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Posts Tagged ‘day to day ridiculousness’

My hands are still shaking from a horrendously embarrassing experience, so I am trying to distract myself with some fun and fluff. 

Oh, you want to share in my humiliation first? Okay. 

I texted the owner of The Kitten to see if Carla could come visit him (“him” meaning the kitten; the owner is a woman). I had recently put her number in my phone, at Carla’s request. She’d (the kitten owner, not Carla) texted me so I would have her number, and I’d added her to my contacts. I tend to add people to my phone as “FirstName LastName,” and then never include any other identifying details… and you are well aware that I have a terrible memory… so there are multiple people in my phone who are now complete mysteries to me. One of these days I should really go through my phone and delete those people. 

I clicked on the kitten owner’s name – noting briefly that there was no prior text from her; I must have deleted it – and texted her: Hi, this is Carla’s mom. Is there a good time for Carla to come visit The Kitten?

A few minutes later I got back a series of question marks. 

As you may have intuited from my expert foreshadowing, I texted THE WRONG PERSON. Apparently, I have two people with the same first name in my phone. A fact which I have long since forgotten. The one whose name popped up when I started the text was the wrong one. 

And I have NO IDEA WHO SHE IS. 

Is this an old work contact? Is this someone for whom I’ve done freelance work? Is she a fellow parent from Carla’s school? Is she a board member I’ve interviewed for a writing project? Is she someone I went to grad school with? Is she a friend of a friend I’d connected with at some point? Is she some sort of service provider I have employed at some point? ZERO IDEA. 

I typed back, So sorry! I must have the wrong number!

But what I REALLY should have typed back was, So sorry! I must have typed the wrong FirstName!

Because if she is in my phone, there is a real likelihood that we know each other, and have interacted via phone before. Which means that there is a real possibility that she is sitting there wondering a) why I am contacting her about a kitten she doesn’t know and b) why I am pretending it was a wrong number and c) why I haven’t asked her how her work/family/life is. 

But I have no idea who this person is, or why she is a contact in my phone. I even googled her and I swear I have never seen her before in my life. But she was in my phone. So we must have known each other at some point! 

All I can do is hope that this person has as terrible a memory as I do, and has long since removed me from her phone, and isn’t feeling hurt/miffed/weirded out by my faux pas. 

LET’S MOVE ON TO LESS HORRIFYING TOPICS.

I have some questions for you. 

Weigh In #1: What food do you hate, but wish you didn’t? While I am a very choosy eater, I don’t feel particularly bad about it most of the time. I eat enough of a variety of foods that I’m pretty confident I can go to any restaurant or any friend’s house and find something to eat. I’ve never once thought, “I wish I enjoyed lamb. Or beets.” But there are a few foods I hate that I really wish I didn’t. 

Tomatoes. I hate tomatoes so very, very much. But they are one of those wildly ubiquitous foods that show up all the time, in places expected and not. (I cannot tell you how frequently I have encountered tomatoes on a Caesar salad, when they have no place in a Caesar salad.) Life would be so much easier and more pleasant if I just liked tomatoes! Or could at least tolerate them! Even friends who kindly ask about food preferences before they invite us over sometimes have tomatoes in their offerings, and I am just so very weary of being that picky person who doesn’t like tomatoes. 

Oatmeal. I cannot bring myself to enjoy oatmeal. Outside of oatmeal cookies, which are the sole exception. But lots of people genuinely enjoy oatmeal, and it seems like such a hearty, healthful food. I really wish I liked it. 

Eggs. Outside of scrambled eggs – which, even then, I only like a specific way – I avidly dislike eggs in ALL FORMS. But they are versatile and easy and full of protein. I want to like them. 

Weigh In #2: What is the best seat on an airplane? I prefer the window, myself. I like being tucked in next to the wall, I like being able to look out during turbulence to reassure myself that we are not in fact falling out of the sky, I like being able to lean my head against a solid surface. But when I fly with my family, my husband is the one who gets the window (although sometimes he swaps with Carla) and I get the aisle. I do not care for the aisle, because it puts me in close proximity to people, and those people tend to be very oblivious to the boundary between their space in the aisle and my space in my actual seat. The only benefit to the aisle seat is easy access to bathroom breaks. But then again, you have to be the one to pop up and down while the middle- or window-seater squeezes past you to the bathroom. I still remember the time I flew and a woman in front of me refused to swap seats with her row-mate’s spouse, because the spouse was in a window seat. “I have a bum leg, and I prefer the aisle so I can stretch out my leg,” she said. But… you aren’t supposed to stretch your leg into the aisle, right??!?! Isn’t that a tripping hazard? Isn’t that begging for a new leg injury when the drinks cart slams into your shin? 

Weigh In #3: What is your worst time-wasting habit? I am already terrible about spending too much time on social media. But more recently, I have found new depths to my time wasting online, which is that I have gotten sucked into watching gender reveals on Instagram. There is literally nothing beneficial about this habit – except that I derive occasional joy from the rare parent that shows true, unbridled joy at the result. Okay, and usually only if that unbridled joy is coming from the male parent, and in response to a pink result. These videos are fascinating, though. There are a bunch that feature the same bearded guy, who must run some sort of company that offers and records these sorts of reveals. There are a bunch where the timing is off. There are a bunch where the couple have other children, some of whom seem very disaffected by the whole event. 

The worst – and most fascinating – ones are the ones where one parent is CLEARLY disappointed by the result. I am not faulting someone for being disappointed: when I was pregnant, I was SURE I was having a boy, and I pictured a tiny blond copy of my husband. I got very attached to this fantasy. When we found out that Carla was a girl, I was disappointed. I hope you know that not a single cell of my body is disappointed NOW, now that Carla is a real wonderful human and it has become clear to me that everything I love about her is completely unrelated to her sex. But I get the disappointment. What I find perplexing is recording that disappointment and then posting it for the world to see. Perplexing and fascinating.  

Anyway. That is how I have been wasting far too many minutes of my one wild and precious life lately. I blame spring break. 

Now it’s your turn. Please weigh in. 

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Technology and I are not getting along.

My WordPress blog – which I have had since 2009 (am v. old) – is now suddenly not working correctly. The platform claims that I am trying to access WordPress via an unsupported browser, but when I click on the list of supported browsers, the link does not work. If I google which browsers support/are supported by WordPress, I am assured that Safari, which I use, is in fact fully supported. Do I have to update it or something? Maybe. But that opens a whole other can of worms wherein my computer claims it has no memory left and then I spent 80 hours trying to clear everything off of my hard drive even though the portion of the bar graph that is taking up the most memory is invisible stuff I cannot access or erase.

