Friday, August 19, 2005

Horribly, horribly wrong

I can’t seem to recommend anything to my labmate and fellow graduate student, Mel. Two of my most memorable recommendations that completely flopped were a restaurant and my hair stylist.
Tommy’s is one of the more well known restaurants here in the Land of Cleves and has won many awards for its menu. It’s also been rated as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Cleveland (though I swear they make one of the best burgers I’ve ever had). I’ve taken many of my out-of-town guests there and never had a complaint.
When Mel goes there, it’s a disaster. They don’t cook the food right. They don’t mix the malt right. The service is poor. Needless to say, she won’t be going back. I was so disappointed. A place that I loved and sang the praises of had failed miserably to meet the expectations I had instilled in her.
So, as you can expect, I was happy to have the opportunity to redeem myself. I had recently switched salons. OK, that’s a total load of crap. I had decided to stop going to Best Cuts, suck it up like a big girl, and start going to a real salon. I specifically requested a certain hair stylist that was slowly building a clientele among my friends via their complimentary word of mouth. I had a fantastic appointment. Not only did she do a great job coloring my hair with highlights, but also giving me a new short haircut.
Back in the lab, Mel was quite impressed with both the cut and the color. She’d been considering getting highlights of her own and wanted to go to someone that she had already seen could do a good job. Without hesitation I handed Mel my recommendation card (if she goes, I get free stuff). Mel made her appointment and I anxiously awaited her new do (and my free stuff).
The day after her appointment, Mel looked less than pleased. My trusted, understanding, wonderful stylist had done a terrible job. Like most of us, Mel’s hair is darker at the root than at the tip. My stylist had chosen the highlight colors based solely on the color of Mel’s tips. Consequently, the highlights were painfully obvious at the root. Mel looked like a tiger – but only for the first 2-3 inches from her scalp. I felt awful. She’s been a trooper through the whole ordeal, but I still feel bad. And, as you can expect, Mel won’t be going back.
Now I always think twice before making recommendations to Mel. Who knows what kind of damage I could do? Poor girl. I’m lucky she’s still speaking to me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Face your fears and get paid doing it!

I participated in a medical/scientific study this week. Now, working at a research institution with lots of affiliated hospitals, this may not seem like such a big deal to you. And it’s true, there are all kinds of paid opportunities to have your skin exposed to UV light to test sunblock, have your nasal passages lavaged, or what-have-you. But I gave blood, and I earned $5 doing it.
I have a HUGE needle phobia. Not to the point where I pass out or throw up, but I get extremely agitated and nervous and anxious. I feel this way just thinking about needles in arms – my arm, your arm, anybody’s arm. The thought of my vascular system being invaded by something that hard and sharp gives me a severe case of the willies and I feel like I shouldn’t touch hard things – like I’ve just been made acutely aware of how fragile my skin truly is. It’s a very weird feeling.
But I bravely decided to try and face my fear. I was assured that I could go first (so I wouldn’t have to see needles in other people’s arms) and that I would only have to give 1 tube of blood (everyone else gave 2). On top of that, I got $5 cash money immediately afterward. Not to say that my phobia is worth a mere $5, but it was frosting on the cake. And my blood was going towards AIDS research.
Thankfully I had a very nice, understanding, and competent phlobotomist. She let me explain my fears and let me set the ground rules. I wanted to know when to expect the needle, but I didn’t want to watch any aspect of it, and preferred to chat about other topics until it was over. Now, I don’t know if it’s all in my head or not, but I swear I can feel the needle go into my skin and the whole time it’s in there it burns. I imagine that’s how vampires feel when exposed to holy water or a crucifix or daylight. I think my body knows that that just shouldn’t be there.
And that small little puncture wound pained me the rest of the day. It hurts a little bit today, yet. But there’s no bruise, and only a small, round pink mark to show for it.
Maybe I’ll do it again. If I want to overcome my fear, I think this is one of the best ways to do it. It’s in a non-threatening lab setting, all my work friends are there, and there’s no pressure. And according to my phlobotomist, I can fill one of those tubes up right quick!

