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The Time I Was Told to Burn for the Good of the Company

August 11, 2013 1 comment

Burning-Man

Back when I was working my terrible receptionist job, I learned a lot about corporate culture. Namely, that nobody gives a single shit about you unless you somehow bring in lots and lots of money.

There were several low moments for me. One time, one of the salesmen on the floor lectured me at length for “not doing enough with my life” and told me my self-esteem sucked. I hardly knew him at all. Another time a crazy man came in through the door and blew past the reception desk. I was told to physically chase him down and tackle him, which I refused to do. At 5’0″, I didn’t get paid nearly enough to risk my life trying to trip up a crazy person who was possibly armed.

But one of the worst was when there was a fire in the building. Not a drill, but an actual fire, at least as far as we knew at the time. The alarm went off, and I gathered up my purse to begin evacuating with the others. My boss told me put my things down, stay put, and keep answering the phone (despite the fact that the alarm was so loud that it was impossible to hear who was calling). A missed call could mean a missed sale. He told me that there probably wasn’t a real fire anyway, so I should just keep doing my job. He stood over me as the rest of the employees filed out the door, watching me answer calls in vain, shouting, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you!” as the phone rang again and again. He finally left with the others, telling me to keep manning the phone unless I saw smoke.

As soon as he fled out of the door, I ran to a different exit, fearful that I was going to be burned alive on the 37th floor. I headed to the stairwell, and hoped he wouldn’t turn around and see me. He didn’t. I headed to a local cafe after reaching the lobby, and continued to hide from my coworkers. It turned out the fire was real, but small, and not on our floor.

After we finally got the all clear, I tried to run up first. My boss found me still at my desk, answering calls. As far as he knew, I stayed at my post. He gave me a little nod, perhaps impressed that I was willing to risk my life for the good of the company.

I hope to never work in a corporate office ever again.

The Time I Hated Citibike

August 4, 2013 2 comments

Citibike

So, I became a member of Citibike, the bike-share system launched in NYC in May, fairly early on. I wasn’t one of the people with a little blue key fob the first week, but I was there by the third. And I’m here to tell you why I don’t much like it.

Some of this is probably unfair, and I’m sure many of my complaints are shared by just about every big city bike-share system in the world. But still, I can’t say I’m not disappointed. When I first heard about Citibike, I got pretty excited since I have a long walk to a subway hub, and I thought bikes could become a part of my daily commute. Or I could just use it to help me run errands after work. Alas, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

The system works roughly like this: You have an annual membership (around $100) that allows you to use a key fob to unlock any bike in the city. You then have 45 minutes to ride it to your destination, and you must park it at another bike dock before time is up, or get charged some pretty outrageous fees. For those who buy only a day or week bike pass, the time limit is reduced to 30 minutes. In NYC, this is theoretically not a difficult hurdle since the bike racks are practically everywhere. Well, except for where you need to go.

Oddly, there are very few racks on the far East and West of Manhattan, where you would think the demand would be high because of the dedicated (and therefore more safe) bike lanes that run along the edges of the island and give you fantastic river views. But nope, all the racks are at least 5 blocks from the edge, forcing you to grab a bike and ride through NYC traffic to reach these oases.

And NYC traffic is terrifying. I’ve now ridden through it several times, and I immediately get panicky and sweaty, my heart pounding hard enough to cause ripples in my shirt. Many streets are one-way, and have no bike lane, and vehicles will not hesitate to honk and narrowly swerve around you. You are constantly scanning the cars parked to your right, hoping against hope that someone isn’t about to open a door and clothesline you to DEATH. Seeing brake lights is a good indication that a door is about to open, but not always. Pedestrians also couldn’t give less of a shit about you, and will cross directly in front of your path even if you have a green light. Nobody looks. Nobody pays attention.

I have never been so aware of traffic as when I’m on a Citibike.