Yes, in fact, I DO feel very unsupported. (For this post, I have switched to Chrome, which I dislike for unknown but very strongly felt reasons.)

While we’re badmouthing WordPress – which I don’t WANT to do; I have been happy with it these long years – it is also doing a thing where I will create a post and then suddenly it says there has been an unexpected error and I cannot access the post nor edit it. There is no further information offered; none of the buttons next to this message go anywhere or do anything. Well. This finally justifies my long habit of writing posts in Word first, and then copy/paste-ing them into my blog – and I have not lost any content as of yet. But it is STILL ANNOYING.

That’s all I get: “unexpected.” And yet it keeps happening… so… at what point does it become expected?

On to the next grouse: There is too much spam. Many of my blog followers are spam accounts. I delete them and they sign right back up. Why? Why? What are you getting out of following my blog, moneybiz2020 and Buy CBD Oils UK?

I mean, Dickie B looks super nice but his email address, and, frankly, the fact that he is subscribed to my particular blog, leads me to believe he is NOT A REAL HUMAN.

Bots are constantly following my Instagram account, too. They are all the same: names like “the_agile_walrus893” and then there’s a profile image of a beautiful young woman who has a very American-Sitcom-Character-type name and lists her Totally Normal City and her astrological sign and something Totally Normal (umbrella lover! anorak collecter! beet sniffer!) about her. And then the account is filled with dozens of exotic travel photos – featuring zero people who look remotely similar to the woman pictured in the profile – and the photo captions are always emojis. And the bots follow lots of people! And lots of people follow the bot accounts! And I delete/block them every time I see them but ARRRRGGGGHHHH. Why? WHY? What in the name of Jeff Bezos are the bots getting out of these interactions?????????

This is not a real human. Right? RIGHT?
Why do these bots have SO MANY followers??? Are they all just following each other? And if so, WHY?

And I am getting TONS of spam emails lately, too. Not just the normal emails from Athleta and my local library and Barnes & Noble – the ones I signed up for, which nonetheless sometimes feel like spam. But emails from websites I definitely did not visit nor give my information to. Like GQ Magazine. Or some life insurance company I may have requested a quote from once, via telephone, a literal DECADE ago. Clicking unsubscribe, of course, does NOTHING. The emails keep coming.

I don’t have a photo of my inbox because I think you might faint if you see the number of unread emails I have.

Somehow I accidentally clicked the Apple TV app on my computer and now it refuses to leave. I have regular quit. I have force quit. I have turned my computer off and on again. It is always in the background, doing… whatever it is doing. (Something nefarious, I’m sure.)

Likewise with Adobe Flash Player. It constantly pops up on my desktop even though I SWEAR I have deleted it from my hard drive multiple times. It’s hiding somewhere deep in my computer, though, and I cannot root it out, and it keeps popping up and telling me to update.

Speaking of updates: My password manager asks me to update it weekly. At least. HOW does it require so many updates? HOW? And why? Just pick a version and stick with it! For a month, at least! (Edited to add: After I drafted this and tried to shut down my computer, the password manager asked me to update it again. It reads my blog, y’all. SIGH. I did it, but we’ll see how long it lasts.)

Last grouse (at least, for today): when I go to the Instagram website via my laptop, it quite frequently pretends as though I have asked it to display something mythical and non-existent. I am simply typing “Instagram.com” in the browser and hitting enter so please do not pretend like this a site that does not exist.

SOMETHING’S BROKEN, ALL RIGHT. Also, I love how it says “go back to instagram” as though I am not already there.

If I didn’t use technology every second of every day, I would say goodbye so fast

Actual grouse, whose incredulity mimics my feelings exactly. (image from Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources)

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Carla has begun third grade and by all reports, it is going swimmingly so far. While I miss having her sunshiny presence in the house, I have been eager to get my days back. I have writing to do and edits to make and housework to complete. 

But I haven’t quite been able to get my sea legs yet. I feel a little directionless, drifting on an ocean of possibility, but not finding anywhere to drop my metaphorical anchor. 

Part of my aimlessness, I think, is that the house is a mess. It’s cluttered with all the flotsam and jetsam a busy eight-year-old produces. So, I think, start there: clear the house of clutter and you’ll feel accomplished and free to sit down and work on all the other items on the to-do list. I did a first pass, pulling things off the walls (Carla’s long-abandoned reading tracker, an old poster from second grade, a few pictures she’d taped to her door) and wiping down the whiteboards that held our summer schedules and to-dos. I did a bunch of laundry and folded much of it. My husband, without being asked, went through the towering pile of mail that clings barnacle-like to the little sideboard near the garage door. 

Somehow, this did very little to free the house of its cluttery, oppressiveness. And even though I have settled in my writing chair, with a good idea about what to write, my brain feels unsettled and overcrowded. I keep thinking of things I could do that I don’t want to do: put the new fall schedule up on the whiteboards, finish folding the laundry, clean out the bucket that Carla filled with exploded water balloon fragments after last week’s playdate, tidy my desk or my bathroom, paint my toenails, take out the trash, get dinner started in the crockpot, finish unpacking the suitcases from our trip of two weeks ago, implement the edits I painstakingly made to my manuscript, exercise. 

I am fretting about a work thing, a family thing, a friend thing. The news is, once again, still, endlessly, terrible and disheartening. I am dreading Carla’s first soccer practice, during which I will surely be expected to talk to strangers. I keep trying to listen for the air conditioner, which decided to stop working yesterday for several hours, until our house was 82 degrees inside. (It came back on just in time for my husband to come home, ask why it was so hot inside, and then squint at me uncomprehendingly when I told him the air conditioner was broken.) I have a head cold, or a sinus infection, or something that makes me feel foggy and drippy and cranky all at once. I have a giant, inflamed mosquito bite smack in the middle of my forehead. Everything feels rumpled, troubled; ill-tempered waves lashing at me from all sides.

I think what I need to do is make an old-fashioned To Do List and start crossing things off. But the prospect of doing such a simple thing makes me feel limp with I don’t wanna. 

Surely you have felt adrift in this way before. What do you do to restart your engine and coax your ship forward, in any direction at all? 

