Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Eight Things in a Duffle Bag

Hey it's the middle of June. What happened to May? And April? I must have been really busy at work, because I sure wasn't posting my crazy theories on a Lost message board. That'd just be silly. Why would you even think that?

Two pretty major events happened last week. If you've read Schprock's latest post, you know the first one, which I'll go into a bit more detail on later. The other thing that happened was I was tagged by Trinamick, and you don't mess with someone who can survive a fall trough a ceiling. It only makes them mad. So here are eight things about me, specifically, eight things that I should probably tell a doctor but never do. It's nothing major, but on the other hand, we all know what happens when you take the wait-and-see approach.

1. Sometimes when I chew or even if I'm just lying down, my jaw unhinges. Usually on the right side, but it's happened to both. It pops right back in after opening and closing my mouth a few times, but it always freaks me out. I always think the most recent time will finally be the one when it doesn't go back in, and my jawbone will protrude out of the side of my head under my ear, and I get all nervous until it sets back in place.

2. Occasionally one of my toes gets locked in the downward position, so it's pointing straight down and all the others are facing forward. That hurts like hell. It only happens when I'm not wearing shoes, when I'm putting on or taking off a pair of socks, or if I'm lying down and stretch out my legs. That's two bad things now that happen when I'm lying on my back. If you throw in the sleep paralysis, it would seem I'd be better off staying upright as much as possible. But I still say that apartment had some creepy evil mojo, because "things trying to eat my soul in my sleep" thing hasn't happened since we moved out of there.

3. Breaded or starchy foods, which pretty much makes up the entire gamut of what I eat, occasionally cause my throat to close up, which is usually followed by a fun half hour to forty-five minutes of hovering over the toilet spitting up long strings of saliva. The culprit is most frequently a dinner roll or fish that I either swallowed to fast or were eaten before I had a drink. One time at an outdoor restaurant in New Hampshire, it was french toast. That was a fun vacation. To Jose's infinite amusement, I explained this particular malady during an emotional and inexplicably angry tirade I apparently went on at a party in college, after downing nearly a whole bottle of evil, evil Goldschlager. Hey that reminds me, I never finished the second part of my college story I started three or four years ago. I'm a champ when it comes to procrastinating.

4. There's a pizza place down near our old office. You may remember they tried to rip me off a few years ago. Well, the first year I started working here, I used to go there a few times a week for lunch. It's a small place with only a couple of booths, and most people get their orders to go rather than eat in the cramped little space. Above one of the booths was a coming attractions poster for Dead Man on Campus a movie no one saw that came out at least two years earlier. No one knows why it was hanging there by the door at Rome pizza, but I'll never forget the day I was sitting in that booth and an albino guy with an alarmingly high voice sat down with me and started talking. I don't remember what he was saying, because I was trying my damnedest not to stare and trying to figure out why anyone, let alone a high-voiced, honest-to-God albino with pink eyes and everything would slide into an occupied booth and strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. That was really awkward. I guess that's not really something I would tell a doctor, but I ran out of those. I could have sworn I had more.

5. Last week, after Brianna went to bed, I was watching TV with Michele and just before 10 o'clock. we heard three loud shots come from outside the window followed by the sound of a car speeding off. The shades where down most of the way, but from where I was sitting I saw flashes that corresponded with each shot. We jumped up and ran upstairs to look out the bedroom window. It was scary. Michele had me check on Brianna. she was still asleep. A few minutes later a K-9 patrol car drove down the street past our townhouse beyond view. We started to get more worried, but the lights and sirens were off, so we weren't sure what that meant. I kept looking out the window, and about ten to fifteen minutes later, the police car drove away again. And once again, no lights or sirens. Even so, I figured even if no one was injured at the very least what we heard were warning shots. Something serious was about to go down in our little housing development.

