and my butt nearly jettisoned a petite, twenty-something woman past the coat rack, through a wall and into the next room.

I. was. mor-ti-FIED. One, because my body was capable of almost knocking someone to the floor, and 2) because SHE apologized to ME. Oh, please don’t say you’re sorry. I almost killed you.

For those of you who think I’m exaggerating, I swear on a stack of Twinkies I’m not. The scale doesn’t lie. I’ve gained 25 pounds since last December. Twenty-three of them went straight to my butt, and the other two went to my face: one pound to Chin #1 and the other to Chin #2.

This bizarre distribution is because I have one of those pear-shaped bodies. I’m two sizes bigger on the bottom than I am on the top. I look pretty much the same in my blog photo as I did when it was taken about a year ago. It’s the lower half of me that needs work.

So what to do? I’m not averse to exercise, but it’s much harder to get outdoors and walk in the winter. I prefer walking as exercise over anything else. My plan is to try and burn calories indoors, at work, so I don’t have to walk in the cold and darkness at night.

Here’s the plan I’ve devised:

1. I’ve begun to stand at my desk while working. So that I’m not hunched over while typing on my laptop, I stuck a box under it so that it’s at waist-level and easier to work. It looks stupid, but I’m considering alternatives.

2. A friend sent me some information about JARM-ing, (J)ogging with your ARMS, an upper-body exercise you can do anywhere. Basically, I’m flexing and flailing my arms around in the privacy of my own cubicle and burning extra calories while doing it. It looks a little goofy, but I’ll take goofy over fat any day of the week.

3. No more junk food, especially not take-out. My husband and I like to order take-out on Friday nights. And Mondays. And Thursdays. And weekends. When he asked yesterday if we could get cheeseburgers and cheese sticks, I replied “No. We’re not doing that anymore.” Simple as that. I’m pretty militant about my plan. He has no choice but to lose weight with me. He’ll thank me later.

Although this “standing while working” thing has its benefits (you burn about 100 calories an hour vs. 40 if you’re just sitting), standing so long will hurt you in some way. The first day I tried it, I did it for six of nine hours and started to get short stabbing pains in my lower back.

Tweaks to the plan:

1.  When a colleague saw what I was doing, he promptly yelled at me “You can’t do that in THOSE shoes.” So now I wear supportive sneakers when I’m not meeting with clients.

2. I mentioned my crazy plan to my sister, who promptly yelled at me “You can’t do that! You probably have a quarter inch of carpet over a concrete floor! You need a special mat for that!” A special standin’ and flailin’ mat?

So I’m off this weekend to shop for a couple things. One, something else to put my laptop on, so I can get rid of the cardboard box it’s currently sitting on. And two, a “special mat,” whatever that might be. I need to find something that a chair can roll over for times when I need to sit down and rest.

Is my plan working? Most definitely. I’ve lost three pounds this week. I’m not going for quick weight loss, although I know how to do that (I once lost 7lbs in one week on The Survivor Diet, eating nothing but rice and water. It works, but it’s unsustainable. Plus, I think it can kill you.) The loss has to be gradual, the way it went on. I accept that, despite wanting to get rid of this big butt by next Wednesday.

If you’d like to share creative diet and exercise tips that work for you, drop a comment in the drawer. I’m open to crazy.

——-

Humor-blogs has some fine butts, I’ve heard.

My 57-Minute Silent Scream

Posted by Kathy on December 19th, 2007

scream Yesterday I had to take my car to the dealer and pay $400 to have a mechanic turn off a bright yellow malfunction light in my dashboard. That’s what I think when I take my car to the shop. "A light came on in the dashboard. I don’t know what it means. But make it go away."

I know the technicians root around in my car’s innards and do something. Whatever they do makes the light go off and that’s what I pay the money for. If you’re a mechanic, don’t waste your energy trying to explain it to my pea brain.

When I found out it would take the whole day to fix, I asked if they could give me a loaner to drive to work. They didn’t have loaners, but they offered a shuttle service to anywhere within 15 miles.

I wrote my name on the sign-up sheet and soon after, the shuttle driver collected me and three other carless people, and we all piled into a van. Excellent! I’ll be at work in no time at all. Or so I thought.

We exchanged pleasantries and got settled in, only to smell trouble immediately as our driver fumbled with his papers, mumbled to himself, and stumbled into gear. It was apparent we’d gotten the Don Knotts of shuttle drivers and this would be no ordinary trip. I fastened my seatbelt. HARD and SURE.

