Friday, July 31, 2009

Hot Timez in the City

You know those girls who're always like, "Ooh, it's freezing in here!"? (See left: Keira Knightley, a master of the art of appearing chilled.) Then, their teeth chatter delicately as they display goose bumps and pull cashmere wraps around their non-insulated shoulders in 82-degree environs? Well, that's not me. All my life (well, at least since I was 13), I have been known in certain circles (i.e., the circles frequented by all people with whom I've ever associated) as a particularly hot-natured person. When it's -5 degrees with a windchill of -20, then yes, I'll shiver with the best of them. But otherwise, I may be observed frantically ponytailing my hair off my neck, disappearing to run cold water over my pulse points and fanning myself with any card, envelope, folder or notebook to be found in the depths of my handbag.

I'm relieved to live in the age of air conditioning, and on occasions when this invention fails, I become something between melty and incensed. The backs of Chicago cabs are a true-life nightmare, ventilated as they are by makeshift accordion hoses squeezed through crudely sliced holes in the bulletproof partitions that separate passenger from driver. I do plan to bring this public discomfort issue to Mayor Daley's attention the next time I encounter him in a social situation, but meanwhile, I rely on fainting motions and heavy sighs to convey my angst to cab drivers. Recently, this method led to an inappropriate line of questioning:

Me: Siiiiiiggggghhhh. Fan, fan, fan. Fiddle with window control. Inspect makeup meltage in compact mirror. Siiiiiggggghhhh. Moan lightly as if delirious with fever.
Driver: "You OK, miss?"
Me: "It's just sooo hot back here. Is your air conditioning broken?" [A frequent inquiry; see post dated 7/22/08]
Driver: "No, it's on. Can you feel it coming out?"
Me: "I feel nothing but heat. I'm dying."
Driver: "Yes, eet is very hot."
Me: "I'm sweating."
Driver (arching eyebrow in rearview mirror): "Sweating, you say?"
Me: "Yes, I'm always sweating in this heat."
Driver: "Where you sweat, miss?"
Me: "All over."
Driver (knowingly): "Ah, I see. All over."

P.S. More glamorously, last week, in a temperature-controlled setting (the penthouse of the Park Hyatt on Michigan Avenue), I received a haircut (retail value: $1,400) at the hands of celebrity stylist and John Lennon-slash-Jesus lookalike John Nollet. Two semesters of college French have all but escaped me; still, I did manage to translate a thing or two whispered by Nollet as he tornadoed about my head, snipping passionately. Les cheveux magnifique!, he breathed. And this from the man who coiffs Johnny Depp's pirate 'do! Nollet's young assistant was visiting the U.S. for the first time (I was pleased to advise him on a Chicago sightseeing itinerary for the rest of his stay), and he may have found the situation slightly less enthralling. "So many hairs," he muttered ruefully amid the masque-ing, shampooing, scalp-oiling, conditioning, and endless blow-drying of my locks. "So many longs hairs."

But they did shape up nice, those hairs (see partial evidence above). Afterwards, for lunch, I had a celebratory quiche.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'll Give It Some Thought

"I'll give it some thought." That's one of my favorite expressions. It's nothing original, nothing new, just a vague proclamation I've recently pushed to the limits of usefulness. Like making stacks of "open later" mail and coding e-mails in "respond later" colors, "I'll give it some thought" is a well-intentioned procrastination tool which--when paired with a slight chin-tilt and brooding nod--provides a polite delay:

Mom: "How are you keeping track of your taxes for next year? Don't you think you should get an accountant?"
Me: "Hmm. That might be wise. I'll give it some thought."

Bob the Landlord: "Are you still planning to move that old mattress out of the basement? It's a fire hazard. Do you want me to hire someone to carry it away for a small fee?"
Me: "Yes, that mattress has seen better days. It's no doubt blocking the walkway. I'll give it some thought."