And you think your boss is crazy

My boss is crazy. No, really, he is. And not the “Oh, he’s so funny he’s crazy” kind of crazy, but the “I think he needs medication” type of crazy. Past and present employees thought it was manic depression. But the other week we took a quiz in a magazine and my boss scored 16 out of 16 classifying him as a “psychopath.” That, my friends, means something.
He’s a compulsive liar. We can rarely believe anything that comes out of his mouth – whether it’s work related or pertaining to his own life. He’s the crowning example of attempting to say anything with confidence to make it sound like he knows what he’s talking about (e.g. it only takes 7 hours to fly from Cleveland to Japan). Even when you catch him in a lie, he won’t admit that he’s wrong. He’ll backpedal until he’s right again. And with people he’s trying to impress, he’ll say whatever it is that he thinks they want to hear.
He doesn’t care about anyone other than himself. When making decisions that affect everyone, he only considers how it will affect him. If you have a problem with it, you’re “stupid”. When his fiancé’s mother died, he didn’t even go to the funeral, saying it was a “family affair” and that he doesn’t “get into that.” When the best friend of one of his employees died, he “comforted” him by saying that he gets through grief by throwing himself into his work, and suggested that he do the same.
He wears a Member’s Only jacket all day every day – rain or shine, summer or winter, stains and rips or fresh to the rotation. He claims that it’s because he’s had his keys and wallet stolen out of the pockets when he takes it off, so he just wears it all the time. Maybe if he could fit his wallet and keys in his pants pockets like the rest of the men I know, that wouldn’t be a problem. We’re guessing that the jacket is like a security blanket – one day someone or something gave him the idea that he looked good in it, that it adequately hid his massive girth. So, not finding anything else that had the same affect on the eye of the beholder, he sticks with what he “knows” works. And seeing as how he drinks Diet Coke constantly (never without one in his hand) and eats lunches that consist of a pastry or pudding and a bag of chips, it’s no wonder that he weighs at least 300 lbs. and works up a sweat walking less than a block from his parking space to the building.
He hates wearing shoes, so you can often find him taking off his shoes during meetings (he thinks that no one can smell it when they sit close enough to him) or when he’s in his office. On top of that, the body odor that he works up is stifling. Activities similar to bowling make him work up a massive sweat – it looks like he has doused his head in a bucket.
Nothing but wet stringy hair because he cuts his hair maybe 2 times a year. Actually, I think he has his fiancé cut it for him. He wouldn’t want to spend the money on something that he sees as not worth it. Same goes for his glasses. He can’t see from the back of the room when we present, and insists that he doesn’t need glasses. Actually, he just doesn’t want to pay for the doctor’s visit or the glasses.
Even when he significantly injures himself, he refuses to see the doctor. He claims that he doesn’t want to spend the money, but I think part of it is that typical guy thing where they are afraid/”too macho” to go to the doctor. He twisted his ankle so badly that (we found out much later) he actually broke it. He refused to go to the doctor and instead limped around. When that got to be too painful, he bought himself crutches.
Now you may be thinking “He’s not that bad. He’s just frugal… extremely frugal.” That, my friends, is not true. While he finds spending money on health care, glasses, haircuts and clothes odious character flaws, he sees no problem dropping money on Beanie Babies, The One Ring, and any MacIntosh gadget that comes out. He reportedly has an entire room in his basement dedicated to housing his Beanie Baby collection. At a Christmas party at his house, he made a point to show off his replica of The One Ring from LORD OF THE RINGS. And he has Mac gadgets that he doesn’t even know how to use – but he HAD to have them.
Generally non-confrontational, he usually resorts to nasty emails. Rather than talk to you in person to sort out whatever bee has gotten in his bonnet, he’ll fire off a tirade of angry emails, usually 1 every 3-5 minutes for 20 minutes. When you go to speak with him the next day, he’ll act as if everything is fine and normally backs down, explaining that he just had to cool down. So he knows that he flies off the handle, but instead of walking away from the computer to cool down, he sits there and types with fury.
If he is really feeling righteous, he’ll embarrass you in public. This typically happens to the women who work for him because he thinks that he can get away with it easier.
During meetings, if you propose an idea, he doesn’t like it. After he’s had time to stew on it, and turn it around in his mind as if it were his idea, he likes it. Then he’ll tell you all about it as if he thought of it himself, and imply that he wished you’d have thought of it before. So he’ll insist that you explore this idea and report back to him about it at the next meeting. The next week, when you show him the results of doing that task, he’ll ask you why in the hell did you do that, and completely deny that he ever told you to do that task.
He still hasn’t quite mastered being able to tell what’s politically correct and what’s not. I have been reprimanded for referring to one of my coworkers as a “chick” but he thinks it’s fine to tell an off-color joke to a mixed crowd, or really stretch to find the sexual innuendo. Then he’ll giggle hysterically all by himself while the rest of us roll our eyes.
Rules that he doesn’t agree with (federal, university or otherwise) he just ignores. He assumes that the risk of getting caught is minimal, so he goes ahead and breaks them, with no contingency plan as to how to get out of it should he get caught.
I’m sure if you gave me more time, I could come up with more examples to support my claim of his mental decline, but this is getting long already. If anyone from human resources is reading – is there some form I can fill out to have him committed?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I am faced with the prospect of moving to Alabama within the coming year. I have to admit that I’m not excited about this, but I am trying to keep an open mind (it is a significant other that I will be following down there). I’ve never had any desire to live in the Deep South. And over the years I’ve built up a stockpile of prejudices and stereotypes about the South. From my Midwestern perch the South looks conservative, republican, Christian (the extreme kind), racist, sexist, uneducated and bigoted. I have a hard time taking people seriously when they have a southern accent.
Now I know that there are plenty of people with all of those bad qualities here in the North, but they just don’t show it as much, and it doesn’t seem as if there are as many. They’re the minority and you don’t hear from them that often because they know they’re outnumbered.
I’m afraid it’s going to be a great culture shock for me. I’m liberal, democratic, agnostic and educated. I support gay rights and a woman’s right to choose. I can feel that the South and I are not going to get along. But I am trying to keep an open mind, I promise.