I shall refer to him now as Worse Than Me. Regular readers know that I’m the most directionally-challenged person to get behind the wheel of a car. Our driver wishes he were only as challenged as I am.

Worse Than Me had no plan, couldn’t read street names, and didn’t appreciate helpful instructions from his passengers. They only seemed to anger him ("I know where I’m going!") To add insult to injury, he TALKED ALL THE TIME. Sometimes to us. Sometimes to himself.

Worse Than Me chatted up the poor soul who got into the front seat with him. It went something like this:

So we’ll take you first since you’re close I know the back roads and you’ll have to tell me if you need a ride home and oh boy it’s been busy the last few days I had six people to deliver to work yesterday and all of them wanted to get there right away because everybody wants to get dropped off first you know and sometimes I have only one person in the morning but today is an average day with the four of you sometimes I have a lot of people to pick up at night the shop closes at 5 o’clock but sometimes I’m still out driving at 6 o’clock the mechanics leave at 5 o’clock but customers can pickup their cars until 8 o’clock so which building do I have to drop you off at?

Wow.

He did not take a breath.  He wasn’t expecting responses. More importantly, he wasn’t exactly watching the road.  And then his cell phone rang. Oh, dear God. Please don’t answer that.  Luckily, it rang only once and he never got to pick it up.  Eyes on the road, buddy. Eyes on the road.

Worse Than Me keeps talking to Poor Soul #1 all the way to the first drop-off point. I have remained silent thus far and intend to stay that way, even if I’m the last person to be dropped off. I’m kind of into him concentrating on his driving and the not-getting-in-an-accident part of this expedition.

When we get to Poor Soul #1′s workplace, he exits the van and now the driver has to figure out how to get Poor Soul #2 to her destination, a house in the middle of nowhere.

We continue through towns I’ve heard of, then through towns I haven’t. Traffic gets thinner and thinner and I don’t know where I am. Neither does Worse Than Me. Poor Soul #2 tries her best to direct him to her house and a very long discussion ensues about where he’ll find the Burger King he needs to turn at.

Apparently the driver thinks he knows where to turn, but Poor Soul #2 has to correct him at almost every intersection. He argues with her about which way to go, despite her objections about the path he’s taking. She indicates there is a much faster route, but he repeatedly states "I don’t want to mess up." All I’m thinking is — Then let her help you! I’m very uncomfortable at this point because two people who have just met each other are arguing already. This does not bode well.

Poor Soul #2 abandons her effort to guide our driver and let’s him do whatever he wants. He mumbles something about "I know all the back roads from when I was a kid," and Poor Soul #2 announces "You know, I’m really not feeling well and I can’t comprehend what you’re saying to me." I laugh very loud at that in my head.

We eventually make our way to Poor Soul #2′s house in the boondocks and she quickly slips out of the van, to presumably go inside and scream her head off. I consider briefly getting out with her, pretending I live there, too. I could have always called a cab from there. Darn! Why did I think of that just now?

I allow her to exit the van, and against my better judgement, I get into the empty front seat. I’m now inches from the driver, but I’m still silent and I don’t plan on making eye contact. My only fear now is that he’s dropping off Poor Soul #3 next, and I’ll be left alone with him in my quiet misery.

My fear washes away as Worse Than Me announces he taking me to work next. Poor Soul #3, a woman in the back seat, sighs "Oh my God. We were closer to where I work when we were back at the first place. By the time I get to work, my car will be done!"

Worse Than Me says nothing and proceeds to drive further east towards my workplace and much further from Poor Soul #3′s destination. I silently pity her, as I realize that she’s going to be alone with him for another hour, at least.

I’m blessed that our driver knows how to get to South Mountain, which is about two miles from where I work. This means I can continue my vow of silence and not have to give him directions from Timbuktu. I have absolutely no idea where I am at this point. I ask myself repeatedly whether I should have just stayed back at the dealer and waited for my car right there in the shop, instead of here in Wayward Van.

Traveling past more places the driver recalls from his childhood ("I remember that park from when I was a kid." "I remember that’s where I used to hunt as a kid." "I remember that little house from when I was a kid."), we finally approach South Mountain and I realize it’s time to speak soon. I have to tell him which street to turn on at the base of the mountain.

On approach I finally utter three words: "Turn right here."  Worse Than Me jabbers away about how he remembers dropping off some passengers at one of the big buildings on campus and asks me when they put up that sculpture near the front of it. I reply without opening my mouth, "I-hmm-no" (translation: "I don’t know.")

