Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Blowback of Impatience

I am an impatient person. When facing a problem, the use of brute force is always the first, usually my preferred, and sometimes the only solution that comes to mind. Wires tangled together? Yank on one until it's freed. Luggage won't close? Jump on it. Can't get a package open? Tear it with your teeth if necessary.

Unfortunately, brute force is rarely the most effective solution (though the most satisfying). More often than not, it causes more trouble that it's worth.

A few weeks ago, I was attempting to secure a bike rack on my car. I had trouble wriggling one of the hooks into the crevice between the trunk of my car and my rear brake light. A person with disciplined mind would have simply opened the trunk, arranged the hook properly, and then closed the trunk to secure the hook. I, on the other hand, tried to mash the hook in with my fingers. When that didn't work, I hit it with the palm of my hand. The hook did not move, and I hurt my hand. Frustrated with myself and the pain in my hand, I then kicked the hook with the bottom of my foot with full force.

I cracked my rear brake light casing. I also smashed the light bulb. The hook, of course, still didn't move.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Workplace Indignities

Perhaps you're like me and sometimes find yourself day dreaming of being flawlessly competent at work. I like to picture myself as that woman who strides into a room and can inspire, by virtue of her posture alone, respect and a little awe. Unflappable, dignified, self-assured -- the woman who needs only a tense moment of deliberation to conjure the right answer to any crisis.

Alas, I am not her. I am in a galaxy far, far away from her. I am the woman who hits the door jamb with her shoulder on the way into a room. I am that woman who breaks out in a sweat at the approach of conflict. When it comes to the workplace, I am a bumbling ball of moron tax. I am Don Knotts.

Here are a few instances:

1. I have a black dress that has a side zipper that begins just below my armpit and ends at my hip. Today, I wore that dress to work, but forgot to close the zipper. When I finally noticed and zipped it up, my manager commented, "Oh, I thought you had decided to wear a very daring dress today." Shudder.

2. When I was an intern at a law firm, I called one of the head partners at the firm to ask a simple question. The partner didn't answer, and I was directed to voicemail. I started to talk, but stuttered, so I pressed a button to scuttle and re-record my message. Instead, the button I pressed sent my garbled message as-is to the partner. The partner laughed at me a few weeks later.

3. At the end of a job interview, I walked over to the coatrack to put on my coat and retrieve my purse. Unbeknownst to me, the interviewer followed behind me to walk me out. When I swung my purse over my shoulder, I hit her with my purse...in the face.

4. I overflowed a toilet at work that I did not realize was malfunctioning. I don't need to say more. It was disgusting and horrifying.

5. One summer, I interned at a posh magazine company. Part of my duties was to relieve the receptionist during lunch; however, the phone was a complex machine with numerous lines and extensions and I had difficulty transferring calls to the right place. One day, my father called me at the office just as another call came in. I attempted to put my father on hold, but accidentally transferred him to the editor-in-chief. The editor-in-chief was a man of such reserved and imposing eminence that you wondered if there really could be a Priory of Sion. According to my father, the conversation went like this:

Scary Editor Guy: "Hello, this is Scary Editor Guy."
My dad: "Yah, where's Wendy? Can I talk to Wendy?"
Scary Editor Guy: "Excuse me, Sir. I'm afraid, I don't know to whom you are referring."
My dad: "My daughter? She's the one that works in your office for no pay."
Scary Editor Guy: "Sir, I don't understand."
My dad: "Hello, Wendy? Wendy?"

My dad assured me that he repeated my name several times to the editor. "Yah, sure, he knows your name now. You can thank your dad for that."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pieces of Me (Part II)

WARNING: This posting continues my story of a self-inflicted injury (see Pieces of Me (Part I)). If you are squeamish about pain and blood, you might want to skip this posting and revisit the blog later. I promise the next posting will be gore-free.

