Monthly Archives: July 2010

&$%*@# Renton!

I confirmed two things yesterday:

1.  My redheaded temper is still in top form.
2.  I have fully inherited my father, Warren’s, road rage (sorry, Pops!).

It all began innocently enough.  Mike and I agreed to house-sit in Kennydale (north of Renton), and so we drove there after work.  Correction: “we” didn’t drive there together.  Mike had to drop a friend at the airport first, so I suggested he go straight to Kennydale afterward.

That was my first mistake.

I didn’t do the math to realize that would leave me without a carpool buddy going south on I-405 at 4:45PM.  Was I delusional?  On bad drugs?  Had I just returned from the funny farm?

So there I sat in the parking lot of I-405, inching past Bellevue at a pace that would make a sloth bang his head against the wheel.

I’ll be the first to admit that about half the time I am in this scenario I take the carpool even though it is illegal.  My theory on this is that everyone wins:  I am flying down the freeway, and everyone in the slow lanes has one fewer car to sit behind.  See?  Winners!

But yesterday I didn’t have the cojones necessary for breaking the law, so I just sat in my slow lane.  I was mildly annoyed, but I wasn’t going insane about the traffic because at least I had AC, I told myself.

Then, about seven miles from my destination, my gas light turned on.  I am notorious for waiting until my gas light goes on before I get gas.  It aligns perfectly with my thriftiness; why spend money now when I can spend it later as my car forces me to?  To this day I’ve never run out.

I saw a Chevron sign on exit six, but decided to get off at my exit and then drive around until I found a station.  This was perfectly logical because my exit had an abundance of stores and marketplaces.  Surely there would be a gas station.

I got off at my exit and began driving through the town looking for a gas station.  I rounded the major mall area — nothing.  I headed straight into downtown — nothing.  I drove a little outside of town — nothing.  I felt the heat in my face start to rise as I went down what I like to call, “The Warren Trail of Logic.”  It goes as such: “Who would design a city off of a major interstate highway and not include a gas station within a five-mile radius?  What kind of idiots at the Shell Station looked at this city and said, ‘no, thanks, we’ll pass’?”

The trick about the Warren Trail of Logic is that it fills the user with such intellectual superiority that it becomes impossible not to be filled with an indignant rage at everyone else’s incompetency.

I couldn’t deny that none of this would normally bother me if it hadn’t taken me 40 minutes to go 15 miles.

At this point I decided someone else should be in misery with me.  You have one guess as to who received a phone call with an opening line like this:

“I need you to do WHATEVER it takes to find me a freaking gas station IN RENTON.”  Remember: Renton is the enemy.

Poor Mike scrambled to pull up a map on his phone, but alas, no signal.  Renton strikes again.

I looked at the gas light.  I looked at the stop light that hadn’t changed in three minutes.  I began mentally composing a scathing letter to the Renton city planners.

It occurred to me that I didn’t actually have anywhere to be, so why the anger?  But then I remembered the Warren Trail of Logic.  It shouldn’t matter that I am not on a schedule.  The gas station should still be there.

Mike advised me to cruise along the road parallel to the freeway, because that’s where most gas stations reside.  This sounded perfectly Logical, so I took his advice.

Except that I failed to remember:  if one is already employing the Trail of Logic and adds more logic to an illogical situation, disaster is sure to follow.

Or maybe just rage.  But usually disaster (see: Warren putting together falsely logical Christmas gifts).

There were no gas stations along the freeway.  Not for miles.  At this point it’s occurring to me how absurd it is that I don’t swear.  I really believe swearing is the most banal form of expression, but sitting in a car shouting “darn it” and “frickin'” just doesn’t have the same catharsis as…well, you know.

I decided for the sake of my blood pressure to concede, get back on the freeway and go back to the exit with the clearly marked Chevron sign.  But I didn’t go quietly (see previous paragraph, and use your imagination).

