Monday, March 27, 2006

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

And since I haven't got any words of my own (nothing much going on, the disasters seem to have slowed down and I had a nice little temp job last week, but otherwise I have nothing to say), we will turn to a picture instead of words:

The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1590-1610, by Caravaggio (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Can't Catch a Break...

...except, of course, in the most abysmally literal sense.

The parade of disasters continues. My job I once loved now sucks, I hate it and I'm doing it badly and everyone notices that I am doing it badly, which bruises my ego and makes me hate the job even more. My window and rear-view mirror are still busted, I haven't had time to get them fixed yet; so I'm still driving around with duct-tape and plastic-wrap holding the driver's-side together, and it's freezing out and raining cats and dogs every day. I'm not sleeping at all well, I'm tired in the mornings and I toss and turn at night, my muscles are knotted up and my brain is numb... and my depression is going into overdrive as a result. There is family drama of various kinds that I shall not discuss here, but suffice it to say that I am deeply angry and extremely worried and very uneasy.

And then, today, while swimming placidly in this stew of unpleasantness, I broke a tooth. I was popping a piece of candy in my mouth while stuffing some envelopes... not even hard candy, it was a chocolate-covered coconut-cream... and I bit down wrong somehow and chipped the edge off of my bottom left canine and knocked the adjacent second-incisor out of whack. Now I cannot bite down at all without causing myself immense pain, and the jagged canine is lacerating my tongue, and I'm fucking starving and I can't fucking eat anything except fucking pudding and soup and smoothies, which aren't even remotely satisfying.

I made an emergency appointment with my dentist, and in dentistry an emergency means within a week. My appointment is for Wednesday afternoon, I have to miss half a day of work aside from having to live with a a broken tooth and half-knocked out tooth for three days, wincing every time I close my mouth and living on protien shakes and oatmeal. And I don't even want to think about how much this dental work is going to cost. I just don't have room in my brain for the enormity of it all.

Fuckety-fuck-fuck, shit-damn-hell.

On the bright side (there has to be a bright side, or I'd kill myself), somebody found my stolen book-bag and sent me a letter to arrange its return. He even took everything out and dried it, since it had all been rained on. He also had pleasant handwriting and good grammar and attractive stationery. It restored my faith in humanity.

But of course, I had to steel myself up to telephoning a stranger (which regular readers will remember I have a bad phobia about), and though I did manage to call this stranger up, I only got his answering machine. He hasn't called back yet, he probably went away for the weekend or something equally difficult, and I'm no closer to having my bag.

Another bright-side moment is that I found the cutest hat, it's a sort of soft snap-brim fedora, made of some kind of straw-like material, black and tan with white stitching. I won't go so far as to say I look good in that hat, but I look a hell of a lot better than I usually do in hats. It lends me a certain legitimacy and style. With the hat and a nice scarf (of which I now have several, after stumbling into a clearance sale while wandering around the mall after church last week) and some gloves, I'm ready for any weather! Or at least any weather that's likely to occur in the Bay Area.

Tune in next week for the continuing drama. Even if things don't start looking up, I can at least give you the satisfaction that your life isn't so bad, after all.

(My hat looks a little like this, except not so structured, of a different material, a different color, and with a fat ugly argyle-clad queen pouring out the bottom of it instead of a chiseled shirtless hottie.)

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Oh, Yeah... and My Watch Stopped, Too!

Okay, there's something going on here. Somebody's got a voodoo doll of me somewhere. Or some serious bad shit from five lifetimes ago is coming back to haunt me. I'm telling you, friends, there's too much shit in my life fucking with me right now.

Like the whole missing-package thing? It's becoming an epidemic. One of my reps in Arizona called up today all pissed off because he never got the prospectuses he ordered last week... which I distinctly remember sending. I had to overnight them to him because he'd been completely out and was using photocopies for his clients (tacky!) And after the whole UPS disaster, I wasn't so thrilled about having to use them, but that's the only shipping account I can use.

And then I found out today that these IRA kits that I've been waitlisting people for weren't going to be reprinted after all, and that I had to send old IRA kits and updated inserts for the IRA kits to all of the people on the back-order list. And then I discovered that this card I was supposed to send out had got left underneath something in my in-box when I moved cubicles and had been forgotten by everyone except the rep who asked me to send it, which made me look like an utter ass and prompted a frenzied search through all my drawers and cupboards to see if anything else had gotten lost in the move. And then my workload today was completely unmanageable, for the first time since I've been there I had to leave before completing all of my tasks for the day. It was all very unpleasant.


