Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Six People Lurking in Your Employee Lunchroom

(post copyright 2015, Dawn Weber)
I've worked at various businesses around the Midwest for, oh, two or three hundred years now.

Although every job is different, they all have had some things in common -- besides computers and despair, that is.

Every workplace has a lunchroom. And in each lunchroom, there among the rows of tables, chairs and filthy microwaves, are certain individuals. Here at Miserable Cubicles Incorporated, I've identified these folks. Read on for a handy guide to  "The Six People Lurking in Your Employee Lunchroom."

1. Protein Pete
PP arrives first thing each morning and spreads out his array of fruits, powders and organic kale. Next, he spends 40 minutes of company time whipping up a slimy green concoction that he sips twice, then stores -- uncovered and indefinitely -- in the communal fridge. Protein Pete specializes in Ninja Blenders, rotten bananas, and annoying the hell out of everyone with unsolicited nutritional advice.

2. Coffee Pot Carl
Carl got coffee.

You got none.


That's because instead of following standard lunchroom etiquette and making more coffee after he poured the last cup, Carl went back to his desk, strolling cheerfully past the "If you drink the last of the coffee, please make more" sign.


You suck, Carl.

3. Loud Linda
In a good mood? You won't be for long. Loud Linda has arrived to inform everyone in shouty capital letters about the TRAFFIC, the WEATHER, and her RIDICULOUS WORKLOAD. Loud Linda: She's the reason God made earbuds.

And vodka.

4. TMI Tonia
Not to be outdone by Linda is TMI Tonia. Join her by the water cooler, where she'll continually share too damn much information with anyone brave enough to walk into the room. Her pants size. Her sex life. Her latest colonoscopy. We know all about it. And more.

So much more.

5. Dirty Dishes Dan
Our boy Dan likes to leave his soiled plates "soaking" in the sink, waiting on the perfect time -- Christmas? Easter? The zombie apocalypse? -- for someone else to wash them. It's a happy world, Dan's is, free of responsibility and common decency, where a guy doesn't deal with his own messes.

It's a world with his mom, apparently.

6. Scorched Salmon Sally
Sally loves fish.

So Sally brings fish.

Sally overcooks said fish in the microwave, reducing it to a rubbery puck and producing an odor that causes everyone in the room to gag and seriously consider the possibility of assault with office supplies.

Yes, Sally loves fish. But Sally is in danger of death.

By paper clip.

So there you have it. Six obnoxious people from your lunchroom and mine, all of whom specialize in making our workdays just a little more wretched.

How do you get through it? We at Miserable Cubicles Incorporated recommend earbuds, a "white noise" playlist, and the knowledge that one day you will retire.

In twenty, thirty years or so.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my break is almost over and I really need to grab a cup of . . .

Dammit, Carl.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Reptiles for Lunch

(post copyright 2015, Dawn Weber)

It was a warm, sunny day. I'd managed to exercise, shower, and even put on pants before noon.

And then I almost had to change them.

You see, I had a visitor for lunch. An uninvited guest. Let's back up a little.

Like I said, it started as a great day off. Some swimming, some yoga, lots of sun, so I decided to keep the healthy vibes going with a salad. I ripped up lettuce, chopped some onions, and reached for a package of tomatoes purchased the previous Sunday from the local grocery store. Opening the lid, I turned on the water and began rinsing the tomatoes under the faucet.

And then I nearly shat meself.

"AHHH!! ICKKKKKK!" I hollered.

"What?!" yelled the Princess, alarmed and thumping down the stairs from her room. "What is wrong with you?"

I turned to my daughter with eyes as wide as saucers. "SNAKE!"

"AHHHH!!" she yelled, stopping in her tracks.

"ICKKKKK!" I replied.

We continued in this manner for a while, our eyes bulging as we regarded the green snake cheerfully slithering around on a dirty plate in the sink. In his typical Hobo fashion, my son had shrugged off his dishwasher-loading chores again, and for this I was thankful: the soiled dishes blocked the snake from sliding down the drain and setting up camp.

The Princess and I took turns peeking into the sink. "What should we do?" I whispered.

"I don't know!" she murmured.

"Why are we whispering?" I asked.

"I don't know!" she hissed.

Together, we crept again to the edge of the counter. I spied a large plastic mug.

"I'll trap him with that cup," I told her. "You open the door, and I'll carry him out on the plate and put him in the woods."

She gulped and nodded. "Alright."

I grasped the mug and raised it over top of the plate, trying not to spook the invader. But he was on to me and began spinning his body in frantic circles.

"AHHHH!" I screamed.

"ICKKKK!" she replied.

Hoping not to splatter snake all over my sink, I closed both eyes and slammed the cup down. Reluctantly and ever so slowly, I opened my eyes and saw that I'd caught him on the blue dish. Whole. Alive.

And kicking.

I grabbed the makeshift trap and sprinted for the doorway. "Open it! Open IT UP!!"