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This was one of those mornings in which I woke up promptly at 5:00 am and then couldn’t fall back to sleep, even if I had Zero Reason to be awake at that time; it’s the last week of summer for sleep’s sake! I should be enjoying every second of sleeping until 7:00 while I can. 

As usual, I kept pretending that reading things on my phone would lull me back to sleep (what? it works sometimes, often enough to convince me, lab-rat style, that it WILL work again), instead of using those two extra hours as the precious resource they were. They never SEEM precious, when I’m not planning to wake up early. Especially when I stayed up past eleven the night before watching Bachelor in Paradise

I only fell asleep again once my husband’s alarm went off. You know. To taunt him. 

He hit the snooze button and I snuggled into his warm body and sank immediately into a horrible nightmare: I was at a party, which my supervisor from my prior job was attending, and he told me gravely that someone from my prior job was making terrible accusations of sexual impropriety about me. Not harassment, I don’t think. Just, like, hooking up with this colleague who was not in my chain of command. In the dream, my supervisor never outlined what these accusations were, or how they would affect me besides making me out to be an adulterer, but I was alarmed and outraged and got very yelly and sailor mouthed (apologies to sailors) and indignant because it seemed like my supervisor didn’t believe me, even though he claimed he did. I couldn’t even remember meeting the person who was accusing me – his name was Noah Centineo, which is apparently the name of a real live actor person, a fact I discovered when I googled the familiar-sounding moniker after waking up – and I was shaky and angry and wanted more details so I could call my mom and sue the husk out of Noah for slander. (My mother is a retired lawyer and I don’t know if slander applies in this case, or really what the issue was; I think I was afraid that I would lose the only recommendation from the only job I ever had, even though that is NOT the only job I’ve ever had.) While I was waiting for my supervisor to go get details, I was angrily chewing an enormous piece of purple gum and it got very sticky and I tried to spit it out and it got stuck to my teeth, and I had to pry it out of my mouth long stringy strand by long stringy strand and it got spiderwebbed all over my hands and face and hair. 

The only reason I woke up from this awful dream was because I got a text message. It was from a person with whom Carla and I are having a playdate I am dreading. The mother has many good qualities but she is also an Extreme Extrovert and I am even more of an Introvert since the pandemic began than I was to begin with. (This mother had, at one point, suggested TWO playdates this week but fortunately stopped pressing when I told her one playdate was stressful enough that I couldn’t even FATHOM two playdates without breaking out in hives.) (I am not yet at the comfort level of leaving Carla alone at someone’s house for a playdate.) It wasn’t the best text message to wake up to, is what I’m telling you. Out of the gum-web and into the fire of forced interaction.

The nightmare clung to me, much as the dream-gum was clinging to my teeth and hands, but I managed to awaken Carla and strip the bed. (Let’s blame the sheets for my sleeplessness. I mean, clean sheets can’t hurt.) I did not manage to put the detergent in the right place; there is a little drawer with specific compartments for detergent and fabric softener and bleach, and instead I threw a cup full of detergent directly onto the sheets in the drum of the washer, which is surely some sort of terrible laundry faux pas, and I am fully expecting a tsunami of bubbles to erupt from the washer and onto the floor at any moment. 

Carla had requested sour toast and ants on a log for breakfast, but first the dirt (??? what is the role of peanut butter in this concoction???) wouldn’t stick to the log; the halves of the banana seemed wet somehow, though it was a nice fresh banana, and the peanut butter wouldn’t spread properly, and I had to kind of drape it in unappealing plops across the banana, which continued to glisten wetly. I eat neither bananas nor peanut butter, so I don’t know if any of this is acceptable or not. Carla didn’t comment, so we’ll assume it is fine.

Worse, though: I couldn’t find any ants. In this case, chocolate chips. I dug around in the pantry for a while before giving up and offering dried cranberries (pass) and fresh blueberries (keep) as insect alternatives. Then I discovered that I had been carrying around an unopened bag of tortilla chips, on my hip like it was a baby. 

That was when I decided I needed to sit down and allow the fog to clear a bit before I attempted anything else. Which is why you are getting sentences like the first one of this post, in which the phrase “in which” sounds completely hatpin crazy to me, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to rephrase the sentence. Hmm. I suppose I could just take it out and make it into two sentences, but I will leave it as an illustration of the state of my mind.

This is one of those rare occasions where I find myself wishing I drank coffee. I love my morning cup of tea, but it doesn’t provide that jolt of clarity that supposedly comes from a cup of hot black coffee. Perhaps I will have to chug a Mountain Dew instead. 

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We have been on vacation, which was lovely, and I want to tell you all about it (especially about traveling during a pandemic * shudder *) but I am going to ease back into blogging by sharing with you a marital misunderstanding. 

PLEASE tell me that you and your spouse / roommate / co-habitant have similar misunderstandings from time to time, because this is the kind of thing that makes me feel like perhaps my husband and I have been living COMPLETELY SEPARATE LIVES.

I mean, HOW, after living together since 2003 – which means our co-habitation is ready to go off to college! – can we still so drastically misunderstand one another??? Shouldn’t we KNOW each other by now? Shouldn’t we LISTEN when the other person says things or expresses preferences or suggests rules? Are we simply two strangers, living side-by-side???????

Despite the all-capsy nature of the previous paragraphs, this is a very low stakes misunderstanding. At least, from my perspective; my husband may have a COMPLETELY SEPARATE OPINION. 

A few years back, our washer died, so we got a new washer. (And a new dryer, because our old dryer was ancient and SURE to collapse the instant we didn’t buy a new one, and plus my husband and I like Things That Match.) The new washer was – unlike the old top loader – a front loader.

I was Deeply Reluctant to get a top loader, because I have heard horror stories about mold and smelliness. But it seemed like they were really the only option. And, more importantly, we needed a washer and dryer that opened a specific way, and were a specific size, based on the layout of our minuscule laundry room. So we got this pair and they have been Fine. 

I remember discussing, at great length, the mold/smell problem with my husband. I remember this CLEARLY. And the solution we came up with was to always, always leave the washer door open. As the person who does laundry 90 percent of the time in our household, this is the method I have always, always used for all the years we have had this washer. 

