Thursday, December 4, 2008

Family Encounters

It's the holiday season. And along with my annual servings of turkey, mashed potatoes, ornaments, gifts and general Christmas merriment, it's also time for a heaping dose of.... family.

There's nothing quite like Christmastime in my family. I'm sure we're pretty much like most other families who spend holidays together. That is, of course, assuming that most families can relate to the scene in "While You Were Sleeping" where the whole family is gathered around the table and each person is engaging in their own off the wall conversation. One of my favorite pastimes is to just sit back and listen to how many different conversations can go on at once. I think the record was 9, which might not seem like a lot, but you have to keep in mind there were only 7 people at the table. We might be small in number, but we have more than our fair share of quirks. That's not to say I don't bring my own truck load of idiosyncrasies to the table. God knows I have to if I want to fit in - not to mention survive.

Anyways, all that to say, there's never a dull moment during the holidays with the fam, but that's not good enough for us. No. We can't just let it go and have everyone go on with their crazy little lives. Instead, we force ourselves to do the one thing that especially tends to accentuate our insanity: we play cards. Not Hearts or Spades, or even Bullshit - no, we play a game called Shanghai. Heard of it? Didn't think so. I think they outlawed it in most cities because of its tendency to rip families apart. It's not that it's a complicated game with a massive amount strategy involved - it's far from that - it's just that when we play cards, we pick each other apart. We beg shamelessly for cards that we need to complete our hand. We bring up past grievances and cast "you owe me" glares across the table. (I'll admit it; I often play the "perfect daughter" card in order to get what I want.) We steal cards from people simply for the sake of depriving them of something they need. "Cards is cards," we say, and then five seconds later we beg like 3rd graders for something we want. It's pathetic. It's family.

The best part is, we often invite guests to join us in our friendly card games. If you play cards with us, you're in for good. It is then, and only then that you see our true colors. We get vicious. There's often yelling involved, and there's always cheating. Just this last weekend, I was home for Thanksgiving, and of course we played cards several times. One night, my Sitti (that would be a word for "grandma" in Arabic), who is one of the most gracious and kind people I have ever met, tried to cite a rule that had never been mentioned in over 20 years worth of card games. "It's a rule!" she exclaimed. "What? We've never even heard of that!" everyone else shouted. And the argument went on and on and on. All I know is, it's a good thing my dad enjoys playing bartender, because you need a drink or two to make it through a game of Shanghai. (In case you are wondering, I looked up the definition for the word "shanghai," here's what I found: (verb) "to enroll or obtain (a sailor) for the crew of a ship by unscrupulous means, as by force or the use of liquor or drugs." Yep. Sounds about right.)

Oh, Shanghai. Such a wonderful holiday tradition.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Intellectual Property Encounters

Last night I attended a high school fashion/variety show - I know you are jealous. As fascinating as the actual show was, the person I went to see was only in about five minutes of the hour and a half program, so naturally I found other things to capture my attention. Luckily, I didn't have to look too far.

There was a group of girls who were sitting right in front of me enjoying the show. They were your typical high school senior bunch - laughing at inside jokes and screaming at inhuman volumes for their 75 best friends who were on stage. But one girl stood out among the rest. She knew every word to every rap song they played, as well as the dance to go along with it. However, as impressive as her lyrical prowess was, it was her commentary on the show that I found most amusing.

The students in the skits kept using popular phrases like, "that's so legit," and other teen-speak, and every time they said something like that this girl would freak out and say, "Man! They keep stealing all MY phrases!" or, "Ugh! That's my word!" Yes, ladies and gentleman, last night I met the author of half of our modern catch phrases - jealous again, aren't you?

Now, it's been a while, but during my undergrad, I took a class on Mass Comm Law and we studied all kinds of things like intellectual property and trademarks and copyrights. I might not remember very many specifics from the course, but I did get an A and I'm pretty sure that the girl from last night would have a legal nightmare if she actually tried to claim all "her phrases" in court.

On the other hand, I wonder how much all eBayers would be willing to pay for an autograph from the creator of the word "legit"?

People can be so funny sometimes...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Delayed Encounters

I don't want to brag or anything, but I have always been a fairly successful procrastinator. I can put things off for days or weeks and still have everything turn out great. I never did homework and always got good grades. Call me crazy, but doing, well, anything that wasn't studying was always more important to me when I was in school.

Yes, I'm one of those kids who skated through my academic career with little to no effort and only one B - stupid criminal justice elective... - but life has finally caught up with me. That's right, I have finally found something that destroyed my perfect procrastination record.

People (or person), listen to me carefully. You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT procrastinate when it comes to taking care of these two things: TOILET PAPER and TOOTHPASTE - especially if you don't have any roommates you can steal from. So, just don't try, ok? I promise, you'll thank me later.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Favorite Encounters

Being a logophile - that would be a lover of words - I often find myself puzzled by the words people choose to use in their day to day conversation. I'm not so much interested in the extent of their vocabulary, or even their grammar, I'm just intrigued by the words they use to convey their point or make their stories more interesting.

Lately, I've noticed that people take words that are supposed to be very meaningful, and they beat the meaning out of them by kicking them around like an old pair of tennis shoes that you don't have to untie to put on or take off.

For example: let's consider the word, "favorite." If used correctly, we should all only have one favorite thing. Of course, we are also entitled to a favorite movie, a favorite food, wine, song, etc. But really, only one favorite "thing." In the last week, I have had several people tell me something is their "favorite thing." One person even claimed four different favorite things in the span of two hours.

Favorite doesn't really mean favorite any more. Nowadays it's just an adjective used to describe any number of things a person happens to enjoy. It has lost its emphasis, and it makes me sad.

One man said his favorite thing was to rearrange furniture. While I don't doubt his odd, but sincere love for moving heavy pieces of furniture, I somehow doubt it is actually the one thing he loves to do in this world more than anything else. As much as I try to separate my facial expressions from the ponderings of my inner monologue, I highly doubt I was able to keep a straight face while he was talking to me. I just kept thinking to myself, "Really? THAT'S your favorite thing in the world? I mean, if you had a bumper sticker on your car, would it say 'I'd rather be moving furniture'?"

Don't get me wrong, people are entitled to love whatever activity they want to - I don't have to agree or even understand - but please, people, be stingy with your favorites.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Audial Encounters

I've never had the best hearing. I mean, I can usually hear you if you're standing next to me and talking and my selective hearing works great. But chances are, if you ask me, "did you hear that?" I will do one of two things: 1. say no, look at you like you are a little loony and start a new conversation. or 2. say yes and change the subject before you have time to start a discussion about what "we" just heard. However, I have found that my hearing ability is drastically improved in certain environments and scenarios. One of which, unfortunately, is the theater. I say unfortunately because my hearing isn't just improved in terms of the actual show, it also starts to pick up any and all distracting sounds around me.

Allow me to provide two examples:
1. A few weeks ago, some friends and I attended a play presented by Shakespeare in the Park. It was a lovely evening. The show was hilarious. Lord Benedick was more than easy on the eyes. But one man ruined the entire show. He was sitting in the center section laughing hysterically through the whole play. Now before you go thinking I'm a kill joy and I can't let other people laugh, let me explain. You see, his laugh wasn't normal, or even loud. No, he laughed like an oxygen machine. You know those portable oxygen tanks that Sittis and Jiddis (that would be grandmas and grandpas) carry around? The ones that make a sound every five seconds that sounds like a brief shot from an air compressor? He sounded like that. The whole time. He didn't stop. He just kept making that horrid hissing sound and ruined every laugh line in the play. It drove me out of my mind.

2. Then, just last weekend, I attended a movie theater to see a movie. The lights were down, the movie was playing, and what do I hear? No, not talking, or a cell phone. Snoring. I heard snoring. One hour into a two and a half hour show, this man started snoring. It was horrendous. And the thing is, the people with him didn't make him stop. I mean, if you went to a movie and someone in your group started snoring really loud, wouldn't you nudge them or shake them or throw your $12 drink on them to wake them up? It was pathetic.

Considering the things I endure when my hearing is at peak performance, I think I much prefer partial deafness.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Endearing Encounters

Question: Do you ever meet someone and instantly you both feel like you've known the other for years? Me too. It's strange and inexplicable, but I'm pretty glad it happens.

Second question: Do you ever meet someone and THEY instantly feel like they have known YOU for years while you are still at the "I just me you" phase? ME TOO. It's strange and uncomfortable, and I get weirded out when it happens.

I find that most people express their premature comfort level through various pet names and compliments in conversation. Like the lady at the Braum's drive-thru window the other night. I placed my order and she called me "Darling" after she told me to pull around to the window. THEN, when she gave me my ice cream, she called me "sweetheart." I wouldn't have been too weirded out if she was some sweet older lady, but there's no way this lady was much more than 40. It was strange and slightly awkward.

But our waitress at lunch today takes the awkward cake.

I went to have lunch at a sushi place with two friends. I arrived last, and when I sat down my friend informed me that our waitress would be very happy to see me and that she was very excited about serving us our lunch. Not knowing what to expect, I chuckled and waited for her to come by. Four seconds later - she popped by and said, "Oh, our third has arrived! I'm so glad you're here. What can I get you to drink, darling?" At this point I am mildly entertained and just laugh and continue with conversation.

She came back and said, "are my girlies ready to order?" Not only were we not really her girlies, but we were not ready to order. So she cracked some joke and did this insanely ridiculous laugh where she tilted her head back and slightly to the side while shrugging her shoulders and showing too much teeth. It was painful. Really painful. But she was our best friend. She just knew it. She was so certain, that on top of countless other insanely uncomfortable pet names, she at one point called my friend "Shnookems." Really. She said Shnookems. To my friend. Whom she had never met or seen. I wanted to die laughing, but at the same time a part of me wanted to run away from the scary lady as fast as my legs could carry me.

On the plus side, my friend has a new nickname. She doesn't know it yet, but she will soon learn I have every intention of calling her Shnookems for the next few weeks.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bold Encounters


What a funny thing. I mean, I have always been taught to be a confident woman. I don't know about you, but I can do anything I put my mind to. My mom told me so. And so did my grandma, and my aunt and my third grade teacher.

But, let's be honest, confidence is not always the missing ingredient when things aren't going so well in life. One must arguably have some kind of talent or skill to back up their confidence, otherwise you just look... well, stupid.

For example: I was recently walking through the streets of the Ann Arbor art fair, where artists from all over the country and the world showcase their talent with confidence. Instead of being that kid that took the time to appreciate every piece of artwork around me, I was that kid who spent most of the time appreciating the display of people around me.

One man in particular caught my attention. While he didn't have a booth at the fair, he was still able to secure a space to show off his talent. He had positioned himself on the sidewalk next to the porta-potties - we are talking some prime performance space - and he was dancing. Not just dancing, but dancing in a style similar to a style resembling a Michael Jackson dance. This guy was taking on the classics. We're talking "Thriller," "Billie Jean," you name it - he did it. The thing is, he didn't do them well. None of them. Not even close. I would usually never dream of criticizing a dancer - God gave all my rhythm to someone else - but this dude was seriously struggling.

There was one thing he had no problem with though: confidence. He danced like he was giving MJ himself a run for his money. He was there. He was dancing. And he was good - or at least he thought he was. It was incredible. It reminded me of those tone-deaf people who try out for American Idol and completely crumble when the judges suggest they aren't right for the show.

It's confidence gone awry, my friends, and I find it terribly entertaining.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hostile Encounters

After a little less than a year on the job, I have discovered several unexpected occupational hazards associated with my current state of employment. (I have to be vague here because my mother is convinced I will inadvertently disclose important personal information in this blog and then someone will steal my identity and probably my soul. Yes, I am a grown woman. And yes, she sorely overestimates my reader base.)

Let's suffice it to say my job requires constant corralling of young people and generally has me begging for some semblance of order and/or normalcy. While these things are fairly hazardous, there is something even more dangerous that I am required to do. Ready?

I have to.... go to Sam's Club. Alot.

I personally find Sam's scary enough on its own - I mean, who builds shelves that high? and do they ever actually pull stuff down from the top shelf? or is it just supposed to look monstrously ominous and leave everyone in awe at the massive amounts of massive quantities in one building? - but, really, it's the people at Sam's that scare me the most. I am NOT talking about those sweet little ladies who hand out the samples - God knows I love them. No, I am talking about my fellow Sam's patrons.

Now before you write me off as chronically over dramatic, let me explain.

I only go to Sam's when I have to buy huge quantities of junk food and other sugar laden products, which happens surprisingly often. As I am minding my own business, pushing my flat bed cart up and down the aisles, I get the most disgusting glares from people. They squint their eyes and grit their teeth and look at me as though I alone am to blame for childhood obesity in America. Have you ever been held responsible for an epidemic? It's not fun.