My View on Sports

I like to play sports, but I don’t like to join teams. I don’t like to be roped in. If I have something else I have/want to do, I don’t want my team to try to make me feel guilty for not participating. And I don’t eat-sleep-breath the sport in question. Yeah, I have fun, but I’m not going to sacrifice my health, or my homework/job. It’s a sport, it’s exercise. It’s not something that the sun rises and sets on.
I am capable of watching sports, on television or in person, but I will not schedule my life around it. I will not follow stats, or players, or commit myself to particular teams. Just because I’m from WI doesn’t mean I’m a Packer/Bucks/Brewers fan. Just because I live in Cleveland doesn’t mean I follow LeBron James. He has no bearing on my life, so he consumes very little of my time. I do like to participate in “office pools” though. That’s more because gambling can be fun, and we always play for cake. Who doesn’t like free cake??

Weird Magnet

I believe I have a weird person magnet inside my body somewhere. From what I am told, it is a genetic, inheritable disorder as my mother is similarly afflicted. What this means is that usually, when I am out in public, some weird person, (who is a stranger to me), will approach me in an attempt to engage me in conversation. The magnetic range is quite large – spanning at least one city block. I’ve been approached in classrooms, at work, in stores, on the street and on airplanes (as much as someone can be approached on an airplane). Thankfully it’s been more annoying than anything else. I get life stories, too much information, or benign stupid questions. Some have attributed it to my non-threatening and trustworthy appearance. I argue that I’m still a stranger to these people. They don’t know me or who I could tell their life story to. And if it’s any good, you can bet I will.

Crazy Starbucks People

Starbucks needs to be a controlled substance. People act crazy and irrationally in their pursuit of it. I have personally experienced several near-miss car accidents because of people being too focused on trying to park near the Starbucks that was on my way to work. Without any care for other motorists they will jockey for the best parking spot. Once they’ve procured their coffee, and realized that they need to get where they’re going, they’ll blindly pull out into traffic. I’ve almost been side-swiped, T-boned and hit head on. These people are a nuisance on the road. I think that all future Starbucks need to be tucked away in small neighborhoods to protect the rest of us just trying to get to work. Or at least have mandatory drive-throughs. The one in my hometown has a drive-through and I think that’s the smartest marketing decision the company has ever made (aside from respecting the coffee growers and all that human rights stuff). But, honestly people, there IS more to life than getting your daily dose of Starbucks in the morning.

Locked Out

I locked myself out of my apt. this past weekend while doing laundry. Now, if you know me and how anal I am, you’ll understand how this was very upsetting to me. I’m not the person who forgets their keys, their wallet, or their watch. I’m the person reminding other people not to do this, or remembering to bring mine when they forget theirs. When spells of forgetfulness like this happen to me, I feel utterly dumb and naked. It disrupts my order. Thankfully I can usually snap out of it within 24 hours. But I think, ultimately, the episode encourages me to be more anal than I was before.