Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Seventh Circle of Hell




It is rare that I am absent from the blog-o-sphere for extended periods of time, but that has been the case as of late.  I'd like to say it's because my life has been so jam-packed with fun-filled activities and ventures that I simply haven't had time to open my laptop but in truth it's because two weeks of being funemployed has turned my home into a den of slack.  Call it apathy, call it lack of direction, call it what you will, no work and all play makes Jen a dull girl. Without my daily interactions with humanity, my potential for shenanigans is greatly reduced and I start getting twitchier than Jerry Sandusky at a Cub Scout Jamboree.  I did, however, have a life-altering experience last week. . .the unemployment office.

First of all, let me just say "Wow".  What a giant ball of suck.  No, seriously.  It did not even live up to my lowest expectations.  This place makes the DMV look like Club Med, and every employee had this stricken look on their faces like their name had just been drawn for the Quarter Quell and they had no fucking clue how they wound up in the arena.  Looking around at the people both working at and filing into the unemployment office I got that tight pinchy feeling low in my stomach and I knew that at any minute, things could get weird on an astronomical level.

I sat by the door, waiting for my name to be called and almost immediately a young woman in a Freddy Kruger T-shirt and enough facial piercings to set off a metal detector plopped into the seat next to me with a sigh.  I smiled at her passively.

"Nightmare on Elm Street?"  I asked, gesturing toward her shirt.

She nodded gravely.  "Horror is, like, the only REAL genre, you know?  It's, like, really PURE."

I bobbed my head in agreement but really? I don't get the whole horror movie thing.  In fact, most people my age don't; it's pretty much just the 20-somethings who don't realize yet that there's no need to pay someone to scare you because real life will scare the ever-loving crap out of you.  Zombies don't faze me, and vampires?  Bitch, please.  But if you want to see scary then open that letter from your mortgage company or listen to your doctor say your last mammogram showed "abnormalities".  Yeah. . .that's when shit gets REAL.

After listening to 30 minutes of Zippy the Pinhead blather on about all things Wes Craven, my name was finally called and I was escorted to a computer by a woman with an unintelligible Eastern European accent and a pair of ((shudder)) bedazzled Crocs, named Svetlana.*


*I loathe Crocs with the burning fire of a thousand white-hot suns.  Unless you are a toddler or an Asian gardener, Crocs are never a choice.  Never.  And if you are brazen enough to bedazzle these abominations?  I.  Will.  Cut.  You.


"Sbrhj skbf hdjf bnuwpog." she said, gesturing to the computer terminal.  I stared blankly.  She sighed deeply and repeated, "Sbrhj skbf hdjf bnuwpog."

"I. . .I'm sorry."  I stammered.  "I just. . .I don't understand."

Rolling her eyes and sucking her teeth, Svetlana took a deep breath and enunciated slowly through her heavy accent, "Enter.  Your.  Work.  History."

Muttering in obeisance, I huddled over my terminal of shame and began entering my information on the WorkSource Oregon site.  Before long, Pinhead took up residence to my left and a gentleman in his 40's sat down at my right.  Shielding my eyes from the glare of the horror fan's multiple piercings, I turned slightly toward the man on my right and -- sweet 6 pound 8 ounce Baby Jeebus -- was smacked in the face by the stench of enough alcohol to anesthetize a wildebeest.

Peering cautiously at the man's bloodshot eyes and flushed cheeks I felt an initial sense of sorrow.  But then I thought, you know what?  Why not.  You're unemployed.  You probably got shit-canned out of the blue and your wife is pissed and the only time you're leaving the house today is to come to this crappy place so why not show up half in the bag at 10am? Good for you, Sir.  I'm a fan.  And don't try to tell me that alcoholics aren't productive, because glancing at this man's work history, he was on FIRE.

"This is so fucking stupid."  grumbled the girl on my left, twisting a strand of her rainbow-glittered hair around her finger.  "I've been, like, doing this for a year and, like, STILL can't find a job."

OK, tough love time, Rainbow Brite.  I know it's nice to think that appearances don't matter but when you show up looking like you fell face first into a tackle box after Ke$ha threw up in your hair then you are seriously limiting your vocational options. Lose the slasher tees, stop painting your nails with a Sharpie, and maybe, just MAYBE that "dare to be great" opportunity will open up at Hot Dog On a Stick.*


*I hate to be judgmental, but I'm just so damned good at it.