I give up a couple more words: "Turn here." We have two more blocks on the journey, and I insist I won’t speak any more than is absolutely necessary, so I just wave him on with my hands. We approach my stop and I allow a final word to escape: "Here."  I have successfully been driven to my destination, not engaged the driver once, and said less than ten words in 57 minutes. I don’t know any monks who could do that.

As I reach for the door handle and Poor Soul #3 prepares to make her transition to the front seat, I look at her with all the sympathy I can muster. I silently mouth the words "Good luck" as I step onto the curb. She looks at me with a pained expression, her eyes the size of saucers.

All I could do was wish her well for the next hour I’m sure it’ll take her to get 20 miles west of here. I half expected her to put her hands up on the inside of the window as they drove away, in a Edvard Munch-esque silent scream and a face that said "Save me." But I never looked back. I didn’t have the courage. I failed as a human.

Godspeed, Poor Soul #3. Godspeed.

Pardon My Appearance

Posted by Kathy on December 11th, 2007

toolboxThe Junk Drawer has undergone some serious cosmetic surgery today and is in recovery. I’ve been in the process of moving to WordPress and things went a little haywire for several hours today.

My blog’s appearance may change over the next few days, so bear with me. My old backlinks also do not work, but will be repaired in the next day or so.

Please check back for a new look and new posts soon!

UPDATE 12/12: This is my site’s final look. If I kept searching for a theme that was perfect, I wouldn’t be done until January.

This theme has most of the features I needed, won’t require too much tweaking, and so it got the thumbs-up. I hope you like it, too!

I still need to resolve some issues with links and RSS feeds. Thanks for your patience.

Junk Drawer Management

Dear Poopy Head Truck Driver

Posted by Kathy on December 1st, 2007

Dear Poopy Head Truck Driver:

I know you didn’t mean it when you had an accident on the bridge I cross to get to work. But I just have to tell you what you were responsible for this morning.

1. You made me 45 minutes late for work.

2. You made about 2,500 other people 45 minutes late for work. That means the world lost 1,875 man hours of work, about a year’s worth of a typical job.

3. You forced me to look death in the eye and try crazy stunts to shoot off the last exit before the bridge in an effort to get away from the traffic jam.

4. You made it so that 1,000 other drivers tried the same thing and caused us to get in a second traffic jam on side roads.

5. You made my office have to make a pot of Disney Mickey Mouse coffee that’s been in the refrigerator for about a year, since I had the supply of new coffee in my car.

6. You caused all the people who could finally get moving again to gun the accelerator and violate every driving rule known to man, trying to make up lost time.

7. You made me hate the innocent cyclist who I saw whiz by me at one point, getting to his destination on time.

8. You made a thousand people, who just finished their morning coffee, wish for a Port-o-Potty on the side of the road.

I hope you totaled your truck, don’t have insurance and have to take a bus to work for a month. I hope you were cited and fined for your incompetence. I hope everyone flipped you off when they made it past your stupid accident. You should be lucky they didn’t kill you. I know I wanted to.

P.S. Poopy Head isn’t what I was calling you that whole time, but this is a G-rated blog, so that’ll have to do.

7 Reasons to Avoid Fast-Food Restaurants

Posted by Kathy on November 28th, 2007

Like many high-schoolers my first job was at a fast-food restaurant. I learned a lot about responsibility, working in a fast-paced environment and coping with the public.

I also learned why you should avoid eating there if at all possible. Consider this the next time you pay a visit to your neighborhood quickie-meal joint:

1. Teenagers run the place. The majority of the staff were under 18 years old. Teenagers have zero vested interest in serving quality food to you. They are biding their time until they can punch out and resume the part of their lives they give a damn about.

2. Managers can’t be everywhere. Yes, the good managers will oversee the production line and make sure nothing bad happens to your food. But they are not omnipresent. I once witnessed a co-worker drop a large cut of roast beef on the floor while trying to load it into a slow-cook oven. He picked it up and put it right back in. (I reported him).

3. The sneeze guard over the salad bar is worthless. Understand that salad bar items are subjected to dirty fingers, dirty air, coughing and hacking customers and fluctuating cooling temperatures. Face it. The food sits out all day and God knows what happens to it before you sidle up and help yourself. In addition, if enough of one item is too much to toss for the day, it’ll be put out the very next day to mix with the same environmental pollutants as it did the day before.

4. Cleanliness is not top priority. One day the restaurant’s drainage system backed up and we sloshed around for two hours with plastic bags over our shoes, still serving food, before someone came from the Health Department to shut us down until repairs could take place.

