Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Frog Tripping


How did we ever survive this far without the MP3 player?

Tiny, compact and able to hold up to hundreds of songs, these gizmos are still technologically evolving. Not so long ago we were sportin’ the era-defining ‘WALKMAN’, then progressing to the ├╝ber-advanced personal CD player - we thought we were somethin’ else. All gadgets, now and then, played a crucial part in our exercise regime. Back then, we ensured that our red Walkman matched our leg warmers. Nowadays, the Walkman’s second-cousin, the credit-card sized MP3 player, is safely and discretely tucked away in tiny pockets. Able to block out the worldly sounds around us, they enable us to focus on our never-ending battle with the bulge. But is blocking out the world around us always for the best?

I am a walker/jogger/runner - serious enough to keep up a routine, but not serious enough to be striving for marathons. Working full-time by day, and playing referee between my two sons at night, means early mornings for me when the darlings are asleep. Not a soul is around and, depending on the time of year, the sun hasn’t even crawled out of bed yet. I prefer the fall and winter, when the darkness envelopes me in my own private sanctuary – the glowing screen of my MP3 player often the only light.

My eyes water in the brisk, frosty air. My hands chap despite pulling my sleeves down to my fingertips. Wearing mitts would help, but doing so would hamper my control over the MP3 player – and that would just not do. How else would I be able to change songs, turn up the volume, or monitor my time on the stopwatch function? I embarrass myself at the realization that many of the downloaded songs are exactly those I played on my WALKMAN (not) so long ago.

During my route around the nature conservatory park near where I live, I have watched the seasons change with every step along the graveled trails. The cat-tails depict summer. Leaves collecting on the ground tell me school is back in. The red-winged blackbirds protect their nests in the spring with their trill of onk-a-ree-onk. In the winter, not a sound can be heard – everyone is nestled in for hibernation-mode. But not me. My weather-dictated running/walking gear is my armor against Mother Nature’s mood swings, no matter what season. And still, my constantly faithful MP3 player keeps me in stride while I plod along oblivious to the world around me.

As I adjusted my earphones one early, puffy-eyed summer morning, the resident frogs interrupted my snail’s pace. A chorus of croaking, chirping and ribbit-ing surrounded me. Except for the winter when the little darlings were hibernating, I realized all these months they had been cheering me on; my own personal trainers.

And I had been missing it.

The ducks and geese barely waddled out of the way as I approached. Their own orchestra competed with that of the frogs. Had I been missing their melody as well? Were their harmonic reassurances telling me I really WAS doing something worthwhile, or were they quacking at me to give it up and go back to bed? I dared not plug back in the earphones; doing so would be disrespectful to both frog and mallard and their songs of encouragement.

For now, while I still don’t dream of gold medals at marathons, I occasionally ‘unplug’ and enjoy the reprieve from the inevitable busy world that has yet to wake up. I am thankful to the frogs for their morning chant, urging me on. My heartfelt gratitude goes to the ducks - even to the ones who won’t move out of my way. Even unplugged, however, I still hum a few 80’s tunes along the way. Rick Springfield anyone?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tales of a Lazy Receptionist

She stands on guard for you. Always on-call, she is more than happy to jump when you say jump, and always higher than you asked.

Ignore the manicure set on her desk. Turn a blind eye when you see her diligently filing - her nails, not the files. Snacks for survival are important, as long as they are discreetly inhaled. Bread and water are sometimes her only ration when the chain looped around her ankle, attached to her desk, can’t reach as far as the lunchroom.

A multi-tasker extraordinaire, she waits for your next request. But don’t forget – there are others vying for her valuable time. She can answer a phone, open mail, sign for your lunch delivery, and read a list of instructions from another superior, all with a gracious smile.

She loves her job. It is HER job - her pride and joy. As others in the same field can equate to, this is her baby. Her maternal instincts kick into overdrive; caring, nurturing, planning for the well-being of her charges.

Sparkling manners are the essence of her existence; professional etiquette and protocol at all times. During deadlines, ‘month-end,’ or ‘crunch time,’ however, other co-workers’ manners are often forgotten, often at her expense. Ever with a smile, patience, and understanding, she turns a blind eye, never letting snips, snarls or gripes bother her.

Anticipating your every need, meeting and deadline, she is on top of it all. Thinking twenty steps ahead of you, she plots, contrives, schemes and manoeuvres. She could be a champion at chess.

She is a drugstore, a dispensary for various ailments from headaches to chocolate-craving attacks. She is the keeper of band-aids; treatment compassionately rendered accompanied with condolences and sympathy. She is the resident fire-warden, willing to wear the fire warden hat, despite embarrassment. Your safety is her priority.

She’s a seamstress, a psychologist, ambassador and actress. Being the eyes and ears of the office, she often sees and knows too much. Her acting and diplomatic skills are always in play – both on the phone and in person - to perfection. She is bodyguard, guard-dog, and guardian of secrets.

Without her you wouldn’t have coffee. Without her, your lunch reservations wouldn’t be booked - the best seats in the house, thank-you very much. Without her, your printers/fax machines/photocopiers wouldn’t be fed daily with toner and paper. Without her, you would have to walk up/over to another floor/department to deliver a piece of paper. Without her, you would have to answer your own phone. Cherish her and be grateful. Your boo-boo might need tending one day.