As much as I was disturbed by my fellow funemployed companions, I have to say that it was better than a Saturday trip to WalMart in terms of making me feel good about my life choices.  As I sat there feeling all of the awesome blowing off of me, Svetlana appeared over my left shoulder.

"Rnfskuk djb s kihh hvu?" she asked.

"I'm so sorry,"  I cried. "I just really have no idea what you're. . ."

"You!  No!  Have!  G.E.D.!?!?"  she shrieked, spittle flying from her frosted pink lips.

"I. . .no.  I mean. . . yes."  I babbled inanely.  "I mean, I. . .I have a Master's degree."

Svetlana scowled and tapped at my computer screen.  "You.  No.  Put.  High. School."

I stared at her incredulously.  "I have a Master's degree.  I think the logical progression of thought is that I had to graduate high school at some given point in time to achieve said status."

She shook her head in frustration.  "You.  No.  Said.  Status.  You.   Put.  In.  High.  School. Bbdjgfgdk akkhf tmj ahdbbegw!"*


*I'm sorry.  Is there someone with a functional grasp of the English language and non-synthetic footwear who can explain this shit to me?


Murmuring a ham-handed apology, I finished the computer portion of the day's festivities and wandered over to the uncomfortable plastic chairs in the lobby, awaiting my one-on-one with a counselor.  After an indeterminate amount of time, a tired-looking man who bore an uncanny resemblance to Wilford Brimley wandered out with a paper in hand.

"Brandon?"  he called out.  We all stared at him silently.  "Brandon?"  he asked again.

"Umm, do you mean Brandi?"  the glitter-haired, pierced girl queried with a raise of her hand.  "Cuz, umm. . .my name's Brandi."*


*Of course it is, Sweetie.  Of.  Course.  It.  Is.


Wilford stared at the paper in his hand again.  "It says Brandon Schaeffer."

"Umm, well.  I'm BRANDI Schaeffer."  she girl explained.

Wilford shook his head.  "No, that's wrong.  This says BRANDON Schaeffer."

Brandi rolled her eyes.  "Well, I'm Brandi."  Then she gasped and threw her head back. "Ohmigod, you know what?  I totally bet you got my brother's paperwork instead.  Cuz he was here yesterday and HIS name is Brandon Schaeffer."

Wait. . .what?  Back.  The hell.  Up.  Your parents named you and your brother Brandon and Brandi?  Color me reactionary, but isn't that the SAME NAME!?!?  Who's your father, George Foreman?  As I was pondering the sheer douchebaggery of this, a diminutive woman walked toward me with a smile.  "Jennifer?"

Reeling with the overwhelming joy of finally meeting with someone I could freaking understand, I followed the woman, who introduced herself as Mona, back to her cubicle.

"So."  she said with a smile.  "A little confusing, isn't it?"

"Not at all what I expected."  I agreed, nodding like a bobble-head doll.

She laughed warmly.  "What DID you expect?"

"Honestly?"  I answered.  "I thought I'd come in, you'd tappity-tap on your computer, we'd share a few laughs, and I get my check.  Didn't think it would involve me tracing my work history back to the time I sold candy bars for cheer camp when I was fifteen."

"It's a pain in the ass," Mona confirmed. "But it's all part of the process.  Now, let's talk about how to get you working again."

And talk we did.  For the better part of an hour.  We talked about work, we talked about our kids, and we talked about our lives.  And at the end of it all, I felt a little better about things. Because now I had hope that there WAS something for me on the horizon.  I had hope that for every Svetlana there was someone like Mona out there who had my back.  And most of all I had hope that I after I left that place and gave myself a thorough Silkwood shower, I would never, EVER have to return.


xoxo,
Jen
































Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Conversations With Jess: Funemployed and Fabuluxe!

JESS:  So, Loser, what's it like being a burden on society?

ME:  So far, not entirely unpleasant.  Really downsizing my life has made me so much happier.  Sold some stuff on craigslist and cleaned out the boys' closets so deep I found Narnia.

JESS:  Damn!  Look at you putting a positive spin on this whole unemployment thing!

ME:  Pfft!  I don't look at it as being unemployed.  I like to consider myself "funemployed and fabuluxe".

JESS:  There is no way you came up with that on your own.

ME:  Nope.  I got it from "Rich Kids of Beverly Hills".

JESS:  Tell me you don't seriously watch that?

