Aggravation

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More adventures in flight

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

This morning when I woke up at 5am in Minneapolis, the “feels like” temperature was -30 degrees. “How am I going to make it from the hotel to my car?” I was legitimately afraid that somewhere in that 500 feet, I would freeze, suddenly, like a Neanderthal.

But my 7am flight would be leaving with or without me, so I made a run for it. It was like inhaling a block of dry ice – absolutely wicked, not in the Boston sense, but in the Witch of the West sense. My skin almost cracked right off me like a frozen shell. But because I am rugged in my soul – a hero, really – I made it.

As we lined up to board the plane, I put in my earplugs – because the only thing worse than being crammed into a tube with 150 other people is to be crammed into a tube with 150 other people that YOU CAN HEAR. Whenever I wear earplugs, I pull my hair over my ears so no one can see the bright blue foam – but this time, there in line, I was standing next to a man who was wearing earplugs too. Neon green.

And what on God’s earth convinced me that this would be a good idea, I will never know – but I caught his eye, tucked my hair behind my ear to reveal the earplug, and tapped it twice. Just like the early Christians would trace half a fish in the dirt with their toe, waiting for a stranger to complete it, it was our secret code. We were comrades – in the war against noise!

However (and telling the story now, I suppose predictably), Earplug Man did not see it this way. He quickly looked away and ignored me for the rest of the boarding process. I found my seat (far from this fellow noise hater), and we were off.

Mid-flight, it started. Music. Loud enough to hear through my earplugs.

“Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul…”

Someone was listening to the Doobie Brothers with no headphones on an airplane, which, in my mind, is worse than sin.

While the music was loud enough to cut through my earplugs, I couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from. I waited for the culprit’s seatmate or a flight attendant to politely ask them to stop disturbing their fellow passengers (because isn’t it a rule that you have to use headphones on an airplane?), but by now we were to the head-bobbing part where everything but the drums drops out and all of the DBros are singing a cappella in harmony and still, no one had intervened.

When Eric Clapton’s “Layla” started in, I shot up out of my seat like a Whac-A-Mole. WHO IS DOING THIS. WHO. My head on a swivel, I scanned the tops of heads looking for the miscreant, but the engines scrambled the sound and garbled my otherwise bionic hearing.

By the time “American Pie” rolled around, I felt myself shutting down. Everything within me was in agreement with Don McClean; this will be the day that I die. This will be the day that I die.

When I landed in San Francisco, it was 70 degrees, meaning that today I have experienced a 100 degree swing in temperature. I peeled off my down parka, changed from Sorels into flip-fops, and caught a cab into this gorgeous city. I’m here for work, just like I was in Minneapolis for work, and while I miss Foxy, I am grateful for a week of mixing it up – because there’s nothing like breaking routine to make me grateful to get back to routine.

In the meantime, I’m wishing this is how I got to San Francisco:

Flight of the Navigator

In which I drain my savings account

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Back in December, a natural gas leak was discovered in the crawl space beneath my house. The inspector from Xcel told me that it wasn’t urgent, and that I could have it repaired at my leisure (pronounced “lehh-zhure” in my mind). So this past Friday, I finally had someone come take a look. He shut off the gas, unplugged all of my appliances, and started testing.

Here is how a gas man “tests” for a natural gas leak: he uses a spray bottle of soapy water to mist the joints of your pipes (not an innuendo). If bubbles form, gas is leaking.

Well, bubbles were forming. Gas was leaking. It’s much worse than I was originally told: I need a full (multi-thousand dollar) replacement of all of my gas lines – that is, if I don’t fancy a dramatic death by explosion.

This worker would have started the job when he was here on Friday, except that my gas line actually runs from my cellar out beneath my neighbor’s house, and he will need to access their basement to complete the repair. My neighbors are out of town for the next week – and since the worker said that it would be dangerous to turn my gas back on, I have been gas-less for the past three days, and will be for at least four more.