The bikes themselves are also insanely heavy at about 45 lbs. apiece. For someone who is 5’0″, this makes for an ungainly wobbling ride through hot, crowded streets. To unlock the bike from a dock, you have to physically lift up the bike and remove it from the magnetic lock, which is a task I struggle with mightily. I have such problems docking and undocking the damn things that often a bystander will do it for me out of pity. The small baskets on the front of the bikes have bungee cords to hold your belongings, but I find they’re still too small for my purse (though to be fair, my purse is the size of my entire torso).

But my biggest gripe with Citibike is the docking situation. There is an app for the system that is supposed to tell you how many docks are free (and therefore able to be parked in) in a given location, but in practice, the numbers are wildly inaccurate. Every time I have tried to park near my apartment, the docks are all full, no matter that the app told me that there were five parking spots. I then ride another five minutes to another dock, now not very close at all to my apartment, which is ALSO full, though the app assured me that seven delicious parking spots were ready and waiting. Upon arriving at my THIRD dock, I find not only zero parking spaces (the app said there were nine), but also two other worried-looking Citibike riders circling around, fruitlessly seeking a place to leave their bikes. One rider, fed up with the system, just left their bike by the docks and threw up his hands in disgust. Doing this will automatically charge your credit card $1000, so finding a dock, and finding it QUICKLY (before your 45 minutes are up) is imperative.

On three separate occasions, I have had to go to four different docks before finally finding a parking space, and frantically shoving your bike into a dock is a race against time. Often, another bike is racing towards the same one empty parking spot, and it is survival of the fittest. I have had to ride aimlessly around Manhattan for 30 minutes searching for spots at 1 in the morning. I then have a long walk in the dark to actually get to my apartment. It would have been faster to simply ride the subway and walk in the first place. Also, a few times, docks have been “closed for rebooting” or simply closed indefinitely, the shiny bikes glittering in the sun, but ultimately useless.

Despite the fact that I have paid for a year’s worth of this system, I plan on walking from now on. It’s simply not worth the stress of both the streets and the docks. Of course, this could all be remedied if I just spent $200 or so on my own bike and parked it at my apartment, but then it would probably get stolen. NYC bike thieves seem to be second to none. Also, I am supremely lazy. So there.

The Time I Slept Through a Fire Alarm

May 31, 2013 2 comments

Lightning Strikes Jesus Statue

As covered before in this blog, I really like sleep. As in, I would gladly pay a stranger $100 each morning to allow me to sleep a few more hours. I would go bankrupt, but damn it, I would be well-rested.

To wake up for work, I have multiple alarms set up all over my room, and none of them work. I will get up in a stupor, walk to the offending alarm, switch it off, and fall back into bed without even realizing what I’m doing. I have snooze alarms as well, which are ignored each and every morning. As a result, my arrival time to work has been getting steadily later and later, but hooray, I haven’t been fired yet!

In junior high school, the smoke alarm went off in my parents’ house since my dad had burned some toast. I mean, the damn bread must have been a flaming chunk of wheat given how far away the smoke alarm was from the kitchen. In fact, the alarm was directly outside my bedroom. I blissfully slept through nearly the whole thing, though I do vaguely remember rousing myself slightly, thinking, “Hmm, that must be the fire alarm. Well, if it’s serious, my dad will wake me up,” and going right back to bed, the alarm wailing the entire time.

After telling my dad this, he said I had far too much faith in him. Evidently, he would’ve fled the house in his bathrobe, perhaps stopping to scoop up a cat, but nothing more. Sigh.

I also once slept through a tree falling on our house. A massive, full-sized Ohio beast of a tree which shook the entire house left not a single impression on me. My sister and her friend once bodily picked me up off a couch where I had been sleeping, dropped me from a few feet up, and I didn’t so much as twitch.

And yet a single tweeting bird these days will wake me up even with ear plugs, so I don’t know. I’m doomed to either coma-like slumber or the delicate sleep cycle of a paranoid insomniac. Lovely.

The Time I Had a Rogue Hair

April 28, 2013 Leave a comment

furry_man

So yeah, everybody gets these. If you haven’t found one on your own body, you simply haven’t been looking hard enough, and it’s probably at least six inches long by now. SEARCH THYSELF.