ME:  Umm, HELLO!  Have we met?  It's a show about vapid, soulless people who contribute nothing to society as a whole.  And it's on the "E!" network. . . of COURSE I watch it!  Hell, I TiVo that shit.

JESS:  You are the most troubling and enigmatic dichotomy of a woman.  You can wax eloquent about Eastern theology and the works of Franz Kafka and at the same time know EXACTLY who Khloe Kardashian is dating at any specific time.

ME:  French Montana.

JESS:  Huh?

ME: French Montana; he's the rapper Khloe started dating when she split up with Lamar.

JESS:  What's the chemical formula for sugar?

ME:  CnH2nOn 

JESS:  Who were the other two members of Destiny's Child?

ME:  Kelly Rowlands and Michelle Williams...but not the one from "Dawson's Creek".

JESS:  What was the name of Sartre's seminal work on existentialism?

ME:  "Of Being and Nothingness".

JESS:  Name every one of "The Bachelor"s, in order.

ME:  Alex, Aaron, Andrew the first, Bob, Jesse, Byron, Charlie, Travis -- you know, the dude on 'The Doctors' -- Lorenzo, Andrew the second, Brad, Matt -- who was a total closet case by the way -- Jason, Jake, Brad, Ben, Sean, and that douchecanoe, Juan Pablo.

JESS: . . .

ME:  What?

JESS:  How is someone with your breadth of knowledge unemployed?

ME:  My mad skillz are greatly unappreciated.

JESS:  Evidently.  So, if you had the choice to do anything -- any job in the world, what would it be?

ME:  Writer.  But, sadly, no one appears to be pounding on my door to pay me major ducats for my musings on reality TV and all things Nathan Fillion.

JESS:  Well, what's the best job you've ever had?

ME:  Honestly?  Being a stay-at-home mom.  And despite what that tanorexic cuntmuppet Gwyneth Paltrow said on E! News, being a mom actually IS harder than guest starring on "Glee" and being married to a man with the most annoying voice since Gilbert Gottfried.

JESS:  Daaaaaamn.  I knew how you felt about Coldplay, but Gwynnie too?

ME:  My hatred for Gwyneth Paltrow and Anne Hathaway is the stuff of legend.  Besides, Gwyneth is technically Coldplay by association, so. . .

JESS: You know they broke up, right?

ME:  Who?

JESS:  Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.

ME:  Shit!  That blows!

JESS:  Huh.  Hardly the reaction I expected.

ME:  But don't you get it?  If they're together they keep all of the annoying in one place.  But if they split up they'll be spreading the 'suck' to two continents.

JESS:  That actually makes sense. . .in a non-sensical way.  So, back to the job thing: what are you doing to keep busy these days?

ME:  Surprisingly enough, I've been busier than when I was employed.  Finally caught up on all of my home projects, pounding the pavement for work, spending kick-ass time with the short people, and finally have an active social life again.  And, of course, I've gone running almost every morning.

JESS:  I've gotta start running again.  I gained so much weight this winter my ass has its own web domain.

ME:  Uh oh.  L.A. face with an Oakland bootie?

JESS:  It's pretty bad.  Sean says he doesn't mind; that he likes me with a little "junk in the trunk", but I think he's just saying that so I don't feel bad.

ME:  No, you can believe him.  In the immortal words of the great philosopher Sir Mix-a-lot, people who like big butts cannot lie.

JESS:  Yes, but in the immortal words of Bel Biv Devoe, you never trust a big butt and a smile.

ME:  Yes, but then that puts the onus on you. . .or the anus as the case may be.

JESS:  I know, I'm being bitchy.  I've just been really moody lately.  I love Sean.  I love the kids.  But sometimes I have fantasies about getting in the car and living alone under a new identity.  Does that make me sound like an asshole?

ME:  You are an asshole.

JESS:  Seriously, Jen.  I haven't been single for 15 years.  Sometimes I really miss it.  Be honest, is being single as great as I'm idealizing it to be?

ME:  Not gonna lie, it's pretty nice to know that I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one.

JESS:  ((sigh)) 

ME:  But at the end of the day, it's pretty awesome to know you're going to see the same face on the pillow next to you every night.  I miss that.

JESS:  It is pretty awesome. . .you're right.  Thanks for reminding me.

ME:  I'll always keep it real, yo.

JESS:  I love your face.