The other day, Carla spilled something. As she usually does, she stood over the spill exclaiming, “Oh no!” and I said in exasperation, “Go get a towel and clean it up!” We have a towel in the laundry room for JUST THIS PURPOSE. It is on a small hook attached to the washing machine, and I use it to dry my hands when I use the laundry room sink, and Carla knows (supposedly) to go grab it if she spills something. 

My husband was AGHAST.

“That towel isn’t for SPILLS,” he said with quiet and horrorstruck urgency. “That towel is for wiping the inside of the washing machine.”

But… it ISN’T for wiping out the inside of the washing machine, because I have literally been using it to dry my hands and Carla has been using it to mop up spills. (She is eight; spills are frequent.) (I hope you understand that we replace the towel once it has been used. It hasn’t been the exact same towel hanging there, collecting hand water and floor spillage, for years on end.)

“No….” my husband was clear. And clearly appalled. “It is for wiping out the machine. That’s WHY it is there.”

He was under the impression that I had been wiping out the inside of the washing machine – including under the rubber seal that attaches to the door – Every Single Time I did the laundry. 

Well. That has not happened once. Not one time. Because the towel was for wiping up spills. THAT’S why it was there. 

My husband pointed out that we had purposely purchased a Command hook and attached it to the washer and hung a towel on it… for wiping out the machine.

Please imagine, if you will, a man who loves you deeply and yet who is so completely gobsmacked by your inexplicable behavior that all he can do is stare, his expression a mix of bewilderment and horror, his mouth open in a half-formed “why???????” while he tries to swallow the urge to howl in whatever word appropriately conveys the strongest form of exasperation known to humankind.

I have done laundry twice since and have used the towel for its intended purpose. Time will tell if I continue to do so. After all, not once has the washing machine molded or smelled in all the time I have been misusing the towel. 

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Thank you SO MUCH for your kindness and commiseration yesterday. It is so helpful to be able to spill one’s very minor and yet deeply irritating frustrations to friends, and have them respond with back pats and consoling words. 

While the pest control situation remains VERY IRRITATING, I feel much better about the sink. My dad and I did a FaceTime diagnosis and determined that there is a leak in the sprayer hose for the faucet. This is good news in some ways because a) it should be a fairly easy fix; i.e., replace the hose or at worst the entire faucet, and b) the leak is pretty gentle; I left a bowl under it last night and there are probably a couple of tablespoons of water in there (it must have been leaking for A LONG TIME, considering the volume of water the leak produces and the amount of water that was in my cupboard), and c) the water is clean water, not anything gross from the disposal or anything. 

The leak didn’t appear to have caused any damage, and I took the opportunity to clean out the cupboard (much more reasonable to clean as you need to than having a scheduled monthly-cleaning-of-all-the-cupboards, so there GRANDMA) and consolidate/get rid of near-empty bottles and containers and bric-a-brac. 

The Scrub Daddies seemed unscathed by the experience. Nicole asked if I like them (HI NICOLE), and yes, I do like them. They are very good at getting rid of tough, stuck-on food residue and somehow they do not smell or grow mold the way sponges do. They are also dishwasher safe and very cheerful to look at.

My father and I determined that the repair was probably outside my skill set. Actually, as I was lying scrunched under the kitchen sink, my phone in one hand, a flashlight in the other, I think my dad was gearing up to explain exactly what the next steps were… but as he was pointing out some sort of brackets that hold the faucet in place, and telling me about some special tool one needs to dislodge them, my mom, bless her, said in the background, “Sounds like the next step is to call a plumber.” And I did, and they will be coming out next week. (While they are here, I will be asking them to unclog some drains that have been bothering me for weeks now, but not to the point of being able to get past my terror of Drain Hair to do anything about it.) (Unclogging drains is usually my husband’s job anyway, but I am not going to pressure him lest he turns over the job to me.)

This morning, feeling much better about life in general, I opened the dishwasher to empty it and noticed that the dishes weren’t clean. There was a plate with some chocolate on it, which is how I could tell. Also, the little soap packet was lying on the floor of the dishwasher, semi-intact. Okay. Sometimes that happens – the mechanism that releases the soap doesn’t open at the right time or something. Fine. 

I fiddled around with the little soap door, added a new packet of soap. (What? Maybe the original soap packet was faulty.)

I ran the dishes again. 

When the dishwasher was finally done, I opened it to empty the dishes… and now there were two soap packets on the floor of the dishwasher. One was still semi-intact, the other was fresh as a daisy. 

It is a testament to YOUR calming powers that I did not burst into tears right there. I had some Dire Thoughts, including how I am never again shopping at the appliance store from which we bought our dishwasher (and the horrific, problem-addled fridge). We bought this dishwasher just a few years ago! It should be fine! 

(Okay, maybe “a few years ago” was actually six years ago. But dishwashers should last longer than six years, right? My parents had the same dishwasher the entire 18 years I lived at home with them.)

I mentally ran through what to do next: who repairs dishwashers? Is it the same people who repair the fridge? Could I ask the plumber to look into it? (Probably not.) 

And then I remembered. When I was under the sink, trying to figure out where the leak was coming from, my dad pointed out the valve that goes to the dishwasher… and had me turn it off. 

So basically I ran the dishwasher twice WITH NO WATER. But I was able to turn the valve on very easily and now the dishwasher is running again, this time with water. 

I feel like a dumbass. But a triumphant dumbass. 

Hope you have a happy weekend, Internet. 

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I got an email reminder from the dentist about an upcoming appointment. 

There’s a photo at the top of the email. The photo features three children of varying ages. (WIDELY varying ages, I should say. Two seem to be in their late teens/early twenties and one is the early elementary school age range.) In the photo, it is summer; the children are in shorts and T-shirts. The oldest is holding a dog. The whole thing has a very Stock Image in a Frame You Find at Bed Bath & Beyond vibe.

Who are these children? Why are they in the email? What do they have to do with dentistry in general or my dentist in particular?

* * *

My bank sends me emails every time I pay for something with my debit card. It used to be that the subject line of these emails read something like: Transaction alert. Or: You made a recent transaction.

The other day, I purchased something online. A few minutes later, the bank alert appeared in my inbox. This time, the subject line read: YOU RECENTLY MADE A LARGE TRANSACTION.

THAT was alarming – I had NOT recently made a large transaction; my online purchase was for $38. Had I accidently bought something else? Was there an error from the retail website? Had someone stolen my bank card and used it to buy a bunch of TVs or a Lambourghini?