I remember discovering mine for the first time, growing out of the right side of my abdomen like it fucking belonged there. It looked like it came off Gandalf’s head (the White, not the Grey), several inches long and as glossy as a unicorn’s mane. I plucked it with horror, only to have it grow back again and again, the thin strand as white as purely driven snow. Now I monitor the spot with grim vengeance, razing the area as soon as it pokes it’s tiny silky head out of my stomach.

I remember a girl in my class in college who had a massive two-inch black hair emerging from her chin, like Satan’s own pube. I couldn’t understand how she had never noticed it before, but it became more clear as I watched her glance in the mirror in the bathroom. She always angled her head in such a way that she never saw the offending hair curling in the breeze. My God, had nobody ever told her? I didn’t know how to approach that situation since we were merely acquaintances, and she soon ceased coming to class altogether. Had she been strangled by her rogue hair in the night? Perhaps she looked on it fondly, stroking it gently before drifting off to sleep each night. I will never know.

The Time My Brother Talked About Guns

December 17, 2012 Leave a comment

So.

Another mass shooting. Targeting children.

I’m not really sure what to say. It’s fucking awful, and what do you write in the face of such tragedy? So I thought I would share my brother’s thoughtful essay he posted to Facebook on Saturday. He said it better than I ever could.

***

And what is this fantasy? What is this fantasy that makes us think, as a nation, we need to have guns?

I know the fantasy. I know it because I grew up with guns. I know it because I had my own gun when I was sixteen years old. My Dad had a .357 revolver and he got me a little .22 caliber pistol. He kept them on the top shelf in his closet, each in a padded case, with the cylinder and clip placed neatly, safely beside them. We’d go shooting at the gun range. We’d try for accuracy and speed. We spent some of our best hours together in the stifling little room breathing gunsmoke. After, we’d come home and clean the guns and talk and browse gun magazines and chat.

Eventually, though, the conversation would turn to delicious ‘what ifs?’

“What if someone is trying to break in?”
“What if someone has already broken in?”
“What if someone has broken in and they’ve found the guns?”
“What if they have knife?”
“What if they have their own gun?”

Invariably, the scenarios became more and more baroque, with multiple attackers and heroic risks and clever ruses that got us to the closet and put the familiar weight of our own guns in our steady hands. Then all hell would break loose in our minds, the wallpaper shredded, the furniture blown to bits, fear and doubt nowhere to be found. The stories always concluded with my Dad and me standing victorious over a field of faceless victims, each lying dead, each undoubtedly deserving of their fate.

Our fantasies, though, never entertained the reality – that more often than not, a wielded gun will end up the hands of the attacker or, as we’ve witnessed now another heartbreaking time, in the hands of those we never intended to hold them.

But the fantasy is always there:

Your family is in danger. It’s you against them. They drag your kids out of bed. They tie them up. They drag your wife to the garage and close the door. They’re about to unleash Hell. Only they didn’t count on you and your 9 millimeter, which somehow ends up in your hand and which you unload in a righteous hailstorm of searing lead that also somehow avoids each of your family members.

You’re in your car in a bad neighborhood. Suddenly your door is yanked open. Your kids are in the back in their car seats. Hands on your jacket, you’re being dragged out. But not before your fingers close around the handle of the Glock you keep by your left thigh. A second later, it’s painfully clear that they fucked with the wrong guy.

Or the war is coming. Everyone knows that. And every one of us will have a shot at our John Wayne moment. We just need a gun. Or a couple. We’ll keep it in the safe, under lock and key or combination. Ignore the wife’s concerns that somehow the kids will figure it out. They know who’s boss around here. You’ve told them to never touch that safe. That cabinet. That padded case. And they never would because you’ve got your house in order.

It’s a right. America was carved by strength of will out of nothing. We are the rugged individuals, the mavericks, the lone wolves. We need that pistol at our side because when the shit goes down, it’ll be the American left standing, a wisp of smoke trailing from his red hot barrel.

But, from a raised and confirmed gun enthusiast, hear this:

It. Is. Fantasy.

