Saturday, July 26, 2008

Crime Fighting Trio

Because no one is above the law!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vocabulary Optional

It was time. I think it's been over a year since I got my hair cut. If you've seen me lately, that shouldn't surprise you. I was beginning to resemble Cousin It. My curls look silly if my hair is short, but it shouldn't be so long that I look like I'm trying to win a contest. Remember the fingernail guy in the Guinness Book of World Records? After a certain length, they just start to twist out of control. That's kinda' what happened with my locks.

Yesterday I found out that I'll be attending a seminar at work, and I'm expected to host part of it. That means standing up in front of a crowd of people. Not one of my favorite things to do, but at least they're college students. It shouldn't be too hard, but as soon as I found out I was going to be doing some public speaking, I scheduled a hair appointment.

Back in Iowa, I spent anywhere from $10-$25 on a haircut. I asked around and heard that in DC, even Supercuts would run about $25. So, I went to a place near my apartment that had a good reputation, a $45 haircut and an open spot tonight.

I walked into the salon, was guided to the shampoo station where a woman scrubbed my scalp like she was cleaning the kitchen floor with a hand-sponge. She said a few words, but I'm not sure if they were to me or if they were even in english. After that, she led me to the next room.

When I walked in, an older gentleman said, "Ah!" and popped up to lead me to the salon chair. Wordlessly, he draped the cape around me and began to brush my hair with as much vigor as the shampoo scrub-woman. He didn't say a word, just brushed my unbrushable curls and said nothing when my head bobbed and wiplashed with every tangle. When his hands were close to my face, I could smell a strong odor of stale cigarette smoke. At that point, I began to look around. It was hard to focus with all of the bobbing and thrashing going on around my noggin, but I didn't see any licenses or anything on the wall. I wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. For all I know, this guy could be the janitor. I didn't even know his name. I wasn't even sure if he was going to ask how I wanted it cut or just start snipping. I had no idea what was going on.

Finally, he said, "How you want?" Obviously he didn't speak english very well, so I just said, "manageable." I'm pretty sure he had no clue what that word meant. He narrowed it down to, "Long? Short?" Oh boy. This could be scary hair by the time it was all over.

I realize this is another one of those trivial blog entries, but think about this situation - you're at a new hairstylist and you can only communicate with the person by using the most basic descriptive words. For me, it was difficult - my hair is part of my identity. If people meet me when my hair is down, they don't recognize me when I put it up in a ponytail. And, vice versa. It's already happened at both of my jobs - the first time my hair was down, people thought I was someone new they hadn't met. My hair is big and curly and it commands attention. It makes its own rules, there's nothing I can do but go with it.

But even if you don't have hair that steals the spotlight, how strange would it be to go to a stylist and sit quietly while they cut your hair? For the most part, stylists seem to stick with the same conversational formulas. They ask the probing questions - are you a student? does your family live here? blah blah blah and there's always chatter to fill in the silences. I have never had so many boring conversations in my life as I have in a salon chair. Any salon chair.

So, once we got going, I was starting to dig Mennan. (His name was on his business card.) He was concentrating on the cut while I watched, and every once in a while he brought the hair between his fingertips and said, "There?" and I answered, "Okay." We had that conversation about five times. The only real substantial exchange was when I threw him off with the "manageable" request. He asked me a question, it sounded like, "Model? You see model?" I answered, "Where?" (a nice way of saying, "What the hell are you talking about? What model?") He went and got some books so I could show him a picture of what I wanted. Most of the girls in the book had straight hair, I said, "Not many curls." That's when we had are longest exchange:

Him: You perm.
Me: No, it's natural curl.
Him: You perm.
Me: Uhh... no I've never had a perm. [b/c I don't know if he's trying to argue where the curls came from or try to sell me a perm.]

He looked a little flustered this time & grabbed a big roller from the next station. He said "Big curls" and made a wavy motion w/his hand. He seemed to be really into the idea of giving me a perm with big rollers. I'm more adventurous with my hair than you might think, but I answered that one honestly and succinctly, "Costs money." He walked away - still flustered - and came back dragging the guy from the front desk. They spoke to each other in Italian while they made hand gestures and pointed at my hair. The other guy said, "He thinks you would like a perm w/the big rollers to give you long wavy curls." "How much would that cost?" "$140" [I didn't respond in english that time, just sort of a grunt with a hand-to-heart motion as if I'd been shot.] Then they argued a little bit and I heard Mennan say, "Low! Low!" and the other guy was shaking his head now. Mennan was pointing to the ground and seemed to be telling the guy to charge me less. It was funny - he was really committed to this idea of giving me a perm w/the big rollers. Finally the other guy went away and I was going to explain that I just graduated, I paid a dentist $365 to poke around in my mouth today, and the $45 haircut alone was a huge splurge. It would've been futile, so I just watched and he finished my hair in silence interrupted by a few utterances of "Here?" and then, "I shear" before he pulled out the thinning shears and make a quick snip at the ends. Not a bad idea to keep it from getting bunched up.