But don’t cry for me Argentina – it’s basically like fancy camping. I have a comfy bed and electricity – at least, I did until my space heater blew the breaker (momentary setback). I have coffee in the mornings and a microwave to heat up the soup from my freezer. But I don’t have stovetop burners or an oven, a shower with hot water, or heat of any kind. Luckily, this week is off to an unseasonably warm start, so I don’t have to worry about my pipes freezing. I’m cooking in the CrockPot and wearing wool socks and counting my lucky stars not to be dead even though I haven’t taken a proper shower since Thursday.

On Saturday night, I crawled into bed and tucked the covers around myself like a burrito. It was 10:30 or so, because I am geriatric – and even though there was a party with a bonfire raging in the vacant lot across the alley behind my house, I put in earplugs and fell asleep.

When I awoke to shouting and laughter, I figured that I hadn’t been asleep long since the party was still going – but when I looked at the clock, it was 3:45am. “Seriously?” I thought. I walked to my kitchen window and looked outside – and yes indeed, the bonfire was in full force.

So I called 911. (See above: geriatric.)

I asked the operator for the non-emergency line, but she said she could help me. I told her that I needed a squad car (and yes, I called it that) dispatched to break up the party, and after taking down the information, she said she’d send someone as soon as possible.

An hour later, the drum circle started.

At 4:45 in the morning, my neighbors started a drum circle.

So I called back, this time to the non-emergency line like a decent human being (720-913-2000, FYI), and asked the status of my knight in shining cop uniform. They said that the night was busy, and assured me that they would send someone as soon as they could.

I hung up the phone and burst into tears because in that moment I so desperately wanted someone else to fight my battles for me. But then I pulled myself together and tugged on my boots and marched across the alley like a BAMF/high school chaperone, and informed them that they were at least 5 hours past their bedtime and could they PLEASE stop DRUMMING around their BONFIRE.

I didn’t stick around long enough to experience their reaction. I was too mortified at my old lady rage. I did a step-pivot and scurried back across the alley, blessing the darkness for shrouding my face, lest I see these hooligans in the daylight.

I slept from 6-8am, and then got up to go on a hike with Kristen. We made it a half mile before Foxy bounded up a hill and then started limping. After checking her paw for thorns and not finding any, I carried her back to the car, which is kind of like carrying a 4-year old without the benefit of legs that can wrap around your waist. As we drove home, I passed one of those traffic cameras that take your picture if you’re speeding – which I was (54 in a 45, which also happened to be a construction zone). The camera flashed, and I can now look forward to a hefty ticket in the mail.

Foxy’s limp worsened throughout the day and her paw swelled up, so I took her to the emergency vet. The x-rays revealed no breaks, but potential torn tendons. So I spent last night worrying that she would need surgery – but luckily the radiologist called with the report that she should heal up without it [cue the angel choir] and oh by the way, your bill will be $500.

So now it’s Monday and it’s back to work and I’m still without gas and my poor pup is on pain meds and all I want is some roasted vegetables and a bubble bath, and I guess that the moral of the story is that we don’t always get what we want.

Hope you had a better weekend than Foxy’s foot and my bank account.

SadFox_cropped

The best and the brightest

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

When I left the office last night, my inbox was down to 5 messages (a record!). When I arrived this morning, I had 181 emails.

 

Here was the original message:

listserv1

 

 

 

 

 

And then came the replies:

listserv2

 

listserv3

 

listserv4

 

listserv5

 

listserv6

 

listserv7

 

listserv8

 

listserv9

 

 

Dozens of times.

Eventually, the sender of the original message realized her mistake and attempted to remedy it:

listserv10

 

 

 

No such luck, KATHY.

listserv11

 

listserv12

 

listserv14

 

listserv15

 

listserv16

 

listserv18

 

listserv19

 

listserv20

 

listserv21

 

listserv22

 

listserv24

 

listserv25

 

 

 

 

And then The Enforcer stepped in:

listserv27

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because nothing commands authority like Bold Red Letters.

 

But the people would not be silenced.

listserv31

 

listserv32

 

listserv33

 

listserv34

 

listserv35

 

listserv36

 

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And my personal favorite:

listserv29

 

 

Because while you might be smart enough to get hired at a Fortune 500 company, it’s not a requirement that you understand how a distribution list works.

Why I’m doing what I’m doing

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Are you stressed? Aggravated? Fed up? Worn out?