Me: "Why don't you spend the entire day arranging every item of clothing you own into three piles: Love It, Hate It, and Haven't Worn It in Three Years? Then dispose of all but the first pile."
Me2Me: "How industrious of you to think of such a plan! I'll certainly give it some thought."

Sometimes, though, it is necessary to maintain an appropriately cheerful flow of chatter rather than putting the lid on a conversation with a handy five-word catchall. This can occur when on a semi-blind date, for instance, or when dining with one's grandparents at a Chinese restaurant. On the dates, I tend to revert to three topics:

1. My job, the related anecdotes of which I suspect make me sound like A. a brat, B. a priss, or C. I'm making shit up off the top of my head.
2. How, when I worked there in college, I used to love to try on bridal veils in the dressing room at Jacboson's department store when there were no customers around (alarming for obvious reasons).
3. The true story of how I once aspired to be a professional flute player (men of a certain age enjoy inserting vulgar American Pie reference here).

Or, I let the dates themselves get a few words in. If they tell me something along the lines of, "So, I'm carrying a laminated list of all my food allergies in my wallet. Here, wanna see?" And the list includes chicken, black pepper, spinach, wine, chocolate, and virtually every other item I regularly place in my grocery cart, I revert to, "Wow. I'll give that some thought."

With my grandparents and other family members, I cover work, their travel plans, the most recent mini-scandals involving each of my three siblings, my relationship with Black Beauty (my car), the state of the economy etc. Luckily, if there's another sibling present, we have double the material. My sister Claire, for instance, can always be counted on to relay the details of her most recent dry-cleaning fiasco (See previous post. Claire has sparred with hundreds of dry cleaners from Chicago to Louisville, for offenses ranging from unremoved wine stains to lost satin belts, too-short hems, unexplained discolorations, favorite-shirt disappearances, and much, much more):

Claire (during lull): "Oh! Did I tell you what happened at the dry cleaner last week?!"
Me (to grandparents): "Claire had another fight with the dry cleaner."
Claire (in affronted tones): "You WOULD NOT believe it. I had this shirt from the store [her store, the Peacock Boutique] that was ivory silk with brown leather straps." (See left, and black version below.)
Me (to grandparents): "They melted the straps."
Claire: "I was SHOCKED. I specifically told them when I dropped it off: 'BE CAREFUL. Those are leather straps.'"
Me (to grandparents): "But in all fairness, how many shirts have leather straps?"
Claire: "Emma! Are you kidding me? Dry cleaning is their JOB. They should know what to do with leather straps."
Me: "Well..."
Claire: "Anyway, you will not believe what happened next. They tried to CHARGE me for it! I said, 'You melted my shirt!' and they said, 'That'll be $15.'"
Gram (mildy): "Then what?"
Claire: "Well, what do you think? I said there was no way I was paying, and they owed me $250 for the shirt, and I would NEVER. RETURN!"
Gram: "Did you get the money back?"
Claire: "Of course I did. And it's too bad since they're so conveniently located. In fact, they're only moments from where we're sitting right now."
Me (sensing drama overload): "So. Pot stickers, anyone?"

P.S. I'm conflicted on the punctuation of the term "dry cleaner's" (or "dry cleaners," or "dry cleaner"). If you have interest or input on the subject of whether or not to use the apostrophe "s" when referring to the specific establishment in question, please weigh in.

P.P.S. Thank you, anonymous commenter. Your logic is sound and I've made the suggested revisions. My initial inclination to use the apostrophe "s" is likely due to the longstanding Louisville tradition of conferring the possessive upon all establishments in existence: "Let's eat at Outback's tonight." "I need to pick up a few things at Kroger's." "I'm craving that burrito from El Mundo's." Outback. Kroger. El Mundo.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Confrontations in Innumerable Locations