Nope. The transaction in question was $38. 

Large transaction, bank email? Really? LARGE?

* * *

I went to the bank with Carla before an appointment. We had exactly enough time before the appointment to stop at the drive-through ATM. But the ATM had no cash.

No worries – the bank also has a walk-up ATM. I pulled around the block and into the parking lot, which was full.

It was raining, and I could see a huge line of people approaching the bank and stepping inside. I pulled down the hood of my raincoat, grabbed my umbrella, and splashed through the puddle strewn parking lot. All the people were crammed into the ATM vestibule. Were they waiting for the ATM? What was going on? I peered in and a kindly woman told me they were all waiting to be admitted to the bank, the ATM was free for me to use. I stepped inside and immediately realized I wasn’t wearing a mask! Yipes! “Oh no!” I said to the jam-packed vestibule. “I forgot my mask!”

While I wanted to disappear into the rain, I instead splashed back to my car, grabbed a mask, splashed toward the bank once more, and withdrew the money I needed. But my heart was pounding the whole time. Yes, I’m fully vaccinated, but I still don’t want to jump into a pile of strangers while not wearing a mask. Nor do I want to come across as someone who is okay jumping, maskless, into a pile of strangers. 

* * *

This morning, I dropped Carla off at school. She always waves to me as she’s running into the building. We exchange air kisses and then I drive off. This time, no wave. She looked forlorn. I waved, and, dragged along by the tide of other cars, kept moving toward the exit. I could see her in the rear view mirror. She was in the same spot – now rummaging in her backpack, now talking to a few friends. 

Realization dawned. I made a circle in the parking lot, called to her, and she jumped into the car. We drove back home to get her a mask. 

* * *

I can’t speak to what is going on with the dentist. Like, at all.

Likewise, I don’t really know what’s up with my bank. Maybe they simply want to jar people into opening their emails. Who knows.

But I am more invested in getting to the bottom of the mask stuff. This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that Carla forgot her mask before school. We did have several masks stuffed into the seat-back pocket in my car.  But she’s used those up. And, at one time, we had a bag of extra masks that she kept in her backpack. But I guess we used those masks, too, without replenishing them. 

Are we getting complacent? Are we getting weary? I have no idea, but it’s still jarring, to contemplate being somewhere public without a mask. I still have dreams that are eerily similar to my ATM experience – I’ll be in Target or the grocery store and suddenly realize I’m maskless. The pandemic-era Oh No I’m Naked dream – so it seems like I’m still anxious about mask-wearing. 

The issue with Carla is one thing, I think. At the beginning of the year, we had a whiteboard list of all the things she needed to do before leaving for school: take temperature, eat breakfast, wash dishes, brush teeth, fill water bottle, grab mask. She’d check them off before we left the house. This was, in large part, for my benefit; it was a new routine and I didn’t want to forget anything. Of course I am also trying to give her tools to stay on task and organized, and to help her become more responsible. After awhile, as we got more comfortable with the morning structure, we became less vigilant about checking items off the list. And then, eventually, I felt like the list wasn’t useful anymore so I erased it and replaced it with a more general catalog of To Dos. 

Clearly, we still need the list. Mornings are the worst part of the day, and all my energy is devoted to simply getting out the door on time. I need Carla to be responsible for her own masks. 

When we came home this morning to get her a mask, we also refilled her “extra masks” bag for her backpack, and I am going to put a few extras in my car. I have several masks in my car for me, I guess I just need to remember to bring them when I go in places. So far, the only issue with forgetting has been the ATM experience. 

My problem, maybe, is that I no longer feel the need to wear masks outdoors. (Carla still wears a mask outside; I think she just feels more comfortable that way, and she’s used to wearing a mask all day anyway, and this way she can pet any dog she encounters.) I usually carry one with me, in a pocket or on my wrist, so that I can put it on if we encounter people. But my neighborhood seems to be going more in the mask-free direction, at least outside, and the people we know to stop and talk to have all voluntarily announced they are vaccinated, so I’ve even gotten a little lax about keeping an extra mask on me. Perhaps this is all adding up to a more general carelessness about mask wearing, I don’t know. I suppose I shouldn’t read TOO much into a one-time lapse in maskment. 

* * *

Now that more people are getting vaccinated, and things are “opening up” (whether or not that’s a reasonable thing), wearing a mask seems more controversial than ever. At least in the early days, when we had specific mandates for mask-wearing, it seemed like there was a clear right and wrong. Now that mandates have been lifted and the CDC is issuing less strict guidance around masking, there’s even more tension around wearing or not wearing a mask.

I’ve never really been bothered by the mask wearing. I don’t mind a little extra protection, a little extra anonymity. I get why some people don’t like them. I get that some people find it to be a violation of their rights (I don’t understand that line of thinking, but I understand that people feel that way), and whatever; you do you, boo. I will be over here wearing a mask and avoiding you if at all possible, but let your air holes run free if that’s your priority.

It would be nice, I think, if mask-wearing sticks around in some form for the longterm. People feeling like they could/should wear masks when they have a cold would be beneficial to us all. But right now, it’s all! so! fraught! No matter what you do – mask or no mask – it feels not only like A Specific Choice, but a choice that carries judgement. I wonder if that will ever go away. 

My husband had a cold recently. At a meeting with colleagues, one person said, “We’ve all been vaccinated, so I’m okay if we remove our masks for this meeting.” Everyone agreed. My husband said, “Well, I have a cold, so I’ll keep mine on!” Which, I think, is the right choice. The respectful-of-others choice. But then the rest of his colleagues kept THEIR masks on as well. He is not the fretful type, but just the fact that he told me this story leads me to believe that he fretted a little bit about his role in “making” them wear masks against their will. Did they feel like his choice was a judgement against their choice? Did they do it out of solidarity or respect? Did they figure if he had a cold, they wanted the extra layers of protection their own masks provided? Who knows. It is just all SO FRAUGHT. 

A friend and I sometimes go walking together. We are now both vaccinated. When we walk, we do so outdoors. I keep agitating about whether I should ask if she feels comfortable going maskless on our next walk. But maybe this is a case of it DOES hurt to ask. Would she feel pressured to go maskless, even if she wasn’t comfortable? So far, I haven’t said anything. It’s been too cold and rainy, anyway. 

