Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Catcalls and car repair

My car has been making a horrible screeching noise at stop signs for at least a month now. While in theory I've known that it needed new brake pads, in practice I've been dutifully ignoring said noises, because paying attention to them would mean that my car needed a mechanic, and mechanics are bottomless black holes of money suckage.

The Pit is a much more proactive sort though, and he made me promise to take my car in this week. I dutifully looked on Yelp yesterday, and found a mechanic with a 5-star rating about a mile and a half from our house. I took my car to him this afternoon, and I must say, I think the Yelpers were right. This guy confirmed my guess about the brake pads, and then (of course) found several other things wrong with the car. HOWEVER, instead of stressing how important these various issues were, he told me that when they got really bad, the car would make a clicking noise. Until that happened, I could drive worry free and keep my money in my bank account instead of in his. I was quite pleased with this news, although I'm sure that The Pit will find this honest and generous behavior suspicious in some way.

The upshot of the whole story though, is that they need to keep my car overnight until the right parts are delivered, and instead of taking the very nice mechanic up on his offer of a ride home in their van, I decided to get some exercise and walk. Now, although just a hop, skip, and a jump from our apartment as the crow flies, the mechanic's shop is actually fairly far removed from our house as a girl walks, due to an inconvenient freeway situated in between. My meanderings thus took me through a more...shall we say working class...area than I am used to. A working class area with lots of men variously outfitted in either jumpsuits or hard hats, sitting on the sidewalks eating lunch.

Being no fool, I was wearing a rather conservative outfit and studiously avoiding making any sort of eye contact. In fact, I was wearing the exact same outfit I wore for walking on Mt. Diablo the day The Pit and I got engaged. Witness:

Take particular notice of the baggy t-shirt, non-revealing capri pants, and orange walking shoes. Also note that I did not daintily point my toes as I walked, and thus the attractive state of my ankles was probably not noticeable. However, for reasons known only to Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy, blue collar workers having lunch invariably act as if they haven't seen a woman in years, no matter what the state of her wardrobe and/or cankles. Well, like they haven't seen a woman in years, and want to make the only one in the vicinity run screaming from the area.

What I'm trying to say is, I was the recipient of a variety of catcalls, in both English and Spanish. The most comprehensible and least threatening of these took the form of wolf whistles and honks from passing vehicles, as well as a "Daaaaaamn girl!" from a dude walking across the street from me. A little obnoxious and uncomfortable, sure, but if one just takes these in the proper complimentary spirit, they aren't so bad. Almost warm and fuzzy. Probably less warm and fuzzy were the various Spanish phrases that came my way, which made me glad I don't speak the language.

These made me recall a very amusing story from my friend Nikole (hi Nikole!) about the best come-on she got in a similar situation. A man in a passing car, yelling "Hey baby, what's your nummmmber???" as he drove past without stopping. Sadly, nothing quite so useless and funny was screamed my way, but there's always hope for tomorrow, when I need to walk over to pick up the car again.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Presents from OL

In thanks for all my excellent companion-ing of late, or possibly as a response to my engagement, OL gave me a present yesterday...or to be more accurate, several presents. She scrabbled around the bottom of her closet for a bit, and then handed me a mysterious grocery-bag wrapped bundle.*

Inside, I found this very sad looking box:

Already feeling bit queasy about my fabulous gift, I opened the box, and found the following items:
  • 1 toenail clipper,
  • 2 pairs of tweezers,
  • several intertwined ribbons, which when pulled apart revealed themselves to be cut-off bra straps, and
  • an assortment of buttons
Of course, I thanked her profusely for her generosity, but suggested that perhaps she should keep the clippers and tweezers for her own use. This did not strike her as a good idea, and she became a bit agitated, insisting that the items in question were both clean and redundant, and that she wanted me to have them. At that point, there was really nothing for it but to gingerly accept the box.

However, after a few minutes of reflection, I think OL might have come to the conclusion that as far as gifts go, this one was a little paltry. To my horror, she jumped up from the couch and went rummaging through the grocery-bagged pile of goodies in her closet again. When she returned, she presented me with this additional gift:

Yes, that would be three pairs of her old, worn, polyester gloves. I took the whole kit and kaboodle home with me, and am now sitting here wondering how best to dispose of it all. Oh, the manyfold joys of working with the elderly and slightly senile!