I called Mike to let him know his hysterical wife was still hysterical.  In the blur of road rage I managed to spit out, “I know it’s my fault for not filling it sooner, but HONESTLY this is AMERICA.  Where is the GAS?!”

I think I concluded by saying, “I just want to punch someone in the face and then drink myself to sleep!”  I told you that disaster was imminent.

To be fair, I didn’t find out I had cancer, I didn’t get in a fatal car accident, and I didn’t go blind.  In the scheme of things, this was not a bad day.  But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY — ALL I WANTED WAS FUEL.

And thanks to the Warren Trail of Logic and a kind hubby, I got some.  Lesson learned.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

I’m Searching for the Word that means “Honored AND Embarrassed.”

This was Monday night at a ceremony honoring my mom as Bellevue’s Volunteer of the Year.  She had no idea anyone knew about the event, so when 25 of her nearest and dearest showed up, she was totally pissed (in a good way).

I’m pretty sure the city council meeting hasn’t seen this much action in, well, its existence.  I’m also pretty sure it was unprecedented when all of us virtually emptied the room after her item on the agenda concluded.  There was audible laughter as we all scampered out of the room before the mayor could begin the discussion on traffic congestion on 4th Avenue.

We high-tailed it to John Howie Steak House to raise a glass to a woman who quietly works to improve the lives of the disadvantaged.  Let’s emphasize the “quietly;” she was mortified to be recognized.  And she’ll be just as mortified that I mentioned her here.

Sorry, Mom, but you ARE the Volunteer of the Year.  The cat’s officially out of the bag anyway.

In case you’re interested in the speech that was read to introduce her:

The City of Bellevue Volunteer of the Year Award is designed to recognize volunteers who have not only made a significant contribution to the community or to an individual, but have also gone above and beyond the call of duty, shown leadership, innovation, creativity, collaboration and partnering.

Tonight we are honoring the City of Bellevue Community Volunteer of the Year, Alyson McMurtry, who serves at the Jubilee REACH Center.

The Jubilee REACH Center provides community based programs to meet the needs of the diverse and underserved Lake Hills Community of Bellevue, Washington. All services at the JRC are offered free of charge and rely heavily on volunteer support. The Jubilee REACH Center serves families and individuals in the Lake Hills community regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnicity.

Alyson started a no-cost English-as-Second-Language Program (ESL) with 5 adult students in a church Sunday school basement room.  The program has grown to 186 students, 53 volunteers and operates 4 days a week in 7 classrooms.

Building close relationships with their students, Alyson and her volunteers saw deeper needs and connected students to support services at Jubilee REACH Center.  As a result of her efforts, her  ESL students received free dental and medical care, counseling, legal assistance, Christmas gifts, rent and utility assistance, eye glasses, computer classes and computers, before school childcare, after school care, job search help, parenting classes, exercise classes and winter coats.

Furthermore, Alyson has given untold hours as an active volunteer at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue and throughout the Bellevue community. Among other accomplishments she has:

  • coordinated preparation and serving of annual Thanksgiving Dinner for 450 neighbors for 10 years;
  • served on the Hunger Ministry, feeding hungry Bellevue neighbors;
  • coordinated the Alternative Gift Market, raising money for local underserved families and the poorest people of the world; and
  • taught English at Hopelink for 5 years.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Mind if I Smoke?

I am currently enjoying a summer fling.

No, I have not abandoned my hubby — our life-long fling is still in effect.  Instead I have discovered a television show that is so compelling I find myself unable to stop thinking about it after each episode concludes.

This is not normal for me.  I do not watch TV (except Bravo, and shamefully, Oprah. But we’ve already addressed that).  Whenever a new series debuts on TV and the Emmys start rolling in, the only thing I’m rolling is my eyes.  I just can’t commit to the melodramas and endless plotlines.  Case in point:  I’ve never watched “Lost.”  I realize that admission alone just cost me ten readers.

The show that sucked me in?  Mad Men.  There are no words.