ME:  Right back atcha, Freakshow.  Right back atcha.


xoxo,
Jen
















































Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Saying "Yes"

These last few weeks have been difficult for me.  I knew that my contract at the university was about to expire, but even so, I held out hope that a last minute grant or donation would keep us afloat and that I would continue the job that I loved so dearly.  Sadly, that hope was in vain and I am now funemployed and fabuluxe.

My job was not so much what I did, but who I was.  I had the joy of knowing that my career made a significant difference in the lives of children with autism and I was honored to hear daily from parents and educators "Jason can read now!"  and "Mara said 'Mommy'!"  The thought that I'll no longer see these children or work with their parents makes me feel like I've been kicked in the chest and the idea that I will wake up tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that with nowhere to go and nothing to do weighs heavily on my heart and mind.  I've always taken care of people.  It's what I do.  I am the caregiver in my family, the one my friends turn to in  times of need, and my chosen career  has been that of caregiver and "fixer".  But now I have to reassess.  Now I have to start thinking about myself and where I go from here.  Now I have to stop seeking gratification and self-determination through the eyes of others and seek it within myself.  Now I have to say "yes" to me.

I am (of course) actively seeking employment in my field. . .*

*The short people have grown oddly attached to food and shelter and I'd hate to cut them off at this point.

. . .but I am keeping my options open as well.  I have started looking at the job postings online and asking myself, "Could I do this?. . .would it be fun to try that?"  and the answer is "yes".  I am more than a researcher.  I am a singer, a dancer, a writer, an actress, a mother, a friend, an artist, an organizer, creator, a be-er, and a do-er.  I am all things and could take any job out there and do it.  Like.  A.  Boss.*

*That being said, writer would be my first choice.  Did you hear that, Ladies Home Journal?  I'm not working now!  Plenty of time to write a few more articles for, y'all!  (("hint, hint, nudge, nudge, say no more..."))

I know I'll find a job soon, but in the interim that means no more daily trips to Starbucks ((sob!)) and my weekly shopping has gone from New Seasons and Zupan's to the Grocery Outlet.  But scaling back gives you a lot of perspective.  I hadn't realized how I'd become such a Smuggy McSmugerson; always believing that I would swipe my debit card and the ducats would just magically appear.  Now I'm forced to evaluate what is a necessity and what is a luxury.  Now I'm forced to stop spending money on distractions and really deal with my shit.  Now I'm forced to say "no" to material things and start saying "yes" to what matters.

Yesterday I picked my boys up after school; a rarity as they are generally in Extended Care until 5:30.  J. ran up to me, bubbling excitedly about a slumber party he'd been invited to, and M. tugged on my sleeve begging for help with his math.  

"Can we do something FUN today?"  M. implored.

I instantly thought of all of their favorite activities: the family fun center, the trampoline gym, the children's museum, and I saw dollar signs stacking up before my eyes..  I felt that anxious twist of dread in my stomach and asked him with a shaky smile, "What do you think would be fun?"

M. crinkled his brow.  "We don't have a lot of money right now, do we?"

I ruffled his hair and smiled.  "We have to be careful right now, Sweetie.  That's all."

"Are we going to have to move out of our house?"  he whispered fearfully.

"No!"  I cried, leaning down and hugging him tightly.  "You have nothing to worry about!  We are NOT losing the house.  We are going to be just fine.  We just can't spend a lot of money right now."

M. straightened up and mused quietly in his odd way.  Then a broad grin spread over his face.  "I know!  Let's go to the library and then go feed the ducks! We can do that for free!"

Now that is something I can absolutely say "yes" to.

xoxo,

Jen

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#blogpost #socialmedia #deargodmakemestop




A few weeks ago I had a dinner party at which I had a bizarre revelation.  Looking around at the faces of my friends, I cried out "Oh my GOD!  I just realized that I met all of you through social media!"  Befuddled, I pointed at them one by one.  "I reconnected with you guys on Facebook, I met you on Twitter, you three all read my blog, and I met you on Match!"*

*Yes, I'm still friends with guys I dated in the past.  I have trouble getting rid of things.


My mother believes that in the future, we will look back at the era of Facebook, Twitter, and Match.com and mark their emergence as the beginning of society's downfall.  And maybe she's right.  I mean, I have definitely met some quality people on those sites, but there's a certain level of narcissistic crazy out there as well.  Most of these sites only offer you a limited view of the person; a snapshot and "profile" of their best self along with enough posts and "likes" to make you feel like you really know them.  But you don't.  You don't KNOW them.  There is a false sense of intimacy created as we begin bonding and relating to people when in reality, what is lying below so many of those smiling timeline pictures and snappy tweets would leave you more rattled than a cocktail shaker at the Kennedy Compound.