Now let's talk about my car! A couple of weeks ago, my brakes started making this dreadful grinding noise. I didn't have the time to take it into the shop during the week, so I had to drive around on grinding brakes until Saturday came along and I could take Miss Jane down to the garage at the bottom of my hill, where I usually have auto work done. So I dropped her off and they said they'd call me with an estimate when they had a chance to look things over.

So a few hours later, after Caroline and I had gone out for breakfast and done some antiquing in Montclair, the garage called me and told me that the front brakes' rotors and shoes had to be replaced, but at least the calipers were still in good shape; but the rear brakes were all but shot (first I'd ever heard that I even had rear brakes, the car is front-wheel drive), and had to be replaced as well. Estimated parts and labor, $860... plus tax. Well, you simply can't drive around without brakes, so what was I going to do? Put it off until I could afford it?

In the end, Grandmother coughed up the cash to get the brakes done, figuring that she needed me to have a car as much as I needed to have a car, so I lumped the final price of $928 (welcome to Alameda County, land of the 8.75% sales tax) onto the thousands upon thousands of dollars I already owe her after the last few months of financial fiascoes. Not a major disaster as much as a minor inconvenience, but rather an expensive minor inconvenience.

A few days passed by before the next little ray of sunshine hit: I went out to the car on my way to work one morning last week, and found my side-view mirror dangling on its thread; sometime during the night somebody drove up the street too close to my car and snapped the damned thing off, and just kept going without so much as leaving a note! Fortunately I still had a big roll of duct-tape in the car from the time when the passenger-side-view mirror was similarly broken (though that had been my fault, and I didn't really use that mirror, so I didn't mind it so much), so I just taped the damned thing back on and was only a few minutes late to work.

But it's not like I have time to get that fixed either, though it's a lot cheaper than the brakes... when I got the other mirror repaired, it only set me back sixty bucks. Nevertheless, it's a huge pain in the ass having to readjust the mirror every day (it doesn't stay where I left it), and I have to look at these wads of duct-tape all the time. Plus, it's been raining off and on the last few days, so the tape doesn't stick as well as it should, and so I have to keep tightening the tape and adding more... pretty soon I won't be able to shut the door.

Then tonight came the pièce de résistance: I returned to my car after an AA meeting and found a great big hole in my shattered rear driver's-side window, through which some miscreant had removed my satchel that had everything I carry to and from work with me inside. Broken glass was everywhere, a bag to which I am very sentimentally attached is gone, along with its many important contents like my writing journal with all of my notes for Worst Luck (and ain't that an ironic title) and my folder of work-related documents (including pay-stubs and my timesheets blazoned with my Social Security number) and my fucking digital camera and my Cliff bars and some bills I needed to pay and my Gas-X and some greeting cards I haven't finished writing and my electronic translator... and, oh shitfuckdamnhell, my checkbook was in there, now I have to call the bank, I'll be right back...


Well, that was a pleasant relief... good hold-music, and I happened to know what the last check number I wrote was (I write so few checks, all I had to do was look up the last check before that online, then add one), and they put a six-month stop-payment on the checks left in the book without charging me for it. The lady had a nice voice, too. Of course, I will have to close my account some time in the next six months, or remember to get the stop-payment renewed every six months. Whatever, I can worry about that later.

Of course my insurance doesn't cover this sort of thing, so now I get to shell out a hundred or so more dollars to get my window replaced, and in the meantime I am wide open to further theft, not to mention the wind and the rain (winter being the perfect time to have your window broken out). And I have to call my HMO in the morning to get my bill reissued so I can pay them before they cut off my coverage. The rest of the bills will sort themselves out, one of them was for a parking ticket that I didn't really want to pay right now, anyway.

Grandmother has tried to soothe my anger by pointing out that since my address was in the bag, the thieves will probably throw the whole thing away (minus the electronics and the checkbook), where it might be found by a nice person who will bring it and its contents back to me. That happened to her when her purse was stolen, the thieves took the money and dumped the rest in a nearby trash-can, where it was discovered by a groundskeeper and returned in good condition.

I somehow doubt it, though. That's just not the trend my life is taking.


The only thing redeeming this day is that I'm wearing new shoes that are really comfortable, really cute, and had been on sale. The rest of it counts as a complete waste of makeup.

Here's hoping that this is the worst it will get, and everything after this will be sunshine and lollipops.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

What the Hell?

I had a bad day yesterday. I was really tired, I hadn't slept at all well, my body ached, and I simply didn't feel like being up and dressed. I had a hell of a time focusing, and I had a lot of work to do... a bad combination. But what really got me was the Great UPS Mystery: it wasn't really a big deal, but it was so bizarre that I couldn't (can't, obviously) stop thinking about it.