* For some reason, OL individually wraps all of her possessions in grocery bags, thus making identification of any particular item exceedingly difficult. This is especially annoying when I'm trying to get her out of the house, and she wants to find a particular pair of shoes she wrapped in 1998.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Engagement Detailed

Well, I know I promised you amusing family anecdotes, but the ENGAGEMENT ON THE LAST DAY OF THE TRIP sort of overshadowed everything else. So you shall have to hear the amusing anecdotes later, when I run out of other blogging material...for the moment, let's all admire my pretty pretty ring again.

Since everyone keeps asking when?where?how? all in one breath, I will record the details for all posterity. I mean, this way when my children ask me how we got engaged, I can give them a bit more of a satisfying answer than "Oh, we just sort of decided...don't really remember any details." A pair of real romantics, my parents.

Anyway, toward the end of our trip, The Pit verified that I had never been to Mt. Diablo, the tallest point in the Bay Area. He said that he normally tries to hike up there on his visits home, but that in deference to my intense dislike of walking uphill, he would be willing to drive to the top with me on Saturday morning.

Although undoubtedly better than the sweating and the dying that would have resulted from an entirely uphill hike, the driving was actually a rather stressful experience, what with 40 minutes of steering up blind curves while simultaneously trying to avoid hitting extremely annoying bicyclists. I got yelled at twice, once by a hipster pair on a tandem bike, for going around them too fast, and then again by the lady in the car behind me, for being too slow to pass another bike weaving all over the road. You can't win with these people. Although I do hate bicyclists in all their beSpandexed glory, holding their lives and deaths in my hands was not really very satisfying when it came down to it, and at one point I commented to The Pit that I didn't think the view was worth the drive. He just laughed, and reassured me that it would be.

We finally got to the top, parked the car, and wandered up to the observation tower, which was crowded with various other sightseers. After taking a few pictures, The Pit suggested going a short way down one of the trails, where there weren't so many people. Very slick, that one.

So we climbed over a railing and down a little trail, to a convenient observation point with nobody around. The Pit then started rummaging in his backpack, saying that he was looking for the binoculars we brought. I turned to admire the view, staring off into the distance for a few seconds. When I turned back to face him, he was down on one knee and holding out a ring. It's been a couple days, but I still get all fluttery just thinking about it.

He asked if I would marry him, and after a stunned "Oh my God," I gave him an extremely enthusiastic "Yes!" This was followed by much hugging and kissing, although I managed to hold the waterworks inside, which The Pit found a wee bit disappointing.

Then we took some more pictures to mark the spot, and drove down the mountain and to my parent's house for our scheduled lunch, calling The Pit's relatives along the way. The Pit's mother was so nice, I almost started bawling, but yet again restrained myself, as teary-stained and sniffling wasn't really the image I wanted to project walking in the house.

So when my mom and sister saw the ring, there was instead much screaming and jumping up and down, followed by more hugging, followed by yet more jumping up and down. Then my grandparents arrived and The Pit finally got the tears he craved, albeit from my grandmother...she adores him and has been asking about our "long-term plans" for ages. Eventually there was champagne, and toasting, and more phone calls welcoming each of us to our respective new families.

So that's pretty much the story. Good, huh?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wednesday is awesome, Thursday not so much

Wednesday I was feeling like a total rock star. I:
  • Supervised an old person and a small child through various stores, a salon, and a diner,*
  • Applied for 2 real jobs,
  • Did a load of laundry,
  • Picked up the The Pit's dry cleaning,
  • Dusted, vacuumed, and cleaned the kitchen,
  • Organized dinner out with friends,
  • Marked a bunch of quilt squares for sewing,
  • AND wrote a blog post.
It may have been the most productive day I've ever had. However, apparently all this productivity is tiring, because yesterday it was all I could do to:
  • Sit at home with OL for a few hours,
  • Shop for cleaning supplies at Target,
  • Do another load of laundry, and
  • Pick up yet more of The Pit's dry cleaning.
You will note the conspicuous absence of dinner prep** and job application efforts, as well as a total lack of packing. That last bit is especially unfortunate because we are leaving for a week long trip this afternoon, and I still want to get in a little exercise at the gym, as The Pit emphatically rejected OL's fattening up suggestion. I therefore need to put down Lappy and get to to it. I hope everyone has an excellent weekend, and I will return with a plethora of amusing family-related anecdotes in a week's time.

