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.
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.
So, my former boss had boobs.
This, in of itself, is not remarkable. However, when she sustained an injury to said breast that she insisted was my fault, I found myself face to face with a lot of boob meat.
It all started when I decided I simply had to have a pet in the office. Our soulless span of cold grey cubicles seemed like a parody of a stifling office, and I was beginning to crack. I had already decorated my cube with a lava lamp, a Rubik’s cube, some putty, and other assorted toys, but it still felt like a desk of despair. Perhaps it was the lack of visible windows, or my beautiful view into a dangerously overcrowded supply closet that maimed many a fellow employee.
Whatever the reasons, I somehow felt that introducing LIFE would be a good start.
The natural cubicle pet is, of course, a plant. But given my previous experiences with plants of all shapes and sizes, I knew that I would somehow manage to care it to death within a few weeks. Either that or it would thrive, but then become infested with tiny mites that would then spread across the thinly carpeted floor. Plus the aforementioned lack of sunlight would doom all but the heartiest vegetation.
No, I wanted something that would move.
And so came the purchase of an ant farm. To save myself time and frustration, I opted for the creepy blue gel version of the farm, in which the unfortunate ants would both dig, eat, and shit out only a space-age gel the color of Windex until they ultimately died from despair. Because owning an ant farm as an adult is truly one of the more depressing experiences out there. As the Onion so eloquently observed, an ant farm is a “fun, interactive way to teach children ages 5 and up about unceasing, backbreaking toil and the cold, inescapable reality of death.”
The ants are all female, and fucking PISSED OFF when you receive them in the mail. I placed mine in the workplace fridge to calm them down, which upset many coworkers who felt I was doing some sort of cruel experiment. In a way, I suppose I was. After depositing the now semi-comatose ants into the enclosure, they quickly perked up and began to dig. And die. And dig. And then muse on the ephemerality of life. And then die some more.
The bodies piled up quickly, and the living ants seemed determined to dismember the dead rather than dig more pointless tunnels. A fat ant with glasses was at some point hunted down by a roving pack of insects covered in war paint. The conch lay forgotten at the dead end of a tunnel into which no one dared enter, for a spectral beast lurked within.
Anyway, each day the environment within the farm became more and more bleak. I occasionally had to pry open a corner of the lid to allow the ants some precious oxygen. But upon lifting the plastic, every ant who still possessed the will to live immediately tried to swarm out. They were shockingly fast, and had large mandibles that would leave fiery welts on your fingers.
And so the day finally came when my coworkers begged me to set the ants free. Most were now lying on the surface in a stupor, unwilling to eat, drink, or move. They were waiting for their inevitable extinction.
My boss, a kindhearted soul, took it upon herself to empty the remaining ants into a nearby park. Tired of looking at a constant reminder of my own mortality, I gave her permission to do what had to be done.
She came back with stings on her boobs as the imprisoned ants had ravaged her chest in their haste to escape. She threw the empty ant farm, which resembled some sort of horrible chemical bomb, into a park trash can. I imagined it being surrounded by the NYC bomb squad and detonated within hours. She showed me her battle wounds with a mixture of anger and pride, as if to show me that she had been strong enough to do what I could not.
But she still blamed me for the whole fiasco, and ant farms are now not permitted in the office. However, her boob scars were showed to all for weeks afterwards.
So, SantaCon is (by this point) an international parade of Santas and drunkenness.
The NYC one is pretty huge every year, though I had never gone before. Mostly because I didn’t want to be trampled by surly Santas. But since I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to wear a costume in public, I decided to attend.
The celebration was on December 15 this year, and it was crowded, but luckily not the shit show I had been anticipating. I dressed as a reindeer and swam as a furry lump of brown in a sea of cheap red velveteen. People were drunk, and I got stepped on a few times, but most people were actually more jolly than out of control. Every bar even vaguely on the Santa route had people lining up for 30+ minutes just to get inside, so my co-worker and I popped into the largest bars we could find. Once inside, it was nearly impossible to get a drink, but with patience, we were finally able to enjoy ourselves amidst the nearly 30,000 people dressed up and hammered that day.
Also, these photos have once again reminded me that I need to lose some weight. Sigh. Below are also photos of a packed Santa bar (off the route, so at least you could breathe in there), and this one girl’s awesome homemade menorah costume. All the candles lit up!
