Friday, September 30, 2011

Crying at the Circulation Desk...Again

I have the best parents in the whole entire world.

Enough said.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad, and thank you for everything you've done for me!

Heat Wrap Love

I decided after the misery of my last post, I owed you something relatively amusing. My funniest story I can't tell you because it's library-related, so I new I'd have to pick something else. So I have decided to tell you about my heat wrap.

(I love my heat wrap.)

Almost two weeks ago, I woke up Monday morning to find my spine had, somehow, turned to dust in the night.

I could not remember a creeper coming into my bedroom and stabbing me repeatedly in the spinal column, but clearly that was what had happened. I slithered out of bed onto the floor. The process took fifteen minutes. The process of readying myself for the day was sheer agony. I could not reach down further than my knees, because bending at the waist was impossible. I was forced to grab the heating pad from the foot of my bed (where it stays to keep my toes toasty) and sit on it until the pain abated enough for standing and walking.

That day at work, I tried to spend as much time as possible leaning against walls. That was the only non-painful activity. By the afternoon, I was dying. I slithered home, napped, woke up, took too many ibuprofen, slept some more, and by the next morning I was sure I was already dead.

"You need to go to the doctor," Mom said.

"What would they DO?" I asked. "Nothing is broken. It is a muscle spasm. They will tell me to use a heating pad and to rest. I am doing both of those things."

"Yeah," Mom replied. "You're right."

In the afternoon, the pain from my lower back had spread to include the spot between my shoulder blades. This meant no reaching forward. My arms needed to remain at my sides, so I could flex my shoulders backward, which relieved pain.

I was a walking corpse.

"Why are you so pale?" One coworker asked.

"You should go to a chiropractor," another advised.

What I really wanted was to be suspended from the ceiling by my ankles, so everything spine-related could slide back into place.

Then Mom walked into the library with a CVS bag.

"This is for you," she said. "It is like a heating pad without the cord."

She handed me a box. On the cover was a man wearing what looked like a bandage around his lower back. The bandage appeared to be giving off some kind of radiation.

"Doesn't Michael Jordan do commercials for these things?" I asked.

"No," Mom said. "He does commercials for the name brand ones."

So I took my knock-off heat wrap to the bathroom and fastened it around my lower back. I nearly needed to call in reinforcements.

Within an hour, the hurting had faded. Two hours took even more agony away, and soon I was creaky, but without pain! I could touch my own toes, and I hadn't done that for DAYS. Not only that, I could bend over the circulation desk and check out books. And I could SHELVE! When I got home, I celebrated my pain-free back by putting on socks.

"I love my heat wrap," I told Twitter. "It is like wearing a hug. It is the best invention of all time."

The person who invented the heat wrap should win a Nobel Prize. Seriously.

These things are fantastic. They never get too hot. They are like magic. Everyone should try them. I think they should come with Happy Meals at McDonald's.

What was my life like without the heat wrap? It must have been a cruel, wicked existence filled with lots of pointless suffering. Sort of like life before I was allowed to listen to mainstream music (thanks a lot for those years, Dad). Or life before I was allowed sugar (shudder).

The only sad part is that you can't just live in the heat wrap. It's an eight-hour time limit kind of thing. It might have to do with the muscles around your spine starting to cook after a while, or maybe it's the freaky chemicals they use to make the air warm up the wrap, but who cares? A little cooked-spine and dangerous toxins are a small price to pay for eternal happiness.

I have written several short songs for my heat wrap. But no, I am not going to sing them for you.

I think they will have heat wraps in heaven. I think the reason everyone is so happy in heaven is because there are heat wraps, and. therefore, no more suffering. No one feels pain, because they are nestled in heat wraps all the time. Pillows should be like heat wraps, too.

I love my heat wrap.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Air Machine Jerkwad and the Puddle of Suck

I had lunch today in North Manchester with Rachael and our friend Katherine, and as I pulled away from the coffee shop, I thought, "Gee, my tire seems funky."