When I arrived at the nurse's office, the nurse was chatting on the phone. She glanced at me and casually waved for me to sit down on the waiting bench. Exhausted, now, from my panic, I slumped onto the bench without any protest, cradled my injured hand, and waited.

The nurse soon noticed the small pool of blood congealing at my feet. She lept up, grabbed my wrist, and, with surprising strength pulled me over to the sink. Before I could even brace for the pain I knew would be coming, she turned on the faucet and plunged my finger under cold water. It hurt just as much the second time around.

The nurse dried my hand and methodically wrapped my finger in a voluminous amount of gauze. If you had passed by me then and caught a glimpse of my finger out of the corner of your eye, you couldn't be faulted for thinking that I might be holding a stick of cotton candy. The nurse patted me on the head and sent me back to my classroom. When I returned to class, I was mortified to see the janitor mopping up my blood.

Later that night, I was cowering in my bedroom when my parents came home from work. My parents are loving people, but they ascribe to a discipline of tough love. As a rule, injury that I brought upon myself -- tripping over my feet, falling down stairs, walking into doors -- would be met with criticism about my carelessness rather than kisses on my boo-boos. So, having just inflicted upon myself an injury far greater in magnitude than anything I had previously done, I was very afraid of what would happen when they unveiled my wound.

My parents immediately called me down the kitchen. I stood, closed my eyes, offered up my finger, and quietly wimpered as they unwound the thick layer of gauze. When they finished unraveling, I could hear them hold their breath as they grasped the extent of the damage I had done. My father asked sternly, "Where is the fingertip? Did you bring the fingertip back?" I started to explain that I had not thought to preserve it. He demanded again, "Could we find the fingertip? If we went back do you know where we could get it?" Until this moment, it hadn't occurred to me that such a thing could be reattached. I started to cry.

My parents began whispering to each other in Mandarin. I took this to be a very bad sign. As a household, we mostly spoke in Taiwanese. My parents reserved Mandarin for only the most serious topics, like finances and whether or not to put down the family pet. As I didn't understand the language well, the best I could grasp was that there was another problem in addition to the fact that I was missing a fingertip.

My mother went to the cupboard and pulled out a bowl, into which she poured a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. My father, in the meantime, reexamined my finger and tugged lightly at the gauze still around my finger. I was about to ask why they hadn't fully removed the gauze, when I looked again at my finger. And then I understood the problem.

When the nurse wrapped my finger in gauze, she placed the gauze directly onto my muscle without any padding. My finger had continued to bleed, and the blood had seeped through the first few layers of gauze. The blood then hardened into a stiff, thick clot, sealing the gauze against my muscle. To prevent infection, the gauze had to be removed.

We were all silent now. My parents led me to the bathroom where the sink was closer to my reach. My mother placed the bowl of peroxide beside the sink, drew me close, and clenched her hands over mine so that only my injured finger protruded from her grasp. My father grabbed the ends of the gauze firmly. My parents looked at each other and, with the slightest nod between them, my father jerked the gauze, yanking the clot free from my finger. My mother then swiftly dipped my finger into the bowl of peroxide.

I remember hearing the sizzling of the peroxide as it came into contact with my reopened wound. I don't remember much else after that moment as I might have blacked out from the pain. In any case, it's safe to assume that my parents likely washed my finger in the sink under cold water for the third time that day.

**This posting is continuing a story from an earlier posting.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pieces of Me (Part I)

WARNING: This posting is a detailed account of a painful injury I that I inflicted on my hand. If you cringe easily at the mention of blood, you might want to skip this posting.

If you look closely at my left index finger, you can see a white splotch about the size of a pencil eraser. This splotch is a scar -- one so thick that I can no longer feel sensation with the tip of my finger. Once, while sewing, I accidentally pushed a needle into my fingertip and did not notice until I looked down upon my hand.

This is the story about how I got that scar; how, one day, I went to school and sliced off my entire fingertip as neatly and as cleanly as you'd slice the top off a ripe strawberry.