I try my best to just smile and go on my merry little way, while at the same time glaring back with a "you-try-appeasing-forty-teenagers-without-junk-food" kind of look, but I have a feeling that one of these days I am just going to explode. I'll throw down my ten pound bag of chocolate, walk over to their cart and look as judgmental as possible as I stare at their stock pile of fruits, veggies and other Kashi products. Then I will come to the unfortunate yet inevitable realization that I am pushing a heart attack on wheels and they are single-handedly saving the planet. My bad.

I knew Sam's was scary, but I didn't know it could be so hostile.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Airport Encounters

I love traveling.

Sure, it's a headache sometimes. I definitely hate having to put any and all liquids in tiny ziploc bags when I go through security, but it's also kind of adventurous and, in my opinion, insanely entertaining. There is just something about being around people you know you will never see again.

For example, I was traveling to a wedding this last weekend and had a bit of a layover in the Dallas airport. I decided to get a small snack - luckily I wasn't too hungry because it was all I could afford - and I was sitting at the gate waiting for boarding to begin. One chair to my left, there was an older woman - probably 65 or 70 years old - who was reading Newsweek. She seemed fairly normal and nice, but first impressions can be deceiving.

So the older lady - we'll call her Gladys - is sitting next to me reading an article on the latest advancements in sperm science, when another lady - we'll call her Betty - enters the scene.

Now, Betty also seems quite normal. She is probably about 55 - 60 years old and she took a seat on the row of chairs attached to the back of the chairs Gladys and I were sitting in. Betty put down her bags and got all settled in. Then she did the unthinkable. She pulled out her cell phone. (insert ominous music here)

Turns out Betty's son and his wife had a baby the day before and she was on her way to go see her new granddaughter. Good for Betty - bad for Gladys. You see, Gladys was really trying to focus on that sperm science article. It was apparently very important to her.

After Betty had talked in a not-so-quiet voice for about five minutes, Gladys began to get very perturbed. She started turning her head and twitching hoping that Betty would get the hint, but Betty was far too excited about her granddaughter to notice. Unwilling to let Betty have her moment of joy and determined to get her point across, Gladys chose another course of action: she put the riveting article down in her lap, raised both arms and stuck her index fingers in her ears. Now, it's important to understand that she didn't keep her arms at her sides while she was doing this. No, she had both arms protruding from her head.

It was priceless. There is nothing like seeing a grown woman act like a three year old. And the best part was that Betty didn't give a hoot whether or not Gladys was annoyed. She kept talking, raised the volume of her voice and finished her phone call with a huge smile on her face.

Like I said: I love traveling.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Security Encounters

Hello, internet browsing champions. (I figure if you found this blog out of all of the millions and trillions of web pages out there, you deserve to be called a champion.)

Welcome to my blog. It has taken me a while to get this off the ground. I have considered joining the blogging world for quite some time, but just never took the leap until now.

In my many years of life experience I have noticed that one of two things must be true: either strange things happen to me more often than most other people, OR I have a strange way of looking at things that are perfectly normal. Either way, I intend to use this blog to tell about my many strangely normal encounters.

Here goes nothing:

I have noticed recently that there are a great number of things with locks on them in this world. I mean, think about it: doors, gates, boxes, lockers, drawers, cabinets, cars, safes, fences, and even stores that sell locks.

Naturally, I am generally unopposed to this simple fact. I like my car, and I don't want anyone else to have it. Also, I like to feel safe when I'm at home and I am pretty gosh darn glad that there is a lock at the bank where my money is. However, I think we have gone a little lock crazy and started locking things that should never be locked.

For example, church doors. I hate that they have to be locked. I think they should always be open. But I understand that people suck and sucky people might come in and take stuff, so I've learned to deal with it. Still, there is one thing that I think should NEVER be locked:

Toilet paper dispensers.

Seriously, I am having a very hard time controlling my emotions on this issue. You see, here at my place of employment - as in most places - there are locks on the toilet paper dispensers in the stalls, which wouldn't really bother me except for the fact that our janitor has managed to lose every single toilet paper key. Yep. All of 'em. Gone. This means that all the dispensers are empty and there is no hope for having them filled anytime soon unless we get a toilet paper locksmith.

What's the point of the lock in the first place? If your life is so sad that you have to steal toilet paper from a non-profit office building then I think you can have all the toilet paper you need. But why must I suffer just because nobody trusts anyone in this world? This whole thing gets me everyday....multiple times. What can I say? I have a small bladder.

Here's to hoping your toilet paper is plentiful and readily available.