Monday, March 31, 2008

Adrift in Doubt

It has been many weeks since we swept past that last visible, invisible isle. Despite magnificent engineering on the part of Madwink McCutcheon and several crew members jumping ship as we swept past, the best efforts of the Captain prevailed, and with his lumbering bulk facing starboard, the land to port remained outside of his field of vision.

After berating us for drunkards
("Monkey?? Are you daft? or drunk? Who has been feeding you the Devil's own spit, and how did they get hold of it? Anyone caught pilfering liquor from the hold will be keelhauled and rolled under to Davey's Locker when found out! Raggah! Bring my keys! We must inspect the goods!") and forcing Madwink to circle the unseen isle three entire times to round up the men overboard, the Captain set us on a course of his own devising, having been up into the wee hours of the night to devise it. Judging from Madwink's sour demeanor over the ensuing days, it made as much sense as skirting an island that couldn't possibly exist in order to rescue crewmen who had to be dragged back on board, kicking and screaming.

But those are normal days for creatures such as we.

I have come to the conclusion that should we ever find a port of call the Captain agrees to visit, Madwink may very well die of shock. We have grown so used to sneaking the ship into docks in early morning hours while the Captain sleeps that we would not know what to do if he were actually to command us to approach one of his own accord. My punishment for faithlessness these days is the sunless hold from the time the Captain wakes to the time I fall asleep. Sorting crates. Recording cargo. Counting endlessly and over again each and every item within the belly of this behemoth, and calculating for report all of the values and fees attachable to each of them.

At the noon hour of each day, all calculations and reports are presented to Mme. Beezel in her spacious quarters, where I intrepidly venture through the clouds of noxious, sulphurous fumes emanating from beneath her perfume. On the last chiming of the noonday clock, Mme. Beezel assumes her correct form - something glittery, green, slimy and gaunt beneath her chosen silks - and her eyes take on an onyx, serpentine appearance behind her spectacles. It pays not to look to closely, nor to appear to be paying too much attention to her machinations as she divines and divides the accountables into that which she will report to the Captain and that which she will keep for herself. As we do this every day, and as the Captain is reluctant to make for shore of any kind, she by now owns virtually all cargo and entitlements.

Having trained under a basilisk, I would never make mention of this, however, and am content to let her slither and hiss and mutter over my intentionally sloppy accounts for the three-quarters of an hour that she will keep me, judiciously allowing me a quarter-hour of sunlight before I begin the inspections anew.

Once she believes the paperwork is in order, she returns to her physical illusion and resumes her endless litany of complaints against anyone who has chanced to breathe within her lifetime. Being a part of her daily scrutiny, I rate highly on her list. In the beginning, due to my scrupulous and impeccable training, I took these baseless accusations and curses to heart; I have since solved this problem and alleviated my own angst by relinquishing any desire to do well and thus make, now, no effort whatsoever at achieving perfection.

While this attitude will allow me to endure this subtle slavery, I pray that my enforced incompetence will not cause me to lose what wits I have remaining - it would be a shame to have survived the stony basilisk only to be ruined or destroyed for all future postings by my first position out of the docks. I try not to look at Madwink as I think these thoughts, for it is hard to forget what levels of competency he had achieved prior to being afflicted with the machinations of those who run this ship, and who never let us forget it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What's your OCD potential?

There is an old woman...

She careens wildly between selfish, self-centered, and kind, generous.

The problem with calling her kind and generous is the fact that very often her kindness and generosity are done for the benefit of others watching; and for what she can get in return later.

The problem with calling her selfish and self-centered is the fact that she has lots of medical and personal problems, as well as a few personality problems (don't we all), and one of those problems is that right now she is covered from head to toe (and willing to tell you all about it) with a godawful, stomach-turning rash.

I can personally vouch for it being stomach turning. She likes to sit near me while I'm eating dinner at the cafe and tell me all about it. Sometimes I can tune her out, like when she goes on and on about the problems with her doctor. But when she insists on talking about her diarrhea while I'm trying to eat a sandwich, well, you get the picture, I'm prone to dropping the sandwich on the counter unfinished and leaving as quickly as possible. Of course, that might be her goal-- she's a pretty weird old bird.

Anyway, she likes to sit and talk to me in the cafe about her medical stuff, and while that's fine if we're talking about arthritis or heart attacks or there's more doctors in her stable than there are changes in the weather, the thing about the rash is... I can see it. There is evidence of it over every visible inch of her. Ears, eyes, scalp, neck, face, fingers, nose, wrists, arms. There is a part of me that is still trying to figure out why she wasn't quarantined until they pinpointed the problem, just in case. Other customers are literally asking if it's leprosy. And she sits there in the middle of the cafe and revels in it. Personally, I would have to be hospitalized. If not for the rash itself, then at least for the insanity that I would unarguably suffer as a result.