One morning when I was in fifth grade, a large box arrived on my family's porch. Looking for goodies, I picked up the box and tore into it. Inside, I found a variety of stainless steel scissors with orange handles. I picked out the smallest pair and made a few quick snips through the air. As the metal ends opened and slid back together, they made a bright and satisfying "zing." I loved it. I stuffed the scissors into my backpack and dashed to school.

That day, the class project was to cut shapes from sheets of paper that we would use to decorate the classroom. I excitedly took out my new pair of scissors. I took a sheet in my left hand and held it with my thumb on the top side and the forefinger was underneath. I started snipping.

I only knew I had cut myself when I felt the cold steel brush against the skin. The scissors were so sharp that I hadn't felt any resistance in the handles. The metal edges sliced through my finger with no more effort than it took to cut through the paper. Zing. I looked down and saw the round, peach colored fingertip where it landed on my desk. The blood drained from my face. I looked at my hand.

I had sheared off so much skin, I exposed the bright, red muscle of my finger. My muscle twitched, like it was bewildered by the light it should never see. Blood began to seep out and run over the thick rim of skin around the muscle. I screamed and ran to the class sink to wash the wound. This was a mistake. The cold water on my raw muscle caused excruciating pain, and I shook my hand, sending droplets of blood splattering in the sink, on the walls, on the floor, and on myself.

From the sink I ran to my teacher to ask for a pass to the nurse's office. One would think my teacher might have prepared one during this time or commanded me to run there right away; however, though a lovely, well-meaning woman, she was not a person of decisive action. I stood there at least a minute and a half, dripping blood onto my shoes, as she fumbled with her desk to find one and fill it out. Pass in hand, I sprinted down the stairs and down the hall to the school nurse.

I hoped as I ran, that the school nurse would be the end of the ordeal -- that she'd hear my frantic footfalls and meet me at the door, ready to leap to action with anesthetics and bandages in hand. Of course, it didn't happen that way. The avalanche of moron tax that I set in motion when I picked up those scissors was still gaining speed.

to be continued...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Suffering for Beauty

It's fair to say that I have no idea how to dress up properly. I can button shirts and pants with reasonable accuracy, but I am at a loss with formal attire. Half my wardrobe is made of fleece, and I tuck in my shirt no more than twice a year. I haven't worn pantyhose for over 5 years.

My brother's wedding was one of the rare times that I did dress up. For the occasion, I decided to splurge on a pair of gold, high-heeled sandals. The shoes were fashionable and even sexy, but they were also far out of my league. The shoes were no more than a few thin straps glued to a short plank with a pencil for a heel. You needed the balance of a mountain goat to wear those things. When I wore them, I tottered like a new-born calf missing two of its legs.

When it came time, then, to walk down the stairs of the church to join the wedding ceremony, I can honestly say that I had a good idea what was going to happen. I was only surprised that I didn't trip until I was four steps down from the top. On the fourth step, my left heel skidded under me just as I shifted my weight to that foot. I crashed down on my left side, awkwardly bending my left foot beneath me. I heard something pop and people gasp. Momentum (+ gravity) carried me down the remaining stairs. As those were the only shoes I had with me, I had to put them back on and wear them for the rest of the wedding and the reception afterward.

The photo is a picture of my injured foot after several hours of standing on it. At this point, it had swollen so much that it could not longer comfortably fit into those gold heels. If you look closely, you can see where the straps of the shoes pressed into my foot

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bathroom Follies

I often make the mistake of waiting too long before heading to the bathroom. Typically, I get so engrossed with what I'm doing that I barely notice that I'm shifting from side to side or sitting awkwardly on my leg to put off the inevitable. Then, suddenly, the bladder signals the brain that its load has hit critical mass, and I sprint for the bathroom with all deliberate speed. I burst through the door, fumble frantically with the latch, then tear down my zipper with less than two seconds to spare. Crisis narrowly averted.