When I walked out, I was thinking - this was great! No b.s. conversation about my life or Brittany Spears or the weather or whatever the hell stylists talk about just to keep some rapport. This guy was kinda' cool. He was an older guy, and he seemed more suited to be welcoming Frank Sinatra into an Italian restaurant than cutting my hair. He did look like a successful night-club owner in all the mafia films. He could be a movie extra for that genre. As long as there's no dialogue.

In the end, it turns out - no dialogue is a great thing. It was weird at first when I thought he was a custodian, but after he got so inspired with the perm idea and kept checking the length over and over, I think he's probably pretty good at his job. In fact, his other job may be a successful night club/Italian restaurant owner. If it is, I bet he's good at that, too.

I'm home now and I didn't shell out the extra scratch to get it styled or blow-dried, so I walked home looking a bit like Scary Spice (Pre-Eddie Murphy) I'm going to bed super early tonight, get a good night's rest, and see how this 'do works out tomorrow. Now that it's dry, it's pretty short but I think that's a good thing. It was all length and no style. Now, hopefully, it's got some style. I think Mennan does. I can't say for sure b/c I can't communicate in anything other than a 5-10 word vocabulary, but I like him. Maybe I should go get some Italian language tapes from the library (Yes, I already have my card!) and I can keep going back to Mennan and learn Italian at the same time. $45 haircut/language lessons? Seems like a money saver when you throw that in!

I hope you are all doing well and are not spending more than $25 on a haircut. I may have to do what I told Mennan I was going to do before I get a perm, "Piggy bank."

It's starting to rain and I'm getting sleepy. I'm skipping laundry night and putting it off a couple of days. I'm way too tired. G'night everyone and stay out of the rain! And remember my tale of how nice it can be when you don't have to share an obligatory conversation with someone else. Even if they do have your vanity in their hands.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm fine, how are you?

I told everyone I'd keep this blog to let you all know how I'm doing but somewhere along the line it took a turn and became a collection of silly adventures and shoe mishaps. I suppose I can't help it that sometimes my shoes are the most interesting thing about me, but I guess I should hold up my end of the "keeping in touch" deal. Plus, I keep getting the same questions. So, without further ado, here's the real answers to the questions I answer with, "Fine" or "good" or whatever.

#1) How am I doing? I don't usually answer this one honestly b/c I don't want anyone to worry about me and if I said what I was thinking: "Well - I work seven days a week, I chipped a tooth and the dentist told me it would be $650, Everything is ridiculously expensive so I could really use a day off work but I can't afford it, I'm getting fat, and the other day my toilet overflowed at 11:00 at night and they didn't come fix it until 9:30 the next morning.

Now, don't get me wrong. It may sound like I'm miserable out here, but that's not true at all. Although, it would be true to say that life is fully of annoying krap no matter where you are. Even when things are going great, you can always find something to make you feel depressed.

#2) How is work? Great Actually! Things are going better than expected at work. My job is pretty much the same kind of work I was doing before as an administrative assistant, it's just really far away in a really expensive city at a fairly well-known non-profit organization. In the beginning, I was so envious of the people upstairs (our offices are on two separate floors.) I really wanted to be doing research and it was frustrating at first to be fixing the copy machine and typing memos instead. After a few weeks, I have a new perspective.

Part of my new perspective is because I was asked to help with the newsletter. It's not part of my job or anything, but someone in the fundraising department asked me to help proofread the monthly newsletter. I sat in on the meeting and offered to help with a few different things. It was nice to have a creative project and it's made life more pleasant. I have to admit that even though my current position wouldn't have been my first choice, it is a great experience as far as entry-level work goes. After I came to terms w/my envy for the researchers upstairs, I noticed that they don't seem to leave their offices very much. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and I still hope to do that job someday; but in this administrative position, I interact with everyone. When I move up - whether it's within the same organization or a different job entirely - I will take with me experience working with all of the departments as well as some outside connections. It's definitely to my benefit to be on a first name basis with the directors. Plus, I pitched a new idea today that the president and chief of staff were both very supportive of. I'm really excited about it. It's 100% my project, so it will involve a lot of work on my end, but everyone else will be able to reap the benefits once it gets going. I don't want to make too much of it because I don't know how it will work out in the end, but if I can get the word out and build some interest it could be noteworthy. If it doesn't work out, no harm done - but if it does it could be a nice feather in my cap. More on that later.