Call Annie Parsons – the Bullshit Exterminator.

This is what one of my beloved co-workers called me today – a moniker I proudly accept.

Listen, life is too much these days. I’m inordinately stressed at work. I’m in the midst of an insurance battle over my roof. I cannot for the life of me get a single lawn service company to call me back. Foxy came back from our weekend backpacking trip with a “small wound” that had to be treated at the vet. Projects just keep not getting finished. My inbox is overflowing, my patience is dwindling, and today, I couldn’t take it anymore.

Shaky rage-voice was used. Emails went flying. I put my foot down. I took action. In essence, I exterminated the bullshit.

I am *thisclose* to teetering off the edge – so it’s a good thing that I leave on the Colorado Trail in just 12 days. I am so ready – so so so so ready – to close my computer.

Am I ready to be alone in the mountains for over 4 weeks? Who knows. But it’s happening – and it’s happening soon.

To be clear, my lack of emotional bandwidth is not solely about my job. For most of us, work is stressful – I’m not unique in this regard. It’s about so much more than work.

The further I grow into being a so-called grown-up, the more I feel myself bucking against the absolute nonsense that “adulthood” tends to bring with it. Some days I feel that I’m losing the person that I once was, the person that I want to believe that I still am, the one with dreams and passions and gumption and guts. I love Annie the Risk Taker. What happened to her? She’s been bound and gagged by what others have told her is “reality”: worst case scenarios and doomsday forecasts and fiscal cliffs and snowballs of disppointment and never, ever getting your hopes up.

But I know better than that.

It’s time to steal my life back. It’s time to remember all of the things that used to make me come alive, that used to make my heart skip a beat.

Who knows if walking alone into the mountains is the way to do it? But it seems worth a shot.

mountain

The sky is falling, and other tales of woe

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Ever had one of those weeks?

Last Monday and Tuesday, I got four parking tickets in 24 hours. My license plates had expired at the end of March (news to me!), and before I could find an opening in my work schedule to hit the DMV, Denver’s parking patrol graced me. Four times.

I have to say, street parking enforcement in Denver is stricter than any other city in which I’ve lived. No matter the offense, THEY WILL CATCH YOU. I’d say that it’s the worst thing about this town, except then I remember how bad the boogers hurt (those who live in dry climates at high altitude surely understand), and allow the parking patrol to drop a notch on the Worst list.

When I finally made it to the DMV, they slapped me with a late fee and sent me on my merry way.

Late last week, I walked out into my backyard to find Foxy chewing on a chicken bone – just, you know, an instrument of canine death. I mentally accused every one of my neighbors of throwing leftover KFC over the fence into my yard, and cursed them along with their children and their children’s children.

The next day I saw a squirrel summit my fence with a chicken thigh in his clutches, and realized that the bone had likely been dropped by a varmint. I released my neighbors from vindictive mental prison, and instead, channeled my anger into psychic BBs aimed at a rodent – which really gets me nowhere (as opposed to despising my neighbors, which is obviously edifying).

When I was stopped at a red light at Colfax & Speer and I offered the homeless man on the corner a granola bar and he refused it, saying he doesn’t eat “that garbage,” I told him that his sign (“Anything helps”) was a lie. And as he walked angrily and aggressively toward my car and I frantically reached for the button to roll up the window, I thought, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

On Sunday, May 11, it started to snow. On Monday, May 12, it was still snowing. And just as my soul was withering up to die, my kitchen ceiling caved in* – as did my will to soldier on.

Let me tell you, you think life’s bad, and then your roof collapses*.

I’m leaving tomorrow for a work trip to Minnesota, and 12 hours after I get back, I’m leaving for a week in Nashville. My roof has one job – to keep everything out – and it’s failing. Work is busier than ever. I’m exhausted. There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life that I’m trying to beat back and not give the power to, but it feels impossible. I find myself craving things I don’t need – new clothes and new shoes and plane tickets to take me far away – but I know that they’re just misplaced desires. This ache can’t be fixed by money or things or security or control, all of which are just a fist full of water – the tighter I hold on, the more they slip through my fingers.