So here we have me, in the cafe eating my meal of the day, and then she appears, like a scaly demon shedding her human skin and waiting to pop out and torment me. And she sits next to me and regales me with the latest news of her medical ailments. And again I am reminded that every time I see her with this rash, I want to run screaming for the nearest antiseptic tank and throw myself into it. Will in fact run home and shower immediately following her insistence on hugging me which, excuse me, she never, ever did prior to having this rash. Yuck? But of course, she's old, sick, grumpy, and occasionally very nice for no reason at all. So I have to mind my manners. I take the hug. I go home and shower. Immediately. Faster than that if possible.

I don't like germs or bugs.
I don't like evidence of germs or bugs.
I don't like being reminded of the existence of germs and bugs.

Caterpillars and butterflies are not actually bugs, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. Neither are ladybugs or fireflies or most moths. After that it starts to get a little hazy and I try not to think too hard about it because if I do I will feel obligated to go take a shower and scream.

I don't have to wash my hands 1800 times a day, although there are times when it seems like I'm going to. Part of what keeps me from doing it, actually, is the knowledge that:

a) If I wash my hands 1800 times a day, my skin will dry out and crack and then I will run the risk of getting infections in my fingers. That's beyond gross. No thank you.

b) If I wash my hands 1800 times a day, I will be touching the dirty faucets far more times than necessary. This thought usually makes me scrub the sink. Since I can't take the taps and faucet apart every time I want to clean the sink, and yes, I want to, I opt to not touch it unless necessary. Germs can be avoided by not touching things.

But those are germs, and germs are difficult to quantify without the mind-numbing use of the words "all things and everywhere", and not every Germ-laden situation allows me the luxury of dictating how I will deal with it. For example, my boss walking in to the office and announcing on a Monday morning how horribly sick he was all weekend, and then turning from his desk to mine (a matter of literally, 2 paces) to pick up the phone and talk to a customer. Not sure what was wrong with his phone or why he wanted so desperately to make me ill, but since I couldn't act upon my preference and hit him over the head with the receiver when he was finished, I did the second best thing and used an alcohol swab on it. When he wasn't looking. So he wouldn't know he got to me. Because that's what he likes to do.

Those are germs. I am not allowed to contemplate germs. I will develop nervous tics if I contemplate them. Because of the invisibility factor. Bugs on the other hand, while pretty much darned everywhere, have a much higher visibility factor, and while you never really know what they're going to do, you can depend on certain qualities: They're Evil. They're Mindless. They're Intent on Their Own Survival. Not cute like the cartoony movies. Not singing and dancing while they take over the world. Just eating, sleeping, breeding, and spreading disease. Feel free to stop me at any time.

Incidentally, unless you've had to have ants removed from your ears with tweezers, you really can't fathom where this comes from. I'm not going to tell you how cosmically revolting it is to feel an ant walking around in your nose, let alone several of them. I'm not even going to tell you whether or not the hair on the back of my neck is standing up right now.

But I am going to go take a shower. Immediately.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Cost of Living