As seasoned readers may have noticed, I rarely resist action whenever I encounter a situation, person, product or service that proves deeply disappointing. And since I'm your basic non-violent citizen who's never thrown a punch (and since utter silence is the most physically and emotionally draining option imaginable), my conflict-resolution strategies are usually written or verbal. For instance, as a child, I once formulated the ultimate insult: Brokenpiggyskunkcowrotteneggydorkbraingrimyboogerfartfacecrustymoldybuttsucker. It breaks down like this: Broken. Piggy. Skunk. Cow. Rotten. Eggy. Dork. Brain. Grimy. Booger. Fart. Face. Crusty. Moldy. Butt. Sucker. My sister Claire and I used it most often on our younger brother Lee:

Claire: Oh my gosh, Lee, you're such a brokenpiggyskunkcowrotteneggydorkbraingrimyboogerfartfacecrustymoldybuttsucker.
Lee: Mom! She called me a brokenpiggyskunkcowrotteneggydorkbraingrimyboogerfartfacecrustymoldybuttsucker!
Mom: Okay guys. That's enough.

These days, I try to address conflict in more adult terms. Remember my open letter to the Farley's & Sathers candy company about their sickening new formula for Brach's malted milk balls? Well, soon after I posted the letter on this blog, I printed it out and packaged it in an envelope with the uneaten portion of malt balls. Then, my intern Courtney placed it in an outgoing mail bin. Two weeks later, the following reply arrived:

Please note that no chocolate items were included in the enclosed Brach's Sampler (Lemon Drops, Circus Peanuts, Candy Corn, etc.). That's because they know and I know that the chocolate sucks now.

So, that was the somewhat dissatisfying resolution to one recent conflict. Let's move on to the next, an e-mail communiqué I initiated between myself and a 31-year-old member whose toolbag tendencies I couldn't resist pointing out after reading this sentence on his profile page (a direct cut-and-paste): In all honesty, I prefer to date women who are younger than me. I've found that many single women in their 30's are a bit obsessed with Facebook and text messaging. I'm sorry but it's just not worth the hassle.

Me to Match a-hole: Hi there. Your generalization about women in their 30s being "obsessed with Facebook and texting" is ridiculous. Isn't it kind of the other way around? I mean, I'm 30, and yes, I'm on Facebook, but until recently I always considered it the stomping ground of a younger crowd. Meanwhile, my friends in their 30s are mostly concerned with careers and families. I'm surprised to see a guy who's 31 so easily writing off people your own age with a flip little line like that. -A

Match a-hole responds: Hello "A", There's good news and bad news. The bad news is I feel bad for you. Your're critiquing online dating profiles. What could be more pathetic? The good news is I will never meet or talk to you. Thanks for saving me the hassle. [LOVES the word "hassle."] FYI- Enjoying hayrides and champagne does not make a person versatile. Well, maybe it does in Kentucky?

Me (after arriving home from vodka tasting at midnight and becoming incensed upon reading derogatory reference to home state): I'm a professional writer, so the critiquing comes naturally. Takes no time at all. You could have answered in a less defensive manner, but clearly, "professional douchebag" comes just as naturally to you. Good luck with the ladies, bud. Your profile is just the kind of place where I find some of my best material. Readers really get a kick out of that shit. Adios.

Who won that round? Who knows. But I did have the last word, since I subsequently blocked him from further communication.

One more:

Me (to Jimmy John's cashier): I'll have the number two, no mayo, no cheese, add avocado and sprouts. And a bag of Skinny Chips.
JJ cashier: You want a drink with that?
Me: No, because you don't have any good low-cal options that aren't loaded with sugar.
JJ cashier: That's because Jimmy doesn't really care about that stuff.
Me: Well, you could at least offer un-sweet tea.
JJ cashier:'s your sandwich.
Me: Thanks. Do you have any low-fat mayonnaise packets?
JJ cashier: No, we just have regular.
Me (rolling eyes): Great.

Well, that's about all the discord I can handle for today. Stay tuned for a script from my sister's most recent "Claire vs. The Dry Cleaners" encounter, an epic battle which occurred after a silk top with leather straps was irrevocably destroyed.