5. Food for you one minute, dog food the next. For about a year, our restaurant entered into an arrangement with the local SPCA. Food that was deemed fit for human consumption was fed to people. After the food was under heat lamps too long, it was dropped in a bucket and picked up to be fed to dogs. We’re not talking quality here. Five minutes ago, it was meant for you.

6. You get what minimum wage pays for. Almost anyone can get hired. The same guy who dropped the roast beef on the floor also cut off part of his fingertip while slicing ham. A week later he was caught smoking pot behind the drive-thru window and finally fired. He worked under the influence a lot of the time. Your best interest was not on his stoned-out mind. We didn’t like to think what else he did that no one caught him doing.

7. Cross contamination is the norm. When things got busy, the same person who just swept garbage off the floor might be asked to perform cashier duties without washing their hands in between. They may rearrange your food on your serving tray, help the food line staff assemble sandwiches, grab cups and utensils, all with their bare hands. What they touched, you touched and you probably put it into your mouth.

Bon appetite! (if you dare)

 

Just Call Me Shred Head

Posted by Kathy on November 16th, 2007

People are worried about me.

A couple days ago, I was working on a client’s PC in another office installing some software that takes forever to load. Since waiting for software to install is akin to watching water boil, I thought I’d at least be productive and check for voice mail or email messages. Nothin’. I looked around for something interesting to read. Nothin’. I stared at the wall and wondered how I was going to avoid gaining 17 pounds over Thanksgiving weekend and got all stressed out.

And then it happened. I heard a paper shredder in the distance.

Oh, yeah, baby. Now we’re talkin’! See, there’s one thing in this world that is no bigger stress reliever for me than shredding documents. Yoga? Sorry, no can do. Meditation? Not my thing. Visualization? Only if it looks like this. Sending paper through a slotted, metal-toothed grinder and watching it turn into tiny confetti dots? Priceless.

Seems the client whose computer I was working on was sifting through a humongous container of confidential paperwork that her office collects for shredding. The bin was busting at the seams.

I asked her if she really had to shred all that, and she said “Yeah. It’s a big, annoying job. Even our student workers don’t want to do it.”

I started to tremble and shake.

“Raquel? Um, would you mind if I helped?”

Looking up from her 300 lb. paper pile with a seriously confused look on her face, she asked, “Are you feeling all right? You really want to do this?”

“Yes. I know. I have a problem. But I like to shred paper. It’s destructive and productive! And if you don’t let me do it, I won’t fix your PC.”

“You kidding me?”

“No. Now are you gonna keep looking at me like that, or are you gonna let me get this party started? Move it, sister.”

So there I stood, gleefully feeding a few sheets in at a time, while Raquel sorted out non-shreddable items and things that could just go in the recycle bin. She started to realize what a wonderful discovery she just found in my neurosis. She started to think that together we could make a serious dent in the pile. She started to think she found a sucker who might just do this on a regular basis.

She found me. A paper-feeding, paper clip-pulling, confetti-dumping, maniacal demolition machine.

We worked through the bin for about thirty minutes. All the while, her office mates sauntered up to me and asked “What’s going on? Did Raquel put you to work?”

“No! I like it! Now stop bothering me. You’re screwing up my rhythm.”

One guy who didn’t know me asked if I was brought in just for this job. When he found out I was just doing a favor and getting my jollies in the process, he asked if I would come over to his office and do his shredding.

“Listen, dude. Don’t toy with me. If you’re making fun of me, I can take it. But if you’re telling me you have a fresh pile of paper somewhere that needs to be sent through this shredder, you better mean business because if you’re kidding, I’ll take you down, I swear to God.”

Backing away slowly now, he whimpered “Lady, you’re scaring me.”

As Raquel and I plowed through the documents and emptied the receptacle a few times when it got full of glorious confetti, I realized my fun was coming to an end. The software installation I’d been monitoring finally finished. The shredding party was over.

Raquel thanked me profusely, since we’d gotten through more than half of the bin’s contents. She just couldn’t get over how much we got done.

I asked her if I could come back sometime and finish this pile, or even do future piles. And we all know there will always be future piles. Whoever said we’d be living in a paperless society by now couldn’t have been more wonderfully wrong.

She said, “Of course. We can put you on a schedule.”

Happy in the knowledge that I’ll always have a place in her office for shredding whenever I want, I left and skipped down the hall to my own office. When I passed by our reception desk, I noticed a co-worker sitting next to our own shredder with a pile of papers.

“Want some help with that?”

“Kathy, are you feeling all right?”

“Yeah. It’s my catharsis. Now beat it before I have to hurt you.”

I love to shred, I love to shred!