Your house will, most likely, not be invaded. Your car will, most likely, never be jacked. The zombies or Russians or Chinese or Martians are, most likely, never coming. What is much more likely is that your guns will end up in the hands or your kids, or their friends (who come over when you’re at work and who aren’t as well-raised as your kids). And if not your guns, then it’ll be your neighbor’s guns your neighbor’s kids – your neighbor, who was on the fence about owning a gun, but he knows you do so he figured, ‘why the hell not?’ He needs a new hobby and Walmart is having a sale. He’s got his own fantasies, after all.

Gun ownership, I know, is essentially about preparing for the worst. But while you set the scene and lay the props for some fantasy that never materializes, the worst does indeed come.

It comes in the shape of Sandy Hook.

Gun Control.

Now.

-Damian Baldet

The Time My Brother Created Contests

December 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Hi.

It’s been a while, I know. I don’t really have an excuse, except that I simply couldn’t think of anything to write about. I don’t want to put out drivel simply for the sake of publishing something, but apparently nothing interesting has happened to me in weeks. This is depressing in of itself, but I decided to try and write today because I miss it. I began this blog as a type of therapy for myself – to create something that I can look back on later and say, “Yes, I made that.” Even if it was crap. Because otherwise I leave nothing behind except some body heat and (probable) flatulence. I even went out and bought a new sketchbook to begin drawing again, which I gave up several years ago when my forward progress slowed to a trickle.

It’s always that way when you take up a new hobby. For a while, the learning curve is steep, but your accomplishments grow by leaps and bounds within a very short amount of time. It’s the ability to keep going with a project after you’ve achieved basic competency that sets a talent apart, and I tend to lack that kind of discipline and conviction. How many things have I started and then given up on just as quickly? I hope this blog and writing doesn’t become one of those things.

I’ve been slowly listening my way through this Story Board hangout with The Bloggess, Wil Wheaton, Patrick Rothfuss, and John Scalzi, which I highly recommend if you’ve ever taken a stab at memoir-style writing.

Anyway, aside from me being a sad sack lately, I wanted to talk about my brother’s lovely Facebook contests that he’s been having recently. I’m tempted to start one of my own, but I’m afraid I’d get approximately zero responses, which would be like the time I had a birthday party that nobody attended (true story, and endlessly depressing).

Each day, he chooses a topic or theme for people to weigh in on, then chooses a “winner” (who receives nothing but a smug sense of self-satisfaction) based on the number of “likes” or his own personal preference. So without further ado, a best of his recent contests! My brother is clearly the creative powerhouse here, and thus technically wins most of his own contests, I believe.

November 27: Terrible Children’s Book Titles

Brother:

  • “Cassie – The Faerie With No Particular Goals or Talent”
  • “All Bees Die: Dealing With Angry Feelings”
  • “Johnny Appleseed – A Children’s Guide to Paternal Identification”
  • “Slapping Is Just Faster Cuddling”

Brenda:

  • “Everybody Poops………And Saves It in Jars in the Guest Room”

Me:

  • “Not In the Face!: A Guide to Surviving Daddy’s Drunken Rage”

November 29: Breakfast Cereals of the Dystopian Future

Brother:

  • “Penance Pops”
  • “Half-Life Cereal”

Sam:

  • “Ricin Crispies”

Brian:

  • “Cinnamon Toast… SHHH! Put out the fire I hear someone coming.”

November 30: Tourism-Boosting Slogans for Crappy Cities

Brother:

  • “Des Moines – Inexplicably French”
  • “Cincinnati – Where Racism Meets the Cloudy Sky”
  • “Sheffield – Come See What’s Left”
  • “Jackson Hole – Fit It All In.”

Brenda:

  • “Schenectady – Home of the Bulletproof Drive-through”

Sam:

  • “Boston – Specialists in Slightly Odd Drunken Male Aggression Since 1647!”
  • “Toronto – Come Wait in a Nice Straight Line.”

Diana:

  • “Barstow…A Good Place to Pee.”

December 3: Frustrated Panda Haiku

Brother:
Girl panda beckons.
I’ll pretend to read instead.
God, I hate the spring.