The next morning, I walked over to the side of the house to see if I could find any clues as to what happened the night before. From far away I saw what looked like shattered glass all over the pavement, but when I got closer I discovered that it was just dead pine needles. But I did find what I was looking for. A few feet away there was a hollow cardboard tube surrounded by powder. The tube had "Triple Bangs" written out it. That explains the three shots. The night before when I was hiding out by the upstairs window, I called my mom, and she said it was probably someone setting off fireworks. But it didn't sound like the usual kind, the bottle rocket kind that shoot up into the air and make a fizzle sound before they pop. People set those off around here from June to mid-July. I don't see the point, though. They're illegal in this state, which means you have to go across the border to New Hampshire to get them. Not that it's a particularly long our dangerous journey, but the lame little fizzle hardly seems worth the effort.

The whole thing made me feel a little uncomfortable with myself. There are only about forty black people in Weymouth, and thirty-nine of them live in my housing development. Does the fact that I automatically assumed it was gunshots reveal some latent racism? Probably not. I think anyone hearing three loud shots at night and seeing a car speeding away would make the logical jump that someone just got shot. And anyway, I'd rather live next to black people than creepy high-voiced albinos any day. Nothing personal, High-voiced Albino Guy. You just give me night terrors.

6. I lied earlier. I really was posting crazy theories on a Lost message board. I don't even know how it started, it jut sort of happened. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. I thought I'd be able to get back to the blog when the season ended on May 23, but then I got some new big projects at work and it got harder and harder to find time to get back to blogging. If it makes you feel any better, they didn't mean anything to me and I was thinking of you the whole time.

7. Way back in March, I started to write about the seemingly unrelated weekend deaths of comedian Richard Jeni and Boston frontman Brad Delp. I was going to title it "Ssssmokin" since Boston had a song called Smokin and Jeni was in The Mask, but then thought maybe it would be in poor taste and let it drop. Which may be for the best because I wanted to contrast the two deaths by examining how one gave up on life and the other had life give up on them, and as we found out a few days later, Delp took his own life as well. Boy would my face have been red! Anyway, all this time later I still actually feel guilty. Richard Jeni shot himself in the face. I didn't really know much about the guy. I'd heard of him, I knew he was a comedian, but I didn't know any of his jokes. He was number 57 on Comedy Central's list of 100 Greatest Stand-up Comics, so I guess he was pretty good. But all I really knew him from was as the sidekick from The Mask. Now I can't watch that movie, because the whole time I'm just going to be thinking, "That guy shot himself in the face!" The movie's ruined for me.

I feel guilty because a guy died and all I can think of is now I can't watch a movie because I'll just be thinking about how the guy killed himself. Plus, maybe if I knew more about him apart from, "That guy from The Mask, he wouldn't have felt the need to kill himself. You can never really be sure of the motives people have for killing themselves, but you have to wonder if it's because they were sort-of famous but never really made it big. And it's sad, because were things really that bad? Wikipedia actually has a whole category of actors who committed suicide, and, weirdly enough, a sub-category of porn stars who committed suicide.

Just the day before, the Metro had a picture of Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, at the top of the entertainment page, next to a few lines about that night's performance by Brad Delp's Beatles cover band, Beatle Juice. He was supposed to perform that night, but died before the show. Of course at the time, it was a mystery. He'd been heading Beatle Juice for years, he had a fiancee that he was going to marry this summer and even a new Boston tour and album coming up. The guy was allegedly a health nut and didn't even drink. In fact, I actually learned the word teetotaler from his obituary and having to go look it up. So the idea that someone like that could just drop dead was somewhat unnerving. When the news came in that he'd died of asphyxiation by locking himself in the bathroom with gas grills, well that made even less sense. I wonder why he couldn't see all he had to live for?

8. Which brings us to number eight. Last winter, the looming deadline set forth by John T's prickly blonde tormentor, Ms. Smith, nearly tore our little office apart. The air grew thick and tempers grew short. Shouting matches became more frequent, as did longer hours, and Ms. Smith's own pilgrimages to our office. And each time she blackened our door, she likewise blackened our spirits. Blackened to the pitch of her black, black heart.