Don’t deny me shredding, or I’ll beat you on the head!

Sunday Reflections

Posted by Kathy on November 11th, 2007

Like everyone else, I enjoy kicking back on Sundays, reading the paper, puttering around and generally being lazy. It helps to take the downtime and rejuvenate my spirit before the craziness of another week begins.

I don’t recall where I read the following passage, but I jotted it down and tacked it up on my refrigerator, reading it on Sundays or whenever I feel the need for calm. Be sure to read it slowly and carefully, visualizing it for the greatest benefit.

Picture yourself near a stream. Birds are softly chirping in the crisp, cool mountain air. Nothing can bother you here. No one knows this secret place. You are in total seclusion from that place called “the world.” The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity. The water is clear. You can easily make
out the face of the person whose head you’re holding under the water.

How was your commute today?

Posted by Kathy on September 17th, 2007

Let’s face it. "The road less traveled" doesn’t exist anymore. Unless you’re lucky enough to be retired, you have to get out on jammed roads during rush hour, compete for space, avoid the idiots and get to and from work without getting frazzled.

Here are ten ways to minimize the hassle, maximize your calm and have a safer commute. They may seem like no-brainers, but if more people would employ these techniques, driving might just be fun again. Or at least a little more tolerable.

  1. Leave earlier. This is a hard one for many of us. Getting out on the road just 10 minutes earlier than normal gives you time to pay more attention to the road and traffic patterns. One day last week I left 10 minutes later than normal and it took me 10 minutes longer to get to work.
  2. When merging onto a highway, try to get directly behind a big truck. Based purely on observational evidence, I find that most drivers will move to the passing lane if they see a large truck trying to merge. They’re less inclined to do so for a mere car. Use this to your advantage and get right behind the biggest one you can find and follow it as you both merge smoothly. You can always pass it later.
  3. Try to get ahead of SUVs and trucks to maximize your field of vision. I drive a small car and find it impossible to see ahead of and around bigger vehicles. Do what you can to safely position yourself behind cars the same size as yours. Then you’ll be ready to react if you see trouble up ahead.
  4. Let tailgaters pass you. The only solution to tailgating drivers is to get out of their way as quickly and safely as possible. Let them pass you so you can maintain your calm.
  5. Look both ways before pulling out when the light turns green. This takes just a second and can save your life. We’ve all seen other drivers running red lights. Wait a moment to allow for that possibility. I’ve twice avoided an accident by waiting a beat before advancing through the green.
  6. Turn your headlights on in any kind of weather. Many of today’s cars automatically turn on your lights when you start your car. If yours doesn’t, consider turning them on manually, even in fair weather. This isn’t so much for you to see better; it’s so that other drivers can see you, particularly if you drive a dark-colored vehicle.
  7. Signal early and make your turn only when you can. Let other drivers know when you’re about to turn. If you’re ahead of a tailgater, don’t try to make your turn. Skip it and wait until you can turn with at least three car lengths of open space behind you. I once damaged a tire because I tried to make my turn with a tailgater just feet behind me. I tried to get as close to the curb as possible to allow him to get around me, and in the process, scraped it hard enough to ruin a perfectly good tire.
  8. Practice safe cell-phoning. Simply put, drivers cannot possibly concentrate on the road if they’re talking on the phone. If you must make a call, pull over at a safe spot, make the call and then resume driving. It takes just a few minutes out of your drive, but will minimize the chances you’ll cause an accident due to driver inattention.
  9. Wear a seat belt. If you don’t care about your personal safety, that’s one thing. But at least think of your family. You are your family’s most important asset. Protect it for their sake.
  10. Say a little prayer for road ragers. Pray for them? Are you nuts? Well, sort of. But I’m also a big believer in karma. If you send a little kindness out into the world, it might come back to you when you least expect it. Besides, people so angry behind the wheel clearly need some help and it makes me feel better when I react positively to a stressful situation. And it’s all about feeling better on the road!

If you had a bad commute today, here’s wishing you a better one tomorrow!

Seinfeld’s kitchen and me

Posted by Kathy on September 14th, 2007

So yesterday new partitions went up in my office. They separate me from a pile of laptops and equipment we loan out to faculty to use in classrooms. I used to have a wide open space, but now I’m almost totally insulated and I have to tell you, it’s very weird. I can’t see or hear people coming, and even when they announce themselves, I’m usually jumping out of my seat when they appear around the partition. I may need to invest in a driveway mirror, a bell, a webcam trained on the door, or all of the above.

I’ll get used to it over time, but right now it feels a little like this: