Monthly Archives: January 2013

An Exercise in Stereotyping

My Creative Writing class requires us to read a book about how to write well. I have a bit of a superiority complex when it comes to this since I like to write how I write and would rather not be aware of my wrongdoings. However, there are many “Try This” boxes throughout the text which actually prove to be pretty entertaining. Here’s something that the book suggested I do. I took a few bumper stickers and then wrote a blurb about what the car and person who own it are probably like.

Not that I disagree with the sentiment...

Not that I disagree with the sentiment…

Driving 45 mph in the right lane, this vintage VW Beetle seems to be more rust than paint. Unless that is the color of the paint. In which case I’d place the car at around 1975. Peace signs and clouds of patchouli are left among the ironic exhaust as the vehicle loudly chugs its way to the farmer’s market. The backseat is littered with hemp-woven tote bags and discarded Chuck Taylor high top sneakers. Stubbed out American Spirit cigarettes occupy the floorboards as well as a rogue mustache comb, only hinting at the possibility of grooming. When the beetle sags to a stop next to three bicycles with baskets, it silently apologizes for running on gasoline and making them irrelevant. Stepping out of the car one gangly leg at a time, Will-o, which is a combination of his first and last name, gives off an immediate anti-social vibe. He awkwardly adjusts his skinny jeans, paper-bagging them out and cinching them again around his waist. The braided belt aids in this endeavor. Unsuccessfully tugging the bottom of his t-shirt to meet the top of his jeans, Will-o offers a sneak peak of gamer-white belly and an unruly happy trail. Squinting through his Ray Bans, he looks around the parking lot for an ally and seeing none, scuffs the toe of his loafers in the loose dirt. Awkwardly, of course.

I don't get this trend...

I don’t get this trend…

Rattling through the stoplight and bouncing without hydraulics, the wood-paneled minivan boasts a full capacity and threatens to give up before reaching the other side of the green light. Shouts of discontent reverberate off the back window as tiny fingers hover too close for comfort over siblings’ skin. A promise to turn the van around is heard and suddenly four backs are pressed against the threadbare and sometimes sticky fabric of the middle and back rows. A shaking mother, Beverly, manages to steer the rig into the parking lot of the soccer fields and she sighs in relief that she hadn’t driven the entire thing into oncoming traffic. Of course she would never do that. But one of these days, her four screaming children will succeed in severing the last of her fraying nerves and she makes no guarantees about the future. Practically rolling out of the driver’s seat, Beverly pats down her slightly feathered, dirty blonde hair to smooth any traces of frazzle. She briefly considers using the mauve scrunchie that occupies her wrist but gets distracted by a waving friend and sets her white Asic tennis shoes in a firm parallel before opening the back door and letting loose the chaos.

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But, But…Your Butt!

Before I begin this installment of “things that bug Bettie”, I’d like to offer up a small disclaimer. I was denied my Monday morning coffee today and since that early morning snub I’ve been in a bit of a foul mood. Traffic disasters and early rising will do that to me.

Stranger-butt incident #1:
For lunch today I decided to venture to Meijer to grab a salad and a yogurt instead of hitting up a drive-thru. Hold your applause, I have non-healthy reasons for this choice. The brakes in my car are at it again, or at least something that sounds just as sinister as my brakes sounded a few months ago. That, coupled with my car’s general hoarder-stash state keeps me away from most drive-thrus with cocky teens at the helm. So, I pulled into the Meijer parking lot and parked next to what I thought was an unassuming sedan, only to be met with an old woman’s gigantic lycra-clad rear end when I opened my door and glanced to my left. To her, she was simply rifling through her passenger seat. Perhaps for rogue coupons, perhaps for a touch of chapstick. To me, however, she was waggling her dimpled rump mere inches from my face and there was but a thin, thin layer of stressed out lycra between us. I nearly lost my appetite and turned around. Nearly.

Stranger-butt incident #2:
While recovering from the previous eyeful and walking into the automatic doors (that never open in time), I trained my eyes on the rear of the man in front of me. I don’t know why I punish myself. Perhaps it’s the lack of religion in my life. Nah. Anyway, this man was wearing normal man-pants. The kind that eliminate even the idea of an ass and alert onlookers to the very real possibility of sagging “tighty whities”. As I was musing to myself about this “thack” phenomenon amongst men, I noticed what appeared to be a long piece of yarn hanging from his right (imaginary) butt cheek. It wasn’t attached by anything. There was no note pinned by a caring loved one to remind him to do laundry or buy another pair of pants or whatever a note pinned to your bum would say. It was just hanging there, swaying in the breeze that was created by his assless vortex. I must have been pretty entranced by this dangling piece of butt-yarn because I followed it three aisles past where I needed to be and had to do that thing where you stop, look at a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, mutter something about “the wrong shape…” and then turn on your heel back to the produce.

I'm pretty sure this "thack" belongs to a woman, but you get the idea

I’m pretty sure this “thack” belongs to a woman, but you get the idea

Stranger-butt Incident #3:
On my way out of the store I thought I had escaped the strange sequence of other people’s butts and was enjoying the view of a really cute pair of boots. They were tromping through the snow in front of me and I was about to say something to their owner when my eyes moved up the spandexed legs to what I’m calling a butt. It was like a butt, only sadder. Not sad in the sense that others would find that representation of a bum to be sad. But, the bum itself was sad. It was experiencing the emotion of sadness and had the tears to prove it. It was frowning and there was a large, wet patch where I assume the tears had gathered. Dear gos, let them be tears. Her yoga pants (that had NEVER seen the inside of a yoga studio) were doing their best to disguise the anguish but we all know, yoga pants aren’t known for their ability to leave anything to the imagination, including the shape and size of any and all genitalia. And apparently the liquid secretions of the area as well.

Why wear the pants at all?

Why wear the pants at all?

I’m not sure if this entire outing was one of those, “I have a red car and now all I see are red cars” experiences, but I’ll thank gos to never have one again. As if the three rears of strangers weren’t enough to leave me shuddering for the rest of the afternoon, I was treated to one final vision on my drive back to work. I was slowing to a stop at a yellow light when I made the fatal mistake of glancing again to my left and was met with the hunched body of a dog and the loaf that was about to be pinched into the snowy grass. Yes, that’s right. A pooping dog.

First Impressions All Over Again

Today was the first day of yet another semester in my decade-long college career. You’d think the awkwardness of a silent classroom filled with people would wear off after the 20th or 30th class, but it doesn’t. At all. That’s why cell phones and iPads are great. They let you be near people without feeling obligated to interact with them. It cuts the awkwardness by about half. Too bad I left my phone in my car in my rush to make it to class on time. I did succeed in being on time. In fact, I succeeded so hard that I was 15 minutes early. I settled into a seat in the middle of the classroom, on the edge of a row in case I had to potty. I felt good about my choice. Then I reached into my purse to grab my phone and panic set in. As the room slowly filled with adolescents I scanned to find an ally but was met with only the smug faces of college freshmen. 150 of them. Left with little choice I pulled out my yellow legal pad, the thing I had inexplicably chosen to bring for note-taking, and decided to jot down some of my initial observations. Lucky you. 

Part of me was embarrassed about what the cool kids would think about my legal pad. They all had glossy spiral notebooks with GVSU emblazoned on the front. I grabbed the scribble pad off my desk at work and threw it in my bag when I realized I had no paper or writing utensils. Clearly Girl Scouts was not a part of my childhood as I am almost never prepared. For anything, really. I thought briefly about walking back to my car to get my phone but realized that I was me, and not some un-lazy person who was willing to walk in the cold instead of remain sitting indoors. So I sat there and plastered a complacent smirk on my face to ward off judgment and commence that of my own. I started to furiously write down some of my classroom observations and this is what I came up with. Word for word. 

“15 minutes early and OH DEAR GOS, I left my phone in my car. Too long of a walk to go back for it. Killed five minutes weighing the social awkwardness of the first day of class and my overall laziness. Decided to write down my initial observations to appear busy.”

“Someone smells like they just rolled in a budding field of marijuana and unsuccessfully tried to mask it with Axe body spray.”

“The good news is, all three Middle Eastern exchange students (or whatever the college equivalent of an exchange student is) are sitting right in front of me. They’re discussing something in a language I don’t understand. Oh wait, I just heard the phrase “Easy A” come up in English. So either they’re discussing their thoughts on this class and feeling good about an overall knowledge of Healthcare Ethics or they’re really passionate about Emma Stone and a little behind on pop culture. They keep looking back at me which would make me think they were talking smack about my legal pad under normal circumstances, but since I’m openly staring at them and then writing furiously, I’ll give them a break.”

*Then some kid sat down right next to me so I had to stop writing until the professor started class and it seemed like I had a reason to write.

“This professor is obviously used to speaking to a crowd of mouth-breathing teens. he’s lecturing, yes. But not about course material. I get the sense that he’s a grandpa who’s constantly lamenting about ‘kids these days’. Now he’s hitting us with zinger after zinger. Old man jokes are only ever amusing to the old man himself. Putting up a fake ‘transparency’ that says ‘Welcome to Astro Physics 410’ and stifling a giggle does not a joke make. He did fool the kid next to me, however. He started fumbling with his things and whispered to me that he thought he was in the wrong class. I casually mentioned that ‘Astro Physics 410’ wasn’t even a real class at our school (not to my knowledge, at least) and that the professor was just trying to be funny. In my opinion, telling the kid to calm the eff down was way funnier than the attempted joke.”

“Once this man got started on the course material he got very serious and preachy. It seems he wants us to get a deeper meaning out of this 100-level lecture class. He wants us to apply it to our lives and really look at the choices we’re making in terms of our health and happiness. Um. I’m pushing 30 and surrounded by 150 teenagers who all nodded proudly and emphatically when you suggested college kids may have problems with alcohol. That’s how I’m doing in life.”

“In closing, the kid next to me may be suffering a slight panic attack from his ‘wrong class’ scare. He is breathing really loud. Like…really loud. I’m concerned about him in terms of his health and happiness. And also mine by extension.” 

So there you have it. My thoughts on “Human Health and Disease”, otherwise known as Biomedical Science 100. I will be spending 3 hours a week listening to this man warn me that people die of heart disease and cancer. Two of my weeknights will be spent as the oldest student in a class of over a hundred people. I’ve never been literally the oldest person in one of my classes. Never. There is not a middle-aged person to be found. Not a one. I did take solace in noticing at least two people who were fatter than me. At least I’ll have someone to judge when we start talking about lifestyle choices and the probable onset of diabetes. Laws of the food chain, people. The fast food chain. 

Phone Etiquette and Pure Professionalism

I answer the phones at my job. This isn’t a large part of my job or even something that takes up a ton of my time, but today I was especially irritated with the calls I seem to get every day. They come in a few different categories that I’ll outline:

Me: “Good afternoon, this is Bettie.”
Caller: “Yes, hello. This is Susan Stork calling from a company you’ve never heard of. I’d like to speak to whoever is in charge of employee safety at your company.”
Me: “Susan, do you have the name of the person you’re trying to reach?”
Caller: “Yes, he or she is in charge of employee safety at your company.”
Me: “Unfortunately, Susan, we do not have anyone under the title of ‘Employee Safety Tsar’ and unless you have the name of someone you’d like to speak with, I am unable to connect you.”
Caller: “Ok, I’ll just take their voicemail.”
Me: “…”

Me: “Good afternoon, this is Bettie.”
Caller: “Hey, Bettie! How are you on this boring Monday?! He he…”
Me: “I’m super… And yourself?”
Caller: “Oh, you know. Just hanging in there. You know how it is. He he he…so, Bettie. I’m calling from customer service on your copier. We’re sending out the new catalogs and I just need you to verify the serial number on your machine so we make sure we’re sending the right one.”
Me: “Uh huh. Customer service on my copier specifically? Sending out the catalog for…toner? Replacement parts? Black market organs? What was the name of this company that offers such friendly customer service?”
Caller: “F*ck you!”
Me: “…”

Me: “Good afternoon, this is Bettie.”
Caller: “Yeah. Give me Mr. Bossman.”
Me: “I’m sorry, but he’s on another line at the moment. Would you like his voicemail?”
Caller: “No. When would be a good time to call back?”
Me: “Um…when he’s off the phone?”
Caller: “…”

Me: “Good afternoon, this is Bettie.”
Caller: “Hi Bettie. I understand you make the decisions on office supplies for your company.”
Me: “Yes. I’m very important here.”
Caller: “Well, how would you like to save money annually by checking out our catalogs full of the same things you already buy from our competitor?”
Me: “No thanks. I really don’t have time for this phone call. Someone on the other line needs the serial number from my copier.”
Caller: “Don’t you want to save money?!”
Me: “No. I hate saving money.”
Caller: “If you’ll ju–”
Me:

These are more things I wish I could say, rather than things I say. In actuality I’m very pleasant and completely phony. Get it? Phone-y.