See, there's this sales rep in Florida. I am already familiar with him because I screwed up his business-card order a couple of weeks ago. But he calls me up Thursday morning and wants some kind of literature to put in the gift-bags that are being given to participants in some charity golf tournament. So after a certain amount of discussion, we decide that the best thing to do is overnight him seven packages of trifold brochures for our new series of mutual funds. Simple, yes?

Ordinarily I would order them from the Florida warehouse, which makes my life a lot easier, but since he needed them by Tuesday at the very latest, and I can't control how quickly things move out of the Florida warehouse (since I'm not there to do it myself), I agreed to UPS them from my supply to make sure he got them in time.

So yesterday morning he calls me up again and leaves a message asking what happened to the brochures, he never got them. This worried me a bit -- more than a bit, really -- so I logged on to UPS tracking and got all the information pertaining to the package (which, according to them, had duly arrived Friday morning as scheduled) and emailed it to him. He calls me back and tells me yes, he got that package, but there was nothing in it, just two pieces of blank pasteboard.

What the fuck? Now, I remember putting the two pieces of board in the package to reinforce it, because seven shrink-wrapped packs of trifold brochures in a paper envelope made a very wiggly package with too many corners. Was it possible that I could have taken the brochures out to put the cardboard in, then forgotten to put the brochures back? Possible, yes; but if I'd done that, there would be a stack of shrink-wrapped brochures standing around either in my cubicle or near the printer where I ran off the UPS label, and no such stack existed. And even at my most befuddled and confused, I would notice that I was carrying a two-ounce package of pasteboard instead of a one-pound package of brochures when I hauled it to the mail-room across the building.

Could the brochures have fallen out of the envelope somewhere in transit? Possibly, but the rep claims that the envelope was sealed when he got it. Could someone have carefully peeled open the envelope and stolen the brochures, then resealed the envelope and sent it on its way? I seriously doubt that, because the brochures have no value whatever, they aren't even particularly attractive (unless you are particularly fond of the colors gold, burgundy, and blue, or have a thing for marching-band trumpeters).

So somewhere between San Leandro California and West Palm Beach Florida, a hundred and seventy-five glossy trifold brochures shrink-wrapped in packs of twenty-five disappeared into thin air. I'm sure the rep thinks that I fucked up somehow, which following on the fuck-up of his business cards no doubt leads him to believe that I am an incompetent moron, and that bugs the hell out of me. But I can't control what people think of me, so I tried not to let that bother me (though it does indeed bother me, since I require the love and admiration of all who cross my path in order to continue living). It's the mystery of What Happened to the Brochures that really had my brain spinning around. I spent maybe an hour yesterday just staring off into space, trying to figure it out.

I nevertheless managed to get all my work done, though I skipped both my coffee breaks and only took half of my lunch in order to do it all. And when the day was over, I felt a certain degree of accomplishment, that I had wrestled the mountain of labor down into a molehill of tasks despite being so muddy-headed and achey. So when I finally got off work, I decided I deserved a reward. A retail reward. Now, I decided, was the time to get a new pair of shoes.

So off I went to Kohl's, which is my new favorite department store. Their clothes are of good quality and excellent style, and the store is laid out nicely... but most importantly, when they say "clearance sale," they really mean it. I've come out of that place with bargains that make my greedy little heart sing with joy.

And I found the exact shoes I've wanted for a long time, tan suede oxfords, so comfortable you wouldn't believe and marked down to $39. And then, while I was scouting around the shoe-department, I found a pair of medium-brown loafers, also exceptionally comfortable though encumbered with the fripperies of the "kiltie moc," which I don't much like... but they were marked down to $15, and I simply haven't got the discipline to leave a pair of Nunn Bush leather comfort-sole loafers marked down to $15 on the shelves. I can cut the damned tassels off for that kind of price.

Pleased with these savings, I wandered through the clearance racks in the menswear department, and found more incredible bargains... two shirts marked down to $5, a pair of pants marked down to $12, and a sweater-vest for $3.50. And then, when I was checking out, it turned out that the Nunn Bush kiltie-moc loafers were another half-off the marked price, which made them $7.50!!! For the amount of money I budgeted for one pair of light-brown shoes, I came away with two pairs of shoes, two shirts, a pair of pants, and a sweater-vest.

It made the whole day suddenly seem worthwhile. I'm sure some day I'm going to find out something evil about Kohl's and how they can deliver such excellent bargains, but for the time being I intend to revel in my good fortune.

So anyway, that's me today. How are you?