I myself am guilty of such deception.  My Facebook page doesn't show pictures of me cleaning cat puke off of the sofa, nor do I tweet about how many times I've cried during an episode of "Hoarders".*

*Five.  Don't judge.


It's easy for people to think they know me based on what I put out on the internet but in reality, that's only one facet of who I am.  The only glaring exception is my blog.  Because, yes; if you read my blog, you know me.  You can't make this shit up, y'all.  But if you honestly believe that there are people out there Googling your name, searching your "friends" list on Facebook, and scrolling through your SoundCloud playlist in a concerted effort to get to "know" you better, then you aren't paranoid, you're perceptive.

Lately, we have become such a computer-based society that we've been driven to the confines of our homes and offices which in turn keeps us from meeting other people which THEN forces us to turn to the internet yet again in an effort to mix and mingle.  Loneliness and agoraphobia has driven more people than a taxi driver on dollar beer night, straight into the arms of the World Wide Web.  It's even permeated into our pop culture.  From Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail" to Scarlett Johansson in "Her", modern internet romance is de rigeur.*


*Although, I'll admit I never saw "Her".  I have issues with Scarlett Johannson.  And, yes, I know she wasn't actually IN the movie, but I find the mere implication of her disturbing.


Lately, I've been thinking about my level of involvement on social media and realized that it's gone about 50 shades of 'cray'.  I check my Twitter feed more often than I check on my kids, and I treat Facebook like I do my refrigerator: I keep opening it at random intervals thinking something good will be in there...but it never is.  I have spent hours discussing and critiquing articles on the Huffington Post like I was at a NATO summit, and my browser history is crammed tighter than a Bejing subway during rush hour.  I have got to stop this insanity before I start asking my short people "How was school today, dot com?"*


*Although, if I were asking about school, it would probably be 'dot edu'; but I digress.


I don't regret the time I've spent on social media in the past.  Well, except for Pinterest; because. . .fuck you, Pinterest and your artistry of time suckage.  Because despite all of the deception, douchebaggery, and delirium, I have met some amazing people on the internet.  My fellow female bloggers have become my tribe; ones I can turn to in times of need.  I have met so many of my readers face to face and found that each and every one of them is an amazing and powerful person with their own incredible stories to share.  I've reconnected with high school friends on Facebook who are every bit as magical today as they were 20+ years ago, in part because we share a history.  My best guy friend I met on Twitter.  My best girl friend I met in a parenting chat room.  And the man I'm currently dating, I met on Match.  And no, he doesn't have any dead coeds stashed under his floorboards, nor does he appear to have any disturbing flesh wounds, so I'm declaring that a win.

So, is my mom right? Will social media ultimately destroy society as we know it, leading to an Armageddon of dystopian proportions where governments crumble and buildings burn?  Perhaps.  But at least I can toast marshmallows with my internet homies over the charred refuse of our fallen cities.  And you can't buy entertainment like that folks.

Although your iPhone probably has an app for that.

xoxo,

Jen
























Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Know Your Worth




Someone once told me "Jen, you are an open book.  Anyone can take one look at you and know exactly what you're all about."  In some respects, that may be true.  I have a very expressive face that reveals all of my thoughts and feelings, hands that develop a palsy-like shake when I'm hurting emotionally, and I believe my lack of verbal filter has been made manifest to all.  But my body tells a different story.  My body is a lie.

I have a very specific body type, one I've been fighting my entire life. It isn't a weight problem, although I've spent years starving and exercising to alter it.  I have the body of a slut. I can wear baggy sweats and a ballcap and still look like I'm just one pair of Lucite heels away from being a pole dancer. Remember the line about an "itty-bitty waist and a round thing in your face"? Yeah...that's me.  And I don't say this with any form of vanity or "Boo-hoo, feel sorry for my big tits" but simply because I am judged and shamed for my body every goddamned day of my life.  

When people see me, they automatically assume I'm highly sexual when in truth I can count the number of men I've been with on one hand and still have a finger left over to flip you off for being audacious enough to ask. I am not promiscuous.  I do not "sleep around", but even if I DID then who the fuck's business is it anyway?