Wait, yes there are:  stylish, witty, dramatic, classic, well-written, visually stimulating.  Oh, and alcohol-soaked.  The drinking on this show is unparalleled.

Plus helllllooooooooooo, even the President loves it.  Which immediately begs the question: does the President like Old Fashioneds?

Don Draper certainly does.  And why not when you can drink in the middle of the day at the office?  Boy, that was a brutal client meeting…who needs some whiskey?

All I have to say is why did this become taboo?  There are no drink carts in my workplace.

Another beyond fabulous thing about Mad Men is the style.  The second-skin dresses and the ultra-wide bell skirts.  Take a look at two of the show’s best characters, Joan and Betty:

Need I say more?

To watch the women on this show is both horrifying and a total fantasy.  They are constantly discarded and humiliated by the men they encounter who see them as nothing more than well-proportioned mannequins.  On the other hand, these women live like queens.  They get fancy Manhattan condos from their working husbands, houses in the country for summers, and they have nothing to do all day but look gorgeous and make sure dinner is prepared by the time the hubby walks in the door.

Forgive me, but that sounds like a walk in the park.

The one thing I cannot get over is the sheer number of cigarettes consumed at all hours of the day.  Cigarettes in bed!  Cigarettes while pregnant!  Cigarettes in airplanes!  No one on this show can complete a thought without lighting up.  Living in Seattle, a city where no one can smoke indoors anywhere, it’s the strangest thing in the world to watch.

Quick!  Count the number of ciggies in this picture!

Given all of this 1960’s behavior, I thought I should go straight to the source to verify its validity.

My maternal grandparents confirmed that this show is not stretching the truth.  For one, both my grandparents smoked for most of their lives.  By the time I was born they had quit, but that ended a 50-year habit.  I like to picture my grandma as Betty Draper, stirring dinner on the stove while trying not to get any ash in the soup.

My paternal grandparents were abstainers; they never smoked.  However, my grandma did identify with the 1960’s regard for safety — her kids sat in the backseat of the car without a seat belt, and no one thought twice about it.

The funny thing about watching Don and Betty interact is that despite being married for 11 years, they are incredibly formal with each other.  She brings him a martini after work, she makes him two-course dinner with candlelight, and he compliments her.  There are a thousand things that remain unspoken, so the non-communication isn’t appealing, but the old-fashioned glamour is.  In today’s world, most women don’t play second fiddle to their husbands, nor wear a dress every day for him, nor do they cook every meal for him.  Normally all of that makes me cringe, but watching it play out forces me to realize there is something charming and desirable about going back to that, if only occasionally.

Case in point:  the other day I thought I’d play Betty Draper just for fun, since I got home before Mike did.  I started cooking dinner and when he walked in the door I brought him a beer.  At first he looked shocked, then suspicious, like it was a trick his clever wife was playing.  But then, when he looked really happy without any Don Draper chauvinism, I realized that doing this didn’t make me feel like a pathetic Betty Draper, I just felt like a kinder Abby Reph.

Amen, Mad Men!

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The Double-Edged Sword Known as Craigslist

Few people can argue with the victorious feeling of finding the exact item on Craigslist for which one was searching.

In my case it was a black bookshelf, six feet tall, with five adjustable shelves.  Bingo.

Oh and the irresistable price tag of $20.  Double bingo.

That is more or less the end of the fun of Craigslist:  you find the item.  You email the owner.  You wait in anticipation for them to say they haven’t already sold it. 

Then the work begins.

Where do you live?  Where should we meet?  How am I going to cart a six-foot-tall bookshelf back to my house? 

The seller of this bookcase gave me her address and said to arrive around 6:30PM.  I had plans at 7PM on the other side of town, but as any Craigslist crawler knows, if you snooze, you lose.  I confirmed that I’d be there at 6:30PM.

“Oh and just a FYI,” she noted, “I don’t actually live there anymore.  I have renters in this house.  They said they’ll put my bookshelf in the backyard and you can just pick it up.”

Um.  OK.