#3) Have I made any friends yet? I hate this question!! People ask me all the time and much like question #1, I don't know how to answer it honestly. I have the best friends in the world and they're located in the Midwest. I have such a strong connection with my friends back home, I couldn't imagine finding that here in DC in a million years. It works out well for me because I am constantly in contact with people who are not my "friends" - neighbors, co-workers, co-workers [other job], people on the Metro... there are people everywhere out here. Hell, there's about twenty five people standing on the sidewalk on the next block in front of the movie theater! [Yes, they were lined up for Batman when I got home at 7:30] So, if the question is - am I lonely? The answer is no. Have I made friends? Yes - back in Iowa. It took me ten years to do it and they are only a phone call away.

#4) How is DC? Fun, fascinating, and expensive!

#5) Isn't it scary to live so far away from home? No. That's not scary. Living in the same place your entire life is scary.

#6) Is it dangerous out there? When it comes to crime in DC, there is definitely a pattern. I was just reading a blog by a friend from U of I who is working for a program teaching special ed in a neighborhood called Anacostia. I've never been to Anacostia, but I know that it's not a place that a whimsical Iowa gal like me should just wander into (nor anyone else who uses the word "whimsical" for that matter.) [Although there was an uncharacteristic shooting a few miles from my apartment on Sunday. It happened at noon, someone was shot in the leg and the witnesses chased the dude down until the cops got him. That's a hell of a neighborhood watch program.] It's interesting to me to think about how different our experiences are. We both wrote a column for the DI, both graduated from the U of I this year w/a Communication Studies degree, we both moved to Washington, DC immediately after graduation, but when he goes to work every day it's in a neighborhood that, according to wikipedia, "is primarily known for its excessive crime rates." We should get together in a year and exchange stories. That would make a good movie plot.

Well, I think that covers it. Let me know if I missed anything, and congratulations if you actually read this entire entry. I'm never at a loss for words. But, now that we got this out of the way, the next time you call me we can talk about you!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I have been told I have two left feet...

I can't blog for very long tonight, I have a boy coming over. Seriously. What? You don't believe me? Okay, fine - he's not actually coming up to my apartment, he's just going to pull up in front of the building and bring me a shoe. No kidding.

Shoes have become very important in my life. A lady at work told me, "You are the walkingest girl I ever met!" (or maybe she meant I was the "Walken"-est. Marsupials scare me.) I do love to walk and I do a lot of it out here, but I didn't realized how ill-prepared I was for the amount of walking I do. I can't wear tennis shoes or flip-flops to work, so I can point to a corresponding bruise, blister, or scar on my feet for each pair of dress shoes that I own. Yesterday I went to a mall in Arlington and bought a comfortable pair of sandals. When I put them on this morning I was rushing around getting ready for work half asleep and I put the shoe on the wrong foot. Then I switched them and I still had a shoe on the wrong foot. What the hell? Upon closer examination, I realized... I had two shoes for the same foot.
How does that happen? Can anything be un-complicated? Can I just go to a friggin' shoe store without it turning into an adventure?? Apparently the answer is no.
So I was really annoyed b/c I already spend $4.00 a day to ride the Metro to work and back, it would cost a couple extra dollars to go back to Arlington and exchange the shoe. I called the shoe store and explained, waited for the guy to finish laughing, and he told me to bring it in, no problem. Clearly there was no other way to make the exchange - it would be a bigger debacle to try and ship the shoes or something like that. It would be in their best interest to accommodate me - as long as I have two left shoes, they've got two right shoes they're not able to sell. I didn't get too bitchy about it, but I did make it clear that I was not happy about having to go all the way back & I wasn't sure when I'd have time to do it.
He said: Okay wait, let me talk to my manager. [whisper-whisper-whisper] Uh, okay. My manager says he'll bring the shoe to you if you give us the address.
So yes, I do have a boy coming over. His name is George, he manages a shoe store, and I told him parking would be a problem at my building so I'll meet him out front.
"Okay. I'll be in a Camry."
"Great. I'll be... the girl carrying the sandal."
And there you have it. A really bizarre turn of events and all I wanted was some comfortable shoes. I'm pretty happy about the service. Today at work we were discussing how to exceed peoples' expectations. It's pretty rare when someone you do business with goes out of their way to accommodate you, but when it does happen - they never forget. I definitely never expected that I would do a shoe exchange right in front of my apartment.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I'm home; my luggage is still on holiday

My boss walked into my office on Thursday afternoon and said, "Are you running away from home?" It was a logical assumption considering the giant green suitcase by my desk (J has renamed the day-glo color"Random Bag Check Green.") Yep, I packed up Wednesday, left work at 5:30 on Thursday and headed to the airport for a depressingly short trip back home. Since then, my RBC Green suitcase and I have parted ways.