Before I left for the cruise last week I was told by no less than five people to "bring condoms"; my longtime friend Brandon asked if I was going to "have lots of sex" and even the man I've been dating told me to "go for it" if I met someone on the cruise and that he shouldn't be "holding me back".  To my best estimation, I have never given any of these people reason to believe that I'm the type of person who would screw some random stranger on the high seas, but apparently that is how they perceive me.  Even my immediate family has me pegged wrong.  Last week at dinner my dad asked "What is a tart?" and my mother and sister both pointed at me and snickered, and later on when I told my mom that I never had any curiosity about being with a woman she rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, I KNOW you like men!"

Somehow along the line, the way I look has morphed into who I am...or rather, who I am PERCEIVED to be.  And people seem to think that's OK.  Body-shaming, or body-branding, in my case, is one of the last socially acceptable forms of prejudice and it's a steaming pile of horseshit.

"Hey, skinny bitch!  Eat a sandwich!"

"The last thing her fat ass needs is that ice cream."

"Nice booty shorts, you whore."

How many of us have been guilty of uttering those phrases or ones like them?  God knows, I have.  But that stops now.  Today.  Because despite the age-old adage about sticks and stones, words hurt.  Words pile up over time and turn into beliefs which turn into character; and no one...NO ONE should define your character but you!

I can't change the way I am perceived.  I can't crawl into people's minds and convince them that I am something other than what they think.  But most importantly, I can't let their judgments and misinterpretations change how I feel about myself.

I recently told my friend Mac that every woman should know her worth.  And I do.  I am a good person.  I am a great mom.  I am a terrific cook, a loyal friend, and a pretty damned fine writer if I do say so myself.  That is who I am.  That is my identity.  Not my legs or my tits or my ass or everything they imply to the outside world.  I am so much more than the sum of my parts.

Know your worth.

xoxo,
Jen



Monday, March 10, 2014

Captain Stubing Would Never Stand For This Shit

For someone with more stamps on their passport than a Colombian drug mule, I am as loathe to leave my house as Howard Hughes during a SARS outbreak.  While my father shares my love for all things agoraphobic, my mother is a wandering gypsy at heart, and as such, my sister Holly and I have traversed the globe more times than I can fathom.  Since I became a single mom seven years ago, my travels have been limited to our vacation home in Central Oregon and the odd trip to the coast but this year my dad shocked us all by suggesting a family getaway to the Caribbean, sans short people.

Now, by and large, I am a pretty tolerant person.*

*Shut up, Christian.

I can commune with the general public and mingle amongst the unwashed masses with a relatively low level of angst, but as I came to realize this last week, a cruise ship is Ground Xenophobia for someone who does not suffer fools lightly.  On paper, our entrance to the ship seemed simple: flight...boat...fun in the sun.  Sadly, life rarely imitates that which is on paper.

It started with a red eye flight.  Anyone who has been privvy to that singular joy in life knows that there ain't no party like the sleep deprivation party 'cuz the sleep deprivation party don't stop.  So my entire family was sufficiently twitchy when we emerged from Bush International Airport and clambered aboard the shuttle bus to the docks.*

*Although, flying into an airport named after one of my favorite Republicans since Lincoln filled my blackened heart with so much conservative glee.

Once we arrived, unshowered and unfed, we were all anxiously awaiting some quality nap time on the Lido deck, frosty drink in hand.  We were about to be sorely disappointed.  Many of you may have heard that a popular cruise line had a recent outbreak of the norovirus.  For those unfamiliar with the norovirus, it basically entails the projectile removal of everything you've ingested since the Reagan administration via your mouth and anus.  It is both very messy and HIGHLY contagious.  well, we just happened to be travelling on the cruise line in question. . .*

*I won't mention its name, but let's just say it rhymes with "Paribbean Crincess"

. . .and apparently they had yet ANOTHER outbreak of the turbo shits on their last Caribbean voyage.  So, rather than curling up peacefully in our staterooms, we were herded into a holding tent with approximately 1,000 other people while the hazmat crew disinfected the Love Boat.  For four hours.  With no food or water.  And one bathroom.*

*As we were entering the holding area we heard a woman leaving the ship say "That was the worst cruise I've EVER been on!"  In retrospect, that should have been a sign; however, as she had a neck tattoo and was wearing a sleeveless Harley Davidson shirt with a glaring lack of irony, she hardly seemed like the most reputable source.