I was lucky enough not to deal directly with her, my own experience with her came the previous year when I was designing a schoolbook catalog for her. It was for Oklahoma teachers and featured several images contained within the outline of Oklahoma. She didn't like the way it fit on the page; it wasn't filling the space like the New York cover did. Her solution was to stretch out Oklahoma so it looks like a pot instead of a pan. I did what she said because she's the boss, but this thing was going to teachers. I think they might notice that their state is shaped wrong.

Anyway, with this project as with most of her work, John T and Joe managed the bulk of it. But the effects were felt just the same and I got the overflow of all the other jobs that would have went to them if they weren't working on this huge project. Everyone was on edge and threats of quitting were not uncommon. I was held in the unwinnable situation of either going home at five and getting dirty looks from those left behind, or staying late and suffering the wrath of Michele, who insisted family comes first, especially when we don't even get paid overtime. I was the only one with an eight year old at home. One night Joe huffed that he worked plenty of late nights when his children were young. Yeah, guess what, he also got divorced, so he's not quite the model to strive for. No matter what I did, someone was going to be mad at me, I just had to decide who I wanted to piss off on any given day. Money was tight, tensions were high, and wispy Ms. Smith, at the center of it all, didn't even have the common courtesy to eat the bowl of fruit my boss laid on the table for her. She was a vegan, but not the granola, hairy armpits type. She was extremely conservative, and actually stated that she didn't like animals. Apparently her disdain for all creatures great and small may have been so potent that she didn't even want animals anywhere near her body, including on her plate. But she wore leather, so it's more likely that she didn't eat any solid foods in general.

We got a brief but welcome break from her when passed out, in a grocery store of all places, and was taken to the hospital for dehydration and exhaustion. But she checked herself out a few days later and, while not quite at the velocity as before, was back to her charming old self.

During those tumultuous months, the strangest thing happened. Ms. Smith had Joe running ragged. Some days she'd actually be in his office with him all day, hovering over his desk and monitoring everything he did. One day she caught him working on a file for another client and she walked into our boss's office to say he "wasn't focused." While her scathing comments in the margins of her edits were usually directed at John T, her purest vitriol was reserved for Joe. Oddly enough, Joe was her favorite person here. In her eyes, Joe was the only one who could do anything right, and the rest of us were stumbling idiots trying not to choke on our own drool. So her nastiness towards Joe could have been a form of "tough love". She wanted Joe to make all the edits to the brochure, even though he was extremely busy and they were just text edits that a monkey could do. If anyone else worked on her project, she was not to know about it. As the weeks went on, Joe became less irritating, loud and stupid, and almost sympathetic. Maybe it was because he no longer had time to be irritating, loud and stupid trying to appease Ms. Smith's every tyrannical whim, but I started to feel bad for Joe. The poor guy. That's the power Ms. Smith yields.

I drew a picture of her, which was actually just the Grinch, hunched over with a sack slumped over her back, and added some blonde hair under the cap and replaced the Grinch's Santa coat with the black-and-white-horizontal-striped, knee-length coat she often wore to the office, that made her look like a Dr. Seuss character anyway. I'd planned on writing this post much earlier than now, but I lost the Grinch picture I wanted to go with it and like so many others, I never got around to writing it.

The original due date for her project was just before Thanksgiving, but it was pushed back to December 22. She continued to make edits, seemingly for the sake of making them. One night after we sent her a round, she said she'd read through it and send us the edits in the morning. This is what we expected would be the final round, and she's already anticipating another round of edits before she even reads what was sent. All of us were in the office the Friday night before Christmas Eve, even our boss. Ms. Smith was off-site, faxing and emailing edits as fast as we were sending her revisions. Or rather, John T was doing that, having come in early that morning and staying well past eleven PM. My part was to collect the files that had been approved and burn them onto DVDs. We finished after ten, and went home for a week of relaxation, with the nightmare finally behind us.

But no. Ms. Smith was not happy. Like a blonde, designer-bag wearing Scrooge, she expected at least some contingent of our company to be diligently working the next morning, a Saturday, and Christmas Eve no less, even though the files were sent off to her company. Which was the initial plan all along, by the way. The files were supposed to be in their hands regardless of the status and they would make any additional edits themselves. So she wrote a nasty letter to my employer, and there was a bit of a falling out.

We hadn't heard from her or her company in months, and as expected, without her to draw sympathy to Joe, he's back to his old annoying self. He may even be more annoying now. She did contact my boss a few months ago and all but apologized for what is commonly referred to as "throwing us under the bus." So it was several months after the fact. Better late than never, right? Cut to last Thursday. My boss breaks the news that Ms. Smith was found dead in her house. She was 33, like Jesus. But unlike Jesus, she was a horrible bitch. Everyone's saying how, deep down, she was a good person and they feel bad. I ALWAYS feel bad when someone dies, whether I knew them or not, regardless of who they were. But I feel no sorrow for Ms. Smith. I feel terrible for her family, and I feel bad that I don't feel bad, but she was just an awful person and I'm sure she was somehow responsible for her own death.

I think she may have killed herself. For each of the past five years, she's held a different job at a different company, burning bridges everywhere she went. Prior to her most recent job, she was fired from a major publishing company. Her story, of course, was that she quit. And while that is technically true, she just beat them to the punch. If she hadn't had her next job lined up, she would have been shown the door. Her entire life revolved around her work. She stayed in her office well past midnight, micromanaged everything to the last excruciating detail. If anything you could say that she had a passion and dedication to her work, which could be seen as admirable, but look where it got her. That night we all stayed late before Christmas, my boss told us stories, possibly rumors, about Ms. Smith. He said during meetings sometimes she would go into the bathroom and come back out with red, watery eyes. Sometimes she'd just break down and cry. It's clear that she was not very happy, so it wouldn't be a shock if she killed herself.

Even if it wasn't intentional, she could have literally worked herself to death. The schedule she kept wasn't given to her by her superiors, it was self-imposed. For some reason she was trying to prove something to herself, as if sleep was a weakness. Her fainting scene in the rice cake isle was a huge red flag. If she'd heeded her doctor's warnings and lightened her schedule a bit, maybe she'd still be here to torment us next Christmas. Instead she joked about it, and although her parents gave her a curfew and took away her Blackberry to keep anything like that from happening again, she didn't let it stop her. It's very likely that her heart just stopped, especially since they're saying that she died of natural causes. I'd like to say again that it doesn't matter what I thought of her, but my heart goes out to her family. I heard that her father discovered her body. That is truly tragic.

If sleeping was a sign of weakness to her, then surely eating was raising the white flag. While not completely skeletal, she was very thin and more people have seen Bigfoot than have seen Ms. Smith with food in her mouth. She could have very well been anorexic, and that's what killed her.

There were also whispers that Ms. Smith, who never smoked or touched alcohol in her life (hey, I get to say teetotaler twice in the same post) was secretly a coke fiend. I don't know how much I believe that, but it explains an awful lot if she was.

Whatever the reason, she's dead now. The wake was last night, and Joe said he was going to go, because for whatever reason she seemed to like him. This morning I asked him if it was an open casket and he said it was. John M asked how she looked. Joe told him she looked a little fuller. When he clomped away, Amy called me over to her desk and asked if John T told me to ask that. I told her he didn't and wasn't really sure why she'd even ask that. Are you ready for this one? Apparently, John T did go last night, and Ms. Smith was cremated. Joe! Why? Why does that guy have to lie about everything?! So now we all know that he's blatantly lying about going to the wake last night, but no one's let him in on it yet. Of all the lies he's been caught in, this might be the best.