Carla got sunburned this weekend. Because she was wearing a mask, the sunburn made her look like the Hamburglar and made me feel like of Mother of the Year. I sent a picture to my mother and her response was, “Why was she wearing a mask outside?” 

I explained to her the thing about Carla’s comfort, the thing about the dogs. And we all know that email is notoriously terrible at conveying feeling or intent with any reliable accuracy. But I kept turning her question over in my head. Was she judging me for what she perceived as me making/encouraging Carla to wear a mask outside? 

Why can’t we just be okay with other people’s choices? This is an imperfect analogy, because there’s no potentially-deadly virus involved, but I think we should view masks the way we view any other clothing choice. When it’s 45 degrees outside, and I’m wearing a jacket and you’re wearing a sweater and the other guy is walking around in short sleeves, I’m not feeling anything more than mild interest in our clothing choices. Sure, if it’s freezing and all you have on is a tank top, I might be a little more concerned. But I’d probably think, “Well, she probably works in a really hot workspace and is only outside for a short time…” or “Maybe she forgot her jacket at home…” or (with deep sympathy) “Hot flashes” or “To each her own!” and then go on with my day. We all, for the most part, realize that people have different reactions to/comfort levels with different temperatures. Some people are freezing in a 70-degree office and wrap up in shawls and have their space heaters going, while others keep their windows cracked even in the dead of winter. You might argue over the “correct” setting of the thermostat, but you’re not going to get angry at your colleague for wearing tights and a cardigan to protect her from the summer A/C, and you’re not going to be all judgmental toward your coworker who comes into work in February wearing nothing but a hoodie over his button-down. We are all different and we make different choices.

Sure, there are always well-meaning people who say, “Aren’t you hot in that jacket? You’ll be more comfortable if you take it off.” (“You know, that baby should be wearing socks. She’ll be too cold.”) So perhaps we can never get away from it entirely. But it would be nice to be able to see someone wearing or not wearing a mask and simply think, “Hmm. Not necessarily the choice I’d make in the situation, but it takes all kinds” and move on with our lives.

Of course, this would require everyone else (except those occasional obnoxious busybodies) to take the same approach. So I suppose we’re doomed. 

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What day is it, anyway? I have been off-kilter, day-wise, all week. And I just checked the date and was very surprised that it is somehow the 19th. I guess I think it should be Friday but also only November 15? Well. Time has taken on very strange and malleable properties this year. I should be accustomed to it, by now, but am very clearly NOT.

Last night was a 3:30 a.m. wake up night. I hate nights like that. They happen so frequently that I feel like I should have a better handle on them, or at least know how to get back to sleep. But somehow, in the dark, with the wind doing its best freight train impression outside my window, and the gate shrieking in protest, none of my getting-back-to-sleep techniques occurred to me at all. Instead, my brain decided to first fret extensively about the pandemic and how everything is so much worse than it was in March and yet no one seems to care, and so many people are dying and my loved ones have been spared so far but that extreme good fortune simply cannot hold for much longer. Well. I couldn’t go on thinking about THAT. So I forced my brain to choose a different line of thinking, and it decided to chart exactly how I am a failure, and how I am nearing forty and have not yet finished the book I have been working on for far too many years and how it is now too late and I should just give up in disgrace. Great second choice, brain. You dick.

This is when I pulled up Swistle’s archives on my phone and started reading old pre-Trump, pre-pandemic posts. Very cheerful and soothing. At around 5:00, I fell back to sleep.

That’s when I had a dream about being at some sort of ski resort where four little girls went sailing over a cliff and three of them died in a horrible, violent way. Really, truly gruesome. And in the dream, not only could I do nothing to help, but no one else seemed to register the horrific tragedy that had just happened in front of them, and everyone sort of shrugged and kept on skiing. Thanks, brain. 

So today I am fretful and draggy. Going to walk on the treadmill for a while would probably help, but the act of getting TO the treadmill seems unsurmountable. In terms of productivity level, I score a solid Low. I did have to go to Wal-Mart, for a “contact free” pickup, where I had to wait in a smallish area with another person for the staff member to go get my item. (A present for my niece. She lives in a different state, and I want to wrap her gifts and mail them to her because her mother does not need to wrap extra gifts.) (I do not need to wrap extra gifts either, but I have resigned myself to doing it as I have been doing for several years now. Grim it’s-not-really-as-big-an-imposition-as-it-feels-like face.) (I GET it. Sometimes it just much simpler – and MUCH less expensive! – to order from a website, often with free shipping, and have something shipped directly to your recipient rather than shipping it to your house, wrapping it, then paying to ship it to the recipient. And sometimes gift wrapping isn’t available through online retailers! I totally understand! Occasionally wrapping gifts on behalf of a family member is totally fine!) Then, after eleven minutes of standing around, counting the number of Wal-Mart staff members whose masks covered their mouths but not their noses (final count: 3 of 5), and telling two other staff members who approached me that yes, I was pretty sure I was already being helped, the staff person who’d gone to get items for me and the other shopper returned. He handed the other shopper his item. And then went to a shelf right beside where I was standing and fetched my item. Sigh. Well. I never considered Wal-Mart and efficient to be synonyms.

I was counting the minutes because I needed to get home for my microwave installation. (I made it home in time. And had enough time to wrap my niece’s gift and put it in a box to ship.) Turns out that our old microwave had been installed… badly, is the word I am coming up with. And it’s a good thing a) we never needed it repaired, because the way the previous owners installed it immediately voided the warranty and b) we never had a FIRE. Because they had “installed” it by cutting the wires of the microwave and basically hot-wiring it to the wall. Good times. But! The installation company put in an actual outlet and installed my new microwave correctly and it works and looks basically the same as the old one, so I am pleased. 

(The microwave installation people, by the way, were very nice. They wore masks. I kept the doors open while they were here and also wore a mask. They were gone in about forty minutes. But I asked one of them if they’d been extra busy during the pandemic, you know, just to make awkward conversation, and he said yes, and then went on a [very] little rant about how so many people are going SO OVERBOARD with precautions, and using too much hand sanitizer and wiping everything down, and people just need to chill out a little. Omg.) (After they left, I kept the doors open until the frightful wind started slamming them for me and I also washed my hands and wiped down the entire microwave and everything else they possibly could have touched.) 

What else can I fret to you about?

Oh yes. In Completely NOT Important In The Grand Scheme, Or Even In The Small Scheme, Really, Frets: I am worrying about Santa gifts. 