The Princess pulled the handle and stepped aside while I lunged through the door. Together, we ran to the edge of the woods, and I put the plate down.

"When I lift the mug, you take a picture," I said, still whispering for no apparent reason. She pulled out her iPhone and nodded gravely.

Trembling, I approached the cup o' snake as he slithered angrily inside, trying to escape his filthy little jail. "Here we go," I said. "Get your camera ready!"

With one quick motion, I lifted the mug. She had just enough time to click a picture before the menacing snake, all four inches of him, slipped off and into the woods.

"AHHHH!" she yelled.

"ICKKKKK!" I screamed.

I picked up the rest of the tomatoes, lobbing them into the trees, and we gathered the dishes and walked back into the house on wobbly knees. To thoroughly disgust our friends and family, we posted the picture on social media. I also texted the shot to my husband.  "There was a snake in my tomatoes," I wrote, waiting for the inevitable I've got a snake for your tomatoes, baby! reply.

One doesn't often find oneself Googling "pests in produce," but when one does, one can expect hundreds of hits. Apparently, critters are common in fruits and vegetables from stores -- my Facebook and bloggy friend Shelly reported that a man in her Texas town had been bitten by a rattlesnake while reaching into his grocer's fruit bins. A Michigan woman recently found a black widow spider in store-bought grapes. I was lucky that my lunch guest looked to be a harmless baby garter snake. Still. You can never be sure.

As I sat and recovered in the kitchen, I realized that the snake wasn't even my first rescue of the morning. Earlier, I'd pulled two frogs from the pool and put them in our little pond to save them from a slow chlorine death. Not only that, I remembered that I also regularly stop and pluck turtles off of busy roads, respecting their directional wishes by depositing them in whichever ditch they're heading toward. For this, the husband calls me The Patron Saint of Turtles. But clearly, I'd just proven myself the Patron Saint of Reptiles and Amphibians. A promotion.

Maybe so. But still. Come on, man. A SNAKE! In my FOOD!

Too skeeved out to eat anything, I packed away the lettuce and onions, and went into the bedroom to assess the situation in my pants.

Yes, it had started as a good day.

And then I made a salad.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

College "Needs:" Now vs. Then

(post copyright 2015, Dawn Weber)

Well, it's back to school time, and you know what that means for parents. Freedom!

And bankruptcy!

Bah. Don't mind me. I'm just a little sticker-shocked this year because my daughter starts college soon. One semester at the Princess's school costs more than my first two cars put together. Admittedly, both vehicles were used -- and complete, utter pieces of shit -- but still, the numbers don't lie. One semester = two cars.

Hold me.

Equally as alarming as the tuition bill are the college and dorm supply lists she came up with not long ago. Emailed to me at work in Amazon links, the Princess made it easy as pie to shop for her lengthy roster of items, which included "needs" like:

"Deluxe Lighted Makeup Mirror."
"Relaxing Sleep Mask."
"Soothing Lumbar Pillow."

Aw. Isn't she "cute?”

When I got home from work that night, I talked to her about her "college needs."

"I got your list today," I said.  "Haha! You're so funny."
She glanced up from her iPhone with a frown. "Don't you want me to have everything I need for school?"
"Of course I do. But it's college -- not a day at the spa. Grandma sent me to school with four ratty towels and a broken typewriter."
"Well that was 25 years ago," she said, rolling her eyes. "Things are different now, Mom."

Different indeed.

Now, I love her, and though I may not be able to get her everything she "needs," I did buy her all the things she requires. Also, I have to give credit where it's due: she and I compromised on her list. I bought some of the requested day-spa, er, dorm items, and she worked this summer and purchased the rest.

And surprisingly, as we visited schools and watched the students meandering about on campus, I realized her registry wasn't too far removed from reality -- at least by 2015 standards. Though I certainly don't question anyone else's choices, it soon became abundantly clear that things are, as she said, very different these days.

With that in mind, we here at the Center for Back-to-School Bankruptcy have comprised a handy comparison of college needs now, vs. college needs then.

"Here's your new iPhone 6 Plus, darling! Be sure and Facetime us every other day. We got you the $100 per month/10 gig data plan. Let us know if that's not enough!"

"Call me collect. From the phone in the hallway. After 9 p.m., when the rates are cheaper. Once a week, but no more than that -- I have bills to pay, you know. This tuition is killing me."

"Be sure and fill out your housing questionnaire so we can find you a suitable roommate. Now, would you like the two-person suite with private bathroom? Or would you prefer a three-bedroom townhouse with off-street parking? Whatever you want, sweetheart!"

"Four beds. Four total strangers. Cinderblock walls. Filthy, communal bathroom. Despair. Yep. That's what makes up dorm life, so stop complaining."

"Do you like your new MacBook Pro, honey? I got it on sale -- only $2,495! Sure, you have that Dell we bought at Christmas two years ago. But, hey. Everyone knows you need the very latest technology to open up a Word document and surf the web during class!"