“Oh, and one more thing,” she said.  “Can you pay me via PayPal?  Like right after you pick it up?  Since I won’t be there?” 

Clearly this is an exercise in trust.  We both know I could pick it up and disappear without paying her.  I know I wouldn’t do that, but she doesn’t know I wouldn’t do that.  Craigslist transactions are full of this kind of blind faith. 

It occurs to me shortly after making these arrangements that a six-foot tall bookshelf may not fit in our SUV.  I loathe the idea of borrowing someone’s truck, or worse, going there in our SUV only to find it won’t fit and we have to return with someone’s truck.

Mike suggests we buy some twine so we can tie down the hatch if the shelf won’t fit inside, so I stop by Home Depot on my way home from work.  Who knew there were 15 different kinds of twine?  I am not a twine expert, but suddenly I am comparing rope widths, impact resistance, and cotton versus poly.  A phone call to Mike in the middle of the twine aisle solves my problem, and I leave with something called Heavy Duty Jute.

Four hours later, after work, Mike and I hop in the car headed for Leschi. 

Everybody in Seattle knows the tricky thing about the affluent Leschi area — it classifies as Leschi immediately after you cross over Martin Luther King Jr Way.  Before crossing over, however, the neighborhood is notoriously sketchy, a combination of First Hill, the International District, Denny Blaine and Garfield High.  So when someone says they live in Leschi, you’re never sure if they have a two million dollar home or bars on their crack-house windows.

Guess which side of the tracks my bookcase was on?

Technically, it was one block east of MLK Jr Way, which put it in wealthy Leschi.  That doesn’t stop Mike from second-guessing the legitimacy of the deal I’ve arranged.

“This is the house?  The orange one with the porch falling off the front?”  he asks me, incredulous.

“Yes, that’s the address,” I reply. 

“Seriously?” he answers.  “This whole situation looks like an invitation to get robbed.  Didn’t you say she doesn’t live here and she wants us to pick something up in the backyard behind a fence?  Seriously?”

After a bit of back and forth, Mike decides to go look in the backyard and see if there is actually a bookshelf to be had. 

There isn’t. 

He comes back to the car with the biggest I-told-you-so face he’s ever sported.  I immediately call the owner.

“Oh, it’s not?” she asks.  “Did you check on the deck?  I bet she put it on the deck.  Call me back if it’s not there.”

“Did you look on the deck?” I ask Mike.  He stares at me with a less-than-enthusiastic expression.

I put his wallet and cellphone in my purse so there is nothing of value in the car (oh wait, I see his brand new golf clubs in the back…best not to mention).  We both approach the fence and push the door to the side to reveal piles upon piles of garbage.  There are boxes everywhere, sacks of trash, an old couch, several discarded chairs…but no bookshelf. 

After wading through the garbage, we get to the backyard and look up at the deck; it’s on the third floor. 

“You have to be KIDDING me,” Mike says as he stares up the three flights of rickety wooden stairs.

We walk to the top of the deck where, both a blessing and a curse, we find the bookshelf.  It’s in fine condition and it’s exactly what I wanted, so as if I had found a mangy dog that needed a home, I daintily ask, “Can we keep it?” 

Mike rolls his eyes and tells me to grab one side of the shelf.  We hoist it up and begin the arduous climb down three flights of stairs — beginning with Mike almost falling through the first one because it was rotted.

We huff and puff our way to the car and I have to laugh at what I am willing to put us through for a $20 bookcase.  I have no doubt that my husband is silently cursing my thrifty ways.

The miracle of the situation is that it fits in the back of our SUV without any need for my Heavy Duty Jute twine.  Nevermind that we have to move my seat so far forward that if we have a collision the air bag will kill me.  I don’t care; I have my $20 bookcase.

I read plenty of design and Do-it-Yourself blogs where the authors tout their garage-sale/thrift store/Craigslist victories as though the money saved came without a real cost.  Nobody ever mentions the backyard transactions or three flights of stairs. 

Nobody until now, that is.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)