Remember how my brakes crapped out? And how they cost $180 to fix? Well, then I discovered my tires had also crapped out in response to the brakes crapping out, which cost me ANOTHER $180. When you are a librarian, you do not make a lot of money. This was $360 I did not really have. Part came from my birthday money. Happy birthday new brakes. And then the rest came from the money I would have spent on food. Skinny Laura.

So, I thought it was all okay. I thought I could drag myself out of soul-crushing poverty (brought on by student loans and medical bills) and maybe not live from paycheck to paycheck. Nope.

Because my tire was funky.

An Afternoon with Laura

I got out my tire pressure checker dealie and used it on my tire.

It only had 10 lbs of pressure or air or whatever the heck tires have inside them left. It was supposed to have 35 lbs. That is 25 lbs of empty tire. I poked it with my finger and it went SKOOSH.

Now, that means Tire Repair in my book. And, since the last time I had tire repair, it was $180 of hunger, I was Not Happy.

Add to this the happenings of various other aspects of my life that I can't talk about here (hence my silence of late), and I became a quivering ball of stress. I wanted to crawl under a desk and read The Name of The Star, but instead I was drooled on and then rained on.

I have decided rain should be called "sky-drool."

Then the random Twitter Stranger of Car Tires told me in his or her tweet that car tires should be replaced in pairs. And I was like, "I hate my life and I am covered in sky-drool. Can I go home and sleep now?"

I am always stressed about my car because Dad so often becomes fatherly, walks over to me, and asks me, "Are you checking your oil?" or says, "You should change your oil ever 3000 miles, otherwise your engine will freeze up and then explode." When he sees me do something to help my car, he becomes very proud and hugs me, which he does not do so much anymore since I grew up.

People-Pleaser Laura takes these things to heart. People-Pleaser Laura was now VERY stressed out, because if the Car Tire Twitter Stranger said two tires at a time, chances were that was what Dad would say, and then I would feel like a puddle of human suck because I cannot afford two tires, I can barely afford even one.

The Air Machine Jerkwad

On my drive home, I knew I would have to stop to add more air to my tire, but I decided not to stop in the town where I work because I might encounter one of the potential-rapist town residents that I see all the time at work. At the very least, I would be changing my tire in complete darkness, because none of the area gas stations have their air machines under any kind of security light. They are off to the side of the gas station parking lots, next to the pay phones. Who the frack still uses a pay phone?

Potential-rapists, that's who.*

So I pulled my car into the parking lot of our local gas station/convenience store and pulled right up to the air machine, which is mounted on the side of the building right under giant lights. The store was also still open, and the lady working could see me through the window that was directly between us, above the air machine.** I parked my car across like three spaces, so I could access my tire, because if I had pulled straight into a spot, it would have been difficult to reach my back tire. I was being Smart.

Earlier that day, I had placed a quarter in a secure location within my purse to be used for air. But now the quarter was gone. I started searching.

My phone rang. It was Dad. "Your mom is worried!" He said. "You haven't come home yet!"

"Dad," I replied. "It is not even 30 minutes after work. I won't be late until after 8:30. Tell her to start worrying then. Now, where is my quarter?"

Finally, I found it. I opened my car door and saw a man.

He had, apparently, pulled his car in right behind me. So close that, in my rear-view mirror, it looked as if he had scraped the side of his car into my car as he parked. Then he darted out, locked his car, and put a quarter in the air machine and struggled to yank the hose as far as it would stretch to reach his back tires.

I should note, at this point, that there is no freaking way anyone could have seen my car parked as it was and NOT thought I was there to use the air machine. I was even angled so my rear tires were closer to the air machine than my front ones. No one parks as badly as I had without having a REASON.

I watched the man struggle. Then he walked over to my car. And he knocked on my window. I looked up.

"I can't reach my back tires," he reported through my closed window.

"You want me to move now?" I asked.


I couldn't. He had pulled in so closely behind me that I could not move my now-wedged car without colliding with his clearly-expensive sedan. He unlocked his car and backed it away. Then I pulled out and around in a giant circle, so I could then re-pull up and use the air machine once he had finished cutting in line.

He locked his car again. Who, in the empty parking lot, was he worried would steal his car? ME? He was standing right next to it with his keys in his hand!