"Take this. It's my typewriter from 1963. The "N" and "S" keys don't work, but you can make do. It needs a ribbon -- they have them at the office supply store, but you'll have to buy it yourself. This tuition is killing me."

"I just ordered your throw pillows, deluxe bed-in-a-bag set and coordinating easy chair from Pottery Barn. I sure hope it all matches, and that you'll be comfortable and warm! Oh, I worry about you!"

"I guess you can have that blanket the dog gave birth on a few years back. A chair? I don't know why the hell you'd need a chair, but I think there's one in the basement. Dust off the spiders, and it's yours."

So there you have it, the Center for Back-to-School Bankruptcy's guide to college "needs," now vs. then. I plan to show this handy dandy guide to my daughter, and tell her that college is not all knowledge and fun and soothing lumbar pillows. Nope. College is about poverty and sacrifice. But I know she won't buy it.

I'll be the one "buying" it.

I tell you, this tuition is killing me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Five Stages of Vacation Grief

(post copyright 2015, Dawn Weber)

It's Monday and I'm happy.

As you know, "Monday" and "happy" don't usually go together. So my great mood means I'm either A) drunk, or B) on vacation, and since it's the beginning of the week, I'm not drunk, but more likely on vacation -- the only week of the year that Friday sucks, and Monday rocks.

Despite this backwards progression of despair, every year, I do it anyway. I take a week off, eager to get to the beach, overjoyed to be out of my cubicle, thrilled on Monday, and devastated on Friday. I have a name for this phenomenon. Please -- read on for your handy guide to the Five Stages of Vacation Grief.

Toes in the water, ass in the sand. It's your first day at the beach, and you stare out into the ocean, troubles slipping away with each receding wave. You have a dim awareness of a previous life in some sad fly-over state, but you choose to swallow these thoughts down, down, down with your first sip of Corona, along with the vague idea of going home and back to work next week.

What are these things called "home" and "work"? You laugh at such silly words!

Feeling spiritual from the water, the sand and the beauty, you have conversations with God. "God," you say, "Please let me stay here. I don't need a house . . . or a job . . . or a family -- I'll work on a shrimp boat and sleep alone on the beach. Like a hobo. It will be fine."

God doesn't answer.

You have another beer.

Why? Dammit, why do I voluntarily live in a place where my nostrils freeze shut six months a year when I could live on the coast? This you ask yourself while fuming and stomping down the shore, questioning your life choices and hating the locals, what with their smiles and tans and wide-open nostrils. Other people get to live by the beach. Other people get to go to the beach every day.

Be calm, young grasshopper, for you should have learned long ago: other people suck.

Reality sets in. You don't live at the beach. No -- you're an imposter, a tourist, and only here temporarily. Worse, you have to leave soon, even though you don't want to go. It's in this miserable frame of mind that you come to one conclusion: Life is too short to live in Ohio/Nebraska/fill in your own pathetic landlocked state here.

Alas. There's nothing you can do. That's it, it's over, and you must get back to maintain the mortgage and health care policy. So pack up your clothes, your smile, your will to live, and slouch on-board the plane, because before you know it, the wheels will touch down and you'll arrive home to the drudgery, endless to-do lists, and soul-killing routine that make up the average adult life.

But, hey. At least the next time you feel happy at the beginning of the week and sad at the end, you'll know you're not drunk -- but perhaps you should be -- because you're experiencing the Five Stages of Vacation Grief: Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance.

Otherwise known as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Stay strong, weary traveler, for it will be difficult to ease back into the misery of everyday existence. I recommend wine, more denial, and sobbing quietly in your cubicle.

Until next year.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Leave Your iPhone Alone

Summer's here, you're finally free now,
To have some time of your own,
It's gorgeous and sunny and warm out,
Still you won't leave your iPhone alone.

Birds sing, flowers bloom, oak trees swaying,
The dog's in the yard chewing bones,
She'd like to go walking with you, love,
If you'd just leave your iPhone alone.

It sure looks magical out there,
Like there's unicorns in the ozone,
Or maybe some fairies and wood nymphs,
But you won't leave your iPhone alone.

Your room, dear, is utterly filthy,
Your chores are completely undone,
The laundry piled high in the corner,
'Cause you won't leave your iPhone alone.

Grandma would love to hear from you,
You could dial her with the house phone,
That way you could talk and scroll Twitter,
Since you can't leave your iPhone alone.

Finally, you rise from the sofa,
Hallelujah! You shower and go,
To the car for a night with your girlfriends,
Honey, please - leave your iPhone alone.

You pick up the crew and head downtown,
But end up sitting still as stones,
All of you hunched over wee little screens,
You guys can't leave your iPhones alone.

They're like crack, I know it, I feel ya,
I have a smartphone of my own,
But you are becoming an addict,
You just won't leave the iPhone alone.

And that is why I get so crabby,
I grumble. I complain. I groan,
You're letting an amazing life pass you by,
For God's sake - leave your iPhone alone!