  • Rent: $725.00/month ($181.25/week)
    • 1.5 BR
    • 12-foot ceilings
    • original 8-foot glass windows
    • hardwood floors
    • no straight walls
    • seafoam green tiled bathroom complete with surprise collapsible ceilings
    • lopsided kitchen with occasional heat (but that's why there's a stove) and flaking interior cabinets so dishes must be washed both before and after use
    • access to back yard with 2.73 hours of sun daily, usually between the hours of 11:45 am and 1:33 pm. Moss very happy back there, gives impression of coolness.
    • remarkable stench from nearby restaurant dumpster enters all windows on hot summer days, while exhaust fumes from running ambulances on break at the nearby diner adds cherry cheeks to the holiday joys in winter
    • convenient first floor location behind dance studio with admirable stereo system guarantees odd noises and visitation attempts at all hours through a variety of entry points
    • fantastic location 4 blocks from bordering cities, complete with local laundromats, assorted forms of public transportation, graffiti taggers, car accidents (crosswalks = crosshairs), and the occasional bullet-spraying teenagers who empty entire clips at eachother without actually hitting anything other than a lot of store windows
    • plenty of concrete and road dust combat all but the smallest and most virile of native flora and fauna
    • added feature of the occasional exciting official questioning at 2am when nearby gas station attendants clash with public over price of freedom to be an American
  • Gas/Electric: $130.00/month (32.50/week)
    • Optional monthly bill plan averages August's $30.00 no-air-conditioner joy and January's $300.00 67-degrees-inside-17-degrees-outside pain into one tedious but predictable lump sum
    • IMPORTANT NOTE** Try to avoid looking at actual usage between months of October and March when 1/3 of bill is added to itself again for special power company charge which when questioned is described as "well that's the charge for the gas we thought you were going to use and then you didn't." Further questioning and requests for information puts caller into land of permanent hold
  • Phone/Cable/Internet package: $100.00/month ($25.00/week)
    • Previously approx $130.00/month over 3 services. Consolidation is good. However, will rise to $130.00/month at end of promotional program in 10 months. We'll wrestle that alligator when we come to it.
    • Phone reaches entire nation yet remains attached to wall
    • Cable is basic and will be required by law next year anyway and since without cable we only receive about half a channel for two thirds of the day, it is nice to be able to actually find something the kids can watch once in a while
    • now that every news story, advertisement and government office in the country adds "for more info, see our website at www.hahayoudon'" and then teases you about the food-poisoning deaths/massively destructive approaching bad weather/huge death-crunching firefight/local, state & national emergency warning in the local area every 7.5 minutes with lead-ins, promos and commercials, you no longer have to panic because... you already looked it up.
    • Husband can email overseas family.
    • There's always a chance someone might actually buy something you post on the internet.
    • Library charges $1.00/hour, plus extra for printing.
  • Light Rail Pass: $49.00/month ($12.25/week)
    • Necessary since death of car.
    • Only way to get to work.
    • Used for subway and bus.
    • Also works for getting to bank. Good for cashing paycheck.
    • Actually, best regular purchase ever.
    • Also on the plus side, now no longer have to spend $150.00 to $200.00/month on gas, oil, insurance, maintenance, parking tickets, car washes, tripleA (though they still call every 6 months to ask if you're sure you still don't want to renew your membership!), registration, towing charges and court costs.
    • Only detractions: Service is regretfully not door-to-door. Extra time must be added to allow for trip to any appointment based on schedules and locations. Other people are involved. Sometimes they are sick. Sometimes they smell.
    • Most Major Drawback (but not the bus card's fault): No longer have car available as substitute place to live if family suddenly becomes homeless due to third job in 6 years suddenly disappearing because of obviously shrinking and yet until now publicly ignored recessive economy.
  • Laundry: $13.00/week, give or take
    • Convenient public laundromat around corner a true joy to drag laundry to through rain, sleet, snow, hail, and galactic meteor storm.
    • Loss of time spent either wandering back and forth or sitting in overheated environment listening to people fight over dryers while waiting for spin cycle to finish is inestimable.
    • On the plus side, if there is extra $10.00 to shell out, laundry can be done by helpful people who work there. Of course, sometimes they turn everything pink. Relationship much more congenial when one turns clothing pink all by oneself.
    • While it would seem prudent to save money by doing less laundry, when one runs out of underwear, one runs out of underwear. Besides, it is entertaining to see how much bigger the holes in our socks get every week.
  • Groceries**: $130.00/week, give or take
    • **Please be aware that all grocery prices have increased by a minimum of 1/3 over the last year due to skyrocketing fuel prices and subsequent fuel surcharges on all shipments, deliveries, and services. Two years ago we got just under the same amount for $90.00/week.
    • Feed household of 4 and one cat. Milk first. Kids like milk. Milk is $3.70/gallon. Was $2.70/gallon last year. Need minimum of 5 gallons a week, $18.50. Bread is conveniently $1.00/loaf. Gruesome spongy white stuff. 3 loaves, $3.00. Whole wheat bread far more nutritious, $1.50/loaf. Reserved for kids only unless it's Saturday morning right before shopping. 2 loaves, $3.00. Cat food, average $5.00/week cans and dry. Kind of expensive but he's cute and keeps our feet warm in the wintertime. Not to mention, also keeps local fauna from encroaching on human territory. Training pants and wipes $20.00/week. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deoderant, shaving cream, razors, spent over time $5.00/week, hopefully not all needed at once. Assorted fruits, apples, oranges or grapes and bananas in particular, generally reserved for kids, $10.00/week. Approximately 3 apples, 5 bananas, and 2 oranges, depending on sales, or 1 bunch of grapes and 5 bananas and an apple. Bag of salad, hopefully on sale, and not contaminated with e. coli, $3.00. Potatoes. Try to get 3 or 4. Forget how much they are. Somewhere between $2.00 and $4.00. Fruit bars for kids, $4.00. Yogurt for kids, hopefully on sale, $5.00. Cheese, American, $3.00/pack. Children's chewable vitamins, $16.00/month so $4.00/week. Nutritional supplementary beverage for hypo-glycemic grownup, $6.00 for box of 6. 2 boxes of cereal, hopefully on sale, $8.00. Tomato sauce in a jar, whatever's on sale, $3.00/jar. 3 boxes of pasta/week, $3.00. Pre-prepared fast and easy on the table in less than an hour and pretend it's nutritious foods, assorted, includes everpopular mac-n-cheese, frozen ravioli, frozen veggies, approximately 4 dinners worth, $20.00. Block of cheddar cheese, $6.00, every other week so $3.00. Peanut Butter & Jelly, $3.00 (lasts 2 weeks). Eggs, butter/margarine, alternating weeks comes to oops, that's the limit. Ad-lib and mix-and-match always acceptable, as long as kids get plenty and grups get enough. Occasional treats like cake mix, cooking oil, store-brand ice-cream, or on sale popsicles also acceptable.
  • 2 lottery tickets/week, $2.00. Required.

Total Net Wages, per week: $400.00