Yes, I understand why it was cancelled, and it was clearly appropriate to do so, but I can’t help but be disappointed all the same. I spent so much time and energy on my costume, only to miss out on the annual NYC Halloween Parade.
Oh, well. Next year!
I at least did get to dress up on the Saturday before Halloween, though the pictures I took were terrible since I was in a rush, and I figured I’d get better photos the day of the parade. Oops? So I have no close-ups of my makeup, though I’ve linked to the YouTube tutorials I used below.
A group of teenage girls ran screaming from me in the street, then came up to me and wanted my photo, so I think the costume was a success! According to many, I looked terrifying (and unrecognizable) at night in NYC.
I used a combination of makeup tutorials, mostly from this video and this one. I used black and white Wolfe FX makeup, and lots of cheap black eye shadow and makeup brushes from the dollar store. I actually completely forgot to paint in the cracks on my skull, which I’ll have to fix if I ever do this makeup again. Most parts of the costume were from China via eBay. I look super short and stumpy in this photo because 1) I am really short, 2) The skirt was long (below the knee), which didn’t help matters, and 3) My roommate who took the photo is considerably taller than me. Sigh.
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.
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.
Sorry I’ve been neglecting this blog so much. Work has been insane, and has only recently finally calmed down.
Anyway, this morning was pretty traumatic.
Remember when I had pins in my feet? Well today, they were finally yanked from my right foot. And since I was awake for the whole procedure, I can give you the blow-by-blow.
I was called into a small room where my blood pressure was taken, and I talked with the anesthesiologist. However, my plan was to do this all under local anesthesia only since I don’t much like being put under. This would prove to not be the best idea.
I was then led into a freezing cold room where a curtain went up between me and my foot, and a nurse bathed my foot liberally in betadine. Hence the yellow color in the photo above. I tried to sneak a peek at what was going on, but was told doing so would “compromise the sterile site.” Really? Because the air conditioner was blasting air all over the room, and the door to the hallway was open for the entire procedure. Plus the curtain was only maybe two feet across, so it wasn’t much of a barrier.
Anyway, the doctor came in and poured some freezing cold liquid on the injection site, which was incredibly uncomfortable. It wasn’t liquid nitrogen (I can’t remember what it was called for the life of me), but it felt like the entire top of my foot had been dunked in ice water. Then it was time for the numbing injection, which hurt like a BITCH. Three CCs of something were pushed into my foot, and I was told to “relax.” Yeah, not happening. Only the site where he would be cutting was numbed, with the rest of my foot left alone.
After waiting 10 minutes or so, it was time for the cutting to begin. Though I could only feel pressure or minor pinching, it was still psychologically scarring to realize what was going on down towards my toes. The doctor made a 3/4″ cut directly on top of my original surgery scar, then went to TOWN with a chisel. Well, maybe the tool looked different, but I couldn’t see it, so I’ll just describe the sounds and sensations.
He chipped away at my bone with large amounts of pressure. The bone had grown over top both of the pins, so freeing each one was not an easy task. He would position himself, then just start scraping away for several seconds, my bones grinding the entire time. He would then pause, reposition, and repeat. I’m honestly not sure how long this lasted, and though it felt like 15 minutes of pure torture, I imagine it was actually shorter than that. Though there wasn’t really any pain, it was still incredibly upsetting to imagine what was going on down there, and I felt close to fainting for almost the entire procedure. Hence, if you ever get this done yourself, you might want to opt for the IV sedation. Most people who get this done get the sedation, and according to the doctor, it takes a “tough sort” to opt for local. I certainly didn’t feel tough. I was almost in tears by the end.
Finally, he pronounced that both pins had been removed, and he stitched up my skin, which felt like I was being bitten by fire ants. Two bandages were applied, my foot was wrapped up, I was x-rayed, had my blood pressure taken again, and was sent on my way. I wore my usual sneakers out, and was told to take a cab home so that I didn’t put too much pressure on my recently battered bone.
Now I’m home, and though the pin site is still numb, I can tell that it’s swelling, and I feel a vague burning sensation. However, I can walk decently, so at least there’s that. I have to keep the stitches dry for 10 days (which means no bathing my foot AGAIN), and will get them out the day before Halloween. And then I’ll get the pin taken out of my left foot. Maybe I’ll opt for some happy-time drugs in the future? Or I’ll at least bring headphones, since the bone scraping sounds were the worst part of all.