Children point and shout,
“Silly panda, dance for us!”
Masturbating now.

Mate, or chew bamboo.
Mate, or chew bamboo. Let’s see …
Oh look! A tire swing.

Sam:
Fur tight from eating.
Bamboo is my only friend.
Shame is the season.

Me:
Zoo breeding program,
Workers are showing us porn,
Small junk remains limp.

Oh, God, this ennui,
The dark stench envelopes me,
Lin Lin shit himself.

December 4: First Line of Cookie Monster Apology Letters to the Woman He Loves

Brother:

  • “Me sorry. Okay? Me said it. You like see Cookie beg? You like see Cookie debase himself? Me do it. Me will, girl. Me hurt self. You see.”

Brian:

  • “Dear Krista, Cookie want write for to say how sorry he am for incident at Krista’s sister’s wedding. Cookie feel emotions and not know what to do with them… So he eat cookie and drink schnapps and fight old man.”

Scott:

  • “C is for cookie. Good enough for me. A is for asshole. Not how I want to be.”

December 5: The Teachings of Drunk Miyagi

Brother:

  • “Paint the fence, don’t paint it … fuck do I care?”
  • “You no speshle, Dan-yu-san, you no speshle! Miyagi have whole ARMY of Dan-yu-sans in 70’s, wash Miyagi, feed him, sing him to sleep, play shamisen … soapy … soapyyyyyy……”

Me:

  • “So I tells him, I tells him, I could catch your DICK in my chopsticks, you should have seen his face…”

The Time a Hurricane Hit New York City

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment


Photo taken from my bedroom the evening of Tuesday, October 30th.

Well, hello there.

This week has been crazy for much of the Eastern seaboard, and I myself only got power Friday evening. As a resident of lower Manhattan, this week hasn’t been kind, but it’s been much better than those who reside in Staten Island, or Breezy Point, or pretty much all of New Jersey. I consider myself lucky to only be lacking heat and hot water, though it has gotten pretty chilly in my apartment. I went out and bought an electric blanket yesterday to keep myself warm, and promptly managed to overheat myself so badly that it felt like I had a fever. I will be lowering the setting tonight.

My office has been closed all this week, and I left lower Manhattan on Wednesday to stay with some relatives uptown on the Upper East Side. They thankfully had all the modern amenities I had taken for granted for so long, and that first hot shower was pure bliss. I came back downtown on Saturday, and threw away the contents of my fridge and freezer, and am now sitting pretty. However, even across the street from me, there are those who lack power. Management in Stuyvesant Town has set up heating centers for those stuck in the cold, but considering that many of the elevators are not operational, the elderly often can’t get downstairs (or back up) to warm up. Paramedics visited my building yesterday, and hiked all the way to the seventh floor before carrying someone back down to a waiting stretcher.

For much of this week, downtown Manhattan was downright surreal, which The Daily Show addressed (“See, there’s two types of folks still down here in no-juice town. People with machetes, and dead people without machetes.”).

While downtown seemed full of desperation, uptown was having business as usual. In a restaurant Tuesday night just beyond the line between the haves and the have-nots, it was clear at a glance who had ventured from downtown, and who was local. Uptowners had their makeup done in nice clothing, while the downtowners wandered in, dirty, exhausted, and laden with backpacks and grocery bags. I lined up to use a pay phone on Tuesday to call my parents, and realized I had forgotten how to use one. Did I put in quarters before or after dialing? Nobody behind me in line could remember either.


Car trapped under a piece of the East-side pier, 20th Street at the 20th Street Loop, Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan, Tuesday, October 30th.

There are countless acts of kindness documented online, as well as many instances of unscrupulous people trying to take advantage of those who may have lost everything. Many of my coworkers have suffered terribly with flooded homes, destroyed cars, and sick children in a disaster area that lacked an open hospital. Things are still dire in many parts of New York and New Jersey, though massive amounts of volunteers have been dispatched to the hardest-hit regions.

For some, life will never return to the way it once was, but I hope for a speedy recovery to whatever the new normal becomes.

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