While we waited, an ebullient blonde with a megaphone and a Texas drawl kept us updated on our status which was...unmoving.  At one point, Holly and I decided to avail ourselves to the watery sunlight and venture from the tent, only to be harshly reprimanded by the Steel Magnolia with the bullhorn and, thus, chastised, we returned to the comfort of our parents. 

"This is ridiculous!"  my father muttered, pacing like a caged tiger.

My mother sighed.  "Well, there's nothing we can do."  she concluded, pulling a magazine from her tote bag.  "Just go over there and figure out how much longer we'll be here.  And don't leave your bag unattended.  And don't wander off without your boarding pass, just in case."

My father scowled affably.  "Stop telling me what to do!"  he muttered.

My mother shrugged, leafing through her copy of InStyle.  "Well," she stated "if you didn't keep fucking up all of the time, I wouldn't have to."*

*My family is magical.

However, lest you think my mother is all zen and shit, bear in mind that this exchange occurred a mere hour and a half into our wait.  By hour four, she was stabbier than a Manson youth at a Beatles concert.  Fortunately for the fine people of "Crincess Pruise Lines" they began slowly boarding passengers before mom released the Krakken.  And by slowly, I mean s-l-o-w-l-y.  As in twenty to thirty people at a time...alphabetically.

"OK!"  our blonde cruise leader cried, "First one up, Group A!  A is in ALOHA!"

"A as in my ass which needs to be in a lounge chair, STAT."  my sister Holly muttered.

"Next one up, Group B!  B as in Beach!"

"B as in 'Bitch, please!' I had best be on that boat in five minutes."  I replied.

"Group C, everyone!  Group C as in cruise!"

"I can think of another C word."  my dad grumbled.

My mom quickly snapped to attention and continued along this vein with increasing enthusiasm.

"Group F!"

"F as in 'Fuck Yourself'."  my mom smirked.

"Group G!"

"G as in 'Go Fuck Yourself'."  she retorted.

"Group H!"

"H as in 'Hurry'!"  my mom cried, "'Hurry up and Fuck Yourself'!"*

*The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, y'all.

Before shit got real and my family was charged with any felonies, we were summarily escorted onto the vessel.  Happily, our staterooms were disinfected and ready.  Not so happily, although we had all handed over our luggage at 8:00am, my father was the only one with a suitcase waiting at the door when we entered at 12:30pm.

"Seriously, da FUQ!?!?" Holly cried, throwing her hands in the air in frustration. "I just want to take a shower!  Is it too much to ask for a change of clothes and some deodorant, for sobbing out loud?"

I flopped onto my bed, emitting an aroma of plane sweat and apathy.  "It could be worse."  I sighed.

Holly arched a perfectly groomed brow in annoyance.  "How so?" 

I thought for a moment.  "I'm not sure.  It just seemed like the right thing to say."  Then, as if the travel gods had heard my voice, as I arose to walk to the bathroom my right sandal snapped in half.  Yes, you heard me.  In.  Half.  Holly snorted in amusement.  "Well, I guess you just answered your own question, Shoeless Joe."

"Oh, for fuck's sake!"  I cried, throwing my shoes into the trash can with a satisfying 'clang'.  "It's bad enough that I smell like the underside of a freeway offramp, now I'm barefoot on the Pestilence Cruiseline?  What's next?  Should I hang out in the casino to get cigarette smoke hair to truly complete the white trash trifecta?"

Holly sulked on the edge of her bed.  "They owe me wine for this."  she concluded gravely.  "Copious amounts of wine."  With identical sighs, we collapsed in matching sweat-stained heaps on our beds, waiting indeterminably while my mom poked her head in at regular intervals asking "Is YOUR luggage here yet?"*


*SPOILER ALERT:  The answer was 'no'.  Every.  Damned.  Time.

As the hours crept by, Holly grew more and more despondent, while my hate-fire was fueled by each luggage-free moment and the "Ding DONG Ding!" of the captain's asinine and undecipherable announcements from the bridge.

"Is it the sleep deprivation or the fumes from my pit stains talking, or does our captain sound like Father Guido Sarducci?"  I mused.

"Can't. . .answer. . ." Holly whimpered from her bed.  "Must. . .bathe. . ."  Finally, with a world-weary sigh, she dragged herself to the phone beside the window and dialed the front desk.  "I'm going to ask for some robes,"  she explained, "then we can at least shower while we're waiting for our bags."  I listened as my sister calmly and with great dignity and restraint, explained our plight to the passenger services desk.  After a few moments of polite conversation she set down the phone and turned to me glumly.  "They can get us robes, but they need to charge us for them."  she said, her blue eyes beginning to shine with unshed tears.