* The small child belongs to OL's housecleaners, who were back to steam clean her carpets. Apparently the child is afflicted with asthma (exacerbated by the cleaning), but her parents had no babysitting options. When they told me this tale of woe, there was really nothing for it but to invite her along on our exciting outing. We must have made quite a sight...OL hobbling along in front, me trying to subtly steer her in the right direction, and a small Filipino girl trailing along behind, babbling about Hello Kitty.
** The Pit sure did when he got home from work. In my defense, I figured we needed to eat all the leftovers in the fridge before our upcoming trip, but there were definitely heating and chopping steps I could have taken before The Pit arrived home hungry and grouchy from an extra-long day. Alas.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tuesday with OL

I mentioned earlier that my friends tease me about being 80 at heart. They are not entirely off the mark, as demonstrated by the fact that I'm currently making a quilt. Behold the master plan:

I should specify that the quilt is not for me, but for an expecting couple that The Pit and I know. They refuse to find out the sex of their baby, but I figure whichever way it turns out, they can fold the quilt for the proper color configuration. I mean, babies are pretty small, and despite the Internet's insistence that this is the proper quilt size for a crib, I have my doubts.

Anyway, OL and I had a quiet day at her house yesterday, so I brought a couple of squares to sew together while she read her newspaper. OL took a keen interest in my activity, and wondered whether I had ever made a quilt before. When I confessed that I had not, she came out with the following gem:

"How much time you putting in dis thing, and den when it don't come out goot, whachya goin' to do? Goin' to hafta throw dis out. Tsk, tsk, tsk, such a shame, all that wasted time!"

However, her confidence in my abilities notwithstanding, this morning she apparently had a small change of heart, and told me that she hoped to live long enough to see how my 'crafts project' turns out. I tell you, this job gets better and better every day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monday with OL

Happily, our trip to Red Lobster seems to have softened OL's heart toward me once again. For the first time, she asked me a little about my life. I dutifully related my Jewish credentials, which seemed to satisfy her for a while.

Then she heard that I wasn't married, but that I had moved from California to be with my boyfriend, and she zoomed in on The Pit's intentions. I explained that I wasn't concerned, and that he would ask for my hand when he was good and ready.

Now to get the most out of the following paragraph, picture OL...she's about 4'10'', and maybe 70 pounds on her best days. I was specifically hired because her doctor thought she might be forgetting to eat.

So this tiny woman thought about my answer, then leaned across, pinched my side, and said "Mebbe he's waitin' for you to fatten up a little?"

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unemployment is Boring

Although my ideal afternoon involves some sort of fruit platter, a book, and a nap in the sunshine, I have, perhaps unsurprisingly, grown tired of this R&R adventure known as unemployment. There are only so many naps a person can take, after all. Alas, there's some sort of a recession thing going on, and nobody in DC appears inclined to offer me gainful neurobiology-related employment.

However, sending out resumes, cleaning the apartment, and cooking The Pit dinner only take up a portion of my day, and I have increasingly grown bored of all the time-wasters that the Internet has to offer. So, through a series of unlikely interactions, I've found myself a part-time job as a friend of the elderly. Yes, you read that right...somebody hired me to take a slightly senile Holocaust survivor out to lunch several times a week. Now, I've always gotten along well with seniors, and friends have accused me of actually being about 80 years old at heart. So when this unorthodox arrangement was proposed, I figured that my bank account wasn't growing any bigger, swallowed some Ph.D-related pride, and started on Friday.

What with all the aforementioned elderly affinity, I figured I would be a natural at this lunch thing. Unfortunately, for my first day a bit more than lunch was required...the old lady (henceforth to be called OL) I was babysitting was having her apartment cleaned, and it was my job to get her out of the house for several hours. Several hours that turned into six hours when her stacks of accumulated newspapers turned out to be more than the cleaners could handle.

OL was game enough when we went to the deli for lunch, and seemed just fine picking over the produce at Trader Joe's and the grocery store. But then she was done with our little outing, and wanted to go home. Sadly, the cleaners told me they needed a couple more hours at this point, so off we went to peruse the sales racks at Macy's. Two hours later, we were both sick of Macy's, walking around, and each other.

Also, we were having a bit of a communication problem. See, I'm fairly certain that we only understood about 50% of what the other person was saying. In my case, OL's combo of Old Country and New Jersey accents made comprehension sometimes difficult. Hilarious, but difficult. In her case, well... she's old, and all old people suffer from a bit of hearing loss. In fact, high frequencies are the first to go, and my speaking voice has been memorably if uncharitably compared to that of a chipmunk. So you can see where the problem might be.

The whole situation was not improved when we got to OL's house, and she discovered that the cleaners had thrown away her precious stacks of newspapers. Rather than a kindly if incomprehensible stranger taking her to lunch, I instantly became one with the vast cleaning conspiracy. Crazy like a fox, that one. The upshot is that relations are currently a bit strained. Perhaps I can repair things tomorrow by taking her to her favorite restaurant...the very kosher Red Lobster.