He carefully checked the pressure on each tire. He put another quarter in (he'd wasted the first one). Then he quickly gave two of his tires about a half-second of air. Then he hung the hose back up and pealed out of the parking lot in his fancy car, which I now saw was a Lexus.

He did not even NEED air in his tires, I thought bitterly as I put another 10 lbs of air into my further-deflated tire. Don't people know how to be nice to each other? Was he in such a rush that he could not wait in THE LINE FOR THE AIR MACHINE? He had to use his stupid quarter to cut? No one is kind to each other anymore, ever. They just cheat with their cheating quarters and charge five dollars per month to have a debit card.

Then I drove home.

Puddle of Suck Laura

It is worth noting that when I get angry, I cry. I also cry when people ask me if I'm okay when they think I'm not, even when I actually am okay. Their concern makes me cry. Ball of Stress Laura was no different, except that it was, if anything, easier to tip over from choked up to full-on ugly-crying and total self-loathing.

I walked in the door. I must have looked angry or stressed or both.

"Are you okay?" Mom said, putting down her knitting.

I spilled out the horror of the day, starting with the story of the Air Machine Jerkwad and moving backward to the other miseries of my life, highlighting the drool, the soul-crushing poverty, and the likelihood that Dad would want two tires, not one, and that there was no freaking way I could ever afford it.

But because I am in my household, a family that, for some reason, is filled with people who really care about each member's feelings, that was not all. Minutes later, Paul walked into the room and asked me if I was okay.

"I'm fine," I said.

"Are you sure?" Paul said. "You sound angry." (It should be noted that, to Paul, I have two emotions: happy and FILLED WITH ALL-CONSUMING RAGE.)

"I can't talk about it," I said, eyes welling with still more tears. "I will tell you later."

"Okay," Paul said. He stood in my doorway for several agonizing minutes, staring at me and waiting for it to be later.

Because closed doors don't mean anything in my family, Paul left my door open instead of closing it again after he walked out.

Dad came in. Dad, who would certainly try to convince me I should buy two very expensive new tires, to whom I would have to explain my poverty. I focused on Twitter.

"How did it go at the gas station?" Dad asked.

"I put air in my tires," I said.

"You know," he continued. "The tire place has a payment plan. You can get both tires and then pay them back a bit at a time."

I exploded into more tears.

"I cannot owe more money," I said. "I owe too much already, especially with that bill from the doctor Mom lost that is now overdue.*** I know that you want me to get both tires. But I can't. I can't even get my oil changed and it REALLY needs it. I know you are disappointed in me. But that does not change anything. I do not have the money. Where would the money come from, Dad? Where would it come from? I am sorry you are disappointed."

"What?" Dad said.

"You want me to take care of my car, but I can't, because I am a disappointment and I suck."

[Cue the touching, family drama music, just like they used on Full House]

"Aww," Dad said. "I'm not disappointed in you! And you don't suck!"

"Yes, I do," I said. "Because I cannot take care of my car. And now I am a Puddle of Suck and someone needs to find a rubber sack to store me in until I re-congeal into a person."

"Awww," Dad said. He patted me on the back. "You don't suck. You can just have them FIX the tire. Or you can replace the one you need to, and take care of the other one later."

And then he said more soothing things, because I somehow ended up with a TV dad. And then there was a father/daughter hug, because that's the only way a scene like that could ever end.

So now you know, I ended up the only mean one in a family that should be featured on ABC family for being so well-adjusted and supportive.

Also, that dude from the gas station was a total piece of crap for making me dissolve into stress-tears like this. He needs to be tracked down and set on fire.

*Certainly, there are people who are not potential-rapists who use pay phones. Other examples of people who use pay phones: Old people, drifters, prison inmates, terrorists, international travelers...

**Someone to call the cops should the local serial killer decide to pick me up and take me to a shack and chain me to a wood-burning stove.

***Mom called me at work on Monday to tell me she had found a bill of mine shoved in with a pile of her paperwork. The bill was, naturally, past-due. She then called the doctor and explained it was all her fault and they put a note in my file so I would not be called by creditors about a bill I never knew existed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You May Have Already Heard This Story, But...

