Thursday, December 15, 2005

renovate my soul

My apartment building is getting new carpet in the hallways. It's startling how much difference it makes--I was comfortable with the old aesthetic of dingy brown patched in many places with duct tape. I'm now nervous that this will translate into rent increases. There have been some advantages to a landlord who basically ignores you.

I ran into the superintendent on the stairs.

"Hey, Jack."
"Hey. How are you?"
"Pretty good. carpet, huh?"
"Now all we need is--"
"A new roof."

I shushed him with my best "don't cloud the issue with pertinent facts" gesture.

It's just so...shiny, in contrast with the rest of my building, which is charming in that slightly decrepit way. I wonder how long it will take to offgass all the toxins.

Friday, December 09, 2005

don't come the cowboy with me, Sonny Jim

I live with a man who owns five, count 'em, five pairs of cowboy boots, and three cowboy hats. Despite a long-time aversion to country music, I actually asked to hear Shania Twain at our committment party. The song I listen to to cheer myself up is "Heads Carolina, Tails California" which for the record is twangy.

Every once in a while I stop and think to myself how did this happen? Well, now I think we all know.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

postcards from the edge

Holiday shopping makes me want to throw up. I know, I know, I could make it all less stressful if I just did a little legwork ahead of time, but that would require me to be somebody else. Somebody overprepared for life. [*cough*Jennifer*cough*]

Instead I have the same stupid panic I have every year. 'Tis the season, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

how do I know I'm a nerd, you ask?

"Weather's on."
"Ooh! Weather!"

Saturday, December 03, 2005

get you through

Technically, my job is to sell books. Untechnically, it looks a little different.

For example, I spent twenty minutes this week in the pets section with a middle-aged man who really, really needed to talk to someone about having to have his dog put down. "I felt like a murderer," he said, and both of us stood there with tears in our eyes while I talked about responsibility and how sometimes the right decision is still awful. "You're right, you're right, my wife says the same thing," he told me. But sometimes, people need to hear it from a stranger. And some of us are stranger than others.

I've had too many of these conversations to count in my many customer service jobs. Some of them are one-time things--the woman whose husband had lost his job and was so depressed she found herself asking God every day to give her the strength to get through this time, or the woman whose husband had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. (Hey, on the crazy chance that either of you are reading this, I remember you both and I hope you're doing okay.) Some of them are people you see all the time. Back in my waitressing days I found myself telling a customer "You know what your problem is? You're a coward. She wants to marry you and you know you don't want to marry her, and you keep saying that you're staying with her because you don't want to hurt her. But she deserves someone who wants her for who she is. You think you're being nice, but you're just being chicken." If people ask for my opinion they usually get it, and I'm sure this is unrelated to being nicknamed "Little Miss Bossy" as a child.

The thing is that I know most people don't think of those things when they think about what it is a waitress or a bookseller does in their job. Some days I resent that, because I think it's part of the whole cultural thing about what constitutes "real work." Some days I'm angry that people who would never dream of seeing a psychiatrist feel perfectly okay about dumping their troubles on someone who's paid eight dollars an hour instead of eighty.

The other part though is that so many people are in so much pain and they don't know how to muddle through it. I never cared that much about serving coffee, but my regular who came by to tell me that even though he had a bunch of money he'd been spending it all on cocaine and he was trying to quit now, that stuck with me. spook and I were talking the night I came home from talking to the dog guy, because it made me cry. I'm crying now, trying to write about him. He was heartbroken, and I care about that. spook reminded me that what people have in common is pain. Everyone suffers, and that makes us in some way all the same and not alone, even when we feel like we're going to suffocate from loneliness.

I'm thinking a lot about pain, because Christmas, let's face it, is a painful time of year. For a lot of people, this is the time when you look around at what the story of a family is and you look at your real family and feel like you're going to choke on the disappointment. So I try to remember when people are short with me or don't look me in the eye that they're hurting. Don't get me wrong--it's not okay to yell at the cashiers, no matter how mean your great-aunt was at last year's dinner. It's just that when people are awful I can step back and think that the guy in the tie that cost almost as much as I make in a month is rude not because he's an asshole who thinks that my job makes me a non-person (although hell, he may be,) but because his mom died a month ago and he's trying to figure out his first Christmas without her. The story I tell myself might not be true, but the pain at the centre of it is, and that makes tie-guy just like me, so I can have compassion for both of us. It sounds spiritual, but it's selfish. I just find my days less upsetting that way.