Let’s take a step back here and offer context: I grew up with Santa. I believed in Santa much longer than most children, in part because my parents were magicians at making Santa gifts appear beneath my watchful eyes, and in part because the magic was so special to me. My parents always gave us gifts, but Santa would give us the big, splashy gifts. A new bike. A Barbie Dream House. A new guitar. A kayak. Skis. (These were not all gifts for me, but various big Santa gifts I remember various members of my family getting over the year.) Anyway, they were the most exciting gifts. And it was such a delight to venture into our living room and see all these fabulous things that Santa had managed to sneak down our chimney. I have always sort of thought of Carla’s Santa gifts the same way. Santa got her a play kitchen one year. Santa brought her a Barbie Dream House a couple of years ago. Big, splashy gifts that really wow her.

My husband did not have the same experience growing up. He has never seen the gifts for Carla as “Santa gives the big gift,” but more along the lines of, it makes more sense to have a Barbie Dream House appear as from nowhere on Christmas morning rather than sit, wrapped, under the tree. And while we have discussed our different views on Santa gifts, and have very carefully said to one another that we know our own personal experience is not The One True Way, neither have we come up with a Defined Way to proceed.

With that context in mind:

As I mentioned in the Gift Guide post, we were planning on getting Carla a sewing machine for Christmas. In my mind, this was going to be her Big Gift from Santa.

But this year, another family member also had the idea to get Carla a sewing machine. And it’s a very generous gift, and very appropriate from this person. But now I am agonizing over giving up our “claim” on the sewing machine because a) now what does SANTA get for Carla? and b) what if the sewing machine doesn’t get here on time? Because this person has a lot going on this year, some very out-of-the-ordinary things that are occupying a lot of time and energy… Plus… even in normal years, this person has a very spontaneous, last-minute type of personality and gifts often arrive the day of a birthday/holiday/event or, sometimes, after the fact. In a year when shipping times and product availability are unreliable, I admit that I am extra concerned about gifts arriving in a timely manner. (That doesn’t give a lot of credit to the family member, I know, which is unfair.)

This is good practice in serenity and flexibility, isn’t it? I can only control my own actions, I cannot control the actions of others. Carla does not know she is supposed to get a sewing machine; she has not even asked for one. So if it doesn’t work out for Christmas this year, we could always get one for her next Christmas, or for her birthday. It will be fine. And, of course, Christmas is not ABOUT presents. It is about family togetherness, and the joy and satisfaction of generosity, and gratitude for all the blessings in our lives. (Yes, I realize Christmas foremost has significant religious meaning, but we are not particularly religious so it is much more of a secular holiday around here.)

And yet the anxious, catastrophize-y part of me is worrying and worrying this not-really-a-problem-problem to death, because I feel like there is tremendous extra pressure to Make Christmas Special this year. What if this is our last Christmas on earth? my doom-and-gloomful brain intones mournfully. What if one or all of us get sick and die and this is our final Christmas together? I realize, fully, that EVERY Christmas has the potential to be our last Christmas because terrible things happen all the time. But that very cheering reminder that this year is, in fact, no different from any other is not as comforting as one would hope.  Instead, it has plunged me deeper into despair and ignited within me a desire to counter that despair with retail therapy. A fleeting and overall ineffective therapy, yet a very appealing one. Except I don’t know what Big Splashy Gift to buy in place of a sewing machine, and I don’t know that I can get my husband on board even if I find one. 

I feel stupid and petty, stressing about these very inconsequential and privileged things when there are so many BIGGER and MORE IMPORTANT things to stress about. But that’s what this is, right? At least partly, it’s a reaction to how helpless I feel about everything else going on in the world. I am trying to regain control over my own little corner, and even that is proving difficult. 

I cannot be the only one wasting energy and angst on ridiculous things, right? RIGHT?

Okay, while you tell me about the inconsequential (or very consequential!) frets you are having right now, I am going to try to climb out of the pit of despair I have mired myself in. Or maybe take a nap.

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My microwave broke, so I had to buy a new one.

That sentence right there conveys absolutely none of the dismay and panic I felt. Plus, it makes it sound like the microwave just up and expired, all by its lonesome, when really I BROKE IT. I BROKE MY MICROWAVE. DURING A PANDEMIC.

Yesterday, I opened the microwave to remove something I’d heated and THE DOOR BROKE. Right there in my hand. The bottommost panel of the microwave door, right beneath the handel, separated from the rest of the door. And the door would no longer close and also started to feel quite loose on its hinge.

Listen, I am already dealing with an Ongoing Refrigerator Saga, which I will probably tell you about at some point but which causes me TORRENTIAL FRUSTRATION, and I cannot – CANNOT – deal with fiddling around with another appliance. The fridge is too costly to replace (if I even could, during a pandemic, when appliances are in SHORT SUPPLY) and also, it – SO FAR – maintains the minimum functions required of a fridge, like “holding food” and “cooling things” and “producing ice.” This could change at any moment, I recognize, and I am fervently grateful for the second fridge we have downstairs. (Yes, yes, these are Not Problems type of problems, I am aware.)

(Side Vent: In the nine years we have occupied this house, we have bought a new fridge and oven/range, replaced the dishwasher, the washer and dryer, three faucets [kitchen, bathroom, laundry room], a shower head, the water heater, two trees, and a toilet. We should also possibly replace the windows. And now the microwave. And also the fridge sucks and if I had a spare $$$ lying around I would definitely replace that. I am grateful that a) this didn’t happen all at once and b) we had the means to do so without significant financial strain, but OMG is this normal??? I have never owned a house before so maybe gradually replacing everything is just what it means to be a homeowner but it seems like a lot!)

Anyway. Speaking of Not Problems problems. No one needs a microwave. I mean, I guess if you live in a house with no other means of heating your food, then a microwave is a necessity. So I will backtrack and say: I personally do not need a microwave. It is a nicety. A luxury appliance. But nonetheless, I have always been in possession of a microwave and therefore much of my cooking/eating life has been arranged around the fact of a working microwave. For instance, my daughter eats pancakes that I microwave for her almost every morning. (Yes, I could make pancakes from scratch every morning, as Carla and my inner Snarky Pinterest Mom so helpfully and logically pointed out, but I am not going to do that.) We can survive without a microwave. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t have a microwave, after all, and, in fact, would look askance – deeply askance – at me for my microwave dependency. 