This is not going to be another slam like the one on Delta recently. Delta still sucks, but Northwest Air (or, NWA as the kids say) turned out to be my favorite of my four recent airline trips, despite the fact that my suitcase is still travelling the globe. (If you're keeping score that would be #1: NWA, #2: United, #3: American Airlines, and #1,024: Delta.)

Because nothing can ever go smoothly for me, here's how this trip worked out:
I booked the cheapest flight I could find which included 2 layovers on the return trip. Moline to Detroit, Detroit to Newark, Newark to DC. I made it to Detroit without incident, but the Newark flight was delayed an hour. Fearing a reprise of the Delta situation, I asked a representative for help and was told, "Your connecting flight leaves at 5:05 and we're due in at 4:35. 30 minutes is a legal connection time." I expected to spend the night in Newark tonight. Luckily, the flight was delayed again and the arrival time was 5:07, 2 minutes after my next flight leaves. I don't know the rules, but surely -2 minutes would be an "illegal" connection time. She conveniently disappeared, so I called the 1-800 number.

The lady at the 800# was very nice, and after I spent a few minutes on hold, she had me booked on a flight directly to DC, boarding in the next 20 minutes. That was awesome! Because of the layovers I wasn't due in until 6:30, this got me home 3 hours early. Of course, my suitcase didn't get the memo and was sent on its way to miss the connecting flight.

When my Detroit-to-DC flight landed and there was no suitcase, I was told that it was headed to Newark but they'd send it on the next flight to DC, then they'll deliver it to my apartment. Then she gave me some paperwork that had coupons for $25 off my next flight, 1,000 bonus miles, and $10 off from an airport vendor. (you had me at $25 off!)

As it turns out, my connecting flight is now delayed and isn't due in until 8:46 pm. Thanks to good timing and NWA's customer service, I made it home at 3:35. If I hadn't made the phone call, I would have my luggage but would still be in the air right now. Plus, I'd have to carry it home on the Metro instead of having it delivered. So, let's recap - I'm home 3 hours early, my luggage will be delivered, I'll save some $$ on my next flight, and I made it home before it started to rain an hour ago. Not a bad deal for having to wait a few hours for my dirty clothes.

It was a weird experience altogether. In Detroit I walked by a woman whose carry-on was meowing. (Can you really carry on a kitten or is TSA screening really inadequate?) On the flight from Detroit, there was about 5-10 minutes that were so turbulent, my Pepsi can almost jumped off the tray and into my neighbor's lap. If I hadn't been wearing a seatbelt, it would've been me in his lap. It was a crazy bumpy ride. I've never had an experience like that before. Well, I take that back, I had a similar experience in my brother's boat when it was windy outside and the waves were tossing us around. It would've been kind of fun had I not been sitting directly in front of a screaming infant. (Common courtesy, people - if you bring an infant on a plane, you have to bring enough pairs of earplugs for every other passenger on the flight!)

So why have I written all about the flight instead of my trip home? My flight is much less depressing. I still had some things to take care of at my apartment, so I shelled out $385 for a flight home so I could see my friends and clean up so I can get my $500 deposit back. I spent most of the weekend cleaning instead of hanging out w/friends. I arrived Thursday night just before midnight and had scheduled carpet cleaners at 8:30 Friday morning. Stayed up all night cleaning & vacuuming, slept all day, woke up late in the afternoon and cleaned the kitchen and bathroom all night. If I had stayed in DC, I could've been watching fireworks over the Capitol. I chose poorly.

It wasn't all bad. I had breakfast w/Keisha, Tom & the kids; my dad showed up and took Jenna and I to Amana & Williamsburg; I got to see Angie and J and Pops; and even though I didn't get to meet Anthony's new lady-friend, I did get to have ice cream with him. Plus, I spent $20 on products that would cost me $50 out here, changed my watch battery for $5.00 and found two pairs of work pants at Kohl's for $10.00. That helped curb some of the anxiety of the high cost of living out here. I just wish I could've spent more time w/all the people I miss. It felt wrong to be ignoring them to try to get my security deposit back. Lame. I will definitely have to make up for lost time in September - wherever the Brewfest ends up being held, my friends and I will be there!!

Update: As of 8:00 EST, the flight status on the Newark to DC flight is "Departed Gate 2 hours 19 minutes late, taxiing to runway (Departed Gate - takeoff delayed due to taxiing time)" Wow, I'm home in my jammies and my luggage is driving aimlessly around a runway. New ETA: 9:12 pm. Did I mention I made it back by 3:35?