She flirts with the courier to get your packages to their destination – toot sweet. She bribes the maintenance man with cookies to get your chair fixed – double toot sweet. When the printer/computer/photocopier is on the fritz, her PR skills are put to the test to sweet talk the techie-guy into saying ‘how high’ when SHE tells him to jump – triple toot sweet.

She resorts to being a scrounge, a thief, and a manipulator. When you are in need of a specific tool that, without it, you simply could NOT continue on, she wheels and deals with other departments/floors/offices for that perfect size of sticky-note. Your offices’ supply budget simply could not accommodate such a request, but by sacrificing her morals, she finds that aquamarine, 2 1/8” x 5 1/7” sticky note pad – just for YOU.

When you don’t know whether you are coming or going, ask her. She will know.

Who is she? She is your receptionist.

Belligerent clients, files stacked yea high, and emails galore make you wonder how you survive every day. As you stomp your way out of the office to get a coffee, you pass by the receptionist’s desk, and see her absently chipping away at her nail polish, idly staring off into space, as it would seem. Think twice before you send a disgusted look her way – she is likely plotting ways to make your eight hours all the better.

Just for you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The No Touch Room

Every knick-knack and chachka is expertly positioned; couches and end-tables positioned just so. A shrine clearly depicting the female inhabitants’ decorating and cleaning ability, this sterile room should buy shares with Pine Sol. The air is stale and still – have humans ever been granted permission to enter this sacred shrine?

Reserved for guests - but not ALL guests - this sacred room is fondly known in my sarcastic world as The No Touch Room. To the lay person, this is traditionally known as the living room.

And no, I don’t have one. And I guess after this opus, I won’t be invited to yours.

A house guests’ importance, or social ranking, is clearly defined by whether he or she is granted access to such room, if worthy, that is. But it’s a one shot deal. If you have met the qualifications (whatever they are) and granted entry, GREAT! Relish the moment! Because after that, you are not a ‘guest’ in the house anymore; your sock-clad foot will likely never cross the threshold again.

I observed these life-altering lessons, as it were, through an acquaintance who shall remain nameless. I value my life.

(And don’t bother asking me who it is, because I won’t tell you. If you ask, I won’t invite you to my own No Touch Room, should I ever have one.)

I have witnessed tours granted to new house guests - those barely worthy of stepping near the shrine - only to have the room remarked with a dramatic flair of her arm. Yet, the tour continues past the infamous room, the dismayed visitors sadly end up settling in the family room. They have just realized their ranking.

Would the Queen pass the test and be granted permission? I should give Liz a call and invite her over to my acquaintances’ humble abode, just to see what would happen; if not for my own entertainment, then to at least collect fodder for an epilogue to this literary masterpiece.

The only time I was ever granted permission of entry was when my other ‘acquaintances’ and I were invited for a ‘prestigious’ function, which shall also remain nameless; too revealing otherwise (also note the generic use of ‘acquaintances,’ again, for protection of all involved). My vivid imagination fuelled my nervousness; I was certain an invisible fleck of skin would fall off my body and land on the hand-manicured carpet with a thud.

I dare not put the notion of plastic seat covers in her head. Should I ever commit such a sin, the backs of my shorts-clad legs would forever need be dusted in baby powder, should I ever allowed entry again. Oh...forget it. I won’t be going in there again, anyways.

Grandmothers are known for owning this kind of room. Is this thinking genetic, rearing its furniture-polished head through the domesticity of modern day homemakers? Only those of us lucky to own a house in these times, never mind having one big enough bearing such a shrine to ‘worthy’ visitors, would be fortunate to exercise this genetic gift.

Alarmingly, I discovered another ‘acquaintance’ of mine has, as it may seem, a No Touch Room.

I am still reeling from the discovery, as I didn’t think she had it in her.
With my own entry to the house confined to the front foyer, it was only after numerous brief visits when I finally noticed something odd (I never said I was sharp). A little door to the left protected a…

Could it BE?!

She has one too!

French doors heavily laden with view-obstructing sheers shield the coveted room from any curious onlookers. Sterile and pristine, everything displayed to perfection according to the bible of No Touch Rooms. Even the stagnant air seemed to know its place.

I was left to my own devices as she scurried away in search of her furniture polish (okay, not really; just booties to put over my shoes), and I took full advantage of the moment. Even though I nearly suffocated from pressing my nose against the sheers, I smugly realized one thing; I might not be the next Martha Stewart, but I knew the difference between 1980 and NOW.

I think I still have the imprint of the sheers on my nose.

In an instant, a clear picture of this person’s personality, who I only knew as an acquaintance, was clearly painted. It was like the puzzle pieces of this person I was trying to understand and know, fell into place with a resounding CLICK. But if this room was kept, say, as a weight room, my perception of this person would have been totally different.

Maybe my opinion of this phenomenon would be different if I could afford the luxury of space to accommodate a No Touch or ‘weight’ room. If I was a socialite or a weight lifter, my thoughts and priorities would be different. I wouldn’t, however, have plastic seat covers or posters of Jane Fonda, respectively.

Just posters of Arnold, the early years, I guess.

For now, I am happy with Cheerios between the cushions, cat hair on the arm rests, and feet on the coffee table. I have only one ‘room’, a multi-purpose room of sorts; a living/rumpus/family/dining/napping/games room.
But my bathroom is always spotless.

Names, places and functions are witheld to protect the innocent - me.