“You sound really stressed,” she said. And it was the best possible thing someone could offer – a simple acknowledgement that life feels out of control right now.

My throat got tight. “I am. I’m really stressed. I wish that just one thing was easier right now.” And then, the heart of the matter floated right up to the surface. “I need to find a way to be happy.”

And I’m not talking about a “look for the silver lining,” “there’s always something to be thankful for,” “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” kind of happy. I’m talking about laughing in the face of life’s trials and letting them roll off my back like a wet duck – because life’s too short to dwell on the nonsense. Do I trust that there’s a story bigger than I can see, and that it really doesn’t matter if the sky is falling, because my security lies somewhere other than my circumstances?

This is the question I’m asking myself today – because the older I get, the faster life goes. I don’t want to miss it.

*Very dramatic terms to describe a mere leak – although yes, thank you pessimist friends, I agree that the roofer is probably going to tell me, “There’s no such thing as a ‘mere’ leak.”

Let it go

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

This weekend, something that I wanted to work out didn’t work out, leaving me sad and disappointed. Then my bike seat broke. Then I tried to fix my bathtub drain, but realized I don’t have the right tools. Then several people told me, in various ways, that a dream that I’ve been working toward is a bad idea. Then, after dealing with shoddy, unreliable internet service for over a week, I came home yesterday afternoon to find that my actual electricity was gone.

Must be the wind, I thought, as I dialed Xcel to report the outage. I followed the prompts on the automated service, and then took Foxy on her lunchtime walk.

When I arrived back at the house, I got a phone call from someone in the Xcel customer support department. He asked me some questions about the meter (“It should be on the south side of the house”), so I found myself prowling through bushes, being poked in the eye by branches, and reading the unit number to the man on the phone – only for him to tell me that that’s the gas meter, and we need the electric meter.

That’s when I remembered I was on the north side of the house, and also, a moron.

So I headed around SOUTH into the backyard, crawled on a ledge, and had to touch dirty, rusty things, relaying meter readings to the man on the line, just to have him tell me that none of that helped him, so he would send a technician out – except, wait a second. What’s this?

He put me on hold while he took a look at my account, and eventually a new voice – a woman, probably Bad News Special Forces or something – came back on the line. Apparently, a neighbor had not paid her electric bill in quite some time, so they had disconnected her service – at least, what they thought was her service. Turns out they turned off mine instead.

Whoops.

Oh, and they wouldn’t be able to send someone to turn it back on until tomorrow.

And all of a sudden, it was just too much. Something snapped. This is when, to use a technical term, I lost my shit.

I have worked in customer service before, and still do, to a certain extent – which is why I couldn’t believe I was finding myself uttering words like “infuriating” and “unacceptable” and “immediately” and “you people” and “enraged” and “now – NOW.” My chest was tight but my tongue was loose. I was on an absolute rampage.

I spent the night at Becca and Mike’s, where Foxy whined non-stop in the darkness because that big yellow dog Grizz is RIGHT THROUGH THAT WALL. RIGHT THERE. HE’S THERE. I got a grand total of 2 hours sleep, and spent all day today feeling downright witless.

So now I’m home and the power is back on and I’m typing all of this out, and laughing because it’s so ridiculous. I’ve been sulking about things really not worth sulking about – especially since furrowing my eyebrows is the last thing I need to do more of, seeing as how that look is basically already my natural resting face.

The older I get, the more I realize my strong need for justice – which is unfortunate, since it’s also the more I realize that life just isn’t fair. Sometimes your neighbor doesn’t pay her bills, and you are the one inconvenienced. Sometimes you take good care of your things, and they break anyway. Sometimes someone else makes a decision, and your heart winds up paying a price.

We can try to legislate fairness into our lives, but it just isn’t going to happen.

I could be a sulker. I could resent people and situations and reality itself. I could shake my fist at heaven and tell everything to go to hell.

But to borrow an idea from Proverbs, I’d rather be clothed in strength and dignity, and laugh at the days to come – or you know, Frozen, and let it go.

Twitchy

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

I am the girl who balances her checkbook. Makes her bed every day. Drives the speed limit. Plans in advance. Goes to bed at a decent hour. Projects ahead so the future will never take her by surprise. Always has a responsible amount of gas in the tank of her car.