I feel like a complete idiot.

So you get to hear it again.

I wanted ice cream. I really did. And we'd had ice cream at work! It was in the freezer. So I decided to get some ice cream and eat it, to add to happiness levels. I opened the freezer door, because yummy ice cream is yummy. The only thing better than ice cream is unexplained bacon.

What I should have known is that, since the library is filled with other employees, and many of them enjoy ice cream much as I do, the ice cream would certainly be gone. But in my brain, if I'm not the ice-cream-eater, that means the ice cream remains as pristine and untouched as the driven snow.

The ice cream was gone.

Did I mention I had a teen program that night at work? Because I did. A whole herd of teens were coming in, and I was going to do some talking. And people were going to look at me. Keep that in mind.

When I was young, I wore glasses.

My glasses were rather strong, because my family is characterized by sight problems and hearts that suddenly explode. And also pale skin (but only on Mom's side).

One of the reasons PE was so freaking hard was peripheral vision. I didn't have any.

And my teachers seemed to have this philosophy, this teaching strategy, that I absolutely hated: If you don't feel like planning a lesson, just make the kids play dodgeball!

I hate stupid @#&*%*! dodgeball. You know what dodgeball is like for a kid like me? It is like a minefield, or like a firing squad. Dodgeball is giving the evil jocks permission to use nerds for target practice. Think hurting people is fun? Dodgeball is the game for you, and many of my school's future federal prisoners practiced their tactics for upcoming murders on hapless dorks like me.

The only thing funnier than raising welts the size of bowling ball on the extremities of your victim is making a welt fo the same size--on the FACE. See, giant arm-bruises can be covered. But two black eyes and a bloody lip? Not so much.

Would it surprise you to discover I once went through three pairs of glasses in one school year?

I did.

Because my face made such good target practice, my school churned out a few college athletes, and several psychopaths*.

While losing glasses can get expensive, it was nothing like the cost of having reconstructive surgery, so life went on. Glasses offer some protection.

But not when you're 27 and hungry for ice cream.

Can you see your nose? Right now, staring at this page while you read, do you see your nose? Just a little bit, I bet. But before I mentioned it, I bet you couldn't. Because your brain filters out your nose when it interprets what you see, so you don't walk around all the time, staring at the weird bump you have that people like but you hate.

Standing there, in front of the empty spot where the ice cream used to be, I kind of accidentally forgot I had a nose.

I closed the door to the freezer with frustration.

And then pain.

Blinding pain, the kind of pain that makes your eyes water. I curled over, leaning on the shelves next to the fridge. I waited for my nose to start bleeding (it didn't). I waited out the pain.

Then I opened the door again, took out some ice, stepped back super-far, and closed it.

That's right. I slammed the freezer door on my own nose.

Now, I totally lucked out. Because my nose bent sideways and TOUCHED MY CHEEK. If I had hit it higher, I think I would have broken it. Lower, there might have been cartiledge damage. But no. I was okay.

Meanwhile, my coworker (she'd just finished pouring vanilla extract down her body in a tragic baking accident) discovered my plight. Her response? She rolled her eyes and said something to the effect of, "Only you." Then she left me there, huddled against the cabinets, struggling to breathe through my rapidly-swelling nasal passages.

I expected my whole face to swell up. Instead of a nose, I would have a lumpy, purple-black tennis-ball-sized protrusion. But no. The only evidence was a little purple dot of shame. The dot has faded to a green dot of shame.

My question is this: How does a girl come back from this sort of thing? How can I ever trust myself to safely operate a door again?
Was this too much to ask for?

*Schools are now beginning to ban dodgeball. A-freakin'-men, people. Either that, or maybe the government could fund schools enough to let them spring for some flippin' FOAM balls instead of having kids play dodgeball with BASKETBALLS. Because basketballs HURT.

**You think I'm joking? Not so much. Behold the jewel of Jennifer's graduating class. See?

Photo: "Vanilla Ice Cream Cone" by Steven Depolo 2009