During my second week at a new job, I was sprinting to the bathroom in a mad rush. When I get to the bathroom, I find there's a line (oh god). After a few, highly uncomfortable moments, the extra-wide handicap-accessible stall is freed (thank god), and I run in. As usual, I fumble with the lock, then rush to the toilet. Because I fumble with the lock, I don't properly align the lock mechanism with the door. As I'm sitting on the toilet with my pants undone, I see the door begin to slip from the latch. Because the door is several feet away -- further than my reach -- I can't do anything to stop it. Before I can breathlessly utter "Oh...no..," the door swings wide open, and I see, to my horror, that that there's still a line of my co-workers in the bathroom and I've just exposed myself to them all.

* I felt like I needed to add in a picture of a toilet to go with the theme of today's post. The only picture I have on hand is this photo of a "squat toilet" from Taiwan which, for all practical purposes, is a kind of bathroom folly all on its own.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fool for Love - Goggles Edition

Michelle reminded me today of one of my most ridiculous moments of love-inspired moron tax.

Following a particularly difficult break-up, I went through a period where I would suddenly dissolve into body-shaking weeping. I would never see it coming, too. One moment, I could be standing in my kitchen munching on a fig newton and, a moment later, find myself buckled to my knees with my forehead pressed to the linoleum, sobbing great globs of snot into the palms of my hands.

One day, I went lap swimming at the local pool. I was only halfway through my workout when the sobbing started. I was so sick of being incapacitated by grief that I willed myself to keep swimming despite the crying. I cried so much, the tears began to pool inside my goggles. When I tilted my head to take a breath, the tears would actually roll back into my eyes. I swam until I stopped crying and by the time I stopped crying, I had filled my goggles with about an 1/8 inch of tears.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Great Moments in Photography

My mother shot this picture of me standing in front of a cathedral in Barcelona. The sticker was placed by the company that processed the film. Brilliant.

** The sticker says: "Quality Control. Obstruction appearing on the print. *Finger/object partially covering the lens."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Fool for Love - the Subway Edition

To be really, really honest about all the moron tax paid in a lifetime, we have to talk about love. We commit to love fully, blindly, and hastily. We go to great and desperate lengths to preserve it. Yet, more often that not, we find ourselves lavishing love on unworthy lovers, one after another, each time with equal sincerity. In other words, we give everything for love, often to the wrong people, and never learn our lesson. No conditions could be more ripe for moron tax.

Take this example: Several years ago, on my way to pick up my (then) boyfriend from the airport, I stopped to buy him a Subway footlong sandwich. When we arrived at my apartment, he unwrapped the sandwich, took a bite, and said loudly and with disgust, "Is this a cold cut trio? What were you thinking? I was totally excited to eat this sandwich, and it turns out to be a cold cut trio. I can't eat this crap. It's like you go out of your way to be disappointing." I offer to cook or buy him something else, but he refuses, choosing instead to finish the sandwich and complain between each bite of my inattention, my lack of common sense, and the burden I'm imposing on him. Even after he's done eating, he drills on about how my choice of the cold cut trio reveals my weakness in character. Frankly, it's a tribute to his innate creativity that he could tie so much personal failing to a sandwich.

I wordlessly sucked up his verbal assault. I even apologized. When his sister happened to call and overheard the situation, I defended him. At the time, I was so enamored with him that I saw the world through his eyes, which happened to always be trained on my faults. Behold the power of love -- it can transform deli goods into weapons and self esteem into ash.

Sum of the moron tax: Two hours of my life wasted, $7.89 for the sandwich (plus chips and drink), and total loss of dignity. Of course, after already having dated this man for some time, I didn't have much dignity left to lose.

*If you're wondering what is so offensive about a cold-cut trio, I have no idea. It has always looked edible to me.

Take a look at Angela's comment to my last entry (Moron Tax in the Making). She submits a great moron tax story about how her alcoholic then-boyfriend drove her to such frustration that she tried to punch her hand through a wall.