This is what’s known as “foreshadowing.”

On Monday, while driving west from Kansas City to Denver after being gone for 10 days, Foxy riding shotgun and both of us desperate to get home to the Shotgun, my mind anywhere but present, I ran out of gas. Subaruthless just sputtered and gave up, right there on I-70.

Subaruthless

Western Kansas was unseasonably warm that day, inching toward 80 degrees. And when the air conditioner died, so did the manic vim, vigor, and verve I’d been running on for a week and a half. I was spent.

My friends call me “the most extroverted introvert” they know, but for whatever amount of social prowess I might possess, the truth is that people, noise, and chaos drain me of my very lifeblood – and right there on the shoulder of the interstate, I realized that the past 10 days had been too much. They’d been good, really good – but they’d been too much.

When I finally arrived back in Denver and stumbled through the door of my house, dragging suitcases, a dog crate, an ice chest, three hardback books, two laptops, and one very squirrely puppy, I could have kissed the hardwood floor. But there’s no rest for the weary; I had errands to run, laundry to run, a dog to run, and a full day of work waiting for me the next day.

Disorganization makes me twitchy, like a spider. And a lot of areas of my life feel disorganized right now, the least of which is the explosion of detritus all over my house or the pile of receipts or the significant amount of sleep debt. Last night, I came home from work and, rather than taking care of the things that needed doing, opted to just twitch for a while instead – which means that today, my house is still a disaster, my calendar is sneaking up on me, I forgot to pack a lunch, and I’m wearing yoga pants at work (although… okay, yoga pants at work are not unusual).

I wish that life was like a gas tank, and that through a simple act of fuel in, our wheels would be guaranteed to keep moving.

Actually, I think that’s just called sleep.

I hope to emerge in a few days. Until then, my earplugs are in and I’m laser beam focused on getting my life back in order. If you know any happy news, please share it – I could use a little oomph in my day.

Re-entry

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Today I re-enter real life after a 9-day vacation – and oh, the pain.

I mean that figuratively, of course – but also literally. My body hurts. I climbed three 14ers last week, and I’m all scabs and bruises today. On a steep slope a week ago Sunday, a rock the size of a bowling ball dislodged above me and somehow rolled into my left knee, leaving only a small bloody mark but a deep bruise. Today, I’m left with a dilemma: I need to stretch my quad, but to do so would require bending my knee, which tears the scab.

We all face choices.

Anyway, this past Saturday I climbed Mt. Columbia. And it’s a good thing this 14er was my 34th and not my 1st – because had it been my 1st, I would never have climbed a mountain again. It was that horrible.

The top 2,000 feet is nothing but scree, a mixture of countless small loose rocks and slippery dirt that has only one goal: move down the mountain. To step is to dislodge it, leaving a climber feel like she’s in Indiana Jones, or a video game, or at least an episode of “Wipeout” – no matter what, you have to keep your feet moving. To stop is to slide. So I spent hours – HOURS – plodding straight up the mountain, and when the earth would start to give way beneath my feet, I’d run (fine, awkwardly scamper) to not be taken down with it.

The descent was even worse, so I decided to try to just ride the landslides down like I was skiing: SCREEING, I thought, proud of myself for being so clever.

Come to find out, the Internet already coined the term. The Internet always wins.

I have never cussed so much in my life – all the worst words, the ones that would convince you to never let me hold your babies again. I’d slide a bit, first cautiously, then out of control, causing one landslide after another, making me thankful that no one was below me. When I’d finally grind to a stop, pebbles in my boots and body shaking, I’d feel like screaming. I mean SCREEMING.

Thankfully, Mt. Columbia is over. Not so thankfully, vacation is too.

Keep your chin up out there today, people. Mondays can’t last forever, and neither can scabs. Words to live by.

All of the things I have to say

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

All of you over-achieving, perfectionistic control freaks out there, raise your hand.

I mean, I can’t be the only one, right?

I have a really hard time when I can’t do something perfectly, which is unfortunate because I can do basically nothing perfectly.  And lately, I’ve been doing a lot of things, which means that I’ve been confronted with imperfection all over the place.