Oh. . .no.

Just. . .HELL to the NO!

Leaping up from the bed with new-found vigor, I stormed from the stateroom as my father stepped out into the hall.

"Where are you going?"  he asked, casting a cursory glance at my bare feet.

"To Passenger Services."  I said with steely calm, only the slight quiver in my voice betraying my rage.  "It has been nine hours.  Nine.  HOURS.  We have not eaten, we have not bathed, we have not slept, and if I don't get a couple of robes and a bottle of wine for Holly in the next ten minutes I am going to storm up to the bridge and go medeival on Captain Sarducci.  Are you coming with me?"

Looking at the cloud of crazy eclipsing my features, my father shook his head and backed away slowly into his stateroom.*

*I'm pretty sure he locked the door behind him too.  Having seen me go all "Hulk, SMASH!" in the past, this was probably a prudent decision.

Bypassing the elevators, I stormed five flights down to the sixth floor where a line of disgruntled passengers was waiting in a queue to expel their vitriol at the stunned-looking service reps behind the counter.  Not be outdone, I marched to the front of the line and planted both hands firmly on the counter.

"Robes."  I said between gritted teeth.  "We need robes.  Two of them."

"Of course!"  the bubbly counter girl said.  "The charge will be..."

"Uh-uh-uh!"  I interrupted with a raise of my hand.  "We were put in a holding cell for four hours and have now been waiting for SIX hours for our luggage.  If we do not shower in the next ten to fifteen minutes I am relatively certain our clothing will spontaneously combust.  So, while we continue to wait for Luggagegate 2014 to be rectified, we need robes to bathe...robes which YOU will give to me...robes which will be free of charge.  Got it?"

Slowly, the girl's smile began to waver.  "Well, why don't you go to the dining room for a snack,"  she politely suggested "I'm SURE your luggage will be at your room when you return."

Stepping back, I stared at her incredulously and pointed to my freshly pedicured toes.  "I have no shoes.  Did you not see that?  I.  Have.  No.  Shoes.  Does that not seem like it may be an issue in the dining room?"

I watched as the girl began frantically looking around, undoubtedly determining the closest escape route.  "Is your luggage over there?"  she asked, pointing at a towering wall of suitcases in the far corner of the room.  "That's all of the luggage that has lost their tags."

Wait. . .wha-wh-WHAT!?!?

"Hold on,"  I said, approaching the counter with a terrifying calm.  "Are you telling me that there is an entire Island of Misfit Suitcases down here that no one knows about? All afternoon I've been hearing 'Ding DONG Ding! Bingo tournament at three!', 'Ding DONG Ding! Wind travelling at 50 knots!' 'Ding DONG Ding! Mai Tai specials on the Lido Deck!'  Did it never occur to you to let out a little 'Ding DONG Ding!  Your goddamned luggage MIGHT just be hiding on the 6th floor!'  Now THAT sounds like an announcement that might be worth making!"

"You tell 'em, Girly!"  cried a man in line.

Leaning across the counter, I locked gazes with the young Ukrainian girl.  "Robes."  I whispered menacingly.  "Two of them.  And a bottle of wine to Baja 326.  I will expect them in the next ten minutes or I start wiping my ass on every doorknob, guardrail, and light switch on this boat.  Trust me, by this time tomorrow it'll be all norovirus up in here.  Got it?"

Nodding like a bobblehead doll, the girl scurried off to the back room in fear.  That's when I heard it.  A smattering at first, then the sound grew.  It was applause.  I turned from the counter to find the line of people behind me clapping and whistling.  Thus emboldened, I dropped a grand curtsy, and marched back up the stairs to my room, just in time to be met in the hallway by our stateroom attendant, robes and wine in his outstretched hands. Suddenly, Holly's smiling and freshly washed face poked out of our stateroom door.

"Hey, Jen, don't worry about going downstairs.  Our luggage got here right after you left!" she cried with glee.

Oh.

Well.

Perhaps it was my threat of disease warfare that made the staff prioritize our suitcase request.

Perhaps it was my tirade that spurred the luggage gods into action.

Perhaps in locating our robes they located our luggage as well.

Or perhaps I'm just an asshole.

Either way, a win is a win.

xoxo,
Jen