And yet I went to my local appliance store this morning, ten minutes before it opened, for the express purpose of buying a new microwave. 

I have heard rumblings about the appliance shortages that have arisen during the pandemic. And let me tell you, this is REAL. Even though it is a random Monday, and even though I had arrived ten minutes early, I was only the fifth or so person inside the store, and the parking lot was filling up behind me. There were no available salespeople on the floor when I went in; they were all talking to customers. So I stood there stupidly, trying to project an air of I Should Be Helped Next as another customer entered the store and made her way to the part of the store where additional staff members were busily not looking at us. 

Near me was a customer looking at dishwashers. “I really recommend you get one of the machines we have in stock here in the store,” the salesperson was telling her apologetically. “Otherwise, it could be at least six to eight weeks before you get yours.” 

I looked toward the checkout area, a long desk at the far end of the showroom behind which are several offices with doorless doorways that open into the showroom itself. I was staring because not a single one of the six or seven people in those offices was wearing a mask. This included two people who were in the showroom, talking on the phone. I had a moment of panic – I should leave, right? How can they not be wearing masks? Have they not heard about the pandemic? But… there was a sign on the door saying masks were required, so… perhaps they don’t understand that staff should wear masks, too?

“… yep, already full and people staring at me,” said the unmasked salesman into the phone, making eye contact with me. Then, as the woman who’d come in behind me made a beeline for him, he hung up and pointed at me. “How can I help you?”

Staying where I was, in the middle of the store, while he put on a mask, I called to him that I needed a new microwave. He made some pretense of showing me the microwave floor models, mumbling all the while that he didn’t think they had any of these ones, or these ones… and then he kind of threw up his hands and said, “crazy, crazy times” and we quickly returned to his computer station where he looked up whether he actually had any microwaves in stock. 

This is where I told him that I’d looked on the store’s website, which had claimed to have a specific GE model in stock. We would take that one, I said. He typed on his keyboard. Then he went into the back to look at what was available.

He returned, shaking his head. “I don’t have any of that model in stock,” he said. “I can sell you one, and order it, but honestly, I have no earthly idea when it will arrive. We aren’t even getting estimates for timeframes anymore. I could do the same with a Whirlpool microwave, but honestly, they’re even worse than GE.”

Was I going to have to go somewhere else to buy a microwave? Would Best Buy or Home Depot have any better selection? I was starting to feel anxious about the possibility – this store is close to my house and has a relationship with a reputable installation service and we’ve used them for ALL our appliances, so I feel comfortable with them. Plus, I like supporting a local company. But now I pictured schlepping all over town trying to find a stupid microwave that wouldn’t take an indefinite amount of time to arrive, being turned away from store after store by harried staff members trying to fight against the desperate crush of appliance-hungry customers. 

“I mean, we probably do have a few options here in the store, but they start getting really expensive.”

Turns out, internet, I would rather go without a microwave than spend $800 on one. I kind of stared at the salesman, thinking about my new, austere, microwave-free lifestyle. Perhaps I would write a book about it. A how-to guide of sorts: MicroWAVE Your Old Food Heating Habits Goodbye. Maybe I would need to buy a toaster oven. Could I really see myself becoming a Toaster Oven Person?

He interpreted my reverie as pleading, and kept typing. I have no idea what he was doing. He could have been making a grocery list. Or writing his own tell-all about the Great Appliance Panic of 2020. Maybe he was journalling. “November 16, 2020: Dear Diary. Another day of people needing new refrigerators. Why have all the refrigerators in the country simultaneously failed? Another day of my colleagues pretending that there is a forcefield separating the air of the offices from the air of the showroom. Another day of customers looking at me as though they can manifest a non-existent appliance through the power of staring.”

Miraculously, through the magic of my unfocused stare, he discovered that he had, in the warehouse, a very basic GE that would work as a replacement for my microwave. “It doesn’t do much more than heat,” he said regretfully. “But there is a button to stop the turntable from turning if you want that.” (Why would I want that? Why would anyone want that? Isn’t giving your leftover soup a spin around the ol’ heat carousel the whole point of a microwave?)

“Great,” I told him, microwave relief flooding me. “I am fine with basic.” I need a microwave that can heat my food and maybe act as a timer, that’s it. What kind of functions are these $800 microwaves performing that are so much better? Setting the table? Complimenting your cooking? Chewing the food for you? Heat the food. Beep when it’s done. That’s all I need from a microwave. 

The salesman gestured to the floor model of the microwave he’d located so I could examine it, check the price, etc. “It’s fine,” I said, giving it a cursory glance to ensure it wasn’t $800 (turns out it was even less than the option I’d scouted online), and handing over my credit card with the barely controlled panic of someone finding the country’s very last Tickle Me Elmo on Christmas Eve during a year when Tickle Me Elmo is the Country’s Hottest Toy. 

“I’m just glad you had something to sell me,” I told him. 

“It’s been utter pandemonium,” he told me. “You should see it in here on Saturdays. It’s like we’re throwing a big party or having the year’s biggest sale. Every. Saturday.”

He shook his head. “And it’s getting even busier, even though the COVID numbers keep rising. And a lot of the people we see? Are real old folks.” Here he pointed over my shoulder at the woman who’d come in behind me. “She’s no spring chicken,” he said. “Well, I’m not either. But you have to wonder, what are they doing?”

He went on: “This pandemic has been so hard on everyone. Well,” he reconsidered. “Not on us. This is our best year ever.” The way he said it – coupled with the purple hollows under his eyes – didn’t really sell me on the “best” part of his sentence. I really hope he and his fellow salespeople get significant bonuses for dealing with all these people clambering over one another to get their grubby paws on the last available electric range, that’s for sure.

He was able to schedule the installation of my new microwave/removal of my old microwave (which means I will have another human in my house later this week, yikes) and took my payment. I didn’t get to take the microwave with me – the installation company will pick it up from the warehouse and bring it to me on Thursday. Frankly, it made me a little uncomfortable to leave without it in my room temperature hands. I kept waiting for someone – No Spring Chicken, perhaps – to swoop in and buy it out from under me. I guess we’ll see, come Thursday, whether I actually bought a microwave or some stainless steel air.

All in all, I was in and out of there in twenty minutes flat. Then I came home and reheated leftovers on the stove for lunch because that is a perfectly reasonable, if more time consuming, way to reheat things. 

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