My spiritual life is not perfect.  My diet is not perfect.  My money management is not perfect.  My exercise routine is not perfect.  My sleep habits are not perfect.  My relationships are not perfect.  My abilities are not perfect.  My heart – oh, my heart – is far, far, far from perfect.

Not a single one of my efforts is perfect.  And I really hate it.

I have so much that I want to say about this, but I can’t even write about my imperfections perfectly.  Gah.  Gahhhhhhhhhh.

– – – – – – – –

This was my bed last night.

I stared at it, and wished that it would just fix itself, but it didn’t, so I just moved my computer and slid underneath it all and went to sleep.

– – – – – – – –

Now it’s the morning.  All of the stuff is still here on top of me.

– – – – – – – –

On Sunday, I was on a walk, and I walked past a realtor hosting an open house.  I wound up going in, just because I’m nosy and take any opportunity to snoop where I wouldn’t otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with this house, but I did.  Like, deep, soulful love.  Like, I was mentally arranging my furniture.  Like, I was imagining backyard parties and the perfect hutch for the dining room.  Like, the combination of the hardwood floors and the interior brick walls and the incredible range in the kitchen was lethal to my Dave Ramsey-loving self, and all of a sudden, I was trying to figure out how to pull together $389,000 before nightfall.

Then I just walked back to the Hooker House.

– – – – – – – –

Starting tomorrow, I get to do something really cool.  I get to fly to Sundance Film Festival and call it “my job.”

You know I’ll report back on any celeb-encounters.

Update: home

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

All of last year, I lived in the apartment above the most silent man of all time.  The only time I ever saw him was when he would stand outside his front door smoking cigarettes with his headphones in, avoiding my eye contact as I would pass him on my way to the third floor.  The bearded mute would never speak – nay, make any noise at all.  For any awkwardness, he was quite possibly the best neighbor I’ve ever had.

I came back after New Years to find that the noiseless hermit had moved out, and been replaced by a frat house.

In the past month, I have occasionally woken up at 4am, wondering why I’m awake.  Oh.  Because there is BELLOWING beneath me.

On Saturday night around 7pm, the hollers had reached a crescendo worthy of an admittedly passive-aggressive stomping on my floor.  Everything fell silent for a moment – until they responded with a broomstick to the ceiling.

Oh hell no.

I left home for a bit, but later that night when I returned, I listened to the crowd of hooligans belt out “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.”  I resolved that if the noise continued past 11pm, I would don brass knuckles and storm apartment #201.

I spent the next 20 minutes pumping myself up for an all-out brawl – but right as I was ready to rumble, I listened to the battalion of delinquents file out of the apartment and down the stairs, heading up the block to the bars on Colfax.  Little do they know that they just narrowly escaped the wrath of a girl with two cocktails in her – just loose enough to not be held responsible for any words or actions.

But last night at 2am – a weeknight, mind you – I was stirred from a dead sleep by yells and laughs and “wooooo!“s.  It was on.  I pulled on my parka over my pajamas, stood in the living room for a minute wishing I had someone to fight my battles for me, and then marched downstairs.

My firm knock on the door was answered by a girl who hid behind it.  She hid behind it.  I never saw her face, but I heard her whimpers of embarrassment to the three men on the couch.  Oh honey, yes, you should be embarrassed.  You should be mortified.  You are sharing a one-bedroom apartment with these goons (do you have bunk-beds? Family bed? I’m genuinely curious), and obviously none of you have jobs, or you wouldn’t be so lively in the middle of the night.

“Hey, y’all,” I crooned.  I often find my alter-ego has a Southern accent.  “My name is Annie, and I’m your neighbor, and I’m so sorry this is the first time that we’re meeting.  But it’s 2am, and -6° outside, and yet I’m standing at your door in my pajamas.  This is how loud you are.  Can you please keep it down?”

Never in my life have I felt so much like an annoying parent-chaperone on a high school band trip.  It was a dark moment for my “cool” factor.

But for my sanity?  VICTORY.

I am switching apartments in a few months, and will no longer have to deal with these ruffians.  Until then, God help them, because these days, my tolerance is wearing thinner than the walls.